[Airline Review] – Singapore Airlines A350-900 (SQ711) – Business Class, BKK – SIN (17 May 22)

At the Airport

Check-in

Singapore Airlines check-in counters occupy row K in Suvarnabhumi Airport, situated in the centre part of the departure hall of the airport terminal. Most of the counters are dedicated to Economy class passengers and one for KirsFlyer Elite Gold members. Singapore Airlines dedicated two counters for its Business Class Passengers, located nearer the immigration gates. Queues for the respective classes of passengers are well-demarcated, and ground staff are seen standing by, ready to assist passengers to the correct queue. There was no queue at the Business Class counter. We were quickly greeted by very friendly ground staff at the Business Class queue, which led us to an empty counter and reminded us that we should have our digital Singapore Arrival Card submitted before we boarded the flight. The staff at the check-in counter quickly took over checking us in. She processed our check-in with much efficiency that it took her less than 5 mins to complete our check-in. Business Class passengers can use the Fast-Track lane in Row A, where Thai Airways check-in counters are located. There was no one in the queue, and all the immigration counters were open. We cleared immigration in less than 5 mins.

Singapore Airlines passengers check-in at Row K in Suvarnabhumi Airport
Singapore Airlines Business Class passengers can use the empty fast track immigration clearance channel.

Thai Airways Orchid Lounge

Singapore Airlines has a SilverKris Lounge for its Business Class and KirsFlyer Elite Gold passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Unfortunately, the Lounge was closed when we took our flight due to the pandemic. We were invited to use any of the airlines’ lounges under the Star Alliance network. We opted for the Thai Airways Orchid Lounge as it was the nearest to our boarding gate. The lounge staff warmly welcomed us at the Royal Orchid Lounge. Thai Airways has several lounges across Suvarnabhumi Airport. We used the Thai Airways Orchid Lounge at Concourse E, which is fairly small compared to the lounge at Concourse C. Despite the smaller scale, the facilities in this lounge rival that of its larger counterpart. There are plentiful seats in the lounge for passengers to relax and take a bite before our flight. Most of the seats are meant to relax and furnished with a side table, and some seats are furnished with a small table that provides a more comfortable dining position. The lounge is also equipped with two shower rooms for passengers to freshen themselves before their flight. I spotted a couple of closed meeting rooms due to low demand or as part of the pandemic measures. Food is served in a buffet style, mainly consisting of Thai food. The food at the lounge was mediocre at best: the Tom Yum prawn soup tasted blend; the beef was tough. The only tasty food was the fried prawn cake and the fried rice. Thai Airways Orchid Lounge also stocked up some finger food such as pastry and peanuts. There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks fully stocked at this lounge for passengers.

View of the apron from Royal Orchid Lounge

The Aircraft

Singapore Airlines has three versions of the A350-900 aircraft. However, the airline uses the 2-class non-ULR variant for this leg of the flight.

The Cabin

The Singapore Airlines aircraft used for this BKK-SIN segment is fitted with 40 regional Business Class seats and 263 Economy Class seats. Business Class onboard this version of Singapore Airlines A350-900 is arranged in a large forward section and a smaller aft section. In addition, the Singapore Airlines regional Business Class cabin is decked in an earthy brown scheme. With the appropriate use of cabin lighting during boarding, the Business Class cabin exudes a comfortable and cosy feel. Seats in Singapore Airlines regional Business classes are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, giving all Business Class passengers direct aisle access.

Singapore Airlines regional Business Class cabin

The lavatories are located in the forward and the centre of the two Business Class cabins. The brown backsplash at the basin and the downlights give the lavatory a premium feel. I like how Singapore Airlines attempts to reduce touchpoints in the fixtures in the lavatories with the installation of a motion-activated tap and a step for the trash. And all these are installed even before the pandemic. The lavatories are the right size and do not give one a claustrophobic feel. The lavatory is stocked with amenities such as toothbrushes, facial mists, hand lotion, and cologne that are not found in Economy Class cabins. However, the razors are not topped up, perhaps due to the short flight time.

The Seat

The Singapore Airlines regional Business Class seats have a seat pitch of 60″ and 28″ wide and offer excellent legroom. The choice of leather in the seats in Singapore Airlines’ regional Business Class feels very premium and comfortable. A thick blanket and an oversized pillow are placed on the seat. Resting on the thick and fluffy pillow made me fall asleep despite the short 2-hour flight time. As this is a short flight, no mattress toppers are made available. Other than the three main modes – takeoff/landing, lounging, and flatbed mode, the seats are so customisable that passengers in the Singapore Airlines Business Class seats would find an angle that one would find comfortable. I find the fully flat 180 deg bed mode uncomfortable but found comfort in the seat at a slight elevation in its bed mode. The cocoon designed seats ensure passengers get maximum privacy, even for those sitting next to the aisle.

Singapore Airlines regional Business Class seat
Legroom is excellent in Singapore Airlines regional Business Class seats.

The touchscreen seat controls are fitted in a very convenient part of the seat, allowing passengers to adjust to the seats and find the optimal angle that maximises their comfort. In addition, there are some standard options in the controls providing passengers with the convenience of getting to these modes at the touch of a button. There is a small cabinet at the side of the seat where the noise-cancelling headphones are placed for passengers to store smaller items. Here, passengers can also charge their mobile devices via the two USB outlets or the power outlet. The cocktail table next to the seat serves the dual purpose of placing a drink cup and a space for passengers to stow their items.

Seat control and IFE controller
There seem to be some defects with my seat.

A solid wooden table is stowed underneath the PTV., which is large enough to provide a decent space for passengers to work on their laptops. I like the flexibility of folding the table into half its size when passengers do not require the entire table, making getting in and out of the seat easier. The ottoman under the PTV in the regional Business Class seat provided extra comfort for passengers to rest their legs on. There is a space under the ottoman for shoes or bags. Speaking of storage for baggage, each passenger in Business Class gets an entire overhead bin space to themselves. A coat hook is strategically placed next to the PTV for passengers to hang their coats. I used this hook to hang the mango sticky rice I bought at the airport before boarding. I find the placement of the seat pocket under the coat hook to be a tad difficult to reach. Otherwise, this would be an additional space for passengers to stow smaller items. Due to the pandemic, the seat pocket contents were reduced to the safety card and an airsick bag.

In-Flight Entertainment

The Singapore Airlines regional Business Class seats are fitted with a large 18″ touchscreen personal TV. The touchscreen functions on the PTV are very responsive and are an alternate way for passengers to choose from the wide range of entertainment options from Singapore Airlines’ KrisWorld. KrisWorld is loaded with movies, TV shows, music and games to keep passengers entertained even on a long flight. Business Class passengers are provided with noise-cancelling headphones, which effectively block out all sounds. The padded ear cups provided additional comfort when wearing. The IFE controller is stowed under the seat controls. The touchscreen mobile phone-like IFE controller is very easy to use, and the touchscreen function is equally responsive. One can display the flight map on the IFE controller while watching a movie on the PTV at the same time. In addition, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer members can link their Singapore Airlines app to the IFE onboard. However, the onboard wifi must be switched on by the pilot (which is done so only after the aircraft reaches cruising altitude).

Singapore Airlines regional Business Class is equipped with an 18″ PTV
The touchscreen IFE controller resembles a mobile phone and is intuitive to use

Meal

Due to the pandemic, pre-departure drinks and snacks are not offered as part of the service in Business Class. After the seat belt signs were turned off in-flight, we were only served plain water. Singapore Airlines does not offer their signature “book the cook” service, nor was the famous satay service made available for this flight departing Bangkok. We were given three options to pre-book our meals – fish, chicken or seafood up to 24 hours before the flight. As we had pre-booked our meal, we were served first before the rest of the Business Class passengers got their food. Food was served at one go as this is a short flight, with fewer drinks and bread options. I chose the Pan Seared Snapper Fillet was well presented on porcelain plates, and the artichoke puree served by the side tasted delicious. The fish is cooked to perfection and still retains its moisture. The appetiser – Smoked Duck Breast, is tasty and not too tough. I did not like the Lemon Cheesecake, not that it is not delicious, just my personal preference. It is a pity that the bread came last after I had finished my meal. But I still enjoyed Singapore Airlines’ signature garlic bread.

I opted for the Pan Seared Snapper Fillet.

Service

Service in Singapore Airlines felt cold in the Business Class. Besides the standard greeting by the door and “your seat is down this aisle” during boarding, I feel service is no different from that in Economy Class. Bread during meal time took forever to come, served by a male pursuer with a touch and go service, who gave me the impression that he was rushing off somewhere. The absence of pre-departure drinks and snacks in Business Class signals cost-cutting measures in the guise of the pandemic. Even during meal service, despite pre-ordering our meal and being served first, there was no attempt to check if we required any drinks; we were being skipped!

Despite the coldness in service, Deniece (I hope I get her name correctly) shines out as the most personable pursuer. She introduced herself to every passenger under her charge and remembered our first names. She was seen patrolling the cabin and checking in with me if I needed anything whenever she walked past my seat and when I was not dozing off. Instead of going for her well-deserved break after the hectic meal service, Deniece would take the initiative to strike up a conversation with me when I was waiting for the loo. Service by Deniece felt personal, which is a stark difference from the rest of the crew onboard this flight.

Meal service

Afterthought

Singapore Airlines’ regional Business Class product is comfortable and provides various seating options, including a flatbed mode. Not many airlines provide 180 deg flatbed for their regional or short-haul flights. Kudos to Singapore Airlines for doing so. The seat provides passengers with privacy, thanks to its cocoon design. The seat I was in showed some signs of wear and tear, such as the armrest wouldn’t fold down as it was designed to. The large PTV makes watching the endless entertainment options offered by KrisWorld a pleasant experience. The food catering for this leg was delicious, and the fish retained its moisture. The service overall was a tad disappointing. The rest of the pursuers seem not to care about Business Class passengers other than those in their area of responsibility. I do find warmth and sincerity in the service rendered by Deniece. The way she welcomes passengers on the flight memorises and addresses passengers under her charge by their last name and notes passengers’ food allergies. I had a pleasant flight, thanks to Deniece.

Suvarnabhumi Airport airside

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