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A class apart: SIA's new business class seats that feel like a mini first-class suite

Singapore Airlines' new aircraft ensure shorter, roomier flights for business-class passengers

Published: Dec 8, 2016 06:48:29 AM IST
Updated: Dec 6, 2016 09:23:21 PM IST

A class apart: SIA's new business class seats that feel like a mini first-class suite

Flying to San Francisco just got more comfortable. Thanks to Singapore Airlines’ new, non-stop Singapore-San Francisco flight, which not just takes a few hours less than its earlier flights, but also deploys the spanking new Airbus A350-900 aircraft, that makes for a more relaxing journey.

Earlier, Singapore Airlines (SIA) had a twice-daily service with one flight operating via Hong Kong and the other via Seoul. These two-stop options meant passengers flying from India preferred West Asian or European carriers, that offer a one-stop connection (through Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Frankfurt), or Air India, which has a daily 14.5-hour New Delhi-San Francisco flight.

With SIA’s new direct flight to San Francisco,  travel time between India’s tech capital Bengaluru and Silicon Valley via Singapore has reduced by three to five hours, to 22.15 hours.

What makes this flight more comfortable than the usual is the advanced technology and the superior operating efficiency of the A350-900 aircraft, which comes with higher ceilings, larger windows, an extra-wide body, and lighting and cabin pressure designed to reduce jet lag. (Even while flying at 40,000 feet above sea level, the cabin pressure is maintained at about 6,000 feet above mean sea level, instead of the usual 7,000 feet.) Increased fuel efficiency of the A350s means airlines such as SIA have the potential to open up even more ultra long-haul routes such as Singapore to Los Angeles and New York, which are expected to begin in 2018.

“[With a] stylish combination of enhanced seat comfort, intuitive space, convenience and leading-edge innovation, the Singapore Airlines’ business class detracts from the norm,” is how David Lim, general manager India, Singapore Airlines, describes the latest offering from SIA.

The new business class seats measure 28 inches in width (and 60 inches in pitch), which, the airline claims, is “almost 50 percent wider than most products in this class”. A quick check on seatguru.com shows that Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have business class seats that measure between 20 and 22 inches in width.

Developed along with Singapore-based design firm James Park Associates, which has also designed SIA’s award-winning first class suites, these seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, which means every passenger gets direct access to the aisle.

While the seats convert into 78-inch flat beds, they also have additional seating positions, such as the Lazy Z and Sundeck. At the foot of each seat is an ottoman.
The seats, handcrafted from Scottish leather, come with a cushioned headboard when fully flat, along with linen, duvet and pillows. Once tucked in, it feels as if you are in a mini first-class suite, albeit without a door.
 
Passengers seated in the two middle aisle seats can experience the same level of privacy as passengers at window seats thanks to the partition (that can be pulled out) between the two middle aisle seats.

The seats feel more spacious and clutter-free because of the adequate storage space all around: There is a car-like glove compartment (internally lit when open, making it easier to rummage through even without the overhead light) for your watch, jewellery, mobile phones and passport; on one side of the seat there is space to store your other gadgets, such as laptop or tablet; at the foot of your seat is further space to accommodate a small bag (and your footwear), while overhead is yet another storage space for your cabin baggage.

A class apart: SIA's new business class seats that feel like a mini first-class suite
In-flight entertainment gets bigger and better with an 18-inch screen that can be operated by a touch-screen handset near the seat’s armrest. So, adjust your seating position to Sundeck (a personal preference), which lets you stretch your legs or fold them, slip on the noise-cancelling headphones (they block out the ambient engine noise completely), and settle down with your favourite movie.

And, of course, there is an exhaustive à la carte dining menu to choose from. The service is of high-quality with the stewards and air-hostesses always ready to serve, whatever be the hour. When you are ready to nap, slip on the complimentary eyeshades and socks for a snooze. To freshen up, the toilets are well-stocked with hand creams, face mist, and body mist from luxury fragrance brand Miller Harris. And when you are ready to step on the ground once again, just check yourself in the small mirror fixed next to the entertainment screen so that you are putting your best face forward.

After all, when you are paying Rs 1.77 lakh for a one-way ticket from Bengaluru to San Francisco, you deserve to look your best when you get off.

(The writer travelled to San Francisco at the invitation of Singapore Airlines)

(This story appears in the 09 December, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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