Singapore Airlines took delivery of its latest regional aircraft this week: the first 787-10 handed over to a customer by Boeing.
The aircraft (MSN 60253) departed Charleston International airport operating flight SQ8878 to Singapore via Osaka Kansai at 22:23 local time on 26 March, 24h after a chilly delivery ceremony on the ramp at Boeing's North Charleston factory.
"If you sense that my voice shivers a little, it is because I'm very excited about this event," said Goh Choon Phong, chief executive of SIA, at the delivery ceremony on 25 March.
The SIA Group is the launch operator of the -10 with orders for 49 aircraft, as well as the first to operate all three 787 variants. SIA's low-cost subsidiary Scoot operates 10 -8s and six -9s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.
SIA configures its 787-10 with 36 lie-flat business seats with all-aisle access, and 301 economy seats designed for its regional operations in Asia Pacific.
"The intention for the aircraft is medium haul," says Goh on the 787-10.
SIA will introduce the aircraft on flights to Osaka Kansai from Singapore on 3 May and to Perth on 7 May, FlightGlobal schedules data show. Short-haul proving runs on flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur will begin on 3 April.
Goh is firm on plans to keep the 787-10 a medium-haul aircraft. The airline has no plans for reconfiguring later deliveries for long-haul service, he says, adding that it has the flexibility to convert its orders to either the -8 or -9 for long-haul services.
This lack of interest in a long-haul 787-10 includes any possibility of asking Boeing for a high-gross weight variant that would be able to compete with the likes of the A350-900ULR, says Goh.
"At this point in time, we have the aircraft for longer haul," he says, citing SIA's fleet and orders for the A350-900 and -900ULR, and 787-9s at Scoot.
SIA's A330 network provides a sense of where the carrier likely plans to deploy the 787-10. The A330, which is its primary regional aircraft today, flies sectors up to the 3,254nm to Melbourne from Singapore. This range encompasses all of East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and much of Australia.
SIA A330 routes, March 2018
FlightGlobal Diio schedules
Australia is one region that will see more SIA 787-10 service, says Goh.
"This aircraft is very suitable for some of the Australian operations," he says. "There will probably be more routes in Australia where we'll consider deploying this aircraft.
The 787-10 is a stretch of a stretch. The aircraft is 11m longer than the base -8 and 5m longer than the -9, according to Boeing. While this additional length and associated seating capacity comes with the loss of 1,205nm of range compared to the -9, the cost per seat mile savings make it an ideal aircraft for the higher-density medium-haul routes SIA plans to use it on.
"The 787-10 represents our largest variant, it simply sets the bar as the most efficient twin-aisle in its class on a cost per seat mile basis," said Kevin McCallister, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, at the delivery event.
The performance of the 787-10 appeals to airlines' desire for a highly efficient aircraft with a few more seats that they can use in high-demand markets where they do not need the range of smaller variants, like the -8.
"[The 787-10] will be an important element in our overall growth strategy, enabling us to expand our network and strengthen our operations," says Goh, adding later that it will be used for both growth and replacement.
On the initial Osaka and Perth routes, SIA will replace an Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-200, respectively, with the 787, schedules show.
SIA's A330-300s have 285 seats and its high-density 777-200s 323 seats. It has 22 A330s with an average age of 5.3 years and 18 777-200s including long-haul configurations with an average age of 15.2 years, Fleets Analyzer shows.
The shift to the 787-10 represents an 18.2% increase in seats from the A330, and a 4.3% increase from its high-density 777-200.
Boeing claims the 787-10 is 25% more efficient on a seat-mile basis than the A330 and 767.
SIA is scheduled to return 11 A330s to lessors through 2020, Fleets Analyzer shows. It owns the 777-200s and has not disclosed plans to remove any aircraft over the period.
The airline is scheduled to take delivery of 15 787-10s through the end of 2019, the database shows.