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Business trends

Singapore Airlines turns A380 into fine-dining restaurant

COVID forces embattled carrier to seek new revenue sources

Diners will be attended to by sommeliers who will recommend pairing wines for the meals. (Courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

SINGAPORE -- National carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced on Tuesday a range of new offerings for aviation fans as it seeks alternative sources of income while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep a lid on international travel.

The company that had received the award for "World's Best International Airline" over a number of years said it would introduce a restaurant service in October for those who want to dine onboard a grounded Airbus A380 jet, the largest passenger plane, among other initiatives. The carrier had also considered the idea of operating "flights to nowhere," but ditched the concept after a review.

Other airlines in Asia, including Japan's All Nippon Airways, Taiwan's Eva Air and Australia's Qantas are offering such flights as the embattled aviation sector seeks new revenue streams while many international borders remain largely closed to tourism as a result of the pandemic. Thai Airways has also launched a pop-up airline-themed restaurant at its headquarters in Bangkok. 

Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir have reinstated flights to Johannesburg, Phnom Penh, Surabaya and Taipei this month and both will continue to fly those routes over October and November. By the end of November, the companies hope passenger capacity will reach about 11% of its pre-COVID levels.

SIA had used the A380 aircraft for long-haul services to destinations like London. With vacations to far-flung locations out of the question for many, the carrier is putting the supersized aircraft to use by offering customers some aspects of air travel while grounded.

Diners will be attended to by sommeliers who will recommend pairing wines for the meals. They will also receive complimentary alcoholic drinks and can sign up for limited pre-lunch tours of the A380.

Singapore Airlines will turn its Airbus A380 jet, the world’s largest passenger plane, into a restaurant. (Courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

SIA's double-decker superjumbo will be hosting diners at Singapore's Changi Airport, and they can pay to eat in a cabin class of their choice and enjoy the commensurate level of service. SIA did not reveal its pricing structure.

"With COVID-19 drastically reducing the number of flights operated by the SIA Group, we have created unique activities that would allow us to engage with our fans and customers during this time," said Chief Executive Goh Choon Phong.

In the three months to end-June, the company reported a net loss of 1.12 billion Singapore dollars ($810 million), which compared starkly with its SG$111 million profit a year ago.

In the January-March quarter, it had already recorded a net loss of SG$732 million as the pandemic began to hit the region. The carrier announced recently that it was cutting 4,300 positions, including 2,400 redundancies, due to the prolonged slump in travel demand.

It had said that it would raise up to SG$15 billion through the sale of new shares and convertible bonds, backed by its largest shareholder and Singapore's state investment company Temasek, and will explore "additional means to shore up liquidity as necessary."

SIA was also undertaking other initiatives such as providing behind-the-scenes tours of its training facilities in November targeted at families.

Visitors will learn about SIA's history of over 70 years, and get an opportunity to meet pilots and cabin crew, as well as finding out more about the training that the company's employees undergo.

In addition, adults can choose to operate a flight simulator, sample some of the carrier's own-label wines, and attend a personal grooming workshop. SIA will also sell a selection of the most popular meals that have been served onboard its flights.

The airline is also offering plane meals that can be delivered to consumers' homes. They will get to choose from food and drink menus typically offered in SIA's first and business classes.

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