Singapore Airlines’ first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft landed at Changi International Airport on Wednesday March 28, 2018 sporting an all-new regional business class seat product.
This is the first B787-10 to be delivered to an airline, and is set to take off in May serving the airline’s Osaka route followed by Perth later that month. However, travellers will be able to experience the aircraft on select regional routes in April – notably Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as the airline deploys the aircraft for crew training purposes.
The rolling out of a new regional business class product, called the Stelia Opal, is a significant step for Singapore Airlines, particularly following the unveiling of its new Airbus A380 business class seats last year. The airline’s regional business class product – currently equipped on its A330s and pre-retrofit B777s – has noticeably fallen behind its brethren and today the old regional business class product is one of its oldest seats.
Travellers may not have to wait too much longer to see these seats replaced by the new Stelia Opal seats, however. Speaking to Business Traveller, Marvin Tan, senior vice president of product and services at Singapore Airlines, said that the A330s and B777s featuring the older products would slowly be replaced with newer aircraft featuring the upgraded seats.
“I don’t know exactly when it will be when all the replacements will happen, because we have this airplane [the B787-10] and we also have the A350 medium-haul planes,” said Tan. “I don’t have a date for that, but it’s our objective for these two aircraft to form our regional fleet.”
As for future destinations for the aircraft, Singapore Airlines has been coy about which routes will next see the aircraft.
“Eventually it will be on all our medium-haul routes but of course we have to take a look at capacity,” Tan added. “This aircraft is 337 seats, while our A330s are 285 so you’ve got quite a jump there. For regional routes, we have to be quite nimble about it. So depending on demand maybe for certain flights we will bring in the Dreamliner and other flights we will bring in the other aircraft.”
Overall, Singapore Airlines has 49 of the new Dreamliner on order making it the largest operator of the aircraft in the world.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Business Class on board the new B787-10 Dreamliner features a total of 36 seats (economy has 301 seats and comprises the airline’s new economy class product that debuted on its A380s last year).
One of the two most notable improvements over the old regional business class product is the layout – a staggered, forward-facing 1-2-1 setup meaning all passengers now have direct aisle access. The staggered pattern means that the solo seats alternate between being slightly closer to either the aisle (odd number rows) or the window (even number rows) – so if you’d like a bit of extra privacy, aim for the solo seats on the even numbered rows.
Meanwhile the centre seats are either closer to the aisle or their neighbours. Seats do have a divider that can be raised and lowered, though never to the point that they form a sort of double bed, as seen with the bulkhead seats on Singapore Airlines’ new A380 business class products.
Fully flat bed
The second major improvement the seats bring is a fully flat bed. When reclined, the bed extends 76 inches and unlike some of Singapore Airlines’ other business class products, the footwell is directly in front of the seat rather than off to the side. This favours travellers who like to lie flat on their back rather than on their side, as is the case with its other, newer business class products.
At 6 foot 5 inches (195cm), I found the space to be slightly snug, though I’m definitely an extraordinary case. An unforeseen issue with my height was also that, when fully reclined, my weight was on the “back” part of the seat rather than the ‘bottom”, such that when I tried to return to the upright position the seat wouldn’t budge. After shifting a little, I found that standing up was best.
If you’re tall and want to maximise the space you have in the footwell area, I’d definitely recommend choosing one of the bulkhead seats, which have noticeably larger spaces for your feet. Travellers looking for more width can push down both armrests to get a bit more space.
Seat controls are all electronic and light up when pressed, making it easier to adjust the seat in the dark.
Just below these seat controls is the removable control pad for the seat-back screen, which measures 18 inches (the same as the new A380 business class screens) and about 3 inches larger than the current regional business class seats. These controls aren’t essential, however, as the screens are all touchscreen and also can be pointed down to allow for better viewing while your seat is reclined.
The IFE system also uses the new myKrisWorld system that enables Krisflyer members to set preferences and also continue films from where they left off when transiting across different flights.
Located above the seat controls is a small side table and a cubbyhole with a sliding door, behind which is a reasonably deep storage space as well as two USB and one power socket. Just next to this space there is also a hidden vanity mirror, which can be extended out.
Storage beneath the seat in front is sizeable, though unlike the A380 business class seats these haven’t been developed with space for carry-on luggage, which still needs to be placed in the overhead bins. Otherwise, storage space isn’t as extensive as Singapore Airlines’ other business class seats.
The tray table slides out from the seat in front and can fold out to provide a large space for either dining or working.
Singapore Airlines also aims to add near-field communication (NFC) readers to each of its seats, a feature it introduced with its new A380 seats across all classes. Currently the aircraft does not have these installed on the B787-10, as Singapore Airlines has yet to land on an actual use for them, though they will be added in future as part of measures to “future-proof” the aircraft.
This is a massive improvement over Singapore Airlines’ existing regional business class product, which has been calling out for a revamp for some time. The design and shape are much more in tune with the airline’s other business class products, giving the carrier’s product offerings a far greater sense of consistency. While it feels a bit smaller and certainly has fewer bells and whistles than business class seats on the airline’s other aircraft, for a regional product it is a strong proposition with fully flat beds and direct aisle access for all travellers.