Seeing a precipitous drop in demand, Singapore Airlines has opted to retire its 777-200ERs earlier than expected. The move comes as the virus continues to spread globally, forcing airlines to cancel flights and cut costs.
An early goodbye
Singapore Airlines currently operates 4 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. The aircraft type is the oldest in the airline’s fleet, clocking in at an average of 17.6 years. Prior to schedule changes, the plane was used to service medium-haul routes in Asia. Singapore Airlines plans to replace the aging jet with the newer Boeing 787-10.
Singapore Airlines originally planned to retire the plane in late-May. However, flight cancellations due to the coronavirus seemed to have moved up this timeline. The airline has now scheduled the plane’s last flight on 20th April. This could be subject to further change, as more adjustments to services can be expected in the coming months.
Singapore Airlines has a very young fleet, with an average age of just 6.6 years. This is due to the airline’s commitment to continuous fleet modernization. The airline has inducted a number of A350s and 787-10s in the last few years, which has taken over the long and medium-haul routes from planes like the 777s and A330s. The carrier currently maintains a fleet of 137 aircraft, with a whopping 48 A350-900s in service.
Cost-cutting measures taking effect
Singapore Airlines is not the first carrier to retire its older aircraft early in light of the coronavirus outbreak. American Airlines has opted to retire its 757s and 767s early and Delta has done the same for its MD-88s. In a bid to cut costs in times of reduced revenue, airlines have been forced to let go of their older, less-efficient aircraft early. However, unlike many other airlines, Singapore Airlines has not opted to ground its super-jumbo A380s.
The virus has forced Singapore Airlines to cut thousands of flights and scale back its operations worldwide. Singapore Airlines and SilkAir have seen a 15.6% reduction in capacity overall, while their hub airport, Changi, has seen a 33% drop in overall passenger movement. These reductions have been on routes across the world, with Asia impacted the most significantly in recent months.
Passenger demand is not expected to bounce back until the virus is contained, and it’s even possible that it will extend past virus containment. Unfortunately, this will force carriers to cut more services. We may also see more carriers collapse as we saw with European regional carrier Flybe.
It’s always sad to see airlines retire legacy aircraft from their fleet. The 777 has historically been Singapore Airlines’ workhorse. The airline even had the largest fleet of the type at one time. However, the coronavirus has forced airlines to dramatically cut costs in times of reduced passenger demand. With the situation only getting worse, we are likely to see more airlines shelve their older aircraft as the aviation industry goes through its most turbulent time, possibly, ever.