In case you thought we’d forgotten, following our articles summarising the new suites and new business class products coming up on the latest A380s joining the fleet, here’s our thoughts on the latest premium economy and economy cabins on the aircraft, Airbus A380 Version 3.
The premium economy seat is unchanged on the new A380s, which isn’t too surprising as the current design was only introduced in 2015. It has been moved however to the front of the main deck, between the first two aircraft doors, where the suites cabin was formerly located on the A380 Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft.
Two toilets have also been moved forward of the second main aircraft door, into this cabin area, so for the first time on a Singapore Airlines aircraft, premium economy passengers will not have to walk through an economy cabin section to get to the toilet.
These two toilets will also be exclusive for use by premium economy class passengers, another first for Singapore Airlines.
Seat pitch in premium economy remains at 38 inches with a width of 19.5 inches, as with the current A380. One advance in the premium economy cabin will be the latest IFE system, which means a 13.3 inch HD touchscreen system.
Currently on the A380 Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft, the older IFE system does not support touchscreen functionality in this cabin, and the remote control must be used.
More couple seating options
The 2-4-2 configuration remains in the premium economy cabin, but the location of the main aircraft staircase to the upper deck means there are only four rows of middle seats, the remainder of the seats in this cabin are configured in pairs by the window which are ideal for couples travelling together.
There will be a total of 14 such window pairs on the A380 Version 3, compared with 10 pairs on the Version 1 and 2 aircraft. Also it looks to us as though the window pairs in the first two rows (31 and 32), either side of the main staircase, will have added privacy.
The premium economy cabin will be served from a galley to the rear, and with the toilets also being at the back of the cabin, the further forward you sit the less noise and foot traffic there will be.
Economy class on the current Airbus A380 Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft is the ‘2006 Y’ seat, so the airline is taking the opportunity to upgrade this cabin in the upcoming Version 3 aircraft to the latest economy product, which was introduced in 2013.
In common with the premium economy cabin, the A380 Version 3 will have the latest IFE system, albeit slightly smaller, which means an 11.1 inch touchscreen system in economy class.
Currently on the A380 Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft, the older IFE system does not support touchscreen functionality in economy, and the remote control must be used.
Upper deck economy
Many passengers target the two smaller economy class cabins at the rear of the upper deck on the Airbus A380 Version 1 aircraft, particularly couples who love the window pairs in the narrower upstairs cabin, and the large storage bins at the cabin wall sides.
The configuration is only fitted to eight of the SIA A380 aircraft remaining in service at November 2017, and as expected, in common with Version 2, the new Airbus A380 Version 3 planes will not feature any economy class seating on the upper deck.
But I can still fly on Version 1 right?
Not for much longer. As the first five A380 Version 3 aircraft are introduced, five of the oldest Version 1 planes, the only ones with upper deck economy seating, will be retired. By the end of 2018 that means six Version 1 aircraft, eight Version 2 aircraft and five Version 3 aircraft, will remain in the fleet.
Starting in late 2018, and running through to 2020, all of the Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft will then be progressively refitted in the Version 3 configuration (well not the exact configuration, but close), meaning those elusive Version 1 aircraft with upper deck economy seats will become a distant memory.
What will it feature?
Before SIA had a premium economy product, the economy class cabin on its A380s occupied the space between the second aircraft door on the main deck and the back of the main deck.
Now that suites have been moved upstairs, and the premium economy cabin occupies the former suites area, this same space is once again dedicated to the economy class cabin.
The difference this time is that, with some toilet and galley configuration changes, a total of 311 seats in this area previously, will be increased to 343 seats. Many commentators have already referred to it as a ‘densification’.
More seats, means fewer toilets
In total, the A380 Version 3 will only have seven toilets for all 343 economy class passengers, a ratio of 49 passengers to each toilet, which is the worst ratio of any aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet. The best in economy, by the way, is on either the 777-200ER Version 2 (32:1) or the 777-300ER Version 2 (35:1).
Previously there were 40 passengers to each toilet on the main deck of the A380 Version 1 and 2 aircraft, so over 20% more passengers will now be expected to share each toilet in this new configuration.
We did an assessment of the ‘main deck’ economy class passenger to toilet ratio offered by all 12 other Airbus A380 operators worldwide, and here’s how Singapore Airlines stacks up – then and now.
Airbus A380 operator passenger to toilet ratios, main deck economy class (best to worst)
|Airline||PAX : Toilet Ratio|
|THAI||34 : 1|
|Asiana||39 : 1|
|Singapore (Old – V1/V2)||40 : 1|
|Qatar||41 : 1|
|Etihad||42 : 1|
|Korean Air||43 : 1|
|China Southern||44 : 1|
|Emirates||44 : 1|
|Malaysia||44 : 1|
|Lufthansa||46 : 1|
|Air France||49 : 1|
|Qantas||49 : 1|
|Singapore (New – V3)||49 : 1|
|British Airways||50 : 1|
As you can see, Singapore Airlines will drop from third place by this standard to second-to-last, joining the likes of British Airways (the only carrier offering a poorer passenger to toilet ratio in economy on the main deck of the A380 at 50:1), and both Air France and Qantas matching the new 49:1 ratio.
These aren’t exactly the kind of carriers Singapore Airlines usually compares itself to. Airlines like Qatar and Etihad are boasting ratios on their A380s much closer to the current SIA A380 layout of 40:1.
When can you fly on (or avoid) this plane?
The first aircraft in the new configuration, 9V-SKU, is due to be delivered on 14 December this year, entering service a few days later on 18 December between Singapore and Sydney (daily service thereafter, as SQ221 SIN-SYD and SQ232 SYD-SIN).
Availability searches suggest the newly configured A380 Version 3 will then start flying between Singapore and London Heathrow from 1 March 2018 three days per week, becoming daily from 1 May 2018. We’ll confirm this once it’s certain, as currently the aircraft type configuration loaded for the route still shows the older A380.
Premium economy has gained the main advantage in this new configuration, for the first time moving into its own dedicated cabin space, with two exclusive toilets and many more window seat ‘pairs’, some of which look to have great privacy.
Finally too in premium, the touchscreen IFE features of the 777-300ER Version 2 and A350 will be incorporated.
We are no fan of premium economy, and it rarely makes sense to redeem your KrisFlyer miles for it because it’s close to business ‘prices’, but if there’s any plane in the SIA fleet to fly this class – the A380 Version 3 looks to be it, especially when travelling as a couple.
Economy class changes are mostly negative for us. Aside from a bigger touchscreen IFE system, for all the talk of different upholstery colours, a fancy new reading light and a redesigned footrest, Singapore Airlines has just crammed too many seats into this section and, crucially, hasn’t provided enough toilets.