Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350s come complete with the airline's newest and most refined business class seats to date, with space for 42 passengers spread across two distinct zones.
They've got everything you'd expect of a modern business class cabin including plenty of storage space and the ability to sleep fully-flat, appearing now on flights to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, San Francisco, South Africa and also Melbourne, temporarily, with more destinations to follow.
Australian Business Traveller took the chance to test a factory-fresh Airbus A350 on a special 'delivery flight' from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, to SQ's home in Singapore: here's what we thought.
Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 business class seat
Whether you're seated in the seven-row main cabin or the smaller four-row zone just behind, all seats here come in a passenger-pleasing 1-2-1 layout, which means everybody enjoys direct access to the aisle and without anyone stepping over them to achieve the same.
If you've already taken a business class flight aboard Singapore Airlines' newer Boeing 777-300ERs, this seat will appear very familiar to you – and for other travellers, it's a more refined version of what you'll see on SQ's Airbus A380s and newer Boeing 777s.
A key point of difference: a new side console space that's large enough to rest your smartphone, newspaper and slippers, along with smaller tablets. Compared to the A380-style seat which has very little storage at all, this goes far to making the overall flight experience more enjoyable, as you don't have to keep reaching for the overhead locker to access your kit.
That space also packs in a little storage nook where you'll find your headphones, and proves the perfect space to store your water bottle throughout the flight...
... while pushing down on the area next to it unlocks your tray table.
The space takes on the appearance of a high-end sports car with colours and textures a'plenty, but we find ourselves accidentally releasing the tray a number of times throughout the flight by leaning on that edge when standing up and returning to our seat.
When you do intend to use the tray, however, simply pull up and tilt it flat – and if you'd like to sit cross-legged or eat breakfast in bed, it's also height-adjustable to give your knees some extra space.
But those aren't the only places you can keep your belongings – a dedicated literature pocket can be found below the side console...
... or look up to find another, larger nook that's great for laptops and tablets plus an adjustable and dimmable reading light.
Slide open the panel below it to reveal a multi-country AC power outlet and also a USB power port, plus connections for the inflight entertainment system including HDMI, a separate USB data outlet and an iPod input source, which uses the same adaptor as appears in 'BusinessFirst' on United Airlines' Boeing 787s.
But wait, there's more storage. Your shoes have their own cubby down by your feet, although you won't be able to access this when your seat is in 'bed mode', so keep those slippers handy...
... while in front of you is a nifty cocktail shelf – now located away from the aisle to avoid knocking your drink to the floor, and a closable recess that looks deceptively small...
... but actually proved large enough to house a digital SLR camera, including when the lens was detached and sitting next to it:
Finally managed to fill each and every storage space available to you? Then look to the 18-inch inflight entertainment screen – but don't try too hard to click on 'let's begin'.
That's because these unfortunately aren't touch-screens: you'll need to use the separate remote control to navigate through the system, but which does have a touch-screen of its own and offers handy shortcuts to make things faster:
As you'd find on SQ's other aircraft, there's an extensive array of movies and TV shows, but presented via a new interface that's clearer and easier to browse:
The traditional moving map is also at your disposal, but Singapore Airlines doesn't provide access to the Airbus A350's external aircraft cameras, which many other airlines choose to make available.
On the upside, the screen isn't stuck in place, so you can press the button atop to unlock it and tilt it down – perfect if you're reclining or lying in bed...
... and if you glance over to the remote control when it's not in use, you'll see how much time is remaining on your flight without pausing or disturbing your movie on the main screen.
This is particularly useful when planning your meals, work and rest, as you can simply glance across whenever you want to check your flight time, rather than wading through a sea of menus on the inflight entertainment system.
Speaking of work, in addition to the side light shown further above and the standard overhead lamp, there are three further directional lights you can switch on to illuminate your documents, book or newspaper, tailored to the positions of the seat and which can be individually set to 'bright', 'dim' or 'off'.
We appreciate the master 'off' switch, too, and if you'd prefer some more ambient light around the seat, just click the third button from the left:
This is also where you can adjust the seat to recline, stretch out, raise the foot rest, summon the cabin crew or activate a 'do not disturb' light for uninterrupted rest.
If you do plan on stretching out, particularly on longer flights, your seat selection will do much to determine your comfort.
Choose a seat in row 11 or 19 and you'll get a huge amount of space courtesy of the large foot/leg rest that can align flush with the seat...
... but sit anywhere else and your feet will be much more cosy as they dovetail into a smaller foot cubby instead – an unfortunate but necessary downside of having a 1-2-1 business class layout:
We'd been assigned one of the non-bulkhead seats, and with size 11 feet, found it much more comfortable sleeping on our side so that they could run across the cubby space, rather than vertically where they reached the 'cubby roof'.
But it's not all bad news: when upright or reclined, each seat cushion measures a very comfortable 28 inches wide, and following the trend of other Singapore Airlines seats, this one also flips forward to create a bed of at least 198cm (78 inches) in length.
Because ours was a special delivery flight from Airbus headquarters rather than a regular Singapore Airlines commercial service, the usual SQ pillows, blankets, bedding and also headrests weren't available for us to try.
In their place, generic stand-ins supplied by Airbus exclusively for this flight and which the crew still made-up. While the colours, styles and shapes certainly don't match what the airline offers on commercial flights, we were still able to catch roughly seven hours of sleep – and presume we could have made it a complete eight with the proper tailored bedding.
Overall, Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 business class seat improves on what was already a solid offering on the airline's Airbus A380s, with more storage space, improved inflight entertainment, added personal connectivity and a design aesthetic that's refined and high-end without going so far as to be 'blingy'
Taller passengers, however, will want to make early seat selection a priority for those extra-roomy bulkhead seats – and if you can't nab one online when you book, it never hurts to ask what's available on check-in.
- AusBT review: Singapore Airlines A380 business class, Singapore-London
- Singapore Airlines plans year-round Airbus A350 flights to Australia
- On board Airbus' 10,000th delivery flight with Singapore Airlines
- Singapore Airlines confirms plans for two-class Airbus A350ULR
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines and Airbus.