BACKGROUND Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) new three times weekly Singapore-Saõ Paulo service stops over in Barcelona at El Prat Airport’s Terminal 1. Designed by the renowned Catalan postmodernist architect Ricardo Bofil, the hub was inaugurated in June 2009, fulfilling the latest phase of the hub’s masterplan to take it up to 2018 and offer a capacity of over 70 million passengers a year. Breaking the 23-hour journey between Asia and South America is a wise marketing move for the carrier, allowing the promotion and sale of three flight products: Singapore-Sao Paulo, Singapore-Barcelona and Barcelona-Sao Paulo, for which it feels there is sufficient demand. Spanair, SIA’s Star Alliance partner, has also worked diligently to raise the profile of its base, El Prat Airport. SIA is the first Asian and foreign airline to fly out of El Prat Airport to Saõ Paulo.
BOARDING As transit passengers, our group followed the general flow heading toward arrivals, until we saw to the left of us an SIA staff member holding up an improvised sign saying: “SIA flight to Sao Paulo”. I showed the security guard beside her my boarding pass stub, after which he motioned to me to place my belongings through the scanner. The final procedure was to show passports to immigration for entry into “non-Schengen countries”.
Messy lines had already formed in front of the counter by gate 4 even before the 9.15am boarding call was made, making it impossible to see one’s way through. While the SIA staff were sorting out the scrum, we, in Raffles Class (SIA’s business class), were quickly allowed through.
THE SEAT I headed for the same seat that I had had on departure from Singapore – 21K by the window. As I had alternated between doing some work and sleeping during the almost 13 hours from Asia to Europe, I thought it was time to check out some of the 143 films and over 180 TV episodes (not counting the 749 CDs, 80 plus games, 20 apps and 22 radio channels) in SIA’s Krisworld branded IFE. Unfortunately, the system kept hanging no matter how many times I restarted it, prompting a very apologetic flight attendant to urge me to transfer to the seat in front of me, 20K, which was unoccupied on this sector. I did so shortly.
SIA’s new generation business class cabin has been reviewed several times in the print edition of Business Traveller, and for those who missed these, they can be viewed at www.seatplans.com (Singapore Airlines/Tried and Tested). But just to sum up its highlights: a 1-2-1 configuration, aisle access for everyone, 90.2cm-wide seats, front facing socket panel for computer plug (but needing an adaptor) and USBs, and a variety of storage compartments for personal accessories and work papers.
As this was my third experience with the business class product (the first was on an Airbus A380 from Singapore to Sydney and the second was on another A380 from Hong Kong to Singapore), I was quite familiar with the seat features and made my own bed without having to ask for help from the Singapore Girl (or Boy), simply by flipping over the seat back to connect to a small ledge in a corner of the seat in front of mine. My only beef about the seat is its shallow incline that produces backaches and discourages long naps because of an awkward slouch.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE If you are travelling alone, it’s a no-brainer to opt for a window seat. The environment was so cocoon-like and self-contained, I managed to get some outstanding work done. Note that the three washrooms assigned to the business class cabin are found only towards the front, so frequent users should perhaps choose a seat from rows 14 to 17 for convenience’s sake. Bag your seat early by booking online 48 hours before departure.
THE FLIGHT Lunch was served about an hour after we were airborne, starting with a prelude of satay skewers, accompanied by a yummy peanut dressing, followed by a crisp tuna niçoise salad. The sweet and sour oriental pork I was looking forward to had a dryness about it, which even the thick sauce couldn’t mask. The champagne jelly with berry, concocted especially for this maiden flight, was too bitter, but I received a fantastic replacement in the form of an orange gelato with berry topping. A light meal, for which I requested braised noodles, was offered an hour and a half before the descent into Saõ Paulo.
ARRIVAL We landed at Brazil’s Guarulhos International Airport at nearly 4pm in blazing 30-degree heat. Besides the excitement of arriving in South America for the first time, the only other thought I could entertain was the desire to walk on firm ground and stretch my legs.
VERDICT The journey may have been extremely long but the oft-awarded SIA inflight products and unerring attention to passenger needs passed the test with flying colours.
Margie T Logarta
For a complete version of this flight review, please go to www.seatplans.com
PLANE TYPE B777-300ER
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1 first, 1-2-1 business and 3-3-3 economy
SEAT PITCH 71in/180.3cm
SEAT WIDTH 35.5in/90.2cm
PRICE From US$10,687.60, excluding taxes, for a late May departure