Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

BACKGROUND

Malaysia Airlines (MH) recently took delivery of its first brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The aircraft is slated to take over the airline’s long haul routes that were formerly operated by the now retired Boeing 777s and also the ones operated presently by the Airbus A380 (i.e. KUL-LHR)

The A350s will prove to be a cost effective and fuel-efficient alternative than the gigantic A380 and provide much longer range than the airline’s A330-300s. At the time of writing this, MH has taken delivery of a second A350, and both the aircraft are currently doing short domestic and regional hops for crew training/familiarisation.

I saw this as a good opportunity to try out the Business Class product on the brand new aircraft, and promptly booked a flight to Penang (PEN), operated by the A350

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 1140, with a scheduled departure time of 1105. However I received a text from MH a few hours before departure, informing me of a delay in departure. I left home accordingly, and reached the KLIA Main Terminal with plenty of time to spare.

A quick visit to the Anjung Tinjau (Viewing Gallery) at KLIA gave me an opportunity to spot my aircraft docked at its designated gate.

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CHECK-IN

Check-in was quick and the Business Class counter had just one person ahead of me, and I was checked-in in no time at all.

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The check-in agent handed me my boarding pass and invited me to the newly renovated Malaysia Airlines’ domestic Golden Lounge.

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Security check took no more than 2 minutes, and I was soon in the domestic departures area.

A view of the retail area in the Domestic Departures hold.

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The MH lounge was a five-minute walk away, and a smiling MH lounge attendant greeted me at the reception.

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The lounge had a definitely fresh look to it, and didn’t seem too crowded at the time. I quickly found a seat facing the tarmac, and grabbed some coffee and snacks.

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The view from the MH Domestic Golden Lounge.

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The food & drink counter

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As the boarding time approached, I made my way towards the departure gate, which was a good 10 minute walk from the lounge.

BOARDING

Sector: KUL-PEN

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 1140

Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

Registration: 9M-MAB

Seat: 10A

This would be my ride today! Malaysia Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 9M-MAB

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Boarding for our flight was announced at 1130, 30 minutes before the revised departure time, and the huge crowd of waiting passengers queued up almost immediately. I on the other hand, took my own time admiring the brand new bird.

As the queue thinned out, I walked over to the boarding counter. The agent quickly scanned my boarding pass, and I made my way to the aerobridge.

Looked like a full house today!

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Much larger windows on the A350 as compared to conventional aircraft. However, the 787 windows are larger.

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The Business Class on MH A350-900 has a total of 35 seats and is divided into two sections. The forward section is the larger of the two, and is separated from the smaller aft section by the Business Class galley. I had selected a seat in the aft cabin, and I had the whole cabin to myself on this flight.

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The Business Class cabin features a staggered 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 configuration. On the port side, there are single seats adjacent to the window, while on the starboard side, there are single as well as double seats in alternate rows. The middle section has 2 seats in a staggered arrangement.

This should give you an idea of the seating configuration.

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The seat itself is nice and comfy and wide enough for a long haul flight. It of course reclines into a fully flat bed.

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The legroom

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Seat controls

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks (apple juice, orange juice, guava juice or water) and I opted for an orange juice.

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The boarding process took around 40 minutes, and we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The doors were soon closed but we waited a few more minutes for pushback clearance.

The Captain on our flight today was a senior Airbus check pilot, and the First Officer was a Malaysian. The MH pilots are currently undergoing checks with pilots from Airbus.

The view out of my window (Seat 10A)

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The IFE system

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Nice little cubbyholes to keep your smartphone and water bottle

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THE FLIGHT

We finally pushed back 20 minutes past noon, and slowly the two RR Trent XWB engines powered up. The A350-900 is super quiet, and even with the engines powered on, you could hear the hiss of the air-conditioning vents.

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A small prayer as we begin our journey

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We began a slow taxi towards Runway 32R, which was the active departure runway, and held short as a Malindo Air 737 began its take-off roll.

Soon it was our turn, and we lined up on the runway. The Trent XWBs spooled up to take-off thrust and we accelerated down the runway. The A350 was incredibly quiet even during take-off, so much so that one can hear the distinct sound of the flaps being retracted.

Our heading today would be northerly straight to PEN.

The Business Class seat in the fully flat position

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I spent the next few minutes chatting with the cabin crew about their experience with this new aircraft. The crew seemed really pleased with it and was looking forward to operating it on the long haul routes. As per the head purser, MH would be operating the A350 on the KUL-LHR route starting Jan 15th.

The crew was kind enough to offer me a tour of the First Class cabin.

The First Class cabin on board MH A350-900 consists of 4 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration.

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Plenty of space in the suite

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Seat & IFE controls

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With the door in the closed position

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I loved the choice of colours used in the First Class cabin; gives it a premium look and feel.

Posing with the cabin crew. They were really courteous and answered all my questions patiently! 🙂

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ARRIVAL

The flight to PEN was quite short at 40 minutes, and the first officer announced that we had begun our descent.

As we descended into PEN, the view outside my window was gorgeous!

We touched down at 1315, nearly twenty minutes past our revised arrival time.

After a short taxi, we docked at the Penang International Airport terminal, bringing to an end this short but enjoyable flight.

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SUMMARY

The hard product on board MH’s A350-900 is definitely state of the art, and looks pretty comfortable for the long haul flights it will eventually operate. Since this was a short flight, I was not able to experience the on board service though. However, MH is generally pretty good as far as the in flight service is concerned.

The food variety is decent, and the signature satay is simply delicious. I hope MH comes up with some special offerings to mark the introduction of this brand new aircraft type. I also hope that the A350-900 brings in some much needed resurgence in MH’s fortunes. Here’s wishing them all the best!

Thank you all for reading.

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Trip Report: BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

Malaysia Airlines logo

 

INTRODUCTION

I was heading back to Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to my hometown, Mumbai for the Chinese New Year holiday. At the time, there were only two airline options between BOM & KUL – Malaysia Airlines (which operated two flights daily) and Malindo Air (one flight daily) Both airlines operate the narrow-body Boeing 737 on this route.

Since then, Indonesia AirAsia X has started a flight to BOM, deploying an Airbus A330-300 on the DPS-KUL-BOM route.

Anyway, I had booked my travel to BOM and back on MH. This report describes my journey back to KUL on Malaysia Airlines Business Class on their Boeing 737-800.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 195, the traditional late night departure out of BOM for Malaysia Airlines. This flight used to be operated by MH’s B777-200ERs before the type was phased out in late 2015/early 2016. To overcome this downgrade in capacity, MH has added a second daily flight, which departs BOM at 0225 in the morning.

The late evening traffic on the way to the airport was not too bad, and I arrived at the CSIA Terminal 2 drop-off area nearly 3 hours before departure.

View of the BOM Terminal 2 departures area

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CHECK-IN

The Malaysia Airlines check-in counters are located in Row J, and there was a sizeable queue there.

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The Business Class counter had 4-5 people ahead of me, and it took nearly 7-8 minutes for my turn.

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The check-in process was fast, and took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass, lounge invitation and the immigration departure card. I was on seat 1F – a bulkhead window seat.

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The aircraft flying me back to KUL was 9M-MXA, wearing the “40 Years of MH” retro colours. Woohoo! A quick check on FR24 revealed that the incoming aircraft was over an hour away.

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Security check was next, and took no more than five minutes. There was a long queue for immigration however, and the process took nearly 15 minutes, before I was released into the Duty Free area.

A view of the BOM Duty Free

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My favourite section 🙂

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The FIDS showing International Departures out of BOM

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Love that ceiling!

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Looking towards the food court area. Plenty of options to eat and drink

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It was now time to head to the lounge to relax for a bit.

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BOM Terminal 2 has a common use lounge called “GVK Lounge” for premium passengers. The lounge is massive, and is divided into two levels – one for First Class and the other for Business Class passengers. At the outset, I was not sure whether having a common lounge was a good idea for an airport the size of BOM. It was possible that the lounge would get overcrowded, especially during the peak international departure times.

However, after using this lounge on a few occasions, I have never seen it being crowded.

Here are a few photos of the lounge.

The ornate entrance! Looks more like the entrance to a fancy hotel!

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The seating area

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The bar

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The quiet zone featuring leather recliners

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The food spread

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I was feeling quite hungry, as it was way past dinnertime.

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The GVK lounge offers its patrons a complimentary 15-minute neck & back massage or a 15-minute foot massage. I opted for a foot massage and after finishing my dinner, headed to the in-house spa. It was pretty relaxing, and I was charged up for the upcoming flight.

As the boarding time approached, I headed out towards the departure gates. We were to depart from Gate 69 that night.

A view of the walkway to the departures area.

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The seating area at Gate 69. Look at those chandeliers!

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BOARDING

Sector: BOM-KUL

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 195

Aircraft: Boeing 737-800

Registration: 9M-MXA “40 Years of MH” retro livery

Seat: 1F

As I sat down at the departure gate, our aircraft had just landed and was taxiing towards the terminal.

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Here she is, about to dock at the gate.

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We had to wait for another 30 odd minutes before boarding was announced. As is the ritual, families with infants and children were invited to board first, followed by Oneworld premium members. Business Class passengers were asked to board at their convenience.

A view of our aircraft from the aerobridge.

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I was greeted by a couple of MH cabin crew at the aircraft door and ushered to my seat.

The Business Class seats on board Malaysia Airlines 737-800. Pretty standard stuff.

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My seat – 1F

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The legroom on this first row of Business Class

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A welcome drink was offered. There was a choice of apple juice, orange juice or water. I opted for the orange juice.

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Here’s the menu for our flight tonight

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Three main course options on this five-hour flight is not bad at all! The highlight is the appetizer consisting of Malaysian satay. Yummy!

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The beverage selection on the menu. There were no alcoholic beverages listed on the menu although MH does serve them on the flight.

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Boarding was soon complete, and doors were closed. After a wait of another 10 minutes we got our pushback clearance, and we began our taxi towards Runway 27.

THE FLIGHT

The cabin lights were dimmed for take-off and the safety video was played on the IFE screens. Since the IFE screen for the bulkhead seats is in the armrest, a nice little drop-down screen did the job instead.

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Holding short of Runway 27

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After waiting for a couple of arrivals, we lined up on the runway and were airborne after a longish take-off roll.

There were no clouds in the vicinity, and the seat belt signs were soon turned off.

My seat at the full-reclined position.

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The cabin crew then handed out a pair of headphones. These active noise cancellation headphones were a bit on the heavier side but did a decent job of blocking out the noise of the engines and the surroundings. The sound quality of course was average.

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Although this aircraft wears the retro MH livery on the outside, it is anything but retro on the inside. The cabin is equipped with the Boeing Sky Interior and looks quite up to date. Here is a view of the Business Class cabin on our aircraft featuring a total of 16 seats.

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The drinks trolley made an appearance soon and I asked for a beer.

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An appetizer consisting of some delicious Malaysian satay with a lovely peanut dip was served. The satay is a trademark MH offering, and I am glad that the airline continues to serve it.

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The piping hot satay was a perfect accompaniment to the chilled Carlsberg. Just the right environment to pull out the IFE screen and do a bit of TV watching.

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We were flying on a roughly south-easterly heading on our way to KUL.

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Over 4 hours to go.

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Another view of the front row. Two seats vacant tonight.

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I had finished my beer and the lovely satay, and the crew asked me if I was ready for the main meal. A tablecloth was laid out and the crew brought out the meal in a nice little tray.

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“Supper” consisting of a chicken gravy along with dried fruits rice and sautéed vegetables. This was accompanied by a bowl of yoghurt; cut fruits, an assortment of bread along with some “dahi-samosa chaat”.

The portion served was sufficient for this flight.

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The taste was good, nothing really spectacular.

After having my fill, I decided to watch a movie as I find it difficult to sleep on a flight.

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Malaysia Airlines doesn’t hand out full-fledged amenity kits in Business Class on their regional routes operated by the Boeing 737s. Instead, the crew distributed eyeshades and slippers. This is one big improvement area for MH, as SQ hands out mini-kits even in Premium Economy Class on their BOM-SIN flights.

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I finished watching the movie, and tried to fall asleep. I was successful, and only woke up as we were passing over the Malacca Straits.

I freshened up and was listening to some music when our first officer announced that we would soon start our descent into KUL.

The cabin crew appeared with a tray of drinks as people began to wake up. I downed another glass of orange juice.

ARRIVAL

The cabin crew did their ritual of preparing the cabin for arrival as we began our descent. The descent was relatively smooth with only one layer of clouds to plough through.

The sun was just rising over the district of Sepang as we made a 180-degree turn to line up on our final approach to KUL Runway 32L.

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We touched down with a nice, positive thud and a brief application of the twin reversers slowed us down to taxi speed.

We taxied towards the KLIA Satellite Terminal and finally docked at our gate some 20 minutes behind schedule. Not too shabby at all!

It took another 5-7 minutes for the door to be opened, and I thanked the crew and walked out of the aircraft.

A view of the KUL Satellite Terminal. Love that design!

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The terminal was nicely lit up for the Chinese New Year holiday.

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After a quick Aerotrain ride to the main terminal, I made my way towards Immigration. There was no queue at all at the dedicated First/Business Immigration counters, and my passport was stamped within a minute.

A brisk walk later, I was at our designated baggage belt to be greeted by this sight!

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It took nearly 10 more minutes for the bags to start arriving, and thankfully mine was amongst the first lot to arrive.

SUMMARY

It was a typical narrow-body regional flight experience on board Malaysia Airlines Business Class. The seats are your average 737 style recliner seats. The extra width as compared to Economy Class is welcome though.

The onboard service on Malaysia Airlines leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of a comprehensive menu listing all the beverage options is one callout. The service from the cabin crew is average with no personalisation at all. A bit of a letdown here.

The food options are good, and the serving portions are sufficient. The signature MH satay is a big plus!

The lack of amenity kits in Business Class is another big letdown. Other airlines offer mini amenity kits even in Economy/Premium Economy Class on overnight flights.

Even Malindo Air – which is a semi-LCC and is a direct competitor to MH offers an amenity kit in Business Class! Hope MH looks into this aspect soon.

Hope you enjoyed this report on the Business Class experience onboard Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800.

Thank you all for reading!

Trip Report: SQ Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

BACKGROUND

Singapore Airlines had started retrofitting its A380s with its brand new Premium Economy Class (PY) product. During the retrofitting exercise, the usual A380 service to BOM had been temporarily downgraded to a 777-300ER. However, a couple of months later, the A380 was back on the SIN-BOM sector with the new Premium Economy class on offer.

The SQ PY product looked decent from the ads and publicity material I had seen; although the seats themselves were nowhere close to say the Turkish Airlines Premium Economy seats on their 777-300ERs. I had experienced the Turkish PY some time ago and felt that the seats were pretty close to a regional Business Class product. Nevertheless, I was sure SQ would more than make it up with the onboard service.

I had a trip to Singapore coming up, and was contemplating trying out the PY product on SQ. It meant spending around 150 USD more (one way) as compared to a Y ticket. I was not sure whether it was worth it, but in the end decided to try it out on one leg.

I hoped I had made the right choice and SQ would not let me down.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was to fly on SQ 423, the signature overnight departure out of BOM, operated by the A380. This flight has seen a couple of equipment upgrades in the recent years – from a 777-300A to a 777-300ER to the A380 right now.

I left home early anticipating heavy evening traffic on my way to the airport. I wasn’t wrong. What is usually a 20-minute taxi ride in no traffic, turned into an almost 40 minute crawl. Anyway, I reached the airport well in time, and made my way to the SQ check-in counters.

CHECK-IN

There was a longish queue at the Economy counters, but thanks to my Star Gold status, I could use the Business Class check-in counters, which had only 2 people ahead of me.

The check-in process took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass and the Indian immigration departure card.

Next up was security check, which again took not more than five minutes, and then I joined a long queue for immigration. As it is the start of the peak international departures wave out of BOM, almost all counters were open, and our queue progressed quickly. Post immigration, I made my way to the “Loyalty Lounge” to relax for a bit.

After downing a couple of Kingfishers at the lounge, I made my way to our boarding gate.

Our aircraft was parked at Gate 68 today.

There was a sizeable queue of passengers at our boarding gate, which meant that the flight was quite full.

BOARDING

Sector: BOM-SIN

Airline: Singapore Airlines

Flight: SQ 423

Aircraft: Airbus A380-841

Registration: 9V-SKH

Seat: 31K

Boarding for our flight was announced at 2305, 30 minutes before STD, but ten minutes later than what was printed on the boarding pass. From the massive queue that had formed at the gate, I doubted if we could push back on time.

The boarding was sequential, with Suites and Business Class passengers invited to board first, followed by Star Alliance Gold members. With a quick scan of my boarding pass, I made my way to the aerobridge. SQ Premium Economy Class on the A380 is situated on the lower deck just aft of Door #2, and I boarded through one of the two lower deck aerobridges.

The Premium Economy Class features a comfortable 2-4-2 seating configuration.

I had selected seat 31K, a bulkhead window seat in the first row of the PY section. This meant that I had massive legroom to stretch on this overnight flight. The regular seat pitch in PY is 38 inches.

The seat itself was comfy, wider than the standard Economy seat (up to 19.5 inches wide) and the recline is up to 8 inches. There was a wide double armrest between two adjacent seats. This was good, as I hate people hijacking the entire armrest. The rear portion of the armrest is slightly raised and includes a USB charging port and the headphone port.

Each seat also comes with an adjustable LED reading light, which can be moved to any angle that’s comfortable for you.

Small amenity pouches had been placed on each seat. These were limited edition pouches with SG50 themed motifs and consisted of socks and a toothbrush kit.

The boarding process took around 40 minutes, which meant we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The crew passed around the menus for the supper service on this 5-hour flight.

The menu had a distinctive “Premium Economy Class” branding.

Headphones had already been placed in the seat pocket.

SQ offers bulky active noise cancellation headphones in PY. I was keen on trying them out later on.

The IFE system in PY consists of a 13.3-inch full HD LCD screen. For my row of course, the IFE screen was mounted on the bulkhead wall. The position of the screen means that one has to always look slightly upwards at all times in order to view it. A better arrangement would be to place the screen inside the armrests.

Our captain came online made an announcement that we had closed our doors, and were waiting for our pushback clearance, which would take around 10 more minutes. We finally pushed back at midnight, almost half-an-hour post our scheduled departure time.

THE FLIGHT

One after another, the four RR Trents came alive. The A380 cabin is incredibly quiet, and even with four engines powered on, one could easily talk to fellow travellers without raising one’s voice.

We began taxiing towards Runway 27. There were 3 aircraft ahead of us in the takeoff queue and after nearly 7 minutes of taxiing, we turned in to Taxiway N3 and held short of Runway 27.

Now this was interesting, as heavy aircraft and especially the A380 usually departs using taxiway N1, which allows maximum runway length to be used. However, as N1 was currently shut for maintenance, we would depart from N3 tonight. The cabin lights were dimmed and then turned off for takeoff.

After a couple of minutes of holding for a landing, we turned on to Runway 27 and waited. The four Trents were slowly spooled up to takeoff power, and we began our takeoff roll. The sound of the engines even on the takeoff roll is incredibly low. After a 35 second roll; we lifted off into the night sky in the westerly direction.

After a nice bank to the left, we set course in a southeasterly direction towards Singapore.

The cabin lights were turned back on and the crew began preparation for the meal service. The Premium Economy cabin looked pretty full, so the demand seems to be there.

The drinks trolley appeared first, which is how I like. I enjoy having a drink or two before eating the main meal, and hate airlines that serve drinks during/after the meal.

Singapore Airlines serves champagne in PY, so I decided to try it out. It was served in transparent plastic “flutes”, not real glass ones. Fair enough I think. A pack of roasted almonds and cashews was served alongside. A nice touch!

With champagne in hand, I decided to explore the entertainment on offer. Didn’t feel like watching a movie, so I decided to watch back-to-back episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”. Always a favourite of mine on flights!

The main meal service began soon after. There were three meal options on offer – one international and two Indian.

I opted for the international meal, which consisted of apple coleslaw with toasted almond as an appetizer, “Cayenne Pepper flavoured chicken stew” with sautéed vegetables and potatoes for the main course, and an apricot cheesecake for dessert. It looked quite filling for a five-hour flight.

The meal was served with a bread-roll & butter and a bottle of water.

The crew asked for a second round of drinks, and this time I chose the signature SQ Singapore Sling.

After finishing my meal, I reclined my seat, pulled out the calf rests. I cannot sleep on flights, so it would be helpful to at least catch up on a quick nap.

The cabin crew passed around bottles of water to keep us hydrated through the flight. Another nice touch!

The cabin lights were dimmed and slowly turned off.

ARRIVAL

Roughly an hour before arrival, the captain came online and announced that we would begin our descent into SIN in 20 minutes. The cabin crew did a quick round of drinks, offering water or orange juice.

As we began our descent, the rising sun presented me with this beautiful view out my window.

It became brighter as we approached SIN. The A380 is super quiet on the approach leg, and one can barely hear the engines. Soon we lined up on Runway 02L, and made a smooth touchdown, 10 minutes post our scheduled arrival time.

After a longish taxi, we docked at Terminal 3, which is my favourite terminal at Singapore Changi Airport. The exit from the aircraft was quick, as we were the second group after Suites to leave.

As I made my way to the Arrivals area, I clicked a final departure shot of the superjumbo that brought me to SIN.

I walked towards Immigration, and saw hardly any queues at the counters. This would be a quick SIN immigration for a change at least for me.

SUMMARY

It was a good, positive experience for me in Singapore Airlines Premium Economy on board their flagship Airbus A380. There is a distinct difference in both the hard product and the onboard service as compared to the standard Economy Class. The seats are wider, come with fold out calf and foot rests and recline further. The grey-orange upholstery also adds another level of distinction as compared to Y class.

The F&B service is superior with a wider choice of food including the famed “Book the Cook” available for PY. Champagne (even though it is not the best) is served through the flight along with assorted nuts.

Even though it was worth spending the extra bucks for the PY experience, I feel SQ needs to drive it up a notch or two higher. The seats although good, could be made better – especially in terms of seat width and recline. The Turkish Airlines PY seats on the 777s as quoted earlier are a good example. The amenity kits could be equipped better. Eyeshades and earplugs should definitely be a part of it.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into the Premium Economy experience on Singapore Airlines.

Thank you all for reading!