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First impressions: Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 business class

By Suzanne Wu     Filed under: singapore airlines, business class, Airbus A350

Singapore Airlines has taken an "evolutionary, not revolutionary" approach to its new Airbus A350, and that's not a bad thing. Not a whole lot was broke, so not a whole lot needed fixing.

The advanced fuel-efficient jet is currently flying between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, with Singapore-Jakarta also expected to see the A350 until the start of Singapore-Amsterdam services on May 9, to be followed by Düsseldorf from July 21.

And right now it feels shiny, new and sleek. The A350 looks like it was meant not just to fly but to scythe through the wind, whereas the Airbus 380 looks like it was designed to bludgeon its way through the sky.

Passengers will immediately notice how spacious the A350's cabin feels, especially in a 'vertical' sense...

... and, once in the air, how quiet the plane is. I'd say the noise levels are on par with the Boeing 787.

Singapore Airlines has fitted the A350 with the same familiar and world-leading business class seat as its latest Boeing 777-300ER jets.

This version of the seat reclines a lot further in seat mode than the Boeing 777 iteration, however, with the footrest coming up to vertical if you so wished.

Something else that's new: the large HD video screen lets you browse content and control volume, playback and so on with your iOS or Android tablet using a companion Singapore Airlines app which is wirelessly linked to your individual screen.

A smartphone version of the app is due out by the middle of the year.

Something that hasn't changed is the amount of storage space in and around the seat – there are several usable cubby holes which will be handy on the long international flights.

Overhead bin space is very generous...

... to the point that in business class you really don't need the centre bins which Airbus has removed to enhance the high-ceilinged room-like feel of the A350.

The tray table has a good range of up and down movement (some 10-13cm) and is also able to pivot in an arc, making it more adjustable than anything else I've ever tried.

But despite the A350 being an 'extra wide-body' jet the aisles seem somewhat narrower than on the Boeing 777-300ER. I noticed a lot of people banging their rollaboards on the sides of seats as they boarded.

If you're travelling on Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 I would suggest seats 19A and 19K are the pick, although unfortunately they're also bassinet seats.

Regular SQ flyers will know that the first bulkhead row (11) is the plum choice on the Boeing 777-300ERs, but on the A350 row 11 is placed where the fuselage is only starting to widen.

As a result, 11F is a tad too close to 11K, and 11D similarly too cosy with 11A.

They're not bad seats, but the full width bench you might have been used to on the Boeing 777s is quite a bit narrower in 11 now.

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About Suzanne Wu

Suzanne Wu's world is a heady mix of travel, pop culture, travel, aviation, travel, politics and more travel.

 

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1 on 11/3/16 by Phil

Do you think the window seat passengers will be disturbed a lot during the flight because the centre seats will be using the overhead bins above their seats (as no centre bins) or do you think there is enough seat storage that guests will get everything they need and store it around the seat before take-off?

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

For this kind of spacious J seat with plenty of storage space built-in, I've rarely seen pax frequently reaching out for the overhead bins for their stuff during cruise.....typically may be once pre-takeoff &  once prior to landing...@ most and not even every J pax does that.

1 on 11/3/16 by David

Agree with FLX, outside of the pre-take-off and post-landing stages of the trip I can't see too much bin-diving action. Some passengers might visit the overhead bins to ferret around for toiletries, a scarf during a cool flight etc, but the beauty of seats like these is that they encourage passengers (well, at least the forward-thinking ones) to put most stuff they'll need during the flight in the storage areas around the seat, which is more convenient for them as well as fellow passengers.

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

Also if we think about this in math terms, typically how many pax really is gonna share space with U for that bin above your window seat?  I suspect the ratio is well below 2 pax per bin meaning no more than 1 pax share that space with U.

The cabin photos actually show there're about 3 bins above every 2 window seats so in a 1-2-1 layout, likely 4pax sharing 3bins or just 1.33pax per bin.

2 on 11/3/16 by Doubleplatinum

Very nice, if only I had these seats instead of the old J product on my A330 flight BNE-SIN next week :(

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

Not that old.  This J design has only entered service on 333 with SQ since 2009 and intended for short to medium-haul SQ routes which means upto 8hrs by common industy definition.

Block time for BNE-SIN route is indeed about 8hrs.

3 on 11/3/16 by moa999

Definitely very nice. Assume the companion app needs to be downloaded before you fly.

Comparing the space to the right of the screen clearly shows the difference between 19 and 11, but I stil think 11 would be the net best choice

1 on 11/3/16 by Suzanne

The companion app does indeed need to be downloaded before you fly - but it's the very same Singaporeair app that you'd use for booking/looking at your Krisflyer account etc. Less clutter that way!

4 on 11/3/16 by riley

New writing talent amongst the ranks? Love it, still has the factually entertaining style we see from David and Chris.

1 on 11/3/16 by Suzanne

Thank you very much . I enjoyed writing it, but certainly it was David who put the finishing touches as elegantly as he always does. :) 

5 on 11/3/16 by afxdes

I had this seat yeasterday. Very nice.

My only criticism is that the table does not push out much at all so one is somewhat restrained whilst eating dinner.

Losing the centreline lockers makes the cabin look much nicer, but storage space is decreased a lot.

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

<<..had this seat yesterday.>>

How lucky to be 1 of the 1st pax to try this new J design exclusive on SQ's 350 and currently deployed only on SIN-KUL route.  The author already mentioned key diff(e.g. seat recline) between this version and the version on SQ's latest 777.

<<...table does not push out much at all....restrained whilst eating dinner.>>

Given SIN-KUL block time is only 1hr and meal is served only during cruise, that must be a very very rapid dinner for U.

<<Losing the centreline lockers.....storage space is decreased a lot.>>

In theory yes.  In practice /reality, little to no impact to each J pax as David & I hv commented earlier.......unless a J pax somehow managed to sneak all his/her checked baggage allowance(@ least 30kg x2 these days) under-the-radar into the cabin thru terminal security, gate agents and the cabin crew standing @ the cabin door upon boarding.....

6 on 11/3/16 by FLX

<<But despite the 350 being an 'extra wide body' jet seems the aisles seem somewhat narrower than on the Boeing 777-300ER...>>

Just luv this comment by the author.  Finally, subjective experience match with the objective tech specs /facts.  Cabin width specs:

777=231in vs 350=221in

Given similar size specs(I suspect they're exactly the same for parts commonality) for the J seat on SQ's 777 and 350, it's inevitable SQ has 10in less room to play with on the aisles of 350 than on 777.

I recall so many folks here commented on other topics about how much more comfortable /wider a 350 cabin is relative to the 787 when in reality, only 5in separate the cabin width specs of the 2.  I can only imagine their shock when they discover a SQ 777 cabin is a full 10in wider than the brand-spanking-new SQ 350.

Many folks joked about the irony(I hv read many) of the Dreamliner name.  May be they should start to do the same(I hv yet to come across such comment) to the Xtra-Wide-Body name.....

1 on 11/3/16 by ILIKEPLANES101

Find a premium carrier with 10 abreast in the A350 compared to the 777 where there are many then complain.

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

10abreast in 350 /777 in J class?  I thought this topic is about SQ's new J on 350.....

1 on 11/3/16 by Chris

Correct - please keep discussion to the topic of the article which is Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 business class, not economy. Readers are of course welcome to discuss A350 economy on any relevant article or in the Q&A section. :)

7 on 11/3/16 by chrisrad

New seat or not, where does one put their feet in the bed mode. The hole looks tiny!

1 on 11/3/16 by FLX

That's what I hv been wondering too when I looked @ the photos.  It's my 1st time seeing a photo taken @ such angle of SQ's longhaul J.

Does appear kinda small unless bed/seat length/pitch is very large(I suspect it is).  

1 on 11/3/16 by Suzanne

Pitch to me does seem greater yes. Imagine that you're more in a rectangle than in a square box like you would be on the 77WN/WR, and you've got the idea. In exchange for some width they gave a bit more pitch in the total seat assembly. The padded portions of the seat within the total assembly, however, are probably similar in dimensions to the 77WN/WR, and the total assembly seems equal in overall real estate square footage terms. 

8 on 11/3/16 by Roger

Point  taken    about   the   Feet    in   the    bed   Mode.  I   suspect   that    the   seat    will    be   at   an   angle   to  the    cubby   hole    for  the   feet  ,  which   is   not   good    and   definitely  not   as  good   as   the   Biz  seat  on  CX    !  Have   they  not   learnt  from  their  previous  design  mistakes?

1 on 12/3/16 by moa999

The seat is straight... The 'shelf' that goes into the cubby hole is also padded and in the same material, so when you put it into bed mode the bed consists of the seat and the shelf.

Obviously the maximum length is gained by lying on it slightly diagonally.

1 on 12/3/16 by Roger

Moa999

Thanks   for   clarifying   that,   I  can  see  now   that   the   shelf   is   where   the  feet    go,   and   there  is   no   angle. That's   great!

2 on 14/3/16 by FLX

Wait a minute, there's a major contradiction here to support your idea about a design being a mistake.

While U complain about <<the seat will be at an angle to the cubby hole>>, the entire J seat(Also has cubby hole) in CX's intercon config is @ an angle whether lying flat or sitting upright.  CX's J is commonly known as the reverse herring bone layout.

On SQ's J, there's no angle(i.e. facing forward dead ahead) @ least while the seat is in upright position.

1 on 14/3/16 by Roger

FLX ,  the    angle   that   I  refer   to   does   not  apply  to  this  seat   ,  now   taht  I   know    that  the   seat   is   straight   and     the  feet   don't  rest  in a   Footwell.  The    angled   seat  ,  rather  the   angled   sleeping   position   IS   featured  on  SQ   A  380 /  777s  except   for   some  seats  and   you  are    sleeping  at   an   angle even  though   the   seat  is   not   angled. On  CX   though the   entire  seat   is   at  angle   ,  but  you  are   not   sleeping   at   an   angle ,  but   very   straight!

9 on 11/3/16 by kimshep

The photo two up from the seat map looks frighteningly narrow. If pax are 'bin-diving' during the initial load process, there doesn't seem to be any room for people to pass at all - which then stops the aisle moving.

Question is - is SQ using J class carts that are common between this and the B777 fleet or is this a special 'slimline' cart designed for the A350 ?

1 on 14/3/16 by FLX

<<...looks frighteningly narrow>>

It's a bit narrower than normal though not unusual when this type of J is installed(i.e. visually more constradicting with the high partitions @ each seat and that photo of the front is taken fm a distance...a visual trick to the brain).

<<If pax are 'bin-diving'....doesn't seem to be any room for people to pass at all.....stops the aisle moving>>

Technically true.  However in practice, U've forgotten realistically how many pax will actually be using that aisle during the entire boarding period....no more than 21 across both sections of the J cabin even @ full load:

1.  Except perhaps @ a few lower grade airports ever intended for SQ's 350 ops, almost all boardings will be done via dual-bridges.  Door L1 access will be exclusive for J pax as usual.

2.  Boarding for J pax typically starts earlier than Y.  If desire & practical, crew can escort those pax with seats in the J section behind door L2 to access only via L2.  There'll only be a max of 8pax per aisle doing that with no Y pax boarding @ that stage.

3.  If 2. is adopted, there'll only be a max of 13 pax using each aisle simultaneoulsy via door L1.

4.  Unlike Y pax, J pax rarely board simultaneously.

5.  Probability is low for either pax @ row 1 to be the 1st  to board ahead of 19 other pax(Or 11 depending on boarding method) per aisle AND bin-diving lasted longer(The worst I hv ever seen in J lasted below 1min) than most other J pax start to board.  If it does occur, other J pax still hv the other aisle.

6.  Probability becomes remote when 5. occurs @ both aisles simultaneously.

7.  Probability becomes very remote when 6. occurs and both bin divers refuse to let 40 other J pax thru by temporarily retreating back into their own seat space before resuming to diving.

Frankly, bin divers are a much bigger problem in Y than in J in reality regardless of aisle width specs....

1 on 15/3/16 by kimshep

Appreciate your observations and comment, FLX - some of which are valid in retrospect. Especially on the photo angle / depth and your excellent load analysis.

However, your comment is predicated on the number of passengers boarded in J Class, which ignores the ability of cabin crew to move efficiently amongst the cabin during the boarding / pre-departure process. It is not uncommon to experience crew traversing the aisles in order to deliver 'welcome' drinks to J passengers, guide pax to seats, offers to hang coats, offer menus etc. These procedures add to 'traffic' in aisles - and while not passengers, contribute to the movement through the limited space.

Any idea on my aligned question re. cart size (from reviewer Suzanne or those who have been lucky enough to sample this new frame) ?

1 on 15/3/16 by FLX

Point taken re pre-departure drink service by crew adding to aisle traffic.  But then again, we see the same issue /challenge on any other type....it's certainly not limited to SQ's 350 and I believe a slightly narrower but short aisle section @ the front won't make a huge diff in that aspect.

10 on 12/3/16 by AB__CD

Correction: Singapore-Jakarta sees the A350 following the start of Singapore-Amsterdam. So the plane will do SIN-AMS-SIN-CGK-SIN-CGK-SIN-AMS and so on.

11 on 15/3/16 by BOF

Just confirmed our Aug 777 flight to AMS now A350 :)

Travelling with my wife - why do airlines think all J travellers are alone - herring bone layouts in particular!

Anyway, I digress, trying to decide if we are better accross the aisle from each other or in a centre pair. Actually seems as if you are furher apart in the centre pair and have to lean further forward to talk to each other - assuming other half hasn't raised privicy screen LOL.

Welcome anyone's thoughts / experiences.

1 on 24/3/16 by kxd

Having travelled a few times with SWMBO, we've tried all sorts of configs with our travel in J class.  On Virgin Atlantic Upper Deck we tried centre aisle, side by side, and also across the aisle.  With Air NZ we actually found 3K & 4K to be a good pairing.  

Admittedly on longer trips we both spend our time reading or watching movies/TV so conversation is minimal and as long as we are close it doesnt really matter.

1 on 8/4/16 by Geoff

Wife and I prefer window seat, when it has access to the aisle, so the A350 will be great. We usually fly F one way and J the other. As long as we are in the same cabin area, other than filling our arrival details and maybe a drink at the bar together...oops, sorry, the big cousin, A380, we catch up on movie and reading.

 

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