Singapore Airlines has unveiled its new first class Suites, business class, premium economy and economy class seat products for its Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft, which is set to debut on its Singapore-Sydney route starting December 18 this year.
The carrier unveiled its new designs at a media preview in Singapore today.
Suites (first class)
There’s good news and bad news for fans of Singapore Airlines’ existing Suites. As previously reported, the airline is indeed halving the total number of seats in Suites from 12 to just six, which have been relocated to the front of the plane on the upper deck.
According to CEO Goh Choon Phong, the decision to switch from 12 to six Suites was to offer additional space and exclusivity, something that re-locating all the premium seats to the upper deck enabled the carrier to do. “It is a combination of wanting to give more space to our customers plus also being based on what we see as the demand pattern for the A380 Suites,” he said.
Sliding doors enclose each of the Suites (which are configured in three rows of 1-1), and each Suite has a separate leather swivel chair (with a 45-degree recline) as well as a 76-inch-long bed (with bedding by Lalique), which can be stowed.
The chair itself is operated using a touch panel in the left armrest, with swivel control and other functions, such as cabin crew assistance, adjusting the blinds and operating the 32-inch HD screen .
There’s a separate tablet on the side table, which also includes storage spaces and mirrors. Bulkhead seats will have two screens – a main one above the bed and a smaller one in front of the chair when it is in take-off and landing position.
Fans of the airline’s double beds in Suites, which it previously introduced as an industry first, will be glad to know these have been retained somewhat. Couples can join their beds and suites together to make a double bed, though there is a divide that can be raised during take-off, landing and taxiing if you’re not quite that close to your neighbour. Travellers can also store their carry-on luggage in a compartment next to the sliding door.
It’s also worth noting that the airline has no plans to offer a bar or shower suite for business or first class passengers on the re-configured A380.
Fans of Singapore Airlines’ existing business class will be glad to know that the new seat retains its off-centre bed position in most of its seats. While bulkhead beds extend directly forwards, all others have an alcove to the side of the seat where travellers stretch their legs when lying down. There are pros and cons to this design – it favours those who sleep on their sides in a more fetal position rather than those who sleep on their back, as it effectively means you have to sleep at an angle across the flat seat.
These seats are, however, thinner than some of Singapore Airlines’ other business class products (25 inches) and the overall pitch is 50 inches when seated upright. The overall length of the bed is 78 inches. However a key feature for business travellers is a new space below the seat in front that is capable of stowing both a laptop bag and a standard-sized carry-on bag – another industry first, according to Goh. This offers convenience, but also enables Singapore Airlines to keep its overhead bins limited to the sides rather than the centre of the A380, providing a more open space to the business class cabin.
Overall the design is quite modern, with sleek curves. The seats don’t have doors as these were felt to make the seat too claustrophobic – according to UK-based designer JPA Design, though all have access to an aisle with the 1-2-1 seating plan. USB sockets are available next to the seat by the headphone jack as well as in the seat in front (alongside a universal power outlet) for charging a laptops while using the tray.
Premium economy class
Laid out 2-4-2 and located at the front of the main deck, perhaps one of the biggest changes to the premium economy cabin as much as the seat itself is a dedicated bathroom exclusively for travellers in premium economy (currently on the A380, the class shares bathrooms with economy class).
Each seat has two USB ports and in-seat power, while the 13.3-inch screen will be complemented by the offering of noise-cancelling headphones.
Recline on the seats is eight inches while pitch is 38 inches and width is 19.5 inches.
Layout for economy is still ten-across – 3-4-3 – and the cabin is located on the lower level behind the premium economy cabin.
These seats are thinner than their predecessors, with additional legroom (32 inches of pitch) and back support. Meanwhile the headrest can be adjusted in six ways with foldable wings. Seats are a comfortable 18.5 inches wide and recline is six inches.
Singapore Airlines currently has five new A380s on order that will sport the new seating. These will replace the carrier’s five oldest superjumbos, which it is returning to its lessor, keeping the total number of A380s in its fleet at 19.
The remaining 14 will begin being retrofitted with the new seats starting late next year, with the entire fleet of aircraft expected to be outfitted with these seat products by 2020.
Travellers may not be limited to experiencing some of the new products on just the A380 in the future, however. “The Suite will be unique to the A380 – it’s a matter of space that’s required for the product,” said CEO Goh Choon Phong. “Whether or not the new business class product will be used for other aircraft in our fleet is something we will announce at the appropriate time.”
While the carrier has yet to unveil which routes exactly will be among the first to offer the new seats, it is likely they will continue to serve those currently operated by the A380 rather than be deployed on new routes. “The question of who gets what first is a matter of how fast we can take the aircraft in and aircraft rotations,” said Marvin Tan, senior vice president of product and services. “That’s why we’re going to Sydney [first] as if we were to send it to London with only one aircraft to start with, you can’t do the rotation. We’ll take a look at how the market changes and whether certain routes get thicker and the case to bring in an A380 on them gets stronger, so we have to be quite dynamic in that sense.”
Singapore Airlines currently flies the A380 to Auckland, Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Osaka, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney and Zurich.
A number of other firsts for the airline were unveiled along with the new products. These include it being the first airline to allow travellers to customise and save their in-seat lighting preferences (in Suites) across different flights.
Passengers will also be able to curate playlists and continue watching a movie from where they left off on their next flight as part of a new “myKrisWorld” offering via the Singapore Airlines Companion app. Travellers will need to be members of the airline’s frequent-flyer programme Krisflyer and log in to their accounts in order to make use of these features.
Meanwhile seats in all classes also have been outfitted with a near-field communicator (NFC) device. While Singapore Airlines is not revealing their precise function at this stage, some members of staff stated it would most likely be for swiping cards to make in-flight purchases.
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