For my final leg home from Shanghai on a weekend trip, I took advantage of Singapore Airlines’ Spontaneous Escapes offer last month and redeemed a one-way business class seat from Shanghai to Singapore at 27,300 miles.
The usual redemption rate is 39,000 miles each way in business class for PVG-SIN, so this was pretty good value.
I’ve not tried Singapore Airlines’ latest business seat product that was launched in 2017, so I was looking forward to reviewing this seat.
For those who are familiar with SIA’s Spontaneous Escapes, this is a monthly offer which offer select cabins on certain routes at a 30% discount for travel in the following month. SIA’s China services, including Beijing and Shanghai, tend to always be on offer.
SQ operates out of Terminal 2 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, along with most other Star Alliance carriers including Air China, Thai Airways and United Airlines. Check-in was relatively fuss free, with three dedicated business class check-in counters, so there was hardly any queue.
While there is not a dedicated immigration lane for business class passengers, there was one for security screening right after immigration. The immigration lines can get pretty backed up, so arrive early.
Singapore Airlines does not have its own lounge in Pudong, so guests are directed to the Air China business class lounge.
The flight was scheduled to depart at 1625, and boarding commenced about half an hour earlier. As usual, passengers in suites and business class, as well as PPS members, were invited to board first.
Singapore Airlines deploy an assortment of aircraft on the four times daily Singapore-Shanghai service, including the Boeing 777-300ER, A380 and A330. The service frequency and aircraft type also varies during different times of the year depending on demand.
For the A380, Singapore Airlines is currently undergoing a fleet refurbishment process to install their newest seats and suites. As such, SQ has three different variants at the moment for the A380, given it’s taking time to refurbish the fleet.
Luckily for me, the A380 I was on today was the type with the latest seat products, including the new suites.
On this configuration of A380, there are 6 suites, 78 business class seats, 44 premium economy and 343 economy class seats. The suites and business cabins are on the upper deck, while the premium economy and economy class seats are located on the lower main deck.
The load today was pretty light. Out of 78 seats, the cabin was less than half full with about 34 passengers in business class. My choice of seat for the day was all the way at the rear, at seat 91D.
Singapore Airlines introduced this seat along with the new suites when they refurbished the aircraft in 2017, 10 years after taking in their first A380. In this new configuration, the business class seats and suites are located on the upper deck, with the six suites in front, and the 78 business class seats taking the rest of the upper deck.
The good thing with it is that they can actually do concurrent boarding and disembarking of both decks, although that some passengers in premium cabins may not like that idea, given after all, they love the priority.
The 78 business class seats are spread across three main cabins on the seat map, although in reality the rear two cabins are visually just one. The ‘mini cabin’
Most passengers will like to be at the front of the cabin, but I figured that the rear will be rather empty given the light load. True enough, upon boarding, the cabin crew told me that there was only six passengers in the rear cabin, and I was free to change my seats if I so wanted to.
Now, the seat. The Singapore Airlines 2017 Business Class seats (2017J) measures 25 inches across, and can be fully reclined into a flat bed. In the bed mode, the bed runs about 78 inches head to toe.
The seat also features a larger privacy shell so that you get more privacy from the aisle.
At the time of its launch, Singapore Airlines also mischievously marketed the business class seats as best in class for couples travelling together, featuring a ‘double bed’ in the new business class configuration, as exemplified by this marketing imagery:
However, the reality is that there are only three such pairs of seats available on each flight, which are seats D & G (middle seats) on the bulkhead rows of 11, 91 and 96.
The only reason why they can be formed into a ‘double bed’ is because these are the only seats that has a full-width footrest area. The other seats all have a side cubbyhole, so when the seat is fully reclined into a bed, the footrest angles away from the middle.
Even for three ‘double beds’, note that there is still a hard divider that can be drawn all the way down to bed-level when both are reclined into bed positions. However, the mattress topper will not be able to fully cushion the gap, you will still be able to feel it if you lie across it.
Note that seats 91D & G are bassinet positions, so they can’t be reserved in advance until 48 hours before the flight. Even then there is a chance you might be moved, if there’s a infant that pops up last minute.
All of the seats have a side table that separates the seat from the aisle. While that means that the middle pair of seats are side by side, there is a retractable divider that you can put up if you are travelling alone.
Storage wise, the seat does have several spaces for you to store personal items around the seat. There is some space under the seat in front of you for a small suitcase or a backpack, so for most travellers there no need to use the overhead compartments.
As for overhead storage, note that there are no overhead storage compartments for the middle seats, so if you need to stow something, it has to be above the window seats.
At the back of the side table, there is a small compartment for storing personal , which is also equipped with a USB charging socket. If you need a power socket, it’s available in front of you just below or beside the IFE screen.
At the side of seat near the foot area is also a magazine rack, along with a bottle holder. There’s enough space to also stow a slim laptop if you wish.
At the side of the seat just below the side table is a control panel for the seat. Unlike previous versions of SIA business class seats, the 2017 version is now fully control by electronics. The seat can be fully converted to a bed at a touch of button, although you can still trouble a cabin crew to do it for you if you prefer that personal touch.
There is also a thin mattress topper and a blanket, although they are all rather thin, so that means that you will be sleeping on a firm bed.
The service was rather attentive today, as the cabin was pretty empty. I was greeted by name, and the cabin crew also knew my preferences after I stated it once.
When I boarded, the cabin crew quickly came around offering a pre-departure drink. Unfortunately they didn’t offer any champagne, so I settled for a sparkling water.
After doors have closed, another cabin crew came around to take orders for a pre-meal drink. I opted for some decaf coffee given it was relatively late in the day, which was promptly brought to me right after take off.
Shortly after that, they brought around the famed Singapore Airlines canapes of lamb and chicken satay, which I thought signaled the start of the meal service.
Surprisingly, I was asked by the cabin crew at that point if I will like to have dinner at 6pm or 6.30pm, given it was rather early in the evening. I thought this was a very nice touch, rather than just assume that everyone wanted to eat right at the beginning of the flight.
Given the flight duration of five hours, there was only going to be a meal service for the flight. Soon enough, 6.30pm rolled by and the cabin crew came around to lay out the tablecloth and cutlery in preparation for dinner. I was offered a drink once again to go with my meal, and I decided on a red wine, the Chianti.
Now a bit about SIA’s menu: on their China-bound flights, there is one special menu available, Shi Quan Wei Mei, a special Chinese feast designed by a celebrity chef.
According to the in-flight menu, each dish is made using locally sourced ingredients that are in season.
The menu for Shi Quan Wei Mei reads as follow:
Marinated Cucumber and Shimeiji Mushrooms
Red Pepper Pork Roll and Watercress Pine Nuts in Bean Skin
Prawns in Pickled Chilli Sauce
with stir fried kai lan and purple sweet potato rice
Warm Soy Bean Milk with Tofu Skin and Pigeon Egg
If Chinese food is not your style, there’s also the regular menu for your perusal:
Singapore Chicken and Lamb Satay
Salad of Smoked Salmon
with grilled vegetables and herb vinaigrette
Main Course: choice of
Grilled Cumin Spiced Lamb Ribs with Lemon Thyme Sauce
Sauteed Prawn in Tomato Coriander Sauce
Wok Fried Chicken with bamboo shoots and chives, Chinese greens and fried noodles
Haagen Dazs Strawberry Ice Cream
Selection of Cheese
Fruit from the Basket
Assorted Bread Rolls and Gourmet Breads
Coffee and Tea
The appetiser was served up pretty swiftly. The smoked salmon wasn’t memorable, but I really enjoyed the grilled vegetables as they were pretty crunchy yet juicy. Not a fan of the leafy bits so I left those alone.
And of course, the garlic bread is always such a treat.
As I wasn’t particularly hungry, I went for the prawn for my main course. Usually I’m pretty skeptical of prawns as a main dish, given that sometimes that can mean only one single prawn, as mentioned in the menu.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with the portions this time round. There was a hearty serving of de-shelled prawns, with a side of vegetables and couscous. The prawns were well flavoured and it’s still pretty substantial, despite being labeled as a low carb option.
My empty plate was removed not too long after I was done, and I was again offered a refill of my wine, which I gladly accepted. The dessert of ice cream (one of my favourites) was also brought to me at this time.
Unlike Cathay Pacific who serves the ice-cream in its original single-serve tub, Singapore Airlines scoops the ice cream into a bowl, and often garnish it with either biscuit crumbs or some sauce. Personally I actually prefer it to be in the tub, because for some reason when it is scooped out it tends to melt faster.
In-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi
Singapore Airlines equips the 2017 business class seat with an 18-inch Panasonic screen. As I was sitting at a bassinet-available seat, the screen was significantly higher than my eye level when I’m seated to cater space for the bassinet. If people behind me were to stand up, they will be able to see what I’m watching!
The KrisWorld IFE is pretty world-class, containing a good array of international selection. Note that Singapore Airlines have two IFE systems running through its entire aircraft fleet, and fortunately the A380s have the newer Panasonic ones with a far larger library, inluding over 300 movies and 700 TV shows.
In terms of Wifi, Singapore Airlines offers them on the A350 and A380 fleets as well as select 777-300ER aircraft. In case you haven’t heard, Singapore Airlines now offers unlimited free wifi for its suites and first class passengers, and a reasonable 100MB allowance for passengers in business class, as well as its PPS members.
If you need more than the 100MB given to you, you can purchase additional data limit at the following prices:
- 30MB – USD3.99
- 100MB – USD9.99
- 200MB – USD15.99
The prices are definitely not cheap, and SIA no longer offers time-based wifi access.
I barely touched the in-flight wifi, as I usually prefer to stay disconnected when I’m flying. Having said that, this is a good consideration if you prefer to work on your flight, and 100MB is sufficient for basic email exchanges, or for your basic messaging apps.
I must say I really enjoyed this flight and the seat was more than comfortable for this five-hour journey back home.
The seat pretty much works for me. I personally prefer seats with electronic mechanisms, so that I can operate the seat myself without troubling a member of the crew. On previous versions of the business class seats that require manual handling, I often find myself waiting a tad too long for my seat to be converted into a bed.
While some critics may feel that the seat is a distinct departure from the generous width that SIA had in its previous generations of business class seats, I think they are sufficient and pretty within standards of many other airlines’ business class seats.
If there’s one thing that’s lacking, it’s with the amenity kits. SIA is one of the few airlines that doesn’t provide an amenity kit for their business class passengers, although everything you need in the kit is either provided to you at your seat (e.g. eye shades and slippers), or available in the lavatories (e.g. toothbrush).
The service was very attentive, given the relatively light load for the evening. The meal service was again impeccable, but the quality of food is a far cry from what it used to be, if you ask me. For instance, there are practically no choice for appetisers, dessert, or even the famous satay (what if I don’t eat mutton?).
While I was initially a little hesitant in choosing a seat closer to the back of the plane, but I really liked how empty the cabin was. Even though this means you are one of the last few business class passengers to disembark when you arrive at your destination, but the privacy and attentiveness of the crew more than make up for it.