I have to start out by saying that I’ve been a longtime “lurker” on this forum, and have spent many hours living vicariously through other people’s travels, especially on airlines and in classes I could only ever dream of experiencing myself. So, to everyone on this forum, thank you for sharing!
And now, it’s my turn
I lucked out in getting to try SQ’s “new” business class onboard their even newer A350s. In fact, I got to try it on two back-to-back flights, totaling 30 hours in the air, flying from San Francisco to Singapore and onward to Amsterdam. And, I can positively say that it was, on the whole, a fantastic experience.My crazy routing
ABOUT THE TRIP
To back up a bit, my name is Luca Iaconi-Stewart and I’m that crazy guy who builds airplane miniatures from manila file folders. Last year, I was lucky enough to work on a project with Singapore Airlines, called “No Detail Is Too Small,” which showcased each of their five cabin classes/seat products. I built 1:20 miniatures of the seats and a 1:50 model of their flagship A380 to show that there is in fact no detail too small when it comes to the onboard experience. You can watch the main video here.Here’s some additional info on the project.
This fall, out of the blue, I got an email asking if I might be interested in showing the seat models at a Singapore Airlines pop-up gallery in Amsterdam. How could I say no? This would be the first time any of my models had been exhibited to the public, so it was a true honor to be invited. And, I’d never been to Amsterdam, so that only sweetened the deal. I’d be there for five days, from November 17th to the 22nd, and then fly onward to New York on KLM to join my family for the Thanksgiving holidays here in the US. All in all, it would be a round-the-world routing, flying SFO-SIN-AMS-JFK-SFO.
Interestingly, this would not be my first time flying to Europe the long way—I was desperate to try the A380 when it went into service and flew SFO-HKG-SIN-LHR and back in 2008 on SQ in economy (lots of fun). I’m not a frequent flyer, but I do travel domestically at least a couple times a year… mainly to NY and LA. This year has been a bit of an exception, because in addition to those domestic flights, I also visited a college friend in Belfast in October, which was my first time out of the US in five years. On that trip, I flew LH SFO-FRA-DUB (A388+A321), then EI DUB-LHR (A320), AC LHR-YVR (77W—my first time flying on it even though I’ve been building a detailed model of one for many years!) and AC YVR-SFO (A319). All in all, a fun trip across the pond Y.
This trip—my second to Europe in a month—was a trip of firsts: first time in business, first time on the A350, and first time to Amsterdam. SFO-SIN would also be, far and away, the longest flight of my life, so I was curious to see what 17 hours in the air would be like. I was jittery with anticipation! I should say that I’m not the best person to be doing an objective analysis of SQ’s business class, as I have nothing to compare it to, so keep that in mind. This is more just my opinion of my experience. And now, onto the fun part… the trip itself:SFO-SIN
Equipment: A350-941 (9V-SME)
Date: November 15th, 2016
STD: 9:25AM PST
ATD: 9:58AM PST
STA: 6:40PM SGT
ATA: 6:48PM SGT
Duration: 16 hr 50 min
I woke up super excited and full of energy and headed to SFO on the morning of the 15th. I got there at 8AM and headed to the business class check-in counters. The airport was pretty mellow at this hour. I asked the very nice agent if I’d be able to get a window seat and he said that I’d be getting a window on both flights (!!). I checked my main bag and then he handed me both boarding passes, and to my total surprise, not only had I gotten window seats, but I’d gotten pretty much the best seats in the house: 11A on the first flight an 19K on the second, both of which are bulkhead rows. I was practically speechless. To the magician at SQ who made this happen, thank you!ready to go!nearly had a heart attack when i saw these
With a definite spring in my step, I headed over to security which, at this hour, was a breeze (though I must say SFO almost always is). From there, I headed to my gate, where I got the first view of the beautiful bird that would be taking me almost 17 hours across the Pacific. Still not a huge fan of the A350’s nose, but the wings/sharklets are simply gorgeous.heading to the gatethere she is!so sleekgetting ready for the long flight across the Pacificstill not a huge fan of the nose
I had the option of going to the SilverKris lounge, but I decided against it as the flight was due to board relatively soon and I knew I’d get the chance to try the much larger one in Singapore. I headed down to the gate and took a seat by the nose. Within about 30 minutes, boarding was announced, and I got to experience the feeling of being one of the first to board
As there were two jetways in use, J class passengers boarded through door 1L. An F/A at the door directed me to my seat, which was of course only feet away.boarding
Though I’d built a model of the seat and was intimately familiar with its geometry and functionality, it looked a bit smaller in person than expected. To be fair, it’s still a massive seat, especially for a tall and skinny guy like me who’s only flown in economy, and I had plenty of room to stretch out. What a treat!the seata terrible pic of me in the seatnever had this much space beforereading lights... each one can be turned on individually and brightness is adjustablethe no smoking signs are actually (I think?) small screens, which I've never seen before
As an aside: the seatbelt in J is bizarre: it includes an airbag (??), which adds a considerable amount of heft and takes some getting used to. Not uncomfortable, just a bit bizarre. Not sure the reason for needing this, or how it deploys, or whether other airlines have this ‘feature’.J class seatbelt/airbagforward J class cabin—taken after landing
Initial impressions of the cabin were good—the ceiling seems especially high, giving a sense of spaciousness—though I’m probably in the minority in preferring center bins, as they make the space seem a bit cozier. There’s something odd about having a huge void in the middle of the cabin. Anyway, after putting my bags in the positively monstrous overhead bins, I whipped out my phone and took a photo of the seat. Almost instantly, one of the F/As asked me if I wanted her to take a photo of me, which is when I knew I was in for a treat with the crew on this flight. A few minutes later, she came by with newspapers and magazines, and then another crew member came around with hot towels and pre-departure drinks. I chose tomato juice (my go-to when flying).tomato juice
In the midst of the pre-departure preparations, the captain introduced himself and and announced a flying time of 16 hours 30 minutes—though the actual flight would take almost 30mins longer. A few minutes later, he informed us that the jetbridge wouldn’t move and we’d have to wait for mechanics to come over and check it out. Luckily, about 10 minutes later, we’d pushed back and were on our way.UA land
We made a short taxi to runway 28L and, after a shockingly short takeoff run given we were likely at MTOW, we rocketed into the morning sky.taxiingclimbing effortlessly through the cloud layertracking our ascentgetting there...
Being at the front of the A350 was a crazy experience for me. I’ve flown on the A380 multiple times and am used to relatively quiet planes, but this was just another world. It was disarmingly smooth and quiet, with next-to-no vibration. It felt like we were gliding through the sky. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I have a feeling a lot of it had to do with where I was on the plane, but I also think that Airbus has done a standout job in making an A/C that handles extremely well in the air, even in turbulence. It really didn’t feel like being in a plane at all.
About 20mins after takeoff, drink orders were taken. I opted for champagne (why the f— not?) and canapés were served shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, they weren’t great. No matter, though—I reclined my seat a bit and sipped on the champagne as morning light poured through the window, and thought to myself, my god, what a way to fly! I also cried a small tear as I knew economy class would be permanently ruined for me.champagnetaking it all in... what a way to fly!canapés
About 30mins later, an F/A came around to ask what I’d be having for breakfast (/lunch). I told her I was a bit confused about how the meal service worked and she knelt by my seat and walked me through what was available on this flight. Seriously, she and the other F/A who took my pic in the seat were just spectacular—so attentive, genuinely sweet and incredibly hospitable, with a good sense of humor on top of it all. Anyway, I went with the “oriental breakfast” (strange naming choice if you ask me). About 45 minutes later my table was set and another 15mins later the food served. Must say it was a bit of a long wait, though definitely not the end of the world.the relevant parts of the biz class menu
The food itself was OK… the dumplings and yam cake were quite good, but the seafood congee was bland and I ended up adding salt. Also never got the ‘chinese tea’ that was listed on the menu, but I asked for a green tea which was came out very quickly. In the midst of this all, a fruit and cheese cart came by, but I decided against anything. Seemed like a decent selection though.the novelty of having the table set... so classycertainly looks prettythe congee was disappointing
30mins later I left like something sweet and asked for the coconut panna cotta (delicious).coconut panna cotta
I spent the next several hours reading saved articles on my computer and staring out in amazement at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean in the beautiful afternoon light. The cabin was eventually darkened to allow people to sleep—a bit confused about what timezone they were trying to emulate, but I guess it was the best option as it allowed those who wanted to sleep to get some darkness. 17 hours is a rather long time to spend in the bright light of day. the vast Pacific Ocean... I spy another plane!pretty standard lav
I kept up a steady stream of tea and water of the next several hours as I decided to try one of the truly amazing (for me) features of upper class—the bed! Given that this was a bulkhead seat, there was additional space for your feet, which was nice, and gave you a bit more flexibility to stretch straight out rather than diagonally into the cubby of the seat in front of you. While the bed itself was great, I do have a few (small) criticisms, namely that the quilt they provide could be a tad longer (maybe an extra foot) and the mattress pad could be thicker to give more cushioning. There is a well-designed seatbelt too, though it takes getting used to. Aside from that, it’s really not a bad sleeping experience. The pillows were comfortable too. nutrition+hydrationall tucked intea in bedthe bed
Given that this was still afternoon, though, I couldn’t fall asleep and instead just enjoyed the sheer amount of space available and decided to check out KrisWorld. The screen was decently sized at 18”, even given how far away it was. Unfortunately, as others have noted, there are no exterior cameras, which would have been nice on this daytime flight. The airshow was very good, though, as was the selection of movies. There seemed to be a pretty even ratio of US to international films, and often you were given the choice of alternate audio and subtitle languages. I decided to watch “A Hologram for the King,” which I’d never heard of and quite liked (about a US businessman trying to close a deal in Saudi Arabia and the cultural differences he encounters). One annoyance was that the controller was a bit finicky and sometimes the time elapsed bar wouldn’t auto-hide after I picked up the controller, forcing me to mess around with settings and menus. Hoping this was a fluke rather than the norm. On the plus side, the noise-cancelling headphones were comfortable and cut down significantly on cabin noise.the IFE controller defaults to time remaining, which is nice
About 6 hours into the flight, I decided to take a walk around the cabin to stretch my legs and check out the other classes. The cabins were quite dark, so I couldn’t see much, but I did (unsurprisingly) notice that the cabin/engine noise increased significantly as I walked farther back. The A350 is a quiet plane all around, but there’s a huge difference between ambient noise in the first J class cabin vs the second mini-cabin, near the engines. After making a full loop around the plane, I decided to eat more (I mean, honestly, what else is there really to do on a 17 hour flight?). The noodle bar sounded particularly appealing: you get a choice of noodles and meats/vegetables. I decided to try the pork ribs and Chinese greens with the kway teow noodles. They were served within 10 minutes and were absolutely delicious and hit the spot. The presentation was nice, too, given this was just a “snack.”noodles, round oneabsolutely delicious
After finishing my sizable “snack,” I scanned through the movie selection again and this time settled on a bollywood film called Airlift, about an Indian businessman in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion in 1990 as he tries to evacuate his fellow countrymen.watching Airlift in bed
At about the halfway point of the flight, the cabin was—curiously and very suddenly—lightened in preparation for the second “full” meal service. Again, not sure what timezone they were trying to emulate, but guessing it had to do with them not wanting people to eat in the dark. An F/A came by to ask my preference and I ordered the lamb biryani, which was served within 30min, and was very good. I decided to try eating “in bed” since the seat was still folded down, which proved to be a bit of a challenge but was ultimately doable by folding one leg under the table and stretching the other out. It did require sitting up in the middle of the mattress, as the tray table doesn’t slide back far enough to let you sit back against the seat shell, so it was more of a novelty than anything. Still, fun to try.table settingslamb biryanieating in bed
After the meal service, the cabin was again dimmed to allow people to sleep for the rest of the flight. I decided to try (in vain) to get some rest, as it was now late evening PST. That didn’t happen, so I got up and walked back to the galley to get some snacks. I walked in on an older male F/A (lead purser perhaps? not sure) and his female colleague chatting. They took my order and then asked me if I worked for SQ, as I was apparently listed on the manifest as “staff” or something of the like. I then explained that I’d worked with SQ to do an ad campaign, which seemed to pique their interest as they’d seen the main video/ad. Twas a nice chat
The noodles came about 15mins later, and they were just as delicious as the first bowl. Definitely a great option on a long flight like this (there were two other choices I didn’t try, but sounded quite good). A bit later I snuck back to the galley and asked for some chocolate, and had to turn down all sorts of food offers
In the end, I took a Cookies ’n’ Creme bar and some Milano cookies, as well as a water.noodles, round twosnacks for days
With about 3 hours remaining at this point, I looked for one final movie and settled on Bad Moms, which was hilarious, and a nice counterpoint to the two other serious films I’d watched. Hopefully didn’t bother the other pax too much as I was laughing out loud quite a bit
The F/As came around and I asked for a coffee, which was decent. When she came back with the coffee, she too asked me what my relationship to SQ was, and I again explained the work I’d done. She was very impressed and asked me how I’d managed to make such intricate miniatures, to which I responded that I had no idea. hehe. Seriously, it’s the small personal touches like this that really make or break a flight, so A+ to the crew on this long trip.getting there...a final coffee
The flight was rapidly drawing to a close, and about an hour out of Singapore, the cabin lights came on and initial preparations for landing were made. The crew came around with another round of drinks, and I opted for an orange juice. Hot towels were also distributed (as they were repeatedly throughout the flight, a very nice touch). At this point, the sun was setting in Southeast Asia, as I stared out at the beautiful scenery as we started our initial descent into Singapore.stunning sunsetclassic Singaporealmost therehello humidity!
As we made our final approach to Changi, music started playing, initially the usual sterile classical/piano music and then something jazzy and energetic, which I much preferred and helped wake everyone up after a long time in the air. At 6:48PM local time, we made firm contact with Singapore, and the flight came to a close. Amazing how quickly 17 hours can go by when you’re being pampered! We taxied to the gate, interestingly at terminal 2 (I think—guessing this is because of space constraints at T3?). I hung around for a few minutes after everyone had disembarked to thank the F/As for their great service and get a picture with them. They happily obliged
The one on my right was absolutely amazing throughout the flight (I didn’t interact with the other all that much). A huge thank you to the crew for making it such a memorable experience!the amazing crew—the F/A on my right/photo left was spectacularTHE 6 HOUR LAYOVER
I quickly made my way to T3 and headed up to the SilverKris lounge. I flashed the lounge attendants my boarding pass and they waived me through. Upon entry, signs pointed the business class passengers to the left and first to the right, though there seemed to be little physical separation between the two, nor was there anyone to check first class boarding passes (that I could tell).
I spent several hours in the lounge, mainly on the computer going through photos and reading the news. Overall, a solid experience with some really good food (though it doesn’t look it in the picture), but I wish the space had been broken up more to make it seem more private and less cavernous. The furniture could use an upgrade, too.only in Singapore...at the far end of the loungedelicious foodSIN-AMS
Equipment: A350-941 (9V-SMC)
Date: November 16th, 2016
STD: 11:55PM SGT
ATD: 12:56AM SGT
STA: 6:45AM CET
ATA: 7:14AM CET
Duration: 13 hr 18 min
At 11PM, I made my way to gate B1, where I had to re-clear security. I waited about 30mins before boarding was announced and I made my way onto the plane. I was welcomed onboard and directed to my seat, this time on the other side of the plane in the smaller second business class cabin. I settled in and was almost immediately offered a glass of champagne, which I happily accepted. Shortly thereafter, an F/A came by to take drink orders, and having spotted Campari on the menu, I asked for a Campari orange. waiting at the gateboardingmuch better view this time seat 19Kwelcome screenlooking back into cattle classc'est moiwaiting to departseat/bed demo video
Originally scheduled to depart at around midnight, our flight was delayed an hour because, as the captain informed us, the fuel truck was “stuck to the wing”… bad luck with things sticking to the plane this trip! We had to wait for the truck to disengage, but by the time that happened, we’d apparently missed our departure slot and had to request a new time, which was around 1AM. legroomamenities: slippers, socks and eyepatchmy competition
Once in the air, my drink was served and the same F/A came by to take my dinner order. I wanted to try the satay, as I’d seen plenty of pics and it sounded quite good. I sipped on my (delicious) cocktail and flipped through the inflight mag, and tried to stay awake as I’d now been up for about 24+ hours straight. About 20 minutes later, I was served the Mediterranean smoked salmon salad, which I was not expecting, but was delicious nonetheless. An F/A also came around with a bread basket, and I chose garlic bread and a multigrain roll, both good. Campari orangemenu for the flightthe Mediterranean salmon saladbread
Shortly thereafter, the satay was served, and sadly, it was disappointing. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. The flavors seemed out of whack—the peanut sauce was really sweet and quite frankly tasted nothing like peanut, and the rice was just… bizarre. The presentation (not that I care all that much) was sloppy too… seems like the sauce could have been in its own dish, and not overflowing out of a paper ‘container’. In any case, it was still more than edible, so I ate what I could and then ordered a cup of chamomile tea once the dishes were cleared. satay nicely presented tea
I folded my seat down and ‘made the bed’ and then slipped off to the lav to change into a t-shirt and sweatpants, but once I’d tucked myself in, I was unable to sleep… I guess I’d been up so long that my body was doing crazy things. It was really annoying, because I wanted to experience the feeling of waking up rested in the air, but I never fully knocked out, instead just tossing and turning for several hours.I like the cubby... good for holding one's laptopplethora of portstime for bed!
By this point, there were about 6 hours remaining on the flight, and I was hungry. I headed to the galley and asked the F/A for some chocolate, and much like on my previous flight, she tried to push all sorts of snacks on me, which I declined, though I couldn’t turn down her offer for two chocolate bars. I took them back to my seat and got out one of my cameras and decided to try and get a picture of the beautiful wing+sharklet in the night sky. After that, I laid down some more, until the cabin lights were slowly turned up in preparation for the breakfast service. Unlike on my previous flight, where the cabin lights came on abruptly, on this flight they were eased in and out slowly, which I much preferred.somewhere over the middle eastsunrisesleep deprived
The breakfast service was done in multiple rounds: first, a drink service, then the place settings, then a bread/bakery service, and finally the main plate. I gave the Mee Siam Goreng a try, and it did not disappoint! Nor did the croissant, which was warm and buttery and delicious. I also asked for a yogurt to finish it all off.tomato juice to startdelicious croissantfruitMee Siam Goreng
The flight was rapidly drawing to a close, and I returned bed to seat mode and put all my stuff away, and stretched out for the final minutes. We landed a bit behind schedule at 7:14AM local time and taxied to the gate. And just like that, my business class experience had come to a close!final moments in biz TL;DR
All in all, my experience in business was great—the crew especially made the flights memorable for me. They were cheery, energetic, and approachable, and they circulated frequently to make sure everyone was comfortable. I didn’t have one bad experience with them.
The A350s were (obviously) brand new and very smooth and quiet, which is always a plus, and the seats were great as well. I’d definitely recommend the bulkhead rows if they’re available, as there’s much more room to spread out. The bed was good too, though as I said, a thicker mattress pad and longer blanket would help.
Entertainment options were plentiful, and the screen was large and clear, though I had some trouble with the system on the first flight and had to get creative to make the progress bar disappear when I was watching movies (annoying). Would’ve been nice to have a tail/belly cam too, but oh well. On the whole, KrisWorld has always been a pretty solid offering.
My only real criticism would probably be the food. On the whole, it was good, and there were plenty of options, and the presentation and dishware were elegant, but there were a few things that just fell flat. I also think that for the SFO-SIN flight, they could streamline the meal service a bit and make it more intuitive, perhaps by offering an initial full service and then emphasizing that everything afterward would be on-demand. Many seemed to want to sleep through the flight anyway, and brightening the cabin mid-flight must’ve been annoying for those trying to rest. It is tricky to figure out what to do with the cabin on such a long daylight flight… there’s probably no winning on that front.AMSTERDAM
I’ll leave you with some pics of the main event—the reason for my travels in the first place! I wasn’t sure how the gallery would shape up, but it turned out to be a very elegant space, featuring a curated collection of items relating to Singapore Airlines—the iconic uniforms, dishware, airplane models, vintage service items, and of course my seat models. There was also a bartender who served mock Singapore Slings every day from 5 to 6pm—a nice touch. some info about the galleryoh hey, it's me!opening nightmy favorite part: the beautiful orchid installation by The Wunderkammermy contributionthe goodsmy sister flew in from JFK to join me Cass (middle) flew in from SIN on the same flight as me and was at the gallery dailyAdrian Ee, GM of the Amsterdam office, organized the eventAmsterdam is a truly beautiful and charming city
Thanks for reading—sorry I wrote so much! Couldn’t help myself—it was a truly memorable experience