Singapore Airlines Still Manages to Deliver a Savvy Sizzle
It's been a long while since we had the chance to ascend to the heavens with Singapore Airlines (SQ). Recently, the opportunity came to sample their long-haul service from LAX to Singapore (via Tokyo Narita) in Business Class - and on the celebrated super-jumbo Airbus A380.
On the ground everything was what we have come to expect from one of the world's most coveted brands - an airline which sets the standard for its competitors. Check-in (efficient and courteous), boarding (punctual and orderly) and pre take-off rituals (free flowing champagne) came together in a welcome symphony. As newcomers to the A380 we immediately noticed the quieter cabin, even during take-off and landing.
While SQ has pioneered many innovations one aspect they have been cautious about in equipment like the A380 is the personal-social space ratio. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Korean Air have opted to install bar areas in selected wide body aircraft, allowing passengers to stroll around, socialize and the like. SQ says that based on passenger studies most prefer more personal space - and on that front the airline does not disappoint!
The Business Class leather seats - at 35" wide between the armrests, and in a 1-2-1 configuration on Deck Two - is "the most spacious the world has ever seen," says SQ. Our first impression of the seat is of mini sofa. The seat transforms into a fully-flat bed however most customers will require the assistance of a flight attendant for the conversion - at least on first attempt. Some long-haul passengers (including us) find the seat somewhat uncomfortable or hard after several hours of sitting. And for those who travel with many gadgets finding storage space may be a problem. (The new Business Class product introduced this summer has remedied many of these issues - however SQ opted to retain the somewhat uninspiring, colour scheme). One aspect SQ deserves credit for is the in-seat power supply, multiple USB ports, over-generous LCD screen size and active noise-cancelling headphones in premium classes. Some passengers may find the reflection off the screen somewhat annoying.
If there is one area where we find no scope for complaining it is the service culture of the cabin crew. They are courteous, attentive, professional, stylish and friendly. Working the A380 is challenging to the most seasoned flight attendant - or so we are told - but the SQ staff do their absolute best to please. The size and complexity of the A380 could be why the wait for post departure beverages out of LAX was a tad longer than expected. We also applaud SQ's environmentally-friendly decision to do away with in-flight toiletry kits: instead the airline provides most amenities in the very spacious lavatories. We wish other airlines would follow suit.
The culinary presentation on this route was what we expect from SQ, however there's a noticeable difference in quality on the Narita-Singapore sector. We have noticed quality problems with the flight kitchens at LAX (especially with Turkish Airlines) so it came as no surprise that the catering uploaded at NRT was substantially better, especially with Asian dishes. SQ's cellars of champagne and wines are among the best in the skies in our humble opinion. As confirmed wine lovers, we appreciated the cabin crew's willingness to top up wine glasses before they are completed depleted. Don't forget that up to 24 hours before take-off, premium class passengers can take advantage of SQ's pioneering Book the Cook service: it enables you to pre-order and have your gourmet main course specially prepared for you - out of Singapore, as many as 60 diverse dishes, including many created exclusively by celebrated chefs. This is an opportunity not to be missed! (The service is also available out of LAX).
We had the opportunity to sample the lounges SQ makes use of in LAX and NRT. In LAX, SQ premium passengers have access to the air-side Star Alliance lounge - which is congested and badly in need of an upgrade (a new lounge is scheduled to open later this year). In Narita, we had use of the Star Alliance lounge operated by ANA. Spacious, clean and efficient - we recommend trying the automatic drought beer dispensers and the udon noodle bar. And upon arrival at the airline's hub in Changi Airport, you can probably make use of the sprawling Silver Kris lounges: early arrivals can expect an amazing spread, including many popular Asian breakfast dishes.