Singapore Airlines operate four daily services between Singapore and the sprawling capital of South Korea. One of these services (SQ16) continues on to San Francisco and is therefore operated by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft configured for the long-haul.
In addition to sporting a first class cabin, the aircraft also features Singapore Airlines’ long-haul business class product configured in a 1 – 2 – 1 layout. This represents quite an upgrade from the 2 – 2 – 2 ‘regional’ business class seating on the three other daily services (SQ600, SQ602 and SQ608) that Singapore Airlines offer on this route.
Before flying SQ16 in first class, we visited Singapore Airlines’ premier lounge offering, The Private Room (we’ve reviewed The Private Room before). We elected not to eat in the lounge, expecting to be well fed on-board.
At Singapore’s Changi Airport, all security checks are done at the gate – and there is no priority for premium passengers at any of Singapore Airlines’ gates. When flying Singapore Airlines out of its hub, we prefer to arrive at the gate either on or slightly after boarding time so as to avoid any lengthy screening lines.
Once on-board we were shown to our seat, 1A. The menu was already laid out for us to look over, although the crew confirmed our pre-ordered meal through Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook service and immediately furnished a pre-departure beverage.
The seat itself is one of the widest in the sky and compares well to other competing cabins in the sky.
The first class cabin itself seats only 8 passengers in a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration. From our seat, we could quite easily see the rest of passengers in row 1.
Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER first class cabin does lack the privacy of its A380 Suites Class seats, but for personal space it certainly beats out airlines like Qantas, Lufthansa and even Emirates – the latter feeling almost cramped when the doors to the suite are closed.
In our opinion, the illusion of privacy is not as important as having a spacious and perfectly comfortable seat for a long-haul flight.
It is important to note that the completion of a cabin refresh program over the next year will see the first class cabin on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER aircraft shrink to only four seats (making way for the introduction of a premium economy cabin). Refreshed first class seats are welcome as the cabin is starting to show its age, but we expect this 50% reduction in first class seats will seriously affect the availability of discounted first class seats and KrisFlyer mileage redemptions.
As is the trend in long-haul first class cabins these days, the first class cabin itself has no overhead bins. All carry-on luggage must be stored underneath the ottoman at your seat. If your bag does not fit the crew will store it in an available locker for you.
Clearly leg room is no issue at this seat. The seat is extremely wide at 35″, perhaps even uncomfortably wide for sitting. Singapore Airlines have attempted to counteract this by placing an added cushion between the passenger and the armrest. Perhaps Cathay Pacific’s solution to the same issue is more elegant – a fold down cushion built into the chair.
Underneath the armrest, on the side closest to the aisle, are the entertainment handset and seat controls. It’s all quite self-explanatory – and its great to see user-friendly seat controls.
The armrest was clearly well worn. Little blemishes like these certainly detract from what should be an otherwise stellar product.
On the other side of the seat, there are power and USB ports, along with an RCA port to display video from a compatible device to the screen at your seat.
The first and business class cabins that have been refreshed have an HDMI port at each seat. While we were not on one of those refreshed aircraft, its worth noting that we have yet to actually see a passenger connect their device to play video.
We had expected an amenity pack and pyjamas to be handed out on this flight. That didn’t happen – only a pair of slippers and a small bag containing earplugs and an eyeshade.
Like Air China on the same aircraft type, the tray table slides out from underneath the TV. Unlike Air China, the tray table is also height adjustable – definitely a useful feature.
Singapore Airlines serve 2004 Dom Pérignon along with Champagne Krug. We chose Krug for this flight.
Few airlines offer Krug in their first class cabins. Qatar Airways go as far as to serve it on-board in their A380 bar (including to business passengers using the bar).
The TV screen, at 23″ is one of the larger screens available in the air at the moment, matching the same size offered in Singapore Airline’s A380 Suites Class product.
Here was the menu for our flight:
Shortly after take off we were offered a canapé serving of Singapore Chicken and Mutton Satay. Not quite up to the same standard as Malaysia Airlines for satay, but still a solid dish. The mutton was definitely not as good as the chicken. The spicy peanut sauce could’ve also done with a bit more of a kick.
After the canapé, a flight attendant asked when we would like our pre-ordered meal served. Our request to eat as soon as possible was met with resistance, with a suggestion to eat an hour and a half into the flight. While lunch was the only meal service on this six hour twenty-minute flight, we would still have preferred to dine earlier to allow for more sleep.
Some nuts and biscuits were offered to tide us over, along with more Champagne Krug.
Eventually, the meal service for lunch began. We found the garlic bread (which has previously been excellent on other flights with this airline) to be poor on this occasion. It lacked flavour and was a little dry.
As an appetiser, we ordered the Aspic of Braised Beef Cheek and Foie Gras Terrine. This was a terrible dish. Nowhere on the menu was it mentioned that it was served cold, and by that we mean ice cold. With no hyperbole, we say that the vegetables were barely above frozen.
While this is the intended style for this dish as a cold terrine, it isn’t intended that it will be basically inedible. After a couple of bites of the beef so that we had at least tried the dish, we sent it back.
With this dish Singapore Airlines are fast approaching Lufthansa first class meals. We have found Lufthansa’s offerings to be sometimes overly complicated – almost as if they were just for decoration, rather than consumption.
After the appetiser, we had a serving of the Endive and Onion Cream Soup. This was excellent. Whilst some soups on planes are served over-salted, this was flavoured perfectly and had just the right amount of chicken.
For our main meal, we had ordered from Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook service. This turned out to be a mistake.
We had ordered the Wagyu Sirloin with Eringi Mushroom, which is described as “Wagyu sirloin with baked eringi mushroom marinated with truffle, garlic and sake, yuzu and light soy sauce, accompanied by green beans and jalapeño salsa, served with steamed rice”.
That sounds excellent, but in practice it was far from it. While our stewardess had asked how we would like the meat cooked, our meal was well over the medium-rare that we requested.
As a result, the meat was over-cooked and had a grainy texture to it, which ruined the meat. The accompanying jalapeño salsa was excellent though and did help stymie the suffering piece of wagyu.
We’d ordered the same meal through Book The Cook when we flew from Singapore to Hong Kong in Suites Class. On that flight, it was exceptional. The inconsistency is peculiar given that both flights depart from Singapore so the crew would have had the same base inputs supplied by catering to work with.
We certainly don’t always expect great things from steaks on a plane, but we expect a higher standard than this in first class on one of the world’s premier airlines.
For dessert, we ordered the Selection of Haagen Dazs Frozen Desserts. This was fantastic and we would happily order this again in future.
After our meal, the crew offered to make up our bed so we could get a few hours sleep before arriving into Seoul-Incheon. In Singapore Airlines’ longhaul first and business class, the back of the seat folds down to produce a fully-flat dedicated sleeping surface.
This offers little opportunity to recline during the flight if you were not planning on sleeping. It’s really all or nothing which can be frustrating.
However, they do go to the effort of offering a larger pillow which makes sitting upright to watch a movie an option after the bed is made up.
When all is said and done, though, the bed is extremely wide and comfortable. We managed to get around 3 hours sleep on our way to Seoul-Incheon (which is about half the flight length), leaving us refreshed for the late afternoon arrival.
On arrival into Seoul-Incheon, Singapore Airlines do not offer any fast track services so bear in mind that if you are arriving on this service there may be some wait at immigration due to the volume of inbound flights at that time. We waited around 40 minutes before eventually making it through.
Our previous experiences with Singapore Airlines up front have been thoroughly enjoyable but this particular flight was less than stellar.
Certainly if we’re to compare competing products between Singapore and Seoul, Singapore Airlines have the premium product on this route. This flight, SQ16, continues on to San Francisco and this first leg from Singapore to Seoul almost felt like an afterthought.
The cabin is also starting to show its age – though Singapore Airlines are addressing this as part of a cabin refresh program on this aircraft type, expected to be completed in September 2016.