Review: COVID-era service on Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class, Singapore to Munich

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Singapore Airlines is still a great way to fly, but it's also a very different way to fly amidst COVID.

The very last time I set foot on an airplane (let’s not count Restaurant A380) was 2 March 2020, when I flew back from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. 

I remember that trip vividly: the Milelioness had a course to attend, and I tagged along as trailing spouse. We stayed in the Westin Kuala Lumpur (my goodness, I was still a Marriott Platinum back then), ate buffets and walked around without masks. On the flight home I managed to select seats in the Premium Economy section, giving us a very comfortable 50-minute jaunt. 

Premium Economy seats are not sold on SIN-KUL flights, but can be selected during online check-in

Man, if I only knew that would be my last flight for 18 months…

🍺 Bavarians at the Gate
🇸🇬 Singapore- Germany VTL 🇩🇪

Well I’ve finally broken my cold streak. After exploring the SilverKris Lounge and the rest of Changi Airport, it was time to take back to the skies once again. 

Flight Details
SQ 328
SIN-MUC
Date 5 September 2021
Aircraft Airbus A350-900
Registration 9V-SMC
Cabin Business Class
Seat 15K
Cost 92,000 miles + S$41.50

SQ328 from Singapore to Munich is operated by an Airbus A350-900, and there’s something slightly poetic about the fact this aircraft was also the last I flew before COVID. I’ve already reviewed the Business Class product before, so in this post I’ll focus more on the changes to service routines. 

But since it’s been such a long time, here’s some obligatory cabin photos…

Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class

Singapore Airlines A350-900s are equipped with the 2013 Business Class seat in a 1-2-1 configuration. It’s beginning to show its age with various nicks and scratches, but otherwise still looks solid. 

Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class
Singapore Airlines A350-900 Business Class

I was in 15K, a window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. 

Seat 15K
Rear view of 15K

Singapore Airlines still provides pillows, blanket and bedding, of course. Pillows come wrapped in plastic for great assurance. 

Bed mode

Inflight mask wearing

Mask wearing is compulsory throughout the flight, except when eating or drinking

Singapore Airlines requires all passengers six years old and above to wear a face mask throughout the flight, except when eating and drinking. Complimentary masks are available in case yours breaks or is otherwise soiled. There is no restriction on the specific type of mask that must be worn; cloth, surgical or KN95/N95 are all equally acceptable. 

The crew do patrol the cabin and enforce mask wearing where needed, but they can’t be everywhere at once. You’ll soon learn that just like on the ground, “eating and drinking” can be liberally applied. Some passengers would nurse a drink for hours, always within easy reach so as to abide by the letter of the law. Likewise, once the cabin lights dimmed, I saw a few masks come off as people prepared to sleep. 

Bonus marks for this line in the preflight announcements. “Please keep your mask on at all times unless eating and drinking. However, in the event of an emergency, please remove your mask before wearing the oxygen mask”.

That’s good advice.

Seat blocking

On my flight to Munich, Singapore Airlines was blocking rows 11-14 in Business Class for crew rest. Obviously, they don’t need that many seats; the idea is to let pilots rest in Row 11, with a further two rows for safe distancing (there’s no row 13, because superstition). 

However, it appears that practice may since have been eased. On my VTL flight from Munich back to Singapore, I can see seats in Row 14 available for selection. 

Row 11 seats continue to be blocked off as per SIA’s existing practice, reserved for selection by Solitaire PPS and PPS Club members. These seats are generally held to be more desirable because of the ability to sleep straight. 

Seat 11K, one of the prized Row 11 seats on the A350-900

In contrast, those in non-bulkhead seats have to sleep diagonally, with their feet cramped into a very tight cubby hole. 

All non-bulkhead seats

Loads were light on my flight, with only 17 out of 42 Business Class seats occupied. It was a similar story in Premium Economy and Economy Class. 

As far as I know, Singapore Airlines is not restricting capacity on its flights. This is unlike the proposed ATB with Hong Kong, where flights would have been capped at 200 passengers per aircraft, representing an 80% load on a long-haul configured A350-900. 

Based on the distribution of passengers, I’d guess that check-in agents have been instructed to spread them out as much as possible. 

Cabin amenities

Singapore Airlines has made some slight adjustments to the amenities it offers onboard. 

While headphones are the usual noise-cancelling model that SIA offers in Business Class, what has changed is the addition of a little tag indicating when the headphones were sanitized, as well as a pair of disposable protectors you can fit over the earpads. 

Business Class headphones

All passengers regardless of cabin also receive an SIA Care Kit, consisting of a face mask, hand sanitizer and wet wipe.

SIA Care Kit

While not really related to COVID, I thought I’d show you the new amenities kit that Singapore Airlines is offering to Business Class passengers. Long resistant to the idea, the airline ran a few trials in 2017 and 2018 before finally caving in 2020 and introducing it as a permanent feature. 

Singapore Airlines Penhaligon’s Business Class amenity kit

The kit contains items from Penhaligon’s Quercus range, including hand lotion (30ml), facial mist (7ml), lip balm (4g) and a ziplock bag to put it all inside, should you happen to be transiting. 

Previously, the amenities kit included Luna scent perfume oil; I received this as part of the kit given to Restaurant A380 passengers. However, it wasn’t in the kit on my flight, and Singapore Airlines has clarified it’s only available while stocks last. 

SIA Business Class Penhaligon's amenity kit
Penhaligon’s amenity kit given to Restaurant A380 passengers- note the additional perfume oil

Other amenities like toothbrush kits, combs, razors and shaving cream can be found in the amenities drawer in the lavatory, same as before. Earplugs and eye masks are available on request. 

Amenities drawer

The pre-flight magazine cart used to be a staple of Business Class service (at one point the airline was losing S$500,000 of magazines a year through pilferage!), but has now been phased out, replaced by digital copies available through the SingaporeAir mobile app.

More than 200 titles are available for download from 48 hours before departure, and will remain readable up to one week after the flight. To browse the selection, open the SingaporeAir app, tap More (on the bottom right) ➤ Entertainment & Lifestyle ➤ e-Library 

You’ll then be able to download a wide range of local and international newspapers, magazines and periodicals. 

Even before COVID, Singapore Airlines was trying to get rid of physical magazines in its cabins in order to save on weight. It looks like COVID has finally sealed the deal. 

Menus

Singapore Airlines has restored Book the Cook service out of Singapore, but I was unable to select any meal options from Singapore to Munich. Only the return leg appeared in the online portal, with the outbound leg missing. 

The SIN-MUC leg was missing in the Manage Booking portal

I understand I’m not the only one facing this issue; other readers have reported problems for  bookings to FRA and ZRH. It sounds like a technical glitch, and I’ve sent feedback to the SIA team. 

Onboard, physical menus have been replaced with digital versions, a measure I hope is only temporary. Maybe it’s just me, but I like having a physical copy of the menu on hand to refer to, rather than having to pull up my phone. 

Instructions for accessing menu

The inflight menu can be accessed by connecting to the KrisWorld Wi-Fi network and navigating to inflightmenu.singaporeair.com. You can also access this on the ground, if you want to look at the menu for your upcoming flight (max eight days ahead of departure).

My flight departed Singapore at 0030 and landed in Munich at 0730, so supper was served first, followed by breakfast just before landing. 

Here’s the menu for supper:

And for breakfast:

And for snacks:

Meal service

Single-tray service in Business Class
Single-tray service in Business Class, pre-COVID on SIN-BKK

Prior to COVID, Singapore Airlines served Business Class meals course by course, except on very short flights like to Bangkok or Bali. This changed at the start of the COVID outbreak, as CAAS stipulated that single tray service should be adopted to minimise interactions between crew and passengers.

It’s only meant to be a temporary measure, and will be lifted from 7 September onwards, as per a memo distributed to the cabin crew.

The memo mentions that CAAS has approved the resumption of course by course service and table/tray layout in premium classes, in view of the high vaccination rates amongst cabin crew and adequate safe distancing within the premium cabins. Do note that this is a progressive measure that will start with flights to/from Germany; it’s possible other routes may still see single tray service for a while more. 

So what’s single tray service like? I can certainly see the advantages. As you might have guessed, I was furiously churning out trip reports on my computer throughout the flight. Single tray service allowed me to quickly eat and get back to work, as opposed to the usual 90-120 minute marathon that Business Class meals can be.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for course by course and I’m happy it’s coming back. I’m just saying maybe there could be a best of both worlds compromise, for those who want a power lunch and for those who want to linger. 

Not being able to Book the Cook out of Singapore turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I got to try the hawker dishes that Singapore Airlines has just rolled out. The airline is currently offering Boon Tong Kee chicken rice, Song Fa bak kut teh, Kok Kee wonton noodles, Qiu Lian ban mian and Beach Road prawn noodles, among other choices.

I’ve tried Book the Cook chicken rice before, and in my opinion it’s a terrible representation of Singapore’s national dish. The chicken tastes like it’s been microwaved to oblivion, the rice is mushy and the chili is anonymous. 

Turns out all they needed to do was bring in some external expertise, because the Boon Tong Kee version was pretty darn good (or maybe I’ve just been grounded for too long). The chicken, even the white meat, was tender, the rice grains were plump and firm, and the chili while toned down was still acceptable. Perhaps the only disappointment was the obligatory serving of limp chye sim. 

Boon Tong Kee chicken rice

Gourmands, put your pitchforks down- I know Boon Tong Kee probably won’t take the mantle for best chicken rice in Singapore anytime soon. But it’s a pretty decent option, and one that I’d have no qualms bringing foreign visitors to. 

For breakfast before landing, I had bak chor mee. This isn’t a special collaboration; instead it’s part of the airline’s existing signature local dishes selection. The noodles were surprisingly springy for an airline meal, and the sambal helped add some kick. 

Bak chor mee

Other changes include no more post-takeoff drinks trolley (or any kind of trolley service for that matter), although the crew will of course fetch you one on request. Drink refills involve bringing a brand new glass, instead of pouring from a common bottle. Warmed nuts are currently not served in Business Class; only pre-packaged ones are available. 

The crew still set up a snack basket in the galley mid-flight, which passengers could help themselves to.

Snack options

Entertainment

One of the unexpected side-effects of the COVID pandemic is the havoc it’s wreaked on  Hollywood’s release cycle. We’ve seen tentpole titles like No Time to Die, Avatar 2 and West Side Story get pushed to new dates, while Disney has experimented debuting movies like Black Widow on its streaming service Disney+. 

KrisWorld New Releases

That’s had a knock-on impact for inflight entertainment, and I noticed the “new releases” section was rather sparse. 

Of course, passengers can still choose from hundreds of Hollywood movies, TV shows and more, so you won’t be short of options. 

Other KrisWorld entertainment options

Singapore Airlines recently announced a trial of live TV service on its seven A350-900ULR aircraft, which currently ply the ultra long haul routes from Singapore to New York (SQ23/24) and San Francisco (SQ33/34). Passengers will be able to choose from BBC World News, CNN, CNBC and Sport 24. 

Live TV- coming soon

I got excited when I saw the tile for Live TV in KrisWorld, thinking they’d quietly expanded the trial to other aircraft as well. Unfortunately, it appears that this is only a software update; the hardware hasn’t yet been introduced. It would have been awesome to watch the US Open at 35,000 ft.

Once live TV is activated, here’s the kind of action that sports fans can look forward to:

🎾 Sport 24 Events
  • AFC Champions League
  • AFL
  • America’s Cup
  • ATP 1000 Tennis
  • Augusta Masters
  • Australian Open
  • Big Bash League
  • Copa Libertadores
  • EuroLeague Basketball
  • European Tour Golf
  • Horse Racing
  • HSBC World Rugby Sevens
  • Hyundai A-League
  • International Football
  • MotoGP
  • National Rugby League
  • NBA
  • NBA Finals
  • NBA Playoffs
  • NFL
  • NFL Super Bowl
  • NHL
  • OLYMPICS
  • PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
  • PGA Tour®
  • Premier League
  • Roland Garros
  • Ryder Cup
  • SailGP
  • Ski Jumping
  • Skiing
  • Stanley Cup final
  • Stanley Cup playoffs
  • State of Origin
  • The Open
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympics
  • UEFA Champions League
  • UEFA Euro 2020
  • UEFA Europa League
  • UEFA European Qualifiers
  • UEFA Nations League
  • UEFA Super Cup
  • US Open Tennis
  • Wimbledon

Toilets

Toilet

While I’d love to see more touchless technology in airplane bathrooms with or without COVID, Singapore Airlines’ A350 lavatory is the same as it’s always been. 

Wash area

For instance, the only touchless feature is the tap. While other airlines have touchless bins on their A350s, Singapore Airlines didn’t tick this option. It’d also be great if there were a touchless way of raising and lowering the toilet seat and cover, like a TOTO bidet. I suppose it’s not so easy to refit planes once they’re out of the factory. so we’re stuck with what we have. 

On a related note, ANA recently made the news for introducing hands-free toilet doors, a development I was excited about until I saw the photos. 

ANA “hands-free” toilet

I suppose you could argue that wrists and elbows aren’t hands, but come on…

You still have to touch the door on the way out, but Singapore Airlines has installed hand sanitisers outside all aircraft lavatories. I didn’t notice it on my flight, but I probably wasn’t remembering things so well after all that champagne. 

Overall service

If there’s one constant amidst all the COVID madness, it’s the stellar inflight service by the Singapore Airlines crew. Keep in mind these guys have been through a lot over the past 18 months. They’ve seen friends laid off, been subject to countless swabbing, and have to live with the constant fear of passing COVID to a loved one. 

And yet they seemed no worse for wear. Even though there’s fewer opportunities for passenger interaction, the crew still managed to be at their usual fawning best, whether it was offering drink refills, snacks, or diligently keeping the loos clean. 

Crew photo
Crew photo

In their usual over-the-top way, they even put together a special care pack for me to bring around in Munich, filled with extra masks, wet wipes and hand sanitizer. 

DIY care pack

The modified service routines mean there’s fewer chances for the crew to shine, so it speaks volumes that they still find ways. 

Conclusion

COVID’s definitely taken some of the fun out of flying, but Business Class on Singapore Airlines continues to be a very comfortable way of getting from Point A to B.

That said, those saving up for a once-in-a-lifetime redemption might want to hold their fire until they can enjoy the full fat version. The problem is, there’s no knowing when that might happen, and you don’t want to hold your miles for too long. 

The good news is that course by course dining is returning, which will be a huge upgrade to the inflight experience. 

While I’ve structured this post as a point by point recount, I’ll be writing about the Munich to Singapore VTL flight in a more traditional chronological order, to give you an idea of how all this plays out in real time. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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SQ Flyer

Good on you for acknowledging the crew. ‘Over the top’ service is indeed apt but also somewhat endearing.

Kris

Gotta love the ANA Hands-Free service! More surprising its not a joke!

ZYX

I’m interested to know if SQ brings the crew for the return trip on the flight.

Lin

Thanks very informative. Any thoughts or info about the drinks (cocktails, champagne, wine, spirits) during pre flight and meal times?

berlintravelrg

Nice flight review and the crew certainly deserve kudos for handling it all so well! All in all still looks like not a bad way to travel between Europe and Asia. Just a question on the bcm — did it appear to have fewer toppings / paired down? I distinctly remember that there was more in the pre-Covid times but perhaps my eyes are deceiving me or it is down to the plating on the day. I only ask as it was usually one of my go-tos on SQ. NB: Kind of surreal seeing you post a flight review after… Read more »

Ben

BCM topping looks the same as per what I got (and spied other neighbouring passengers get a few times) on a number of SIN-LHR trips over 2018-2019. Didn’t look very appetizing but tasted much better (at least then).

Tommy

I ordered the soup version of the BCM a few times and there’s a lot more toppings (especially the meat) than what is shown on Aaron’s pictures.

Last edited 12 days ago by Tommy
Reader a

Is it just me that the colour of the two photos for seat 15k is different? 😉

Ian End

SIA indulging in its usual price-gouging for those wanting to travel VTL.

non-VTL biz return for 4 people: SGD 16,397.20
VTL biz return for 4 people: SGD 36,721.20

Dreadful airline

Sam

Supply/Demand is simple economics, it’s not price gouging. Prige gouging is when it’s a necessity, for example if you were a refugee and you MUST take the flight, and the flight is deliberately exorbitant based on your desperation.

Ian End

Actually if you’d bothered to make even a cursory effort to look up a definition of price gouging you’d see that SIA’s current behavior good the definition almost exactly. Let me Google it for you: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_gouging

Your supply and demand claim is meaningless because an otherwise identical flight, with the same airline on the same day, is $20,000 cheaper. If you can’t see that you’re truly obtuse.

Sam

Well, Mr Obtuse, if you’d even bothered to read the article you’d linked, “restricted to essentials such as food, clothing, shelter, medicine and equipment needed to preserve life and property” VTL flight from Germany to Singapore for 4 pax hardly classifies as such, much less Business class. If business is beyond your reasonable spend, look at economy class. “Your supply and demand claim is meaningless because an otherwise identical flight, with the same airline on the same day, is $20,000 cheaper.” Like you said, OTHERWISE identical. If it’s so similar, why do you insist on taking the VTL flight? Also,… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Sam
freedom

ownself pwn ownself, next time read the article that you link leh! article contradict you still so smug XD

SQ Flyer

Take a look at repatriation flight pricing put out by airlines during the pandemic. Doesn’t make it right or desirable, but no need to single out SQ in particular. Greedy and opportunistic perhaps, but far from dreadful.

Last edited 11 days ago by SQ Flyer
Hardwarezone

EDMW called, they want their Ian End back!

its not SQ’s fault that you can’t afford business class.

Mirror

Can I assume that all the economy class passengers could lie flat across multiple seats since they are so spread out?

MMartin

I am on flight SQ33 from SFO to SIN. I am getting mixed messages about seat 11K. Customer Service states that seat 11K does not have extra leg room, yet almost all reviews and videos state that 11K does have extra room and you can lay out flat when sleeping (and you don’t have to sleep with your feet in the pocket.) I am short (5’4”) but have back issues and would like to get verification from someone who has been on this flight.

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