After a whirlwind trip to Seoul, it was time to return to Singapore and start preparing for the start of the Australia VTL.
While I’d flown Economy Class on the outbound leg (which proved to be a better-than-expected experience since I had an entire row to myself), the return leg was booked in Business Class so I could review how Singapore Airlines’ 2018 Regional Business Class seat holds up on a longer flight.
|✈️ tl;dr: Singapore Airlines B787-10 Business Class|
|Singapore Airlines’ regional Business Class seat is a comfortable, well-designed product that’s more than adequate for the routes it’s on- perhaps even superior to the long-haul version in some ways.|
|The Good||The Bad|
I arrived at Incheon around 8 a.m to do my pre-departure ART swab (more details here), completing it at 8.11 a.m and receiving the result at 8.50 a.m.
After getting my results certificate, I headed up to the departures concourse and found an absolute conga line at the Singapore Airlines check-in desks.
The VTL process entails a whole lot of document checking that can take up to 10 minutes per passenger (or more, if they’re the sort who spends all the time on their phone and only decides what to order at the counter- you know who I’m talking about). Imagine that multiplied by an entire Economy Class cabin.
It’s as good a reason as any to shoot for KrisFlyer Elite Gold with the ongoing “earn on the ground” campaign, since it gives you access to the Business Class check-in line.
The Business Class line was only four deep, and since I had all my documents ready (for Singapore citizens: passport, negative results slip, proof of completion of arrival card), it only took five minutes once I reached the front of the line.
Since the SilverKris Lounge at Incheon is currently closed, Singapore Airlines passengers are directed to the Asiana Lounge near Gate 11 instead.
I’ve written a separate review of this facility, but spoiler alert: it’s not great.
Boarding took place at Gate 31, which is a considerable walk from the Asiana Lounge. Even at a very brisk clip, walking over took eight minutes- probably much more had I sauntered.
Boarding began promptly at 10 a.m, 30 minutes before departure. PPS Club, Star Gold and Business Class passengers were invited to board from the door on the right, and since I was at the front of the queue, a little brisk jogging down the jet bridge gave me almost an entire minute to myself in the plane…
Today’s flight was operated by 9V-SCB, one of the B787-10s that replaced the A330-300 in the Singapore Airlines fleet. This seats 337 passengers across two cabins- 301 in Economy, 36 in Business.
The B787-10 saw the debut of Singapore Airlines’ new regional Business Class seat in 2018, a much-needed upgrade over the horrible angled-flat product used on the A330-300 (and selected B777-200/300 jets).
Singapore Airlines decided to buy an off-the-shelf solution in the form of Stelia Aerospace’s Solstys III, which was further customised and released as the Symphony. The 1-2-1 configuration gives every passenger direct aisle access (vs 2-2-2 with the old regional Business Class product), and all seats recline into fully flat beds.
It’s certainly more private, as evidenced by the “stand test”. When you stand up, how many people can you see? Thanks to the high walls surrounding each seat, you can’t really see beyond your immediate neighbours.
On the other hand, the new seat also means narrower aisles. The 787’s cabin already isn’t the widest, and at 18 feet (5.5 metres) is ~15 inches (38 cm) narrower than a 777. While that may sound insignificant, it really makes a difference when you’re wheeling a standard-sized cabin trolley down the aisle. One small misstep, and you’ll end up clattering someone’s seat.
The 36 Business Class seats are laid out as follows:
Let’s first talk about the solo seats (A/K), which come in two configurations.
Rows 11, 14 (SIA skips unlucky row 13), 16, 18 and 20 have their consoles next to the window, and are more exposed to the aisle. Do note Row 16 lacks a window.
Rows 12, 15, 17 and 19 have their console next to the aisle. I took 15K precisely for this reason (it was odd that some seats had pillows waiting at them and others didn’t, but nothing a quick press of the call button can’t resolve).
The seats in the middle (D/F) also come in two configurations.
Rows 11, 14, 16, 18 and 20 are “love seats”, so called because the consoles are closer to the aisle. This makes it easier to interact with your seatmate (though the privacy wings of the seat remove most peripheral vision), while offering more isolation from movement in the aisle.
However, if you’re travelling by yourself and all the solo seats are taken, you can still raise the centre divider and have a very private experience, all things considered.
Rows 12, 15, 17 and 19 are “divorce seats”, so called because their consoles are located between the seats. This affords greater privacy from each other, but less from the aisle.
My preference, should the solo seats not be available, would actually be to take a love seat and keep the divider up.
Finally, note that Seats 11A/K are blocked as bassinet seats. These will open up for selection if they remain unoccupied at the T-48 mark, i.e. when online check-in opens. There’s a large shelf near the window which is meant to accommodate the bassinet, but if you’re otherwise unencumbered you can store your bag here.
Do note that these seats are near the toilets, so you may encounter increased disturbance from foot traffic and queues.
At just 20″ wide, these Business Class seats are definitely on the narrow side (for comparison, the 2013 Business Class seat is 28″ wide). However, you can gain an additional 6″ (I’m sure your spam folder promises you likewise) by lowering the armrests on both sides.
Seat pitch is 44″, although you can always raise your legs and put them on the ottoman for extra space.
You can store a medium-sized backpack under the ottoman, but the ottoman area itself cannot be used to store items during takeoff and landing.
The design of the seat necessitates a three-point seatbelt, like what you find in a car. Some people find it uncomfortable, but the shoulder strap only needs to be fastened during taxi, takeoff and landing. During the flight, you need only wear the waist strap, like a traditional airline seatbelt.
The main source of storage (apart from the overhead bins and underseat area) will be the console table, which has a built-in cabinet for loose items- I love that handsome burnt orange interior.
The storage cabinet must be closed for take-off and landing, and is also where you’ll find the seat’s USB ports and universal power outlet. One cool detail is that the USB ports light up in green when unused, and turn to blue when connected.
A cleverly-concealed mirror slides out from beside the cabinet, making it easy to do last-minute touch ups.
A coat hook is provisioned at each seat, though you’re unlikely to use this since the cabin crew comes around to collect coats and jackets.
The seat shell is lined with a diamond-patterned material which helps to deaden the noise from the surrounding cabin. It feels luxurious to the touch, and the seat’s reading lights are found here.
Touch-sensitive seat controls are found on the console. The panel is dark at first, but lights up when you run your fingers over it. There’s a small delay from the time you touch the button to the time movement begins, and you’ll feel a small vibration once the touch is registered. You’ll need to press and hold the button until the seat reaches the desired position.
While preset positions are provided for upright, lounging and full flat, it’s not actually possible to independently adjust any particular aspect of the seat (e.g. you can’t choose just to raise the legrest).
Each seat has an 18″ full high-definition touchscreen monitor. In practice you’ll find yourself defaulting to the IFE remote, since gorilla arm is a real possibility on an airplane.
The sturdy tray table slides out from beneath the IFE monitor, and depending on your needs, can operate as either a half or full-sized surface. There’s very little give when typing away on a laptop, which is great.
While the tray table can be shifted towards and away from the seat, it doesn’t move enough to allow you to enter/exit the seat while deployed. This means you should use the toilet before the meal service begins!
Business Class passengers receive noise cancelling headsets. At one point these were Phitek branded, but that label seems to have disappeared over time in favor of more prominent SIA branding.
Amenities kits were not distributed automatically, but they’re available on request from the crew- something I highlighted in a separate article. The kit contains items from Penhaligon’s Quercus range, plus that elusive bottle of Luna perfume oil (only found in selected kits, while stocks last).
All passengers (regardless of cabin) receive an SIA Care Kit, comprising of a disposable mask, wet wipe and bottle of hand sanitiser.
Each Business Class passenger had a bottle of Evian water waiting at the seat.
In case you were wondering, SIA doesn’t provide sleeper suits in Business Class, and even if they did, I doubt they’d be provisioned on a medium-haul daytime service like SQ607.
The captain came on the PA to announce today’s flight time of 5 hours 40 minutes to Changi Airport, noting that we’d be flying over the “Hawaii of Korea”, Jeju Island.
It was a particularly hazy period in Seoul, so much so that an air quality advisory had gone out just the day before. Indeed, you couldn’t see much of the airport surroundings on the climb out.
Upon reaching cruising altitude, I got onboard the aircraft’s Wi-Fi network. Business Class and PPS Club members receive 100MB of complimentary data, while KrisFlyer members in Economy/Premium Economy Class receive a 2-hour chat package good for text-only messaging. This is provided they entered their KrisFlyer number at the time of booking or check-in (i.e. it needs to appear on your boarding pass). If you forgot to do this, it’s too late to do anything once on the plane.
Once your free allowance is exhausted, additional allowances can be purchased for:
Wi-Fi pricing is per flight sector, so you cannot carry any unused data from a given Wi-Fi package onto a subsequent flight, even if on the same day.
Don’t expect fantastic speeds. This is good enough for email and leaving angry comments on the Straits Times Facebook page, but little more.
I have a Boingo subscription, which gave me unlimited internet throughout the flight.
Shortly after takeoff, the crew brought around drinks. Singapore Airlines recently upgraded its champagne from Laurent-Perrier Brut to Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage 2012. It’s rare to see vintage champagnes served in Business Class (though EVA Air has been pouring Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame for many years now), and I couldn’t wait to try it.
The verdict? I definitely preferred this over Laurent-Perrier. I’m not much for wine descriptions, so I’m going to quote what Gary Low, Head Sommelier of the Michelin-Starred Burnt Ends, had to say:
This Piper Heidsieck 2012 is easy and approachable on the palate. The wine is exuberant on the palate, and the pearls of bubbles glistens under the cabin lights. The blend of 48% Chardonnay and 52% Pinot Noir adds clarity and depth when sipped. Notes alongside green apples, pomegranate, yuzu zest, lime, and ending with a touch of vanilla and cinnamon. Perfect as an aperitif, as a welcome drink, and/or paired with fresh seafood such as lobster, chilled prawns, light soups, or a nice mesclun salad.
Lunch was served on today’s flight, with service starting roughly 80 minutes after takeoff.
Proceedings began with SIA’s classic satay (if you’re wondering about the missing table cloth, the SOP is to leave the table undressed until the appetizer comes- perhaps too many people were staining it with peanut sauce).
Just like my recent flight from Frankfurt, all three pieces were chicken. I asked the crew about this, and was told that before COVID, satay service used to be done seatside. The crew could then ask passengers which meats they wanted (since some can’t take beef) and assemble a plate accordingly. That’s no longer possible with the new restrictions, so short of taking separate satay orders (which would add too much work to an already busy pre-flight routine), they have to default to the meat everyone can take: chicken.
Satay was followed by a prawn caesar salad, a surprising choice given the whole push to serve lighter fare on board. It also looks more like six different components rather than one cohesive dish.
I was really looking forward to the pork bibimbap, a sort of DIY dish. The instructions said to spoon out the hot steamed rice into a bowl containing meat and vegetables, add in sesame oil, Korean pepper paste, and mix together.
The problem is that even though the rice was piping hot, the ingredients were stone cold. Mixing them together created a lukewarm dish, nothing like what I was expecting.
For dessert I had a Korean Angelica pudding. It’s like a custard with chocolate sauce and corn flake bits on top- very good, but I was too full by this point.
Cheese and fruits were offered; I took the latter.
After meal service, I visited the toilet to freshen up. There are two toilets for the Business Class cabin, located at the front of the aircraft.
Motion-sensitive taps and pedal-controlled trash bins help to minimise the number of touchpoints, and a bottle of hand sanitiser has been affixed to the wall outside the toilet so you can clean your hands after unfastening the lock and exiting the toilet.
Bathroom amenities include Penhaligon’s toiletries from the Quercus line.
It was then time to take a nap, and this in my opinion is where the regional Business Class seat really shines compared to the long-haul seats on the A350-900 and B777-300ER.
First of all, there’s no flipping involved. Passengers can recline all the way to flat without getting up from their seat, which is a great convenience when the fasten seatbelt sign is on.
Second, you can choose exactly the angle you wish to recline. Call me weird, but I find 160-170° to be more comfortable for sleeping on a plane compared to full flat, possibly because the aircraft itself flies at an angle.
Third, you sleep straight instead of diagonally. While diagonal sleeping doesn’t bother me, it’s a huge bugbear for some.
I had concerns about the footwell, but it’s actually significantly larger than what the long-haul seat offers. On the A350-900, your feet are cramped into a tiny pigeonhole that forces you to sleep on your side; here there’s no issues for back sleepers.
Whisper it quietly, but I actually found the regional seat to be more comfortable than the long-haul version! Sure, it’s higher density and perhaps you have a little less space on the whole, but I was perfectly happy with the features and how good a rest I could have when reclined.
Before long we were on final approach to Changi Airport, with some beautiful weather en route.
As a side note, I’ve always loved that the approach path to Changi takes you directly over a golf course. I wonder if anyone’s ever hit a jet before…
We landed exactly on schedule in Singapore, after which it was time to go through the usual VTL arrivals process.
Singapore Airlines’ 2018 Regional Business Class seat is an excellent product, and one I wouldn’t mind having on long-haul routes either. It offers a superior sleeping experience, with thoughtfully-designed features for working and relaxing.
The main Achilles heel is how narrow the seat is, a far cry from the 2006 Business Class seat which many complained was too wide! Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.
The 2018 Regional Business Class seat is already widely deployed across the fleet, although we’ll soon see another regional Business Class seat variant once the B737 Max 8s begin their full rollout.