A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about ultra-long haul routes. I used two textbook examples of Singapore Airlines‘ nonstop services from Singapore Changi airport (SIN) to Newark Liberty International airport (EWR) and Los Angeles International airport (LAX), representing the #1 and #2 longest flights in the world, measuring at 9,535 miles and 8,770 miles respectively. Singapore launched both of these routes in 2004 using an Airbus A340-500 series aircraft, and at present, the airline owns and operates only 5 frames of this fleet type dedicated exclusively to these two glamour routes.
Initially, Singapore launched SQ flights 21/22 and 37/38 with a two-class cabin configuration, featuring Singapore’s renowned Business Class and a premium economy class with extra legroom. However, despite decent load factors in the 70 percentile range, Singapore re-configured the cabins to feature an all-business class layout circa 2007 in an effort to improve profit margins.
Even still, the high fuel-price environment, coupled with a sour global economy that spelled massive reductions in corporate travel, have made it difficult for these two flights to break-even. Ultra long-haul flights have become exceptionally expensive to maintain: aside from carrying tons of fuel to span the distances of 17 hour+ journeys, the flights have to account for higher-than-average crew costs to staff enough people to maintain the flight on the trip. Simply put, they are neither economically viable nor efficient in this revenue period.
This morning, USA Today reported that Singapore Airlines will be dropping both the SIN-EWR and SIN-LAX flights as part of a broader strategic plan to “modernize” its fleet plan to achieve capacity growth consistent with Singapore’s future visions. Singapore ordered five additional Airbus A380’s and 20 Airbus A350’s, valued at USD $7.5 billion, with expected delivery dates in 2017. As part of the deal, according to a press release issued by Singapore Airlines today, Airbus will re-acquire SIA’s five A340-500 frames in Q4 2013, which are currently used on the nonstop Newark and LAX flights.
In the press release, SIA CEO Mr. Goh Choon Phong stated:
“Although disappointing that we will be halting these services, we remain very committed to the US market. Over the past two years we have increased capacity to both Los Angeles and New York by deploying A380 superjumbos on flights via Tokyo and Frankfurt. We will also continue to explore additional options to enhance our US services.”
According to an article published in AviationWeek today, it is “widely known” that the nonstop SIA flights to the U.S. are unprofitable “because of the four-engined aircraft’s higher fuel burn.” Business Traveler conducted a deeper analysis on the cessation of these flights, revealing that the routes were unprofitable because the A340-500 was unable to carry a lot of passengers because of weight restrictions, as the plane was already “filled to the brim with kerosene.” In other words, “the plane was burning fuel just to carry fuel.”
Although it’s not a huge surprise that Singapore made this decision, BT reported that the flights will still be missed by global business travelers, as it reduced hours of travel time between three very long distance points. Moreover, the service standards on SIA are renowned for being among the best in the world.
Once these routes are zeroed out, the new longest flight in the world will be Qantas Airways Flight 7 from Sydney Kingsford Smith airport (SYD) to Dallas/Ft. Worth International airport (DFW) in Texas. Earlier this year, Scott McCartney, author of The Middle Seat, a travel-oriented beat of the Wall Street Journal, published an account of what it is like to fly on the world’s longest flight in coach on Qantas 7 from Sydney to Dallas. Although the Singapore Airlines flights to Newark and LAX represented the longest flights in the world, neither of them offered coach class. Read more about it here.
American Airlines announces new routes to expand network in Asia, Europe and Latin America, as well as domestically
Fort Worth-based American Airlines unveiled an exciting list of new international routes today from three of its cornerstone hubs in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago O’Hare and New York JFK in Spring 2013.
American will venture into a new Asian country for the first time in its history when it launches a new daily flight from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Seoul Incheon airport (ICN) in South Korea on May 9, 2013. This route has been rumored for a long time and will be flown on one of American’s 777-200 ER aircraft.
While South Korea will be a first for AA, the DFW-Seoul market has actually been served for nearly two decades by founding Skyteam member Korean Air. Korean presently maintains a 5-weekly nonstop service between the two markets and has weathered through some tough economic times yet remained committed to North Texas, despite the lack of a Skyteam partner hub at DFW airport.
It will be interesting to see how American’s entrance into the DFW-Seoul corridor will impact Korean. Allegedly, much of the transfer traffic on American’s two daily services from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Tokyo Narita (NRT) flows over to ICN on OneWorld partner Japan Airlines (JAL). Therefore, a nonstop link to Seoul will fill this void for OneWorld loyalists, as well as also provide another important link between Asia and South America thanks to American’s strong Latin focus out of DFW.
Assuming that both carriers can co-exist in the market, it is likely that AA will default to capturing more US-originating point-of-sale and corporate traffic, thanks to the AAdvantage allegiance. Korean, conversely, will likely target more Asia-originating traffic, or US-originating traffic comprised of Visiting Family and Relatives (VFR) passengers seeking connections to big ethnic markets around Asia. Without question, Korean does offer a superior on-board product and customer experience relative to AA.
The departure and arrival times for the new DFWICN flights are well-primed to connect passengers to and from destinations such as Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro:
AA27 | DFW-ICN | 10:30-15:00 | 772 | D
AA26 | ICN-DFW | 17:00-16:20 | 772 | D
The flight will be launched in partnership with Japan Airlines.
DFW will also receive a re-started nonstop link to Lima Jorge Chavez International airport (LIM) in Peru, in partnership with OneWorld member LAN Airlines, starting May 2, 2013. AA had served this route previously between 1996 and 2006, but since then, LAN has been rapidly growing their Lima hub and the Peruvian economy is booming. This will be a nice trunk route which again will serve as an anchor between the highly lucrative Asia – Latin American corridor. Flight timings are such:
AA2193 | DFW-LIM | 17:30-00:25 | 752 | D
AA2194 | LIM-DFW | 02:00-09:15 | 752 | D
Another curious route launch beginning April 11, 2013 will be between Chicago O’Hare and Dusseldorf International airport (DUS) in Germany. AA also previously served this route up until the end of 1995. Similar to the DFW-ICN route, this new flight will also compete with an incumbent carrier, as Lufthansa presently offers a daily round trip flight between ORD and DUS.
Combined with airberlin’s new service from Chicago to Berlin next spring, these two flights will represent a strengthened commitment between OneWorld, Chicago and Central Europe next year.
AA242 | ORD-DUS | 17:00-08:15 | 763 | D
AA241 | DUS-ORD | 12:10-14:20 | 763 | D
Finally, American will be adding a new nonstop flight between JFK and Dublin, Ireland, starting on June 12, 2013:
A290 | JFK-DUB | 18:55-06:55 | 752 | D
AA291 | DUB-JFK | 09:00-11:30 | 752 | D
Along with these new services, AA will also begin some new domestic routes on its regional affiliates between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Beaumont Port Arthur (BPT) in Texas, as well as Columbia, MO (COU) and Fargo, North Dakota (FAR) and between Chicago O’Hare and Columbia, MO.
Read the press release here.