VERDICT: Good food, good wine and a great place to sleep – Singapore Airlines certainly lives up to its international reputation for quality. Probably the least appealing part of the journey was the stopover at MAN, but that was only a blip in an otherwise flawless experience.
BACKGROUND: It just takes one glance at Singapore’s location on the map to see why the city-state’s national airline puts a high priority on its long-haul routes. With today’s newest-generation aircraft changing the playing field, Singapore Airlines is turning to the A350 as the backbone of its long-haul fleet, with 67 of them on firm order.
CHECK-IN: Changi Airport is always among the top contenders for best airport in the world in practically everyone’s poll (including Business Traveler’s) and for good reason. Past the efficient security checkpoint, I found my way to the SilverKris lounge for several hours of work. The ambience here is quite subdued and since the Manchester departure is a 2 AM affair, staying awake was a struggle. I woke up just in time to make the gate, which was fortunate since they don’t announce flights in the lounge.
BOARDING: By the time I got to the gate, boarding was already well underway, but for business class passengers the process is straightforward. As I settled in to my pod, the flight attendant greeted me with a cool glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne and a winning smile. So cheery – who knew it was two in the morning?
THE SEAT: Business class on the A350-900 is one of SIA’s newer iterations.One notices immediately the sense of space thanks to the elimination of the overhead bins above the center seats. While there’s still plenty of capacity for carry-on bags on the sides, the increased height down the middle opens up the cabin. The seats themselves are less vast than earlier versions but more stylish and well thought-out with convenient power outlets and controls. One improvement over the older seats: the new ones lie flat at the touch of a button – no more hassling with flip-down seat backs.
THE FLIGHT: This is a really long flight, so we were presented with an array of food and drink. There’s not enough room for the entire menu, but I picked a few choice items, like the trilogy of salmon starter followed by the braised chicken in saffron and tomato sauce (for the first leg), and the Singapore chicken and beef satay canape ahead of the pan-seared prawns (for the home stretch). The award-winning Singapore Airlines cellar was in full sail and the inflight entertainment was loaded with options. But after a bit the comfy lie-flat bed beckoned and I was soon fast asleep.
This Houston service stops in Manchester where we were all required to exit the airplane. I was surprised to find there was no dedicated transfer lounge. Instead, right off the plane we had to go through security to enter Terminal 2 where we had a choice of the Escape lounge or a voucher to Frankie & Benny’s restaurant. I opted for the lounge so I could get online – something which I was ultimately unable to do.
ARRIVAL: Leaving Manchester behind, it was time go back to sleep until the last few hours when lunch was served. Houston arrival was on-time and immigration was relatively painless despite the arrival of a number of international flights at the same time.