Singapore Airlines needs to offer consistency if it’s to continue to compete with the region’s leading carriers, discovers Nick Walton.
SQ279 Singapore to Adelaide
As I was passing through Singapore on my way to Adelaide, I was already checked in for my onward journey and made my way directly to the Silverkris Lounge at Changi’s Terminal 3. The expansive lounge is elegantly-appointed but was almost at capacity, making finding a quiet corner a little tricky. I opted to first use the shower facilities, which are pretty stock standard. The lounge features comfortable lounge and table seating, a rather forgettable hot buffet, and well-stocked self-service drinks stations but as it was quite a distance from my gate, B3, I left a little early; I needn’t have bothered as boarding was delayed by 25 minutes.
I admit I’d not flown Singapore Airlines since 2004 but effective advertising campaigns over the last decade had me believing that SQ possessed a cutting-edge fleet on which comfort was assured. Yet the A330 we boarded was surprisingly dated and a significant step down from the A380 I’d arrived in Singapore on (of our four flights with SQ that week, three featured this older business class product). While each seat in the 30-seat 2-2-2 configured business class cabin features sufficient storage space, USB and AC ports and a sizable monitor, it has virtually no privacy, clunky, rather pointless draws in the seatback, and that nicotine-stained yellowish plastic feel I associate with a generation of aircraft rarely found in Asia.
I also found it curious that, on a night service, on a route on which Cathay Pacific flies its brand new A350, SQ would task a business class product sans lie-flat seat. I’m rather spoiled; it had been a long while since I flew on an angled business class seat and my hopes of a great night’s sleep, like those portrayed in the TV ads, quickly vaporized into the overly hot cabin air. I felt especially stupid when, after tapping expectantly, I realized the screen wasn’t touch sensitive either, although it should be noted that the airline does have plans to put its 787 aircraft on several Australian routes but hasn’t said when.
Living up to the hype of the SQ ad campaigns was the crew who, despite the late hour, were cheerful and efficient, welcoming us onboard with glasses of Charles Heidsieck champagne, cool towels, and menus. After takeoff, cabin crew were quick to offer pre-dinner drinks and a meal service, understanding that many passengers were keen to make the most of the six-hour flight time to sleep. The immaculately uniformed crew also remained attentive throughout the flight, which is increasingly rare these days.
Singapore Airlines offers two menus on its red-eye flight to Adelaide. The main dinner menu started with an appetizer of smoked duck breast with dried apricot compote and mesclun salad, followed by a choice of seared sea bream fillet with sautéed Jerusalem artichoke and spinach; wok-fried chicken in a preserved black bean sauce with Chinese greens; seared tournedos of beef with roasted vegetables and a thyme jus; and masala lamb with sautéed lotus root, yellow dal and cumin rice. The duck was succulent and refreshing while the chicken was tangy and perfectly proportioned. I skipped the offered strawberry tart and leche ice cream in preference for a cheese board of French brie and Bleu D’Auvergne.
In addition to the main menu a Sleeper Service selection, designed to be served at the beginning or end of the flight, was also offered, and included a choice of a smoked salmon and cream cheese croissant; Nasi Lemak with coconut rice and spicy prawns; a selection of steamed dim sum; and scrambled egg with cheese, veal sausage and roesti potatoes.
Singapore Airlines has long been known for its wine selection and this flight was no different, with a New Zealand Wairau Sauvignon Blanc, an Australian Coldstream Hills Chardonnay, and a French Chateau Larose Perganson Cru Bourgeois Haut Medoc all making the extensive wine list. These were complemented by coffee from Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatemala, and no less than nine tea blends.
Despite the dated business class product shattering my own dated perceptions of the airline, the Singapore Airlines crew came through with flying colours, offering the world-class service I still recall from my precious flight 14 years earlier. When SQ adds the 787 on its Adelaide service carriers like Cathay Pacific will have some stiff competition.
Hong Kong to Adelaide return in business class from US$3,550 per person. www.singaporeair.com
Note: The author travelled on a fully paid business class ticket without the airline’s knowledge
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