- SQ's new Airbus A380s will have fewer (but much larger) first class suites
- No inflight shower, says Singapore Airlines exec
- Revised layout may see first class relocated to upper deck
- New A380 fleet to take wing in October 2017
EXCLUSIVE | Singapore Airlines will reveal its all-new Airbus A380 first class suites mid-year, ahead of their debut on a fresh superjumbo fleet arriving from late 2017.
The Star Alliance member hopes that its launch of the luxe suites – slated for a massive media event to be held in Singapore – will make the airline more appealing to first class flyers in face of competition from Emirates and Etihad Airways.
Emirates also plans to unveil new first class suites for the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER by the end of 2017, with CEO Tim Clark describing the suites as "fully enclosed rooms with all the touches and amenities that you’d expect in hotel or a private bedroom on a luxury yacht, room service and so on."
Travellers should be able to fly in Singapore Airlines' cosy upscale cocoons from October when it's expected the airline will take delivery of a new A380 flown in from Airbus HQ at Toulouse to mark the 10th anniversary of the superjumbo, for which the Singaporean flag-carrier was launch customer.
Four more factory-fresh A380s will follow as Singapore Airlines works to renew its fleet.
(The airline's initial five A380s were obtained from Airbus under a 10-year lease and Singapore Airlines will be returning the first of those to Airbus in October, although the fate of the remaining four has yet to be revealed.)
A spokesman for Singapore Airlines confirmed to Australian Business Traveller "we are working towards an unveil of the new cabin products at an event in Singapore early in the second half of this calendar year."
"The first aircraft from the next batch of five A380s is due for delivery during the second half of the year, although we are not able to provide a specific date at this point."
Bigger suites but no showers
While the design of the new suites remains top secret, Singapore Airlines executives has let a few details slip.
Airline CEO Goh Choon Phong Goh has confirmed there will be fewer suites on the new flagship A380s compared to the 12 private suites of the current fleet – a move in line with a general worldwide softening of the first class travel market.
The new superjumbos are tipped to have between six and eight suites, although these will be substantially larger than today's cribs.
(A side-effect of rebalancing suite supply against commercial demand is that it will become harder to claim a suite using frequent flyer miles.)
"Definitely no showers!" Mr Tan Pee Teck, the airline's Senior Vice President for Product & Services, has previously told Australian Business Traveller. "It’s a frill that we probably don’t need."
"A few customers say it’s nice to have," Tan admitted, "but it’s not a compelling proposition in terms of the decision to choose an airline – I don’t think many would choose based on a shower... it's more like something that just comes along with it."
There's also speculation that Singapore Airlines will relocate the first class cabin from the A380's main deck to the upper deck – a location which Airbus itself has been championing among superjumbo customers.
Many of the first airlines to fly the A380 chose to position their first class cabin on the lower level, partly out of concern that the pointy end of the upper deck would be too noisy (based on airlines' experiences with the Boeing 747) and also because direct boarding of passengers onto the upper deck wasn’t available at many airports during the A380’s early days.
However, Airbus maintains the narrower upper deck is better suited to more efficient use of space for first class suites while fitting more economy seats onto the wider main deck.
This would allow Singapore Airlines to create a 'premium' upper deck dedicated to first and business class, with premium economy at the nose of the lower deck and economy behind that.
It's also understood that Singapore Airlines has investigated adopting a wide single aisle with suites located at either side, as introduced by Etihad Airways for its Airbus A380 Apartments, rather than the conventional twin-aisle layout.