Back in early September we first wrote about the ‘flight to nowhere’ trend, which had started to pick up traction at a number of Asia-Pacific airlines including EVA Air, ANA and Qantas, as a way to sidestep the travel bans and keep regular customers and aviation enthusiasts engaged while international travel remained either impossible or heavily restricted.
Rumours began to surface that Singapore Airlines was proposing at least one similar flight sometime in October 2020, however for those with great anticipation for such an event (ourselves included!), hopes were dashed in late September with the airline ruling out the concept, and instead announcing a series of on-ground experiences.
One of the most anticipated experiences offered has certainly been Restaurant A380 @Changi, the opportunity to dine on board one of the airline’s superjumbos for either lunch or dinner.
Like hundreds if not thousands of others, we stayed up until midnight on Sunday 11th October to be in with the best chance of securing our seats for the first event, and luckily we were able to secure three seats on the inaugural A380 lunch in Suites Class.
The first two lunches had sold out in just 26 minutes, while availability in the Suites cabin took just 10 minutes to vanish.
We arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 3 at around 10.15am to ‘check-in’ for our A380 lunch reservation. This is the first time you learn about your seat assignment, though emailing the team in advance had already ensured the three of us were seated together.
Since there are two A380s operating the restaurant service for each sitting and our bookings were made separately, we at least wanted to be on the same aircraft as one another.
Coloured bracelets differentiated the two groups of diners to which of the A380s they would be dining on. All pre-dining tours were conducted on the same aircraft (parked at gate B4 in our case).
We were allocated seats 1F, 2F and 3F, the three seats down the right-hand side of the A380 Suites cabin. After check-in, we proceeded through ‘pseudo immigration’, which was located where the usual dedicated First Class lane is on the far south side of the departure hall, a short walk from the check-in desks.
At this point we temporarily surrendered our passports for the duration of the event.
Once through into the transit area, staff holding “Restaurant A380 @Changi” signboards shepherded attendees through to the departure gate.
After formal gate security, where laptops were screened and beyond which liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 100ml were not permitted, the festivities began.
Security was swift, professional and friendly. Shortly after we were confronted with a lounge already packed full of lunch-ready punters.
Guests had been advised to arrive early in order to experience a host of gate activities and entertainment experiences prior to boarding their lunch session or aircraft tour.
The boarding lounge was one of the Changi Terminal 3’s “Super Gates” that is capable of hosting several hundred passengers. Under normal circumstances, these are our least favoured gates. In this case, they seemed almost purpose built for the job with social distancing and their own toilets!
We collected our free gifts for donning Peranakan attire which turned out to be Singapore Airlines logo embossed umbrellas (useful given the inclement outdoor conditions) and the rather quirky Singapore Airlines temporary tattoos.
The Heritage display included a showcase of SIA’s cabin crew uniforms from yesteryear, which was a nice throw back to the good times. Elsewhere they were handing out soft drinks and there was also a Batik paper rose stand.
An MC boomed away in the background to advise us of the impending boarding delays to our aircraft tours, although spirits remained high given the novelty of the occasion.
The super gate is equipped with dedicated toilet facilities. Singapore Airlines had taken the thoughtful opportunity to equip these facilities with the Business Class Penhaligon’s amenities, facial mist, eau de toilette and hand lotion, which was a welcome touch.
We were allocated the aircraft tour at 10.45am prior to our lunch. Each tour was planned for 15 minutes, however with all the excitement and photo taking they were actually lasting around twice as long as that, leading to an understandable backlog.
Of course, the required COVID-19 social distancing with separated groups of five on each tour didn’t help matters, though the tour was still well-organised.
It is the latest to be refitted with the new 2017 cabin products, receiving its face-lift in June this year. Having been returned straight into storage at Changi, it has never been occupied by regular passengers since, so the brand new seats and fittings are still top-notch, as you’d expect.
The last time passengers flew on this aircraft it had the original A380 cabin products installed, flying from London to Singapore over a year ago on 16th October 2019.
The other aircraft being used for the same lunch was 9V-SKS, which was the first A380 to be refitted with the new seats after the original five (9V-SKU to -SKZ) were delivered.
We also noticed that 9V-SKV was parked on gate B5 and appeared to be prepared to accept passengers, perhaps as a standby in case of a technical problem or it could be used on future events since there will be four dining dates in total.
The aircraft tour included all four cabin classes, plus a peek at the flight crew rest area and inside the cockpit, where pictures were not allowed.
Since we were touring 9V-SKN, with the latest cabin fit, it had that ‘new car smell’ with the very latest seats fitted only four months ago.
This was the perfect aircraft to showcase the new products to guests, many of whom will not have seen the latest A380 interiors, which remained quite rare even before the type stopped flying back in March.
We were quite surprised that they didn’t want to keep the seats in their protective wrapping during the storage period, but it was certainly great to be the first to actually try them out, with guests invited to take a seat for a few minutes in each cabin class if they wished to.
Entering the new 2017 Suites cabin for lunch itself was a slightly bittersweet moment for us. Our only Suites booking for 2020 was just four days from now, on the third ever Auckland – Singapore A380 flight operating with the new ‘Version 3’ aircraft including the latest cabin products.
That means right now we were just getting ready to arrive in Auckland for the last few nights of our two-week New Zealand tour, finishing off in the brand new Park Hyatt.
Needless to say a 10 hour 40 minute daytime flight in these latest Singapore Airlines Suites was set to be the perfect end to a fantastic trip, but alas it was not to be. Instead we had just boarded for a three-hour experience, and at least that’s better than nothing!
With all of the right-side suites available to us, we were treated to the largest two suites, which convert into a double suite, plus the smallest of all in row 3, measuring around 35 square feet.
‘New’ A380 Suites Floorspace
|1A||54 ft2||54 ft2||1F|
|2A||43 ft2||43 ft2||2F|
|3A||35 ft2||35 ft2||3F|
As we settled in, drinks were offered. The flight progress system had been set up to reflect flight SQ380 from Singapore to Singapore, though of course we wouldn’t actually be taking off!
There was an SIA Care Kit provided for each passenger at the credenza, as there is on all flights currently.
This contained hand sanitiser, a face mask and a disinfectant surface wipe.
Singapore Airlines had the in-flight entertainment system all fired up for our 3-hour lunch visit, which gave passengers ample time to watch a movie or some TV shows during lunch using the latest on-demand KrisWorld system.
Up in the Suites cabin that meant we each had an adjustable 32″ HD TV mounted on the wall for our individual use.
The usual Bang and Olufsen noise-cancelling headset was placed at each seat on boarding.
Although Suites passengers on regular Singapore Airlines flights get an unlimited free Wi-Fi allowance, we noted that it was switched off during the Restaurant A380 @Changi event, probably not surprising given the cost of a satellite data connection, plus the fact we would have no problem connecting using 3G/4G.
Champagne and wine
Two Champagnes were on offer in Suites Class, the Krug Grande Cuvée N.V. and the 2008-vintage Dom Pérignon.
Two white wines and two red wines were also on the list, along with a selection of port, spirits, cocktails and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.Pro Tip: We chatted with the crew about the “two drinks policy”. It’s actually a “soft limit”, designed to ensure people don’t overindulge, so don’t worry if you’re attending and looking forward to a third or fourth glass. Crew can use their judgement to facilitate customers’ enjoyment, as with a normal flight.
Between the three of us we sampled both Champagnes, the 2004 Bordeaux and an obligatory shot of Belvedere vodka with the caviar course!
Other beverages offered were much the same extensive selection you’d expect when flying Suites or Business Class with Singapore Airlines, including Illy coffee and TWG tea.
The menu for Suites Class ‘passengers’ attending the Restaurant A380 @Changi was shared after booking the event through the KrisShop.
We’ve also got copies of the menus offered in the other three cabins during this Restaurant A380 @Changi experience at the following links:
In case you missed the news, Singapore Airlines is no longer providing printed menus in any cabin class, and also did not do so at this event, with the exception of the beverage list.
Initially this was a COVID-19 precaution, also involving removal of seat pocket literature like the SilverKris magazine, however the airline has since announced that the menus will not be returning as part of a digital drive to reduce waste.
If you’ve ever flown with Singapore Airlines in Business, First or Suites Class you’ll probably be familiar with the airline’s popular signature satay ‘pre-starter’ on long-haul flights, particularly before a lunch service like this one.
I’ll be brutally honest here – I’m not a big fan of satay. I did have a couple of sticks of this one but I’m certainly not the man to ask about this dish, so I’ll happily defer to my two co-diners for their take on it.
The dish got the seal of approval from them, the usual very good rendition from SIA!
My co-diners also went for the traditional Singapore Sling offered with the satay.
While I can’t admit to being a satay fan, one thing I’ll never decline is caviar! Somehow we feel that the taste was better on the ground. Perhaps it’s a case of absence making the heart grow fonder or maybe the atmospheric pressure. Either way – this simple dish left us feeling very satisfied.
It’s also great to see it served with the mother of pearl spoon. Additionally in true spirit of good times the crew were happy to serve this alongside a healthy shot of Vodka.
As always, the extensive Singapore Airlines bread basket was offered, including the ever-popular garlic bread, which we’re pleased to report was just as good as before.
The Anti pasti was served cold as a plate of prosciutto, scallops, mozzarella, tomato and fresh leaves, with a light Italian dressing.
Roast Duck Salad in Sweet Plum Sauce
From the Peranakan menu, the Roast Duck Salad was a flavourful but light appetiser with rich meat and a zingy sauce. This was complemented well by crisp shredded lettuce, melon and cucumber slices.
Bawan Kepiting Soup
Pork and crab soup to the uninitiated! The pork and crab stuffing was served within the crab shell, with a clear broth and vegetable slices surrounding it.
The dish was light and pleasant but not overly flavoursome.
Book The Cook Favourite Lobster Thermidor
We have sampled this dish many times in both Business and First class. The debate is still active over the difference between the two but it remains a solid ‘Book The Cook’ option nonetheless. The lobster tail is served in the shell, with a Thermidor sauce (cheese, mushrooms, cream and herbs).
This particular rendition appeared fresh, firm and juicy but not particularly flavoursome. Whilst the rice was well cooked the asparagus was slightly over. In our experience this dish is a bit of a hit and miss… this time was a miss.
Nonya Grandma’s Nasi Lemak
When I tell people one of my favourite ‘Book The Cook’ meals to pre-order on Singapore Airlines is Nasi Lemak, they usually look at me like I’m totally mad. How can a dish costing S$3-4 at most hawker stalls across Singapore be ‘reinvented’ to Business or First Class standards?
The reason is that there is something intrinsically comforting and homely about a dish such as Nasi Lemak. When the quality of the ingredients and depth of flavours is enhanced it elevates the dish to another level. Flying with your home carrier brings a sense of warmth and patriotism and this dish epitomises that sensation.
I was also happy to see it retained on the slimmed-down ‘Book The Cook’ breakfast list for regional flights towards the end of 2019, before the ability to choose from an extended menu was sadly suspended due to COVID-19.
This rendition was rather good. The prawns were juicy and piquant. The chicken whilst tasty, was a tad on the dry side. The sambal was moderately spicy, perhaps a little dulled to suite a wider range of tastes. The rice was cooked superbly.
Dessert, cheese and fruit
By this point all of us were starting to feel rather full. Even on the ground, without pressurisation, this is a lot of food and drink for lunch!
Warm Fondant Chocolate Cake
A Mainly Miles all-time favourite. It’s really hard to get this wrong in our books but this was superbly executed by the crew. The centre of the fondant was warm, soft and gooey – the fruit was the fresh and the vanilla ice cream was luxurious.
Trio of Nostalgic Local Ice Cream Sandwiches
A simple, light and refreshing offering harking back to hawker desert stalls. The wafer was crisp and the flavours of Pandan, Gula Melaka and Sweet Corn were subtle but really rather good.
Overall, this was a really well executed dish and a refreshing way to end the meal.
Cheese & Fruit
The usual cheese selection that you can expect on a Singapore Airlines flight was presented, including Cheddar, Blue, Brie and Swiss alongside a selection of sides and finished with some plastic-wrapped (COVID-style) Melba toasts.
The fruit selection was the standard offering spiced up with some dry ice from the ever-attentive crew.
Business Class food
Reader Melvin was kind enough to share the following photos of the food in Business Class on the inaugural A380 lunch, including the Signature Satay and Nasi Lemak served in that cabin, where tickets were half the price of Suites Class at S$321 each.
It looks like quite a feast back there too! Be sure to follow Melvin on Instagram if you’re not already!
Reader Seah Kiat Hong also kindly supplied a photo of the Beef Fillet with Black Pepper Sauce.
Shopping and souvenirs
As previously mentioned, the souvenir offered for those in Peranakan dress is a Singapore Airlines motif umbrella. For those concerned, a Batik mask is considered as acceptable attire!
Included in the gift bag given to all Suite Class passengers was the latest iteration of the Lalique amenity kits (male and female version vary), although the signature crystal fish sculpture is no longer included. A Singapore Airlines motif pen, playing cards and ‘Russian Doll’ style travel pouch are also provided.
There was also the opportunity to make purchases from the KrisShop, however we didn’t partake.
Here’s our short video review of the Restaurant A380 @Changi experience on IGTV:
Although the new A380 Suites product, or any of the airline’s First Class or Suites products for that matter, are not currently operating due to the COVID-19 downturn, we have a full review of the cabin from our trip in 2018.
This gives you a comprehensive rundown on the seat and service, including the double bed, on a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong.
Was it worth it?
One thing is for certain, the Restaurant A380 @Changi experience wasn’t cheap for those opting for the premium Suites and Business Class cabins.
We each parted with S$642 for the experience, far preferable to the 80,250 KrisFlyer miles alternative, the latter being almost what we originally ‘paid’ for 10 hours 40 minutes in this cabin to fly from Auckland to Singapore next week.
Overall the experience was extremely enjoyable. Initially, the check-in process, social distancing and the crowded gate area was a little confronting. But once the aircraft tour was underway and then when we began lunch – the usual sense of being ‘well looked after’ kicked in.
A special noteworthy point is that the crew were exceptional. It is not often that we render such praise and it is not through pity (although the circumstances of any airline crew member right now are exceptionally difficult and bleak). From start to finish they were well briefed, extremely friendly, fun, professional and excelled at providing excellent service.
We will be writing in to the airline to praise all the crew members who served us lunch in the Suites cabin, they were as passionate and enthusiastic about the event as we were!
Outside of the dining experience itself and despite some false starts with the initial booking and confirmation processes, we thought the event was very well executed. The staff were very affable and happy to see so many people in attendance. The organisation made the COVID-19 restrictions not feel so cumbersome and gave us real hope that safe travel lies on a near horizon.
To address the elephant in the room… this is not the equivalent of a ‘flight to nowhere’ and we remain disappointed that those plans were dashed (as did the crew onboard our ‘lunch flight’).
We are left with a sense of bitterness that relatively ill-founded environmental concerns potentially got the better of that project, which would have been a sure hit with our readers and many others. Indeed we have heard little about the blatant carbon-monster cruise ships that will be regularly departing Singapore ‘to nowhere’ from next month.
The carbon emissions of these beasts far eclipse any aircraft, not to mention the devastating impact on marine life, though we’ve yet to hear a peep! I digress…
The ‘lunch to nowhere’ when considered in isolation was a truly brilliant occasion for the aviation-inclined community or those who just miss the flying experience, and with the possible exception of the slight delay to the aircraft tour, which was really inconsequential, it was executed brilliantly.
Would we pay to do it again? No. Do we have any regrets over the cash we paid for this one-off experience – definitely not. This will certainly go down as one of our highlights of 2020 (and we can probably all count those on one hand!).
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)