Singapore Airlines Ltd unveiled one of the world's most luxurious first class offerings for the Airbus A380, as part of an US$850 million (S$1.1 billion) product investment as it tries to retain premium customers amid tough competition from industry rivals.
The spacious suites on its A380 will rival those of Middle Eastern rivals Etihad Airways and Emirates for the crown of the world's top first class, although unlike those airlines, Singapore Airlines has chosen not to install in-flight showers.
They will enter service in December on the first of five new A380 aircraft joining its fleet, and the retrofit work will also take place on 14 existing aircraft, it said in a statement.
The new A380s will have six first class seats, compared with 12 on the older ones.
"We are confident the result will genuinely wow our customers," CEO Goh Choon Phong said at a media briefing to unveil the products on Thursday.
Some carriers, including United Airlines and Qantas Airways , have not installed first class on newer aircraft given a much higher demand for business class, which now often has fully flat-beds that were once exclusive to first class.
But for other airlines, first class remains a showpiece for attracting elite passengers and for broader brand marketing.
Singapore Airlines offers first class customers a choice of Dom Perignon or Krug Champagne and suites that can combine into a double bed for passengers travelling together.
Singapore Airlines is also improving its business class, premium economy and economy products in the newly fitted A380s, the first of which will start flying from Singapore to Sydney on Dec. 18.
In 2007, Sydney was the destination for the A380's first-ever commercial flight on Singapore Airlines. The Singaporean carrier is a major player in the highly competitive"Kangaroo route" between Australia and Europe.
Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong-based rival Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd are struggling against mounting international competition from Chinese and Middle Eastern rivals, without domestic flights to underpin their earnings.
After a surprise fourth-quarter loss, Singapore Airlines set up a dedicated transformation office to review its strategy in May, although it has not released a cost-cutting target.
The carrier intends to cut fuel use, review its supplier relationships and invest in digital technology under a three-year transformation plan to boost its competitiveness, according to an internal newsletter released in September.
Singapore Airlines has also begun deploying low-cost carrier Scoot on long-haul routes with lower premium demand, including Athens and Honolulu.