Singapore Airlines (SQ) is the flag carrier of Singapore and one of the most highly awarded airlines. SQ was my home-carrier while I lived in Singapore and I traveled a lot with them, both on business and for leisure. I was fortunate enough to fly mostly in Business Class, making it my second most-frequent business class carrier after United Airlines and one of my most favorite business class experiences. Check out below what makes Singapore Airlines Business class so desirable and highly rated!
Pre-Departure: The Singapore Airlines web site is very good to book and manage your flights. You can select your seats online as well as your meals, including the great “Book the Cook” service to select a chef prepared meal from a long list prior to departure!
SQ is generous for business class passengers for planning your luggage: You are allowed two pieces of cabin luggage (up to 7kg) and two pieces of check-in luggage (up to 32kg) to the US/Brazil, with one extra piece for StarAlliance Gold holders and 2 extra pieces for PPS members. To other destinations, you can bring 40kg (with an extra 20/40kg for Gold/PPS members). In an odd “rule book crazy” move, SQ limits your luggage to the lowest-class leg of the trip – counter to any other airline I have flown – so be careful when booking a connecting economy class flight leg!
At the airport, Singapore Airlines operates separate Business Class counters and I have never experienced a line or wait. Staff is generally friendly and professional, although more focused on enforcing rules than providing great customer service! In most cases, the experience will be pleasant.
As a Business Class customer, you will have access to the SQ lounge, depending on airport. At Changi airport, there are different lounges for StarAlliance Gold, Business Class and First Class, with the Business Class lounge being much nicer than the Gold lounge!
Service: The onboard service on Singapore Airlines is one of the stand-out differentiators that makes them so special: From the beautiful uniforms to the friendly smiles and professional attention, I’ve rarely found any issues on my many flights. For example, on a business trip, I was finishing up an important phone call prior to a long flight while walking onboard. Instead of giving me the eye-roll for still being on the phone (like you might get on United), the purser welcomed me with a smile and a nod, took my carry-on out of my hand, guided me to my seat and stored my luggage for me. Once I had finished my call, he came back to introduce himself, take my suit jacket and bring a welcome drink. In 15 years of flying United premium cabins, I’ve never had that level of service or anybody offering to help with my luggage – ever! Staff will also adjust your meal service to your desires, make the business class bed for you or assist with other needs to make sure you have a great experience onboard. All staff is fluent in English. I’d also note that staff will clean the bathrooms after every use, making them pleasant to use even after a long flight. While the SQ ground staff is almost mechanical in their application of the rules, the flight crew will go out of their way to make it a great flight, whatever it takes! With this kind of service, it’s hard not to forgive any minor niggles – a great flight experience is pretty much ensured the moment you step onboard!
The meal service starts with drinks and SQ has a great list of champagne, wine, liquor and soft drinks to choose from! The quality is several classes better than what I’ve been served on US carriers and others – and that despite the high “sin” taxes and duties staunchly conservative Singapore enforces!
On a recent flight, I tried out the “Book the Cook” meal option available on business class flights. This option is available on flights from Singapore and some other airports, with a varying number of choices. On this flight, there was only one choice, an Angus Beef Burger, as an alternative to the main meal. While I was a little disappointed with the choices when ordering, after having read the whole list of business class meals available on other flights, it turned out to be the best burger I’ve ever had on a plane: It’s pretty tricky to avoid it being dry and overdone after hours in a warmer, so the juicy, perfectly cooked burger patty was a pleasant surprise. The salad, bread and dessert rounded out a nice meal!
The second meal prior to landing was my choice of Western breakfast with (warm) croissants, eggs and sausage – the taste and quality of the meal was very good, too, and the portions were good to sate me after a long flight!
On other, shorter flights, I appreciate the option to choose a meal after departure or before landing to have enough time to sleep – something I wish all airlines would offer in premium cabins! I consider the food quality to be a notch above the competition in general, appreciate the large choice of different cuisines and the flexibility with which it is served! Not once in many, many flights I did not receive my choice of meal, when not ordering the “book the cook” – a feat few airlines manage!
One of the few niggles I have with SQ Business class goes back to their “rules” – they don’t turn on the entertainment system till about 30 minutes into the flight and turn it off 30 minutes prior to landing. Add in the taxiing and you spend a lot more time than necessary staring at a blank screen – I prefer United’s approach to let you watch from the moment you get settled into your seat, a much more flexible way to handle it for passengers!
Hardproduct: Singapore Airlines is continually upgrading their business class product, with a slightly improved seat being rolled out on new and retrofitted planes. I’ll describe the current and most common seats you can expect on their planes below!
Airbus A380/Boeing B777-300ER, B777-200ER retrofitted: The flagship A380 and the workhorse B777ER, both used on long-distance flights, carry one of the widest business class seats in the industry at 30inch in a 1-2-1 layout, with all seats facing forward. That’s the same configuration most other airlines use for first class! The seat is covered in leather and, different from most other seats, does not recline from full-upright position all the way to fully flat. Instead, the seatback flips forward to create a truly flat bed surface with padding. It connects with the foot cubicle to form a very wide and comfortable sleeping surface – I have had some of the best sleep in business class on SQ planes. There are two downsides though to this design: despite the pitch claimed on seatguru, the seats are closer than on other carriers, even United, resulting in a wide, but short bed. At 6ft3, I have to sleep at an angle to be able to stretch out – First World problems, I know! My other niggle is that there is no inbetween, lounging position to watch movies or read: you are either sitting upright (and because of the short pitch, I can’t even stretch my legs on the ottoman/shelf) or you go to bed – the seat has only minimal recline! If you are short and just want to sleep, this is probably the best business class seat in the sky. If you are very tall and skinny or don’t want to sleep, you might have better luck with more traditional, full-motion reclining seats!
Each seat offers a personal video screen of 15.4in with the KrisWorld entertainment system. There is a wide selection of movies from around the world as well as television, music and games. The quality is better than average, with a good mix of blockbusters and independent movies, and a monthly refresh, keeping it entertaining even for the very frequent travelers! The sound quality of the provided noise cancelling headsets is great. You’ll also have a power outlet and USB port to charge your devices – or watch your own entertainment on the bigger screen!
New A380/B777-300ER: SQ is rolling out a new business class product with new planes entering service, addressing some of my “niggles” above. The seats will have more recline (132 degree) for a more comfortable lounging position! The fully flat bed will also be longer by 2inches (78in now) and get additional padding. They also feature more storage, a darker brown leather cover, a bigger, 18in screen and a few more. That sounds like the perfect long-haul seat all around to me and I can’t wait to try it out on a future flight!
Boeing 777-200ER: There are still a number of old, B777-200ER planes in service that have not been retrofitted. They carry angled flat seats with cloth upholstery in a 2-2-2 configuration and they show their age. While they are decent for day-time flights, I’d not recommend them for a night flight – it’s difficult to get a good nights’ sleep in these seats and I can’t wait to see them replaced. If you have a 777-200ER with a 2-2-2 configuration, you’ll have these seats, so I’d go out of my way to avoid them! They are not worth paying the SQ premium for and I’d go as far as rescheduling my flight in case of equipment change to avoid them!
Airbus A330: The A330 is configured for shorter, regional roles and has angled flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. That means ⅔ of the seats have direct aisle access. The seats articulate from the fully upright position through a lounging position to a flat sleeping position at a 172 degree angle. This makes the seat great for daytime flights when you want to just read or watch a movie – but not so great for night-time flights where you want to sleep. While the angle is “almost flat”, combined with the leather seat cover I always feel like I’m sliding off. Add the narrow foot well and I’ve rarely had a good sleep on those planes! The entertainment system is the same as on the B777/A380. Keep in mind that SQ is flying these planes on routes that other airlines (looking at you, MH) are flying narrow body planes with recliner seats, similar to US domestic first class! In that light, they are great seats, and I prefer them on a daytime flight! I’d do my best, though, to avoid them overnight!
Boeing B777-200 retrofit: The retrofitted B7778-200 have the same seats and 2-2-2 layout as the A330 above and are also used on regional routes, which is a good fit for these cabins. I’d avoid them as much as the A330 on overnight flights!
Boeing B777-200: Singapore Airline is still operating a number of old B777-200 on regional routes. I encountered them on flights from Singapore to China and they are dreadful! They have old-style recliner seats, are covered in cloth, show their age, and are one of the worst business class offering in Asia. You can spot them from the seat maps by their 2-3-2 configuration! Even low-end, full-service carriers like Philippine Airlines offer better seats than that! The entertainment systems are also old and you might not find a power outlet or USB port! There is really no reason to pay the premium price SQ usually charges, so I’d recommend to avoid those planes, if you can, until they (finally) get retrofitted!
Conclusion: Singapore Airlines offers a new fleet of planes, with very good hard products, differentiated towards medium- and long-haul flights. They offer what I’d consider the best onboard service in the industry and very good entertainment, food and drink choices. All of this is offered in one of the most consistent and reliable ways, making Singapore Business Class a great choice for business travelers and leisure travelers looking for a special treat! With the wide variety of different cabins, depending on plane type and retrofit status, you need to pay attention to the planes and seat plans to avoid disappointment – finding a worn out recliner seat when you expected a flat bed is no way to start a great trip! SQ’s cash prices are competitive when originating in Singapore, but very expensive in most other locations. Fortunately, you can (still) get these amazing flights through their KrisFlyer rewards program or their StarAlliance partners – so make sure to check out my review of KrisFlyer to learn how you can fly one of the best business class cabins in the sky!