- Singapore Airlines will increase flights to and from Australia, adding over 4,700 seats weekly in each direction.
- The deployment of an Airbus A350-900 on the Singapore-Cairns route in 2024 will increase capacity by 57%, benefiting tourism and fresh produce exports.
- The A350-900’s additional belly-hold freight capacity of 47 tonnes will be crucial for local exporters, especially for time-sensitive products like seafood and fresh produce.
This week Singapore Airlines announced a significant increase in flights to and from Australia for 2024, adding more than 4,700 seats weekly in each direction compared to this year. While adding more daily flights in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne is good news, the impact on regional centers such as Cairns in Far North Queensland will be profound.
Close ties between Australia and Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines has long been a major supporter of Australian aviation, and today, in combination with its low-cost subsidiary Scoot, it offers more than 140 weekly flights from eight cities across Australia, including Cairns. The service currently operates five times weekly using a narrowbody Boeing 737 MAX 8 delivering 1,540 seats weekly to and from Cairns.
Photo: KITTIKUN YOKSAP/Shutterstock.
From March 31st, 2024, the service will switch to four times weekly using an Airbus A350-900 medium-haul widebody. The 303-seat A350 will increase the weekly seat count to 2,424 seats, a 57% increase in capacity between Cairns and Singapore. The impact of this increased capacity on Cairns, which is the gateway to Australia’s World Heritage Great Barrier Reef, will be more than significant as the whole region relies heavily on tourism and exports of fresh produce.
Singapore Airlines Regional Vice President South West Pacific Louis Arul said the deployment of the A350-900 would signify a historic moment in the airline’s operations to Cairns.
“The A350-900 aircraft’s arrival on 31 March marks the first time a 303-seater SIA widebody aircraft will operate a scheduled passenger flight on the Singapore-Cairns route. Deploying the widebody A350 for passenger services in 2024 is a testament to Cairns’ recovery as a destination and its appeal to international visitors. The increase in capacity, for both passengers and cargo, will support the local tourism industry as well as local producers and I am excited to see the aircraft land on March 31.”
While this will be the first scheduled flight to Cairns by the widebody, the A350-900 has been there before. In 2021 Singapore Airlines supported local producers to get their exports to Asia by deploying the A350-900 on cargo-only missions. This was part of the Australian Government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) that kept global air links open during the worst of the pandemic.
Using the right aircraft to suit the demand
The Singapore Airlines medium-haul A350s are configured in a two-class layout of 303 seats, including 40 in business class and 263 in the economy cabin. According to ch-aviation.com, the full-service carrier has 63 Airbus A350s, including 56 A350-900s and seven ultra-long-range A350-900ULRs.
Photo: Kittikun Yoksap I Shutterstock.
While the extra seats are more than welcome, it is the additional 47 tonnes of belly-hold freight that has local exporters counting down the days until March 31st. Local seafood and fresh-food produce are in high demand, and quickly getting those products into Asia’s high-value markets is paramount. The extra capacity of the Singapore Airlines A350s means that time-sensitive exports can be sent directly from Cairns rather than being transported by road to where direct flights are available.
Switching from the narrowbody 737 MAX 8 to the A350 is also an excellent example of how airlines develop routes using aircraft pairs. The 737 MAX has been the most effective aircraft to establish the six-hour route with a five times weekly frequency and its single-aisle economics, but now it’s time for the medium-haul A350 to step in with its higher capacity but lower frequency. It’s why rightsizing is the new buzzword in aviation circles.