Singapore Airlines 861, HKG – SIN

SQ 861

HKG – SIN

Airbus Industrie A350-941

Business Class, Seat 14A

 

Prologue

Mention Asian premium airline and both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways immediately come to mind, with their top notch product, excellent service, safety and efficiency making them among the most sought after for business flyers. The rival carriers compete for dominance in the region’s crowded skies, with the route between their respective hubs of particular importance and both regularly deploy their best offering to gain an advantage over the other.

 

As one of the newest operators of the advanced Airbus A350, Singapore Airlines wasted little time in deploying its latest fleet type on services to Hong Kong. We join the aircraft on its scheduled afternoon service back to Singapore in the highly-rated Business Class cabin.

 

Check-In

   

Hong Kong International Airport ranks as one of the world’s top aviation hubs and a pleasure to fly out of with its airy, open spaces and efficiency. We arrived to find the Singapore Airlines counters just wrapping up check-in for the earlier departure (one of seven flights daily) and were promptly attended to at the Business Class counter where the agent confirmed our pre-selected seats and offered us directions to the Silver Kris Lounge.

 

Lounge & Ground Service

   

   

Rather than utilise a contract lounge at this important network station, Singapore Airlines operates its own Silver Kris Lounge in Hong Kong. Located near gate 15 just after security and immigration clearance, the facility was recently renovated and is one of three Star Alliance partner lounges at the airport.

 

Entering the lounge, we pass a small seating area enroute to the main room, cleverly divided into distinct working, relaxation and dining spaces. The former is sited at the back away from the activity of the self-service buffet, with the added privacy of high-back, leather pod seats modelled after the airline’s own First Class seats. Leather armchairs and high-back Victorian-style chairs line the seating area, with every seat enjoying easy access to electrical outlets and USB ports for convenience.

   

   

The sit-down dining area has several tables and chairs to enjoy the food and beverage options. There was a reasonable choice of Asian and Western hot food items available from the buffet, including dim sum, stir-fry noodles, sandwiches and a sesame paste dessert, along with lighter choices of salads, cheeses and crackers. The signature Singapore Laksa (a rice noodle dish in coconut broth) or Hong Kong-style fishball noodles, could be ordered from the lounge attendants and prepared on-demand.

 

Juices, sodas and water can be found in the refrigerator, while coffee and tea were readily available from the buffet set-up. A hosted bar serves up alcoholic beverages, with a large selection of complimentary draft beers, wines and spirits. Cocktails may be ordered from the bartender and we opted for some pre-boarding champagne to start.

 

Boarding & Departure

   

We left the lounge shortly before the scheduled boarding time and headed for gate 15, where we found our aircraft parked outside. With its blended winglets and black cockpit window surrounds, the Airbus A350 stands out among other jets parked around it. Further enhancing the good looks on today’s operating aircraft is the large “10,000th Airbus” decal affixed to the fuselage, signifying its status in aviation history.

 

As is the case in Hong Kong, separate boarding lanes for priority and regular passengers were implemented by the gate agents. We were soon making our way down the jetbridge, taking the first left turn towards door L1 where the crew were waiting to greet us by name and show us to our seat. Entering the aircraft, one immediately appreciates the sense of space of these next-generation jets with the soft purple mood lighting and the lack of central overhead bins. The friendly Singapore Girls quickly came around to offer pre-departure beverages and a selection of reading materials as we settled in for departure.

 

Seat

Introduced in 2013 in collaboration again with JPA Design, the current Singapore Airlines business class product remains one of the best in the industry and builds on the features of the previous generation seats. Aesthetically, the purple, grey and bronze colours, emotive and tactile finishes, curved surfaces and 1-2-1 configuration make for a stylish and classy cabin to set the tone for the flight ahead.

   

   

Seat 14A on the left side of the aircraft would be our space for the 4-hour hop to Singapore. Continuing the trend of wide seats, there was plenty of hip and shoulder room despite some width being sacrificed for the side console. The smooth leather and adequate padding also meant a nice balance between comfort and support, which is vital given the amount of time one can spend in them on the longer transcontinental routes. Several mechanical recline settings were available, with the more popular on our flight being the cradled Lazy-Z and Sundeck positions (intuitively controlled by the button panel on the outer armrest).

 

Despite the short flight time, we took the opportunity to try out the seat in bed mode. Within minutes of us getting up, one of the lovely flight attendants came by to help set up the bed. Rather than recline into a fully flat position, the seat back flips over to lie flush with the ottoman and foot cubby before the mattress pad and duvet is placed over. The design of the seat means that passengers lie angled to the side akin to a herringbone layout, which some have found to be non-intuitive. While it takes a little getting used to, we beg to differ and found the sleeping position to be equally comfortable in the regular seats and the bulkhead seats with the full ottoman.

   

   

   

Improving on drawbacks with its predecessor, this seat features a similar large and sturdy table, but with an added height-adjustable and pivot function. The cocktail tray and vanity mirror combination remains, but is now a moulded fitting for better stability. Immediately above is the seat back storage compartment, one of several Singapore Airlines has included to address the lack of storage spaces in the previous generation seat.

   

   

Rounding out the improved features is the distinctive side console comprising a large storage slot alongside a reading light and the connectivity panel. We appreciate the thoughtful design that now provides a space near the electrical and USB outlets to keep electronic devices being charged, the result of experiences gained with the older seat. On the opposite side lies another set of reading lights angled to provide the best illumination at different recline settings.

 

Crew

The crew this afternoon were in high spirits and friendly as they operated the flight, yet exuding a level of professionalism to remain unintrusive. The flight stewardesses working our aisle were charming and attentive, constantly going around the cabin to check on passengers’ needs. Assisting them was the inflight supervisor, who always wore a friendly, reassuring smile as he went about his duties.

 

Meal

   

Meal service began with hot, scented towels being distributed by the crew on the ground. Once in the air, our post-takeoff Singapore Sling was promptly served with a pack of nuts and tables set for dinner service 10 minutes later. Unlike other carriers operating on the route, Singapore Airlines offers a multi-course plated service in business class beginning with a drink of choice (we opted for the Charles Heidseck champagne) and starter of nicoise salad with prawns. The bread basket was then brought around to each passenger for their choice of bread, including a selection of warm garlic bread, rolls, croissants and breadsticks together with miniature bottles of extra virgin olive oil.

   
   
   

Despite the “Book the Cook” pre-order service for entrees being offered on flights departing Hong Kong, we elected not to utilize it this time and tried the regular catering instead. Singapore Airlines offers 4 choices of entrees including both oriental and western dishes, the latter of which we chosen. The “Seared Lamb Loin with Natural Jus”, served with broccoli, cherry tomatoes and mashed pumpkin is a longtime dish for the airline and did not disappoint, being prepared to the right doneness with the meat retaining a hint of pink and tenderness. For dessert, we felt the airline could do better than the rather underwhelming raspberry sorbet with fruit cocktail that was served, given the expectations set by the excellent entree. The crew then offered cheese tasting plates alongside coffee and tea to complete the meal.

 

Entertainment

   

A copy of the month’s SilverKris magazine was tucked in the literature pocket together with the standard duty free catalogue, IFE guide, safety information card and menu. In celebration of Singapore Airlines’ 70th Anniversary in 2017, the content centered around the top 70 reasons why people travel to showcase inspiring travel locations and knowledge apart from a separate mandarin-language section, no doubt targeted at the important north asian market.

   

   

The award-winning KrisWorld inflight entertainment system receives a boost in its latest iteration, cementing its reputation as one of the best in the skies today. Content is delivered via the 18-inch, high-definition LCD screen immediately ahead and noise-cancelling headphones from longtime supplier Phitek that manages to block out the already soft hum from the engines. An ergonomic, smartphone-styled controller features its own LCD screen that doubles as a control menu and useful second screen detailing the flight progress, with the touchscreen interface intuitive and easy to use.

   

Complementing the touchscreen controller is the ability for passengers to pair their smartphones and tablets to the system via the SingaporeAir mobile application and use them as a secondary interface to access the onboard internet and pre-loaded content. KrisWorld is regarded as having one of the most extensive content selections and on our flight this ranged from recent Hollywood blockbusters to audio programming on a loop cycle. For our flight, we chose the film Apprentice from Singaporean director Boo Junfeng (touching on the controversial topic of the death penalty in the city state from an executor’s perspective) and the movie adaptation of the popular Hong Kong drama Line Walker.

 

Arrival & Deboarding

30 minutes from landing, the pilots came on the public address system to advise of our schedule and weather in Singapore as the cabin crew prepared for arrival. It was a quick and smooth landing as air traffic control vectored us for a direct approach and a short taxi to our gate at Changi Airport terminal 3. In typical Singaporean efficiency, the jetbridge was quickly docked and doors opened as the crew bade passengers farewell to end another excellent flight with Singapore Airlines.

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