Tried & Tested

Flight review: Singapore Airlines A350-900 premium economy

22 Dec 2017 by Tom Otley
Singapore Airlines A350-900

Background

Singapore Airlines has 19 A350s in its fleet, and orders for another 50 or so.

The flight reviewed here is a slightly unusual one in terms of routing. Singapore Airlines departs Singapore for Manchester, which it serves 5 times weekly. When the flight arrives in the morning it has a two-hour turnaround and then flies westward to Houston. It then returns from Houston to Singapore via Manchester.

You can watch a quick video review and a look round the cabin on the Youtube video below.

First impressions:

I arrived at Manchester International Terminal 2 at 0800 for the 1020 departure on SQ52.

There were separate queues for economy, premium economy and business passengers, though at this time there were few people queuing in any of these. I did not have any bags to check but had not been able to check in online for the flight, possibly because I was actually not entering the US, but just transiting, intending to return on the same aircraft in a different class (business) for another review.

I was given a sticker for fast track security which saved a little time, but the airport was busy. Premium economy passengers do not get lounge access.

I have a Priority Pass card, and so tried to get into the Aspire Lounge at Terminal 2 which is the one business class passengers on the Singapore Airlines flight use, but I was unable to do so, and instead went to the Escape Lounge.

Lounge review: Escape Lounge, Terminal 2, Manchester Airport

The flight started to board from the gate at around 0930. I managed to get on board early so I could film the cabin (see above).

The seat

Singapore Airlines has a three-class configuration of the aircraft:

  • 187 economy seats
  • 24 in premium economy and
  • 42 in business

There is no first class.

The premium economy cabin is lovely and small – just 24 seats, arranged in a 2-4-2 layout across three rows. Each seat is 18.5-inches wide,  with a 38 inch seat pitch and a recline of 8 degrees.

There are no dedicated washrooms – you walk back into economy to use those, and don’t bother trying to walk through business to use those ones since staff will be very friendly in turning you back.

The front row of the cabin (row 31) has more leg room, and is charged at a supplement (£76 for this trip). It is worth paying, I think, although the inflight entertainment screen (13.3 inches) can seem a little small since it is on the bulk head wall in front of you. There was a new safety video I had not seen before, highlighting various attractions in Singapore. It was good, but quite long. If you have time, you can watch it below.

Waiting at the seat was a bottle of water and after take-off we were given a small amenity kit containing a pair of flight sock and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Ear plugs and eye mask are available on request.

We’ve reviewed premium economy before (on other aircraft) and have always been impressed by the added benefits that premium economy customers get. This includes a 13.3-inch HD touchscreen monitor (billed as the largest in this class of travel), Nicholas Feuilliate champagne and a slightly expanded food choice over economy.

Best seat

The front row seats are best, probably the window seats in row 31. The middle four seats on the front row are where the bassinets would go if there were babies on board.

The back row (row 33) have bassinets directly behind in economy. This was the case on this flight. Obviously if you can, pay the extra and get the front row – row 31. If not, I’d go for the middle row, row 32, and a window seat or aisle seat there, but not in the centre where there are four seats and always the danger of being disturbed.

The flight

There was quite a long delay while we waited for de-icing, and then were de-iced, and it was about 1130 before we finally took off. Throughout this we were kept informed by the pilot, and in fact were told that one of them would be coming back to check on the wings just before take-off to make sure no ice had formed.

Shortly after take-off the drinks were brought round, including Champagne.

The wifi took a while to turn on but came on at around 1200. I was tempted to use it, but to be honest I thought it was quite expensive at $25.95 for the flight. I realise it is expensive to provide the service, and I doubt any airline has worked out how to make money form offering it, but that said, if it is offered, it needs to be at a tempting price, and for me, this was a bit too high.

Singapore Airlines premium economy

There was a choice of three main courses.

  • Pan-roasted chicken with rosemary sauce, served with vegetables and mashed potato (this was no available to economy passengers)
  • Cod fillet in pesto rub with lemon caper sauce served with steamed new potatoes and seasonal vegetables
  • Stir-fried beef in black pepper sauce with Chinese vegetables and friend rice.

I chose a stir-fried beef and rice, which was tasty, and this was followed up by some Haagen-Dasz ice cream (Belgium chocolate).

About an hour after the lunch menu the lights were dimmed so those wanting to sleep could do so. The aircraft is very quiet, so much so that I could hear someone snoring on the other side of the cabin. Some travellers worked right the way through the flight, able to keep their devices charged with the in-seat power, and perhaps using the wifi as well. I watched a couple of films, worked for a while, dozed and then read a book.

The seat reclines by eight degrees, but also the seat moves forward, so you don’t impinge too much on the person behind (or the person in front squash into your own space). I found it easy to be comfortable, whether working on my laptop, watching a film. The only problem was that my leg rest and calf rest was broken, and despite the best attempts of the flight attendants it could not be fixed. I didn’t mind because my feet were propped up on my bag by my feet.

The flight went by surprisingly quickly.

Before landing we had another meal with a choice of sandwiches and some fruit and a chocolate bar.

Landing

We landed only slightly late from our de-icing in Manchester and then came off the aircraft immediately after business class

Verdict

No airline wants its premium economy to be too good – there’s always the danger that business class passengers may be tempted to save money and move backwards on the aircraft, but having tried the business class on the return journey it’s clear that good though the premium economy is, there is still a clear division between the two seating products.

That said, this was an excellent flight and I arrived feeling no more tired than when I set off. The premium economy seat on the A350 is very comfortable, the service friendly, and the food choice, presentation and quality was good.

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