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SIA takes delivery of first 787-10 to fend off regional rivals

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At the delivery ceremony of SIA's first Boeing 787-10 were Dominic Horwood, Rolls-Royce director customers and services - civil aerospace; Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes; and SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong.

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At the delivery ceremony of SIA's first Boeing 787-10 were Dominic Horwood, Rolls-Royce director customers and services - civil aerospace; Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes; and SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong.

South Carolina, USA

LAUNCH customer Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Sunday took delivery of the first Boeing 787-10, which will feature new cabin products as the airline seeks to fend off regional competitors.

The handover took place on Sunday night (US time) in front of SIA executives, Boeing employees and members of the media at the plane-maker's South Carolina facility, where the biggest variant of the Dreamliner family is exclusively built.

Speaking at the event, SIA chief Goh Choon Phong said the 787-10 would be a key element in its growth strategy, enabling it to expand its network and strengthen its operations. The airline has ordered 49 787-10s in all, making it the largest customer of the newest model in the Dreamliner family.

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Mr Goh added: "I know my colleagues, who have been working so hard over the past four years on the 787-10 project, firmly believe that we have an unparalleled product for regional operations - and one that even surpasses some other airlines' long-haul cabin products."

The new cabin products will be unveiled in Singapore at an arrival ceremony on Wednesday morning after the aircraft makes its journey from North Charleston to Changi Airport.

Fitted with 337-seats, SIA's 787-10 comes in a two-class configuration: 36 seats in business class and 301 in economy. The aircraft is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, which are made in Singapore.

SIA is expected to use the 787-10s to phase out its older aircraft on regional routes, such as A330-300s and some of its older 777s, starting with Osaka and Perth in May. Ahead of the introduction of these services, the aircraft will be operated on selected flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for crew training purposes.

Analysts say that the new 787-10 will come with a fully-flat business class seat, which will replace the existing product, introduced in 2009 on its A330-300s, and have direct aisle access through a 1-2-1 layout for premium passengers.

"This plane is about significantly improving the business class product on medium haul routes and reducing SIA's unit costs," Brendan Sobie, Centre for Aviation (CAPA) analyst, told The Business Times.

Other carriers in Asia, such as Cathay Pacific, Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines already have lie-flat business class seats and direct aisle access on A330s operating similar routes, he pointed out.

The fuel-efficient plane, made of lightweight composite materials, will help the airline compete better with full service airlines and low cost carriers in a very competitive market.

"Singapore Airlines is the first to fly all three variants," said Boeing's chief executive of commercial aircraft Kevin McCallister. "This combination of our 787 family will allow Singapore Airlines to put the right airplane on the right route for their growth."

SIA's budget arm Scoot operates other 787 models: the 787-8 and 787-9.

Boeing has over 170 firm orders for the 787-10 so far, including from other customers such as United Airlines, British Airways and Emirates.

With about 330 seats, the 68 metre 787-10 can carry more passengers than the 787-8 and 787-9 variants, but has a shorter range of 11,910 kilometres.

SIA also has a firm order with Boeing for 20 777-9s, which are due for delivery from FY2021/22, and has ordered 67 A350-900s, including seven of the ultra long range variant. It had taken delivery of 21 A350s as at end-February.