DN - Defence Notes

Millionth A380 passenger for SIA as Emirates looks to expand fleet

22nd February 2009 - 17:41 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Lead Airbus A380 operators Singapore Airlines and Emirates have announced two key milestones in their relationship with the giant double-decker.

Singapore Airlines last week welcomed the millionth passenger to fly in one of its six A380s since commercial operations with the type were launched in October 2007. And Emirates is looking forward to increasing its fleet to 11 aircraft out of a total of 56 on order as part of its capacity expansion plan for the coming 12 months.

Briton Royston Pollard brought up the first million for SIA as he prepared to board a flight from London to Singapore last Tuesday. He and his wife Eileen were rewarded immediately with an upgrade to business class, and further treats – including a three-night stay in the world-famous Raffles Hotel – lay in store on their arrival in the island state.

Aboard the aircraft they enjoyed a business-class cabin that SIA describes as featuring the world’s largest seats of their kind, located in a 60-seat cabin on the upper deck. Other accommodation comprises a dozen fully enclosed first-class suites on the main deck and 399 economy seats divided between the two decks. The work of French yachting designer Jean-Jacques Coste, the first-class suite was voted Best Airline Suite in last year’s Wallpaper magazine awards, while the business seat won accolades in the 2007 and 2008 World Airline Awards.    

SIA’s A380s have clocked up more than 24,000 flying hours on more than 2,400 commercial flights since October 2007. The airline currently operates the type daily on Singapore-Sydney and Tokyo, and twice daily to London. It will launch daily services to Paris at the beginning of June.

Emirates will continue growing its A380 fleet as part of a 2009-10 expansion plan that aims to boost seating capacity by 14 per cent. Among the 18 new passenger aircraft to enter service by March 2010 will be a further seven A380s, bringing the total to 11. Also on their way are ten Boeing 777-300ERs and a 777-200LR.

Recent Emirates A380 route developments include the launch of Dubai-Sydney-Auckland at the beginning of this month; currently three times a week, the service will go daily from May 1. Dubai-Seoul and Dubai-Singapore will be introduced in November and December respectively.

Next year will also see a significant cabin service development in the Emirates A380s. The airline plans to start equipping its A380s with the AeroMobile onboard cellphone system before the end of next year. The aircraft already have provision for the rival OnAir system but have still to be certificated for AeroMobile’s equipment.

“The A380 installation will offer the GPRS capability needed by BlackBerries and other smartphones,” says Patrick Brannelly, VP for passenger communications and visual services. “This will be supported by Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband 432kbit/sec service. Our general goal is clear: to enable passengers to use their phones and BlackBerries in flight just as they do on the ground.”

But full-up Internet access for laptops could be some time in coming to Emirates passengers. “Such services have got to be affordable and globally available, and the provider must have a long-term future,” Brannelly emphasises. “I have a lot of faith in SwiftBroadband – people will do a lot of interesting things with it – but it can’t offer as much capacity as services like Gogo and Connexion by Boeing.”

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