Singapore Airlines “Old” A380 Business Class Melbourne to Singapore Review
- Professional and friendly crew
- Fast and extensive meal service
- Dated seat design
- Onboard Wi-Fi could be improved
Singapore Airlines' old A380 business class is a well-polished onboard experience, tarnished only by a dated seat design.
I recently embarked on a trip to the US and opted to book my outbound award ticket with Singapore Airlines, owing to the generous award space offered by the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program.
Between Melbourne and Singapore, Singapore's flag carrier operates five daily services, which feature three different business class seat products between them. The focus of this review will be centred around the old Airbus A380 seat product which debuted in 2007.
Table of contents
Flight number: SQ 218
Aircraft Type: Airbus A380-800
Route: Melbourne (MEL) to Singapore (SIN)
Class: Business Class
Booking with points
This flight formed the first leg of my award ticket from Melbourne to Los Angeles via Singapore, priced at 110,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles one way in business class. Should you wish to book a flight directly between Singapore and any of Australia's main east coast cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra), the cost is 62,000 miles (as of 24 January 2019). Despite booking my seat with relatively short notice (around one and a half months before departure), I still managed to find several dates with open award seats.
Melbourne to Singapore award booking
The KrisFlyer miles I used to book this ticket were acquired from the following two sources:
1. Transferred from American Express Membership Rewards (Gateway)
I earned 100,000 Membership Rewards points from a sign-up bonus on the American Express Explorer Credit Card, which I transferred to KrisFlyer at a 4:3 rate, converting to 75,000 KrisFlyer miles.
2. Transferred from Velocity Frequent Flyer
I transferred just over 47,000 Velocity Points directly to my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account, which converted at a 1.35:1 ratio into 35,000 KrisFlyer miles. Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia have a very unique tie-up where you can transfer points directly between each of their frequent flyer programs (a link-up not seen anywhere else). Note that as of 1 January 2019, the transfer rate has now been increased to 1.55:1.
The particular combo of flight segments and dates I intended to book was not showing on the KrisFlyer website, even though I confirmed there was available award space inventory on each individual segment. To bypass this problem, I contacted the Singapore Airlines call centre at 02 8228 1188 and requested for an agent to ticket the itinerary manually over the phone. The call centre agent was very knowledgeable and professional, and within five minutes had compiled my desired flight segments into a single itinerary for me.
START PLANNING YOUR OWN POINTS JOURNEY
Singapore Airlines business class flights can be booked using KrisFlyer miles or Velocity Points. You can also transfer Amex Membership Rewards points and some credit card rewards points into both programs. Check out the guides below for more information.
Check-in for my flight took place at Melbourne Airport's new self-serve check-in areas, where airport staff were on hand to assist with bag drop procedures. There are also traditional staffed counters for those who may need extra assistance.
Melbourne Airport Singapore Airlines business class check-in
Business class passengers departing out of Melbourne Airport on Singapore Airlines are granted access to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, located in the basement of Terminal 2, which is notorious for its lack of natural light and tarmac views.
Melbourne Airport Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge entrance
The business class section of the lounge felt somewhat cramped, due to both the lack of windows and limited floor space afforded to this lounge. This feeling was exacerbated as the lounge almost reached capacity during my late evening visit.
Melbourne Airport Singapore Airline SilverKris Lounge business class section
Given the small footprint of the lounge, I was pleased to find the options for food and drink quite plentiful.
Melbourne Airport Singapore Airline SilverKris Lounge food
Boarding commenced on time from Gate 16A, which is 1 of Melbourne Airport's A380-equipped gates, where there were 3 aerobridges available. Two aerobridges were available for lower deck passengers; one for suites class, one for economy class and one for all upper deck business and economy class passengers.
Melbourne Airport business class boarding queue
Business class cabin
Singapore Airlines has termed this overnight red-eye flight a "sleeper service", where meal service is reduced and streamlined in order to maximise restful sleep time for passengers.
The aircraft operating my flight was a 10-year-old Airbus A380-800, delivered to Singapore Airlines in mid-2009.
Business class was in a 1-2-1 configuration, with each row of seats alternating in tan and dark brown upholstered leather.
Singapore Airlines A380 business class
Each seat converts to a fully flat bed with direct aisle access available for each passenger. This particular A380 configuration features a small economy class cabin at the rear of the upper deck, immediately behind the business class cabin.
Dark brown leather seats
Unlike other A380 operators, Singapore Airlines doesn't boast an onboard bar or lounge space across any of its superjumbo fleet, with the focus instead on maximising passenger capacity.
I selected a window seat in the last row of the main business class cabin, as all other window seats had already been assigned.
My seat, 27A
The seat itself is extremely generous in width at 30 inches (75cm wide), still retaining the title of being one of the widest seats in the sky. It was almost wide enough to seat two people of my size side by side. In upright mode, there's ample leg room for even the tallest passengers, with a storage space immediately underneath the seat in front big enough to accommodate a large backpack.
Business class seat forward-facing view
This seat's core design is largely identical to newer iterations of Singapore Airlines' long-haul business class seat products, where the footwell of each forward-facing pod is set at an angle and off to one side. The seat shell extends forwards slightly at the top above shoulder level, acting as a privacy shield from the aisle and other passengers.
1-2-1 seating configuration
Each seat features a 15.4-inch entertainment screen, flanked on either side by enclosed storage compartments, a universal charge socket, USB charge ports, a flip-top cocktail table and a backlit vanity mirror.
Mobile phone storage compartment and power points
2x USB charge ports and AC power points
Pre-departure orange juice
Fold-down vanity mirror
In addition, two coat hooks are located at the top-most corners of the seatback.
Controls for the seat are located in the armrest closest to the aisle and operate at the press of a button. This seat's ability to recline is somewhat restricted, because the base of the seat merely slides forwards and backwards as opposed to tilting backwards to cradle the entire body.
Stowed away in the armrest was a very large tray table, large enough to comfortably accommodate a full-size laptop and a drink on the side. The space between the left armrest and the window housed two storage bins, which provided ample space to store blankets, additional pillows and other large belongings when not in use.
Large storage compartment #1
Take note that these are only available in the window seats and not in centre seats, where there's little storage space available.
Large storage compartment #2
Socks, eyeshades and slippers, along with a cushion and pillow, were available at my seat upon boarding. In an attempt to reduce wastage, Singapore Airlines doesn't offer amenity kits to passengers, instead offering a full range of toiletries in the lavatories on board.
Socks, eyeshades, slippers and cushions available at each seat
Immediately after settling into my seat, I was welcomed aboard by the purser. Hot towels, pre-departure beverages and bottles of water were also handed out during boarding.
Pre-departure orange juice
The major design quirk which sets this seat apart revolves around its conversion to a fully flat bed. The backrest is unlatched from the seat shell by way of a small handle located immediately behind the headrest. The backrest then folds down and forwards, with the rear padded surface of the seat joining with the foot cubby to form the bed.
Seat with backrest folded forwards into bed mode
As this is not a staggered seating configuration, each row of seats is identical with the exception of the bulkhead seats at the front of the cabin. These bulkhead seats allow more space for sleeping as your legs are not confined to a narrow footwell unlike all other seats. If comfort is a high priority, aim to select a bulkhead seat where available.
At 1.8m tall, I found the bed to be long enough for my height, despite the sleeping angle feeling somewhat awkward initially. I also found the mattress padding to be adequate for restful sleep, though the most significant issue affecting my comfort was a very noticeable kink in the mattress padding just below shoulder height, which was somewhat difficult to get used to.
Singapore Airlines' onboard entertainment system, KrisWorld, has an endless variety of video and audio content that can keep any passenger captivated for hours. The range of video content is quite extensive, with content available to suit all demographics, including kids' movies, TV shows, documentaries and films in a number of different languages. Altogether there are around 300 pieces of video content available for viewing, which is more than adequate for most long-haul flights. This is all displayed on a 15.4-inch widescreen.
15.4-inch entertainment screen
Onboard Wi-Fi is also available on Singapore Airlines, exclusively on the A380, A350, B777-300ER and B787-10 aircraft. With most of its older A380s and B777-300ER aircraft, the Wi-Fi service is provided by OnAir, with business class passengers entitled to a very small complimentary data allowance of 30MB.
Complimentary Wi-Fi allowance
Additional data allowances can be purchased, with the pricing laid out as follows:
- 15MB for US$6.99
- 30MB for US$12.99
- 50MB for US$19.99
I didn't have an opportunity to trial the Wi-Fi capability, but the small data allowances provided to passengers make this service largely unusable for anything beyond email usage and instant messaging.
A revered signature hallmark of Singapore Airlines is its onboard dining experience. Despite this flight being a supper service with limited catering, there were three supper options available from the onboard menu, as well as two breakfast options for those who preferred to have their meal closer to landing instead of immediately after departure.
Onboard business class menu
This is in addition to the nine meal options available through the "Book the Cook" pre-order menu for flights departing from Melbourne. The Book the Cook service allows premium cabin passengers to pre-select their main meal prior to departure, which opens up an incredible array of meal options from a multitude of cuisines.
Business class Book the Cook options available departing from Melbourne
Meal service commenced shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off. I selected the grilled beef with green peppercorn sauce supper dish from the Book the Cook menu, served with seasonal vegetables and gratin potatoes.
Grilled beef fillet with green peppercorn sauce
The beef was succulent, tender and not overcooked like I had feared would be the case, instead served right on medium to medium well.
Beef cooked medium to medium well
For those wanting to pair their supper with a glass of bubbly, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is on offer, alongside two options of white wine and two options of red wine. Singapore Airlines also boasts the famous Singapore Sling as the highlight of its cocktail menu. An extensive tea selection from TWG and coffee menu by illycaffe is available for those seeking a non-alcoholic beverage.
Supper was followed up by a palate-cleansing bowl of fruit, containing a colourful mix of sliced orange, cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries and kiwi fruit.
Fresh seasonal fruit bowl
Each dish was plated meticulously and set out with great care. Although Singapore Airlines doesn't offer a dine-on-demand service, instead executing meal services at set times, the crew were extremely proactive in ensuring plates were cleared promptly and glasses never went empty.
Verdict: Shing's Singapore Airlines flight rating: ★★★★★☆
Singapore Airlines is renowned for its fantastic cabin crew and stellar onboard product. This flight was no exception. The crew were professional and friendly in their interactions, the meal service executed swiftly and menu choices were extensive.
The airline has room for improvement in its onboard Wi-Fi offering, especially given the steep pricing and poor value in contrast with its competitors.
Its old A380 seat product and cabin interior is also beginning to show its age, with the flat bed posing problems owing to the awkward sleeping angle and disjointed seat padding. These problems will only be resolved once all A380s are retrofitted with the newer seat product.
Regardless, the many polished aspects of Singapore Airlines' offering outweighed the handful of minor inconveniences I experienced throughout my flight.
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