Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.
A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). Over the coming weeks, I will publish the following trip reports:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class Düsseldorf to Singapore (today)
- Review: Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City
- Review: The Reverie, Ho Chi Minh City
- Review: Anantara Hui Me
- Review: Six Senses Con Dao
- Review: Evason Ana Mandara, Nha Trang
- Review: Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
- Review: Amanoi
- Review: Avani Quy Nhon
- Review: Anantara Hoi An
- Review: Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An
- Review: Banyan Tree Lang Co
- Review: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
- Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Düsseldorf.
Today (June 21, 2017): Trip report: Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class Düsseldorf to Singapore.
On April 22nd 2017, I flew Business Class in a brand new Airbus A350-900 of Singapore Airlines (SQ) from Germany’s third largest airport, Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS), to one of Asia’s busiest hubs, Changi International Airport (SIN). SQ is often regarded as one of the world’s best carriers, no matter the class you are flying in. Reputation matters and with great service, delicious food, an impressive inflight entertainment system, and the always smiling Singapore Girl, the SQ A350 experience lived up to expectation although the experience would have been even better with the addition of an amenity kit, a tail camera, and a more comfortable flat bed. To my own surprise, there were only 4 passengers in Business Class on this 11 hour 30 minute flight, so the whole experience felt like a private flight.
SQ features in my top 10 list of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
- Trip: DUS-SIN
- Airline: Singapore Airlines
- Aircraft type: Singapore Airlines
- Aircraft registration number: 9V-SMB
- Flight Number: SQ337
- Date: April 22nd
- On time departure: Yes (11.am)
- On time arrival: Yes (5.25 am)
- Miles: 6459
- Flight time: 11 hours 30 minutes
- Seat: 15A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Lufthansa Business Lounge at Düsseldorf Airport
- Features of Singapore Airline’s A350
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict
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1. COST OF MY TICKET
The cost of my one-way ticket from Düsseldorf to Singapore was 240 euros + 55,000 Miles& More miles. Miles and More is the frequent flyer program of SQ’s Star Alliance partner Lufthansa.
2. LUFTHANSA BUSINESS LOUNGE AT DÜSSELDORF AIRPORT
As SQ doesn’t have its own lounge at Düsseldorf Airport, its passengers flying in Business Class or those that hold elite status with Star Alliance have access to the Lufthansa Business Lounge, which is located one floor above the airport’s main concourse. IMHO, the large, rectangularly shaped space lacks atmosphere, because of its functional and rather old and univiting decor, as well as because of the lack of day light, since there is a corridor between the small rooms and the lounge. The lounge has several seating areas, most of them composed of comfortable leather arm chairs. One side of the lounge features several rows of arm chairs in front of a large tv screen, while the other side features several dining tables and a few high-end tables, adjacent to a smoking room. At the center, there are a few work cubicles with computers, as well as a newsstand with complimentary German and international papers. The main food station is located near the lounge’s entrance, with a second smaller station –mainly serving beverages and a few snacks and candies – is located near the TV corner. I visited the lounge in the early morning hours when breakfast was served. Both food selection and presentation was disappointingly mediocre, so if you want to have a decent meal, you’re better of in one of the restaurants in the airport’s shopping mall.
The lounge is located in the Schengen zone of the airport. Consequently, you still have to go through border control to get to the gate (and thus leave the lounge around 1O minutes prior to boarding time).
3. FEATURES OF SINGAPORE AIRLINES’ A350
Here are some (fun) facts about the A350 XWB as provided by Airbus and Singapore Airlines:
- The A350 XWB is the world’s most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, competing with both the Boeing 787 and the Boeing 777.
- 70% of the airframe is made of advanced materials combining composites (53%), titanium and modern aluminum alloys. Composite materials are corrosion and fatigue free resulting in easier maintenance, while titanium is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant substitute for steel.
- Eco-smart design brings more than 25% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the previous generation of aircraft.
- Advanced pure air filtration system changes cabin air every 2–3 minutes.
- The A350 XWB is powered by the new Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, generating 25% lower CO2 emissions.
- The A350 XWB has been awarded Common Type Rating with the A330, and it takes only one week for a pilot to transit from the A330 to the A350.
- Draft-free air conditioning, adjustable temperature zones and the cabin air pressure, which is closer to the sea level air pressure, make the flight more enjoyable and less tiring for passengers.
- The total height of the Airbus A350 XWB is equivalent to the famous obelisk monument Place de la Concorde in Paris (17 meters or 55 feet).
- The length of an Airbus A350-900 is close to the width of a rugby field (around 67 meters or 219 feet).
- The wings of the A350 XWB cover more than 2 tennis courts (443 m2 or 4768 square feet) and – inspired by birds – change their shape while airborne to reduce fuel burn.
- The diameter of the A350 XWB Roll-Royce Trent XWB engine is the same as the diameter of the Concorde fuselage!
- Currently, SQ has 13 A350-900 aircraft in its fleet, with another 56 on order, including 7 ultra-long-haul A350-900ULR variants. The latter will be used on the SQ routes from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York, which – when launched in 2018 – will be the longest flights in the world.
4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
The SQ A350 aircraft features 3 classes: Business Class (42 flat bed seats), Premium Economy Class (with 24 recliner seats), and Economy Class (187 standard seats). SQ does not offer a First Class on its A350 fleet, which is not that problematic since SQ’s Business Class is better than First Class on most airlines. The 42 Business Class seats are spread over 2 cabins: a larger cabin in the front of the plane holds the bulk of the seats (26 in total), while the remaining 16 seats are located in a much smaller and more intimate cabin over the wings (in front of the Premium Economy Class). All seats face forward, offer direct aisle access, and are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. The two seats in the center have a partition screen that can be raised for added privacy. There are no overhead bins above the middle seats, whiich allows for much higher ceilings, creating a senses of space throughout both cabins. The cabin features a drop-dead gorgeous design that was developed by James Parker Associated, the company that also created the opulent interiors of the Orient Express. The color palette in the cabin is a mix of bronzy gold, beige, purple, and chocolate-brown, with plush checked throw pillows that contrast with the dark leather seats.
Click here for a seat map of SQ’s A350-900.
5. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
I had selected seat 15A – a window seat – for the 11h30min flight to Singapore. Remarkably, there were only 4 passengers in the first cabin and nobody in the second cabin, so SQ won’t have made any profits on this particular flight. It felt like a private flight (or at least what I imagine a private flight must feel like).
Handcrafted from Scottish leather and diamond-stitched, the seat is one of the widest in the industry, albeit a tad more narrow than the seats on SQ’s A380 and B777 aircraft (which are judged by some to be too wide for comfort). The seat features a pitch of 1,53 cm (60 inch) and a width of 71 cm (20 inch), so there’s more than enough space to comfortably move around. The suite’s wall is quite high, and gets wider on eye level, providing reasonable privacy from passengers sitting on the other side of the aisle. As mentioned above, the seats in the center have a partition screen between them that can be raised for added privacy, although you will still see your neighbour’s monitor when in normal seated position.
One side of the seats features a reading light on eye level and a control panel – to adjust the seat position – in the aisle-side arm rest. A decently sized tray table – who’s hight and position can be adjusted – is stored away in the other arm rest, with an easily jabbed remote control for the inflight entertainment system (more on that below) above it. In front of the seat is a large 18 inch (45 cm) TV screen, with a coat hook next to it. There are a lot of storage compartments in the suite: two small cubby holes located next to the TV screen (one of them with a vanity mirror to make sure you look great throughout the entire flight), a storage box in the arm rest (which can be used for a bottle of water and/or your personal belongings such as your glasses, wallet and cellphone) and a side console above the arm rest, which let you stew and conveniently reach for your laptop (albeit not during takeoff and landing).
The seat offers several pre-programmed seating positions, including ‘Lazy Z’, a cradling position that ensures your weight is centered and balanced when you’re sitting down, and the ‘Sundeck’, a lounging position that extends the base and foot of your seat so you can stretch and rest your legs on the ottoman.
In the seated position, it’s hard to imagine a Business Class seat done better. However, it’s a somewhat different story when it comes to sleeping. First of all, turning the seat into the 78 inch (198 cm) long flat bed position is not a straightforward process controlled by one push on a button. Instead, you need to put the seat first to its upright position, stand up yourself, and then manually fold the seatback forward (a manoeuvre which will also reveal a blanket and pillow hidden behind the seat back). The good new though is that the cabin crew is more than happy to assist you in this proces and will make up the bed for you. But the problems are not completely over once the seat is fully reclined: to stretch your legs, you need to lay diagonally on the bed and force your feet in a narrow cubby at the end instead of spreading them free. Because of this set-up the flat bed is not comfortable for travelers who prefer to sleep on their side. The only exception are the bulkhead seats on row 11 and 19, which feature a full-width ottoman (center seats) or larger foot rest combined with an ottoman (window seats) instead of a narrow footrest, and are thus the best seats on the plane (and far superior to all other Business Class seats). Another problem with this Business Class set up is that once you are committed to the bed, there’s no way back. If you wake up and want to revert back to a regular seat, your bed is gone.
What are the best Business Class seats on SQ’s A350-900? Click here for a seat map of SQ’s A350-900.
- Window seats are the best option for solo travelers since they provide a little more privacy, while travel companions should go for the center seats.
- Bulkhead seats on row 11 and 19 are far superior to all other seats since they feature a full-width ottoman instead of a narrow foot rest, allowing a much more comfortable sleeping position.
- The seats from row 19 to 22 are located in their own little private cabin and are therefore highly recommended.
What are the worst Business Class seats on SQ’s A350-900? Click here for a seat map of SQ’s A350-900.
- I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 17 and center seats in row 18 due to their proximity to the galley and lavatories.
- I also suggest to avoid row 22 because it is located in front of the Premium Economy bassinet seats (so you may end up being close to young children).
Unfortunately, SQ doesn’t offer amenity kits in Business Class on any flights. Passengers in the premium cabin only receive slippers, socks, and eye shades. Bathroom amenities – such as shaving kits, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand lotion and perfume – are available though in the toilets. When I asked one of the flight attendants for an amenity kit during this particular flight, she came back a few minutes later with some bathroom products (from the toilet) in addition to some postcards, playing cards and children’s toys (although I am a full-grown man of 40 years old). A surreal but nice gesture nonetheless.
Noise canceling headphones (to block the noise from the engines and cabin) are provided, although you can not take them home with you.
SQ enjoys a stellar culinary reputation, which is reflected in its collaboration with world-acclaimed chefs who own Michelin-starred restaurants, like Singaporean culinary maestro Sam Leong, Suzanne Goin of Los Angeles’ Lucques, Carlo Cracco of the Michelin two-star restaurant of the same name in Milan, and Matthew Moran of one of Sydney’s finest restaurants. The airline is famous for its ‘Book the Cook’ service where you can select your gourmet main course from a premium selection of dishes at least 24 hours before departure.
Unfortunately, the ‘Book the Cook’ service was not available on this Düsseldorf to Singapore route, and while the food was excellent (and clearly a step above that served on other airlines), I was not blown away by the meals, somewhat contrary to my previous SQ flight experiences.
Shortly after takeoff, the following lunch was served:
- Singapore chicken and lamb satay, with onion, cucumber, and spicy peanut sauce.
- Salmon Riletto, with potato allumette, picked apple, red onion and fine salad leaves
- Pan seared lamb loin, with roasted vegetables, leek-potato gratin and thyme sauce
- Black forest gateaux, with blueberry compote and vanilla sauce
After dinner, the crew passed by with a fruit bowl and a chocolate box, from which you could choose a selection.
Mid-flight, I ordered a snack – Oriental noodles with chicken and black mushrooms – which tasted quite good.
Ninety minutes prior to landing, above the Gulf Of Bengal, the following breakfast was served:
- Selection of sliced fresh fruits
- Cornflakes with skim milk
- Fruit yoghurt
- Bircher muesli with fruit
- Poached eggs with Hollondaise sauce, with pan-fried bacon, sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and roasted potatoes
8. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
The 18 inch (45 cm) LCD screen in front of each Business Class has no touchscreen function and you need to use a video touchscreen handset located above the side rest to command Krisworld, SQ’s inflight entertainment system. The latter features an impressive selection of 1,000 entertainment options, with tons and tons of movies, television programmes, music, games and apps.
SQ also offers a Companion App that allows you to discover what is playing on KrisWorld even before you step onboard. Via the app, you can browse content pre-flight and place movies and TV shows in a folder that you can access on board by linking your smartphone to your tv screen. You simply need to download the free SingaporeAir mobile app from Google Play or App Store to enjoy this features.
Wifi is available on SQ’s A350 and of reasonable speed. To access the onboard internet, you need to enable WiFi on your smart phone, tablet or laptop, and connect to the ‘KrisWorld’ or ‘OnAir’ network. WiFi was not complimentary and charged at the following rates: US$11.95 for one hour; US$16.95 for 3 hours; and US$21.95 for the entire flight.
Contrary to all other airlines, and to my own great disappointment, SQ hasn’t installed tail cameras on their A350 aircraft.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: Dressed in her signature sarong kebaya, the female SQ flight attendant is the symbol of Asian hospitality recognised the world over. But besides being an iconic eyecatcher, SQ cabin crew – both male and female – are often regarded as the best in the industry, and with good reason. They address every customer by name and do all they can to make your flight as enjoyable as possible. Having said that, I do feel that SQ’s older cabin crew members are always a little more friendly than SQ’s younger, somewhat less experienced cabin crew members.
# BAR: The SQ A350 does not feature a walk-up bar, but you can order snacks from the menu at any time during the flight.
# TOILET: There are 3 toilets, one behind the cockpit and two located between the two Business Class cabins.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Inflight entertainment: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin ambience: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,4/10
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