Quick Impressions of the New Singapore A380

Apologies for my recent lack of posts; work and life have kept me busier than I’d have liked, and will continue to do so for some time. That said, I did want to briefly throw my two cents in among the noise of the peanut gallery. The highly-anticipated reveal of the new Singapore Airlines Suites, business class, premium economy, and economy products on its Airbus A380 occurred earlier this evening (morning of 11/2 Singapore time). While only time will tell how the product is received, I wanted to share my early thoughts and impressions of the new products. I won’t be including photos in this post as they’ve no doubt inundated the blogosphere by now. Feel free to chime in/agree/disagree in the comments.

  • Suites: While nobody expected bling or flash on the level of Emirates or Etihad, the new Suites product is, well, underwhelming. To be sure, the spaciousness of the new suites is impressive and the separate bed + seat are a nice touch, but nothing from what I’ve seen or read so far seems particularly inspired or novel. More photos and reviews may prove me wrong, but frankly it just looks like a lot of empty and arguably wasted space.
  • Business Class: Again, nothing innovative here. The new J cabin is surprisingly dense, though supposedly passenger space remains comparable as new carbon fiber material was used in the seat, thereby shrinking the support structure of the seats. Is “slimline” business the next “innovation” in cabin design? The “double bed” concept is a nice feature for a business class seat, and I’ll be curious to see how it compares to what Qatar offers in its new QSuite product. Otherwise, the new business seat is more or less a cosmetic refresh, without notable new functionality or features. Perfectly fine for sleeping, I would imagine, but nothing to write home about.
  • Premium Economy and Economy: Not much to improve on here, as both cabins are more or less a fungible commodity, industry-wide, and any differentiation that might occur is based on soft product. Of note, premium economy does get a dedicated galley and lavatories, which should be nice. While the premium economy seats do look fairly comfortable, it’s not something I’d ever want to do on a 13 hour SIN-FRA flight.

I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by what SQ has come up with. Perhaps the only notable new feature is the NFC reader at each seat that presumably will allow passengers to connect their phones with the IFE. Business class gets a facelift and increased density, and sadly the mini-cabin in Row 96 goes away. Meanwhile the new Suites, while quite spacious, look pretty sterile and seem targeted towards the typical SQ business passenger, i,.e., someone who simply wants to board the plane and sleep. This isn’t too surprising, as the carrier was aggressive in seeking feedback from its lifetime Solitaire elites (the majority of which are paid J passengers who don’t often get upgraded) while they were working on creating the new product.

The design of the new premium products is, keeping in line with SQ’s aesthetic, elegant and understated, but nothing strikes me as exciting. When Singapore Air rolled out their original Suites product over a decade ago, they set the standard and showed the world that they wanted to be the leader in offering a truly fantastic first class product. Granted, in the time since Suites first launched, a number of exceptional products have come along, making it more difficult to achieve that same wow factor. Yet the release of SQ’s new A380 products really illuminates the contrast between the proud, innovative SQ of 2007 and the SQ of 2017, still proud and largely great, but also a carrier that is cutting costs and trying to increase yields as it struggles to make money while fighting intense competition from Asia’s flourishing horde of low-cost carriers as well as larger airlines like the ME3.

I certainly plan to try out the new Suites and business class products and hope that they exceed my expectations. Until then, my feelings about the new products are about equivalent to my feelings when I saw the following, taken from one of the stock media photos of the released by SQ.

This is why we can’t trust the intern. Photo: Singapore Airlines

Comments

  1. The big difference between SQ today and SQ 10 years ago is today it’s losing money in the face of stiffer competition, even from premium airlines. These seat choices reflect optimal usage of space to keep costs down while providing a satisfactory level of comfort to their regular flyers.

  2. With all due respect, I think you’re not the target market for Suites. For people who can pay or who can direct their companies to pay $15K+ for travel, “a lot of empty and arguably wasted space” is the ultimate luxury in their day-to-day lives, and this is an extension of that.

    Personally, based upon how I travel and what I do while on a plane, I would much rather travel in the new SQ suite than any other F product. It fits my business and rest needs perfectly. It’s why I really liked the final generation LH 744 F product with a separate seat and bed.

    • You’re absolutely right in that I and those like me chasing “value” from award redemptions are not the target market for Suites. And I agree that the needs of business travelers were at the forefront of the design process, as I allude to above.

      Yet on the other hand, for a carrier that prides itself on being at the head of the pack, SQ has produced a relatively bland, albeit solid, new product. And an argument could certainly be made that J is for your typical business traveler, while F should be a bit more special with nicer features. I’ll be curious to see just how much demand there is for the new Suites over business class, given that the trend for corporate bookings continues to shift more and more away from F and into J.

    • I think that fractional jet ownership schemes and ultra-long range aircraft like the Gulfstream VI have made First Class uncompetitive on the large scale. Let’s fags it, First Class was designed for upper level executives. However, in today’s corporate world, they prefer to stay flexible and utilize their time for work rather than luxury. Private jets offer that flexibility and offer communication suites, capacity and layout to be used as meeting rooms during long trips. That pays off a lot better than simply getting rest and good food while you’re flying (though you still get that too!)

      I think Singapore Air recognizes that and will be reducing the inventory in F, just like everyone else. It simply isn’t worth it for them when they can stuff the plane full of J sears which actually turn a profit.

  3. This is definitely one of the nicest products. I dont like Emirates, purely because everything about them is super sized & blingy. Etihad seems to offer a nice product, which ive never flown, but am accumulating Jet Airways miles towards that.
    Lufthansa, to my little travelled self, appears to be the best FC product in terms of the balance between Luxury, decor, service & the F&B

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