Singapore Airlines will take delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 this week, ahead of inaugural flights in Asia and to Europe.
The advanced jet will arrive in Singapore's Changi Airport on Thursday March 3 as the centrepiece of a wide-reaching fleet upgrade for Singapore Airlines, with 63 firm orders and options to buy 20 more.
Inaugural A350 commercial services will make short hops from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta for the purposes of crew familiarisation with the all-new aircraft, before spreading its wings onto the 13 hour Singapore-Amsterdam route from May 9.
Düsseldorf will follow with three A350 flights a week from July 21, 2016.
The airline expects to have ten A350 jets in its fleet by year's end in a long-range configuration of 42 business class seats using SQ's latest design, plus 24 seats in premium economy and 187 in economy.
However, that first tranche of A350s will be followed by a wave of 'medium-range' models from 2017 with less emphasis on premium seating, which will eventually replace all of Singapore Airlines' A330s on flights of up to eight hours, including most SQ services into Australia.
Next up will be the ultra-long range Airbus A350ULR, for which Singapore Airlines is the worldwide launch customer, with the long-legged jet to fly non-stop from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York.
This will sport a premium-heavy layout of around 170 seats, expected to be a mostly business class configuration bookended by small first class and premium economy cabins.
Inside Singapore Airlines' A350
The A350's pointy end will feature the same superb business class seats as SQ’s newest Boeing 777s.
This will be "a somewhat new seat" compared to those of the A380 and Boeing 777-300ER, "but the look and feel will be more or less the same" says Mr Tan Pee Teck, Singapore Airlines' Senior Vice President for Product & Services.
AusBT review: Singapore Airlines premium economy (Sydney-Singapore)
Economy seating will be the same as on the airline's newest Boeing 777-300ERs and arranged in a 3-3-3- layout.
However, a second wave of A350s due from 2017 is expected to see fewer business class seats and a larger economy cabin, with those jets adopting a 'medium range' configuration for relatively shorter flights of up to eight hours.
Singapore Airlines is also considering if some of the medium-range A350s might sport the airline's next-generation business class, due in 2017 for the Airbus A380 and in 2018 for the ultra-long range A350.
That ultra-long range A350, for which Singapore Airlines is to date the sole customer, will fly non-stop from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York, fitted with around 170 seats compared to just over 250 passengers in SQ's long-range A350-900.
Singapore Airlines CEO Mr Goh Choon Phong last year told Australian Business Traveller that unlike the 'all business class’ model of SQ's previous non-stop Airbus A340 flights, the layout for the long-legged jets "will probably be more than just business class, I think it will be a mix of cabin classes."
This is likely to see a mostly business class configuration bookended by small first class and premium economy cabins.
More great Airbus A350 reads on Australian Business Traveller
- Innovative Airbus A350 first class cabin concept revealed
- Singapore Airlines' next Airbus A350 routes – Milan, Barcelona, Sao Paulo?
- Inside Cathay Pacific's all-new Airbus A350
- Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 bound for Auckland in 'second half of year'
- Review: Finnair Airbus A350 business class
- Cathay Pacific nixes first class for Airbus A350-1000
- Behind the scenes of Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 countdown
- The Airbus A350's secret loft where cabin crew relax and sleep
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.