There will be no first-class cabins in Singapore Airlines's new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which are to debut in Abu Dhabi on March 29. Singapore is among an increasing number of airlines, including its long-haul rivals Qantas and British Airways, that are reducing their reliance on first-class bookings on some international flights, as the global downturn causes more travel in business and economy.
Gulf carriers such as Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline have recently introduced lavish new first-class cabins, although they also operate some planes in a two class set-up. "Obviously with what happened last year, first-class demand has taken a hit," said Desmond Lim, the Abu Dhabi manager for Singapore Airlines. He said the exclusively business and economy set-up for the A330-300, which is designed for flights of up to seven hours, would allow the airline to better serve customer's needs on medium-haul flights, where first-class luxury was not always required. "We think overall it will be a plus," Mr Lim said, adding that the configuration would free up space to offer 30 business-class seats.
The new A330-300s will offer in business class a 152.4cm seat pitch and a 15.5-inch inflight entertainment screen. And in both cabins passengers will have access points for using iPods and the multimedia functions on iPhones. The new planes will replace older Boeing 777s used on the Dubai route - most of which feature first class. Singapore has been focusing more on Abu Dhabi since last year, when it increased its presence from a few flights each week to a daily service. Singapore's flights to the UAE capital are generally between 70 and 80 per cent full, and about 90 per cent full over December, airline officials said.
Yields, or the average price per ticket, have risen by about 10 per cent in the past six months, which could signal the end of a price war that engulfed airlines last year, when global demand was at its nadir, officials said. Last year, Singapore reduced its service to Dubai from three flights a day to two. Demand in Dubai has begun to recover, officials said, and the airline might build up frequencies on an ad hoc basis in the busy summer season, and on a more permanent basis by the end of the year if conditions continue to improve.