10 FEBRUARY 2020

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Article from BTNews 10 FEBRUARY 2020

FLYING AT THE FRONT END: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines SQ119 Singapore to New York

* This account is by David Bowden, an award-winning travel writer and author based in Malaysia. His many books include the Blue Skies Guide Borneo and Great Railway Journeys in Australia and New Zealand and he is a two-time winner of the ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA) Award for the best travel story in South East Asia. 

The flight from Singapore to New York Newark on Singapore Airlines (SIA) is currently the record holder for the world’s longest commercial flight and at a reported 19hr it is something to remember. The airline operates Airbus A350-900 ULR (Ultra Long Range) on the route with just two classes – Business (67 seats) and Premium Economy (94 seats).

SQ119 departs Singapore early in the morning as do many other long-haul SIA flights. The Business Class lounge in Terminal 3 of Changi Airport bears up under pressure but only just. It is a 15min walk to the gate and something worth factoring in for those who enjoy indulging in lounge privileges.

SIA’s new aircraft for this route is a pleasure to walk into and with a 1+2+1 layout in Business Class and no central overhead bins it looks smart, neat and uncluttered. The colour scheme is a soothing hue of browns, creams and white with copper detailing.

Business seats of Scottish leather with diamond-stitching are comfortable and when passengers are ready, the 28in seat is transformed into a 78in flatbed with two pillows and an additional (and welcome) large pillow on the seat.

In its upright position, my seat (24F) is very comfortable and storage space is adequate with a side console for placing reading material and my laptop. There is also stowage with a sliding door for bits and pieces I need during the flight – pen, notepad and glasses.

Noise-cancelling headsets and a bottle of water are in an accessible storage space at the side of the seat. Power points and USB ports are available and the headphone input is above the seat but inserting the jack is not that convenient and I have to stand up to complete the task. The reading lights are more than adequate, with several settings available.

There is an 18in HD screen and some 1,800 entertainment choices; more than enough to while away my time in the air. MyKrisWorld options range from current box office films, classics and television favourites. English, Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean films are just some of the offerings as well as children’s shows.

Audio options include popular compilations from 1973, 1988, 2002 and 2017 as well as album selections by popular global artistes covering several genres. While I was happy with both the visual and audio selections, I found it a little too ‘safe’, with an emphasis on well-known mainstream performers, shows and genres; a few more obscure artists would enliven the choices. I found the free wi-fi offered via Panasonic Avionics fast and adequate, with minimal log-on procedures.

With so many hours to fill, the dining options are inviting and presented in a comprehensive menu. Supper, a full mid-flight meal, pre-arrival snack and refreshments throughout the flight are served. The detailed and informative menu lists several dining options and helpful crew point out those relating to the specific flight.

Eight global celebrity chefs have a hand in the dishes with chef Suzanne Goin weaving her magic with dishes such as prawn Niçoise salad and beef daube with baked ricotta. Local dishes include duck noodle soup.

While passengers with dietary requirements or a desire to dine on the cuisine of a celebrity chef can ‘Book the Cook’ before their flights, I opt for some healthy options from the menu. These are listed as the Canyon Ranch Selection (Canyon Ranch operates several wellness lifestyle resorts in the US).

The entrée of grilled prawns with smokey eggplant dip, pine nut crumble, lavosh and pomegranate vinaigrette is superb, full of flavour, contrasting textures and prawns as fresh as they were just cooked.

Inspired, I press on with the main course from the same menu. The grilled, grass-fed beef fillet with black garlic Bordelaise sauce is accompanied by roasted sweet potato stuffed with Swiss chard and accompanied by a red onion and chimichurri sauce. It too is masterful with the steak tasting as if it was just char grilled. Forging onward from the Canyon Ranch offering, I finish with a vanilla sponge cake with condensed coconut complemented by pineapples and coconut meringue.

A panel of experts has chosen wines such as Laurent-Perrier champagne, Weinhaus Ress riesling (Germany) and Morris Classic Liqueur muscat (Australia). I sample all (for research purposes) and am suitably impressed. The German riesling is a wonderful wine for flying – fruity and low alcohol but I wondered why two Bordeaux wines were on offer and not a lighter French Burgundy; surely a great wine for the sky. The muscat from Rutherglen in Victoria is one of the finest examples of this grape variety, brimming with rich sweet raisin flavours.

After dining and being entertained, it was time for bed. This requires the assistance of the crew who pull down the cushioned headboard to reveal a quilt, linen and two pillows (in addition to a larger pillow that is already on the seat). All provide great comfort for a snooze.

Due to the seat configuration, the lower leg area is about 12in wide, requiring me to sleep in a z-shape (SIA refers to the position as Lazy Z), with my knees sufficiently bent. On my return flight to Singapore, I requested a bulkhead seat (11D) and had much more leg space as there was no seat in front to intrude into my space.

There are just four similar seats on the aircraft (11D, 11F, 18D and 18F) that have this extra leg space and, despite them being close to galleys, they are the preferred seats for tall passengers.

There is little space to stand on the aircraft with the only options being the galleys (not the best places to win the hearts of the crew though) or in front of the toilets. A big plus was that both flights to and from New York clocked-in at less than 18hr. SIA operates daily flights to both New York Newark and New York JFK. The former is direct, while the latter transits via Frankfurt. SIA passengers, ex-Newark have access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at the airport.

Having spent so long in the air on my flight from Singapore to New York, it was comforting that I did it in the good hands of Singapore Airlines and its ever-helpful crew.

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