SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) has revealed its new premium economy product, which will be introduced from Aug 9, 2015, on selected flights between Singapore and Sydney.
The airline is investing about US$80 million on its premium economy seats which will be rolled out on 19 Airbus A380s, 19 Boeing 777-300ERs and the first 20 of SIA's upcoming A350 aircraft. From the latter part of 2015 onwards, other medium/long-haul routes which will start offering premium economy seats will include Beijing, Dubai, Frankfurt, London, Mumbai, New York, Tokyo and Zurich.
Perks will include priority check-in and 35kg of baggage - versus 30kg for economy class tickets - while KrisFlyer members will also rack up 10 per cent more miles when they travel in premium economy.
Located in a separate cabin from economy class, each premium economy seat will have a width ranging between 18.5 and 19.5 inches, with an eight-inch recline and 38-inch seat pitch. Seats will also feature in-seat power, additional stowage space, wider meal choices and a 13.3-inch full HD (high-definition) monitors.
In re-introducing the product, SIA joins a long list of carriers - including Cathay Pacific and Qantas - which already offer premium economy. It previously used to offer premium economy on its direct services to New York, before switching to an all-business class configuration.
As the group struggles with a tough operating environment and with rivals narrowing the gap, its premium economy cabin - plus the accompanying reduction in the number of economy seats - will help the group stay competitive, analysts say.
Its Boeing 777 aircraft will have 28 premium economy seats, while its A380s and A350s will have 36 and 24 premium economy seats respectively. In the case of its B777 aircraft, the introduction of premium economy will see the number of economy seats falling from 228 to 184. Meanwhile, for some of its A380 aircraft, they will come down to 333 from 399 economy seats previously.
A check on the SIA website shows that its premium economy seat for a round-trip ticket to Sydney departing Aug 9 starts from S$1,715.
Chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong said: "Many of our customers' suggestions have been incorporated into the new product, and we are confident it will be well received by travellers who are looking for more features - in the seat design, in-flight offerings and exclusive privileges - all underpinned by the exceptional service that SIA is well known for."
Conceptualisation for the new premium economy-class seats started in November 2013, with seat manufacturers ZIM Flugsitz, Zodiac Seats and design firm JPA Design.
"The overall reduction in capacity on several medium/long-haul routes is sensible as it should enable improved yields and profits on routes that have come under increasing pressure, particularly from Gulf carriers," noted Brendan Sobie, analyst at CAPA - Centre for Aviation. "But these reductions could result in a further slowdown in passenger growth figures for SIA and Changi."
Mr Sobie reckons that overall capacity reduction will be slightly more than one per cent, judging by the various aircraft that will be retrofitted by January next year. However, the figure will vary from region to region, with capacity reduction to and from western Europe likely to be in the region of 4 per cent. In contrast, capacity reduction to South Asia, North Asia and the Middle East will be under 2 per cent. "For SIA, carrying fewer economy passengers can be viewed as a positive trade-off as these are passengers that are generally travelling below cost," added Mr Sobie.
While the group's subsidiaries, budget carriers Scoot and Tigerair, could pick up some of these "lost" passengers, this is unlikely to be the case for long-haul markets such as Europe.