Since the 787-10 arrived in Singapore we’ve been avidly following the coverage and reviews from the delivery flight and press launch, and we published our ‘revealed’ article on delivery day. We’ve since shied away from making major judgements on the new products – it was nice to see the seat on the delivery flight or as a mock-up at the press event but it’s difficult to tell the full story outside the regular commercial operation.
Seeing how a product performs in a real-world commercial environment, with normal passengers, crew, weather and technical issues is how you, the paying or miles-redeeming customer, will experience the product and that’s what we are aiming to provide you with this review.
A perfect example is the seat controls on the new A380 product. Innovative, neat and ergonomic. In the ‘real-world’ passengers struggled to work them out, leading to the conclusion they were somewhat unreliable.
- Flight: SQ970 Singapore Changi T2 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
- Class: Business
- Seats: 12K & 14K
- Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-10
- Aircraft Registration: 9V-SCA
- Aircraft Age: 0.1 years
- Date: 3rd April 2018
- Departure / Arrival: 07:10 / 08:35
- Flight Time: 2h 25m
- Cost: 20,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$36.20 per person
Singapore Airlines Regional Business Class
Back in early 2009 it was the job of the Airbus A330-300 to introduce a new revolutionary lie-flat all-leather business class bed to the Singapore Airlines regional fleet.
That product ‘2009 RJ’ was subsequently rolled out to all regional planes, including 777-200s and 777-300s, and enjoyed a brief month of exclusivity in March 2018 following the long overdue demise of both the Spacebeds and ‘Ultimo’ Blue Recliners.
Originally designed as a stopgap aircraft, Singapore Airlines liked the A330 so much they went on to order 15 more in June 2011 and it subsequently became the second largest fleet in SIA.
Fast forward nine years and the A330 numbers are dwindling as aircraft are being returned to leasing companies (SIA never actually bought any of them, such was the perceived short-term need in the early days).
Last week the world’s first Boeing 787-10 arrived in Singapore, one of 49 such aircraft for the SIA group. This morning it was the job of this new aircraft to launch ‘2018 RJ’, the latest regional business class product, which entered commercial service between Singapore and Bangkok.
Since we weren’t doing anything else today, we joined the inaugural commercial flight (SQ970) on this new aircraft to find out what all the fuss was about.
Business class cabin
- 1-2-1 configuration.
- Direct aisle access from every seat.
- Based on Stelia ‘Solstys III’, customised for Singapore airlines as Stelia ‘Symphony’.
- 36 seats in total.
- In the middle: 5 ‘love seat’ pairs, 4 ‘divorce seat’ pairs.
- At the sides: 8 seats against the window, 10 seats exposed to the aisle.
- 2 dedicated toilets.
- 2 bassinet positions.
The ‘new plane’ smell hits you as you walk in. The colour palette is modern and fresh, without being overstated (no Middle Eastern ‘bling’ here), featuring deep oranges and browns.
Dare we say it – the regional business class has slightly more muted tones than the new A380 business class we reviewed in early January. The overall atmosphere is elegant – like a classic members’ club lounge.
In cabin overview, it’s immediately obvious that privacy has improved dramatically from the ‘2009 RJ’. As you stand in the aisle you can only see the seats directly in front of you. Beyond that, you can only just make out the top of the seats. In fact, it’s very difficult to tell how full the cabin from this perspective.
Where to sit
Picking the right seat can make all the difference to your overall flight experience – even if it’s just a 45-minute hop to Kuala Lumpur!
Generally, solo travellers should aim for seats closest to the window for increased privacy, although given the reduced seat width compared with the‘2009 RJ’ seat it may feel claustrophobic if you are susceptible to that, and the access is narrow.
Seats 12 A/K, 15 A/K, 17 A/K and 19 A/K are best for privacy.
For couples – the ‘love seat’ pairs are situated together and offer increased privacy from the aisle are the ones to pick. Seats 11 D/F, 14 D/F, 16 D/F, 18 D/F and 20 D/F are the ones to pick.
Fear not if only ‘love seats’ are available – a large privacy divider is provided between them for use when you don’t know your neighbour. The ‘divorce seats’, at rows 12, 15, 17 and 19 D/F locations are set far apart with the console of each seat between them, providing good privacy.
Seats 11 A/K: Blocked as bassinet positions – but these will typically be offered to all passengers if they remain unoccupied when check-in opens at 48 hours prior to departure. They feature a large shelf near the window, designed to accommodate the bassinet, but if you aren’t travelling with an infant then this space is perfect for storing your bag in-flight.
Seats 11 D/F: Front row ‘love seats’. Perfect for couples travelling together and the foot area stretches into the bulkhead providing more legroom when in bed mode. There is a possibility of noise from infants at the bassinet positions in 11 A/K, however.
Save the hate mail: We know not all infants are noisy. Our experience has shown that it can happen and has formed the basis of our suggestions.
Row 16 A/K: No window at this seat position and close to the aisle. Avoid.
Row 20: Close to the busy galley serving the first half of the economy section, meaning the potential for increased noise during service. Caution.
The crew came around with welcome drinks. At this time of the morning, it was just juice and water. Champagne is available on request for departures before 10am.
Naturally, we started off with a glass of the Charles Heidsieck to celebrate this special occasion.
The new ‘Regional Business’ class seat
One of the first things you notice on arrival to your seat – it’s narrow. When the armrests are up it’s much narrower than the A330 ‘2009 RJ’ (20″ width vs. 26″ width). But Emirates A380 business is narrower (18.5″), and you could be stuck in that seat for 14 hours, at least with this product 8 hours should be the longest sector.
They can be lowered using the black buttons at the tip of each armrest. This increases the seat width to 26″, ideal for bed mode.
Whilst on the topic of armrests, they don’t appear to support body weight being exerted upon them – so aren’t useful for lifting yourself in and out of the seat. Moreover, when the armrests of the aisle seats are stowed – they encroach into the aisle itself meaning an increased likelihood of disturbance from passing passengers and crew.
As with the new Singapore Airlines A380 business class, there are no overhead gaspers (adjustable vents). We feel this is a backwards step, especially when so many passengers complain that Singapore Airlines’ cabins are too warm. Much better to give people the option to regulate their own temperature and airflow.
The seat shell not only provides much-improved privacy but also has a downside. At A/K locations where the seats are aligned against the window – it blocks the beautiful view from the oversized 787 windows themselves!
It’s a bit of a shame that they couldn’t have customised these seats although that would likely have lead to increased costs and less parts commonality, all for the sake of a better view.
At 5’10” my head sat just above the seat shell. My eye height was sufficiently below to the shell to obscure the view of the cabin and since it wraps around the seat I couldn’t see any of my neighbours.
Even the seats aligned closer to the aisle don’t feel too exposed, although the window-aligned seat rows are decidedly more private.
The downside to this additional privacy – the access space between the console and the seat back is only 9”, a tight squeeze indeed.
The forward galley is set well ahead of row 11 meaning that noise and light pollution should be minimal, even in these forward seats. Increased foot traffic is likely, as the two toilets for the business class cabin are directly in from of seats 11A and 11K.
The seat belt features a sash strap as well as a lap belt, which must be worn for takeoff and landing. It’s more comfortable than the ones we’ve used on Qantas in their new A330 business class, and it retracts into a small leather ‘tongue’ at the top of the seat when not in use.
In terms of comfort, the seat cushion is certainly firmer than the ‘refreshed’ brown leather ‘2009 RJ’. However, it’s softer than the new ‘2017 J’ seat in the new A380 which we found “firm/hard”. The cushion offered above average comfort when folded down into a bed.
The seat faces straight forward – so no more sleeping at an angle as with the A350 / 777-300ER ‘2013 J’ product. The footrest is huge and stretches the full length beneath the console table of the seat in front. The space is also wide and tall – even the biggest feet won’t struggle to fit.
The aisle is relatively narrow on this aircraft at only 23″. While that didn’t affect the service it was quite noticeable when moving about the cabin. The A350 regional aircraft will be fitted with the same seat when they arrive in 2019 and due to its wider cabin, the aisles should increase to 26″.
The seat shell is lined with a plush diamond printed suede-like material which appears to suppress the noise from the surrounding cabin, and is also comfortable to lean against if your seat is in bed mode – for that first morning coffee.
Singapore Airlines has opted to install overhead compartments above the middle seats as well as at the aisle sides. This not only suits the type of route that this aircraft is designed to serve, with passengers more likely to only bring carry-on luggage instead of a checked-in bag, but in our view also makes the cabin feel correctly proportioned.
The Singapore Airlines A350 has no central overhead compartments and just feels cavernous and weird to us – no doubt the regional variant arriving from 2019 with these same ‘2018 RJ’ seats will have overhead storage in the middle section.
Boeing 787 regulars will also be pleased to see overhead compartments above row 11 in the middle section. This is normally a crew rest area and so there is often no storage available here, but since the 787-10 is a medium-haul aircraft there are no crew rest facilities installed.
Do note however that the very furthest forward overhead compartments at the sides, above seats 11A and 11K, are reserved for aircraft equipment and are not for passenger use.
A side stowage compartment is located at shoulder height in the console of each seat, featuring a sliding door and housing the connectivity points – a UNI socket and two USB ports.
The seat storage must be closed for take-off and landing and the window tint is automatically brightened for optimal viewing, for safety regulations.
There is also a vanity mirror that extends from the console between the seat and the power sockets.
A curved literature pocket sits directly behind the seat in front of you, which is always offset to one side and therefore in easy reach. Here you’ll find the usual magazines, safety card and other documentation – though its curved design makes it unsuitable to stow large electronic devices.
Under Seat Storage
There is a decent space for storing your bags under the footrest. A sizeable soft backpack, handbag or laptop case will fit fine but most wheeled carry-ons will have to go in the overhead compartment because of the shape of this area.
As with all Singapore Airlines business class products, there is no amenity kit provided. Instead, amenities are located in the toilets with slippers and socks handed out by the cabin crew on longer flights and blankets and pillows are available at your seat.
The blanket is the same as that found on the A330 / 777-200 regional business class. It’s a plush, fleece quilt material that we’re big fans of. The pillow is new – filled with soft synthetic foam and designed with a modern cover to match and complement the tones used in the new seat design.
Seat Controllers and Positions
The lip of the storage console houses a control panel within easy reach – this is for the overhead lighting, seat positions, ‘Do Not Disturb’ function and cabin crew call bell. There is also a master switch for the TV.
Similar to the new A380 controls, at first they take a little getting used to. There is a small delay before the action begins, with a ‘haptic touch’ function when the control takes effect (this is a vibration feedback). Because the vibration ‘pulses’ there is an urge to release the button when it first stops vibrating – but you must keep it held until the seat has reached the desired position.
There are three ‘preset’ seat positions – upright for takeoff and landing, lounging position and bed mode. The seat movement can be stopped between any of the three positions, however independent adjustment of specific seat surfaces is not possible.
The headrest of the seat can be extended upwards, useful for taller passengers, and the side wings folded in for neck support.
A large extendable divider can be raised between the middle ‘love seat’ pairs if you don’t know the person next to you.
The new regional business class seat converts to a fully flat 76″ bed, with a comparatively large foot well compared with other Singapore Airlines business class beds.
One great benefit of this bed over other more recent Singapore Airlines business class products is the direct alignment between the seat and the foot well, meaning there is no longer any need to extend your legs at an angle while sleeping.
Just to prove the marketing stats, we measured the seat in bed mode from the end of the foot well to the top, and can confirm it is exactly 76″ (6ft 4in – but no more!).
The tray table slides out from underneath the IFE screen, in the half-folded position. The surface material is a deep brown, silver-flecked wood effect which is smart but doesn’t completely match the surrounding seat colours and materials.
It is certainly a huge improvement on the ‘2009 RJ’ table. It is sturdy and sizeable and offers an excellent working space when unfolded. The height seemed perfect for laptop work, but others have reported issues with elbows unfavourably interacting with armrests.
The table moves toward the seat by 13cm from the original position pictured above, but in the seats closest aligned with the window, and the ‘love seats’ in the middle – access to the aisle is blocked regardless of the position.
If you move your dining tray over to the window side of the table and fold up the second leaf, access to the aisle is regained but this could be an issue whilst eating.
Since departure was scheduled for 7:10am local time, breakfast was served shortly after takeoff.
I chose to ‘book the cook’ a few days before for my perennial favourite, Nasi Lemak. It was good as always. The rice is perfectly cooked with a hint of coconut. The sambal is reasonably spicy with good flavours. The chicken drumstick was tender and moist. Overall a good dish.
Andrew chose the Poached Eggs with hollandaise, veal sausage and roesti potato from the in-flight menu. Sadly the eggs were overcooked but they’re difficult to get right on a plane, plus it’s hard to cater for individual tastes.
The sausages and roesti were good. The tomato, baked with cheese was really tasty. The broccolini stem was perfectly cooked and nicely breaks up the visual aspect of the dish.
Overall considering the length of the flight – an excellent Singapore Airlines dining experience.
The Singapore Airlines 787-10 is equipped with the latest IFE system with a wide range of movies, TV shows, music and magazines to choose from. The TV screen is an 18″ HD model, bringing it up to date with the SIA Airbus A350, new A380 and Boeing 777-300ER version 2 aircraft.
It’s a touchscreen system and the screen is within easy reach but there’s also a remote control in the side console for those who prefer to make their selections that way.
Another feature which is exclusive to this new system, and therefore also available on the A350, new A380 and 777-300ER V2, is pairing of your device to the IFE system with myKrisWorld. It also allows you to pick up where you left off when watching a movie on a subsequent flight, provided the same system is installed.
The screen tilts to allow for a more comfortable viewing angle when lounging or resting in bed.
In common with other aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet, there is no external camera view available.
Located in the storage compartment beside the seat are one multi-standard UNI power socket and two powered USB ports.
The USB ports light up in green when available and change to blue when in use.
Wi-Fi connectivity is not common on regional business class products. We do find this strange, as these are routes most likely to carry business travellers commuting between major cities, the likes of whom are most likely to want to stay connected and will be willing to pay for decent service.
Thankfully, Singapore Airlines have chosen to equip the 787-10 with their latest Wi-Fi offering. First tested on the Scoot 787 fleet, it’s a fairly robust product. We were however surprised to see data based pricing – and after you’ve used your free 30MB, it’s eye-wateringly expensive.
|787 Wi-Fi Pricing: Scoot vs. SIA|
Prices are shown in US$
* Singapore Airlines doesn’t offer 200MB or 300MB data packages like Scoot, but you can effectively replicate them by buying the 100MB package twice or three times as each data limit is reached. That is what we have assumed here.
(Edit: Originally we stated the 60MB package was priced at US$16.00, however this was an error and the correct amount is US$15.00. The table has been amended.)
Sorry, Singapore Airlines – but this pricing schedule is obscene. To be charging those paying for a full-service product more for Wi-Fi than those flying on your low-cost subsidiary – on the same aircraft type, fitted with the same system, just isn’t on.
Boingo can help
After our free 30MB allowance expired (which took around 15 minutes), we logged on using our unlimited Boingo accounts. That worked well and the excellent perk is available with the Citi Prestige card.
The Wi-Fi was available for the majority of the flight and we tried several speed tests throughout. Here are the results:
Initially, poor. At top of climb, still poor but usable. Just before descent, the speed increased dramatically. Despite the speed, it was still usable for social media and checking emails – it just wouldn’t be up to the task of downloading photos or large attachments.
Two spacious toilets are located ahead of seats 11A and 11K at the front of the business class cabin, we thought they were at least ‘1.5x size’ toilets.
Amenities including Penhaligon’s toiletries, similarly introduced last year in the new A380 business class, are available in the toilet.
Hand towels are stacked alongside the wall, above the amenities drawer.
A full-width ‘nursing table’ extends from the wall, and would double as a useful surface to store your clothes while changing.
To the side of the toilet, a leather-clad footrest extends from the wall to assist when changing your shoes.
Of course a full-length mirror also features on the back wall of the toilet.
As it was the first flight there were an abundance of staff and a considerable number of them were very senior. Service was, as always, excellent. Unless you knew, there would have been no way to discern that this was the first commercial service of this aircraft.
The crew were familiar with the product, well briefed and professional. They were familiar with the new seat controls (though those are largely common with the new A380) and very happy to show passengers the features of the seat.
The service was quick and seamless and there was no unnecessary noise in the cabin.
The Captain made a special PA mentioning that this was a special and proud occasion for Singapore Airlines. He referred to this as the “first flight” but was careful to avoid the term “inaugural”.
Subsequently in the cruise the Captain came through the cabin to greet business class passengers – which was a very nice touch. He was friendly and similarly excited about this first commercial flight as us and the many aviation enthusiasts also on board.
It would appear that Singapore Airlines is desperate to retain the title of “inaugural flight” for the first 787 service to Osaka, in nearly a month’s time when tens of thousands of passengers will already have travelled on this new aircraft with over 120 commercial services completed already – weird.
Singapore Airlines has truly redefined their regional business class product with this latest version. Compared with the current 2009 regional business class seat, this new product is a winner in almost all aspects and as it’s rolled out to more of the fleet it will be a welcome treat for those flying regularly with Singapore Airlines in the regional business cabin.
For routes up to 8 hours the bed is perfectly comfortable and at last – fully flat. Privacy is very good – arguably in line with the latest A380 ‘2017 J’ product, even in the middle ‘love seats’, which feature a large privacy divider.
The main drawback is the narrow seat, only really benefitting from the width of the current 2009 regional business seat when the armrests are down. Like we said in our new A380 business class review, SIA passengers have been spoiled with seat width for a long time, and recent shrinkages have brought the seats more in line with competing carriers.
The Wi-Fi pricing is also a serious disappointment, despite the small free allowance for business class passengers and PPS Club members.
The seat stands up strongly against many long-haul business class products in the market, so to have it as a regional product for flights from 1 to 8 hours is a real game-changer.
We would strongly recommend trying to secure a booking on an aircraft with this new seat installed as it is increasingly rolled out on regional flights over the next few years.
If that wasn’t enough…
We returned to Singapore the following morning on the very same plane to try out the ‘love seats’ at 11D & 11F. Click here for our mini-review.