After months of speculation, Singapore Airlines has finally taken the wraps off its brand new Business Class product, which will feature exclusively on the Boeing 737-8 (renamed, understandably, from the Boeing 737 Max 8).
It’s been more than 30 years since Singapore Airlines last operated a narrowbody aircraft, and many Singaporeans instinctively associate a single-aisle plane with budget carriers like Scoot, Jetstar, or the erstwhile Tigerair and Valuair.
But as we all know, Singapore Airlines doesn’t do budget, and with the new Business Class seats, even its shortest flights will now feel very much like a premium experience.
I had the opportunity to try out the new seats at a media event today, and also have published separate hands-on reports for Business and Economy Class
|✈️ tl;dr: SIA’s new B737-8|
SIA’s B737-8: Overview
Singapore Airlines’ B737-8 aircraft will have 154 seats across two classes: 10 in Business Class, 144 in Economy Class.
All passengers will have access to personal IFE screens, powered by Panasonic’s X-Series system. Panasonic will also provide the in-flight Wi-Fi service, as well as mobile data connectivity.
Singapore Airlines has spent S$230 million on the development, design and installation of these new cabin products, which are summarised below.
|Business Class||Economy Class|
|Layout||2-2, 1-1, 2-2||3-3|
|Seat Width||Up to 22″||18″|
|Seat Recline||Reclines to full flat bed||5″|
|IFE Screen Size||16″||10″|
|In-Seat Power||AC charging||N/A|
|USB Charging Ports||2x USB ports||1x USB port|
SIA’s B737-8: Business Class
A total of 10 Business Class seats will be installed on the B737-8, configured in an alternating 2-2, 1-1, 2-2 layout.
As previously confirmed, Singapore Airlines has decided on an off-the-rack solution for its B737-8 Business Class. Instead of designing a brand new seat from the ground up (as it did with the 2013 and 2017 Business Class seats), it’s selected the Thompson Aero Vantage (in use on Aer Lingus, flydubai and JetBlue) and chosen London-based Factorydesign to provide the customisations.
The resulting seat measure up to 22 inches wide, clad with premium materials and bespoke embroidery in custom patterns and textures. If you’ve flown on the 2018 Regional Business Class seat on the B787-10 and selected A350 900s, you no doubt recognise the colour scheme.
All seats feature USB charging ports and in-seat power supply, a reading light with adjustable brightness, mood lighting, and a pocket under the monitor that provides easy stowage during taxi, take-off and landing.
Singapore Airlines’ chosen configuration means that 60% of passengers will have direct aisle access. While it’s certainly possible to give all customers aisle access on a narrowbody aircraft (see Vantage Solo), it’s probably not economically feasible. If it’s any consolation, couples travelling together may actually prefer the 2-2 rows, since it facilitates interaction.
When it’s time to sleep, the seat reclines directly into a 76 inch full-flat bed; no standing up and flipping required. This means it supports a much wider range of positions- for working, for lounging, and for sleeping.
Of the 10 passengers in the Business Class cabin, two (seat 12B and 12J) will get “throne” seats, with no one beside them. These seats have additional table-top and stowage spaces, and a side stowage compartment equipped with a mirror and LED light.
These are likely to be in high demand, but I’ve confirmed with Singapore Airlines that there are currently no plans to charge extra for these seats, or block them off for Solitaire PPS and PPS Club members.
This could always change in the future, of course- the airline does block off the lucrative Row 11 on its A350-900 and B777-300ER aircraft for Solitaire PPS and PPS Club passengers. But for now, it’s first-come-first-serve.
Oh, and by the way, the SIA representative I spoke to said they’re taking pains not to refer to it a “throne seat”!
The 144 Economy Class seats on the B737-8 are configured in a 3-3 layout.
These seats are built by Collins Aerospace, and although they look similar to the 2017 edition found on the A380-800s, 787-10s, and regional A350-900s, they’re actually slightly different. Passengers enjoy 30 inches of seat pitch and 18 inches of seat width, with 5 inches of seat recline.
While it’s a much simpler offering than Business Class, it’s still a massive upgrade from the former SilkAir seats. Passengers now have individual 10-inch high definition touchscreen, plus access to Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity.
IFE content will be exactly the same as what’s found on KrisWorld on other flights, and for Avgeeks, they’ve even introduced a new type of 3D flight map called Arc.
There’s a curious omission of in-seat power, but each passenger will get a personal USB charging outlet.
I asked SIA whether the lack of in-seat power was a technical limitation or a business decision, and was told it was the latter, as research showed these did not receive heavy use on short-haul flights.
I’m curious to see how that plays out, however. Prior to COVID, the B737-8 served routes as far afield as Darwin and Hiroshima – about the limits of most people’s laptop batteries. If you’re flying at the back of the bus, you’ll definitely want to charge your laptop beforehand.
Differences: Boeing 737-8 vs 737-800
Singapore Airlines has two types of Boeing 737s in their fleet, and they couldn’t be more different.
The older B737-800s were inherited from SilkAir, when the regional wing was absorbed earlier this year. Nine of these aircraft are currently in service, and the rest are in the midst of being disposed.
However, it was never Singapore Airlines’ plan to operate this aircraft. It originally intended to take SilkAir’s much newer B737-8 jets, until their untimely grounding threw the mother of all spanners into the works.
And so the B737-800s became the oddball of the fleet- too little time left to warrant serious investment, but too decrepit to carry the name of Singapore Airlines. In the end, a compromise was reached to give the interiors some (much-needed) new upholstery, and little more.
Instead, it’s the B737-8s which will receive the new Business Class product. All six B737-8s in the Singapore Airlines fleet have already been fitted with the new cabin products.
Singapore Airlines has a further 31 B737-8s on order, and expects to take delivery of eight during FY21/22 (i.e. by 31 March 2022). These have already been built by Boeing and are in storage awaiting delivery, but will need to be repainted in SIA colours and get refit with Wi-Fi and the new cabin products.
Here’s how the two aircraft compare, in terms of interiors:
|Business Class||10x Flat Bed||12x Recliner|
|Economy Class||144x Recliner||150x Recliner|
|Seatback IFE||Yes||No- IFE via wireless streaming|
Needless to say, the B737-8 will offer a much superior passenger experience, and is a much more worthy candidate for your hard-earned miles/cash.
This then begs the question: with two aircraft so similarly-named, how is Singapore Airlines going to manage expectations around cabin products? After all, most people can’t tell their A350s from their B77Ws, much less a -800 from a -8.
I put the question across to SIA, and was told:
“For now we believe that just the two designations is a sufficient differentiator for the passengers to understand there will be a product difference. We will listen to customer feedback as we go along and operate both aircraft types. if there is a need to emphasize further the difference in types and products, we will look to do so.”
SIA has further stated that the plan is to confine the 737-800 to ultra short-haul routes, where the difference in cabin product will not be as pronounced.
In the meantime, here’s a simple way of identifying which product you have.
- If the Business Class section has 10 seats, it’s the new product (12 seats= old product)
- If the Business Class section is configured 2-2 throughout, it’s the old product (2-2, 1-1,2-2= new product)
Which routes will get the new products?
The 737-8 has a range of 3,550 nautical miles, which means it could theoretically be deployed on routes as far afield as Tokyo. However, Singapore Airlines plans to start small by introducing the aircraft on routes to:
The inaugural flight and route has not yet been announced. Singapore Airlines says it hopes to introduce the aircraft type “by the end of 2021”.
With 2024 being the earliest that Singapore Airlines can realistically expect to take delivery of its new B777-9s, the new Business Class seats on the B737-8 are the last product launch we’ll see for a while.
The new products will enable Singapore Airlines to offer a more consistent cabin experience across its fleet. Few things were more jarring than to step off a long-haul Singapore Airlines flight with full flat beds, direct aisle access and seatback IFE, and onto a regional SilkAir flight with worn out recliner seats!
I’ll be writing a separate hands-on review of the seats, so stay tuned.
What do you make of Singapore Airlines’ new B737-8 cabin products?