Before I start my trip report on the new Singapore Airlines A380, where I took its Economy Class from Singapore to Shanghai vv (SQ830/SQ833), here’s a background of the renewed whale in the sky of the world’s best airline.
Singapore Airlines ended 2017 with the delivery of their new Airbus A380, which comes after a series of high-profile product launches and events for the year, including the launch of the new products that will fitted in the spanking new whale in the sky. There had been many reviews by aviation regulars since then, but are the Economy products as good for a boy-next-door like me?
Evolution of Singapore Airlines A380
As the launch customer 10 years back for the new aircraft that set new definitions for travel, Singapore Airlines sought to remake the spectacle with a new overhaul of their premium products. Not only did the flagship Suites got an upgrade in terms of size and amenities, a new Business Class product was also launched, the first in 4 years. With both the Suites and Business Class products all housed in the upper deck of the the new A380, the upper deck is now a symbol of prestige in modern air travel.
A slightly-upgraded Premium Economy seats, originally launched in 2015 when Singapore Airlines received their first A350, was also fitted into the pointy-end of the aircraft, albeit the main deck. The Economy Class seats, which last saw a big overhaul back in 2007 (when Singapore Airlines received their first A380), also saw great improvements that incorporated many amenities aligned with the evolving needs of leisure travellers.
It was in this barely-reported cabin that I experienced my first trip to Shanghai and back on the new whale of Singapore Airlines.
Although Singapore Airlines had been using the new aircraft to ply some routes for the past 1 year, the Singapore-Shanghai vv sector was only added to the list on 2 Aug 2018. By the time I wrote my review, all 5 new A380 had been delivered and plying the significant routes of Singapore Airlines (London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Zurich).
Aircraft Type: A380, a.k.a A388R
Cabin Class: Economy, Front Cabin
Seat Configuration: 3-4-3
Flight Time: 9.40am – 2.11pm (delayed take off of 20 minutes, but arrived 20 minutes earlier than scheduled)
Flight Duration: 4h 31m (about 40 minutes faster than scheduled)
Aircraft Type: A380, a.k.a A388R
Cabin Class: Economy, Rear Cabin
Seat Configuration: 3-4-3
Flight Time: 4.48pm – 10.00pm (delayed take off from original time of 4.30pm, but arrived 15 minutes before scheduled, despite the rainy weather in Shanghai!)
Flight Duration: 5h 12m
Choosing The Best Seats on Singapore Airlines’ New A380 Economy Class
Typically, when flying Economy back home, I would choose the tail end of the aircraft. The benefits of doing that include being the first (of the cattle class) to board, being nearer to toilets and food, even if I were to alight later, the automated immigration system in Changi Airport was fast enough to spare me from being stuck in hour-long queues, on smaller aircraft, the tail end would narrow such that I might be lucky enough to score a single seat…
For A388R, I didn’t aim for all the way back. When I looked at the seat map, there seemed to be a sweet spot near the front of the rear cabin.
Typically, the Economy seats on Singapore Airline’s main deck are arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration, making window seats less desirable than being stuck in the middle seats of the middle section, since one would have to cross over 2 persons in order to access the aisle (and hence the toilets), compared the latter where they only need to cross over 1 person.
At Rows 41 and 70 (see screenshot from SeatGuru above and below), the seats are in 2-4-2, instead of 3-4-3, which was the result of trying to fit more rows of seats without totally covering the emergency exits. This created, just like Row 47 on SQ’s A350, a special situation where Seat 42A, 42K, 71A and 71K have aisle access, since 41A, 41K, 70A and 70K were removed to prevent blocking the emergency exits.
This made Seat 42A, 42K, 71A and 71K the sweetest Economy seats on A380 to be in, as one would have both the luxury of window and aisle access! For me, however, I think a little bit differently.
I personally avoid EMEX seats, as they don’t have a row of seats in front where I can store my loose belongings, the seat pockets will not be within within reach and the Inflight Entertainment System (IFE) are housed in the arm rest, so that I would not be able to use it during take-offs and landings, making that 15 minutes of staring into space or, if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough, staring into a flight attendance.
And most importantly, those are “priority seats” like row 40 and 70, meaning I would have to pay more if I want to be seated there.
For me, my ideal spot was at 71C and 71H.
Usually, when you book an aisle seat of a 3-seater section, you would either get couples as seat mates, or if you are lucky enough, 1 lone traveller choosing the window seat on an empty flight, or 2 lone travellers on a full flight if you are not-so-lucky.
On my first flight on the newest Singapore Airlines A380 (yes, I’ve already taken this whale 3 times as of writing), I was lucky enough to be seat mates with a middle-aged couple. The more senior man took the window seat, as he needed the extra space to stretch his legs, so the middle seat was left for his small-sized travel companion. As typical Asian women, she was shy to cross over my seat when she wanted to go to the lavatory, so she always took the route in front of her husband. That made my trip a very, very undisturbed one.
If you are travelling as a couple, you should then take 42/71A and 42/71B or 42/71J and 42/71K, because it would really be easier to access the aisle from the A/K seats rather than crossing over the C/H seats.
Scoring the Best Seats on Singapore Airlines’ A380
With my understanding of the aircraft after my 1st trip and with a stroke of luck, I managed to select 42C on my trip up to Shanghai and 71H on my journey back.
If you scrutinise the seat map, rows 41 – 44 are lacking the centre section, i.e. DEFG, because those were taken up by the galley. When I did a search online, I realised that the galley was equivalent in size to 2 galleys. The one at the front, which was aligned to the aircraft doors, was your usual galley where you could access both aisles through it.
The one at the back however, only opened up to the starboard side. This meant that the A/B/C seats on rows 41 – 44 were seated beside walls of the galleys, while the ones at H/J/K would be seated beside the entrance to the second galley.
On one hand, I did not want to be seated beside the heat of action during meal service, on the other hand, I was very curious if, with walls instead of passengers across the aisle, I would feel claustrophobic as a passenger. This was the reason why I chose 42C on my Singapore-Shanghai trip.
How Seats 41C/42C/43C/44C Felt Like
I assumed the general experience of seating right across a galley wall was similar, except for minor differences.
For example, during boarding, if you boarded early and if you are seated at row 41, you would be at a position where all other passengers boarding the aircraft would walk past you right in front of you. Did I also mention the part about receiving lots of awkward eye contacts?
Somehow, being at 42C, with row 41 as a barrier, it didn’t feel that much awkward. In fact, when passengers walked past me, they tend to lean against the galley wall; usually, when walking in between 2 seats, people would be twisting and turning at awkward angles, so somehow, someone’s bag would be brushing against my face and shoulders every now and then. But with them leaning against the galley wall, none of that situation happened.
We had plenty of space in the overhead luggage, though I think that was for A380 in general.
Although I was separated from the galley equipment with just 1 plastic wall, noises from the equipment could not be heard (that is considering A380 was a very quiet aircraft) and the heat from equipment that I had imagined radiating from the galley prior to the flight was non-existent.
The down side, though, was how easy it was to hear the cabin crew chat in the galley. Somehow, they thought that the curtain was soundproof…
How Seats 71C and 71H Felt Like
Unlike what was shown in the screenshot from SeatGuru, there were no toilets at the cabin partition between row 68 and row 69. Instead, there was a galley too (perhaps Singapore Airlines made a change in the layout after the first plane was deployed).
This part of the cabin was directly behind the wings (and hence the engines). Despite that, the engine noise was nothing more than a whir. I got to enjoy my “privacy” like I mentioned; when I was at 71C on my very first trip, the couple seated at 71A/71B left their seats via the space in front of 71A. When I was at 71H, I was super duper lucky that the flight was half full and there was no one seated at 71J, so I shared the empty seat with my seatmate at 71K.
Seats on Singapore Airlines’ New A380 Economy Class
Warning: the rest of the post may be a bit bland, as I would be going over many technical/dull aspects of the product and service.
When Singapore Airlines first unveiled the new seats for the latest tranche of A380s, a lot of fanfare was on the Suites and Business Class, mainly because of the wow-factors they brought, but also because the new SQ Economy seats did not seem to have much improvement over its predecessors.
The main complaint people had was how plastic and hard the seats looked and how more compact the rows were placed, such that the space from the knees to the seat-back in the front row was reduced greatly.
Those were truthful observations, but as mere mortals, we have to take the Economy seats like 90% of the time and trust me, the seats were more comfortable than it looked.
A good analogy would be the seats found in the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 3. Those seats looked plastic (though they also looked contemporary), but they were surprisingly soft and wrapped around your butt curves when you sat on them. The same goes for the new Singapore Airlines Economy seats. Even though they looked plastic, they were soft to sit on and I barely suffered pain to my tail bone in the 5-hour flight.
Space wise, a jostle for space was inevitable on Economy class. For a plump guy like me, my best case scenario would be to be seated beside a slender lady. Pitch-wise, there was apparently no change at 32 inches, though everyone seemed to complain that there was less space. To me, since I have short legs, I had sufficient space between my knees and the seats in front of me when seated upright, so I didn’t have much of a nightmare on my flight.
Bells and Whistles of the Economy Class Seats
The new seats also sported many upgrades on the electronic front. First, all the ports were shifted from the armrest to the back of the seat in front. This meant that I no longer need to bend over and search in the dark for a way to poke my earphones jack in.
The USB port for mobile devices are now found below the IFE screen, which by the way, was a 10.6-inch touch screen TV, that was equivalent to having an iPad to watch shows and play games with! You can use the port to charge your mobile device (don’t expect high-speed charge, though) or to connect to the IFE system using SQ’s app (where you can pre-select the shows you want to watch and store them as a playlist on your phone and watch immediately when you connect your phone).
Beside the ports were: buttons for the lights and for disturbing the flight attendants, earphone jacks (still accepting the 2-headed snake), NFC scanner to make cashless payment with when you are shopping on KrisShop (though that function had not been activated yet), cup holder when you do not want to open up your tray table and a very handy slot right beneath the screen to hold your mobile device while you are charging it (yep, no more wires snaking halfway across the seat or seat back into the seat pocket that everyone stores everything with, if you know what I mean…).
That small cubby was not particularly useful for me, since it was too small for my Google Pixel XL, though I believe it would fit in many 5-inch phones. The sleeve of the cubby was made of soft plastic and was flexible, so if you want, you can try stuffing bigger things into that small space. You can also use that holder to store small stuff, like… I don’t know, your sim card? Your ear digger? One thing I know, Xiong Xiong couldn’t fit in (not that I would put him in a suspiciously bacteria-infested cavity…)!
If you need to use a proper power socket (perhaps to work on your laptop), you can find one also at the seat back in front of you, but in between the seats. That meant 3 persons have to share 2 sockets and all reviewers were recommending that you “chope” that as soon as you board if you really need one!
The seat pocket was as big as ever, and still come compartmentalised into 1 big and 2 small pockets for organisation of your personal belongings. As good as it was, I think the precious real estate can be better utilised if they just digitalise the KrisShop magazine (come one… with almost everyone familiar with online shopping on Taobao/Amazon and the likes, it’s really a hard sell to still maintain thick books of catalogues, which are dead weights burning extra fuel that adds extra carbon emission).
They also adopted the folding tray table design, which had several advantages: when kept away, they only occupy half the breadth of the tray table’s space on the seat back, thereby giving up space for a bigger screen and seat pocket. When opened, it was just half the tray table’s size, so one could use it for writing (perhaps arrival cards) without having the tray table up to your tummy. Of course, when fully opened, the tray table could be used for meal services and for one to work on their laptops.
When the tray was half-opened, one could also find a mirror (by sliding the cover open), though I think it could at best be used to look at my nose hair (provided I bend low enough towards the tray table). I think everyone will find using their own handphones as a mirror to be a more convenient option.
Talking about the Inflight Entertainment System, this new set of seats also did away with the handset, since well, you are very near the touch screen itself. Not even when you are fully inclined will you be so far away from the screen that you will need a remote handset!
One way to know if you are on the new A380 would be from the look of the IFE’s screen. The older A380s sporting the old products have screens with grey bezels, while the new ones have these cool looking matte black bezels. They also did away with buttons (which tend to accumulate dirt, grime and bacteria) and adopted touch buttons like those we find on modern handphones.
The soft-products inside the IFE screen are pretty much the same for all the newer planes; As long as you have a touch-screen IFE, with or without the handset, your experience will generally be the same.
My only gripe with the IFE was how the volume bar intersected with the progress bar. When the volume I wanted was near the progress bar (which it was, most of the time), there was the tendency to touch the video progress bar instead and cause the video to jump to the end of the show.
However, I still preferred this version of IFE than the older ones – I can run the video forward or backwards using the progress bar. For the older systems, I had to click on the fastforward button, watch the video skips and presses the Play button in time when I thought I was about where I wanted to watch the video. #fwp
I still hope, though, Singapore Airlines can incorporate the capability to watch videos at 1.25x/1.5/2x speed the way we can on Youtube, because modern age city dwellers can’t sit through a slow-paced movie!
Singapore Airlines’ selection of movies, shows and games have been well known and talked to death, so I wouldn’t go too deep on it. The navigation of the modules are intuitive for any users familiar with touch screen phones. Compared to the older non-touch screen IFEs, the picture quality are definitely way superior. These new screens have a wider viewing angle, meaning that when you recline our seat, you don’t really need to tilt your screen; do that for the older IFEs and you most likely can’t see anything on your screen. The same goes for when there’s glare from the windows; you can’t really watch a show on the older screens when the window shades are opened during a day flight.
One of the main “enhancements” to Singapore Airlines’ inflight entertainment system (IFE), a.k.a KrisWorld, was the ability for passengers to configure their playlist prior to their flights on the SQ mobile app. Similarly, one can also bookmark a movie/TV show at the point they stopped, so that they can resume viewing the movie in the same flight (perhaps you stopped it to go the toilet and someone accidentally exited the show) or for future flights.
To sync your account with the IFE onboard, one either connects their handphones via the the USB port to the IFE, or log in to their account using their Krisflyer number or email address. I didn’t prepare my playlist before my flight (because, well, I have things to do 😛 ), but I played around with this feature nonetheless.
After starting the IFE, at the Home page, one can see the log in prompt at one of the tiles:
Thereafter, you will be brought to the sign-in page:
Usage is intuitive so far. My only gripe was that there was no masking on the screen, so everyone could see what I typed into the field (if they have the intention to see) and for my case, my secret fan boy/fan girl just got to know my personal email address… 😛
Right after logging in, I was brought back to the Home page of KrisWorld. This time around, the log in tile was gone.
To log out, click on the Preferences tile, where the page to configure our preferences showed up, with the Sign Out button at the top right hand corner.
If you ask me, this is a rather good function, if I’m one who’s really crazy about using the IFE and/or customising my page. However, on short flights, I usually refrain from using the IFE (I tend to get headache staring into the screen), so all these gimmicks didn’t work for me.
What worked for me, though:
Trivia: If you visit Singapore Airline’s website introducing their new Economy Class, they will mention that these seats can be found on their new A350 seats – the keyword is new, referring to the medium haul A350 and perhaps long haul ones received after the new seats were launched. The roughly 13 A350 that were received before the launch of the new Economy seats were fitted with the older Economy seats, which like I mentioned, had only slight differences from those found after the A380 launch. One way to note the difference was that the older seats still sport the IFE handset, and are missing the payment scanner. So next time when you are on an A350, try identifying if you are seated on the latest Singapore Airlines Economy seats, or the ones that are one generation older!
Stuffing Your Face with Food Onboard
A foodie like me couldn’t let go of the chance to talk about food on the flight, but note that food catering for airlines are route-specific rather than aircraft specific, meaning if today they swapped the new A380 to an older A380 or even a B777 for SQ833, the food you get would not change.
Being tired of the Wok Fried Pork with Yellow Bean Sauce (Oriental Selection) I had been eating for the past year I had been travelling to Shanghai, I chose the International Selection of Roasted Chicken Thigh with Lemon Pepper Gravy (on a bed of whipped potato and with broccoli and cauliflowers served as sides).
Granted, the chicken suffered the sad fate of re-microwaving into toughness, but the overall taste was nonetheless good. The vegetables were not overcooked and mushy (surprise!). For the whipped potato, I didn’t actually quite like the heavy butter taste mixed in.
After the main course, we were served Mini Almond Magnum for desserts! Yes, it was not true-sized magnum, but I was already full so the mini-size was adequate! I think SQ received too many complaints for their not-thawed-enough ice cream and had worked on it with their crew – this time around, the ice cream was not so frozen that it was difficult to bite into it! 😛
On SQ833, I chose the oriental selection of Deep Fried Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce, paired with broccoli and a bed of mixed grain rice.
The food presentation was surprisingly good, to the standard of Japanese economy food, such that I was looking for the little paper plate that the Japanese food caterers used to keep their rice and side dishes in shape!
The sauce tasted bland for this meal, such that it couldn’t help overcome the heavy earthy taste of mixed grain rice. The fish had more flour than fish. Amazingly, the broccoli maintained its vibrant green and chewy crunch (surprise, surprise!).
A nice touch to the meal service was the vanilla ice cream cone served after the meal. It wasn’t a branded ice cream (called 可爱多 or Very Cute, it seemed like a Chinese brand), but was rich and soft, which was a great ending touch to the dinner on SQ833!
Asian Hospitality from Singapore Airlines
You may notice that I skipped on describing the service of the cabin crew. Given my past working experience, I can pick out a lot, from their service to their grooming, if I wanted. However, no matter how much I pick, the overall service of the crew was still consistent with Singapore Airline’s standard, which was already above the industry’s average. Unless you have very special needs (or demands), like insisting on having Vegetarian meal when you didn’t request for it at the time of booking, it is very hard to “test the mettle” of the cabin crew!
There would be a lot to comment on, however, for service from non-cabin crew.
For example, on my SQ830 flight, I found the remnants of rubbish from the passenger from the earlier flight in my seat pockets. This was actually not the first time I found rubbish in my seat pockets on my SQ flights.
On my SQ833 flight, during the period of boredom during takeoff, I discovered that the roof of the galley had been dislodged from the partition wall and was quite amazed that the engineers did not see such a big defect looming over them (pun intended). I reflected my observation to the Inflight Manager and hopefully, the ground staff do something about it!
Interestingly, I don’t review toilets on my other trip reports, because I rarely use the toilets inflight. I mean…. that small space, that smell… I always wondered what if, while peeing halfway, we hit a turbulence? Imagine seeing the curve of my pee going from negative Y-axis to slowly curving upwards and… >.<
Anyways, since I was at the aisle seats and while waiting for my meal (the cabin crew started from the back, which meant that half the cabin’s passengers could not access the toilet that was in front of me, making it more “accessible” for me), I thought I would do a toilet check.
Granted, we were barely 2 hours into the sky, but there were already people using the toilet right after the seat belt sign was turned off. However, the toilet was still in a clean state and free of foul smell.
Despite being a morning flight (not an overnight one), the cabin crew still stocked up the toilet with dental kits and combs and what-nots.
When I use the toilet, I also had the compulsion to use the mouth wash – despite the fact that the paper cup I used to rinse my mouth had been in the toilet all these while and absorbing all the toilet germs.
But oh well…
At first glance, the new Singapore Airlines Economy Seats launched together with their new A380 will not bowl you over. However, there were enough incremental upgrades to the seat product to make travelling on these seats better than before.
Space was adequate for my body and my worldly belongings and there were enough amenities to stave my addictions to mobile devices. Food was still decent for a 5-star airlines.
There was a story about A380 that, in the design phase of the aircraft, Singapore Airlines being the launch customer, had a lot of say in the design process. One of the requirements was to make the engine as quiet as possible – something SQ insisted despite higher costs incurred.
Whether I was seated at 42C (in front of the engines) or at 71H (behind the engines), the engine was merely a whir. Take off and landing was also smooth, which I attributed to the mass of the aircraft. Anyone who watched my take off videos with Xiong Xiong looking out of the window would see how Xiong Xiong bounced during take off. If I get to take such videos on this new A380 (which I didn’t, because I was seated at the aisles), I bet Xiong Xiong would not be bobbing up and down so violently!
One aspect of the cabin that I only noticed while I was editing my photos, was how the whole cabin was bathed in purple hues. That’s right. Most airlines bathe their cabins in warm, orange light, but Singapore Airlines chose purple instead. I wonder if it was a throwback to their old purple seats, or that it was meant to match the blue seats?
Travellers on Economy Class don’t have the option of using Singapore Airlines’ lounges, but that does not mean you can’t subscribe to a lounge program like Priority Pass. I will find time in the future to talk about the lounge you can visit with Priority Pass at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, and what some “goody” food you can try even if you are not subscribed to a lounge program.
If you enjoyed reading my trip report of Singapore Airlines’ new A380 Economy Class, feel free to read about my other experience on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class!
Remember to subscribe to my blog if you’d want to read more about how I stuff myself and gain wait by trying all those food I come across, or spend my money away on travels 😛
Till then, stay wanderlust!
All photos and videos were taken using Olympus TG870 and Google Pixel XL, and edited with Snapseed.
Side Track on Singapore Airlines A380
On my very first flight on the latest Singapore Airlines A380, there was a little hiccup in the sense that the Braised Chicken option was no longer available (since I was one of the last to be served). The other option being beef that I could not eat, the crew went to source for alternative options for me.
On my flight, we were supposed to be served with the option of Braised Beef or Braised Chicken. However, as the meal service plan had it, my row was one of the last few to be served for the entire flight, so they were left with beef by the time they reached me. And guess what? The whole row of us couldn’t take beef… The crew instead offered Premium Economy option to us, which was Prawn Pasta. They were damn lucky that none of us were allergic to prawns!
Anyways, the prawns were fresh and succulent, though the spaghetti still suffered from the bad fate of being too dehydrated after cooking. To be frank, if given the choice, I would never want to take the Prawn Pasta again, as the taste was very one-dimensional (just full of olive oil) and there were just prawns and pasta.
This was unlike the Braised Chicken that I managed to get when I was on SQ833 back in June (they were still using the old A380 then). On top of the chicken and rice, there was also vegetables with carrots. The chicken itself was tender and the gravy was layered as would any decent Chinese food would be. The vegetables were also (amazingly) not overcooked and was instead green and fresh!