In what’s set to be SIA’s last new cabin product launch until the introduction of the Boeing 777-9 in 2024, the airline today revealed its much-anticipated Vantage seats in Business Class, by the UK’s Thompson Aero Seating, for its single-aisle Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft.
Singapore Airlines acquired these jets as part of its recent merger with SilkAir, and is planning for a substantial total fleet of 37 MAXs in the coming years.
What it means for those flying on these smaller SIA aircraft, which are set to become a more common sight on thinner network routes right up to the 7-hour mark, is a welcome shift change from cabin designs well past their prime into something of a more consistent experience with the wide-body fleet.
This includes tip-to-tail seat back in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity for all.
Boeing 737-8 MAX Business Class
There are no major surprises here, with Singapore Airlines already confirming back in February 2019 that it had selected the Thompson Vantage seat for its narrow-body MAX aircraft, an off-the-shelf product already in use with airlines like JetBlue, Malaysia Airlines and flydubai.
We were lucky enough to be invited along for a preview of these seats at the product showcase this morning at Changi Airport, on board one of the refitted MAX jets.
Styling is by factorydesign, a London-based agency responsible for the finish on many Business Class cabin products, including the latest Delta, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic seats, however this is the first time the firm has worked with SIA.
Unlike most Business Class seats on narrow-body aircraft, these ones don’t just recline, there’s a fully flat bed in store for those who need some extra shut-eye on the shorter leg of their long-haul journey, or even on a regional point-to-point trip.
Measuring up to 22 inches in width, the Business Class seat reclines directly into a comfortable full-flat bed (76 inches). These seats are made with premium materials with bespoke embroidery in custom patterns and textures. The seat cushions and covers use the same soft furnishings as those found on our medium-haul aircraft, providing a higher level of comfort for short-haul flights.Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines has brought its signature soft brown, light grey and warm orange hues to the design and finish of the seat, very much in line with its latest Regional Business Class on the wide-body fleet.
Overall the new cabin products on these aircraft represent a S$230 million investment, including development, design, and installation, which the airline says “elevates the standard for short- and medium-haul travel on board narrowbody aircraft”.
“This is the culmination of three years of innovation and hard work, involving extensive customer research and close partnerships with designers and suppliers. As a result, we can now offer customers a premium travel experience across our entire full-service network, no matter how long or short their journey.”Lee Lik Hsin, EVP Commercial, Singapore Airlines
What do these seats replace?
The new cabin is a far cry from the old recliner 2-2 seats originally installed on the Boeing 737 MAX jets when they were first delivered to SilkAir in October 2017, which were Collins Aerospace MiQ models.
While these benefitted from more legroom and increased recline over their predecessors, plus a fancy coffee machine in the galley for your in-flight macchiato, they were no match for the comfort and privacy promised by these newer seats.
|Model||Collins MiQ||Thompson Vantage|
|Width||22.5″||19″ – 22″
|Screen Size||None||16″ HD|
|Power Sockets||1 UNI + 1 USB||1 UNI + 2 USB|
This will be the smallest Singapore Airlines Business Class cabin, with just 10 seats across three rows in a 2-2, 1-1, 2-2 layout.
Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX
Business Class Seat Map
The MAXs feature two ‘throne’ seats, 12B and 12J, benefiting from direct aisle access.
Four other seat pairs provide a more sociable experience for couples, though only the ‘C’ and ‘H’ seat passengers have direct aisle access, with those in 11A, 11K, 14A and 14K having to navigate past their neighbour to reach the aisle.
One forward toilet is available for Business Class passengers, and two bassinet positions are installed at the first row aisle seats, 11C and 11H.
All 10 Business Class seats convert to fully flat beds 76 inches long, the same as the airline’s latest Regional Business Class on the Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350 Medium Haul aircraft.
You can convert into bed mode without leaving your seat, unlike some older SIA Business Class products which require the back to be flipped over to reveal the mattress.
The armrests retract to provide some additional width and elbow room when the seat is in bed mode.
SIA has also added a material surround at the seat shell, for additional comfort while sitting up in bed.
The seat pairs at rows 11 and 14 are ideal for couples, though the tray table stowage between the seats at head height doubles as a fixed privacy partition, giving you some solitude if you’re sitting next to a stranger.
A bi-fold tray table allows you more space when half extended as a side table for drinks and smaller snacks, while this folds out to a full size dining table for main meals.
Other features include USB charging ports and in-seat power supply, a reading light with adjustable brightness, mood lighting, and a pocket under the monitor that provides easy stowage during taxi, take-off and landing.Singapore Airlines
Solo ‘throne’ seats
If there are two go-to seats for solo travellers in Singapore Airlines’ new narrow-body Business Class product, they are definitely the ‘throne’ seats at 12B and 12J.
“The two standalone Business Class seats (seats 12B and 12J) have additional table-top and stowage spaces, and a side stowage compartment equipped with a mirror and LED light.”Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines confirmed to us at the launch event that these are at least 10% wider than those at Rows 11 and 14, measuring 22″ across (compared to 19″ at Row 11 and 20″ at Row 14).
There is excellent privacy and stacks of additional storage at these seats, offering your own desk space for an ‘office in the sky’ feeling thanks to SIA ticking the box on Thompson’s optional extended console at the window side.
Interestingly, Singapore Airlines told us at the launch showcase that there would be no additional charge for these seats at this stage, nor would they be reserved for advance selection by PPS Club members, so it’s ‘fastest fingers first’ for now, once the MAX enters service.
One slight downside to these seats is that the footwell is slightly smaller than the one at Row 14 directly behind, with Row 11 boasting the most space for your legs while sleeping, thanks to its bulkhead position.
We reviewed the Thompson Vantage single-aisle seat back in 2018 on a JetBlue flight, in the solo ‘throne’ seats, on the five-hour stretch from Boston to San Francisco.
The 737-8 MAX aircraft include Panasonic’s X-Series seat-back in-flight entertainment in both Business Class and Economy, allowing you to access the latest KrisWorld entertainment content.
A new moving map is also promised.
Amongst the various features, a new state-of-the-art 3D flight map will be rolled out. This includes over 20 distinct map views for various flight phases, such as 3D satellite imagery, local and global views, as well as a personalised feature that enables customers to see the aircraft’s relative position to their selected map location throughout their flight.Singapore Airlines
The fleet is also fitted with Panasonic’s in-flight Wi-Fi service, as well as mobile data connectivity, with a complimentary 100MB data allowance for Business Class passengers and PPS Club members in common with SIA’s wide-body offering.
You can find out more about the new narrow body in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi service at the Singapore Airlines website here.
Singapore Airlines has not confirmed the launch routes for the 737-8 MAX, telling us that regulatory requirements and border openings would dictate the rollout, with service entry “in the coming weeks”.
This includes services to points in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, and Thailand, subject to regulatory approvals. Further details on these flights will be announced in due time.Singapore Airlines
One aspect the Boeing 737-8 MAX opens up for Singapore Airlines is a significantly enhanced range of up to 3,500 nautical miles (6,500km), sufficient to bring several existing and new routes into the equation for narrow-body SIA service.
Routes as far as Fukuoka and Adelaide are within the jet’s range, and potential new (or reinstated) routes where demand is thinner could be efficiently served by the aircraft, like Mauritius, Muscat and Islamabad.
One thing’s for sure, SIA isn’t only going to fly these jets on short routes. With 37 MAXs at its disposal in the years ahead, there will be a good mixture of ex-SilkAir and brand new narrow-body routes to watch out for as the airline capitalises on the efficiency of these aircraft.
Singapore Airlines now has six ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft at Changi, on which it has refitted the cabins, installed the KrisWorld IFE system including Wi-Fi capability, and of course finished the external respray into SIA colours.
SIA Boeing 737-8 MAX Fleet
|Registration||Delivered||Last commercial flight
|9V-MBA||1 Oct 2017
(age 4.1 yrs)
|11 Mar 2019
|9V-MBB||7 Nov 2017
(age 4.0 yrs)
|11 Mar 2019
|9V-MBC||19 Dec 2017
(age 3.9 yrs)
|10 Mar 2019
|9V-MBD||13 Apr 2018
(age 3.6 yrs)
|12 Mar 2019
|9V-MBE||4 May 2018
(age 3.5 yrs)
|11 Mar 2019
|9V-MBF||7 Mar 2019
(age 2.7 yrs)
|11 Mar 2019
Eight more of the MAXs will be delivered to SIA between now and 31st March 2022, according to the airline’s latest financial update, however these aircraft were originally destined for SilkAir and will therefore all require cabin refit work when they arrive at Changi.
With the exception of one of the eight, they will also need to be repainted.
As a result, SIA has said that the operating fleet of Boeing 737-8 MAXs will stand at seven aircraft by 31st March 2022, with the next seven only coming online after 1st April 2022.
Economy Class also gets an upgrade
Two of the missing elements on board SilkAir’s Boeing 737s when flying in Economy Class were in-flight entertainment screens and Wi-Fi.
These omissions have both been addressed in the new Singapore Airlines 737-8 MAX aircraft, giving a more consistent passenger experience, especially for those connecting to or from an SIA long-haul service at Changi.
Singapore Airlines has installed 144 Collins Aerospace seats in Economy Class, with a 3-3 configuration.
Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX
Economy Class Seat Map
The seats have SIA’s own customisation, closely resembling the ‘2017 Y’ product currently installed on the airline’s new and refitted Airbus A380s, all Boeing 787-10s, all Airbus A350 Regionals and six newer A350 Long Haul aircraft.
Aside from a power outlet and USB charging port, the seats also feature adjustable headrests, though they unfortunately lack the additional device storage and cup holder found on the latest Recaro seats fitted to the airline’s newest wide-body aircraft.
We’ll be penning our thoughts on the new Boeing 737-8 MAX Economy Class seats in a separate article.
It’s been a long 33-month wait to finally see the Thompson Vantage Business Class seat installed on an SIA aircraft, having first been announced back in February 2019.
While direct aisle access is not guaranteed in this new cabin, the Thompson Vantage meets long-haul Business Class standards in most other aspects, including its conversion into a 76″ fully flat bed.
That’s crucial for those connecting from a long-haul SIA flight onto a shorter service, whose body clocks could still be in the middle of the night, even on short daytime flights like Singapore – Phuket or Singapore – Phnom Penh.
It’s not just short flights the MAX is designed for, however.
With a 7-hour range we expect to see SIA take advantage of the excellent narrow-body operating economics boasted by these jets on routes like Singapore – Adelaide and Singapore – Fukuoka, where demand was always more limited, a factor that will likely continue during the pandemic recovery phase.
It’s on longer routes like these the MAX’s Business Class will come into its own.
What are your thoughts on the new Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX Business Class seats? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)