Last August I reported here that Singapore planned to launch a new inflight product in late 2013. And they’ve done just that.
I attended the aircraft delivery of Singapore’s first new-cabin 777. They previewed the seats back in July, but those seats are now onboard an aircraft that’s about to go into service.
It’s an evolution on their current 777-300ER offering, not something completely different, but it’s also a real improvement in some meaningful ways and has me excited to fly Singapore again.
There are 8 aircraft on order with this new interior. They haven’t announced anything about retrofitting existing 777s, but they have announced it as the product for Singapore’s new Airbus A350s on order.
This first aircraft is being sent to fly Singapore – London. Additional routes for future aircraft haven’t been announced, but there were suggestions that San Francisco or Houston (both currently served by 777s) could get the new interiors.
What Singapore First Class Looked Like Until the “New” Product Launch in 2007
It’s hard to remember it wasn’t all that long ago that this was considered a truly world class first class product. The seats were showing their wear before they were replaced, but Singapore Airlines maintained them impeccably.
I last flew Singapore’s ‘old’ first class in February 2011. That generation product remained in service until their last 747 was retired in April 2012.
The Current 777 First Class Product
This was referred to as the ‘new’ first until Singapore retired their 747s. Five years in it was hard to call the product ‘new’ but the hard product is certainly competitive with other top airlines (and complemented by Singapore’s outstanding service, food, and amenities).
The difference between ‘old’ and ‘new’ first class products was tremendous. The ‘Suites Class’ on Singapore’s A380 is more impressive still (since it has doors, of course). But a great leap forward.
The only real complaint about the Singapore first class seat has been that it is not very comfortable sitting upright. They actually flip over the seat to give you a mattress to lie down on. This is not a seat that ‘adjusts’ into a bed. It’s a very comfortable bed, but you can’t lounge slightly upright in bed mode. You are either fully flat, or upright with limited adjustability.
And the seat itself is pretty hard. Now, it’s very wide which is why they added a bolster pillow in the same color as the seat design — so there would be something to lean against.
But sitting in the seat is akin to a bench. It’s my major complaint about the first class product and one I expressed quite strongly last month.
The New 777 First Class Makes Subtle – But Meaningful – Improvements
The first thing I went for when I got onboard the aircraft was the first class seat. They had two set up in bed mode, and while I snapped a few photos of course I went first for the upright seat.
They haven’t fundamentally changed the concept — the flight attendant still flips the seat to create a fully flat bed which is very comfortable. It’s great for sleeping, but doesn’t have the flexibility to adjust a bit upright for reading or watching movies in bed.
But they’ve gone a long way towards solving the comfort issues with the older ‘new’ 777 first class seat. The material of the seat itself has a lot more ‘give’. It isn’t nearly as firm, so the seat cushions you softly. The seat adjusts more than the earlier version did, so you no longer have to remain quite as upright when the seat is not a bed.
The Singapore Airlines first class bed is a wonderful thing, it’s very comfortable and not just because of the bedding but because of the design of the seat itself. As I said, it’s not great for lounging though I did find the old product more comfortable that I’d have guessed sitting up in bed. The new seat is even better because it’s more comfortable to sit against the back of the seat.
They’re very proud of the ability to turn off the seat’s television monitor more easily, and of the improvements in lighting the seat. I like the improvements in storage areas myself. And the little cubbies and new colors hidden throughout the seat.
The new first class is better. It’s more ergonomically designed. It’s a more comfortable seat. And it pairs with perhaps the world’s best soft product. They have great meals (though I wish for more extensive midflight snacks). And I do find the service to be usually fantastic. There’s little question they have one of the best first class products in the world. The improvements in comfort for sitting upright make me happy indeed. But this is not a ‘wholly different product’. It’s hard to even imagine what such a thing would look like!
How Can You Fly This (Without Spending $25,000)
Singapore -Airlines first class frequent flyer awards are actually widely available. They make more first class award seats available than most other airlines… to their own Krisflyer frequent flyer program members.
Singapore doesn’t often release long haul first class seats to its frequent flyer partners like United. But it’s actually not hard to get Singapore miles — they are an American Express transfer partner and also a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner. So more folks have access to Singapore Airlines miles than might otherwise realize it (Singapore does add fuel surcharges onto award tickets).
For now though you can’t count on getting this product since at the moment there is only a single aircraft that’s been delivered with it. I was on board the plane literally minutes after Singapore Airlines had taken possession. Touring the aircraft was delayed, even, while regulators did their final inspections before the plane could be turned over. There will be 7 more of these coming into service so getting the flight will become more predictable (they assure that they won’t just rotate the planes around their system – they want customers to know what to expect). And it should also become more accessible, solving the need to fly to London in order to try it out.
Still to come.. the business and economy cabins.
Full disclosure: while these sorts of events often cover expenses for media, I paid for my own airline ticket, hotel, and meals. I ate a sandwich in Boeing’s conference room. They ran a shuttle bus from the hotel I stayed in (Westin Seattle) to the Everett Delivery Center, and provided a shared van back to the airport. If I had been taking freebies, I would have asked them for a case of Dom Perignon and one of Krug, as well as a lifetime supply of prawn and chicken laksa.