Singapore Airlines to pioneer all-business-class flights across Pacific
The move would help meet strong demand by corporate travelers, the carrier says.
Singapore Airlines all-business-class flights would be the first to cross the Pacific. Service from Newark, N.J., to Singapore starts in May, with service from LAX to start in September. Above, a business-class section on a Singapore plane. (Singapore Airlines)
Today, Singapore Airlines is expected to announce plans to add daily business-class-only flights in May to the carrier's namesake city from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, followed by service from Los Angeles International Airport in September.
Both flights are the world's longest, with the Newark route the farthest in distance at 10,357 miles and the LAX service the most enduring at nearly 19 hours.
The round-trip fare from LAX is expected to be about $8,000.
The flights, which will have 100 business-class seats, would be the first of their kind for transpacific travel and follow a growing list of carriers offering all-business-class service across the Atlantic.
Some aviation analysts said few Asian carriers were likely to follow the airline, though Singapore Airlines has long been known for setting trends. It was the first to fly the world's largest passenger jet, the Airbus 380, and it often tops surveys as the best airline in the world.
Analysts said few airlines have planes with the size and range of Singapore's Airbus 340-500, and the industry is worried about a slowing global economy that could crimp corporate travel.
"I think other airlines would like to if they could, but most don't have the plane, and we're coming into the economy that they don't have an answer to," said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of a website for business travelers called Joe Sent Me.
The move comes as growth in air travel appears to be slowing in most parts of the world except for Asia.
Last week the International Air Transport Assn. reported that international passenger traffic grew 4.3% in January, down from 6.7% in December and 7.4% for all of last year.
"Asia outside of Japan is looking strong, even as the U.S. economy weakens," said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the industry trade group. Overall, he said, the "sharp shift in demand growth patterns makes it clear that the U.S. credit crunch is negatively impacting air travel."
But Singapore Airlines executives said that at the same time, demand from corporate travelers remained robust, particularly from those in the finance, technology and oil industries.
The nonstop flight from LAX to Singapore is highly popular among travelers on oil-related business who are connecting through LAX from Houston.
"Most days we have a wait list" for business-class seats," said James Boyd, spokesman for Singapore Airlines. "There is simply more demand than supply in both LAX and Newark."
To start the service, Singapore Airlines, one of the world's largest airlines serving Asia, said it would reconfigure five of its Airbus 340-500 long-haul planes with 100 business-class seats that can fold out to form beds.
The planes are currently outfitted with 181 business and "premium" economy seats.