Singapore Airlines’ New Regional Business Class Kuala Lumpur-Singapore
In 2009, Singapore Airlines received their first delivery of an Airbus A330 aircraft, with a brand new regional business class product on board. The blue regional business class seats, which for many years have been used on short routes, have started getting worn and out dated and many passengers welcomed something new.
I have tried most of what Singapore Airlines has to offer when it comes to seats and products, in business and first class, but I was yet to try regional business class. I had planned to about two years ago, but a last minute aircraft switch the day before led to a cancellation. It was therefore with some excitement that I booked this short hop between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
At the Airport
I arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok and had already been checked in for my connecting flight to Singapore. I received my boarding card during check-in in Bangkok and had my bag tagged for the entire trip. This made my transfer in Kuala Lumpur very simple.
The security check in Kuala Lumpur takes place at the gate, which meant that incoming transfer passengers can walk straight into the terminal without any transfer formalities. Anyone who had not checked in for their connecting flight could do so at the transfer desks in the satellite pier, otherwise it was a just a matter of relaxing, or in my case, heading to the lounge.
Star Alliance has two lounges in Kuala Lumpur, which are located a few metres apart. They are, Thai Airways Royal Silk lounge and Singapore Airlines Silverkris lounge. I had previously visited both, but had also recently read about them being renovated since my last visit and so I decided to do some lounge hopping, which is in accordance with Star Alliance’s rules. Thai Airways’ lounge is large and has a great view, but a somewhat limited selection of food and drink. Singapore Airlines’ lounge is, in reality, just a small room with seating for a maximum of 30 passengers, but strangely enough, has more to eat and drink than the Thai lounge. The range of food and drink is, however, incomparable to some of Asia’s larger lounges.
Boarding and First Impressions
The security check, for all passengers, was performed at the entrance to the gate area. In spite of this, there was just a single person ahead of me in the queue and the whole process went fast and smoothly without any issues whatsoever.
My boarding card, printed in Bangkok, was missing information regarding my gold card status and I therefore asked for assistance at the service counter by the gate. A very helpful agent immediately printed a new boarding card without so much as a comment. This time it was a blue Singapore Airlines business class boarding card with both my gold status and my bonus card number clearly visible. This was much appreciated.
After a couple of minutes of waiting in the gate lounge, boarding started, 15 minutes before departure at gate C3. Singapore Airlines really do take priority boarding seriously and truly value their business class passengers, this became evident at the gate. Passengers in business class and passengers with PPS status (a sort of bonus programme for Singapore Airlines’ premium travellers) are first to board, followed by gold card travellers, and last of all economy class passengers, who were boarded by row number.
I was one of the first to board, via the front door, and I received a very positive first impression of the new regional business class cabin. It was without a doubt one of the best regional business class products I have seen. I quickly found my seat, 12K, a window seat on the second row.
After taking my seat I was offered a welcome drink. No champagne this time around, which I guess is due to the short flight time. Instead I could choose between orange juice or a non-alcoholic cocktail with pineapple juice and ginger ale. I chose the latter and it tasted really good. A trolley rolled through the cabin with an extensive range of newspapers and magazines, while each passenger was referred to by name by the flight attendant.
We had a timely pushback, at 8.30pm, and a safety video was shown on the screens while we taxied to the runway. Landing cards (mandatory forms to fill out before entering a country) for Singapore were not handed out before departure. I asked one of the attendants, as she passed by, if she could locate one for me. I guess most people got their forms during check-in, I seem to remember that was how it used to worked and I assume it is not very common for passengers to transfer to a Singapore Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore Airlines received delivery of their first Airbus A330 aircraft, with the new regional business class product on, in 2009. Over the next four years most Airbus A330 aircraft will be updated. A number of Boeing 777 aircraft will also be equipped with the new regional product.
The seat was a very positive surprise, one of the best regional business class seats I have ever tried. It is primarily used for shorter flights within Asia, as well as a number of longer flights, for example, the seven hour flight from Singapore-Tokyo, along with some flights to Australia. Personally, I do not see any issues with sitting in this seat for longer intercontinental flights, but I suspect Singapore Airlines want to offer something better on their more important lengthier trips.
The Airbus A330 aircraft had a total of 30 seats, five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. 19 seats were occupied which meant an occupancy of over 60 percent. The seat was both wide (24 inches, which is quite a lot) and had plenty of legroom (60 inches). There was plenty of good storage options. While fully reclined, the seat became ‘lie-flat’, or rather ‘angle-flat’, with a slight slope. The seat had advanced seat controls well hidden under one of the armrests.
The seat also had some good storage options, including shoe storage, a compartment for a bottle of water, and two compartments, with covers, for personal belongings located directly under the screen in front. The only issue I had with the seat was that the buttons on the ceiling were not properly labelled, it was not clear which button was for the personal lamp and which button was to call for the cabin crew, this resulted in a number of mistakes.
The bathroom also made quite an impression on me, with the same modern design as offered in first class and suites. It had small lights around a large mirror and a smaller make up mirror attached next to it. It felt more like a theatre loge than an aircraft toilet.
On board was Singapore Airlines’ extensive in-flight entertainment system, KrisWorld, the most modern version, which is also available on the Airbus A380 and the new Boeing 777 aircraft. It has a completely different design and structure compared to the in-flight entertainment system used on older aircraft.
The in-flight entertainment system had an extensive range of over 100 films, 170 TV shows, 740 music albums, and 80 3D games. As the trip was so short I barely had time to see anything except the flight map. The screen was of a good size with good resolution, nothing to complain about.
The flight time to Singapore was estimated at just over 35 minutes, which meant that service started immediately after take off. I was offered a snack consisting of either a chicken croissant or a beef sandwich. I chose the chicken croissant, which was surprisingly tasty and filling. The trolley also offered water, tea and coffee. I knew that they did not offer any alcoholic drinks such as wine or champagne on this short trip, but took a wild shot and asked if I could get a beer, which is somewhat easier to handle and does not require opening any bottles. It paid off as they did indeed have beer. I could choose between a domestic Tiger Beer or a Fosters.
I was later offered a refill as well as coffee and tea. Trays were then collected as people finished off their meals.
I shared a few words with the young steward who served in my aisle and tried to offer him an uplifting comment about how they really had to work hard on this flight. He laughed heartily and told me that it is even less enjoyable when there is tailwind the whole way and the cabin is full, then they simply have to run. If there is also turbulence, sometimes they can not serve at all, but this is something the staff can do anything about. This flight was, in comparison quite manageable as the winds were calm, we had a lengthy approach to Singapore and the aeroplane was only filled to 60 per cent capacity.
The staff on board were impressive and the treatment of the passengers was immaculate. It was amazing to see how much they were able to accomplish on such a short trip, which included referring to every person by name at least once.
The whole flight to Singapore was accompanied by calm weather. We had a long approach over the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan before we could start approaching the airport from the South, which meant flight time was 50-55 minutes rather than the estimated 35 minutes, which I did not mind one bit.
It was beautiful to approach Changi over the large number of boats anchored off Singapore, one of the most amazing approaches in the world, especially in the evening. We landed at Changi Airport at 9.30pm.
Singapore Airlines uses two terminals at Changi, terminal 2 and terminal 3. There is a clear logic to which terminal is used for the departing flights, but the arrivals are completely illogical and seem to be almost entirely random. This evening terminal 3 was used for our arrival from Kuala Lumpur, even though it is terminal 2 which is used for departures to all South East Asian countries, which of course includes Malaysia.
I passed through passport control quickly and painlessly. The baggage took longer than usual (compared to Changi Airport’s statistics), but once the band started moving my priority tagged bag was the very first to appear. Asian airports tend to have a quick and efficient arrivals routine and it was less than an hour after landing that I was checked in to my hotel in central Singapore.
This was a very good experience and it was fantastic to see how much Singapore Airlines could accomplish in such a short timespan. A good seat and a nice cabin, tasty and filling snacks, an extensive supply of newspapers and magazines, and I was even referred to by name before we left Kuala Lumpa.
I have historically belonged to the group of people that perceived Singapore Airlines’ cabin staff as quite stiff and deadpan, with everything being so thorough, polished and according to the book to the point where there is little space for any human emotion when dealing with the customer. However, on this flight I saw nothing of this, and instead the staff were exemplary in their way of working, both warm and efficient.