Singapore Airlines A380 returns to Auckland for daily services

Singapore Airlines A380-800.
A Singapore Airlines A380-800, featuring the first class suite. Photo credit: Getty Images / supplied

Emirates' reign as the only airline flying the world's largest passenger plane in and out of New Zealand every day comes to an end this week as Singapore Airlines reintroduces the Airbus A380 on its Auckland services.

On Wednesday, one of the airline's flagship planes took off from Changi Airport en route for Aotearoa with an extravagant area onboard said to be more like a 'hotel room in the sky' than an aircraft cabin.

Many people who have flown in an A380 are impressed with the plane's spaciousness, and that space allows for some outrageous and attention-grabbing features in the most expensive sections.

While Emirates has its bar and a shower room, Singapore Airlines has its first class suites.

"Our suites are an experience beyond the conventional first class cabin. With just six onboard the aircraft, they feature a leather seat that can swivel between 135 and 270 degrees and a separate fully flat bed, as well as a sliding door that closes the outside world away," said George Robertson, the airline's general manager NZ.

"If you're travelling with your partner you can also create a double suite complete with a comfortable bed. It's truly an experience unlike any other."

Singapore Airlines A380 first class suite.
A first class suite on the A380. Photo credit: supplied

The 471-seat superjumbo departed Changi Airport as Flight SQ285 at 10:25pm on Wednesday (local time) before arriving at Auckland Airport on Thursday afternoon at 1:08pm. The return flight, SQ286, is set to depart at 3:15pm and arrive back at Singapore at 8:55pm.

The arrival on Thursday is the first time that two airlines have brought Airbus A380s into New Zealand on the same day since the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the aviation industry. On the Singapore Airlines plane, the six first class suites are located at the front of the upper deck with 78 business class seats behind them.

On the lower deck there are 44 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout up the front and behind them is the economy cabin, which features seat seats in a 3-4-3 layout - but they are said to offer more comfort than economy seats in other aircraft.

Economy class on a Singapore Airlines A380-800.
Economy class on the A380. Photo credit: supplied

"The A380 provides a really smooth, comfortable and quiet ride that is hard to beat. For such a large aircraft it's quite incredible that it's able to achieve that," Robertson told Newshub.

"I also think it's the sheer scale of the aircraft that continues to astound customers - it has an 80-metre wingspan, which is around 23 percent wider than other widebody aircraft."

The airline's A380s were retrofitted a few years ago to feature the impressive features they now boast, but the company is perhaps keener to tout its onboard service rather than the cabin product itself.

"Singapore Airlines has long been regarded for its customer service and it was fantastic to be named World's Best Airline in the Skytrax awards this year, something that is a testament to the hard work of teams across the organisation," said Robertson.

Singapore Airlines A380 first class suite in double or queen formation.
A first class suite in double formation on the A380. Photo credit: supplied

For travellers yet to fly in an A380 who are eager to, note that your chances to do so are limited. The model has been discontinued by Airbus, so there is only a matter of years left in which those currently in service can be boarded before they all reach the end of their lifespan.

Singapore Airlines currently is not planning on bringing any of its A380s back here next year.

The company recently announced its plan for Aotearoa services through 2024 and 2025 which, in collaboration with Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand, are being ramped up to meet an increased demand.

From March 31 through to October 27, 2024, the two airlines will between them be operating three daily flights between Auckland and Singapore and one between Christchurch and Singapore. Then from late October through to the end of March, 2025 that will be increased to four daily flights between Auckland and Singapore and 10 per week between Christchurch and Singapore.

Those will all be operated on a combination of Airbus A350, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

The lack of a Singapore Airlines A380 in its planned New Zealand services beyond March next year only heightens the exclusivity of being able to fly on one out of Auckland between now and then.