If one of the first things you’re hoping to do when Singapore lifts its travel restrictions is hop on a Singapore Airlines First Class flight, you might have a long wait ahead of you still.
As per OMAAT, Singapore Airlines has pulled all First Class and Suites availability up until 28 February 2022. This refers to total inventory, not just award space, meaning you couldn’t even book a seat with cash if you were so inclined.
Any search for First Class/Suites seats will now encounter the following error message:
What’s going on?
Singapore Airlines currently offers First Class only on its A380-800 and B777-300ER aircraft. At the moment, they’re almost entirely operating A350-900s and B787-10s (and a single B737-800, of course) where the highest cabin is Business Class, so First Class isn’t even an issue.
While a handful of B777-300ERs are in service, they’re flying cargo-only routes, or regional ones like Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok where First Class is not offered (the cabin just goes out empty).
Later in the year, however, the schedule calls for long-haul A380-800 and B777-300ER flights to destinations like London and Zurich. First Class has been completely blocked off on these flights.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean SIA is committed to operating those particular aircraft (it’s particularly unlikely we’ll see the A380 anytime in the next 12 months). Rather, they’ve rostered it more as a placeholder, and will adjust the aircraft as network needs dictate.
In that sense, blocking off First Class is simply an exercise in managing expectations. Aircraft changes are less troublesome for Business Class, since all planes in the fleet offer it anyway. First Class, on the other hand, is only available on certain aircraft, which creates the potential for upset customers in the event of a swap.
If it’s any consolation, the removal of First Class also does not mean that SIA definitely won’t offer its top-tier product for the next 12 months. These situations are fluid, and First Class could just as well reappear later in the year, if the situation warrants.
What if I already hold a First Class booking?
If you already booked a First Class award or revenue ticket on a flight where First Class is no longer being sold, sit tight. Remember, Singapore Airlines has not swapped any aircraft yet; it’s merely closed the cabin for further bookings.
There are two possible scenarios here:
- SIA keeps the current aircraft on your route and reopens First Class for sale/awards later on
- SIA downgrades the aircraft on your route to one without First Class
In the event of (2), you should be refunded the difference in fare/miles, or offered a penalty-free change or cancellation.
In some cases, the airline might re-accommodate you on the same day on a Star Alliance partner flight in a similar cabin, but that’s very much up to their discretion, and YMMV.
It’s not all bad news for First Class
It’s not all bad news for First Class junkies. Singapore Airlines may be trimming its A380 fleet from 19 to 12 aircraft, but it’s undertaken to refit all A380s with the latest Suites and Business Class cabins. It wouldn’t make sense to do this unless the airline planned to keep them around for a while more, so there will still be opportunities to enjoy Suites in the future.
As it stands, a total of nine A380s have the new cabin products (with a further one currently undergoing its refit), so that leaves just two more aircraft to go. Even given the glacial pace that refits have taken place at, I feel confident saying the entire A380 fleet should be refit by the time A380 commercial flights resume.
If all goes well, we might even see the unveiling of Singapore Airlines’ new lounges at Changi Terminal 3 this year. The S$50 million renovation was announced in July 2019, with an estimated completion date of mid-2021. Obviously, the circuit breaker would have delayed things significantly, but on the other hand, the downturn in travel might allow SIA to make up for lost time by working at a faster pace than they otherwise could have.
I’ve emailed SIA to ask if there are any updates on the lounge renovation timeline, and will update this if/when I get a response.
With Singapore Airlines blocking off First Class till February 2022, we’re potentially looking at almost two years without the airline’s flagship product offered. It’s unprecedented to be sure, but there’s been a lot of that going around lately.
I’m sure most of us have a sizeable stash of KrisFlyer miles sitting idle right now and can’t wait to spend them, but at this point I’m happy for any kind of progress (ATB?).
Let’s see what 2021 has in store for us.