CHECK IN This was the first flight of the A380 to London but check-in was as swift as it always is at Changi airport and immigration was a matter of seconds. As there was some time before the flight I headed to the Silver Kris lounges. Conveniently located upstairs in the centre of the terminal, the first and business class lounges have a common entrance and “business centre”, with meeting rooms and a large number of computer terminals (both PC and Mac).
The business class lounge is large with a good selection of seating. It is dimly lit and quite restful. There is a large food area and as it was 7am there was a good selection of food from dim sum, noodles and rice through to omelettes, meat tarts, cereal, pastries and fruit. The only difficulty I had in the lounge was finding a power socket for my laptop – there was also a problem with the internet connection but I was told this was not a common occurrence. If you like daylight and you have a gold tier level frequent flyer card, then head for the gold card lounge, which is open to the wider terminal with natural daylight and views of the runway.
BOARDING Security at the gate took less than a minute and priority boarding went ahead on time. There are three entrances from the jet bridge to the plane, two for the lower deck (one for first and one for economy) and one for the upper deck for business and economy. While the plane is big, it’s not as long as a B777-300, so getting from one end to the other does not take that long, and boarding was swift despite the large number of people on the plane.
The upper deck of the A380 is much more spacious than that of the B747, thanks to the added width of the plane and the removal of the centre overhead lockers in business. Storage space for your wheeled and larger bags is under the seat in front of you, with further storage to the sides above your head and alongside the window seats (just as on the upper deck of a B747). Once on board, coats were taken and a selection of juice, newspapers, magazines and menus given out. The plane then pulled back on time and was airborne 15 minutes later.
THE SEAT Business class is located on the upper deck and is a 1-2-1 configuration, giving every passenger aisle access. There are 60 seats in two sections – 18 in the front cabin and 42 in the middle (economy is to the rear). The seat itself is the widest in the air at a staggering 34 inches, which takes some getting used to – you really need to treat it like an armchair at home and slump into it. It has a pitch of 55 inches and is upholstered in brown and camel leather, and can also be found on the airline’s new B777-300ER.
The distance between you and the seat in front is not huge but more than adequate, as when the seat turns into a flatbed you sleep at a diagonal with your feet under the seat in front of you. This short distance also means that it easy to access all the compartments and switches without stretching. The seat converts by flipping over, and is made very comfortable by a mattress cover, duvet and pillow.
The controls are easy to use, with two simple buttons for the recline and leg rest. There are some interesting features, such as reading and ambient lights on both sides of the seat as well as in the ceiling. The sockets for the noise-cancelling headsets are on both sides so you can choose which side of the seat you curl up on, and on one side there is also space to hang them up. There is a magazine rack by your right hand in the armrest, along with storage space for a water bottle and other small items.
A height-adjustable table makes working easier and is in easy reach of the multi-region power socket in the seat in front, which took my adaptor and plug. (Also here you will find USB and RJ45 sockets – the latter is for future proofing as SIA hope to introduce onboard internet connection once the technology becomes available.) A 15.4-inch high-res TV is also installed in the seatback, and there is a small compartment on the right ideal for a wallet or glasses. On the left side is a ledge for a glass and a vanity mirror with light, and there are hooks on both sides for hanging jackets.
The teal-coloured amenity packs that match the bedding are basic, with just slipper socks and eye masks, but the toilets have most other things you would want, including toothbrushes, combs and razors. Ear plugs are available on request.
THE FLIGHT I had been told that the plane was quiet but I was shocked at just how quiet it was. Conversations several rows away could be clearly heard, so if you’re planning your next surprise takeover make sure you whisper or you could find it’s no longer a surprise.
Breakfast was served at about one hour into the flight. A choice of fruit juices, pastries, yoghurt, fruit and cereal, as well thai-style porridge, hotcakes or omelette provided a more than adequate choice. I opted for the hotcakes with fruit which was very tasty and not too heavy. SIA is known for its choice of beverages and there are seven teas and three different coffee beans which can be served as espresso, cappuccino or with a hint of brandy. Regular drinks service occurred throughout the flight and a range of snacks and drinks was available in the self-service galley.
Satay was served about halfway through the flight, followed shortly afterwards by the main meal service. There was a good choice and I opted for the duck terrine followed by beef noodles in quite a spicy pepper sauce. Full, I skipped the dessert and the cheeseboard.
The in-flight entertainment system was simple and easy to use and this filled the time between work and sleep. One nice touch is if you want to know how long there is still to go then you need look no further than your handset, rather than interrupt what you might be doing on the IFE.
ARRIVAL Despite a couple of circuits in the holding track, the flight arrived early at 1449. There was a wait for the doors to open and a short wait for bags.
VERDICT A superb and quiet plane fitted with fantastic and innovative seats across all classes, backed up with first class service.