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Why SIA’s A380 Premium Economy is Taking Longer to Install than Planned

Singapore Airlines will delay the launch of some of its highly anticipated Premium Economy (PEY) launch on some A380 aircraft because of installation delays which double the lead-time to completion from 7 days to around 14, the airline confirms.

“We had expected to have seven retrofitted A380s in service by now but at present we have three serving Sydney, Hong Kong and London routes. The original plan was for all 19 to be completed in the first quarter of 2016 (calendar year), but this has now shifted to the second quarter,” an airline spokesperson tells Flight Chic.

The installation work for the PEY cabin is carried out by the SIA Engineering Company, the MRO (Maintenance Repair Organisation) subsidiary of Singapore Airlines.

As a result of these delays, passengers holding tickets for flights affected are being offered alternatives by the airline.

“Affected customers will be contacted progressively to be offered alternative travel arrangements and service recovery,” a SIA spokesperson confirms. “Service recovery will comprise in-flight gift vouchers and complimentary upgrades to Premium Economy for future flights for those who cannot be accommodated on another Premium Economy flight and opt to continue their travel in Economy Class. Should customers no longer wish to travel, a full refund will be provided in addition to a complimentary upgrade to Premium Economy for a future flight.”

The airline posted an alert about the delay on its website, with a list of affected flights, as follows (click to enlarge):

Delays to Singapore Airlines A380 Premium Economy installation.
Flights affected by delays to Singapore Airlines A380 Premium Economy installation.

Flight Chic asked whether any deliverables (seats or trim) had caused delays, but was told the delay was with the installation process.

One of the challenges of any retrofit program, especially one as dramatic as adding a new cabin class to an existing aircraft, is that it requires a tear down of the existing interior and then a complete rebuild. That involves not only removing old seats and installing new seats on rails, then laying the carpet, but also, in this case, moving monuments and shifting the cabin lay-out.

That is before considering the detailed quality control checks for safety and aesthetics, the inevitable nicks, and the fixes that will happen when handling new interiors. There are just many things that can go wrong and must be made right.

Dress slowly, You’re in a hurry, as the old Spanish adage goes.

Singapore Airlines had committed itself to a very aggressive installation program, to get its fresh product to market quickly and keep up with competitors in the region. This came after a long process of reviewing whether to introduce a Premium Economy product and the design and development process of what is a very beautiful, and promises to be a very comfortable, flying experience. It seems that the wait will be a little longer yet for some, which is a disappointment, but SIA is doing the right thing by notifying customers and giving them a range of alternatives.

After attending the reveal of this cabin in Singapore, I wrote that this cabin was well worth the wait. That hasn’t changed.

I suspect that, for passengers, waiting a little longer to fly the new SIA Premium Economy will still be worth it.

The product is beautifully considered and rich with passenger experience features. (click to enlarge)

But ensuring that this ambitious Premium Economy product delivers on its promise requires careful work, numerous quality control checks, and fine detailing throughout the installation process.

While this delay is a major competitive setback for SIA, which needs to get a middle-of-the-market product to fly as soon as possible, in aircraft programs often “possible” out runs “soon.”

No doubt there are sleepless nights in Singapore over this, and delays will be examined and resolved.

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