It’s been a while since I last took a Singapore Airlines business class flight, so when the opportunity presents itself for me to make a redemption booking to Beijing, I decided to try to score a seat on the Boeing 777-300ER, as I have not tried the product before.
In the first instalment of the permanent Spontaneous Escapes, Singapore Airlines ran a very generous offer: redeeming a business class seat at the price of an economy class redemption.
Singapore Airlines operate 4 daily services to Beijing using a mix of aircraft, including the A380 and Boeing 777-300ER. I decided on a Friday evening flight which was operated by the Boeing 777-300ER featuring the 2013 version business class seats.
Arriving at Changi Airport terminal 3, I made my way to the business class check-in counters. As I was checking in, the agent informed me that the aircraft has been changed to a Boeing 777-200 due to “operational requirements”, much to my dismay.
I then went to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge and drowned myself in champagne to ease the pain, before taking a warm shower to warm myself up for the road ahead.
To add salt to the wound, my flight was delayed almost an hour. The newly scheduled time was about half an hour later, but we ended up taking off an hour later.
A little more about the aircraft
The Boeing 777-200 is a two cabin product, featuring 38 business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and 228 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. The business cabin is divided into two sections, a forward cabin between the first two set of doors, and another smaller cabin just ahead of the economy class cabin.
The change of aircraft also means that there’s no first or premium economy class. I wonder what happened to these passengers as a result, would have been a terrible shame to be downgraded.
For a bit of context, this aircraft is mainly plied on regional routes such as Bangkok, Manila and the occasional Hong Kong services. The aircraft is also regularly leased to Scoot to supplement the latter’s Singapore-Sydney services.
Singapore Airlines is progressively phasing this fleet out, most recently retiring the last of the Ultimo seats (Mainly Miles has more details here) in August 2018. The airline now has seven of the Boeing 777-200 left.
The business class product was rolled out in 2009, as a regional business class product. Back in those days, the 2-2-2 configuration stood out amongst competitors who were offering a 2-3-2 (or even 2-4-2) layout.
I was seated in 12A today, the bulkhead window seat. The layout for this aircraft is a little interesting, the middle columns of seats are slightly staggered from columns at the side, so if you turn your head you don’t actually see your neighbours across the aisle. Also, the first row – row 11 – consist of only two middle seats. If you ask me, avoid those seats at all cost because you will end up greeting everyone who comes through the curtains throughout the flight.
The seat measured 20 inches wide, comfortable enough for me to sit cross legged on my seat (bad habit, I know). The seat width is technically narrower than the Emirates 777-300ER seat I had a while back (that one measured 20.5 inches), but this feels a lot roomier. As a bulkhead seat I got too much legroom. I could lie on the floor in front of me if I wanted.
The seat is controlled eletronically, with the ability to recline to an inclined flat bed, which was okay for a day flight nap, but certainly not for a red eye service. The specifications has the seat at an angle of 172 degrees, but that’s also why you have a footrest to stop yourself from sliding down.
In any case, the seat is of course not ideal today, however given the time of introduction 10 years ago, it was a pretty competitive product.
The control panel is hidden under a flap on one of the armrest, and one of the signs of age is that the buttons aren’t that responsive anymore. I almost fractured a finger pressing too hard on the buttons.
When the business cabin has more or less settled in, the crew came around with a hot towel, followed by a round of pre-departure drinks. My choice of poison to start the day was of course another glass of Charles Hensieck champagne.
During the time while the aircraft was still at the bay, the cabin crew also came by to take my beverage order for after take off, as well as to confirm my Book the Cook order.
Given the delayed departure, I barely finished my glass of champagne before it was collected in time for departure.
Once in the air and the seatbelt signs have been switched off, the crew came around quickly with my choice of drink – an Italian red wine, the 2016 Fonatanafredda Briccotondo Piemonte Barbera, Piedmont, Italy.
Not too long after that, meal service began with their signature satay service with a trolley. Each customer receives two sticks of chicken satay and one stick of mutton, although you can request to switch out any of the meats that you don’t eat. The skewers are served with a dressing of peanut sauce, as well as some cucumbers and onions.
I always wondered why the service is designed such that the satays are served before dressing the table for a meal, especially when the peanut sauce can be a potentially messy affair. Of course, no such accident happened to me today as I was extra careful with the sauce, mostly by avoiding it and leaving it on the plate.
After the satay is done with, the cabin crew came by again with another trolley to clear the satay plate, and laid out my table along with serving up the appetiser.
The in-flight manager then came by with the signature bread basket, and without a thought I went for the garlic bread. If you are not a big fan of garlic bread, there are also plenty of other options for you, which comes with butter or olive oil.
After dishing out a slice of the garlic bread to me, she proceeded to advise me of the new arrival time and also proceeded to apologise for the delay again, which I thought was a pretty nice gesture.
Today’s menu read as below:
– Singapore Chicken and Lamb Satay
– Marinated Scallops with shaved fennel citrus salad and lemon basil vinaigrette
– Pan Fried Tournedos of Beef on Shallot Sauce
– Singapore Nasi Lemak
– Skinless Chicken Skewers Served with Barley and Porcini Salad, Light Sage Jus
– Strawberry Cheesecake
Selection of Cheeses
Assorted Bread Rolls and Gourmet Breads
Coffee and Tea
Singapore Airlines in recent times let passengers preview the on-board menu online, so I had seen the main course options earlier in the week. Not impressed with the options, I decided to order a Book the Cook item.
There was no choice of appetisers, so everyone got the scallops. I personally liked the citrus that came with the dish, and the scallops were pretty delicious too.
My Book the Cook order of the Chinese style Cod with Fried Rice was quickly brought to me. As with many beef steaks, I usually have a hit-or-miss affair with fish: it can be overdone and end up dry and tasteless.
As I took my first bite, the fear was unfounded, the cod was still juicy and hot, just like how it usually should. The egg fried rice was on point as well, although nowhere as memorable as the cod. Again, it didn’t take much for me to finish everything.
For the dessert, again there was no options. Not feeling much for a slice of cake, I asked the cabin crew if they had any ice cream on board, which they regretably said no. I decided to then skip dessert and asked for a cup of decaf coffee instead.
The coffee was served shortly, although I was slightly disappointed at how lukewarm it was. Not wanting to kick up a fuss I drank it up anyway while I continued watching my movie. Lucky for them they brought along some pretty delicious pralines.
Shortly after meal service, there came around round of hot towels, which was pretty much appreciative if one was lazy to head to the lavatory to wash hands. Pretty soon enough, all remaining items were cleared, and lights were turned off for those who wanted to nap.
As I was in the bulkhead seat, my in-flight entertainment screen was mounted on the wall in front of me, which I generally prefer as compared to it being stowed in my seat. This preference arises from two concerns: first, it creates less bulk around the seat, secondly, it allows me to watch my shows during take off and landing as well.
Also, given that the screens were now about a decade old, the resolution wasn’t that great, especially at the distance between my seat and the screen mount on the wall, so I had to wear my spectacles to have a better
The headphones provided were noise cancelling, and the excellent condition of it made up for the experience.
I browsed through the KrisWorld magazine and was slightly disappointed with the selection. I for one is not a regular Singapore Airlines customer, so I was pretty much expecting a wider variety of Asian content on the flight. I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch, so I ended up watching Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald.
The Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200 is definitely one to be retired soon. The age on this aircraft is definitely showing: failing seat controls, grainy in-flight entertainment screens and peeling seats. While this is still a great product for regional services under four hours, on slightly longer services, including those to North Asia, this will be pretty unacceptable especially if it’s a red-eye service.
As a solo traveller, I have a strong preference for a 1-2-1 business class cabin given the higher level of privacy, so this configuration of a 2-2-2 cabin is not ideal. I could constantly peek over to my neighbour next door who was reviewing a contract through the flight, so this is also not ideal to get any work done on the flight.
Nonetheless, the service remain tip top, although I do feel that the interaction between the crew and passengers have reduced over the years. I’m not sure if it is due to the profile of the passengers on this flight, or has there been a change to the operating standards.
The equipment change to this product is definitely a bummer for me, and also highlights the issue of product inconsistency of Singapore Airlines: you get world class products on most flights, but there are also the odd occasion you end up with a product like what I had today for uncontrollable reasons.