In mid-2020, not long after the pandemic hit, Singapore Airlines brought in new health and safety measures for passengers, which included a removal of printed paper menus on its flights in favour of an “e-menu” concept, while the nature of COVID-19 virus transmission from surfaces remained uncertain.
The airline later launched an online Inflight Menu portal, confirming to Mainly Miles in October 2020 that it had shifted away from printed menus across all four cabin classes.
No longer just a COVID measure, this was a strategy “aimed at increasing convenience and reducing waste”, according to SIA.
Printed menus are back
Good news for those who missed them, but slightly less good news for the pro-sustainability crowd, is that Singapore Airlines has now reintroduced printed menus on all its flights, effective from 1st July 2022.
Our readers started reporting this change to us on 1st July itself, with the airline later confirming the new policy in response to a request.
However, SIA confirmed that the menus are only being offered in Suites, First Class and Business Class, with no comeback planned in the Premium Economy and Economy cabins, both of which had menus pre-pandemic.
The news means that if you’re flying in Suites, First Class or Business Class in the coming weeks and months, you’ll find a printed menu provided outlining the food and beverage options available on your flight, just like pre-COVID days.
The news follows a return to course-by-course dining in First and Business Class on Singapore Airlines flights since October last year.
Mainly Miles understands that Singapore Airlines has dispensed with presenting menus inside leather folders in Suites and First Class, like it did before the pandemic.
On regional routes, single card menus could make a comeback, like they did between 2017 and 2020 to and from cities like Bangkok and Jakarta.
These were perfectly adequate and made a lot of sense in reducing the printing requirements for these shorter services, which typically offer only two or three main course options in Business Class.
All the cabin crew had to do was introduce the Champagne and wine options during the service.
We are awaiting a response from SIA on whether the single card menu format will be reintroduced on some routes, and will update this section once we hear back.
Seasonal menu designs
Another aspect of the printed menus we can look forward to is SIA’s regular rotating cover designs.
Prior to the pandemic, SIA contracted professional agencies to conceptualise the menus and keep us all interested with new cover designs each year, not to mention for seasonal and anniversary periods, or for special occasions like route launches.
What happened to sustainability?
With Singapore Airlines lauding a reduction in waste back in 2020 when printed menus were eliminated across all cabin classes, many will question why the carrier is now going back on that principle in favour of providing them again.
Well it appears to be customer feedback that is driving this reversal in course, two years later.
As we all know, cost is king in the current climate and the elimination of printed menus on board no doubt had a significant impact on outgoings, with over 60,000 passengers travelling on over 250 Singapore Airlines flights each day in pre-pandemic times.
Don’t forget though, currently around 8,700 seats are operating across the SIA network each day in the Suites, First Class and Business Class cabins, meaning only around 15% of the pre-COVID menu printing is required, since Premium Economy and Economy Class passengers won’t receive the menus.
This will of course automatically reduce waste compared to pre-COVID, and SIA has been keen to point out to us in this latest change that all their menus “are printed on paper that has been sustainably sourced”.
The airline has also recently shifted to using sustainable packaging in its latest Economy Class meal concept on shorter flights, first introduced in November 2020.
The ‘Digital Menu’ will remain
Singapore Airlines launched a new Digital Menu System to replace paper menus in 2020, allowing passengers to view the selection of meals, beverages and amenities available on their forthcoming flight from eight days before departure, either using their laptop or mobile device with an internet connection.
Good news is that Singapore Airlines confirmed to Mainly Miles that this functionality will remain in place, even for First and Business Class passengers who will also be receiving a printed menu from this month.
Here’s an example of the menu on an upcoming Zurich – Singapore flight.
As you can see it’s easy to check the menu on offer, with further details including the beverage options and inflight amenities also available. On some flights, you can also view ‘Inflight Snacks’ and ‘Inflight Delectables’, where they are offered.
These menus also list the Champagne and wines on offer, confirming the airline’s latest shift from Piper-Heidsieck to Charles Heidsieck in Business Class.
No menus wasn’t user friendly
We’re not too surprised that Singapore Airlines has received negative feedback regarding the removal of paper menus, with the digital concept never very well executed in our opinion.
It was quite bizarre, for example, that the latest menu for each flight could not be loaded onto the in-flight entertainment system, like it is on other airlines.
The airline therefore relied on passengers logging onto the aircraft Wi-Fi, where provided, using their own device, to access the menu itself.
This was easier said than done for some less tech-savvy customers, and the cabin crew often didn’t know what was on offer when asked, or presented a printed list on a clipboard from a spreadsheet, which didn’t look very professional!
Having a printed menu presented by the cabin crew on boarding is a much nicer and more user-friendly touch.
We’ve also noticed many restaurants in Singapore we have visited over the COVID-19 period have themselves switched from ‘QR Code-style’ menus back to the printed format, suggesting this is still a common customer expectation.
Singapore Airlines has restored printed menus in its Suites, First Class and Business Class cabins, despite lauding carbon footprint savings through waste reduction when it implemented digital menus back in mid-2020.
For us and most of our readers though, this is a nice touch when flying in these cabins, so it’s great to see the menus back.
For those concerned about the environmental impact, be assured that the vast majority of the printing impact and menu distribution was actually for Premium Economy and Economy Class passengers, who still won’t receive one, while the menus themselves are printed on eco-friendly paper.
Are you happy or dismayed to see the paper menus back in these cabins? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)