One impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for Singapore Airlines was a reduction in its count of flagship Airbus A380s from 19 aircraft to just 12, cutting its superjumbo fleet by a third, which was a necessary step in late 2020 amid record losses of over S$3 billion.
Thankfully with the worst of the pandemic behind us, all but one of the dozen A380s set to return are now in regular passenger service again.
That’s great news if you’re a fan of the new 2017 Airbus A380 cabin products, because the temporary grounding of the aircraft and premature removal of seven jets allowed the airline to accelerate its refit timeline.
That meant all 12 aircraft have had the new cabins installed before re-entering service, a plan we exclusively revealed in November 2020.
However, if your preference was for the older, first generation Airbus A380 cabin products, unfortunately it was bad news because it meant that we had already said farewell to these seats, without really knowing it at the time.
This will see them showcased in an exhibition of homegrown brands at the National Museum of Singapore in 2023.
Those wishing to reminisce over their travel experiences in these seats, or take a look at products they perhaps never managed to travel in, will be able to do so by attending the exhibition next year, with more details due to be shared closer to the time on the National Museum’s website and social media pages.
The announcement comes 15 years after the A380’s inaugural passenger flight from Singapore to Sydney on 25th October 2007.
When and where were these cabin products used?
These first generation A380 Suites and Business Class seats entered service in 2007, on the first ever commercial A380 passenger flight from Singapore to Sydney.
First generation Suites & Business Class
|Airbus A380-800||25 Oct 2007
|27 Mar 2020
Following two charity flights on 25th October (SIN-SYD) and 26th October (SYD-SIN), regular daily service on the SQ221/220 Singapore – Sydney route commenced on 28th October 2007.
Singapore – London followed on 18th March 2008, following the delivery of two more A380 aircraft into the fleet, and on 20th May 2008 the Singapore – Tokyo route became the superjumbo’s third regular run, a city pair many of our readers are hoping will be part of the superjumbo schedule again soon given the latest border relaxations!
In March 2020, the final month of service for these seats, they were operating on selected flights between Singapore and:
- New York
Over the years these cabin products were also deployed to cities including Melbourne, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Osaka and even Bangkok during Songkran season.
The first generation A380 cabin products bowed out on 28th March 2020 on flight SQ317 from London to Singapore, operated by 9V-SKL.
We don’t know how many passengers were travelling in the Suites cabin, but quite unbeknown to them, they were the very last to enjoy this pioneering product as they disembarked in Changi the following morning.
Even those in the A380’s Business Class on SQ317 that day had been part of history, with the 2006-era long-haul seat in that cabin never flying passengers again, having bowed out on the Boeing 777-200ER six days previously.
Fun facts: 2007 Suites
We’ve comprehensively covered the history of SIA’s first generation 2007 Suites on the A380 in our dedicated farewell article, but here are a few fun facts about the seats as a teaser.
- The product was supposed to launch in April 2006 on the carrier’s first A380, but programme delays meant it was only revealed 18 months later, in October 2007.
- Seats on the first flight were auctioned for charity on eBay, with starting bids at S$380 for Suites. The first pair actually went for US$100,380 (S$153,000)!
- Marketed as “A class above First”, these were the first double Suites on a commercial aircraft, including sliding doors, window blinds and the option of a double bed for couples seated at the two middle pairs.
- The most shared story on the BBC News website in the first week of November 2007 was an article about Singapore Airlines asking its Suites passengers to refrain from creating their own, err, ‘in-flight entertainment’!
- Officially of course, the beds were always meant for sleeping only, but that didn’t stop an excited media speculating about passengers seeking entry into the ‘Mile High Club’!
- Singapore Airlines was quick to rebuff the idea, with its VP Public Affairs Stephen Forshaw saying “We look forward to welcoming our premium-class guests for the purposes of travel and rest… That is all.”
- The 2007 Suites were manufactured by Japan’s JAMCO and Sicma Aero Seats of France, as a bespoke product for the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, with design and finish by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste.
- Pricing was initially set 20-35% higher than the airline’s existing First Class cabins.
- Cabin crew had an additional day of training to operate in the Suites cabin, covering service aspects including the requirement to set up the Suite bed (gracefully, while wearing a kebaya!) within three minutes (yes, they were timed!).
- For the first five years from 2007 to 2012, Saver awards were not available in the Suites cabin. Only eye-watering “Full” redemptions were possible.
- Between 2013 and 2016, new upholstery was introduced, upgrading the seats from a lighter mid-brown shade to dark brown, with diamond stitching. Here’s the difference:
(Photos: (L) Sam Chui, (R) MainlyMiles)
Here’s SIA’s promotional video for the Suites product in 2007.
For a full history of the 2007 Suites, grab a beverage of choice and sit down to our dedicated farewell article, which includes comparison with the current product on the new A380s.
Fun facts: 2006 Business Class
As with the 2007 Suites, we said a fond goodbye to the 2006 Business Class product used on the A380s in our dedicated farewell article, but here are some things you may never have known about this one.
- Designed to be launched on the A380 in April 2006, this seat product also bore the brunt of the superjumbo’s production delays and actually appeared first (albeit as a 10% narrower version) on the Boeing 777-300ER in December 2006.
- The seats were designed by JPA Design of the United Kingdom, and manufactured by Koito of Japan.
- These were the widest Business Class seats in the world at the time of their launch, measuring 34 inches across, though as mentioned a narrower 30-inch version appeared on the carrier’s Airbus A340s and Boeing 777s.
- The seat was so wide that Singapore Airlines started providing bolster cushions to act as am armrest for passengers, though the practice eventually ceased.
- A scandal ensued in 2009, when it was determined that the seat’s manufacturer Koito of Japan had falsified test data used during certification of its products. The company admitted the fraud in early 2010.
- Four of SIA’s new A380 deliveries were delayed due to the Koito scandal, forcing the carrier to retain Boeing 747-400 operation on its Singapore – Tokyo – Los Angeles flights for an additional six months longer than planned.
- According to European regulator EASA, the Koito seats had to be completely removed from aircraft after 10 years (by June 2021).
Here’s SIA’s promotional video for the 2006 J seat.
For a full history of the 2006 Business Class seats, check out our dedicated farewell article.
Singapore Airlines will help us to reignite our passion for its groundbreaking first generation Airbus A380 cabin products next year, with its donation to the National Collection, in turn allowing the National Museum of Singapore to showcase the products.
This will happen in an exhibition launching in 2023, so keep your eyes peeled for the dates, which are still be be announced.
In the meantime, we’ve shared some fun facts about these seats, including many you may have forgotten or never even known, though we’re sure there will be a lot more to learn at the exhibition itself, even if the Koito scandal doesn’t get a mention!
(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)