Back in early June this year, the Singapore Airlines Group revealed details of its new customer experience incorporating COVID-19 precautions, as it began to restart services to many points on the network following two months of nearly zero passenger operations.
One of the changes was for meal services on regional flights, whereby services within South East Asia and between Singapore and mainland China had their regular meal service replaced by a snack bag, provided to each passenger on boarding.
While that was not a significant concern on shorter flights such as to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, it also included flights as long as Singapore to Shanghai – around 6 hours.
“In line with regulatory requirements to limit interaction on board, inflight meal services have been suspended for all flights within South East Asia and to Mainland China. A snack bag with water and refreshments will be provided upon boarding instead. We regret that we are unable to customise the snack bags for customers with special dietary requirements.”Singapore Airlines, June 2020
Long-haul flights continued to receive the regular meal provision, with a simplified single-tray service in Business and First Class, in accordance with the following table.
Singapore Airlines and SilkAir
In-flight catering: 7 Jun – 13 Sep 2020
|Snack bag||Meal service|
Australia / NZ (all)
Regular meal service is back
The good news for those flying on the former ‘snack bag’ routes is that since 14th September 2020 a regular meal service is now provided on board across the entire Singapore Airlines and SilkAir networks, whether you’re flying a short hop to Kuala Lumpur, or a longer flight to Shanghai.
This continues to be in the form of a simplified single tray service in Business Class (First Class is not currently in operation).
“Meal services in Business Class will be served on a single tray to minimise contact between customers and crew. Simplified meal services have also been reinstated for all operating flights.”Singapore Airlines spokesperson, September 2020
That’s not a significant impact on regional flights, which featured this single tray arrangement in Business Class anyway, even before COVID-19.
In June this year Singapore Airlines left the door open for a return to a more traditional service structure on longer flights, such as to Sydney and London, however this remains a future plan at this stage.
“We will also discuss with the regulators how we can resume a course-by-course dining experience.”Singapore Airlines, June 2020
Resumption of a course-by-course dining service in Business Class on these longer flights therefore remains subject to regulatory discussions.
Singapore Airlines also has plans to roll out a digital food ordering system from an e-menu for customers on board, however this remains under development at the time of writing.
SIA’s low-cost subsidiary Scoot suspended the sale of food and beverages on board in June 2020, to reduce physical interaction, instead opting for ‘food packs’ to be placed on seats prior to passenger boarding.
The good news here is that Scoot reintroduced meal pre-ordering from 1st September 2020, however the purchase of food and drink on board remains suspended.
“To limit physical interactions, there will be no sale of any food and beverage items and duty-free products onboard. Meals are available for purchase online and must be preordered before your flight.”Scoot, September 2020
The only downside here is that a meal on your Scoot flight, such as from Singapore to Taipei, will set you back some extra cash, while the ‘food bag’ previously provided was complimentary.
Given the continued lack of in-flight sales on Scoot services, it might well be a good idea to pre-order a meal if you’re taking a longer flight.
How it’s decided
Airlines didn’t start with a blank sheet when it came to adjusting in-flight service (including meal provision) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IATA has a detailed guidance document which includes a risk assessment matrix for each route and then gives examples of service provision in each case.
It’s worth noting of course that IATA is not a regulator and the final decision on approving specific cabin service provision on SIA Group aircraft falls to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, though they are likely to be guided by IATA’s recommendations.
If you’re interested, you can download the full IATA guidance document at the following link:
The rest of the experience
Other aspects of the journey when travelling with Singapore Airlines during this period haven’t significantly altered, meaning you can expect the following experience for the foreseeable future:
- Mobile app for online check-in and boarding pass
- Self-service bag tagging at check-in kiosks
- À la carte meals in the lounge
- Compulsory mask wearing on board, except when eating or drinking
- Care Kits for all passengers on board
- Designated on-board seating zones for transit passengers
- Menus available through the IFE system
- Seat back literature available through the mobile app
We’ve updated our article from June 2020 outlining the SIA Group’s latest health and safety measures and service provisions at all points of your journey.
One of the biggest drawbacks flying Business Class recently with many airlines has been an erosion of the on board ‘soft product’ due to COVID-19 precautions understandably seeking to minimise passenger-crew interactions where possible.
The biggest impact for Singapore Airlines customers has been on South East Asia and mainland China flights over the last three months, with a ‘snack bag’ replacing the regular on board service on routes as lengthy as Singapore – Shanghai.
The good news is a simplified meal provision across all cabins is now served across the network, tailored to the flight length. While this remains a single tray service in Business Class, that’s not too different from SIA’s regular pre-COVID policy for shorter routes like Bangkok.
Those flying on Scoot can now also preorder their meals, though in-flight food and beverage service and duty free sales continue to be suspended.
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)