TheDesignAir Exclusive Interview With Singapore Airlines’ Yung Han Ng, Vice President Product Innovation

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We took some time out of Singapore Airlines VP of Product Innovation’s day to explore what the A350-900ULR and their new business class means for an airline that continues to innovate. Yung Han Ng explains how the airline puts the passenger experience first, and instead of looking to competitors, looks to their own product, and how it can be improved.

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Thank you Yung Han for taking the time to speak with us. There was the much anticipated news recently that you will be once again commencing the world’s longest flight. It’s something like 18.5 hours, isn’t that correct?
Flights will cover a distance of approximately 9,000nm (16,700km), and travelling time will be up to 18hrs 45min.

You last flew this route on an A340-500 which was specially configured for the route and after a while just featured an all-business class cabin. Why did the route stop, was it due to fuel prices?
Singapore Airlines operated daily SIN-EWR operations on the A340-500s from 2004 to 2013. A full Business Class configuration, with 100 seats, was introduced in 2008 due to the popularity of the Singapore-Newark route amongst business travellers. The duration of the flights was about 19 hours. When we agreed to order more A380s and A350s, Airbus bought back our five A340-500s. This resulted in the cessation of the non-stop flights to Los Angeles and Newark, in the absence of replacement aircraft in our fleet with sufficient range and operating economics.

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So, what made Singapore Airlines decide to recommence the route?
When we were previously operating the A340s, we were happy with the demand. However, economics was challenging, and we returned the aircraft to Airbus which resulted in the cessation of our non-stop flights. The new-generation A350-900ULR is a twin-engined aircraft that is much more efficient, enabling the ultra-long-range flights to be operated in a commercially viable manner.

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Qantas 787-9 Business Class cabin, currently flying their ULH route between LHR and PER

This news follows shortly after Qantas launched their Perth – London route. They designed a specific product both on and off the ground for their ULH route. What learnings from this, and your previous experience on the route will you be drawing on?
We refrain from commenting on our competitors. But in general terms we compete by constantly enhancing the three main pillars of our brand promise: service excellence, product leadership and network connectivity. Competition in the airline business is not a new phenomenon. It keeps us on our toes and ensures that we are continuously upgrading our products and services to offer our customers the best travel experience, even in the face of recent challenges faced by the airline industry. We continue to listen to our customers and involve them in our product development processes to ensure that the new products and services exceed customer expectations.

Photo_Ng Yung Han“Competition in the airline business is not a new phenomenon. It keeps us on our toes and ensures that we are continuously upgrading our products and services to offer our customers the best travel experience, even in the face of recent challenges faced by the airline industry.” – Yung Han Ng, Vice President Product Innovation, Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is not new to operating long haul services as we have in the past, operated the A340-500s from Singapore to Newark. The comfort and well-being of our customers have always been a priority and as such, we are looking to enhance it further with the launch of the A350ULR flights. We will be sharing details on the enhancements in time to come.

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So no news on whether these aircraft will offer any social spaces, or new ground experiences to help support these unusually long flights. What cabin products will we find on the Airbus A350 ULR on this route?
We have chosen to use a consistent seat product across our long-haul A350 fleet. Customers will be able to enjoy our award-winning Business Class and Premium Economy seats, as well as our latest in-flight entertainment system, myKrisWorld. The Premium Economy seats have been updated and now features a modified calf rest for more comfort and a larger table for a more sturdy dining experience, among other improvements. We are also working on new in-flight services for the ULR flights which we will share when ready.

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Will this become the signature route for SIA? 
Singapore Airlines has always taken pride in pushing the boundaries to provide the best possible travel convenience for our customers, and we are pleased to be leading the way with these new non-stop flights using the latest-technology, ultra-long-range Airbus A350-900ULR. The flights will offer our customers the fastest way to travel between the two cities – in great comfort, together with Singapore Airlines’ legendary service – and will help boost connectivity to and through the Singapore hub.

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How have the new business class (both regional and long haul) been received? Have there been any adaptations as the products have come in to service?
The overall feedback about the new products, as well as about the other cabin products on the aircraft, has been extremely positive. We are very pleased with what our customers have been telling us about it.

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What are the most important factors to your passengers regarding comfort?
SIA constantly stay abreast of the latest product developments and to review their suitability for different aircraft types. When choosing a new product, we remain focused on seat comfort and the overall in-flight experience of our customers. A wide variety of factors determine the final selection, but the key guiding principle for our team would be to maximise the living space and comfort of our passengers, as well as to provide the best holistic in-flight experience within an aircraft’s constraints.

Thank you Yung Han Ng for your time.

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The Airbus A350-900ULR will commence flights between Singapore and Newark on October 11th, with flights to Los Angeles also penned in November. The aircraft will feature 67 business class all-aisle access seats and 94 premium economy seats in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration making it one of the least densely populated aircraft in the skies.

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