Hello! This review is long overdue, but better late than never. Earlier this year, I flew to Cape Town, South Africa for ILTM Africa and a press trip. I was booked on a Singapore Airlines flight, so I took the opportunity to try out their short (regional) and long-haul business class on the Airbus A350.
First leg: Short Haul Regional Business Class Singapore Airlines A350-900
My first leg of the trip was an almost 4-hour flight from Manila to Singapore. Although the aircraft for both sectors are the same type (A350), the business class cabin is very different from each other.
The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, so everyone has an aisle access. As I was travelling solo, I got a window seat, 11K.
The seat: spacious, private, but could be more comfortable
There’s plenty of legroom in front and on the side, between the seat itself and the window. The space between the seat and the window can be used as both room to move your legs and also to place bags, after takeoff.
The ‘shell’ or semi-pod that covers the seat is high and provides plenty of privacy, which I really appreciated. The seats can lie fully flat, but with a less than 4-hour flight time, I was not able to test this. I used the seat both upright and reclined as all I did was eat and watch films, and I have to say that the seat was not plush or that comfortable. It was roomy, yes, but a little hard. Even on reclined mode with my feet up, I felt a little discomfort in my back more than an hour later. A few seat shifts every now and then fixed it.
I was happy to know that the seats on the long-haul flight were completely different, but more on that later.
Console / Amenity Kit (or lack thereof)
Those with gadgets will be pleased, because there’s not just one, but two USB ports in the console / storage area of the seat. There, you will also find headphones, and a ‘care kit’.
This care kit contained essentials when flying during the pandemic. A face mask, hand sanitiser, and a disinfectant surface wipe. It’s a nice and necessary touch. However, for business class, it would have been nice to have the usual amenity kit on top of this care kit. Sad to say, the amenity kit was absent even on the long-haul flight.
It’s understandable that airlines are trying to minimise loss to recover from the pandemic. However, air ticket fares have increased, so an amenity kit (which was normally given out pre-pandemic) would be appreciated.
In-flight meals: They taste good. Trust me.
If you care about plating (like me), let me assure you that the food tasted much better than how it was presented. Considering that plastic covers were necessary due COVID-19, I found the plating and presentation rather plain and unceremonious. I don’t expect all meals to be served as grandly as most Middle Eastern airlines do, but you will see more of what I mean especially when we get to the long-haul in-flight meals.
The prawn and mango salad was great, btw.
As there was no menu on-board and I did not order any special meals or use the ‘Book the Cook’ feature for this segment, I cannot remember exactly what this meal was called. But it is what it looks like: Stewed beef with mashed potatoes and vegetables.
The beef was tender, the vegetables were crisp and fresh. Overall, it was great. I wish they had bigger plates or serving dishes–it would have made eating much easier.
No fancy desserts but I enjoyed them (quite clearly). A chocolate cake square, sliced fruits, and a plate of cheese, nuts & crackers.
Lavatories: Clean and bright
On both short and long-haul legs of the trip, the lavatories were always spotless, clean and smelled pleasant. I liked that it had bright white lights. The toiletries provided were from British perfume house Penhaligon’s. The hand lotion, facial mist and eau de toilette all had a neutral, clean scent.
It would have been great to have all these in an amenity kit (as they did pre-pandemic). I’m sure Singapore Airlines will have them again soon.
Video: Singapore Airlines Business Class A350 Short and Long Haul
Before we proceed with the long-haul sector of the trip, let me interrupt your reading and show you a quick video of the flight:
Transiting in Singapore Changi Airport
I’ve always looked forward to transiting at Singapore’s Changi Airport, and I had reason to do so on this trip. Arriving at past 10 in the evening, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most shops were still open.
I spent more time browsing the shops than the Singapore Airlines Business Class Lounge because the lounge was packed. Like you can’t even get a decent seat kind of packed. I wasn’t hungry anyway (did you see how much I ate on that 4-hour flight??)
Singapore Airlines Business Class: Long Haul A350 Singapore to Cape Town
As you can see, the seats on this business class cabin were entirely different from the short-haul or regional business class cabin.
The seating layout was again 1-2-1, but the seat itself was more spacious, had more compartments for storage, and most of all, the seat was much more comfortable. Privacy was still great.
A very thoughtful feature was this mirror in front of the seat, just below a storage area. Because this aircraft is used on long-haul flights, a mirror to check yourself (without having to go to the lavatory) was really helpful.
This long-haul business class seat is so roomy and comfortable, I’ve got to say it’s one of the best business class seats I’ve had the pleasure of flying in.
I’ll let Singapore Airlines explain why this seat is divine (taken from the airline’s website):
Our new Business Class seats offer two new seating positions—the Lazy Z, a cradling position that ensures your weight is centered and balanced when you’re sitting down, and the Sundeck, a lounging position that extends the base and foot of your seat so you can stretch and rest your legs on the ottoman.
The cabin crew helped me transform the seat into a lie flat bed after meal. Although I’m a little ‘torn’ about these kinds of lie-flat beds that require the assistance of a crew vs lying flat with just the push of a button, I realised that the ones requiring more maneuvering offer more comfort and better sleep.
The downside to this is having to ask the crew to assist you whenever you want to lie down again or put it back on flight mode.
Perhaps frequent fliers of this seat already know how to do it on their own, but it’s still not as convenient as pushing a button.
One thing to note, if you are booked on a window seat like me, there is a slight angle that kind of positions your legs to the right (or left, depends on the aircraft side you’re on).
This really wasn’t such an inconvenience for me, standing 5 feet 4 inches , so I’m not sure how this will feel to taller travellers.
Overall, I had a good 7-8 hours of sleep.
Don’t judge a meal by its presentation
I really don’t normally judge a meal by its presentation…unless it’s in business class? And if we’re comparing meal presentation, this is absolutely not in the same league as the elaborate and meticulous plating of the Middle Eastern carriers.
Quality-wise though, this Char Kway Teow tasted absolutely fantastic. I think it just boils down to the size of the plates. If the plate was bigger, it wouldn’t be so hard to stir the noodles a little.
For dessert I had sticky date pudding which was okay.
I found it generous of them to provide a second serving of breakfast on the Johannesburg to Cape Town leg, a less than 2-hour flight.
And just like a proper hobbit, I of course enjoyed my bagel sandwich second breakfast.
The food on my return flight from Cape Town to Singapore left me much more impressed:
The chicken satay was wonderful, albeit too modest in its garnishing.
Their hot chocolate was frothy and rich. If you like yours to be on the milky / creamier side, you would love this.
This has got to be my favourite meal from all flight sectors of this trip. Prawns with mango salsa. And it was also presented very well!
Similar to the meals on the outbound flight, this beef with potatoes dish is again a case of a meal tasting better than its presentation.
I saved the best for last: The dessert, or shall I say dessertS were exceptional. Three classic desserts: vanilla ice cream, cheese platter and cheesecake– again nothing fancy in presentation, but ridiculously yummy.
I confess, I was asked to choose 1 dessert, but they all sounded like they needed to go together, so I asked if I could try them all. Kudos to the cabin crew who didn’t raise any eyebrows (nor gave any reaction at all, really), when I said “All of them?” when asked to choose.
Service: Efficient, but could be warmer
The crew on both sectors were consistently efficient, and also consistently quick and lacking in warmth. They did everything right: greeted me by name after I’ve settled on my seat to confirm my meal preferences, etc. Service was quick, efficient, and responsive. But it felt tense. They seemed too serious and in a hurry.
Truth be told, a cabin crew’s job is really just to ensure passenger flight safety. All the niceties and pleasantries are just ‘nice to have’ additions in a flight.
I now find myself asking: Is it too much to expect warmth / friendliness from cabin crew?
Months after this flight, I wrote this news about Singapore Airlines finally catching up to modern times and no longer sacking expectant cabin crew. Egad! It took a global pandemic and staff shortage for them to wake up, but better late than never.
When more than 1 crew is not relaxed on a flight that is otherwise seeming to go well, I think it’s telling of the management they are under.
I will chalk up this service as post-pandemic teething blues (this was in April 2022), as I have experienced marvellous service from Singapore Airlines long ago on a flight from Hong Kong to Sydney.
So there you go, if you even made it to the end of this review — thank you! No flight, especially after the pandemic, is perfect. And given the un-photogenic meals, lack of amenity kit and warmth in service, I still find Singapore Airlines to be among the airlines that have nailed superiority in business class.
The seat on the long-haul sectors were extremely comfortable, possibly the most comfortable business class seat I’ve tried.
Let me know of your post-pandemic flight experience!