Singapore Airlines

Farewell Singapore Airlines 2006 First Class

Revolutionary in its time, but decidedly dated in recent years, we've now waved goodbye to Singapore Airlines' 2006 First Class seat.

Here's a look back at its history.

The next in our ‘farewell’ series covering the recent retirement of SIA Business Class and First Class seats is the 2006 First Class product, which was available on selected Boeing 777s since late 2006 and bowed out in 2020, slightly earlier than planned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched to the media in October 2006, the seat entered service two months later between Singapore and Paris, initially featuring on the airline’s first Boeing 777-300ER (9V-SWA), which came delivered fresh from the factory with new cabin products in all three classes.

The 2006 First Class seat on a Boeing 777-300. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Costing S$570 million across First, Business and Economy Class, the major product revamp was SIA’s first in more than a decade, and set a new industry benchmark for premium airline cabins.

“What we are introducing today is a suite of products that meets, if not exceeds, the expectations of the increasingly sophisticated world traveller. It promises to deliver improvements to all aspects of the customer’s flying experience across all three classes.”

Sak-Hin Chin, General Manager, SIA
October 2006

The 2006 First Class seat in particular was notable for being the most spacious First Class product ever to be introduced by a commercial airline, at 35 inches wide, and was promoted by SIA as “the largest full-flat bed in the sky”.

Operation of the seat peaked in 2012, with 208 of them installed fleet-wide at that time (on seven Boeing 777-300s and 19 Boeing 777-300ERs).

Over 13 years after they were first introduced, the era of the 2006 First Class seat in SIA came to a slightly premature end, when the final passenger flight with this cabin touched down at Changi on 24th October 2020, marking the end of Boeing 777-300 (non-ER) passenger operations.

The 2006 First Class seat was exclusive to the Boeing 777-300 in its final couple of years, bowing out in October 2020 on 9V-SYJ. (Photo: Plane’s Portrait Aviation Media / Malcolm Lu)

The seat design

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

The same company made the 2006 Business Class seat, and those of you who’ve read our tribute to that product will no doubt recall the certification scandal that ensued, significantly delaying new seat deliveries for SIA.

That also affected the rollout schedule of this First Class product, which we’ll touch on later in the article. Koito no longer manufactures aircraft seats.

Promotional shot of the 2006 First Class seat. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Styling was by French luxury fashion house Givenchy, who were also contracted at the time to provide the bedding and dining ware in the First Class cabin.


 

 

The Singapore Airlines 2006 First Class seat

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

Privacy, direct aisle access and seat width were all significant selling points, but SIA also lauded the seat’s power supply options and entertainment screen in its marketing.

Source: Singapore Airlines Annual Report 2006/07

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

First Class offers eight luxurious seats, 35 inches wide, providing enhanced privacy, personal attention, convenience and entertainment. For the best sleeping experience, the seat converts into the largest full-flat bed in the sky, complemented with luxurious soft furnishings.

Singapore Airlines

For some, it was too wide

Like the 2006 Business Class seat, the enormous width in this First Class product 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.

Bolster cushion in the 2006 First Class, to act as an armrest. (Photo: One Mile at a Time)

If you were sat in one of the middle pairs in First Class but were not travelling with the person next to you, it was potentially a little impersonal.

The middle seat pairs were ideal for couples or friends. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Thankfully a large privacy divider could be raised to split these two seats into private cubicle-style spaces of their own.

Privacy divider raised between the middle seat pair. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Entertainment

One of the biggest selling points of SIA’s new cabin products in 2006 was the latest In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.

The 2006 First Class cabin was of course no exception, being fitted with the Panasonic eX2 IFE system. The 23-inch LCD screen looks very dated by today’s standards, but was cutting edge at the time and in fact Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for this revolutionary product.

The 2006 First Class seat featured a 23-inch LCD IFE screen. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The bed ‘flipped over’

Like its 2006 Business Class counterpart, one potential downside of the 2006 First 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 First Class seat converted into the largest bed in the sky. (Photo: TravelSort)

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.

The new 2013 First Class still requires you to flip the seat over when turning it into a bed.

It was possible to recline the seat between its upright takeoff / landing mode and a ‘lounging’ mode through the standard seat controls without any assistance.

The 2006 First Class seat in upright and lounging mode. (Photos: Singapore Airlines)

Boeing 777-300 cabins had huge gaps

When eight of the 2006 First Class seats were incorporated into each Boeing 777-300ER from design stage it was done efficiently, with the seats well fitted into a small two-row cabin section ahead of a bulkhead wall separating them from Business Class.

2006 First Class on the Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo: One Mile at a Time)

However, when it came to the Boeing 777-300s – which had to be refitted with this seat – the former three rows of First Class just couldn’t be squeezed in. Since SIA had installed a galley behind the First Class section on these aircraft, options were limited.

The Boeing 777-300s with 2006 First Class seats installed therefore had a ridiculous amount of space ahead of Row 1 and behind Row 2, to simply ‘pad out’ the available cabin section.

Space ahead of Row 1 on the Boeing 777-300. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We even joked while flying on the aircraft that the area ahead of Row 1 could easily accommodate a row of Economy Class seats!

Space behind Row 2 on the Boeing 777-300. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

By the time the seat had been restricted to only a few Boeing 777-300s, routes were very limited with Jakarta, Manila and occasionally Tokyo seeing 2006 First Class products offered.

(Photos: Singapore Airlines)

Seat stats

Here are the key stats for the 2006 First Class seat, shown alongside its replacement – the 2013 First Class product, which was officially launched on 9th July 2013 and first entered service on 27th September that year.

  This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is A-seats-2.jpg This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1F-Overview-Night-Small.jpg
2006 F 2013 F
Seat    
Config 1-2-1 1-2-1
Width 35″ 35″
Bed Length 80″ 82″
Recline 180o 180o
IFE    
Screen Size 23″ SD 24″ HD
Power Sockets 1 UNI + 2 USB 1 UNI + 2 USB
Wi-Fi No Yes
(unlimited)

What did it replace?

This seat was newly fitted on Boeing 777-300ERs in 2006, however it progressively replaced the old Regional First Class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration on the Boeing 777-300 fleet, starting in 2009.

Those older seats came in two varieties and were also fitted on regional Boeing 777-200s.

The two older versions of SIA’s Boeing 777 Regional First Class, pre-2006. (Photos: Sam Chui, Dongmin Chung)

Seat width was 23 inches in the older product, so the upgrade was a real step-change for the airline, with the 2006 First Class seat boasting a seat some 50% wider at 35 inches. Indeed the IFE screen alone in the new 1-2-1 First Class product was as wide as the seat itself in the previous generation!

The seat operated alongside (but did not replace) the long-haul “Skysuite” First Class product fitted to the airline’s Boeing 747-400s since their entry into service in 1998.

Those seats were retained until that aircraft type was retired from service in April 2012.

SIA retained its “Skysuite” First Class seats on the Boeing 747-400s until the jumbos were retired in 2012. (Photo: Richard Moross)

With a relatively unique 1, 1-1-1, 1-2-1, 1-2-1 layout in the nose section of the 747-400, it’s likely the latest 2006 First Class product could not easily be made compatible with this space.


 

 

Which aircraft?

Here are the two aircraft types in the Singapore Airlines fleet that had the 2006 First Class seats installed over the years, with the very first inaugural and final services highlighted.

2006 First Class Seat Deployment

Aircraft First service
(2006 F)
Last service
(2006 F)
Boeing 777-300 22 Jul 2009
SQ324 SIN-SYD
9V-SYF
24 Oct 2020
SQ931 SUB-SIN
9V-SYJ
Boeing 777-300ER 5 Dec 2006
SQ334 SIN-CDG
9V-SWA
23 Dec 2018
SQ831 PVG-SIN
9V-SWT

The first aircraft type in the fleet to get the new 2006 F seats was the Boeing 777-300ERs, brand new at the time, which featured 8 seats across a small two-row cabin.

The 2006 F seats were progressively replaced with the new 2013 First Class product, still installed to this day on the 777-300ERs, initially as an 8-seat cabin and then later in a smaller single-row four-seat layout.

The 2006 First Class seat bowed out on the Boeing 777-300 (non-ER) aircraft in 2020, which operated its final passenger service on 24th October 2020 from Surabaya to Singapore.

SIA’s final Boeing 777-300 passenger service probably had no passengers in the First Class cabin. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

It’s worth noting, however, that the First Class cabin was not sold on this city pair, or any of the other routes the type was flying at the time, and in reality therefore the last passengers to sit in these seats would probably have done so sometime in March 2020.

Boeing 777-300 Seat Map

Boeing 777-300ER Seat Map
(all refitted with “2013 F” by Dec 2018)

What replaced it?

The 2006 First Class seat was never replaced on the Boeing 777-300 (non-ER) aircraft, since that fleet was always set to be retired in the early to mid-2020s.

However, on the Boeing 777-300ERs, which operate long-haul flights across the world, an updated design was needed and in 2013 the cabin picked up a refresh.

SIA’s 2013 First Class seats. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

A new seat design by JAMCO with styling by BMW Designworks gave the product a decidedly more modern feel, including dark brown leather seats with orange stitching and a more muted grey / light brown seat shell with improved privacy wings.

Alongside came the latest high-definition in-flight entertainment system and Wi-Fi connectivity.

While the Boeing 777-300ERs were initially refitted with the same two-row cabin in a 1-2-1 configuration for eight seats in total, First Class was later scaled down to a single-row cabin as aircraft were reconfigured to a four-class fit, including Premium Economy.

Don’t miss our full review of the product – one of our favourite First Class experiences.

The Koito seat scandal

As we mentioned earlier in the article, the Singapore Airlines 2006 First Class seat was manufactured by Japanese company Koito Industries.

We went into detail in our tribute to the 2006 Business Class seat regarding the deliberate falsification of safety and test data by the seat manufacturer over a 15-year period.

The debacle put a major stress on Singapore Airlines, who had to delay new Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER deliveries and retain older aircraft in the fleet to compensate.

For the 2006 First Class seat, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

Not long after SIA announced the latest product would be retrofitted to selected Boeing 777-300 aircraft from mid-2009, the deception finally came to light and authorities determined all Koito seats in service could be unsafe.

The cabin refit programme on Boeing 777-300s (non-ERs) then ground to a halt for some time due to the issue. Only one aircraft had the refit between July 2009 and April 2011, with SIA having to roll back on a promise that the products would feature on five routes by late 2009:

  • Dubai
  • Sydney
  • Istanbul (via Dubai)
  • Riyadh (via Dubai)
  • Shanghai

Eventually the situation was resolved and the refit work was completed, and Singapore Airlines later received compensation for the delays.

For full details of the Koito scandal, expand the box below:

The Koito seat scandal

In 2009, Japan's civil aviation regulator JCAB noticed that Koito had delivered aircraft seats to JAL covered with a material not certified for use on aircraft. While that doesn't sound too serious, use of only approved fabrics in cabin furnishings is vital for slowing the spread of fires.

The authority issued Koito with a warning, but what seemed like a simple lapse was only the beginning. A house of cards was about to fall, and Singapore Airlines was set to get caught up in the ensuing mess.

Over in Toulouse, France, in late 2009, SIA's 11th Airbus A380 (9V-SKK) was being readied for delivery. Rather than being flown to Changi in January 2010 as scheduled, however, the aircraft was sealed up and parked on the ramp.

The delay came about not from Airbus, but from the European safety regulator EASA, who had withdrawn its 'Production Authorisation Approval' (POA) from Koito, meaning it was unable to produce seat or seat parts for airborne use. EASA no longer considered Koito a trustworthy manufacturer, claiming it wasn't sharing enough information with European clients.

"Our withdrawal of the POA is what I would describe as an emergency measure.

"EASA's directive applies to all Airbus planes, even if they are flown outside Europe."

Dr. Daniel Höltgen, EASA spokesman, September 2009

By February 2010, with 9V-SKK still parked up in Toulouse, EASA released a public statement of concern saying it was "evaluating evidence... regarding irregularities in the design and production of Koito seats manufactured in Japan".

This was no longer just about fitting new seats to aircraft, it was also about those already installed, including over 600 of SIA's pioneering 2006 Business Class flat beds.

The European regulator had called Koito's bluff.

The following day the Japanese firm's CEO publicly admitted that it had deliberately faked test results on its seats, relating to crash survivability and flammability.

"Fraudulent acts were conducted across the organization.

"Our wrongful acts concerning seats for aircraft severely impair our credibility as an enterprise that engages in aviation-related business, and we feel remrose for, and sincerely apologize for, having caused considerable inconvenience and concern to customers and other parties."

Takashi Kakegawa, Koito CEO, 8th February 2010

Koito had used results from previous tests on different seats to fast-track approvals, and fabricated other test data, because the company "feared it might otherwise fail to keep to its delivery schedules".

Not only had Koito used test data from previous seats and falsified other results (as if that wasn't bad enough), it also manipulated computers to produce 'favourable' test readings when inspectors were present.

In other words - a deliberate deception.

Did it matter?

Yes it did, as it turns out. Proper tests overseen by regulators subsequently conducted on actual seats Koito had supplied to airlines began to reveal something alarming.

"Results from tests performed by Koito with the supervision of (the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau) confirmed a high proportion of seat models failed the requirements for structural, flammability and occupant injury criteria."

EASA

Aircraft seats are tested for survivability and flammability as part of their approval. Koito was falsifying this data, or using test results from different seats, to achieve certification.

Source: The New York Times, December 2010

In December 2010, JCAB said Koito's test results may have been falsified over a 15-year period, and as many as 150,000 seats used by 30 airlines worldwide could be affected.

"The scope and the extent of these activities are not like anything we have observed before."

Les Dorr, Jr., FAA Spokesman

JCAB and EASA have concluded that all data (both design and manufacturing) generated by Koito must be treated as suspect.

The level of falsification and the length of time over which the falsification occurred, in combination with the lack of retained records, prompted EASA to deem that all Koito Seats exhibit unsafe conditions of varying degrees.

EASA

How was SIA affected?

SIA's 11th A380 was granted an exemption and eventually delivered in July 2010, six months after it was first due to join the fleet.

One of SIA's brand new Airbus A380s was parked in Toulouse for six months due to the Koito seats debacle. (Photo: Rob Finlayson)

In the end three more of SIA's A380s were delayed (9V-SKL, -SKM and -SKN), while the regulators and manufacturers wrangled over what to do.

SIA was forced to retain Boeing 747-400 operation on its Singapore - Tokyo - Los Angeles flights for an additional six months, a route due to switch to the A380 with the 12th aircraft delivery (9V-SKL).

The cabin refit programme on Boeing 777-300s (non-ERs) also ground to a halt for some time due to the issue. Only one aircraft had the refit from July 2009 to April 2011 due to the seat certification debacle, with SIA having to roll back on a promise that the products would feature on five routes by late 2009. Koito made the 2006 First Class seats being fitted to those aircraft.

What eventually happened?

Ultimately EASA (and the FAA in the US) issued an Airworthiness Directive in June 2011, permitting Koito seats to remain installed for two years. If the seats passed specific tests, this could be extended to six years, with further tests permitting an even longer service life.

However, EASA was "unable to find a way to accept that seats which do not comply with significant parts of the applicable requirements remain in service indefinitely", noting they had completed "only an abbreviated test programme". The European regulator ordered that the seats must be completely removed after 10 years.

In early 2013, Singapore Airlines received approximately S$79 million in compensation, combined between Boeing and Koito, so at least some of that related to the seat saga.

Summary

Revolutionary in its time, SIA’s 2006 First Class seats set new standards for long-haul First Class, including the largest flat bed in the sky.

Over the years the product became dated, but was increasingly restricted to regional routes including Jakarta and Manila, for almost unheard of regional luxury, while newer 2013 First Class seats and the A380 Suites products took care of the long-haul network.

Vintage Dom Perignon was enough to distract you from the age of the 2006 First Class seat, even on a short flight to Jakarta. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

It’s unlikely to a product sorely missed by many SIA regulars, given that most former routes now offer a newer version, but nonetheless it had an old world charm about it!


 

 

See also

Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class

READ THE ARTICLE

Farewell 2006 Business Class

READ THE ARTICLE

Farewell 2007 Suites

COMING SOON

Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class

READ THE ARTICLE

Farewell 2006 Business Class

READ THE ARTICLE

Farewell 2007 Suites

COMING SOON

(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)

2 comments

  1. I love reading you articles. Very informative and well researched. Having been a frequent flyer on SIA and involved in their interior developments as a supplier for over 20 years it brings back so many memories.

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