- Singapore Airlines will introduce a premium economy product in the Christchurch market early next year as it transitions the Singapore-Christchurch route from 777-200ERs to A350-900s;
- SIA is also increasing business class capacity to/from Christchurch by 62%;
- Economy class capacity will decline by 24% despite Christchurch being primarily a leisure market.
SIA recently announced plans to replace 777-200ERs with A350-900s on the Singapore-Christchurch route from Jan-2019. SIA operates the route daily year-round with three additional frequencies for a total of 10 during the peak southern summer period.
The three additional frequencies will be operated next summer from late November to early February using 777-200ERs. The year-round daily service will transition from 777-200ERs to A350-900s on 7-Jan-2019 but the last 777-200ER flight will depart Christchurch on 10-Feb-2019 (this is the last day of the seasonal three additional frequencies).
SIA configures its A350-900s with 253 seats compared with 271 seats on the 777-200ERs, resulting in a capacity decline of 18 seats or 7%. However, business class capacity will increase by 62% or 16 seats as SIA has 42 business class seats on the A350 compared with 26 on the 777-200ER. Both aircraft offer lie-flat seats in business with direct aisle access. SIA has offered a lie flat product in the Christchurch market since 2013, when it retrofitted its 777-200ER fleet.
Switching to the A350 also gives SIA the opportunity to introduce a premium economy product in the Christchurch market. SIA has 24 premium economy seats on the A350-900.
Total premium capacity will therefore increase by 153% from 26 to 66 seats. Economy class capacity will decline by 24% as the A350 has only 187 regular economy seats compared to 245 on the 777-200ER.
The decline in economy capacity is not ideal as Christchurch is generally a strong leisure market. However, SIA needed to transition the Singapore-Christchurch route to a new aircraft type as it is phasing out its 777-200ERs and the other alternatives were too big. For example, SIA’s new fleet of 787-10s have 301 economy class seats and 337 seats overall. Christchurch is a relatively small market and would struggle to support 300 plus seat aircraft most of the year.
SIA also does not have a premium economy cabin on its 787-10s. Offering premium economy in the Christchurch market is sensible as Singapore-Christchurch is now one of SIA’s longest routes without a premium economy option. SIA should be able to fill the premium economy cabin to Christchurch with upmarket leisure passengers as well as some corporate traffic.
Christchurch is the gateway to New Zealand’s south island, a popular destination for tourists from Asia and Europe. A majority of SIA’s Christchurch passengers connect beyond Singapore. Passengers originating or heading to Europe will now have the opportunity to fly premium economy on both sectors.
SIA will become the only airline in the Christchurch market offering a premium economy product on a daily year-round basis. SIA and China Southern are currently the only Asian airlines serving Christchurch year-round; several Asian airlines only serve Christchurch in the summer.
Emirates is the only Gulf carrier in the Christchurch market but serves Christchurch via Sydney. Emirates therefore has a two-stop product in the Christchurch-Europe market compared to a one-stop product for SIA. The increase in business class capacity and introduction of a premium economy option will further strengthen SIA’s position in the Christchurch-Europe market.
SIA and its joint venture partner Air New Zealand already offer premium economy in the Singapore-Auckland market. Each airline now operates one daily flight from Singapore to Auckland and are adding a third daily flight from late Oct-2018. (SIA will operate the additional flight in summer and Air NZ will operate the additional flight in winter.)
The SIA-Air NZ joint venture also includes the Singapore-Christchurch route although SIA is the only operator. SIA has served Christchurch for over 30 years and has been operating 777s to Christchurch since 2002.