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Singapore Airlines is bringing back daily service to its three largest U.S. gateways, an early sign that international travel could be poised for a rebound.
The airline’s Singapore service will become daily from New York-JFK, Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) starting Jan. 18, 2021. The flag carrier of Singapore describes the increase as its “most significant U.S. schedule expansion” since the outset of the pandemic.
Singapore will also deploy the Airbus A350-900ULR on both the New York and San Francisco routes when the airline moves from its current schedule of several flights per week to daily service.
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Singapore’s ultra-long-range variant of the A350 sports 67 business-class seats and 94 premium economy recliners, while the standard Airbus A350-900 flying to LAX is outfitted in a three-cabin configuration with 42 biz seats, 24 premium economy recliners and 187 standard coach seats.
Going forward, that leaves LAX as the only Singapore Airlines destination in the U.S. to currently feature a coach cabin.
Joey Seow, Singapore’s regional vice president for the Americas described the news to TPG as a “significant milestone” and a “positive development” in the recovery of international travel, which has been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
Seow specifically noted that “the worldwide inoculation program underway has led to some positivity for international travel,” echoing the widely held belief that a full recovery won’t happen until there’s mass vaccination against the coronavirus.
Though the country of Singapore itself is closed to Americans, the carrier’s Changi Airport mega-hub is open for transit passengers headed to other places, like the Maldives.
Interestingly, Singapore will continue flying the world’s longest flight from New York-JFK, as opposed to its previous home of Newark (EWR). JFK is the carrier’s “home market” in the region, according to Seow, who cited the fact that it was the carrier’s first point of entry into the East Coast over 25 years ago.
Though Singapore considered splitting operations between JFK and EWR, “from a schedule and economies-of-scale perspective, it made sense to scale up JFK to daily before returning to Newark.” However, Seow did reassure travelers that “we are not at all abandoning Newark.”
Singapore biz on the Airbus A350-900ULR (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Another important consideration for keeping JFK flights is the fact that “it’s a big cargo gateway compared to Newark.”
Cargo also explains why the carrier had originally restarted flying to JFK in November with the standard A350. This plane has more cargo capacity than the ULR, which meant the carrier could carry more goods between the two cities.
However, the standard A350 doesn’t have the range to make it to Singapore with a fully loaded passenger and cargo cabin. With bookings increasing, the carrier needed to bring back the ULR.
As for why LAX doesn’t also get the ULR variant, there’s “a fair bit more cargo flying through Los Angeles, so we need to keep the increased capacity” of the standard A350. Plus, offering a coach cabin from LAX allows Singapore to compete on price for bargain-hunting travelers.
In addition to carrying pharmaceuticals from JFK and produce from the West Coast, Seow also mentioned that the airline is “part of the process of distributing the vaccine throughout Southeast Asia.”
As the vaccine rolls out, Seow expects “greater confidence in economies opening up,” which should ultimately help reopen borders — and generate enough demand to warrant Singapore rebuilding its route network.
Singapore’s U.S. flight schedules beginning Jan. 18, 2021 are below:
JFK – SIN: SQ23 10:30 p.m. – 6:10 a.m. +2
SIN – JFK SQ24 2:25 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.
SFO – SIN SQ33 8:50 p.m. – 6:25 a.m. +2
SIN – SFO SQ34 6:40 p.m. – 5:20 p.m.
LAX – SIN SQ37 10:25 p.m. – 8:15 a.m. +2
SIN – LAX SQ38 8:45 p.m. – 7:55 p.m.