What Happened To Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A310’s?

Between 1984 and 2005 Singapore Airlines ran a fleet of A310s around Asia. Then they disappeared. What happened to Singapore Airlines A310’s?

Earlier this week, we talked about what happened to Singapore Airlines Boeing 757’s. In the course of putting together that story, it was established that Singapore Airlines ordered a handful of 757’s and A310s in the early 1980s. The airline was looking for replacement aircraft for its then aging Boeing 727s. They decided to try both the 757s and A310s for a few years in order to decide which aircraft type to go with. They settled on the A310s.

9V-STZ, one Singapore Airlines A310-300s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When we asked Singapore Airlines why they discontinued the 757s, they said they choose aircraft with the best technology, passenger comfort, and fuel efficiencies. Scrolling through the aviation forums, the general (but not overall) consensus was that passengers at the time found the A310 a better aircraft to fly in. That view mattered to Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines elects to buy A310s

In 1983, Singapore ordered six A310-200s to trial. Deliveries began in late 1984. In November 1984, both 9V-STI and 9V-STJ were delivered. In March 1985, 9V-STL was delivered. Two A310s were delivered in April 1985 – 9V-STN and 9V-STM. In October 1985, 9V-STK was delivered. This was the extent of the A310-200 fleet.

Air Fleets reveals Singapore Airlines ordered a total of 23 A310s. The bulk of that order was switched to A310-300s. The key difference between the A310-200 and A310-300 is that the A310-300 has a longer range. The A310-300 was first flown commercially in 1986.

Singapore Airlines took its first delivery of an A310-300, 9V-STQ, in October 1987. The bulk of the A310 fleet arrived between then and 1993. The two outliers were 9V-STE which arrived in June 1994 and 9V-STF in March 1995.

One of the original A310-200s, 9V-STM. It entered service in 1985. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The A310’s flew short to medium-haul routes for Singapore Airlines. They usually flew around South East Asia to cities like Kuching, Jakarta, Male, and Dhaka. They also flew somewhat further afield, north to Macau and Hiroshima, west to Calcutta, and south to Darwin, Cairns, and Adelaide.

Retiring the A310s

The A310 successfully flew for Singapore Airlines for 21 years. The first retirement, in July 1997, was one of the original A310-200s, 9V-STI. Singapore Airlines sold it to MEA. The pace of A310 retirements from the Singapore Airlines fleet began to pick up in 2000.

Back in the dark recesses of time, circa 2003, a Flyer Talk forum about the impending cessation of Singapore Airlines A310 services was generally tough on the now-aging aircraft. The A310 was described by one correspondent, perhaps unfairly, as a “flying crate.” Another, upon hearing the airline would retire the aircraft said, “break out the bubbly”.

By 2004 there were only seven A310s left in the fleet. Those last seven aircraft were completely disposed of by November 2005. They were all sold over the course of 18 months to Air India.

The Singapore Airlines A310 was superseded by the Boeing 777. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Nothing lasts forever

The A310 was superseded by the now derided 777. Fifteen years ago, the 777s were causing great excitement, bringing new levels of passenger comfort, amenity, and convenience. Now, people groan if they find out their flight is on a 777 on any airline. The aircraft is perceived as old, the seats are not up to scratch, and the IFE can be clunky.

Which just goes to show, as the A310 lifespan at Singapore Airlines attests, fifteen to twenty years is an eon in commercial aviation.

The A310 served Singapore Airlines well for a generation. When it was introduced it was at the vanguard of aviation efficiency and comfort. But like most things, it aged.

One day we’ll all be moaning about how antiquated the Dreamliner is.