MIAMI – Amid the pandemic and while airlines’ A380 fleets stays grounded, Singapore Airlines (SQ) operates relentlessly on its A380 upgrade program.

The airline wants to ensure that all A380s have new top-quality first-class suites and business-class seats as the carrier heads back to the skies. The Airbus A380-841, registration 9V-SKQ left Alice Springs on February 22, 2021. With the move, SQ is preparing the superjumbo fleet to return to service.

The aircraft performing flight number SQ8896 departed Alice Springs Airport (ASP) and landed for routine maintenance checks at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (KYF).

According to an Executive Traveller report, a spokesman for SQ confirmed that the A380 which was stored in ASP has started its scheduled return to Singapore in advance of the retrofit and maintenance timetable.

Despite a net loss of US$2,6m, SQ’s financial figures for the first half of 2020 show up to US$9bn. Also, the airline progressively searches for other ways to further boost its liquidity, including the selling and leasing of aircraft. Furthermore, the carrier stretched its future Boeing and Airbus delivery program over the next five years.

Singapore Airlines 9V-SKQ Airbus A380-841. Photo: Tony Bordealis/Airways

Superjumbo Cabin Revamp

The superjumbo will “undergo routine checks following its storage, before returning to Singapore where it will be retrofitted as part of our plan to have all 12 remaining A380 in our fleet fitted with the latest A380 cabin product.” The spokesman confirmed.

As a launch customer of the A380, the SQ in 2007 introduced A380s with 12 first-class suites on the lower deck. However, SQ will replace those suits with 6 double-sized suites on the upper deck as part of A380’s upgrade.

The airline will install the newest first-class suites on the forward upper deck for all A380, and two sets of suites have double beds. The cabins have more privacy with sliding doors and unlimited Wi-Fi access to the passenger suites during the flight. Also, the flag carrier introduces 44 luxury seats in the forward portion of the lower deck.

Similarly, SQ will introduce the latest business-class seat in A380 instead of the previous bench-like seats. This helps couples in paired middle seats slip down a divider and share more travel experiences. In addition, turning the ‘front row’ business class seats in rows 11, 91, and 96 into a double bed is another interesting option.

Singapore Airlines 9V-SKW Airbus A380-841. Photo: Brandon Farris/airways

The A380 Era Is Ending

This downsized SQ fleet will of 12 A380 consists of the five newest A380s delivered with new suites and seat styles of 2017. On the other hand, seven A380s had previously been fitted with the first cabin outfit. Moreover, because of the pandemic, The carrier planned to retire more than a third of the A380 fleet earlier.

The goal of SQ is that, as demand for global travel rebuilds, the A380s will once again begin to service. “We do not have any plans at this stage to return any of our A380 aircraft into commercial service,” the airline spokesman said, “however we continue to monitor travel demand closely and remain nimble to ensure the right aircraft can be deployed to the appropriate route as required.”

Meanwhile, purchasing 31 of the Boeing 777-9 jetliner as a potential replacement for superjumbo, SQ is looking forward to the last days of the A380. However, Boeing has postponed delivery of the 777-9s until at least 2024. Still, the year will mark the arrival of new first-class suites and business class seats.

The airline has presented its planned Boeing 777-9 seats to a variety of partners and high-level frequent flyers who have signed a non-disclosure agreement. The Star Alliance member unveiled the present Boeing 777 first and business class in 2013. That means they will be over a decade old by the time the triple sevens hit the stage.

Sliding privacy doors are key features of SQ’s new Boeing 777-9 first-class suites, which CEO Goh has previously promised, saying the airline will be a first-class carrier and believes “when we launch (it) will again set industry standards.” Goh has also talked up SQ’s Boeing 777-9 business class, saying a “quantum leap” is in store.

Other airlines have grounded their A380. At beginning of October 2020, Etihad Airways (EY) announced that its A380s grounding will continue through the winter of 2021. In summer 2020, Qantas (QF) announced it would continue to fly for three years with its 12 Airbus A380 aircraft.

Featured image: Singapore Airlines 9V-SKT Airbus A380-841. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways