Singapore is a major hub for international trade and finance. Singapore Airlines staked out a strong position in the city-state before the current era of Middle East carriers began increasing the competition, but every airline — Delta, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, United — currently offers connecting service from the United States. It’s usually too far or too expensive to provide non-stop service.
That’s about to change. Travel Skills had the scoop on United Airlines’ plans to add new service from San Francisco to Singapore this summer with the Boeing 787-9. It’s made the 787 a key part of its growth into new markets as its smaller size and greater efficiency make it much more cost-effective.
Even shorter flights that are within the range of larger aircraft can make more sense if operated with the 787 because it’s a smaller plane. There is legitimate demand for non-stop travel between some cities, but you’re still unlikely to make money if you flood the market with more seats than necessary.
The new service will operate daily beginning on June 1, leaving late at 11:25 PM and arriving two days later (crossing the international date line) in Singapore at 6:45 AM. United is calling these flights UA1 and UA2, indicating their importance to the airline. Singapore Airlines, for example, operates service between these cities, stopping in Hong Kong, with the flight numbers SQ1 and SQ2.
Megan and I have flown Singapore Airlines twice between San Francisco and Singapore, stopping in either Seoul or Hong Kong. Are delays like this annoying? They can be. United’s non-stop service will be almost 16 hours, and adding a stop easily adds two hours or more. On the other hand, it’s nice to get up and walk around, and there might be an opportunity for an extended layover.
In the past when given the choice between Singapore Airlines business class or United Airlines first class, I’d still pick Singapore for the superior experience. That logic changes when there is a chance to fly without connections. (Singapore Airlines will be offering its own non-stop service again from Los Angeles and New York with the A350, but not until 2018.) Now, I might consider flying United in business class to save time, especially since the 787 has lots of other features, such as higher pressure and humidity, that make travel generally more pleasant.
There’s no business class award space on this route at the moment (big surprise) but plenty in economy class if you think you can tolerate it. Hopefully you have elite status and can book yourself a free seat in EconomyPlus. 😉
If you want to book the inaugural on UA1/UA2, it comes to about $1,100 in economy class or $8,300 in business class. I’m not sure why it’s trying to sell an expensive C fare on the outbound when it appears that most of the cabin is empty.
On most days, however, business class is about $4,700 and competitive with Singapore Airlines’ pricing. An upgradeable fare, meanwhile costs $1,700 and 30,000 miles.
Is that worth it? I can see myself paying that. It’s a lot less than trying to redeem miles for a business class award, and you’ll earn more miles that can go toward covering part of the upgrade.