fleet decisions

Feb 10, 2017

SingaporeAir chooses 777-9 over an A350 stretch

As things stand now, SingaporeAir has chosen the Boeing that may take over from the A380 in high capacity long haul operations

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

The 777-9, to be seen in SQ’s fleet in the 2020s

Singapore Airlines has confirmed its intention to order 20 Boeing 777-9s and a further 19 787-10s to add to its initial orders for 30 of this stretched version of the Dreamliner family.

The decision is a set back for the Airbus A350 line, where the largest of that family, the -1000 model, was competing for the order with a design that is around 10 percent smaller in total capacity to the lead model in the new 777-X series that the Singaporean carrier has selected.

Singapore Airlines has begun taking delivery of 67 Airbus A350-900s, some of which, from 2018, will be in an ultra long range format able to reinstate its non-stop services between Newark (New York) and Singapore.

Later this year it will start replacing is five oldest A380s with new A380s, keeping its fleet of the largest passenger jet flying at 19, even though it will have purchased 24 of them. The entire A380 fleet is being upgraded with new cabin designs which will be revealed later this year.

SingaporeAir’s fleet strategy will as currently announced, see it operating A380s, 777-9s, A350-900s and 787-10s throughout the 2020s. This assumes all of its current model 777s and A330s will be replaced in coming years.

The order for the 777-X model has implications for the Airbus and Boeing line-ups in the current decade. If Airbus discontinues production of the A380 the largest capacity airliner in production by the second half of the next decade will be the 777-X series, which may well include a further stretch bringing it up to A380 size but with notably less comfortable seats.

Airbus would lose its claim to make the world’s biggest jets, as the A350 design doesn’t appear to offer the ability to be stretched to match the seating capacity of the 777-9 nor any further 777-X stretches.  Unless of course airlines choose to use the A380 to its fullest potential, which is for a jet offering more than 840 seats.

However second guessing the future intentions and responses of Airbus and Boeing may not reflect real events. (It never has in the past either.) Both plane makers are determined to keep what they have and if possible, ensure they have even more. What really happens in the coming decade could be very different from the various projections made today.

(Visited 218 times, 2 visits today)


Leave a comment

66 thoughts on “SingaporeAir chooses 777-9 over an A350 stretch

  1. comet

    I thought Singapore’s current 787 Dreamliners are being used for it’s discount carrier, Scoot, where squished seating is part of the deal.

    They must be bringing the Sardine Liner to their main operation.

  2. davidh

    A 777-X stretched to A380 size would not fly with this passenger, too much plane with too few engines. Add 3*4*3 seating in economy and you have a new version of hell on earth. I hope SQ doesn’t move to squishy seating as they are one of the few operators of the current 777-300 that have reasonable density.

    1. comet

      That’s true.

      I flew Singapore Airlines recently and the 777 was 9-across, compared with 10-across with Emirates and most other airlines.

      But once SIA gets the 787 Dreamliner… Oh no!

    2. Tango

      That’s funny.
      So we now have a Passenger to engine ratio?
      How about lbs per thrust per passengers?
      No grant you, I don’t like two engine aircraft over water, and I would prefer 4 over land even as its as hard as water.

      But so far, all 4 engine jobs have suffered the same fate as two engines.

      4 has never saved one and two (wide body) has never killed anyone (it will change some day)

      Now Sully is a different story, would an A380 had 4 failed engines or only two? That would be a good one to simulated.

      We do see the wide twins limp into Anchorage or Cold Bay once or twice a year on one engine.

      I do know of a 4 engine 747 fuel starvation (wrong fuel tank selection) into Japan.

      An L1011 or MD11 out of Florida lost TWO engines, mechanic put the plug in wrong and they blew all the oil out. Good news was he did not check the tail engine!

      So it goes.

  3. Dan Dair

    At first glance it looks like an odd decision.?

    You’ve got to imagine that SQ know their own business, so it would be interesting to know what made them choose B777’s over A380’s, as you’d suspect that there’s no ‘growing-room’ for a route with B777’s

    On the other hand, if the decision is B777’s over A350’s, the Boeing is biggest to begin with so stretching the airframe isn’t a big issue, which might better meet Singapore’s needs. ?

    IMO it’s going to be a very interesting next fifteen years, particularly regarding whether Airbus keeps the A380 production running or should they choose to stop it, whether they suspend or ‘mothball’ it rather than just completely ending production.?

    It’s an amazing aircraft which seems to work exactly as it should at around the metrics it’s supposed to.
    The fact that, as yet, no-ones stuck 850 economy seats in the rascal and flown it between New York & London (or a similar very high-traffic route) as Sir Freddie Laker and his SkyTrain operation was always planned to be, (Google or Wiki both those for background on what low-cost meant 40 years ago.!!!) means that as yet, the world hasn’t ‘grown-into’ big Airbus.

    Maybe Boeing and the ‘city-pair’ lobby were right after all.
    Personally, I think the best is yet to come from the A380, which as we know, has plenty of growing-room of its own, as yet untapped.
    But that’ll only happen if the market is there to create the demand for that size of plane.
    Certainly, as long as seats get smaller without adversely affecting the load-factors, airlines are going to ask themselves why they’d need bigger metal when they can just force more sardines into the tins they’ve got.?

    1. Giant Bird

      Dan Dair,
      If my memory serves me correctly, the final format of the A380 was not Airbuses original choice. I understood that they originally proposed a widening of the A330/340 fuselage and it was the airlines who said no and pushed for a completely new full double decker and then shied away from big purchases except for Emirates. Maybe it was the delay of a couple of years killed the sales window opportunity, or changes to the 777 killed the A380 market. Otherwise why would the airlines ask for something they did not want.

      1. patrick kilby

        Giant Bird that account you give is for the A350 that the airlines pushed for as the A330/340 replacement, which is what it is doing..

        1. Giant Bird

          Thanks Patrick my confusion.

    2. Zarathrusta

      That’s an interesting question Dan – if you make the smaller models irritating to passengers does that deter overall custom?

    3. Tango

      Dan: I think Boeing claim on city pairs is wrong in that its really a major hub into a not served airport (Japan to San Jose, Japan to Boston)

      It also seems that there is simply not a market for a full up A380.

      So far most operators have been able to offer it less than full up and make money with it.

      Comparably the 777 is more packed.

      It seems that SA has room left room to take the 777-10

      That will be interesting if the order would be enough or they have others in the wings (pun intended) that justify that model.

      1. Ben Sandilands

        Your comments about A380s flying half full? Not in Australia. I don’t log all the loads on A380s flight I’ve taken, but I recall four consecutive A380 trips within a few weeks in which there were only eight empty seats out of the 1956 seats in total on offer between Sydney-Dubai. I also flew four sectors on a Singapore Airlines A380 SYD-SIN-CDG and back and there were no empty seats in Y and J but first class was poorly supported, and mostly empty. The plane has no trouble hauling full loads to and from Dubai and Australia, and flies much higher, much sooner than a 777. Where do you get your crazy figures from? Do you just make them up?

        1. Sue B

          I’d like to back this up by saying I recently flew MEL-LAX-MEL in QF A380s and they were VERY full. I’d say no more than 8 empty seats each way. At least in Y. Couldn’t say about the other cabins.

  4. George Glass

    The A380 is a dead duck.What is a mystery is why so many people,usually outside the industry, cant see it.

    1. Ben Sandilands

      Maybe because they are the customers, and they know crap cabins when they have to endure them.
      (I keep hoping SingaporeAir will keep its current now rarely seen elsewhere spacious 777 cabins in their X-series replacements and maybe treat the 787 the way Boeing intended. But even Qantas has now decided the A380s like SingaporeAir’s will be totally refitted with new product.)

      1. TDeeSyd

        Thanks Ben,
        You took the words right out of my mouth…its because they are nice to ride in!
        George, i understand your in the game (and appreciate your contrary views…enriches the blog for sure) but for me and the tribe (wife and three tin lids) the A388’s are big, roomy and help nervous flyers feel less nervous. That being said, the ride on SQ’s 77W back in November was fantastic. Much better than the return leg on their now clapped out (old mates words below…but fitting) early delivery 388’s. Reminded me of the QF763’s before their demise…clunky, slop in all the internal fittings, sounds like the gear is gonna pop through the floor. But those 76’s aye…gee they were comfy to ride in and went like the clappers,

        1. Giant Bird

          Yes TDeeSyd,
          Flew on a JAL 767 this week. One of my favorite aircraft. Zippy, roomy, quick to plane and de-plane. It was always a delight to watch how efficient the Qantas pilots were with them, they looked like a sports car compared to the rest. A tower controller once said to me “I can move three 767’s in the time it takes for one 380. Probably an exaggeration but watching them in the circuit and on the ground you could see what he meant.

          1. Tango

            I only rode in one but I have been in all but the A380/350/787.

            It certainly was muy fvaoire.

            Least was the DC-10

            Most interesting was the L-1011 that flew with a nose up attitude. It was a solid feeling aircraft though .

            Really hard to deal with the meal cars!

      2. Fueldrum

        If the 777-9 can beat the A380 on seat costs, the A380 is as obsolete as the Constellation. Nostalgics will reminisce about it but it won’t survive unless it’s cheaper per seat than the 777. The 777-9 will of course easily beat the A380 on trip costs.
        Tickets on the A380 are cheap today and many of us fly on it for that reason. It’s cheap because of subsidies, but if those subsidies aren’t enough then it’s headed to the boneyard.

        1. Tango

          No, onlyh at the current seating.

          Add ore seats to an A380 and it gets more competaive.

          It looses its ambiance.

          What I don’t know is what more passengers does to the range. Logically it should cut into it.

          Emirate has had some issue getting to SFO from Dubai with their and wound up in Seattle once or twice. Headwinds or some such.

          1. Fueldrum

            “Add more seats to an A380 and it gets more competitive.” That only works if you can sell those seats. You can only sell them if there are that many people wanting to fly on that route at that time. There are very few long routes where that is currently the case, which is why the airlines aren’t adding more A380 seats, they’re buying 777s instead.
            The aircraft’s ambience is a poor substitute for flying at a convenient time at the best price. At least for the customers who pay the most. Reduce the size of the aircraft and you get more frequency on the route, hence more passengers whose preferred time of departure is closest to yours.
            Airbus is a loss-making jobs program, and it always has been.

          2. Dan Dair

            Just to add,
            Boeing went down the ‘city-pair’ route when it marketed the B787. Right now that’s looking like a good strategy.

            But what will be the next step if the for Qantas if the Perth-London direct flights sell-out.?
            If the demand outstrips supply they’ll need a bigger aircraft.? What options will be available to upscale the aircraft on that route.?

            Also, for any airline city-pairs are brilliant, but again, as the passenger volumes increase, at what point do you decide to put on an extra flight or a bigger aircraft.?
            An extra flight offers more flexibility, but a bigger aircraft (full) offers much better value for money to the airline & perhaps even a better fare to the passenger.!!

          3. Tango


            Well Airbus is doing quite nicely with far less employees to produce and aircraft than those efficient capitalistic Americans.

            They have some awfully good and popular models out there.

            Better lineup that Boeing currently over all.

          4. Sue B

            “You can only sell them if there are that many people wanting to fly on that route at that time”

            Actually the word you are looking for is WILLING not wanting. I, for example, am not WILLING to fly on a 10-across 789, no matter what time of the day it’s leaving.
            And if you think premium passengers are where the profit lies, think again. Otherwise the planes would be full of business class only.

        2. Dan Dair

          “If the 777-9 can beat the A380 on seat costs”

          With respect, it’s not possible to beat the A380 in the fashion you describe, until the B777 can get 55o seats inside it & it is pitted against an airline flying the A380 at or close to the 850 seat maximum of that aircraft.

          Only, when you’re comparing like-with-like are the actual seat metrics comparable.

          Until that point, you’re comparing a coach with a limousine.
          The B777 is practical and not desperately uncomfortable, but the A380 is far more spacious and customer-friendly
          and that’s what the airlines are selling in it’s 500-seat (ish) configuration.?
          I don’t understand the continued talk of subsidies.?
          Everyone operating the A380 is liking it with the apparent exception of Qantas. (SQ are already taking the replacements for their earliest ones)
          Where are all these operators getting their subsidies.?

          If it’s just the ME3, has anyone considered that their business model is predicated on the business taxes & ‘low wages’ available to anyone trading there
          and that as an integrated-business, the airlines, airports, business-centres and holiday destinations may all ‘cross-subsidise’ eachother, to ensure that they retain their market-share gains when times are not so good.?
          (In much the same way that Singapore airlines, Changi airport and the Singapore nation have a symbiotic relationship, which is in-turn, managed by the Singaporean state. Does anyone call that subsidised.?)

          1. Fueldrum

            Airbus subsidies reduce the purchase price of the aircraft. I do not exaggerate when I state the A380 would cost at least twice its present price if its development and tooling were financed on an arms-length basis.
            Operating subsidies are something different. They are presumably the same (for a given airline) regardless of aircraft type.

          2. Dan Dair

            All manufacturers offer discounts on the purchase price of their goods.
            Boeing and Airbus are no different.
            If you want one B777 you get in the queue.
            If you want a B777 sooner rather than later, you can probably pay a premium to Boeing to put you in-line for a cancellation or deferment slot.
            If you want to buy a bunch of them, the salesmen will fall-over themselves to offer you a BIG price discount; partly to ensure that they get your business and partly to ensure that Airbus don’t ‘scoop’ that order and move those reduced profits to Europe.

            “I do not exaggerate when I state the A380 would cost at least twice its present price if its development and tooling were financed on an arms-length basis”
            I have no doubt at all that were you to drill-down into the tax-breaks, incentives & other benefits which were given to Boeing to facilitate the factory in Charleston, much, if not all of it could be described as ‘subsidies’, if you were so inclined.?

            Many states & cities were involved in bids to lure Boeing, once they revealed that they were interested in creating a manufacturing facility outside of Washington state, knowing that there would be thousands of well-paid jobs generated by that factory.

            It was a bit of a bunfight & Boeing were probably able to get exactly what they wanted from the arrangement.? Why else would they build a new factory so far away from Boeing Field and with so little connection to their other aviation interests.?

            As regards Airbus being “a loss-making jobs program”;
            I think the manufacture of the worlds currently best selling airliner, the A319/20 series, speaks for itself, in terms of what Airbus’s core-business is there for.?

          3. Tango


            I do need to point out that Malaysia put theirs up for sale, then when they could not get what they wanted (or needed) spun it into a separate entity.

            Have to see if that’s just a move to dump them.

            AF gave up two of theirs, Virgin never took theirs.

            So its not all squeky happy.

          4. Dan Dair

            MAS were struggling badly before the MH370 & MH17 incidents, which clearly had a further detrimental effect upon their profitability (or lack of) & the volumes (or lack) of people who wanted to fly with them.
            Consequently, owning bloody-enormous aircraft was a hindrance to them, not an advantage.?

            Ben is much better placed than I to tell you about the failings in the way Air France run their business, so it’s little surprise to find they overreached themselves when they ordered the big Airbus.
            Remember, Air France couldn’t make a profit on Concorde, when there was only one other airline in that specialist market and that other airline was making money hand-over-fist on their Concordes.!

            Virgin deferred their A380 options, which are still supposedly going to happen as they’ve never been cancelled.?
            Perhaps this might change as the first second-user aircraft become available. Especially if they come to them from Airbus and of course , if the price is right.?
            It will obviously depend on whether they think they can sell those extra seats. Their B747’s are starting to look a little long-in-the-tooth & the remaining A340’s won’t last forever.??

            Clearly, the A380 programme isn’t ‘squeaky-happy’.??
            But Airbus is making a lot of money from its other models & can afford to support the A380 a bit longer, especially if as they’ve said, they’re actually selling each aircraft at a manufacturing profit, but not recovering any of the development costs.
            Clearly that’s not a good thing,
            BUT it means that they’re not making a continuing day-to-day loss on the programme.?

            The global financial crisis hit aviation quite hard & it’s slowed down the rapid growth it had, which is now recovering again, especially in the Asian region.
            This hit the VLA market forecasts badly & put the A380 out-of-sync with the world as it then was.

            I genuinely believe the market will come to the A380 eventually.
            I think the question really is;
            Will the A380 still be in production when the airlines finally decide they can’t manage without it.?

          5. Tango

            Wasn’t that crisis some time ago?

            I think Airbus did the wrong aircraft with the A380 out of ego and wanting to be considered a true Boeing peer.

            That said they are stuck with it and its the right business decision to keep it going if they can even if the loose some money on each one built.

            It just does not seem that a full pack A380 where it would shine on seat costs has enough passengers going to that place and back at the same time.

            I would have guessed a fairly low but sustainable market for it and I am wrong.

            You ma not have followed it but MA employees told management that the A380 put them in crisis and it did. They were already there before the MH370/17 losses.

            MH is from an era of Flag carriers and that world no longer exists and they did not recognize it.

            Virgin is never going to take the A380, that’s a given.

            Amedeuis is a joke.

            I don’t want to see the A380 go, but I don’t see it going past 2020 or so.

            Boeing ahs the same issue with the 747 though if they get enough freighter orders trickling in it may putter on.

            It would be funny to see it go on long enough for a GTF NEO.

            It can leverage engines off the A350/787/A330NEO area.

            A380 cannot, it has to be an exclusive and with RR in deep financial trouble, that may not come to be.

            787 will do an NEO at some point.

            GTF is really is the engine it should have had in the first place, what they got did not take advantage of the full available tech.

            Kind of like a Ferrari with a VW air cooled engine.

            Max tech and then they settled form the same o same o from GE and RR.

      3. 777 Steve

        Ben, whilst what you say may well be true coming from an educated and experienced traveller, the reality is as I suspect you know…a seat is a seat is a seat…particularly if it’s sold at a specific price point. Certainly when you look at the J and F class offerings of various carriers there is a bit more variability, but even then it’s not until you get up into F class that there is any true distinction. The 380 as I keep saying is a niche machine, it’ll soldier on at various constrained ports for a good while…but it doesn’t offer the flexibility nor the pulling power it once did. As you’ve said further on in the piece, the clever heads that actually run airlines have made the determination to focus on twins and replace existing 380s rather than expand the fleet significantly. I also relay what I’ve been told regarding the largest 380 operator, they have in as much as they are able too, slowed down the arrival and reduced the utilisation of their 380s onto routes it is better suited too.

        1. Dan Dair

          777 Steve,
          (Emirates have) “reduced the utilisation of their 380’s onto routes it is better suited too”

          Isn’t that just basic good business strategy.?
          There’s no point in having a much bigger aircraft than you actually need on any route.?

          Emirates has developed its Dubai hub & spoke model stunningly well & some of its ‘provincial’ routes have gone from one B777 per day to two or three A380’s, which must prove something.????
          Clearly, Emirates wouldn’t be randomly sticking A380’s on routes which they weren’t making a profit on, at least most days.?

          1. 777 Steve

            Dan, yes you are correct, perhaps a better turn of phrase would be to say they are tweaking their utilisation to match a reduction in demand.
            Bizarrely enough there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Emirates are indeed running out of places to send their 380’s, the USA is a case in point where repetitive frequencies have been down gauged to 777’s with the airframes relegated to Doha and Kuwait services, I’m betting there will be one flying to Bahrain in short order or even Muscat.
            If this isn’t indicative of a lack of destinations, I’m not sure what is, moreover the word on the street is that the new man from Malaysian is doing all he can to limit the uptake of any more 380s.
            Like I’ve said, it is a niche airframe…that niche was going to include most Indian ports…but the bilateral is still missing, now airframes are planned to fly to Casablanca and São Paulo, hardly high yielding or premier destinations for a flagship product.
            Just my thoughts as always…but interesting times for sure.

          2. Tango

            Dan: I see Emirates stuffing A380s into markets that don’t justify it.

            Too many A380s, too few slots for smaller and they are in a vice.

  5. Michael Smyth

    As a completely unscientific comparison I recently flew economy class from London to Sydney on Singapore Airlines. The London to Singapore sector was a 777-300ER and Singapore to Sydney an A380-800.
    The 777-300ER had the newer economy class product (better seat, footrest, bigger screen, more USB charging etc.) In comparison, the A380-800 was positively clapped out! The aircraft was the 8 year old 9V SKI painted in Singapore’s special 50thAnniversary colours.
    Anecdotally, the crew told me that Singapore Airlines is not at all happy with the maintenance costs of the A380. I realise that internal aircraft fittings and seating are regularly updated or ‘refreshed’ on all aircraft. But the difference wasn’t just the internal fittings. I felt like I was boarding a Boeing 747-100!
    My return flight to London is all on A380’s so I can report if 9V SKI is just a dog of an aircraft when I get to fly in a couple of others.
    It would be interesting to compare the despatch reliability of an A380 versus the B777-300ER.
    I must say I am becoming a convert to the Singapore Airlines 777-300ER. I just hope they maintain the 9-across seating.

    1. TDeeSyd

      Per previous post, flew back from SIN in November. Cannot recall the reg, but think it was SKF or SKG. Loud, drafty, slop in all the fittings…in the words of a crusty old drilling supe from i worked with in the Cooper Basin…ridden hard and put away wet. Maintenance costs indeed. They two young pups up front looked ex-air force types with big watches and gave the tarmac more than a tickle on arrival,

      1. Tango

        Not only old aircraft, not up to the standard the newer ones.

        They have dropped the lease on the early first one and it looks like the early 5.

        Probably not worth the money to keep up to snuff if they are letting them go.

        1. Ben Sandilands

          Those who bother to read the news reports know that several years ago SingaporeAir said it would retire its first five A380s and buy new ones to replace them. It is also totally refurbishing the remaining 14 in the original order and is keeping them as its flagship. Qantas has also done something of a sharp U turn, and let it be known it will also invest a great deal in a total remake of its 12 A380s. Why I wonder? Maybe it has something to do with staying in business. Flying second rate tight fit cabins is no way to keep an airline going if the punters just metaphorically walk across the tarmac and catch the better ride.

          1. patrick kilby

            I think QFs strategy is coming clearer. The remade A380s will all be based in Sydney and Melb will get the cramped 787s, but for some attractive (for the pointy end) long distance routes. Otherwise why would the announce Mel-LA daily when there is now only a single A380 on it. The A380 will drop back to three days a week and when the second or third tranche of 4 789s (yes there will be a third tranche of low seat number 787s) we will see a double daily 789 LA-Melb-Perth-Paris/Frankfurt. Then all 380s Sydney based for HK and Sing.

          2. Tango


            With all dues respect those SA A380s were due for either being dropped or re-upped and SA was not saying which way they were going to jump for sure.

            You missed the point that they were early and not desirable models. SA has apparently a good deal on the new ones and that certainly makes sense for them.

            Yes they are going to buy new ones to replace the retired ones.

            I am not saying that the A380 does not work on some routes. It clearly does. It also obviously does not work for a lot of Airlines. Emirates is making it work but that’s a work in progress as it seems they are stuffing it into smaller destinations and we don’t know with what long term results.

            Indications they are not doing so well.

            If I was still flying overseas I would be happy to fly in one that had more room. I got to go cattle class on a 747-SP (?) one time. Only saving grace was a very nice person in the adjacent seat.

            They can easily match Boeing 777-X on seat economics, but as was pointed out, can they sell that many seats leaving at any given time and do they have the paxs on the other end going back the same rate?

    2. Dan Dair

      Re; “clapped out” A380’s with “slop in all the fittings”.

      Perhaps that’s more a sign that these are the airframes which are just about to be dropped by SQ and that they’re being ‘run-into-the-ground’ before the replacements come into service.
      The leaseholders / Airbus* (*delete as appropriate) will be getting back perfectly serviceable aircraft with knackered interiors.
      It’s up to them whether they ‘D’ check them & refurbish the interiors or whether they end-up in the boneyard up North or in the Mojave.
      SQ won’t care.!!!

  6. Tango

    It will carry all of 170 Passengers. That’s pretty deficient. Or you have to sell it out and they all have to be good paying passengers.

    How many routes can you do that on? One? Two?

    A380 has a range of 8200 miles but not sure what pax loading.? 350?

    1. Ben Sandilands


      Those benighted fools at Singapore Airlines just don’t have your wisdom and experience in running an airline. Nor does ANA with its very low seat count high premium long haul 787s for that matter. What would these jerks know? You’ll show them up right and proper when Tango Air fronts up with its reborn 767 ERs.
      (By the way, if you pay even a little bit of attention, from 2019 every A350-900 will be a potential ULR model easily converted depending on the market the customer needs to address. But who needs the latest tech when you are there showing them up as total village idiots?)

      1. AngMoh

        I have flown the A345 when it was mixed Business/Executive Economy to New York and we could not get a business seat and ended up in a completely empty Executive Economy class section. To New York and a lesser extend LA, SQ had problem filling Y (it was not sold as W). Problem is that in economy most seats are cheap discounted fares. The SQ A345 Y seats were sold at full flexible fare economy with a $200 surcharge, but the surcharge was gone quickly. If you did travel business on a full flexible fare, you could have the same fare as the routes with stopover, but get 7-abreast 37″ pitch seats. And still it was empty because the majority of economy class tickets are cheap tickets and these tickets can not be justified for ULH. For me taking the family on a holiday to New York would have broken the bank on the A345 but was affordable on a 747 via Frankfurt.

        On a related note, when people compare the 777-9 with A380, they need to keep in mind that to get a 777-9 similar configured to an all upper deck business class configured A380, you end up with less than 250 seats for the 777-9. This version of the A380 is either 12F/86J/36W/245Y or 12F/86J/311Y. The demand for J and W is there (I don’t think there is the demand for the suites). If you put in 86J/36W SQ style seats in a 777-9, there is not much space left for Y.
        London and some other airports need the A380 unless you want to surrender profitable market share. The 777-9 is to fill the gap between A350 and A380 as well as to keep Airbus honest (Airbus lost the MI order to Boeing because they were over-confident that they would keep the A320 business and not willing to better their offer). I see the 787-10 as a good option to replace the regional 772/773 which are addressing the funny combination of packing in lots of cheap tourist while also addressing the rich elite looking for a premium shopping trip.

        1. Tango

          Once again you are mis stating what I am saying.

          I did not say a thing about SA management.

          It is astonishing how few passengers they can carry for an A350-900 sized aircraft. It boggles my mind what they have to pay and how empty the aircraft will be.

          It will be a 5 minute hike to say hi to the closet passenger.

          Cabin crew will probably have electric gulf carts to get around fast enough.

    2. Dan Dair

      Singapore ran the A340’s on this route & were presumably making money on what is essentially a niche operation, otherwise they wouldn’t be looking at getting back into the route.?
      Of course, if you’re the only ones working the niche, I assume that you can price it to make sure you make a profit.?

      SQ were unfortunate in that they withdrew the A340 service just before the price of fuel dropped through the floor. I suspect though, that it was probably more to do with the costs of impending C or D checks.?

      I have no doubt that they have all the business & marketing contacts from before & are expecting to pick the service up with the A350’s, almost exactly where they left it with the A340’s.?
      It could carry 50 passengers & still make money, if the travelling passengers are prepared to pay what Singapore are charging for the journey.
      As it is (will be) SQ obviously believe it’s going to work for them, so at 170 seats, if they can get close to filling it, they’ll do OK.?

      1. Ben Sandilands

        Dan and Tango,
        There was a briefing in Singapore before the GFC when the airline media were told that while the A345 made a modest profit on the Newark non-stops it also sucked a massive amount of high yield revenue off US carriers competing with it on the routes to Changi.

        We were given the impression that this was the real virtue of the A345, to make life poorer and more difficult for anyone that posed a threat to Singapore Airlines. It struck me as a rather shrewd but also cruel way of maintaining dominance in an open skies environment. Needless to say, if all the competitors fielded A380s on those routes today, the playing field would not only be level but fairly barren for all.

        1. Tango

          And again I did not say they could not make money (cherry picking off the top and impact on others is new)

          Its just how astonishing empty those aircraft are and real definition of long range.

          To me that’s an aircraft that carries its full pax load the distance.

          Some 737s do that as well, 20 passengers or something like that?

          Maybe its the total waste that bothers me.

  7. Tricot

    As a mere pleb passenger who travels between Perth and London – via Singapore or KL – the comparison on Qantas, say, with their “new” 737-800 on the Singapore leg, with its two lousy pillar box toilets at the back, and their bleecher’s seats in economy, compared with either BA’s or MAS A380s or Emirates for that matter, out of Dubai, makes any serious comparison of creature comfort to the disadvantage of the 380 laughable. I am totally ignorant of the economics for flying 380s against any other aircraft but I would opt for the 380 at any time thank you very much….

    1. Tango

      I would too.

      Sadly I can only afford the cheap flights.

  8. whiskeyalphalimalimadashecho

    Hello all again. It might be worth a mention that an A380 with 850 seats is double the seat count of current configurations. So not only do you have more MTOW, you also displace valuable revenue freight, which can be a deal breaker on some routes. So, trade off is more pax revenue, but less range, less freight, double the hold baggage. Never mind the jostling for scarce overhead bins, which can lead to air rage nastiness….. A380 is a reverse tardis at ultra high seat counts above 700 pax.

    1. Tango

      Well the A380 is not big on freight anyway. 747 carries more

      And I remember the screams from the Airlines when it first went into service, “we can’t carry any fright, we need the 900, all the space is taken up with pax luggage!

      Now either the pax luggage went down, or they made enough on pax that freight was not a problem.

      Of course the more you pack in the more that equation changes.

    2. Ben Sandilands

      It’s still a lot roomier than any 787 with nine across seating.

  9. Ben Sandilands

    Similar comments about the real costs of the 787 have been made by many financial analysts in the US. In my opinion, no-one has conclusively proven that Airbus or Boeing benefit from more subsidies than their main competitor per production of airliners in terms of nominal available seat miles capacity, or any other reasonable measure, but there is no doubt that both receive enormous state support, including in states that are risk sharing partners in programs like the Dreamliner.

    Our national economies would be unrecogniseable, and quite possibly somewhat medieval, without a whole matrix of subsidies. I agree with those on both sides of the North Atlantic who say that if a sovereign decision is made to support a particular investment or industry or social service it is purely a matter for that sovereign state. Of course many disagree from a point of view of an arguably utopian or immature position, where supra national laws and treaties would in fact determine the limits of such generosity (or foolishness as the case may be) in relation to various industries. I think that in the real world subsidies will continue unabated if reached at times by devious means, to satisfy political imperatives.
    I don’t think the evidence supports a lack of demand for seats on A380s where they are in service. And the growth pressures that have been remarkably persistent on some routes like those to Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, London Heathrow and London Gatwick and so forth imply that either scarcity pricing or unit size rises will become more apparent in the coming decades. There is a very big gap between the real world experience and some theoretical or ideological positions on such matters.

    1. Tango

      I think that at one time Airbus got vastly more subsides than Boeing and that came out in the ratio of so called illegal aid.

      Since then Boeing has complete jumped into the corporate welfare trough and sucks up subsides like there was no tomorrow.

      Some years they pay no taxes.

      Guess its up to the smucks to keep the system running.

      The next step is for us to pay them not to make airplanes cause it will cost us less in lost revenue.

  10. Trevor Robertson

    I was disappointed at first when I heard this too because of concerns over 10 abreast (3*4*3) seating in the 777X. However, I just learned, and I think it should be noted the good news about about the 777X width. Boeing seems to be learning, they’ve actually made the cabin wider! That was a big surprise to me because that doesn’t seem to be mentioned much. But the cabin will be 12cm wider, allowing for 18″ seat seat width at 10 abreast, vs the 17″ seat width right now in the 777. Not great, but a move in the right direction.

    I think it’s a VERY positive sign that the race to the bottom of seat width maybe is coming to an end, hopefully? Airbus (and also Bombardier) seems to be really promoting their width advantage lately so that should also really help too as passengers hopefully become more aware of this. Sadly we’ll all be stuck with most first gen 777s being squishy and basically all 787s being very squishy for very long time.

    1. Ben Sandilands


      So far there has been no unequivocal confirmation of this from Boeing. Would be very good news if true. What Boeing has said it that it might gain an inch or two by shaving away at the internal width of the walls, while the overall fuselage diameter would remain the same. Airbus has dropped similar hints at what it might do in future A350s and A380s, unfortunately in order to make them respectively slightly less ghastly when an extra seat is crammed into the currently spacious dimensions of each type.

      1. Tango

        What Ben says.

        120 cm would be an all new fuselage, you can’t just bump it a bit wider.

        That also impacts the wing, loading, engine, range ad nausea.

        1. JW (aka James Wilson)

          Have another read, Trevor said “12cm”, not “120cm”. There have been plenty of reports suggesting the 777X will have a slightly wider cabin than current models, although the fuselage width remains the same. The wider cabin will allegedly be achieved through the use of newer technology insulation and other materials that allow reduced space between the cabin wall and the fuselage. Some airlines have been saying the extra width will allow them to use wider seats than those currently used in the 777’s 10-abreast configuration. That can only be a good thing, if it comes to pass.

          1. Tango

            I stand corrected.

            12 cm is what, 120 mm, that is 5 inches (roughly )

            Spread across 9 seat (or 10) that is?

    2. Dan Dair

      Where I live, 12 centimeters is about 4.5 inches.
      How does that equate to an extra inch on each of 10 seats.?

      Anything which helps improve seat-width for passengers has to be a good thing,
      but 1.2cm, or less than half an inch per seat is only barely better than nothing.?

      1. JW (aka James Wilson)

        “How does that equate to an extra inch on each of 10 seats.?”

        It obviously doesn’t, so they’ll nip and tuck in other areas by using narrower aisles and armrests, and by jamming the outer most seat blocks against the cabin walls. All in the name of ‘passenger comfort’!

  11. Zarathrusta

    I recently caught a 777 followed almost immediately by an A350. The difference in noise was palpable in the rear cabin. A roar on takeoff with the 777 followed by ongoing deep rumble, the A350 had noticeably quieter takeoff and almost no vibration compared to the 777 shaking. In cruise, the A350 was quite enough that I was being disturbed when trying to get to sleep by a couple of people talking quietly 7 rows up on the other side of the cabin.

    I wonder to what extent the A350 production ramp up issues fed into this decision.

    1. Tango

      Something to be said for white noise!

      1. Sue B

        Yes, in that regard, I’ve never understood why a quieter cabin is something to be touted. It just means that all the other noises of hundreds of humans in a tiny space bother you instead. Seat me right next to the engine in preference to that, please.

        1. Ben Sandilands

          As a small boy I remember the exciting noise of DC-4 Skymasters and DC-3s that flew past the Snowy Mountains not over them, as well as the massive thumping heart beat of steam engines belting along the rails generally faster than trains run today. There was nothing quite like the thundering shattering roar of a Super Constellation to grab the attention of half a city, in a plane I to this day regret never having flown on.

          But in due course I came to like the residual sounds of slipstreams and silence, high above the clouds, sometimes during a high polar full moon, the frozen world so far below. Yet there is one noise I have never heard with my own ears that I so fervently wanted to experience. That of a Saturn 5 lifting off on a flight to the moon, or even a Space Shuttle blasting off. Those privileged few who have seen and heard with their own senses those curtain raisers to the future, I envy them so much it hurts.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details