Singapore Airlines is widely regarded as one of the world’s best airlines, and when redeeming Aeroplan miles, you can quite easily fly around the Asia-Pacific in Singapore Airlines business class without paying any fuel surcharges.
I used to fly Singapore Airlines quite often when I was living in Asia, but this would be my first flight with them in almost 10 years, and also (somewhat surprisingly) the first time I had ever redeemed miles for travel in business class.
This particular flight from Hanoi to Singapore would be operated by the Airbus A330, which forms the backbone of Singapore’s regional Asia-Pacific routes, serving destinations all over East Asia, South East Asia, and Australia.
While the airline is gradually refreshing their regional product with newer aircraft like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787-10, the A330 will continue to operate along these regional routes for many more years to come. Since you’re likely to run into this product if you’re using Star Alliance miles to hop around Asia, then, I figured it’s worth writing a quick review on my short 3 hour, 40 minute flight from Hanoi down to Singapore.
As Singapore Airlines business class passengers departing from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, we were invited to use the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge prior to our flight.
The lounge had a spacious seating area and even a build-your-own-pho station, although I didn’t have enough time to take a full round of pictures before we had to head to the boarding gate.
There weren’t too many passengers queued up for priority boarding, so pretty soon Jessica and I found ourselves stepping onto the Airbus A330 that would be bringing us to Singapore. As is the norm on this airline, we were greeted by a set of beaming flight attendants alongside the cabin manager himself.
Singapore Airlines | SQ187
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Cabin: Business class
Route: Hanoi (HAN) to Singapore (SIN)
Date: Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Time: Departing 6:25pm and arriving 11:05pm
Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes
Boarding via the front door of the aircraft, we turned right into the business class cabin. There are a total of 30 angled-flat forward-facing business class seats, spread out across five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.
As you can tell, these seats are getting to be a little outdated, and it’s definitely the right time for Singapore Airlines to refresh their short- and medium-haul fleet if they want to maintain a competitive regional product.
While I didn’t mind these seats on a quick four-hour flight like this, some of the regional routes (like the Australian ones) can be up to seven hours long, and a lie-flat product with direct aisle access from every seat would be much more appropriate for an airline of Singapore’s calibre.
In terms of the seat selection, couples travelling together would obviously have their pick of any pair of seats in the cabin, while solo travellers should probably choose one of the seats in the middle, so that they don’t have to either inconvenience others or be inconvenienced themselves if they want to access the aisle.
Jessica and I had assigned ourselves Seats 16A and 16C by the left-side window in the very last row of business class. There weren’t many other passengers onboard today, so we felt like we had a cozy corner all to ourselves.
I had mixed thoughts on the seat finishes in Singapore’s A330 business class. While I didn’t like the dull beige of the “shell” of the seat, I much preferred the striking glossy-purple colour of the seat cushions and the snazzy pillows to match. Interestingly, with our flight taking place on January 2, the Christmas wreaths were still being displayed on the sides of the cabin.
I took note of the seat features as we sat down, which are almost exactly the same as EVA Air’s regional A330 business class product that I flew last year. The entertainment screen is mounted on the seat-back in front of you, above a set of two storage compartments and adjacent to a small coat hook.
The literature pockets, as well as a set of water bottle holders, are found in-between every pair of entertainment screens.
You’ll find two additional drink holders at the extremity of the armrest between the two seats, while the tray table folds outwards from within the armrest.
Underneath the armrest is a slim storage space, where you’re suggested to keep your laptop. Perhaps a more portable product like a MacBook Air would fit in here nicely, though my 15’’ MacBook Pro had no hope of fitting. Of course, this is also where the USB and power port is located.
Another interesting feature is the small storage rack that’s located underneath the armrest in-between the two seats, down by your knees.
Singapore Airlines seems to indicate that this would be a nice place to mount your iPod during the flight. The fact that the airline thinks that iPods are still even a thing shows you that this business class product is falling behind the times.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of your seat from the armrest is where you’ll find the seat controls and entertainment controller, which you unlatch from its holder with the push of a button.
Note that even though the seat controls include a button that looks something like a “lie-flat” seat, in reality the seat doesn’t become nearly as horizontal, as you’ll see below.
The reading light and headphone jack are positioned up on the central divider between the two seats. Part of the divider can be pulled outwards to form a privacy partition between the two seats, if you happen to be seated next to someone you don’t know.
Moments after taking our seats, a flight attendant came by to pass out the welcome beverages. I selected an orange juice, although fruit punch and water were also available. Hot towels were passed out as well, and the cabin manager came by to talk to us and welcome us onboard.
On a short flight like this, Singapore doesn’t hand out full-sized business class menus, instead leaving a simple menu card at each guest’s seat. I browsed the menu card to make our choices for the light dinner course, and my order was taken by the flight attendant shortly before take-off.
Meanwhile, Jessica had already eaten plenty in the lounge and wasn’t feeling hungry, so she just ordered a tea to drink, which almost made our lovely flight attendant feel bad.
Note that unfortunately Singapore’s famous Book the Cook service isn’t available on flights departing from Hanoi, so the in-flight menu card was all we had to choose from.
I also inspected the in-flight headphones, which didn’t look like they were of the greatest quality – a feeling I confirmed when I actually used them later in the flight.
The safety video began to play as we pushed back from our gate and began our taxi. This would be the first of many flights I’d take with Singapore in a short period, so I’d eventually grow very familiar with the safety video, which highlights many of Singapore’s attractions like the Gardens by the Bay.
Since we had just arrived in Asia on a Turkish Airlines flight just a few hours earlier, my biological clock was kind of all over the place, and I closed my eyes for a quick nap as we began our takeoff sequence. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s always a cool feeling to fall asleep to the rumble of the jet engines on the ground and wake up when you’re already cruising smoothly high above the clouds.
I quickly browsed through the entertainment system, which has an impressive range of movies and TV for you to choose from. I decided to put on an episode of The Big Bang Theory just to pass the time. Classic airplane entertainment, that.
The light dinner service began rather quickly, about 15 minutes after the seat-belt sign was turned off. My table was set, and then each course was delivered by hand by either the flight attendant or the cabin manager himself.
The appetizer was a Thai-style spicy scallop with green mango salad. As both a seafood aficionado and a lover of Thai food, I enjoyed every single bite.
The cabin manager then came around with a breadbasket and offered me carte blanche access; when I opted for a simple piece of garlic bread, he insisted that I try some of the crispy flatbread as well.
One of the reasons that Singapore Airlines is so highly regarded is its world-class service principles, which is incredible to watch in action and to experience as a passenger. And what truly drive home the excellent service are the small touches, like the cabin manager, dressed to the nines, coming around to personally distribute bread to passengers with such generosity.
Anyway, after I had finished the appetizer, my plate was withdrawn and then replaced with the main course, for which I had ordered stir-fried chicken and noodles in black bean sauce. It’s a classic Chinese-style dish popular in South East Asia and one that I would expect Singapore Airlines to execute to perfection, which is exactly what they did.
The light dinner service concluded with some ginger chocolate cake with vanilla sauce as dessert, and a cup of green tea to wash it down. Jessica tried a bite of my cake and immediately wished she had ordered her own as well; seeing this, the flight attendant was more than happy to bring out another serving for her.
After the meal, I played a few low-res games on the entertainment system, just for a bit of nostalgia. I remember flying with Singapore Airlines as a young boy for the first time (in economy class, of course) and being blown away that they even had in-flight entertainment systems in the first place!
After that, I put on the airshow and spent the rest of the flight working on my laptop. There’s no wifi on Singapore Airlines’s A330s, so I just worked offline. The flight attendants walked through the cabin every now and then to check if any passengers needed anything, and I got a few top-ups of my green tea.
The business class restrooms on Singapore’s A330s are well-appointed, with all the amenities being housed in small storage compartments.
Towards the end of the flight, I also decided to inspect what the seat would look like when fully reclined. I held the “lie-flat” button all the way on the seat across the aisle, until it was as reclined as it could go.
You can see that the seat can be described as “angled-flat-ish” at best. The angle of the seat is perfectly fine for relaxing or sneaking in a quick nap, but getting real quality sleep onboard these seats on a flight of a longer duration might be rather challenging.
Shortly before we began our descent, our flight attendant came by to pass out a “Travel Gift Pack”, a collection of a few skincare and laundry items like lip balm, hand cream, wrinkle remover, and a bar of laundry soap.
It’s interesting that the Travel Gift Pack essentially replaced the amenity kit on this flight, especially since I tend not to use my in-flight amenity kits during the flight itself anyway, instead choosing to bring them with me off the flight.
At around 11pm, we landed in Singapore Changi Airport just ahead of schedule, bringing this short-but-sweet flight on Singapore Airlines’s regional business class to an end.
Despite being in the process of revamping its short-haul fleet, Singapore Airlines will still be using these Airbus A330s for a good few years, and you’ll most likely find yourself on one of them if you’re planning to hop around South East Asia with one of the world’s leading airlines. While the hard product on this aircraft is slowly becoming outdated, Singapore’s onboard food and service remain as exceptional as ever, which goes a long way to towards ensuring that you come away from the flight with a positive impression.
On the whole, I’d be perfectly happy to fly Singapore Airlines A330 business class on short-haul routes, but I’d definitely try to get myself on one of Singapore’s newer regional business class seats if my flight were to exceed five or six hours in duration.