Singapore Airlines’ pop-up Restaurant A380 @Changi kicked off over the weekend, and long story short, it’s a blast.
I had lunch in Suites on the very first day, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yes, there aren’t enough pre-boarding activities, the aircraft tours were significantly delayed, and the pacing of the meal needs work, but I don’t regret spending a single cent.
What made it even more special was that it became a kind of shared experience. There’s a real catharsis in being surrounded by people who love flying as much as you do, from the hardcore Avgeeks who can recite aircraft MSNs by heart, to the SIA super-fans who aspire to be on every inaugural, right down to the casual travelers who can’t tell a 757 from a 767, but live for that moment where the engines spool to full power just before takeoff.
I even met a couple of families who brought their kids just to show them the majesty of the A380, and saw an adorable girl in full sarong kebaya shyly approach one of the cabin crew for a photo. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you’re dead inside.
So like I said, I did a self-paid review of Suites, but also received a media invite for dinner in Business Class, on the very same day. It meant that I’d have to quickly process all that lunch and sober up for the evening…
|✈️ Restaurant A380- Business Class|
Restaurant A380: Boarding and Seat
I headed home for a quick nap and returned to the airport just before 7 p.m, when boarding for dinner was supposed to start.
I’ve already covered the registration, pre-boarding activities and aircraft tours in my Suites review (the pre-dining experience is exactly the same for all cabins), so check that out if you want the full details.
Just like lunch, boarding started late and it was only 7.25 p.m when the process began. Suites passengers were called first, then Business Class passengers from rear to front.
While earlier in the day I was seated on 9V-SKN at Gate B4, this evening I’d be on 9V-SKS at Gate B2.
9V-SKS was delivered in August 2012, and became the first A380 to finish its refit with the new cabin products in June 2019. 9V-SKN was delivered before 9V-SKS (September 2011), but only completed its refit in June 2020. COVID-19 had grounded the entire SQ A380 fleet by then, so diners on SKN enjoy factory-fresh seats that have yet to witness their maiden voyage.
It was only after boarding that I realised why dinner had such a different vibe from lunch. By now it was night-time, and completely dark outside. The cabin was bathed in dim mood lighting, and a gentle murmur emanated from passengers as they found their seats.
For a moment, you could almost believe that you were boarding a red-eye flight headed to someplace far afield. A quick supper and movie after take-off, wash up and hit the hay, then wake up on final approach to Heathrow, de Gaulle, or Kingsford Smith.
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to jolt you back to reality by boosting the cabin lighting, since photography demands it. It’s a lot less romantic, I know.
While the mood in Suites earlier in the day was no doubt jovial, Business Class felt much more like a party. That’s partly down to the difference in size (six Suites versus 78 Business Class), but also because the Business Class layout makes it comparatively easier to interact with your fellow cabin mates (Mark from The Shutterwhale was seated just behind me).
Journalists who knew each other were saying hellos and getting reacquainted, casanovas were chatting up the crew, and all around me I could sense the excitement as people snapped photos of their seat, played with the controls, and explored its various nooks and crannies. It was the first time in Business Class for some, and I dare say we had a few converts to the miles game that very evening.
During my A380 tour that afternoon, I was able to snap much better photos of the Business Class cabin, so for those of you yet to experience this aircraft, here’s a quick run down (I’ve also written a detailed trip report here).
The refitted A380s have 78 Business Class seats, all on the upper deck. The cabin is split into two by the toilets behind Row 24, and despite how the seat map appears, Rows 96 and 97 aren’t in a mini-cabin by themselves (as nice as that would be).
The “glamour seats” in the new A380 cabin are 11, 91 and 96 D/F, which convert into a double bed. That said, it’s really more like two single beds pushed together, because there’ll be a hard divider in the middle, and a dividing wall between your feet. It’s not particularly conducive to spooning and the Business Class seats don’t have doors, so belay your Josephine Teo dreams.
Seats are configured in a 1-2-1 layout, with all-aisle access. The A/K seats are at the side of the cabin…
…while the D/F seats are in the centre. Don’t worry if you’re traveling solo but end up in a D/F seat; there’s a privacy divider that will be raised so high you’ll forget the other person’s there.
At Row 96 you have a break in the cabin, created by the emergency exit doors. It’s not a true “mini-cabin”, but visually speaking it is slightly separated from the rest.
Since Restaurant A380 doesn’t actually leave the ground, there isn’t really a “bad seat” in the house (and it’s not like you have much control over where you’re seated anyway). That said, those who prefer a bit more quiet will want to avoid rows 11 and 12 (near the galley) and 23, 24, 91 and 92 (near the toilets).
This evening I had seat 11A, and although there was some galley noise, I didn’t really mind (see section on crew).
In terms of aesthetics, I think the new A380 has my favorite Business Class seat of the entire Singapore Airlines fleet. It’s not just the wraparound ears that form a comforting bubble of sound-dampening solace, it’s small things like the illuminated pattern near the reading light, or the subtly textured pattern of the upholstery.
When I first flew this product, I found the seat controls required an inordinate amount of force to operate. That’s fortunately been fixed, or perhaps the mechanism has loosened over time. However, I did find my elbow frequently activating the Do Not Disturb sign, which I had to quickly turn off lest I look like some kind of misanthrope.
If you’ve brought a lot of bags with you, there’s storage available under the monitor, or in the overhead compartments in the middle of the cabin. To make it feel more spacious, SIA did away with the overhead bins above the A/F seats.
Smaller items like laptops and phones can be stored in the side pockets- just don’t forget to take them after the evening is over.
If your devices are running low on juice, the in-seat power outlet and USB port are fully functional throughout.
The KrisWorld IFE system is switched on throughout your meal, and you can either control it by tapping the screen directly (though it’s so far forward it’s liable to give you gorilla arm), or via the touchscreen controller in the sidetable.
This means you’ll need a pair of headphones, and the usual noise-cancelling set provided by SIA perform admirably.
In terms of movie selection, there won’t be a whole lot of new movies (in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a pandemic going on), but you’ll still have more than 1,800 on-demand movies, TV shows, music albums and games to choose from. It’s more than enough for a 3 hour meal, I promise you.
As was the case during lunch, the pilots had programmed Hong Kong as the destination for the flight, and even though the plane icon won’t actually move, it’s something to look forward to in the near future. The flight’s callsign? SQ 380, of course.
A care kit is placed at every seat, and regardless of whether you’re flying Suites or Economy, you’ll get the same items. One wet wipe, one bottle of hand sanitizer (from Vitaminspa, not bad), and a disposable mask.
The tray table is smaller than what you’d find on some other airlines, but what I appreciated is that it pivoted outwards, allowing you to access the aisle without collapsing the whole thing. This is particularly useful when you want to run to the toilet during mealtime.
Speaking of which, if nature calls while you’re dining, there’s no need to leave the aircraft. The A380’s toilets are fully operational, with four clustered in the middle of the Business Class cabin, and one at the very rear.
While Suites has amazing-looking bathrooms, toilet innovation has yet to filter down to Business Class. Expect pretty much the same loo as what you’d find in Economy, just with some nicer amenities from Penhaligon’s. At least the taps are touchless (and given all that’s happening with COVID-19, will we see touchless technology roll out to all airplane bathrooms?).
I deliberated about taking a bathroom selfie, before rationalising that so long as I did it ironically, it was socially permissible.
Restaurant A380: Dining
Because boarding had been delayed, it was only around 7.50 p.m that food started being served. The Business Class menu was offering the following choices tonight:
The first course, as always, was the SIA Signature Satay with peanut sauce and a skewer each of onion and cucumber. While the Impossible Meat satay decidedly missed the mark in terms of presentation, the traditional version looked just fine to me.
For those of you wondering why the lack of the table cloth, SIA does not set the table until after the satay course. This is the SOP, regardless of whether you’re in Business or First Class. I’ve always speculated as to why that is- perhaps too many people drip satay sauce, or perhaps it allows everyone in the cabin to get a little bite quickly, instead of making the last person wait until all the other tables have been set up.
I don’t know if a Singapore Sling is the traditional accompaniment for satay, but I’m certainly not going to say no.
The crew then brought out the bread basket, with the usual range of garlic bread and assorted bread rolls. The garlic bread was moist, warm, and seconds were always available.
More drinks were then served, and although I was full of Dom and Krug from lunch, I let myself be talked into trying Laurent-Perrier as well. As some of you may know, Singapore Airlines recently switched from Charles Heidsieck to Laurent-Perrier, and while the latter is objectively cheaper, I find absolutely nothing wrong with it (the only champagne I don’t like is Moet- it tastes weird and you’re really paying for branding over substance).
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the two alcoholic drink “policy” is more of a guideline, and cabin crew are more than willing to offer additional pours.
Yes, you might say it’s because I was in the media cabin and they just wanted to keep everyone in high spirits, but that was my experience during lunch as well, and concurs with reports from other cabins in the A380 Telegram Group. Just don’t make a fool of yourself, and the crew will keep pouring until the bottles run dry.
Since I had the Shermay Lee Peranakan menu for lunch, I decided to switch things up for dinner by having the International Selection instead. The appetiser was flaked smoked salmon, with seaweed mayonnaise, lettuce and cherry tomato.
For whatever reason, the appetisers (as well as the dessert and fruits) were served with plastic covers on them, which you had to remove yourself and pass back to the crew. I thought it was strange and a little bit arbitrary, given how the main course and satay had no cover, and you could literally reach into the bread basket to retrieve a bottle of olive oil/balsamic vinegar for yourself.
Now, I have a confession to make. I ordered the grilled beef fillet fully expecting to be disappointed. I had already drafted the prose in my head “the beef was a lifeless grey in the middle, conclusively proving that like John and Yoko, beef and airplanes don’t end well.”
So imagine my surprise when I cut into it and saw this.
Do not adjust your screens. That is a perfect medium rare steak, precooked in a catering facility, and reheated in an airplane cabin. It won’t be challenging Bistecca or CUT anytime soon, but holy cow, it’s decent. A special mention too for the truffled mashed potatoes, which were to die for. Heck, even the baby carrots still had some snap in them, and if they could consistently reproduce this in the air, I’d order it for Book The Cook anytime.
I was certainly impressed by the steak, but do note that it’s still a case of YMMV. My sister (attending that evening on a different A380) ordered the same, and hers turned out to be concrete grey inside.
Just like lunch, dinner was dangerously close to running over time (it’d have been fascinating to see what would happen if we crossed the 10.30 p.m threshold- does the prohibition on alcohol apply to A380s too?), and therefore dessert had to be served along with the fruit and cheese.
The highlight for me was the baked cheesecake with sable crust, topped with fresh mango and roasted almond flakes. The little edible flower on top made it feel that much more dainty, and I hope I’ll see this again on a future flight.
All Restaurant A380 guests receive a goody bag at the end of the meal. For Business Class, this consists of a pack of playing cards, a few packing cubes, a tote bag, and an amenities kit.
Yes, you heard me right. Singapore Airlines officially has a Business Class amenities kit now, and while it’s yet to launch on flights, Restaurant A380 guests (and [email protected] customers) can get their hands on one.
Inside you’ll find a range of Penhaligon’s amenities from the Quercus line, including hand lotion, lip balm, facial mist and perfume oil. There’s no dental kit or eyeshades, because these can be found in the toilet or requested from the crew anyway.
Restaurant A380: Crew
I wrote about this in the Suites review, but it’s well worth a second mention: given everything the cabin crew have been through over the past few months, I thought tonight was just as important for them as it was for the passengers.
The crew received a hearty round of applause when they walked through the gate area, and were visibly energized to be back at work.
While the staff in Suites clearly got along well with each other, they were more senior (in age and rank) and therefore more formal in their interactions among themselves. In contrast, the crew working the Business Class cabin were much younger, and there was a more casual and collegial dynamic among them.
From my seat in 11A I could overhear their conversations and banter, and it really felt like a happy reunion, or what happens when a bunch of people who genuinely enjoy coming into the workplace aren’t forced to WFH anymore. Crew were helping each other out (“I need three more cans of Coke for the rear cabin”/ “No problem dear I’ll grab them for you on my way there”), making small talk, and for a brief moment, we could forget all about the pandemic, all about SHNs and vaccines and swab tests and circuit breakers and things we’d rather not know about. It’s escapism, sure, but that’s exactly what we’re here for.
I mean, let’s not kid ourselves- working a string of pop-up restaurants over two weekends is not going to move the needle financially for the crew. The only way things will improve is for Singapore Airlines to take back to the skies once more. I know that. But hopefully, seeing how much SIA’s fans miss them and witnessing the outpouring of affection will help boost their morale during a time like this.
So if you’re heading down for Restaurant A380 next weekend, do consider preparing a small note or simple token for them- they’d really appreciate it!
Restaurant A380: Final Thoughts
The emcee brought proceedings to an end at 10 p.m on the dot. Unlike lunch (which overran by 40 minutes), there was no make up for the delayed start, and I gather some were disappointed they didn’t get the full three hours advertised. This is something the organizers will need to work on, and I hope we’ll see some adjustments made for the upcoming weekend.
The Business Class experience costs S$321 per person, and while that’s no small amount, it’s better to think of it in terms of experience (I keep using that word, but with good reason) than try and measure it in dollars and cents. It’s more “entertainment” than “dining”, and certainly a fun activity to do as a couple or family (or solo as an A380 otaku).
Restaurant A380 runs for one final weekend on 31 October/1 November, and there’s still a handful of tickets left in Business and Economy Class (mostly single seats). If you’re still on the fence, take a punt on Economy Class at least. You’ll get the full range of pre-boarding activities, a good amount of personal space onboard (thanks to social distancing measures), and if nothing else, the chance to get sloshed for S$53.50.
Keep those Restaurant A380 stories coming!