Singapore Airlines has said it plans to introduce revamped seats and cabin interiors with an upgraded in-flight entertainment in a bid to stay ahead of Asian and Middle East rivals in the premium travel market.
SIA is regarded as a trendsetter in aviation and is famous for its cabin service, but rivals like Cathay Pacific in Asia and Etihad, Emirates and Gulf Air from the Middle East have been closing the gap while offering lower fares.
It said Tuesday it has hired BMW Group subsidiary DesignworksUSA and James Park Associates, two renowned design companies, to develop "next generation of inflight cabin products" slated to be introduced next year.
The changes will include revamped seats, redesigned cabins and upgraded entertainment platforms as new passenger planes from Boeing and Airbus begin arriving.
Emphasis will be on first and business class which generate the bulk of its revenue but the airline said it will not overlook its economy class which will offer improved seat and headrest comfort.
New Boeing 777-300 ERs are expected to enter service in the second half of next year, followed progressively by Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s, the airline said.
But the airline said its current fleet, which includes Airbus A380 superjumbos, can also be retrofitted with the new designs.
"In this business, if you are staying still, you are moving backwards as your competitors can catch up quickly ," said Tan Pee Teck, SIA's senior vice president for products and services.
"It is therefore important to always be planning for the future."
Analysts say the airline is being squeezed in the first and business class section by full-service carriers and in the economy class by low cost airlines.
"Relatively speaking, Singapore Airlines is losing its competitive edge in premium Asia travel not because it's a bad airline, but because the others -- like Emirates -- are becoming so good," said Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of Galaviz & Co which follows the global airline and tourism sector.
SIA's net profit in the year to March 2012 slumped 69 percent to Sg$336 million ($269 million), after a rare loss in the fiscal fourth-quarter due to high oil prices and rising competition.