Singapore Airlines

General Comments

I'm completely bemused why Singapore Airlines pilots seem to be the only pilots in the sky who can land a 777 smoothly with barely a thud as it touchs the tarmac. Every other 777 owning airline seems to have pilots who are able to thump or slam the plane into the runway - United, Thai and British Airways take note. My first experiences ever were in a United 777, and after probably the hardest one wheeled landing in quiet weather, I vowed never to fly in a 777 again. Singapore cured me of that fear.

Now here is the strange thing. Singapore 747 pilots don't have the feather touch that United Airlines pilots have with their 747s. Most landings are quite hard, but the hardest yet must have been in Sydney where I'm convinced the pilot didn't know where the runway was, and virtually all the overhead bins flew open on impact. Whereas with United I've yet to have a touchdown which wasn't supersmooth - and I do mean supersmooth, absolutely incredible.

KrisFlyer and PPS Club

This is Singapore's Frequent Flier programme. Not the best programme around, but it is very clearly aimed at Singapore residents rather than their international travelling customer base. Redemptions are miserly, generally needing twice the miles compared with United to do the same thing. And accrued miles expire after 3 years. Sigh.

But the worst part is how badly Singapore Airlines treat their international frequent flier business class customers. They get absolutely no more tangible benefits when travelling than their non-PPS Club business class customers. Frequent fliers in economy (so KrisFlyer Gold status) are permitted into the SilverKris business class lounges (apart from in Changi). So most SilverKris lounges are stuffed full with Economy class passengers.

So what do frequent flier business customers get? These are the PPS Club Members, who have spent S$25000 on the airline in one year to get the privilege. Well, they get "PPS Club Member Benefits", which are mostly useless to the frequent traveller. PPS Club Members used to get into First Class lounges, but that is now reserved for those who have spent S$250k with Singapore Airlines.

The message from Singapore Airlines is loud and clear. They do NOT want frequent business class travellers. They want full fare business class travellers who travel once or twice a year. Might explain why Emirates, Qantas, Etihad, etc are cleaning up their business around Asia.

Economy Class

All their planes have seat back video. Some of the older aircraft (SR, SQ and SY series) have the standard 16 movies and 10 other shows which repeat on a two hourly cycle. Most aircraft now have the Wiseman 3000 video on demand system, which gives more movies, TV shows, etc, when you want them. The newer aircraft (A380s, A330s and 777-300ERs) have the brand new Panasonic system which has a huge amount of options, and is probably the best implementation I've seen (not exclusive to SQ but the best implementation). Perhaps the best of all the new Panasonic system is on the A330s though.

777 seats are relatively spacious, wide enough for me not to overhang the neighbouring seat, and a seat pitch which gives me about one inch gap between my knees and the seat infront. Ofcourse, loading the seat pocket with a book to read or air pillow means that the space has gone, but then the floor is available too. The foot rest gets in the way though, so stretching legs out under the seat in front can be tough on the lower legs. Have a look at this picture to get some idea. Seating configuration on all SQ 777s is 3-3-3. Row 31 is the start of economy on all SQ planes, and the next 4 rows are to be avoided as they tend to be home for families with rowdy children.

747 seats are less spacious than the 777, and typical of all 747s of all airlines. I overhang about one inch on either side, so a centre seat is out of the question without annoying neighbouring passengers. Seat pitch is also less than the 777, by at least two inches, so putting a book into the seat pocket means that legs have to straddle the seat pocket to rest. And ofcourse, that damned foot rest really gets in the way. If the person behind you uses the foot rest, expect a rough flight, as the foot rest seems to be directly connected to your seat back. Have a look at this picture to get some idea.

Rows 39 and 49 are exit rows on the 747. Row 31 has a bulkhead in front of it, so a great place to store screaming babies. Row 39 is opposite the toilets so don't expect to get any peace and quiet. Nor does it have a window. Row 49 is beside the kitchen, so definitely no peace and quiet on the long hauls - the cabin crew seem to rebuild the kitchen during the flight, with the associated noise and trolleys parked at your knees. Oh, and with Row 49, you get fed last, so no choice.

A340 were similar to the 747 seats in width but have the 777's pitch. But SQ don't have any more A340-200s since Boeing bought them all back in exchange for 777s. But the new A340-500s with their Executive Economy seats look interesting.

Personal video screens, loads of movies, games and TV channels. Headphones are the clip over ear variety - I was initially suspicious, but they are the best and most comfortable in the business, short of the Bose comfort style you can get in many business classes.

Robotic service is precise and predictable, exactly what the stressed exec wants. No fuss and out of your hair. Meals are okay, not as good as they used to be, but still far better than many. They try and put in a local flavour depending on destination, which I really like. Better than getting standard bland western food as you do on so many other flights.

Summary: Top marks, can't really fault them, at least not compared with the others I've been on!

Business Class

Ok, I have a problem here. Singapore Airlines now have four different Business Classes. How do you tell which one you will get? Well, there is the A380 and 777-300ER business class - the latter is on the SW planes and the plane code is 77W when you are booking or checking on Seat Guru. This is the very wide seating, and are only sold as full fare business. So forget flying on these if you buy discounted biz, Star Alliance RTW tickets, etc. Everyone I have talked to who has experienced these seats hate them - and I can confirm that they are as hard as concrete to sleep on, and very uncomfortable to sit on as they are too wide with no lumbar support or adjustment, and no neck support or adjustable headrests.

The newest iteration of Business seats are what they call their New Regional Business Class, found on the new A330-300s. The plane was launched on the SIN-BNE route in March 2009 to celebreate 25 years flying to Brisbane (what they didn't mention that this was the first biz class upgrade they've done in 25 years!). The new seats are the best of all their 4 offerings. Soft comfortable leather seats, going almost flat at a slight angle (probably 10 degrees), video on demand system with huge screens, iPod connector, 110V power for laptops, and even a nice slot down the side of the seat to stow a laptop during meal breaks etc. I like this one the best of all their offerings - even though not hugely spacious it's the only biz seat flying where I do not get a sore back after 8 hours in it. SQ say they are going to retrofit these seats on all of their other regional jets - hooray, as it will get rid of the "large choice" of biz seats which are confusing travellers.

On the 747s and the 200ER series 777s planes (plane code SV) have the Long Haul Raffles Class seats (called the Space Bed). These are very complex, but do fold down almost flat (but at an angle of about 10 degrees off the horizontal) and give quite a comfortable sleep. The cabin crew don't like them though - all the electrics and complexity makes them very unreliable, and the purser for the first time I flew in Raffles Class said that they were bad for Singapore Airlines reputation. Configuration on a 777 is 2-2-2. The seats are identical in 747s, with the top deck the place to be.

The older planes have the older Raffles Class seats, which are similar to United's Business seats, but all electric. But they are reliable, even if they don't recline very far at all. Configuration is 2-3-2, so tighter, like United. Interestingly enough, the new seats are more compact than the old ones, so in a 777 SQ get the same number of business class passengers as they did in the old format. Maybe I'm missing something somewhere, but that's what it appears like. Warning: these planes fly even on longhaul routes, so check with your travel agent if you don't want the "Regional Business Seat" for your flight. I've been on many a LHR-SIN-BNE flight before we got the A330s where I've seen the annoyed traveller discover that his overnight flight from Singapore to Brisbane is in a "regional business" seat after he's had a nice flat bed from London.

This begs the question - why on earth to SQ now have 4 different types of Business Class seats?? And why did they feel the need to introduce the new business class when the previous one on 747s and 772ERs was still leading the class? This is complete insanity - their marketing people really have lost it, especially as new competitors such as Etihad are decimating their business customers on the likes of Brisbane to Singapore etc. The last day time flight I was on had 8 empty seats - normally this flight is waitlisted 2 months out.

Service in Raffles is formal, polite and precise. What is a boon in Economy Class doesn't work so well in Business unfortunately. In recent years they have started to offer a more personal touch, but this does seem to depend entirely on which crew you have, rather than being matter of course. Food is nice, without being outstanding - the best choice is always from their featured chefs. In comparison, Air New Zealand does both food and service much better.

Inflight entertainment is offers the same options as economy. Older planes have 16 channels on a continuous loop, refitted and new planes have the two types of video on demand systems with over 100 viewing choices. Refitted and new planes have large flat panel screens - the old planes still have the 6 inch diagonal screen from the last decade. Superb noise cancelling headphones seem to be standard across all planes now; these are simply amazing compared with the older ones. Now it is really hard to hear people talk, babies scream, your neighbour snoring, etc. Nice!

A few of the older 777-200s and 777-300s still have no laptop power for their "Regional Business Seats", but the rest have the older low voltage outlet you find on other airlines. How any supposedly modern airline can fly a business class without laptop power provision is beyond me, especially if even some of the discount carriers offer this in their premium economy seating. The planes with the new flat beds have 115V Euro/US standard socket. Very nice.

Summary: Nice without being fantastic. Perfect choice if you want hassle and fuss free travel. Of the airlines I've been on, Air New Zealand long haul beats them now. And I'll bet anything that Qatar and Etihad are vastly superior. If Qantas had better business seats and cabin crews that bothered to smile, they'd be in with a shout too.

Last updated by Philip Smith on .