Singapore Airlines has announced its planned aircraft upgauge on the SQ247/SQ248 Wellington - Melbourne - Singapore route will occur from the 1st November 2019. This announcement comes a month after the airline announced the route will be moved from four weekly to five weekly from the 1st January 2020.
The route is currently flown by Boeing 777-200 aircraft from the early 2000s that feature a two class configuration with the original economy seating and a 2006 era angled lie flat seat. It will be replaced with the airline's brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft in a three class configuration featuring economy, premium economy, and full lie flat business class.
The change was signaled in 2018 when Singapore Airlines announced the retirement of all of their remaining Boeing 777-200 aircraft by 2020, with Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-900 aircraft set to replace them on most routes.
The airline operates two cabin configurations for the A350-900, a 303 seat regional configuration featuring 40 business class seats and 263 economy class seats, and a 253 seat long haul configuration featuring 42 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, and 187 economy class seats.
While all other Boeing 777-200 routes to Australia have been replaced by the Boeing 787-10 or regional A350-900 configuration, Wellington will be lucky enough to see the long haul A350-900 aircraft.
The move to the A350 will see a reduction from 266 seats to 253 seats on each flight, and will also see a reduction from 228 economy seats to 187 economy seats on each flight due to the significant increase in business class seat numbers, and the addition of premium economy to the route.
The change will be greatly welcomed by passengers who take the flight, particularly those who travel onward to Singapore - the dated Boeing 777-200 with incredibly poor IFE and sub-par business class seating were two of the biggest complaints about the service.
The increase to five weekly flights is in part to maintain economy class capacity on this route. Economy seat numbers will only increase from 912 seats on the Boeing 777-200 across the four weekly flights to 935 economy seats on the Airbus A350 across five weekly flights. The move will presumably see Singapore Airlines having to competitively price it's premium economy and business class offerings to ensure they maintain load factors on the route.
With every seat on this route subsidised by Wellington ratepayers as part of a secret agreement signed between the council's economic development agency and Singapore Airlines to bring the airline to the capital, originally on the Wellington - Canberra - Singapore route, the move will see costs increase for ratepayers due to the overall increase in weekly seats on the route.