A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 sits at Tokyo's Narita Airport.
When talking airlines, I have heard over and over again that Singapore Airlines had the best international business class product and I recently had the opportunity to try it out. It was on flight SQ11 and SQ12 which is an Airbus A380 that flies to and from Los Angeles (LAX) to Singapore (SIN) with a stop at Narita (NRT) in Tokyo (disclaimer: I was able to fly at no cost by the airline to and from Singapore).
I am pretty big guy, around 6’1″ and 250lbs or so, which means I can trulyÂ appreciateÂ a larger seat with a little extra room. Most business class seats do a great job of making me feel comfortable, but Singapore Airlines business class seats border on insanely big. They have aÂ seat pitch of 55″, which is nothing to write home about, but they also have a seat width of 34″ — which is almost three feet. To compare, the international business class seat width on Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 is 20″ andÂ All Nippon Airways Boeing 777-300ER has a respectable width of 21″.
Singapore’s business class seats are arranged in a 1:2:1 layout, meaning every seat has access to an aisle. That eliminates having to trip over a seatmate in the middle of the night to use the restroom. UnfortunatelyÂ I was not able to catch a window seat to or from Singapore, but with all the available in flight entertainment, who really needs a window anyhow (okay, I was disappointed, but it worked out).
Singapore Airlines sets up their Business Class seats in a 1:2:1 layout -- meaning everyone has aisle access.
When taking a 20 hour flight twice in one week, there needs to be a decent collection of entertainment.Â SingaporeÂ Airlines came through, giving each passenger easy access to a better-than-average selection of movies, tv shows and music all on demand. You are able to recline back and still easily view the 15.4″ screens.Â I did end up having a few issues during my flights, where the entertainment system wouldÂ tweek-out and restart on its own or cause my movieÂ to stop for a bit. This happens to be a commonÂ occurrence since I have a knack of causing entertainment systems to crash. For some additional fun, there were quite a few “real” game options that you can play with other passengers, like Tetris and Battleship,Â but never got around to trying them out.
When it becomes time to sleep, the seats fold flat, but it requires you to stand up and fold the seat-back forward. The manual process was decided on to save the weight of additional mechanics, but it can be a bit annoying when you are about to fall asleep and you have to get back up to make the bed (yeah I know, life is rough). It is all worth the effort — I was able to sleep comfortably for about 7 hours on the flight home.
There were so many meals served on my flight to Singapore and back, with multiple courses, I am not even sure what this was. But I know it was good.
If you decide to sleep, you risk missing a meal or two — which would be a shame. Â Because of timing, I enjoyed three different dinners on the way over and two lunches and a dinner on the way back. My first meal started with parma ham and ginger-infused pear, char-grilled vegetables and balsamic dressing. Then the the main entree was seared beef fillet with port wine sauce, mushrooms in spice cream and dessert was New York cheese cake ice cream with cherry compote. Yes, a lot of fancy names, but it actually tasted quite divine.
Just when I thought the formal meal was done, here came a cart with cheese on a cutting board. You tell them what you want and they will cut it up, served with fruit and evenÂ a glass of port.Â Each meal has multiple courses and by the time the cheese cart rolls around you are pretty full. Â If for some reason you are hungry during the down times, there is still a “light bites” menu available, where you can get anything from noodles, toÂ sandwichesÂ to even a Krispy Kreme doughnut (only from LAX to NRT).
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous there is also an Asian option including seasoned kelp, grilled fresh water eel braised in egg and pike eel roll with kelp.Â I normally love trying different food, but was not in the right mood. It is always nice to have a drink while dining and if you become thirsty, no worries, you have eight pages of drink options to choose from including the classic Singapore Sling.
Singapore Airlines has different lighting modes for different parts of the flight on the A380. This purple was my favorite.
ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿SingaporeÂ Airlines is very proud of their Singapore Girl brand of service andÂ on boardÂ my A380 flight there were 23 flight crew. Something I didn’t notice on the way over, but learned while in the Singapore Airlines Training Center, is that the flight attendants have different ranks. Although their uniforms have similar designs, there is a variation of color based on seniority. The majority of men and women serving you will sport the color blue which is entry level. Green are the lead flight attendants in charge of a section and reds areÂ chiefs in charge of each deck. On the A380 there will be one person in charge who sports purple. It became a game to try and find one of each color (hey, it is a long flight).
This is a new flight for the airline and was started on July 1.Â SingaporeÂ Airlines also operates a non-stop from Los Angeles to Singapore using an Airbus A340-500. Why would anyone take the longer trip with a stop in Narita? First, the non-stop flight (SQ37 and SQ38) is the second longest flight in the world and takes about 18 hours. That is a long time to be locked in a aluminumÂ cylinderÂ and some people might be willing to make the trip longer to have the ability to split up the trip with a short stop in Narita. Also, the non-stop flight only has business class seats, so if you are looking to fly first class or economy, the A380 flight is a must.Â If you are flying business class, the A380 product is similar, but the seats are wider compared to the A340. Probably the most important reason for airline geeks is the ability to fly on an Airbus A380 vs a more common A340.
These seats are so wide that the seat belt comes up in the middle of the seat and they give you a pillow to fill space.
The first leg of the flight from LAX to NRT was about ten hours before a 1.5 hour lay over in Narita. Flying business class gave me access to the business class lounge, but it was a bit annoying having to get off the aircraft, go through security at Narita, before starting the boarding process.
Los Angeles becomes the eighth destination in Singapore Airline’s network to operate the Airbus A380. They were the first airline to operate the world’s larges airliner in October 2007 and they have clocked around 128,000 flying hours on more than 13,000 flights. The airline currently has 12 A380s in service and seven more on firm order. It isÂ definitelyÂ worth the extra time to try out the A380 product and if you are flyingÂ economy, you still have a shot to fly on the upper deck.
Now, the bar has been set high. Have you flown in business class seats that you have found to be what you consider “the best”? If so, please tell me about your experience in the comment. Also be sure to check out my other photos of the flight including first class, the lay-flat business class seats, and my seat neighbor who was wearing cowboy boots.
ANA showed off their special Dreamliner Livery today. Photo by Boeing.
Today, All Nippon Airways (ANA) unveiled their special Boeing 787 Dreamliner livery.
The livery is the celebrate that ANA will be the first airline in the world to fly the 787 Dreamliner. The blue lines at the rear of the fuselage are designed to highlight how the three core elements of the airlineâ€™s service brand – innovation, uniqueness and the inspiration of modern Japan â€“ operate across the ANA network. Only two Dreamliners will be painted in the special livery, the rest will be in standard ANA livery.
Many have assumed that ANA would create a special livery since two of their 787 Dreamliners parked at Paine Field have kept a blank livery. The above computer drawing is from Boeing, but ANA also released some images of what the livery will look like.
ANA's new Business Class will have staggered seating. Click for bigger.
ANA also unveiled their new cabin layout that will premier on the 787 Dreamliner. Business Class seats will have full lay flat beds, 17″ monitors and staggered seating, allowing aisle access from every seat. For both long and short haul layouts in the 787 Dreamliner, there will be two classes: Business and Economy.
Economy class will feature seats that have fixed backs, where a passenger can recline, but it will not impede into the person’s space behind you. Every seat will have in seat entertainment and universal power and USB ports.
ANA has ordered 55 787 Dreamliners and the first should be delivered sometime in August or September.
Randy Tinseth, vice president, marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, also has some additional renderings on the ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner livery and the interior configuration posted to his blog.
ANA Boeing 777-300ER (JA781A) at Narita after my 11hr flight from LAX.
Flying in any airline’s Business Class is always a nice treat. There are some airlines with pretty decent domestic Business Classes out there, but to really have a top-notch experience, you need to take an international flight. Recently, when I flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita Airport (NRT) in Japan, I was able to fly in All Nippon Airway’s (ANA) Business Class (disclaimer: ANA picked up the tab on my flight from LAX-NRT-LAX).
The benefits of flying in a premium seat starts at the airport. After arriving at LAX from Seattle I checked in for ANA and then it was time to hit security. Having a premium seat meant I was able to use the express TSA line. It wasn’t too much of a benefit for this flight since the express line only had two people in it, and the normal line had five — oh well.
After taking off my shoes and having my toothpaste scanned, I headed right to ANA’s Business Lounge. Unfortunately due to a bunch of construction going on at LAX, the view wasn’t the best, but I was able to watch a Qantas Airbus A380 get towed, so I was happy. There was plenty of space, free wi-fi and all the amenities you would expect to find in a Business Class lounge. This was good, since I had a nice 3.5hr layover in LAX.
Lots of room to work, sleep and play in ANA's Business Class. Click for larger.
From the lounge I could see when my ANA Boeing 777-300ER arrived and I headed down to the gate. This is where I had another bonus: being able to board first. The Boeing 777 I flew had First Class, quite a bit of Business Class, Premium Economy and then of course standard economy. Getting on the plane first to get settled for a 11hr flight is always nice.
Where most airlines have a rule that you can still use your electronic devices until they close the cabin door, ANA is much more strict. When I first walked into the plane I was told I had to shut off my phone. I then I tried to take some photos, but was politely told I couldn’t have my camera on either until we reached 10,000 feet. Eh, lame, but what can I do?
The seats were very spacious; there was 63″ of seat pitch and 21″ of width. There were only 7 seats across in a 2-3-2 configuration and of course I went for a window seat (photo). Unfortunately my original seat was 11A which had a dead space with only one window. Luckily, after the plane boarded, I was able to move back to 12A with all my windows. This was important since the flight was leaving at about 1pm and we would be racing the sun all the way to Japan — meaning it was going to stay light the whole flight.
One of three appitizers for one of my three course meals. Yes that is a whole fish you see (and I ate it).
After take off the flight attendants came around asking what we would like for our first meal. Boy did we have good choices: two Japanese meals and one Western-style. I didn’t know what half the food was, but I went for seared bass (photo) and whatever else came with the Japanese meal. There was a lot, a whole three courses worth of food. The food was fabulous and not like airline-food fabulous, but actual food in a nice restaurant fabulous.
While eating, it was time to start watching the in-flight entertainment. Each person has their own screen that folds out of the seat with a handy controller. There were quite a few pre-programmed movies and shows which are all free (even in economy), but I think the entertainment option was a weak spot for ANA. In the long run getting satellite internet and live TV would be great, but ANA did work with Boeing’s Connexion that provided satellite internet, but that didn’t work out. I am hoping in the future ANA and more international airlines will be adding internet and live TV. For the short term maybe a few more movie and television choices would have been nice. After flying 22hrs in total (there and back) I was quite done with my movie selections and I was NOT about to watch Sex and the City 1 and 2.
Flying, blogging, drinking and watching a movie. What else do I need? (anyone guess that movie?).
The seats were very comfortable and were quite adjustable (photo). They don’t lie totally flat, but they came pretty darn close. Talking to folks who are a bit shorter (I am 6’1″), some said they have had issues sliding down on the seat, but I did not. I was actually able to fit on the seat comfortably and got some real sleep on both flights.
Not only was the product very good, but the service was wonderful as well. They would constantly check up on me and always had a smile. The flight attendant’s faces must have hurt after smiling so bit, non-stop for the entire 11 hour flight.
Although ANA’s “old” Business Class product I tried out was quite good, they are introducing a newer and better pod-style Business Class on their new Boeing 777-300ER’s.
All this great product and service comes at a price. A Business Class Seat on ANA from LAX to NRT can cost $4000.00 plus. Of course many folks flying in Business Class either have a corporate credit card paying or are using their miles. If the Business Class isn’t enough for you, ANA’s also has First Class on many of their international flights which is a whole other experience. No matter what class I am in, I am always excited to take a flight halfway around the world.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE FLIGHT
It is super sweet to board a Boeing 747-400 from the tarmac. Hold on...it's a long way up. Click for larger.
I have never flown on the upper deck of a Boeing 747. I have flown plenty of times on the lower level, but I have never had the opportunity to climb those stairs (photo) to the upperÂ echelonsÂ of air travel.
Well, I still havenâ€™t flown on the upper deck of a 747, but now I have been up in one. I have to admit, it is pretty darn awesome. During my recent trip to LosÂ AngelesÂ International Airport (LAX) to hang out with United Airlines, I was invited to check out the top deck and cockpit of one of their Boeing 747-400’s that was being set up for a 15 hour flight to Sydney, Australia.
Ah. The upper deck of a Boeing 747-400. Great seats, total exclusivity and an amazing view. Click for larger.
The upper deck is a world of its own. Even though there were only about 30 people (invited guests, United employees and cleaning crew) it was obviously quieter up top. Speaking with a flight attendant she said she loves working the top deck since it has a more laid back atmosphere than the much longer bottom deck. All the seats on this United 747 upper deck were International Business Class — which weren’t too shabby at all. The First Class Suites were all located in the nose Â section on the bottom deck (photo). Yea, the location isn’t as cool as the upper deck, but those first class seats are crazy-big.
Anyhow, back up top, the seats and service might be pretty slick, but the coolest part is up front… the cockpit. The cockpit isn’t just for flying, there is a lot of room to invite guests and take a nice little nap. Heck, I think it might have had more square footage than my first apartment (ok not really). Part of the cockpit houses a set of bunk beds for pilots (photo) to get some rest. There is also plenty of extra seating for the relief pilots. Flights over 8 hours will require one relief pilot and flights over 12 will require two. So there needs to be plenty of room up front for everyone to be comfortable and well rested.
Heck yes. The best seat in the house! Click for larger.
The Boeing 747 is one of my favorite aircraft. Even though the Airbus A380 might be larger and carry more people, it just doesn’t have the same awesome presence that the Boeing 747 does. I am very excited for Boeing to introduce the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (video), which will allow the Boeing 747 to fly well into the future.
A special thanks for United and their employees for flying me down to LAX to enjoy this and other fun adventures.
* All the photos from my LAX visit with United.
* Time lapse video of new Business/First class seats being installed in a UAL Boeing 747-400
* Video from United 747-400 upper deck of take off from Chicago.
* Photo of United Boeing 747-400 inÂ originalÂ Tulip livery in 1989