In late 2014, Singapore Airlines refreshed their entire range of cabins; Economy, Business and First all got a fresh make over. Whilst First Class was designed by the illustrious BMW DesignworksUSA, Business class was redesigned by James Park Associates to bring a modern design aesthetic as well as a raft of new features to accommodate the new, modern traveller.
I was fortunate enough to take a business class flight from Singapore to London on these new refreshed cabins and wanted to share my thoughts on the food, cabin and service. Enjoy.
A culinary delight at 33,000ft
One of the highlights of Singapore Airline's (SIA) business/first/suites class is their 'Book the Cook' (BTC) offering. Simply put, this allows you to pre-book an extravagant main dish not available through the onboard menu (sides, starters and desserts are all standard to the cabin you are flying in). The service is free of charge and you are allowed to book your meal up to 24 hours before the flight.
In the end, I had personally chosen their signature Classic Lobster Thermidor as my main for lunch and a US six oz Rib Eye steak as my 'light' meal. Though I also got to sample the Nasi Lemak and Nasi Biryani thanks to not travelling alone. All four were simply a delight on the taste buds and definitely bucked the trend of 'horrible' airplane food - I couldn't get enough. The lobster thermidor was light and truly flavourful, whilst the steak hit all the right marks when it came to tasty meat. The only unfortunate downside is that I couldn't chose how I wanted the steak to be cooked, but I guess you can't have everything.
One of SIA's other signature dishes is the chicken and lamb satay prelude that they serve just after take off - it was delicious if served only lukewarm on my flight. It didn't have that wonderful smokey BBQ taste of the satay found at Lau Pa Sat in Singapore, but it's still the best satay sticks available at 33,000ft.
As the flight was on the first day of Chinese New Year, in lieu of the starting salad, business class passengers were served 'Yu Sheng' or 鱼生. (click here for the wiki article), which was a pleasant surprise. One little touch that they missed out on was a sheet explaining the significance and symbolism of the dish, the ingredients as well as the correct order of mixing. For those not well versed in Singaporean/Malaysian culture, one could be flummoxed by it all.
To go with all this food is a generous drinks menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
I'll write about service further down, but suffice to say, it was almost perfect and helped ensure an absolutely wonderful dining experience. The best way to describe it is that it's like fine dining at a restaurant; the food and service was that good and something that everyone should try at least once in their life.
Satay with onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce
Classic Lobster Thermidor
Lemongrass infused Creme Brûlée
Selection of tome d'abundance, ramble walnut and chamois cheese served with garnishes
Light Meal Menu
Salad of smoked tuna and vegetable
U.S. 6oz Rib Eye Steak
Viennese Chocolate Cake
On Board Experience
An absolute delight
Service was absolutely flawless - I've never experienced more helpful, friendly and happy air crew than I did on this flight. One may think that this is guaranteed when flying business class, but that's certainly not the truth (Stewardesses on Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class from Hong Kong to London certainly weren't the friendliest, and nothing more can be said about British Airway's legendary bad service). SIA are definitely world renowned for their service but in one instance, they truly went above and beyond the call of duty with us - I dropped a small gadget behind the seat and the aircrew continued to try to get it long after I had given up (and they did get it in the end). This left a wonderful lasting impression.
The new seats are slightly smaller that previous version but still probably the biggest business class seats I've sat in. The average traveller has changed a lot, even in just 5 years. Everyone now sports iPhones, iPads, Kindles, laptops - everything that guzzles electricity and takes up precious space. In the redesign, James Park associates have thoughtfully placed everything at the ideal location. In the old business class or even economy, power plugs would be at the bottom of your seat and USB ports near the TV in front of you. That would lead to an unsightly and unsafe tangle of cables all over the seat. Now, they are all centralised to the inner side of the seat - and now there's a lot more storage space to accommodate all these gadgets. It helps a lot.
The new design also now wraps around the seat more. Whereas previously if I sat in the middle seats, it was pretty easy to meet and great my fellow traveller but now there's a relatively high partition between the seats. This does increase privacy and storage space at the expense of more social interactions.
Unfortunately my seat had some issues with reclining but, again, the air crew were extremely diligent and cheerfully moved the seat manually for me.
The new controller now sports a PSP Vita-esque design. The controller nows sports an all glass front with a smooth touch screen interface. When held in landscape mode, the device mirrors the display of the new 18inch HD display. If you've ever used an Apple TV and used Airplay - it's basically similar. When rotated to portrait, it switches to a search mode where you can just type what you want to watch. A much faster way to get to the TV/Movie etc that you want.
When stowed away or left idle, the device also shows useful information, such as the remaining flight time, flight maps as well as the usual playback options.
This is combined with the newly refreshed design KrisWorld entertainment system. The jump between this and the previous system is astronomical. From the old blade like systems, the new design is a purely digital and 'flat'. Not too dissimilar to the Windows 'Metro' or 'Microsoft Design Language' found on Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox. It's definitely a welcome change
In summary, the new business class - coupled with the food and service - is an absolute delight. I was estatic when boarding the plane and sad when leaving such a luxurious cabin. Whilst not bad, the old Business class - found in non-refurbished planes, typically the A380 on long haul routes - is really starting to show signs of aging and this refurbished design just reinforces it. Treat yourself and give it a go.
(Also, SIA now lands at Terminal 2 in London Heathrow and the gate is pretty far from immigration at arrival and for departure, the shops are very, very far from the gate and lounge. So bring comfortable walking shoes.)