FLIGHT REPORT: SINGAPORE AIRLINES A350 ULR SQ36 SIN-LAX
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
Alas! It's finally here! Starting the year of 2019 with the direct flight to Los Angeles on Singapore Airlines. A little disappointed that i won't be travelling in business class this time because i haven't been able to find any extremely good deal but let's just settle with Premium Economy Class this time!
Premium Economy Class (or Executive Economy Class at that time) between Singapore and United States isn't a new thing.
Singapore Airlines A340-500 Executive Economy Class
Photo by : Singapore Airlines
In 2004, SIA began non-stop Trans-Pacific flights from Singapore to Los Angeles, utilising the Airbus A340-500. Originally fitted with 64 business class and 117 Executive Economy Class seats but they phased out the Executive Economy Class in favor of 100-seat all-Business Class flights in 2008.
The business class product which was launched in Year 2006 can still be found on certain B777-300 series and the older Airbus A380-800. It's a dying product with new business class product slowly phrasing out these worn out but comfortable and super wide seats.
Sadly, oil prices & lack of revenue factors lead SIA to drop the direct flight in Year 2013 but flights between Singapore and Los Angeles were still offered all these years with transit via Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Seoul’s Incheon Airport.
Singapore Airlines A350-900 ULR (Ultra Long Range)
Photo by : Singapore Airlines
Announced in July 2018, Singapore Airlines were set to relaunch the SIN-LAX direct service using the brand new Airbus A350ULR.
SIA was the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR. Configured in a two-class layout, the plane will be fitted with 67 business class seats and 94 seats in the premium economy cabin. The ULR can carry an extra 6,340 gallons of fuel to take its range to 9,700 nautical miles (17,900km). That's 1600 miles more than the standard -900.
As i needed to be in Los Angeles for "cheap" to get on the $800 error business class fare on Hongkong Airlines, I started searching for options to position myself. Nothing good came up on my radar until a positive search on skyscanner 5 months before departure. A return Premium Economy Ticket on SQ was going for $1363 via a Online Travel Agent while Singapore Airlines site is going at $1935.
While Google Flights is good for sourcing out cheap fares with their user friendly price calendar view, it may not be the cheapest website to use. My experience on Skyscanner has always been very positive, i usually find cheaper ticket on it. So next time once you found your flight on google flights, always have a 2nd consultation thru another Online Travel Agent! You might find better deal!
P.S Skyscanner didn't pay me to blog about this.
Despite having Oneworld Emerald Status with the initial plan of flying on Cathay Pacific, their economy ticket wasn't as attractive as this. Neither did i have any Status on Singapore Airlines. But i realised i would earn 17K Krisflyer Miles if i were to go with this deal and those miles will sure put in to good use on their monthly spontaneous deal where they put certain routes on discounted redemption rates. Taking example from the Feb's offer, 20,000 miles will get you a one way business class ticket to Shanghai/Beijing.
A week before the flight, i wrote in to Singapore Airlines Public Affairs Department requesting for pre boarding photography. This is to allow me some time to get high quality pictures of the cabin without any other passengers inside. I was glad Philip from PAD did reply me and agreed to facilitate this request.
P.S Thank you philip!
I have wrote in to some airlines in the past requesting pre boarding but either they were too busy to entertain a small time blogger like me or just rude. I would have accept a "sorry we are unable to entertain such request" email rather than just leaving me hanging with no reply. Please up your games guys.
The "modern day" Premium Economy Class is slightly different from the Executive Economy Class you see in past. We are seeing both a 2-4-2 configuration and 2-3-2 configuration. Personally i would have love if they had in it 2-3-2 configuration but it all comes down to Airline Business and that includes sacrificing something in the process.
The New Premium Economy Class isn't really new to SIA. In fact it has been in service with the airline since 2015 across their fleet of regular A359, A350ULR, A380 & B777-300ER.
Taking a closer look at the middle section, i know i will never take any seat in the middle because i never like being squashed. I like it empty around me. To put it in the nicer way, i am just being considerate to fellow passengers because i am fat and i love standing up and walking around during flights.
Beside the unappealing 4 seaters, Singapore Airlines came up with a very good solution to single travellers by offering a solo seat exclusively on the A350ULR. I will say this is the star seat of the whole Premium Economy Class today!
With only 6 of such seat available on this flight, one must book early and pick the seat in advance! I dare to vouch that this is a hot seat and surprisingly they don't charge an additional fee for these seats!
I am always very paranoid with my belongings on flights so this personal locker at the side made me feel at ease. Knowing that i can sleep in peace without having to worry that someone will take my stuff from the overhead compartment.
Having calf support and leg rest will make this whole journey more comfortable. But i personally feel that the calf support angle is too limited. I would have loved it higher perhaps due to my short leg.
It would be better if it's able do a full 90 degrees like what the predecessor so not only can it be useful to kids but it allows adult to fold their legs while they are watching movie. Maybe it's an asian thing.
You get personal reading light & headrest. They are fully adjustable to your comfort.
Even as a single seater, you are given 2 water bottle compartment. Alternatively you can also use them to store some sweets or little items so you can reach conveniently during the flight. You can also hang your coat but i find that a bit intruding. In that case you can always approach the friendly cabin crew to safe keep your coat.
Personal handheld device is located at the side of the seat where your thigh is located. Fat thigh could cause you to accidently press any of the buttons but as far as i remember, i didn't use this handheld device throughout the flight except taking picture of this. Everything was controllable thru the inflight entertainment screen and i really appreciate that. Not to say this handheld device is useless but it could be used for games.
A pair of good quality noise cancelling headphones were provided too. These headphones is the same as what the Business Class is getting.
Soon after take off, an amenity kit was distributed. The kit includes an eyeshade, in flight socks and toothbrush. It wouldn't cost much to give a lip balm inside for this ultra long haul flight in my opinion.
Meals was served right after takeoff. Book the Cook option was offered to PEY passengers as well. No legendary Boston Lobster Thermidor but the Nasi Lemak Option wasn't that bad after all.
After meal service, i asked the crew to let the curious me have a look at the other meal options. Visually it looks tasty.
7 hours in to the flight, they began serving breakfast. With 7 hours left to destination, i find it odd to be served breakfast. I did asked the crew why they did that, he mentioned that it was to adapt to the US timing. But i personally would rather have it served 2 hours before landing.
My original Book the Cook was Maple Syrup with Scrambled Eggs but i smell something familiar. Something local and it was the white carrot cake! I asked for a serving of that and the crew was glad to serve me! Damn it was delicious!
Entertainment option were endless. With thousand of hours on movies, musics and tv shows, it's hard to get bored on this 15 hours journey. I was watching A star is born and i teared during some scenes! Touching! A great way to refresh some memories while watching the moivie Fortune Handbook as i had a great opportunity of watching it behind the camera on set as well as seeing my friend acting as a main cast in the movie Zombiepura.
About 3 hours before arrival, i felt hungry and asked for some sandwiches. I didn't know which one to pick so the crew gave me both. Chicken & Beef. Needless to say, i prefer the beef over the chicken.
MEALS on RETURN FLIGHT
On my return flight home, i had another Book the Cook option. The Cod fish clam chowder with potatoes was great. The fish was tasty, no fishy smell and the sauce was tasty! The bread was tasteless however.
For "breakfast" which was served 7 hours in to the flight, i had the Croque madame with fried egg. It's like a sandwich loaded with lots of mozzarella cheese with ham filling. Heck it was delicious! But was accompanied with the same tasteless bread roll.
A variety of snacks was available on this flight. There were gourmet sandwiches, oat bar, ready to eat sliced apple & cashew nuts. When i was at the back gallery looking around for snacks, a friendly crew offered me hot pizza. I went along with Milo and damn it made me felt closer to home even more.
Overall, the premium economy class was an ok experience for me. As someone who travel upfront more frequent, i was kind of pampered/biased in a sense of having bigger seats & flat bed. Given a choice, i would avoid flying ultra long haul on Economy.
But don't get me wrong here. I think it's still a doable flight for many of you folks trying to get to the States on direct flight. The airline is also making it obvious by having attractive revenue fares and cheap redemption ticket to USA. SIN-SFO/LAX return is going from SGD$1400+ and as we see 38,000 Miles each way.
At this price, i will say it's a very attractive price to get to the United States. Just 3 of these return flights will get you a Krisflyer Gold Status. Just saying if you are looking at getting airline status. It's gonna be tough flying 6 ultra long haul status tho!
On my outbound SQ36 flight, i can't get any sleep during the 15 hours flight and i arrived at Los Angeles in quite a bad shape. The Morning Departure and Morning Arrival flight didn't work for me personally but i figure out it could have worked well for Business Travellers. I would have taken SQ38 which is the Night Departure and Night Arrival. But that aside, service onboard was great, the crew were smiling, chatty and friendly. The load was pretty much empty. Both side of the aisle was full except the middle aisle which are fairly empty.
On my inbound SQ37 flight, i did slept for a good 7/8 hours because i was all exhausted after a day of road trip. It was a night departure and morning arrival in to Singapore. This flight did worked out for me and i arrived back in Singapore feeling particularly fresh. It was surprisingly a extremely full flight. I guess it could have been many miles redemption made from the Feb's Spontaneous Deal where SIN-LAX-SIN was offered at just 38,000 miles each way.
On both flights, i was glad to have gotten the Solo Seater and that really helps a lot. I don't have to climb over anyone to get to the lavatory or stand up to let fellow passengers out. Meal service time could change a bit. After takeoff meal timing is fine but the next meal should ideally be served 2 hours before rather than 7 hours in to the flight. For those who are hungry in between the meal service, sandwiches and snacks could be offered. I saw cup noodles being served around often too. Quite a popular snack choice.
Personally i would prefer to have the crew walking down the aisle offering dry snacks proactively to those who are awake watching movies. Perhaps once every hour? You don't have to follow the standards above but it wouldn't hurt carrying the snacks basket just once every hour. Drinks service was offered during the flight, i don't know the interval but i remember seeing it several time during the flight.
I hope this article & my perspective will be helpful to you. If you think this is good, please share around because good stuff needs to be shared don't you think?
Next up, a review of the $800 error fare business class ticket from Los Angeles - Shanghai return. I am all excited and i hope you are too!