Flight check: Singapore Airlines A380
Singapore-Sydney, A380 business class
BACKGROUND Singapore Airlines launched its first scheduled A380 flight at the end of October, on the Singapore-Sydney route. Business Traveller sent Margie Logarta, the editor of our Asia-Pacific edition, to try out the business class service onboard the superjumbo.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS I was connecting from Hong Kong to flight SQ221 to Sydney. I headed for the Silver Kris Lounge – this is a busy lounge, which houses both the first class and business class facilities, each with their respective entrances. With subdued lighting, a low ceiling and lack of windows, I have heard many passengers say through the years that SIA could have done better, and hopefully they will in their new home at the soon-to-open Terminal 3 of Changi. The internet section consists of two tables with several computers; I immediately spotted a vacant seat and started my correspondence. As no boarding announcements are made, I left at 1955 for gate F31 (I was a bit anxious that the queues might be longer with the A380’s increased capacity of 471).
BOARDING After clearing security, where laptops were required to be taken out of cases and passports shown with the boarding pass, I entered the holding area which was clearly identified by lively banners as the departure gate for the A380. A large poster of the seating layout was placed by the door, ostensibly to give passengers an idea of the new design and avoid confusion. As boarding was swiftly taking place I had no time to study it, and instead followed the sign saying “Business Class/Economy Class”. Other passengers were entering the door, marked “First Class/Economy”.
Used to the Boeing B747, where one climbs the stairs to the upper deck, I asked the SIA girl upon entering: “Where do I go up?” She giggled, saying: “You are already up.” I had completely forgotten that Changi airport had prepared for this event some time ago, creating double-decker entrances in at least two aerobridges, and I was already on the second level. Before taking my coat to hang up, she showed me two storage bins by the window seat I had requested, their lids opened by pressing a button. I placed my laptop in the generous space under the right side of the seat in front of me, and not in the overhead compartment as this made for an easier reach. Drinks, reading material and hot towels were offered, followed by the wine list and à la carte menu. Meal orders were taken as well.
We did not leave on the scheduled 2030 slot, due to the delayed arrival of another SIA flight from Mumbai, as the captain explained. The transfer passengers finally arrived 15 minutes later and we pushed back, finally taking off about 2121. The flight, the captain went on the air again to say, would take seven hours and 50 minutes. As in my previous test-run experience, the aircraft ascended without any of that steep-incline feeling, not unlike a helicopter that lifts itself off the ground.
THE SEAT Business class, located on the upper deck, consists of 60 seats in two sections (18 and 42 respectively) in a 1-2-1 configuration. I was assigned 26-K, in the second to last row before economy. With a width of 34 inches, the business class seat – upholstered in a camel/chocolate-toned leather also found on SIA’s B777-300ER – is far enough across for a petite person like to me to curl up as one would in a sofa. Stretching out, however, I could only just get my heels onto the little foot rest area in the left side of the seat in front of me (which also acts as part of the flat bed).
Boxy in shape, this latest executive air chair contains many useful features: not just one but two adjustable reading lights on the left and right side top part of the seat, in addition to the overhead lamp, noise-cancelling headsets, well-lit function buttons on the control panel, side magazine rack, and storage under the armrest for items like glasses, pens and water bottle. The 15.4-inch TV monitor on the seatback, besides providing immense viewing pleasure due to the increased size, was flanked by more compartments – on the left side there was a panel for charging laptops (adaptors on request), another crevice to stow small items, and on the right a small vanity mirror and drinks holder. Two hooks, again on either side, were convenient for hanging light clothing.
Teal-coloured amenity pouches (to match the pillows and bed linen) have been pared down to the very basic, containing only socks and eye masks. Not to worry, the washrooms carry anything else you might need.
THE FLIGHT I was served the requested cup of Brazil Santos Bourbon soon after we reached cruising level, a full-bodied blend that perked me up at once. Dinner soon followed, starting with the sparkling Romaine lettuce in oriental dressing with drunken prawns and marinated jellyfish. Just as I was wondering about the plastic knife that stuck out beside the gleaming silver utensils, I noticed a small card apologising for the mismatch citing security demanded by “airports in some destinations”. Anyhow, there was no need to use it on the wok-fried beef in black pepper sauce with garlic, concocted by SIA resident culinary consultant Sam Leong, which melted in the mouth, but was a bit too fiery for my palate. Dessert was Haagen-Dazs Cookies and Cream ice cream smothered with chocolate sauce and roasted almonds. When the cheese and fruit trolley came around, I picked some black grapes and some smoked pepper cheese slices, whose contrasting tastes blended beautifully.
Earlier, I had requested for a viewing of the much-touted Singapore Suites on the lower deck, and the flight supervisor now came along to escort me to them. The section seemed to be almost as full as business class, so the contraptions that create space in the compartments for the fully flat bed couldn’t be fully demonstrated as they were bound to make some noise. (I did manage to see these work on the day flight back from Sydney and they seemed like a clever idea.)
As this was a night flight, I decided not to switch on my laptop but instead to enjoy the seat to the full, which I did, choosing the latest Angelina Jolie starrer A Mighty Heart from the enormous range of films, TV shows, CD music, games and applications on the recently enhanced KrisWorld entertainment system. After the movie I asked a passing flight attendant to set up the bed, which she did by pulling down the back rest which stretched out to make a 76-inch fully-flat bed. Sheets, the duvet and an extra pillow had been behind the seat all this time. I slipped in and before I knew it, they were shaking me awake for the continental breakfast. Sensitive to turbulence, I felt some through my slumber but the A380 held on very well and didn’t shake enough to rattle me.
ARRIVAL We arrived an hour late at 0735 to an overcast Sydney, and at the worst possible time, when five or more international airlines also touched down. At first blush, the immigration queues looked horrendously long, but actually moved quickly, with attentive marshals guiding bleary-eyed passengers to the various counters. Bags from our flight were also delivered without too much of a wait. Thankfully, I was spared having my luggage inspected at customs for any of the usual contraband foodstuff and waved through by the poker-faced officer.
VERDICT A revolutionary aircraft, superb business class product and flawless service – SIA has redefined travel again.
Margie T Logarta