Time is running fast, and with that, the airlines’ replacement of their business class seats is also rapidly changing. We recently flew from New York to Frankfurt aboard one of the company’s Airbus A380, which is perceived as an old business class product. We certainly feel, with hands on heart, that their business class has clearly withstood the ravages of time.
It doesn’t feel long ago since Singapore Airlines introduced the heir to their revolutionary Space Bed which is a haphazard slant compared to today’s standard, yet an advancement in the business class world at the time. The seat has already been replaced by a product that offers more privacy with a range of smart features.
Still, Singapore Airlines’ business class product from 2006 comes across as a very attractive product. An exceptionally wide seat with impeccable space, which can recline to a perfectly flat bed. In our opinion, the product is still highly competitive in comparison to several 2019 competitors. That said, without considering the service experience on board.
The end is near for the Jumbo
Recently, news emerged that Airbus would cease production of their jumbo flight. In 2021, the last A380 will be made at the factory in Toulouse. Although the news are sad, it clearly shows how quickly the game changes in the airline industry. For now the industry demands high speed with smaller aircraft that fly long-haul. For example, we flew Singapore Airlines’ new route between Singapore and New York, a route that may last 18 hours and 45 minutes, however it is generally shortened by an hour. This trip, like many other long-haul flights, are operated with the latest aircraft generation, either the Airbus A350-900 LR (long range) or the Boeing 787-9 / 10. Both capable of flying much further than anyone had dreamed about 20 years ago – at least for a 2-engine aircraft.
But the world is moving forward – at an ever-faster pace, and new technology is paving the way for both more efficient and cost-effective aircrafts catering for optimized comfort for the passengers.
When testing the world’s longest flight between Singapore and New York, I flew “home” to Europe and Frankfurt with Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380 from JFK airport in New York. With a departure time at 20:15, leaving Manhattan by car just before 4 pm, there was plenty of time for contemplation both in traffic out of the city center and, not least, in the pleasant Swiss lounge before departure. This evening there were a lot of travelers, which meant long queues through security. Oddly enough, there was neither the need nor the desire from the “authorities’ to investigate electronic equipment etc. Shoes and belts were left on, as well as my photo and laptop bags. Despite the long queues, the actual “scan” was completed in no time.
About 40 minutes before departure I walked to the gate at a leisurely pace and was one of the first boarding. Although it wasn’t that crowded that evening, it is still unusual that the boarding went so swiftly. At JFK there are 2 bridges by the gate, and I entered directly into the upper deck and located my pre-selected seat 96A. This seat you either “love or hate”. I loved it – just dropping the cat out of the bag straight away. It is referred to as an “ice box”, which is precisely why I selected this seat. This was the obvious choice for someone who prefers freezing bedroom and believe that more than 25 degrees in the summer is a waste.
Furthermore, the selection of seat 96A, at least to some extent, was based on the fact that it is a bulkhead seat. The emergency exit is straight in front of the seat, hidden by a tall, partitioning wall. The only drawback is that one of the toilets is located two meters behind it. On this flight, this was not causing any disturbances due to the few passengers. Nevertheless, it may be worth keeping in mind. As always on Singapore Airlines (bulkhead seats) you do not feel squashed in a cave with no legroom where it is impossible to turn in your sleep. With relatively few passengers onboard the crew asked if I would object to the cabin light being turned off completely. I certainly did not mind, and it made the experience nicer and more private, if possible. The emergency exit lights were the only source of light, together with the faint lights from the front cabin.
Before departure I was offered juice or water, not Champagne, as the US legislation doesn’t allow this before departure. Fair enough, and after smooth takeoff from runway 13R we quickly climbed into the nightly sky heading east. Within minutes, both hot nuts and Champagne were in place. Unexpectedly, half an hour into the flight I was offered a glass of bubbles from First Class (in the manifesto it was probably written that the passenger in seat 96A was highly interested in planes). The bubbles were tasty, but in my opinion, nothing substantial compared to the bubbles served in business class.
Beef fillet in mid-air
Being an evening and night flight that unfortunately left ahead of time, the focus on sleep was paramount. After the appetizer, main course and a tasty dessert, it was all about making the most of sleep. I asked not to be disturbed unless necessary, and managed to sleep 3.5 – 4 hours out of the 6 hours and 41 minutes long flight. You often experience some turbulence when flying eastward due to Earth’s rotation and the wind, and although the plane was shaking slightly, it was merely at a level that lulled me to sleep.Moreover, the dinner I chose was a U.S Grilled Prime Beef Fillet. A great experience, and to date the best steak I’ve ever eaten on a plane. I selected my meal in advance through Singapore Airlines’ eminent Book The Cook.
Wide, comfortable and quiet
The seat is quite flat on today’s business class product, but on the A380 it is also extra wide, and the fact that there are only 4 seats in the row show that two people can actually sit next to each other. On the lower deck there are 10 seats in one row…
The Airbus A380 is and will always be a comfortable flight. It’s quiet, and like other modern Airbus models, the noise from fellow passengers is actually more annoying than the noise of the engine. On this flight with few passengers, it was very quiet and certainly not difficult to be lulled into the sleep by the muffled but ever-present sound of the engine. And of course, there is turbulence, but in the A380 the flight movements are downplayed, if one may say. It’ll be a smooth ride. Although Airbus will stop producing the A380 in a few years, it will still be possible to experience this iconic jumbo for many years to come.