Having flown Singapore Airlines A380 in all classes, including the famous and headline grabbing Suites, as well as the Emirates and Etihad A380, I was curious to see how the A350 Business Class compared. On the occasion of a Singapore-San Francisco flight, I took the opportunity to enjoy the recent direct service from Singapore Airlines.
Check-in and Business Class Lounge in Singapore
Check in for long haul flights with Singapore Airlines happens at Terminal 3 whereas the regional flights with Silk Air take off from Terminal 2 at Changi Airport. The Business Class doors used to be the first one at Terminal 3, but it is now door no.5. Once you are dropped off from the taxi the check in counters are right in front of the entrance. Business Class passengers and PPS Class members can check in at those counters.
There is almost never a queue for check in. In the six years that I’ve flown Singapore Airlines and checked in through Business Class, I have never waited at all, making the check in experience the most efficient I have ever had. In addition to that, Immigration is right at the end of the check in counters, and the escalators leading to the lounge on the first floor is at the other side of Immigration. One can get off the taxi at Departures and be in the lounge in less than 10min, providing the fastest and most contactless airport experience. There is a reason why Changi Airport wins the Best Airport in the World Award year after year.
The Singapore Airlines Business Class Lounge at Changi Terminal 3 is large with several rows of seats and sections with high tables. There are three stations with food and drinks and a large selection of magazines and newspapers available. Free internet is provided. As this is the flagship lounge at Changi, it is always full and busy, despite only Business Class and Singapore Airlines PPS passengers having access (there is a separate lounge for Gold Class members of the Star Alliance). No announcements are made so you have to keep an eye on the screens that are at the entrance. This is a decision I welcome, as otherwise the boarding announcements would be constant.
The Business Class and First Class lounges are next to each other as is The Private Room, Singapore Airlines’ exclusive lounge for Suites passengers. The lounge is also right next to the outdoor smoking area of the airport.
The Business Class cabin of Singapore Airlines A350
Business Class passengers, as well as PPS, board first. Singapore Airlines always respects this procedure, so as soon as boarding time approaches, and Singapore Airlines is almost always on time, you can be sure boarding will be convenient, fast and without any queues or further waiting. On the way into the aircraft you can grab newspapers or magazines which will also be offered in the plane, but it is best to take the magazines as you board because there are fewer copies and they may disappear by the time you are on board, as they are also available to Economy passengers.
Strangely, Singapore Airlines A350 has a three class configuration: Business Class, Premium Economy Class and Economy Class. The airline has forgone the First or Suites Class altogether.
Like in the other Business Class configurations on the A380, the seats are arranged as 1-2-1 and the two seats in the middle have a partition screen that can be raised or lowered. There is enough space on the overhead bins to store all your luggage. In all the years I have flown the airline my hand luggage has never been weighted or challenged, in any class. In Business Class you can be sure that no matter how heavy, how many or how big your hand luggage is, they will find a way to accommodate it. Coats and jackets can be given to the crew who will hang them for you.
Beware, the overhead bins on all Singapore Airlines flights are always very high up, so if you need help lifting the luggage you can be sure that a crew member will silently materialise and help you lift it. This was my case as I was traveling with a handbag weighing 10kg and a carry on weighing 18kg. To reach the top, you can also step on the seat (I have seen crew members who are not very tall do that).
As soon as you sit down, a crew member will come with drinks. I noticed that, unlike all other Business Class flights I had taken with them, the Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class did not offer bubbly on this flight but only juices. I am not sure if this is a new policy across all Business Class flights, across flights departing early morning (the flight was scheduled to depart at 9,20am) or if it just applies to the Singapore Airlines A350.
As soon as I sat down in my seat I noticed three things. Firstly, the seats had a very similar design and structure as the A380 Business Class seats. Secondly, the screen on the A350 is larger than on the A380. Lastly, the space between the seat and the TV is noticeably smaller meaning that there is overall less space in the Business Class seats of the A350 when compared to the A380. This was confirmed later on when I lowered my seat and lay flat on the bed and realised that, although I am only 1,70m, I was reaching the end of the seat and unable to fully stretch out.
What I love about all Singapore Airlines A380 and A350 seats is that they are very wide. I could almost fit two of me sitting next to each other on those seats. However, the seats are designed in an awkward diagonal way whereby you need to lay diagonally or sit on one side of the seat to be able to stretch your legs. This is already an issue on the A380 but given the smaller space in the A350 the issue is amplified. And again, I am quite small so anyone who is over 1,70m will struggle and will have to bend their legs or raise the footrest less.
The seat has a lot of compartments to place items in. This is handy because the crew will insist in all luggage being stored in the overhead bins for take off and landing. I prefer to take out everything I will need and have it in the various pockets than packing it all out before landing. If you try to keep your luggage with you I guarantee you the crew will come to help you store it up in the bins. What I always found extra nice about Singapore Airlines is that, contrary to other crew members who will simply drop by and tell you to store it up yourself, they will actually take your bags and store them for you so you don’t have to get up. The compartments include a mirror with a light, a perfect vertical slide where you can place your laptop (not for take off or landing though), a pocket for magazines and books, a couple of smaller compartments for phones and a larger one to store water bottle and headsets. All these details are nifty and make for a tidy flight, especially considering this is a 15-17h journey.
There are two USB ports, one for playing your content and one for charging, and a universal electric plug to charge all your electronics. There are also various lights at either side of the seat so you can choose the level and intensity of the lighting you want when the cabin lights are off.
The table is stored away on the side and its height can be adjusted. Unfortunately, as it is a very large table, it shakes a lot when you type or work on it, so you have to place the pillow under to hold it in position.
The seat converts into a bed, which you can make yourself anytime, with bedding and a plush duvet. You just need to stand up, lift a buckle and bring the seat back down to convert the chair into a lie-flat surface. The duvet is stored inside the seat back. You get two pillows with the bed for extra comfort. I can sleep well on the Singapore Airlines A380 and A350 seats because I always sleep on my side with my legs bent, but if you like sleeping facing up you will struggle to fit length wise.
There is however one trick to avoid this. Take the seats on the first row. Those do not have the diagonal issue and the foot space is actually side ways for the width of the seat. It will make a huge difference.
Amenities and services
Of course, the new Singapore Airlines A350 comes with the airline’s signature entertainment system with a long list of movies, TV programs, games, documentaries and music. The interface on the A350 is slightly different from the others and presents a more sleek and modern look but offers all the same entertainment options. I liked that the software responds to any keys very quickly and there is little wait time. But, as with all the rest of their entertainment systems, the amount of ads one needs to go through before every program is just too much. For a 20 minute TV series there is one minute of ads and for a movie there are almost three minutes. Luckily, you can fast forward and get passed that. New movies and TV series are added every month.
The noise cancelling headsets that the airline provides are great at blocking out all the sounds coming from the cabin and during service. I liked that there are two outlets to plug them into, one at each side, for convenience. There is also a “Do not disturb” button which you can press to ensure you do not get woken up for service.
The flight had WiFi which was available for purchase for 1h ($12), 3h ($16) or the entire flight (24h technically speaking at $21). I bought it on both the outbound and the return and faced a few drops in service including a 1,5h drop at the end of my outbound when the internet simply stopped working. I found the pricing for the long haul flights to be reasonable yet on the expensive side for the shorter trips.
Lastly, Singapore Airlines does not give out amenity kits. You will however receive socks, eye shades and slippers and all other toiletries are available in the toilets including shaving kits, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a comb and refreshing cologne.
The food and beverage service
Singapore Airlines First and Business Class passengers already enjoy the comfort and freedom of an a la carte menu available throughout the flight without any set meal times. This privilege is now extended to Business Class passengers on the A350.
As the flight is so long and the time difference so large (15-16h between Singapore and San Francisco both on the flight duration and the time difference), the menu always features an all day breakfast selection with four dishes and a la carte free menu with about 7-8 dishes that can be mixed and matched to your preference. The dessert section includes cheeses, one sweet cake and a selection of smaller pastries and sweets. Chocolates are always offered post meal. Singapore Airlines has a long wine and alcoholic beverage menu with pretty much anything, from the famous Singapore Sling, shaken on board to order, to liquor on the rocks. The wine list includes two reds and two whites as well as one champagne and one port wine. The wine is served in wine glasses without the neck for stability and safety on board. The tea selection is quite impressive too and from local Singaporean brand TWG.
For the Singapore-San Francisco route, Singapore Airlines partnered with local celebrity chefs on both sides of the menu and, aside from the a la carte and the all day breakfast options, it also features an especially designed three course menu from the chefs. In my flight the menu to the US had been designed by Alfred Portale, the creator of the New American Cuisine.
A few things I noticed that were different to previous services I have enjoyed in Singapore Airlines (and may well be changes in all their Business Class food service) were the bread and the small cake selection with petit-furs style desserts.
The service onboard
Singapore Airlines regularly ranks at the top of the league for service. I always find the crew to be friendly and ready to help out with anything. This is an attitude that differentiates most of the Middle Eastern and Asian airlines from the European and North American ones, which always leave me feeling like they are doing me a favour when I ask for something. The service on my flight was just like that with the exception of a particularly forgetful flight attendant who I had to repeat my orders to constantly.
I asked for a glass of room temperature water with a slice of lemon and she came back with the wrong thing three times. Later on, the same issue happened again. It was a bit odd but since I am a regular traveler on Singapore Airlines I know this is unusual. She seemed nervous and perhaps it was her first Business Class flight as I could tell from her uniform that she was more junior. Singapore Airlines crew members wear the traditional two piece uniform in either navy blue, green or red in order of seniority and she was dressed in navy blue.
Apart from this, the rest of the service was as expected. As I am a PPS Club member I was greeted by the senior on the flight after I boarded. That is something that always happens without a fail. When my internet stopped working 1.5h before landing, I mentioned this to one of the crew members and, upon landing, the senior came to me to tell me that he had filed a report about it and I should hear back from them. I didn’t, but I appreciated his pro-activeness which just makes you feel like your feedback is acted upon.
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