Tried & Tested

Airline review: Singapore Airlines B777-200 business class

3 Jan 2018 by Craig Bright

BACKGROUND

Travellers can experience a number of Singapore Airlines’ different seat products on its Singapore-Hong Kong route – after all, the carrier flies the route seven times a day with four different aircraft (the Boeing 777-200, B777-300ER, Airbus A380 and the A350).

This is good for regular travellers that prefer one of the airline’s specific aircraft and seat products, but for those less familiar with the airline (or travellers on a restrictive schedule), this variety means that you can easily find yourself in one of Singapore Airline’s older products. The airline’s Boeing 777-200 is one such aircraft, carrying the oldest business class seat (its regional product) on three of the route’s seven daily flights.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 at 12:40 ahead of my 1505 scheduled departure (SQ872), and headed to check-in row 3. Having flown in from Hong Kong just two days’ prior, I was able to check-in and get my boarding pass for the return flight from Singapore back in Hong Kong, however when I tried to use the automated bag drop system I was confronted with an error message and was directed to the counter.

There was no business class line here, unfortunately, meaning I had to wait a few minutes before being served. When I got the desk, my seat had been changed from 18F to 15F – a better one in my opinion due to it being in the first of the two business class cabins, so I was happy to go along with it. I asked the member of staff whether they could explain to me why the bag-drop system hadn’t worked, but they confessed they didn’t know.

Immigration was swift and was aided by a member of staff who directed me to the automated queue, which scans your passport and fingerprint (which had been taken upon arrival in Singapore). I will admit, if I hadn’t been informed that I was able to go to the automated aisle I likely would have presumed it was limited to Singaporean residents, so this assistance was much appreciated.

THE LOUNGE

The lounge in Terminal 3 is located just beyond immigration, up the escalators to the left-hand side towards the A gates, where you will also find other lounges from Dnata, Sats and DBS. The Silverkris lounge is at the end of the walkway, past the Krisflyer Gold Lounge, and divided into areas for first (left) and business class (right) passengers.

This is arguably one of Singapore Airline’s largest lounges, with plenty of arm chair seating spread throughout, making finding a seat in the busy lounge not difficult. The selection of buffet-style foods on the right hand side of the business class lounge is excellent, though options for vegetarians are perhaps a little limited. Travellers wanting to dip into the alcohol can do so at the self-serve counter at the far end of the hall, which has wine, beer (there’s also a Tiger beer tap in the buffet area), soft drinks and at least one type of the major spirits. I went for a gin and tonic.

Lighting in the lounge is dim away from the windows, which helps give the large space a slightly more intimate atmosphere, and definitely a calmer one considering the number of people that were there. Noise levels were generally quiet, so working here isn’t  difficult from that perspective, as is resting.

One of the main issues to working at the lounge, however, is the dearth of power outlets – I saw a few placed low along some of the walls, however these weren’t next to the seats. Wifi was reliable and strong, though, if you’re looking to access emails or do a quick bit of surfing.

If you’re wanting to freshen up, the lounge has showers and large, clean bathrooms.

BOARDING

I left the lounge at 14:20 and headed towards my gate (A1), which is in a separate boarding area along with gates A2 to A8. For flights departing these gates, security screening is done as you enter the boarding area, and this was quick and painless, and I boarded at 14:35 ahead of most other passengers.

THE SEAT

As mentioned, this is Singapore Airlines’ regional business class seat product, one of its oldest. The cabin in laid out 2-2-2 and I was in 15F, the right-hand centre seat four rows from the front, in the first of the two business class cabins (the second is after the toilet and galley and contains just 12 seats compared to the 26 in the main business class section).

The seat definitely shows its age – while lie-flat, the beds don’t recline the full 180 degrees, though each section of the chair can be adjusted and there are take-off and lie-flat presets on the electronic buttons for ease of use. The light beige colour of the seats also comes off as a bit dated, particularly when compared with the sleeker, dark brown colour scheme of the carrier’s most modern seat products.

Storage is available but limited. The seatback has two compartments with fold-down shutters that can hold small items, while the centre armrest has a thin but deep cavity beneath it for storing items. Although this latter space can fit quite a lot of small objects and devices inside it, trying to find them again feels a bit like rummaging between the seat cushions.

Though the seats show their age, they are not uncomfortable. Indeed pitch and width are good for a regional product (there were a few occasions when I accidentally bumped into the screen controller with my leg, but otherwise I had plenty of space). Seats also come with Singapore/Hong Kong/UK plugs on the inside of the seat, though there aren’t USB ports.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

All of the seats have a divider separating you from the person next door, so having a neighbour isn’t a major issue. The main consideration is direct aisle access, which isn’t available with a window seat. My seat, 15F, was a good option – far away enough from the galley for it not to be too loud yet not so far back that I had my back to the rear toilets.

Singapore Airlines B777-200 business class

THE FLIGHT

Prior to boarding there had been an announcement that our flight would be delayed 20 minutes, so the eventual departure time of 1527 was expected. Upon being seated, I was offered a glass of Champagne followed soon after by a newspaper and my choice of post-take-off drink. I chose the Singapore Sling, which the cabin staff made sure was replenished regularly throughout the flight.

Food was served at about 16:15, and was up to Singapore Airlines’ usual high standards. Along with the smoked duck and melon salad appetiser, the menu had four mains from which to choose: pan-seared halibut fillet with tomato-citrus stew; beef rendang; pearl couscous and roasted Mediterranean vegetable salad with prawns and pine nuts; and soy sauce chicken and char siew pork. I opted for the beef rendang, which comes with a bright yellow helping of turmeric-flavoured rice – a great choice.

Singapore Airlines B777-200 business class

It’s worth noting that none of these comprise a vegetarian offering (the Mediterranean salad is only pescatarian), so travellers with specific diets best alert the airline ahead of time to any dietary needs. Singapore Airlines offers its “Book the Cook” service on this flight, which enables eligible travellers to order their main course selection up to 24 hours before their scheduled flight.

For those not working during their flight, the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system has large screens, however the interface is quite dated. The actual selection was reasonable (a number of the films and shows available on my flight from Hong Kong on the B777-300ER were also available, though overall the choice did appear to be less comprehensive). The quality of the image on screen was decent and since you get noise-cancelling headphones, the audio experience is also quite good.

ARRIVAL

The plane touched down at 1925 and I was through immigration in Hong Kong by 1940. While Hong Kong Airport has had some delays when it comes to baggage recently – something I’ve personally experienced a few times this year – this time my luggage arrived just a few minutes after I arrived at the belt.

VERDICT

There’s no doubt that the B777-200 offers a noticeably inferior seat product to the B777-300ER, A380, A350, and retrofitted B777-200ER, each of which have fully flat seating and much wider beds. And with the Singapore-Hong Kong route expected to get the airline’s newest A380 seat products some time this year, these seats will be even more outdated, so if you have the option, seek out those flights first.

That said, the experience is by no means bad – Singapore Airlines’ lounge, food and service remain outstanding – and despite its age the seat is certainly not uncomfortable for a short-haul flight.

FACT FILE

  • Best for Regional short-haul
  • Price Internet fares for a return ticket in mid-March start from S$1,790 (US$1,330)
  • Departure time 1505
  • Flight time 3 hours 45 minutes
  • Aircraft type Boeing 777-200
  • Configuration 2-2-2
  • Seat recline 172 degrees
  • Seat width 22 inches
  • Seat pitch 65 inches
  • Contact singaporeair.com
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