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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Thankfully a large privacy divider could be raised to split these two seats into private cubicle-style spaces of their own.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
We even joked while flying on the aircraft that the area ahead of Row 1 could easily accommodate a row of Economy Class seats!
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.
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.
|2006 F||2013 F|
|Screen Size||23″ SD||24″ HD|
|Power Sockets||1 UNI + 2 USB||1 UNI + 2 USB|
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.
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.
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.
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
|Boeing 777-300||22 Jul 2009
|24 Oct 2020
|Boeing 777-300ER||5 Dec 2006
|23 Dec 2018
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.
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.
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:
- Istanbul (via Dubai)
- Riyadh (via Dubai)
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:
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.
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!
|Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class
|Farewell 2006 Business Class
|Farewell 2007 Suites
|Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class
|Farewell 2006 Business Class
|Farewell 2007 Suites
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)