Flights KrisFlyer Miles Reviews Singapore Airlines

Review: Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class

Our 'regional business' experience on a Bangkok to Singapore flight.

The current generation regional business class seat in the Singapore Airlines fleet is fitted to all A330-300 and 777-300 (non-ER) aircraft, and to some 777-200 aircraft. While this regional business class seat will start to be replaced in 2018 by a brand new seat on the 787-10, and possibly some A350s in ‘regional’ configuration, you can still expect to see this existing product hanging around for a considerable period of time.

Australian Business Traveller already lifted the lid on the new seat type chosen by SIA for the future regional business class, starting with the Boeing 787-10 next year. However the final colours and design are likely to be highly customised by the airline compared with the standard designs shown, and the seat is set to be formally revealed in early 2018.

Stelia Opal (John Walton)
Stelia showcased their new ‘Opal’ flat-bed staggered business class seats at the Airline Interiors Expo in April this year. It’s tipped to have been chosen by Singapore Airlines to be their new ‘regional business’ product from 2018. (Photo: John Walton)

We have a full rundown of our expectations of the replacement Boeing 787-10, which will form the backbone of the future regional fleet in SIA, and you can read it here.

As with our outbound flight with Cathay Pacific (full review here), cash fares in business class on this route are pretty steep for the length of flight (approx. S$600), so redeeming a business saver reward gets you reasonable value at around 2.9 cents per mile.

Pro Tip: If you are going to book this flight, a few services are operated daily by the 777-200. They are all configured differently and so you need to check the seat map, then make reference to our 777-200 and 777-200ER fleet guides. You could end up lucky with the 2006 J product, configured 1-2-1 instead of the regional business, configured 2-2-2, and covered in this review. Avoid the old recliner business seats, a 2-3-2 configuration, which still exist on this route. If you are flexible with your departure time – pick the 1-2-1 configuration flight.

Flight details

  • Flight: SQ977 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to Singapore Terminal 3
  • Class: Business
  • Seats: 12A & 12C
  • Aircraft Type: Airbus A330-300
  • Aircraft Registration: 9V-STB
  • Date: 4 November 2017
  • Departure / Arrival: 15:40 / 19:10
  • Flight Time: 2h 30m
  • Cost: 20,000 KrisFlyer miles plus 750THB (c. S$31)

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge

Opened in May 2017, we’ll cover the new lounge in a dedicated review soon. For now, suffice to say like most Singapore Airlines lounges – good, but not great.

The best aspect of the lounge is its location – directly opposite the gates usually used by Singapore Airlines.

LoungEnt.jpg
Bangkok lounge entrance. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The Airbus A330-300

The Singapore Airlines A330 has an interesting backstory. Introduced in January 2009, it was designed as a stopgap for temporary regional capacity, and the short-term intentions of the fleet led SIA to move away from purchasing these aircraft outright, their normal policy at the time, and instead take the aircraft on five-year leases.

The A330 featured the brand new regional business class, in 2-2-2 configuration with all leather lie-flat beds. Singapore Airlines liked the aircraft so much, they went on to order 15 more in June 2011 and it subsequently became the second largest fleet in SIA.

acft-a333-1
The A330 remains the second-largest fleet in Singapore Airlines, but they are expected to be completely phased out by the end of 2019 as they are replaced by the A350 and 787-10. (Photo: Airbus S.A.S.)

The A330 is now being phased out as the newer, bigger, more fuel efficient 787-10 takes its place from April 2018. Some have also made way for the new A350 aircraft, and Singapore Airlines currently has no plans to order any more A330s.

Business class cabin

IMG_3185

A short walk, directly across from the lounge, took us to gate D7 for boarding.

Two airbridges in Bangkok mean the front door is dedicated for business class passengers only.

Even at airports like Malé, where you can expect to board by air-stairs, Singapore Airlines will attach two sets of steps to provide a dedicated boarding door for business class passengers, and also avoids the entire economy cabin boarding through the business class cabin.

That sounds like a small issue, but it can be quite frustrating if you are trying to arrange your things and stow away your bags in the overhead lockers (which you must do in this aircraft due to the lack of bag storage in the seat), so the dedicated boarding route is welcome.

Where to sit

pdt-a330-jcl-1

If you’re travelling in business class on the Singapore Airlines A330 by yourself, you will struggle a little for privacy. The 2-2-2 configuration means that you will have to choose between unrestricted aisle-access (a D or F seat), or a window view (A or K).

Personally, we recommend avoiding the window seat in favour of the aisle for unrestricted access. If you are looking for uninterrupted sleep, book another airline, this seat is not good for sleeping!

a330v1_J
A330-300 Seat Map

Whilst the seat is “lie-flat” don’t be mistaken for thinking the bed is in a perfectly horizontal position. This is an industry term for a seat that is flat, but in fact sits at an angle to the floor so that your feet fit underneath the seat in front.

In this case, it’s a 172-degree angle (almost, but not quite flat), and if you are trying to sleep it can feel like you are slipping down into the foot well!

If you are travelling as a couple, any of the pairs are good. Just choose if you would rather have a window pair (A/C or H/K) and step across each other, or both have aisle access in the middle pair (D/F).

We tend to avoid row 11, the first row in this cabin. It’s the infant bassinet row so you may end up along side a younger (noisier!) passenger. Also, the IFE screen is mounted on the bulkhead and you lose some of the useful seat-back storage cubbies.

IMG_0574
Row 11, IFE in the bulkhead and less storage. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Travel Tip: If you are travelling alone, all is not lost. A fairly sizeable privacy screen is available between all seats. Go for a D or F seat for unrestricted aisle access.

Business class seat

The seat itself is reasonably comfortable, upholstered in plush brown leather and despite looking quite dated, still holds it’s own against rival business class products.

BrownSeats (travelingfoody)
The latest version of the Singapore A330 business class seat uses dark brown leather upholstery, as pictured recently by the TravelingFoody blog. (Photo: travelingfoody)

The rest of the seat shows it’s age with slightly cheap-feeling plastics, composite video ports (for what purpose – I’m unsure!) and a slow and jerky IFE system. There is also no Wi-Fi or phone connectivity. This is coming on the 787-10.

Also, there is no space to put your carry-on bag under the seat (a feature that is increasingly being incorporated in many business class seats for added convenience). Baggage must, therefore, be stowed in the overhead locker.

However, there are some nice storage cubbies that are good for phones, laptops, iPads and toiletries.

ChampagneOnce settled in we were offered a welcome drink with a choice of water, juice or champagne (Singapore Airlines invariably now offer Charles Heidsieck champagne in their business class cabins). Other soft drinks and hot beverages are available, even at this stage, on request.

In common with all Singapore Airlines flights, there is no amenity kit offered in business class. This equally applies to long-haul services. Instead, a selection of amenities can be found the in the dedicated business-class toilets behind row 16.

A noise-cancelling headset, a pillow and a blanket are provided. The blanket itself is excellent – plush, fleece-like material keeps you warm but it’s not too heavy – a personal favourite of ours! The pillow is also soft and a good size.

Seat controls are found in the armrest and include the cabin call bell and light functions. A standard-style IFE controller sits alongside.

Once lowered into bed-mode, you can clearly see why we tend to avoid this cabin for longer overnight sectors. The angle of the seat is obvious, so is the lack of room for your feet. If over 6ft tall, you will definitely struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. At best this is an okay position for an afternoon snooze.

Food and beverages

A single-page lunch menu is left in each seat pocket, to peruse while enjoying your welcome drink. On this flight, a 3.40pm departure, a ‘light dinner‘ was served.

Menu
‘Light dinner’ menu on SQ977. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

After takeoff a drinks service followed, and we sampled the four wines on offer on this short flight. Unusually, there was no formal drinks menu, but the crew was happy to show and explain to us the options.

The two white wines offered were:

  • Albert Bichot – Saint-Veran – France (2015). 3.6 stars on Vivino
  • Ress – Rheingau – Riesling – Germany (2015). 3.6 stars on Vivino
  • Chateau Peyrabon – Haut-Medoc – France (2012). 3.5 stars on Vivino
  • Nipozzano – Chianti Rufina – Italy – (2013). 3.7 stars on Vivino

We found the Albert Bichot wine a classic French white, very drinkable – better paired with the roast chicken. The Riesling was slightly too sweet, even when paired with the spicy Asian dish. Both the red wines were drinkable and of a good standard, however, we preferred the Chianti – bold enough to be paired with a spicy Asian dish or even a steak.

The retractable dining table comes from the inner armrest – a decent size. On shorter flights with the regional product, they do not dress the table with a cloth, instead (more practically) they present a dining tray, covered with a cloth, which means your starter, main and dessert all arrive at the same time.

On longer sectors in regional business class, such as to and from Manila, there is a full tablecloth setting with starter and main course served separately.

IMG_0566

It’s slightly ‘economy-style’ on the Bangkok flight, but with only 2 cabin crew members to serve 30 business class passengers, they have to cut some corners to keep the workload manageable for a short sector. The only issue here is that while you eat your cold starter, your hot main course gets cold – not ideal.

The starter was a Thai-style seafood salad. Fresh, zingy with plump prawns and tender squid – good!

I opted for the Thai-style main course of Kra Pau Moo pork. Whilst the flavours were good, it wasn’t spicy enough and the pork was tough.

IMG_0560
The slightly cluttered meal tray lunch service. Main gets cold while you finish your starter (Photo: Mainly Miles)

Andrew selected the Western option – Roast Chicken breast. Tasty and surprisingly moist. The half-potato was a particularly clever way to present the sauce. The vegetables were also perfectly cooked. This impressive dish is the “Exclusive created…” option from the menu by Matt Moran of Aria restaurant in Sydney.

IMG_0561
Roasted Chicken Breast. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The dessert was a Mocha tart with Almond Praline and Mascarpone. Nice, but forgettable.

In-flight entertainment

There isn’t a lot to say here. The system was designed in the late 2000s and is therefore understandably outdated. IFE systems move forward so quickly these days that even the newest systems tend to be superseded within a matter of months.

That said the system worked acceptably. There was a selection of 30 or so movies, plenty of TV series and music options. The in-flight map worked well. The screen is standard definition and a good size, and noise-cancelling headsets are provided.

It’s fit for purpose in terms of a regional product that is only expected to keep you entertained for a few hours, though the selection would be disappointing if you boarded an SIA A330 for a longer sector – such as Singapore to Brisbane or Melbourne.

Toilets

There are two toilets in the business class cabin on the A330-330. They are both located at the rear of the cabin, right and left.

A ratio of 15 passengers per toilet is okay but not the best. Comparatively, if you look at SilkAir’s 737 business, there’s a better ratio of 12 passengers to one toilet at the front.

A standard size, well fitted and clean. A backlit mirror is a useful touch and the top of the toilet seat has a leather cover to act as a seat when changing.

Summary

The Singapore Airlines regional business class product is certainly the benchmark against which other regional and international carriers have compared themselves since it was launched in 2009.

Recognising the product is now out of date, steps have already been taken to replace it – having said that, even now – it is still very acceptable. And as always, it’s the ‘soft product’ Singapore Airlines offers, which makes the real difference on a flight like this.

As a solo traveller, if there is a suitable alternative that offers an individual seat then that may your better option, however the middle pairs provide unrestricted aisle access, and the privacy divider between seats is quite good. As a couple, it’s perfectly acceptable for daytime regional flights up to eight hours.

3-4star

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