22 OCTOBER 2018


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Article from BTNews 22 OCTOBER 2018

COMMENT: Singapore very-long-haul

Singapore Airlines can breathe a sigh of relief after exposing its inaugural ultra-long-haul SQ22 A350-900ULR service from Singapore to New York Newark to the attentions of the world’s aviation and travel media 10 days ago. The verdicts have been generally favourable and the service has quietly settled down to its daily routine in the week and a half since.

BTN was not on board SQ22 but writer John Arlidge of The Sunday Times was among those who were. In his subsequent double-page report, he had some complaints but not many. He didn’t like the six single-aisle Premium Economy seats at the back which he said felt narrow and hard and the blue/grey colour palette was cold: “Virgin Atlantic it ain’t.”

There was also the fact certain meals were served by the crew at pre-fixed times rather than when the passenger requested it. Qatar Airways as one example on all its long-haul flights offers a restaurant "eat when you want" service to suit the guest rather than the cabin staff.

Another problem was the satellite wi-fi, free in Business Class and cheap for light use in Premium Economy but “sluggish and not good enough for the most hi-tech plane in the sky”.

Arlidge also picked out the lack of showers, which SIA apparently regards as a marketing gimmick, while the six bathrooms were “poky and lack the style of those on other carriers such as Qatar and Virgin”.

One of the most comprehensive SQ22 accounts was provided by Richard Quest of CNN, who also noted the “strange” meal service. Quest contributed hourly blogs throughout the flight, supported by video interviews, and also took questions via Twitter from people on the ground.

Asked if he had any complaints, Quest responded: “This is Singapore Airlines – they work harder than just about any other airline to perfect the experience.”

He did criticise the Business Class bed, which he said required its occupant to sleep at an angle, but otherwise told his audience: “The flight has run incredibly smoothly.”

Another hour-by-hour account came from Steve Meacham of the Australian magazine Traveller, who noted the Premium Economy seats on board had a fixed console which prevented passengers spreading out to lie down on vacant seats.

He was surprised to be served champagne in a plastic glass (“surely SIA could afford glassware on a ULR flight?”), while the so-called "improved" eyeshades he said could be bought in a $2 shop. However, he said: “I can't fault the (Business Class) seat” … and “the air and noise quality is also noticeably superior”.

Back at The Sunday Times, the paper used the SQ22 story as a lead-in to update readers on progress toward the “holy grail” of ultra-long-haul flights, London – Sydney non-stop. Involving a 21hr flight over 10,576mi, this has been dubbed Project Sunrise by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and was previewed last month in BTN (BTN 3 September).

Observers say that in turn would bring up the next challenge – non-stop flights between London and Auckland, a distance of 11,388mi.

• For Richard Quest’s account of SQ22, see

Also from The Sunday Times   https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/on-board-the-worlds-longest-flight-from-singapore-to-new-york-7wfmgqvsl

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