Singapore Airlines A380 Suites and Business Class
Just earlier this month, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, both amongst the leading airlines of the world launched new flagship products for their most premium customers. Singapore Airlines revealed the new Suites and Business Class for their Airbus A380 as they begin to receive 5 new A380s and plans to retrofit them to all their older 14 units of A380 with the project to be complete by 2020.
According to Singapore Airlines, the new Suites were ‘designed by Pierrejean Design Studio and manufactured by Zodiac Seats UK’, and features both an armchair and fold out bed on the side with a layout similar to Etihad’s Apartments. The armchair is supposedly upholstered by Poltrona Frau, an Italian manufacturer, and is fully adjustable and can be swivelled to face the TV by the door or the windows. The TV onboard is now a 32 inch HD screen that can be swivelled as well to optimize the enjoyment of KrisWorld’s range of entertainment.
The bed is supposed the star here as it is now a separate pull out bed with 100% fully combed cotton duvets and lots of pillows from the pictures handed out by Singapore Airlines. For passengers in Suites travelling together, they can open the dividers to create a double bed like the ones in the aisle. New pyjamas and slippers by French-brand Lalique is provided for passengers.
In creating a comfortable ambience, there is a sliding door for privacy and controllable ambient lighting at the touch of a button. A new capacitive touch screen control allows passengers to call for service, adjust the blinds and positions of the seats from the seat. Inside, there are plenty of segmented leather-padded storage space for valuables and individual closet space for coats. Design wise, I have to say the colours are a bit more business-like and while contemporary, it lacks a certain luxury. Though I suppose passengers should get a feel of the cabin first before making final comments.
Finally for the lavatories, Singapore Airlines skips on the showers that is installed onboard Etihad and Emirates’ A380s. Instead, it gives it a fresh modern look while adding a dressing counter with its own stool complete with toiletries by Lalique for passengers to look refreshed after the flight.
While the photos from Singapore Airlines’ website shows a more staid picture of the new Suites, the new product is still an upgrade over the current one. However, they are just following in Etihad’s layout and reducing the number of suites to just 6 cabins on the A380, and thus most likely only 2 sets of double beds in the front of the cabin. The swivelling armchair does give it the versatility for passengers to lounge and I liked the fact passengers can now watch TV from the chair or the lounge.
Another big news from Singapore Airlines is that the new A380s Business Class will be the only Business Class product of any airline to feature a double bed. Though I believe only the bulkhead seats are able to be converted to a double bed, with all the other middle seats retaining the slanted sleeping angle. The seats itself now reclines to a full flat position unlike current ones where the crew needs to pull out the bed.
The new Business Class seats are designed by UK-based JPA Design and manufactured JAMCO Corporation of Japan. A total of 78 seats will be installed in the upper deck of the A380. According to Singapore Airlines, the new seats will utilize a carbon-fibre composite shell structure, that makes it thinner and creating more footwell space.
In my mind, Singapore Airlines continues to update and make its premium product competitive but it seems to lack the competitive streak that used to make them the class leader in the past. I find their products would be good but not exactly a game changer.
Emirates Boeing 777 First Class Suites
For Emirates, they touted their revamped First Class suites onboard the Boeing 777 as a ‘game changer’. Initially to be introduced to the Dubai-Brussels and Dubai-Geneva routes, Emirates will reduce the number of First Class Suites on the 777 from 8 currently to 6, with a 1-1-1 layout. It is worth noting that Emirates is the largest operator of the 777 with 165 in its fleet and a further 164 on order. This means it is unlikely all of its 777 will feature the new First Class suites anytime soon, and the best way to check is through the seat plan as the old First Class suites are in a 1-2-1 layout.
Emirates has worked with Boeing, Rockwell Collins interior systems, Panasonic, Jacques Pierre Jean Design studio and Seattle-based design firm Teague to revamp the suites that will feature full floor-to-ceiling sliding door to create a totally enclosed space. A much-touted feature is the zero-gravity seating position ‘inspired by NASA technology’, with more space overall in the suites for passengers to relax and unwind. The new seats onboard have also been advertised to be ‘inspired’ from the Mercedes Benz S-Classes which is considered as one of the leading luxury car in the world.
In addition, Emirates has installed virtual window scenes for those seated at the centre seat to have a view outside of the plane, while binoculars are provided for those seated on the window side. Entertainment in each suite is provided through a 32-inch HD TV, similar to Singapore Airlines, though the first commercial airline to install a 32-inch HD TV on First Class is Asiana with the Suites on their 777. Emirates will upgrade the headsets to Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones that has been ‘created exclusively’ for the airline.
Other upgraded amenities includes luxury cosmetics by Byredo and ‘moisturizing sleepwear’ by Hydra Active. Emirates will continue providing amenity kits by Bvlgari. My impression of Emirates’ new First Class suites is positive as it seems to have went away with the gold trims and wood veneer. Replacing it are cool LED lighting and classic interior furnishing which adds a touch more elegance. However, I cannot help but feel the marketing here seems to contain a lot of ‘fluff’, with the use of brands to elevate the product itself.
As a side note, I have never really flown onboard Emirates’ premium products before since their Business Class is outdated and lacks aisle access for every seat. Most importantly, Emirates does not have competitive prices of the right schedules to the places I want to reach. Thus their products does not interest me at a very high level. Even with the new 777 Suites, I do not see myself going out of my way to redeem miles to fly with them.
On the other hand, I do like the direction where Singapore Airlines is going as they are making their products competitive. Personally, I feel Singapore Airlines new Suites might just be the best First Class product right now since their A380s fly to more routes compared to Etihad’s limited destinations using their A380s. Of course this is discounting the fact that Etihad has the Residences that comes with a private bathroom and shower since that comes in just one unit per flight. Singapore Airlines might just have hit the sweet spot in its refurbishment and would justify frequent travellers or miles collectors to splurge on a new Suites flight!