Singapore Airlines

Farewell Singapore Airlines 2006 Business Class

One of SIA's much-loved Business Class seats has bowed out after 13 years of service. Here's our send-off to a product with an interesting history.

We continue our ‘farewell’ series of four Singapore Airlines Business Class and First Class seats with one that will likely rank among our readers as a revolutionary product, if not now then certainly when it was launched, the 2006 long-haul Business Class model.

As its name suggests, the product entered service in 2006, but only just! The inaugural flight with the new seats, SQ334 from Singapore to Paris, departed Changi on 5th December 2006. It was operated by the airline’s first Boeing 777-300ER (9V-SWA), which came delivered fresh from the factory with new cabin products in all three cabins.

Over 13 years later, the era of the 2006 Business Class seat in SIA came to an (unintentionally premature) close, when the final passenger flight with this cabin, flown by Airbus A380 9V-SKL as SQ321 from London Heathrow to Singapore, touched down into Changi on 28th March 2020 at 6.54pm.

The super-wide 2006 Business Class seat on the Airbus A380. (Photo: Paolo Rossini)

While the seats remain installed on three of the carrier’s Airbus A380s due to return to service after COVID-19, these will all be refitted with the latest cabin products before rejoining the operating fleet.

It was launched on the “wrong” aircraft

Singapore Airlines designed the new 2006 Business Class seat (and its counterpart Suites product) to be launched on the Airbus A380, which was set to be introduced into service in April 2006. This was a significant milestone for the airline, since it was the launch customer for the aircraft type.

Production delays pushed the first delivery to October and then December 2006.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the end, another 10-month holdup resulted in SIA taking its first superjumbo in October 2007, 18 months later than planned.

Singapore Airlines finally took delivery of its first Airbus A380 in October 2007. The airline received a compensation settlement from Airbus for the delay. (Photo: Airbus)

That meant the new seats had to be introduced on the Boeing 777-300ER instead, between Singapore and Paris in December 2006. The 2006 Business Class product was first revealed to the media at an event on 17th October 2006, alongside the 2006 First Class seat.

In October 2006, our comprehensive suite of new generation cabin products are introduced across all classes. These include the world’s widest First and Business Class seats, which transform into fully-flat beds.

Singapore Airlines (2006)
All the marketing images SIA produced for the new Business Class seat were actually of the A380 version, in an A380 cabin mock-up, but it was the Boeing 777 that got it first. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

By March 2007 the seat had been rolled out to several routes, as additional Boeing 777-300ER deliveries took place:

  • Paris
  • Milan
  • Barcelona
  • Zurich,
  • Frankfurt
  • San Francisco via Seoul
  • Hong Kong
The 2006 Business Class seat on the Airbus A380. (Photo: Sorbis / Shutterstock)

It was certainly all about width in Business Class, with these huge seats offering over 25% more lateral space than those being replaced, but before we study the seat in detail let’s take a look at who made it (“by hook or by crook”, as it turned out!).

The seat design

This seat was manufactured by Koito Industries of Japan, as an exclusive design for Singapore Airlines.

The disgraced company no longer manufactures aircraft seats, since admitting to falsifying safety test results in 2010, a scandal that delayed new deliveries and retrofit work on many Singapore Airlines aircraft, including Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s.

Koito now specialises in safety lighting systems for the automotive, aviation and maritime industries.

More on the seat scandal later in the article!

The Singapore Airlines 2006 seat

This revolutionary product was sometimes referred to as the Koito ‘Diamond’ seat (while the 2006 First Class was the ‘Diamond Plus’ seat), though Singapore Airlines never specifically named either one.

At the time, this was both the largest seat and the largest bed offered worldwide in Business Class.

Promotional image of the 2006 Business Class seat on the Airbus A380. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Direct aisle access and seat width were both significant selling points, but SIA also lauded the seat’s power supply and IFE system in its marketing.

Source: Singapore Airlines Annual Report 2006/07

Here’s SIA’s promotional video for the 2006 J seat.

Our new Business Class seat, the widest in its class, invites you to be re-acquainted with the joys of relaxing on your favourite sofa. The premium seat unfolds to reveal the largest ever full-flat bed; offering you all the room you need.

Singapore Airlines

In June 2013 over 2,750 of these seats were installed on Singapore Airlines aircraft, close to 60% of the 4,600 Business Class seats fitted fleet-wide at that time.

For some, it was too wide

The enormous width of the seat was such that it could actually be uncomfortable to relax in for some passengers, as it was almost impossible to have two easily reachable armrests.

Singapore Airlines started providing bolster cushions at each seat to assist with this, though the practice eventually ceased.

Notice the ‘bolster cushion’ provided in the 2006 Business Class seat, to act as an armrest. (Photo: Sunandan Subramaniam)

Other features

The seat had a great little shelf for your welcome drink, though we noticed in recent years the crew stopped using it, perhaps because too many were getting spilled as passengers got in and out of their seats or stowed their hand luggage in the overhead locker during boarding.

Drink shelf. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

On the Boeing 777, each seat also had a useful storage shelf at the window side (or between the middle seat pairs), ideal for portable devices like laptops and tablets that you needed to keep within reach during the flight.

Storage shelf. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

For those sitting next to a stranger in the middle seats, there was an extendable privacy divider installed.

Privacy dividers were installed between middle seat pairs. (Photo: First Class Photography / Shutterstock)

While these are no match for the much larger dividers fitted in Business Class on more recent SIA aircraft, they still improved privacy to a good degree.

Bulkhead rows had a lot more space

Bulkhead seats were always ones to go for if you wanted to avoid the small cubby hole for your feet while sleeping once the 2006 J seat was in bed mode.

The lack of a seat in front meant a full-width bench replaced the small space, providing a much more generous sleeping surface.

Seat 11A on the Boeing 777-200ER. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

On most aircraft with the 2006 J seats installed this meant picking any seat in row 11, though there were additional options especially on the Airbus A380.

The bed ‘flipped over’

One potential downside of the 2006 Business Class seat was that the mattress was on the reverse of the seat itself, requiring you to flip the seat back over to convert it to bed mode.

The 2006 Business Class seat in bed mode. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Of course you could always ask the cabin crew to do this for you and they would happily oblige, however it meant you couldn’t easily switch between seat mode and bed mode like you can on the newer 2017 Business Class seats.

That said, the 2013 Business Class still requires you to flip the seat over when turning it into a bed.

The A380 seats were bigger

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there was only one version of the 2006 Business Class seat fitted on specific aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet.

In fact not all Singapore Airlines 2006 Business Class seats were created equal.

The ones on the Airbus A380 were some four inches wider than those on the Boeing 777s (34″ vs 30″), taking advantage of extra space by removing the storage shelves alongside the IFE screen on the inside sections of each seat.

(Photo: MainlyMiles)

The triangular fixed side at the window side (or between the seats in the middle pairs) along the seat pan was also removed on the A380, ‘squaring up’ the section.

The 34″-wide 2006 Business Class seat on the Airbus A380. (Photo: The Luxury Travel Expert)

The Airbus A340-500s had similar seats to the A380s in design, but were also scaled back to 30 inches of width in order to fit in the 52-cm narrower cabin, compared to the A380 upper deck.

ADVERTISEMENT

In effect, there were actually three versions of the 2006 Business Class seat in service at one point.

One of the major benefits on the Airbus 380 was the inclusion of the large additional side storage compartments at the window seats