Singapore to Manchester – which is newly direct, replacing the former route that stopped in Munich on the way to Manchester. The Manchester flight now continues on, somewhat bizarrely, to Houston.
Airbus A350-900. Singapore Airlines has nine of these in its fleet, and another 58 on order.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Krisflyer – although this acts as a codeshare with both Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, so points can be allocated to their respective schemes.
Business, in seat 16K.
A scheduled 14 hours, 25 minutes, but it lands 20 minutes early.
Five times a week.
The leather seats – which are being rolled out across the whole Singapore Airlines long haul fleet – line up in a 1-2-1 formation and each one feels like a chunky, self-contained fortress. There’s a 60-inch (152cm) pitch, and 28-inch (71-centimetre) – more than enough to comfortably wriggle around in. There are also lots of little storage cubby holes around it, plus several adjustable lights and easily jabbed recline controls.
The allowance of 40 kilograms for checked baggage – spread across as many cases as you like – is relatively generous. The carry-on allowance of two pieces, with a maximum weight of seven kilograms a piece, seems on the stingy side though. I take on one that is significantly more than that, but it’s not weighed, so rigorous enforcement doesn’t seem to be a priority.
In the seated position, it’s hard to imagine business class done better. It feels more like a little room than merely a seat. Converting it to a lie-flat bed is a conundrum that nearly everyone requires assistance with. As with all business class beds, there are compromises, and here it’s a lack of mattress-like cushioning plus forcing the feet into a small gap at the end rather than letting them spread free.
Socks, blankets, eye masks and slippers are provided, although oddly ear plugs aren’t – which doesn’t matter too much as the A350 is extraordinarily quiet.
The 18-inch LCD screen is hugely impressive, as is the intuitive touchscreen handset which makes you feel like airlines have finally joined the smartphone era. The movie selection is large – I count 407 – but the new releases are a bit underwhelming, which is probably more Hollywood’s fault. The TV selection is fabulous though, with several complete seasons, including Westworld, Game of Thrones and – the one that keeps me going most of the flight – Veep.
A highly satisfying tournedos steak in mushroom sauce wins out of the three dinner options, and while the accompanying vegetables look a little mushy, they’ve enough firmness in the bite. The nasi lemak for breakfast is a winner, too. You would be perfectly happy with both meals in, say, a hotel restaurant.
The drinks options don’t quite match up to the food – two red wines (including a feisty Robert Oatley shiraz), two whites, a selection of cocktails that seems obsessed with using 7-Up as an ingredient. And the beer selection – Heineken, Tiger or Budweiser – is lazily poor.
Singapore Airlines has a long-standing reputation for service, and it is smooth efficiency that is the hallmark rather than concerted friendliness. That said, the gimmick of addressing every customer by name is clearly drilled in. Most crew are doing their first Manchester flight, so are a little unsure of the food and drink options, but they check when asked and promptly return with an answer.
ONE MORE THING
You can link your electronic devices to the screen if you wish, while extra connectivity comes with the in-flight Wi-Fi, which works remarkably smoothly and costs $US21.95 for the whole flight.
Reputation matters – Singapore Airlines is often regarded as the best in the business, and with good reason. The A350 experience lives up to expectation – and it’s particularly impressive from a technological point of view. The overall feeling is of a five-star luxury chain hotel, rather than an edgy boutique joint, though – reliable excellence wins over personality. And letting the hair down occasionally, even if it’s just by sticking a craft beer option on the menu, could make it even more impressive.
Disclosure: David Whitley was a guest of Singapore Airlines and Visit Victoria.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of the article listed the seat pitch and width as 60cm and 28cm, instead of 60 inches and 28 inches.
See also: The best business class seats revealed
More airline reviews:
American Airlines: Service is efficient, but rather brusque
Jetstar: Business class to Japan, great value and comfort
Read more Traveller airline reviews here
Listen: Flight of Fancy – the Traveller.com.au podcast with Ben Groundwater
To subscribe to the Traveller.com.au podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here.