Singapore Airline is making plenty of noise about its all-new Airbus A380 business class seats, but how do they stack up in flight? Australian Business Traveller joined the delivery flight of the Singaporean flag-carrier's newest superjumbo – a non-stop 13 hour trek from the Airbus factory at Toulouse to Singapore – to see if the seat lives up to the hype.
The seats are a radical departure from the airline's original and very wide A380 business class benches.
They retain the forward-facing layout and 1-2-1 configuration, but the width has been reduced – from 30 inches to 25 inches – to allow more storage space for items next to you and also to improve on the tight foot “cubby hole” issue with the previous seats.
Many business class passengers on SQ's current A380s have remarked that those seats felt too wide, but with these new seats also being three inches narrower than their Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300ER counterparts (which measure 28 inches edge to edge) some passengers will feel that Singapore Airlines has taken a step backwards.
One change that's definitely for the better: the previous A380 business class seats had a limited recline angle and required you to get up from the seat and flip it over if you wanted to convert it to a bed. Thankfully, the new seats have a more conventional tilt-and-slide mechanism for converting directly into a fully-flat bed – with the exception of some middle seats that also require you to pull out a foot storage “ottoman.”
The A380's new business class itself is a bit of a departure from what we’re used to seeing on Singapore Airlines, with 78 seats directly behind the six-suite first class cabin – which are all on the upper deck now, essentially creating a premium space separate from the rest of the aircraft.
The business class cabin is divided into three sections of 50 seats, 20 seats and 8 seats, with no social area or inflight-bar as other premium airlines have adopted. Bathrooms are in the middle and rear of the business class cabins.
The position of the paired centre seats has been swapped around so that in the A380 the passengers are sitting closer together, away from the aisle – the previous seats had passengers nearer to the aisle, which means solo travellers will prefer the window seats when possible.
The divider between the seats can be dropped into a half-height position if you're travelling with a colleague or partner and want to chat.
In keeping with Singapore Airline’s ‘Space Made Personal’ mantra, those middle seats can also be converted into what the airline claims is a double bed – although you won't exactly be snuggling up with your seatmate, even with the divider all the way down.
In fact, given how the sleeping position for these seats angle away from the aircraft's centreline and towards the aisle, there's not much 'togetherness' for travellers – it's more like sleeping next to somebody rather than sleeping with them.
The exception to this – which you can count on Singapore Airlines to trumpet loud and long in its publicity and marketing – is a set of three middle seats each located behind the cabin's three bulkhead walls. Those paired seats – specifically 11D/F, 91D/F and 96D/F – are much closer to a 'double bed' concept, and include a more spacious footrest area.
Here's my seat at 12K in fully-flat bed mode with 78 inches (1.98 metres) of space to stretch out…
…while the extended seat shell and divider between the middle seats retain my privacy.
There are also different seat positions (labelled Lazy Z and Sundeck) that let you relax in comfort if you don’t want to fully recline.
Legroom is plentiful...
...with ample room to make yourself comfortable.
The headrest also features wings for you to rest your head on, typically a feature only found in Economy seats.
Fitted to the sides of the seat are two little armrest wings, which fold away when you want to put the seat into bed mode. One issue we found is that the seat controls are at elbow height and we hit them accidentally several times during our flight.
The ability to recline your seat beyond the slight recline of the previous A380 seats allows you to get into a more comfortable pre-sleep position – good for watching something on the screen – and it's easy to get out of the reclined seat without having to adjust it.
There's also good privacy throughout the cabin, thanks to those seat shells.
Once it’s time to snooze, the cabin crew will set up your bedsheet, cotton duvet, and two pillows.
But how how comfortable is it for sleeping?
Some Australian Business Traveller readers have voiced concerns about the foot cubby area being angled compared to the seat, however I didn’t find this to be an issue – and I'm a 6-foot tall (1.8 metre) side-sleeper.
During the flight you’ll primarily be relaxing in one of the more upright reclining positions, and when it comes time for a snooze you just stick your legs through.
While more of your leg all the way up to your knee is in the “cubby” area, you actually have more room to move around and your feet are not trapped like the old seats.
I was able to flip side to side reasonably easily, although the space isn’t as open as we’d ideally like. If you sleep on your back, your legs don’t have to touch but they are quite constricted together.
There's room under the seat to store your carry-on baggage…
…and nooks for items such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, books and reading glasses.
More storage areas adjacent to the IFE...
...and the seat itself make it easy to manage your items.
Working space is plentiful…
…and you’ll also find a pair of AC and high-powered USB sockets to keep your gear charged up en route.
There’s also a table which swings up and out from the side console, as well as a personal vanity mirror…
…and a cocktail tray.
For infotainment, you’ll find an 18 inch HD screen streaming the new upgraded KrisWorld inflight entertainment system.
Supplied by Panasonic Avionics, KrisWorld now lets you cue up content that you want to watch before you fly using an app, which will then get synced to your seat.
Singapore Airlines will begin flying its new business class seats daily on the Airbus A380 between Singapore and Sydney (SQ221/SQ232) from December 18 2017, with selected Singapore-London services tipped to follow from March 2018.
Australian Business Traveller travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines.