Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines further upgrades its cabins

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Singapore Airlines has been the epitome of luxury for many years now. Many airlines look to the airline, not only for the product they have onboard, but the way that Singapore Airlines effortlessly conveys luxury and sophistication. Singapore Airlines has not failed to deliver on their latest incarnation of products which will replace the current fleets slightly older, but by no means tired cabins. The first aircraft to adopt these new cabins will be the 777-300ER and when it comes into service, the A350. Passengers between Singapore and London will be the first to experience the new seats when they come on line in September.

“The significant investment in our next generation of cabin products reaffirms our commitment to product innovation and leadership, and demonstrates our confidence in the future for premium full-service air travel,” said SIA’s Executive Vice President Commercial, Mr Mak Swee Wah. The products seem to be more like luxury train or car, and this is no surprise, as the release is the result of more than two years of working with world-renowned design firms. BMW Group DesignworksUSA assisted with the development of the new First Class, James Park Associates assisted with Business Class and Massive Interactive with the in-flight entertainment system interface.

We take a look at the products a little closer.

First Class
Singapore Airlines’ new First Class seat, features a new fixed-back shell design with curved side panels to provide a clear demarcation of personal space, for added privacy. At 35 inches in width and with an increased bed length from 80 to 82 inches, it is one of the most spacious First Class products in the sky. (But not the most!) Extensive research was conducted to determine how best to increase the comfort of the new First Class seat. An ergonomically sculpted cushion and improved adjustable headrest have been introduced for greater seating comfort, while new features such as a padded headboard for extra support and an additional mattress layer ensure customers enjoy a good rest. The attention to detail here is superb, and shows great research into the seating habits of travellers in such products. We personally love the two types of backing to the seat, depending whether you are configured in bed or seat mode.
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Asia’s full-service airlines go low-cost

The market share (in terms of seats) of low-cost carriers within Asia is expected  to reach nearly 20 percent by the end of 2011. However, LCC penetration in the region is still behind that of the USA and Europe, while the middle class across Asia is growing rapidly, creating new demand for affordable air travel. Furthermore, the upcoming ‘open skies’ policy amongst the ASEAN countries, as well as increasing liberalization in Japan and South Korea will further boost air travel in the region. 

These new market opportunities, plus strong competition from the likes of AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Lion Air, IndiGo, Spring and Skymark, has led several full-service airlines in the region, such as Qantas (Jetstar), Singapore Airlines (Tiger), Malaysian Airlines (Firefly) and Korean Air (JinAir) to set up their own low-cost subsidiaries in recent years. Joining these airlines in the next year will be Thai Airways and All Nippon Airways, while Singapore Airlines just announced plans to establish a long-haul low-cost subsidiary. 

Singapore Airlines: Long-haul low-cost
Singapore Airlines (SIA) new budget airline will start operating within a year and be based in Singapore. Although fully owned by Singapore Airlines and likely to operate some of SIA’s older model B777s, the new carrier will operate independently. Initial routes of the long-haul budget airline are expected to be to East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), Australia and India. Other details, such as its name and just how ‘no frills’ the low-cost subsidiary will be, have not yet be announced. 

According to analysts, SIA has little choice but to start a low-cost long-haul subsidiary because its mainline operation is not growing. In 2010, the airline carried 16.6 million passengers, compared with 19 million in 2007/8. In the same period, Singapore’s Changi Airport saw its passenger traffic growing from 36 million to 44 million. Given the more open air regulations in Singapore vis-à-vis other Asian locations, SIA faces more competitive pressures than some of its peers. For examaple, according to Nomura Investments, LCCs have a market share of 27 percent in Singapore compared with ess than 5 percent in Hong Kong. 

With its new long-haul low-cost subsidiary, Singapore Airlines is aiming at Qantas’ Jetstar Asia and Malaysia’s AirAsia X as well as Gulf carriers such as Emirates, which have picked up the bulk of new long-haul traffic from Singapore.
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American and Singapore Airlines to introduce innovative IFE features

Developments in the world of digital in-flight entertainment (IFE) are progressing rapidly these days (see our recent article: “Trends in consumer electronics drive innovations in in-flight entertainment”. American Airlines and Singapore Airlines are the latest airlines to announce new IFE concepts.

American Airlines in-flight video streaming
American Airlines said it is working with in-flight broadband provider Aircell to test a new entertainment system that enables passengers to wirelessly stream video content such as movies and tv shows from an in-flight library to their personal wireless devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablets.

American says the price of the streaming video service will be “very similar” to what people pay for pay-per-view movies at home. Amazon and iTunes, two popular pay-per-view channels, typically charge USD3 to 5 for a movie and USD1 to 3 for a TV episode. Passengers who want to buy a movie or TV episode won’t be required to pay for Internet access to see them. The entertainment will be stored in a server on the plane to ensure that the Internet speed for other passengers won’t be slowed.

American is currently testing the new in-flight video system on two Boeing 767-200 aircraft in transcontinental service, and plans to begin customer testing early this summer. The airline’s goal is to roll out the product on Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft starting this fall pending regulatory approval. American currently offers wireless Internet on 208 aircraft and says it will outfit its entire fleet with the service by the end of 2012.
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Singapore Airlines goes digital with in-flight magazines

Singapore Airlines has introduced an electronic version of its its three in-flight magazines – SilverKris (in-flight magazine), KrisShop (sales catalogue); and KrisWorld (entertainment guide) – on its KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system. The digital magazines will be high resolution and passengers will be able to choose their own font, search by keyword, and zoom in to aid reading. Singapore Airlines says it is the first in the world to offer an e-magazine. The e-magazines are part of a trial with a Singapore-based company, SmarttPapers Aviation. and Singapore Airlines says it eventual goal is to create a paperless aircraft.

The airline may extend the initiative at a later date to cover other publications, including menu cards and the more than 100 international and local magazines carried in the cabin. This is “in line with efforts to reduce the amount of paper carried on board, thus reducing weight and saving fuel”, the carrier said in a statement. “E-books and e-magazines have gained popularity and we want to offer these to our customers.” The digital magazines made their debut on 2 B777-300ERs on 31 July, and will be followed by 2 A380s, before being rolled out Singapore Airlines aircraft equipped with the Panasonic eX2 IFE system. Read full article

Business class-only services holding up despite recession

Despite the economic recession and the subsequent fall in business travel, the business class-only niche is holding up surprisingly well. Initiated by private start-ups such as eos, Silverjet and l’Avion in the pre-recession boom in premium travel, the model has been incorporated by airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Singapore Airlines and ANA. Now with premium travel recovering slightly, airlines are considering growing their premium-only services again.

British Airways recently said it may expand its ‘Club World London City’ service to other U.S east-coast locations, such as Boston and Washington. BA says its flights from London City to JFK, which started in September 2009, reached 75 percent seat occupancy in December. The carrier also revealed it looked at starting flights to Dubai that would be refueled in mainland Europe, but decided against the plan. While BA’s westbound flight to JFK has to refuel in Shannon (Ireland), the ability to clear U.S immigration controls at Shannon enables the layover time to be put to use. However, such a stop could not be justified for many other potential routes from London City.
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Air France takes a less extravagant approach to cabin features in its new A380 flagship

Last Friday (October 30), Air France became the first European airline to take delivery of the Airbus A380. Air France will operate the aircraft – of which it has 12 on firm order – in a three-class 538-seat layout (9 seats in first, 80 in business and 449 in economy), the highest density A380 configuration sofar. Air France’s A380 won’t have the carrier’s new premium economy class installed, which Air France will roll-out to its entire long-haul fleet by the end of 2010, because retrofitting the A380 might have upsetted Airbus’ tight production schedule.

Compared with Singapore Airlines (First Class suites, extra-wide business seats, USB in all seats), Emirates (suites, showers,  staffed lounge bar in First), and Qantas (upgraded First, full-flat business beds, slim-line economy seats), Air France has taken a relatively modest outfit for its A380 flagship. This may have been a wise decision given the current economic recession and the expected post-crisis ‘New Normal’. At the other hand, surprisingly little upgrades in seat design have been made, other than improved seat covers in First, a larger IFE screen in Business, wider armrests in Economy, and USB sockets in all classes. Most notably, Air France has chosen not to install full-flat beds in its A380 flagship, at a time when even U.S carriers are going ‘horizontal’.
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