SuperJumbo plane to fly half-hour hop from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur

·2-min read
A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 at Zurich International Airport (Getty Images)
A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 at Zurich International Airport (Getty Images)

The world’s biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, is to start flying a 184-mile hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur – believed to be the shortest distance ever commercially operated by the “SuperJumbo”.

At 8.30am on 4 November, Singapore Airlines flight 106 will depart from the carrier’s hub for what is scheduled to be a one-hour trip to the Malaysian capital. But the time actually spent in the air on this route can be as short as 30 minutes – leaving little time for premium passengers to enjoy the airline’s facilities, such as its “double suite” flat beds for two.

A return economy flight on the giant aircraft for the first day currently costs S$392 (£212).

The A380, which has four engines, can carry up to 254 tonnes of fuel for use on its longest routes – which in the past have included the 8,578-mile link between Sydney and Dallas in Texas, almost 50 times longer than the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route.

The deployment is to enable flight crew to familiarise themselves with the aircraft after the fleet was grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic. Singapore Airlines intends to restart A380 links between its hub and London Heathrow on 18 November.

British Airways is doing something similar with short hops from Heathrow to both Frankfurt and Madrid ahead of the relaunch of SuperJumbo services in December.

But using a heavy, long-haul aircraft for a very short flight is especially harmful to the environment.

Fuel burn is highest at departure, with the first minute from the start of the take-off roll to a height of just 1,000 feet using about half-a-tonne of kerosene – and producing around 1.6 tonnes of CO2. Even with a full aircraft, the damage per passenger is higher than for modern narrow-bodied aircraft.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, around 11,000 passengers on more than 80 daily flights travelled between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur – making it the world’s busiest international air route.

Most of the flights are on narrow-bodied planes: the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. But recently Singapore Airlines has been using the wide-bodied A350 on some of its departures on the short hop – which is far less thirsty than its older, bigger sister aircraft.

The Independent has asked Singapore Airlines for a response about the deployment.

Meanwhile, according to the planespotters’ site, one of the earliest Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s is being scrapped in Singapore. The plane was delivered from the factory in Toulouse just 13 years ago.

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