Singapore Airlines (SIA) says that it will need at least ten new ultra-long-range aircraft to open fresh routes and frequencies to the USA, after the recent signing of an open-skies bilateral air agreement between the two countries.

The airline is looking at the proposed Boeing 777-200X and rival Airbus A340-500, which would, for the first time, allow non-stop direct flights between Singapore and the USA. SIA would use the aircraft to launch services to new destinations and increase frequencies to other points in the USA, says deputy managing director Michael Tan.

SIA now operates to Los Angeles and San Francisco in California, and Vancouver, in Canada, but, because of Boeing 747-400 payload-range limits, it is forced to fly via Hong Kong, Tokyo and Taipei. As a result, Singapore's open-skies agreement is of little benefit until similar agreements are reached with other countries in the region, or until new ultra-long-haul aircraft are introduced.

According to Tan, flights of up to 18h in endurance will probably require a new type of product, with wider seat pitch, enlarged first and business classes (accounting for up to half the capacity of a 250-seat aircraft) and higher-cost economy seats. He adds that the airline has still to be convinced of the seat-kilometre costs of such aircraft.

SIA still has options on 31 777s and 20 A340s, either of which could be converted to the new ultra-long-range derivatives now being offered by Boeing and Airbus. The airline is also continuing to look at other types and size of aircraft for future requirements.

The airline is still keen on a high-capacity long-range aircraft, despite Boeing's recent decision to put on hold the 747-500/600X. SIA's emphasis is on a higher-capacity aircraft, seating up to 600 or more passengers, rather than on extra range. It is continuing to be briefed on the Airbus A3XX.

SIA's other longer-term need is for a 200-seat-size widebody jet-powered aircraft, or so-called W-aircraft, to replace its remaining A310s used on short-range high-frequency regional routes, such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. There is not yet a twin-aisle aircraft on the market to meet this requirement, says Tan.

Source: Flight International