Reviews

Review: Singapore Airlines premium economy (Sydney-Singapore)

Overall Rating

By David Flynn, January 7 2016
Singapore Airlines premium economy (Sydney-Singapore)
Route

Sydney - Singapore

Aircraft Type

Airbus A380-800

Airline

Singapore Airlines

Flight

SQ232

Cabin Class

Premium Economy

Seat

35K

Notes
The Good
  • Wide, comfortable seat
  • Ample legroom
  • Good storage
The Bad
  • Reclining passengers seriously steal your space
The Unexpected
  • Book the Cook meals
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Singapore Airlines' new premium economy seats elbow their way into an increasingly crowded market for the ‘better than economy’ segment, going up against the likes of Qantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and most recently Lufthansa.

The formula for premium economy is already well-established.

Begin with more comfort and better meals than economy. Then add extras such as additional checked luggage and priority check-in, with noise-cancelling headphones during the flight.

Singapore Airlines premium economy certainly ticks all of those boxes, and against a few tough challengers and despite a few drawbacks we'd rate it overall as the world's best premium economy.

Seat

Singapore Airlines’ premium economy seat – crafted by highly-regarded firm JPA Design and clad in leather – is 19.5 inches wide on the Airbus A380 and 18.5 inches on the Boeing 777-300ER.

On both jets the seat pitch is 38 inches, well above the average 32 inches of economy. That translates into ample room around the knees, which is where most travellers feel the squeeze – especially on long international flights. 

The 8 inch recline also provides an additional serve of relaxation over the 6 inches of economy, while simultaneously sliding out the base of the seat to increase your sense of stretch.

More importantly, the well-padded seatback has been sculpted for maximum lumbar support around the lower back and sides, so you feel like you’re being gently cradled.

The headrest has plenty of vertical movement and also wraps around from either side to help you find that ‘just right’ spot.

Each seat also sports both legrests and footrests, compared to other premium economy designs where it’s an either/or choice.

A wide padded legrest swings up from the front of the seat to support your calves and lower legs, while you can park your feet on a T-bar which swings down from under the seat in front.

Both mechanisms are activated by clearly-labelled switches next to the seat.

Passengers in the front row find their legrest includes an extended footrest, as shown below.

Also note: on seats next to the aisle, the side panel can slide down to make it easier for 'mobility-challenged passengers' to get in and out of their seat (as shown below, at the launch of the new seats).

However, there's no reason that any passenger can't drop that panel to give themselves a little extra room during the flight.

Singapore Airlines’ premium economy seat also has a raft of spaces and nooks for your assorted inflight items.

That includes two seatback pockets: one for slim tablets (although it helps to ditch the airline’s own literature), the second for larger laptops.

A considered touch is the netting at the bottom of these pockets to stop small loose items from disappearing into the seat itself.

Smaller recesses behind the armrest of the seats in front are designed for your smartphone or reading glasses.

A longer cutout under your own armrest is also an easy place to stow reading glasses, amenity kits and such.

Other finishing touches include a small tray for holding your drinks...

... and an adjustable LED reading light.

The overall colour scheme isn’t quite what you’d expect from Singapore Airlines – shades of slate are lifted by splashes of orange and sky blue, extending from seat stitching to the pillows and blankets.

But it’s a contemporary palette intended to defeat the dreary and add a dash of playfulness to the cabin.

So is there any downside to Singapore Airlines’ premium economy?

It seems there’s a slight mismatch between the seat pitch and the recline.

Both are generous, without doubt, but when passengers in front put their seat into full recline, your own setback screen ends up as ‘in your face’ as if you were in economy.

There’s no drama on that score if you’re both reclining, to watch your video screen or grab some shut-eye – but if you’re intending to use your laptop, either for working or to catch up on some downloaded videos, there’s not a lot of room to keep the laptop’s lid fully open and upright.

Meal

Singapore Airlines offers some of the best inflight meals in the sky, so the bar was already set rather high for premium economy.

As with economy, the entire meal (but for dessert, which was a small tub of Serendipity ice-cream) comes out on a single tray.

The lunch menu for my Sydney-Singapore flight included a small appetiser of roast chicken with marinated vegetable salad, with a choice of main courses

  • stewed beef with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes
  • slow braised chicken with fried garlic, vegetables and steamed rice
  • ‘se mee rad nar’, or fried vermicelli with seafood

However, there are a half-dozen additional dishes if you opt for Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook service, which lets you choose your meal before you fly.  This makes for not only a broader selection of meals but in my experience they always have the edge compared to ordering off the regular menu. 

Book the Cook has long been the exclusive domain of first class and business class so it’s great to see the service expanded to premium economy.

On my Sydney-Singapore flight the premium economy Book the Cook options for lunch were:

  • beef carbonate with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables
  • butter chicken and jalfrezi vegetables
  • lamb shank korma with basmati rice
  • pan-friend hoki pasta with lime sauce
  • roasted chicken thigh in creamy mushroom sauce
  • seafood thermidor with saffron rice
  • Szechuan beef with vegetables

From that impressive selection I chose the butter chicken.

With tender flavoursome chicken, perfectly-cooked rice and vegetables plus a sensible amount of sauce rather, this could have passed for a business class meal.

A refreshment course served a few hours before reaching Singapore offered a choice between braised egg noodle with tasty minced pork and shredded vegetables (below), and a beef & mushroom pie.

 

Entertainment & Service

Each premium economy seat gets a relatively large and very sharp 13.3 inch high-definition screen plus a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, partnered to the latest version of Singapore Airlines’ KrisWorld inflight entertainment system.

The library is well-stocked with movies, TV shows and music from around the world, including latest release films and box sets of TV series – perfect for catching up on missed episodes or just some indulgent binge-viewing.

My Singapore Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER flight featured a conventional controller...

... whereas my return Singapore-Sydney journey on an A380s saw a swish touchscreen controller.

The downside of the touchscreen model is that it's all too easy to bump the high-tech controller’s screen and activate the seatback screen, which is annoying during an overnight flight when you’re trying to sleep.

Every Singapore Airlines premium economy seat gets its own AC power outlet with a multi-plug ‘universal’ socket, although its location at the front of each seat makes for some bending over and fiddling around to line up the plug with the holes.

The tray table is large enough for a mid-sized laptop, although there’s a bit of annoying bounce as you hammer away at the keys unless you position your laptop close to the table’s hinge to minimise the jiggle.

Each passenger gets access to two USB sockets: one directly beneath the seatback video display…

… and a second behind the armrest, next to your headphone jack.

The USB port mounted in the seatback module is a high-power version designed to charge tablets.

A sign of the smart thinking that’s gone into this design: adjacent to this USB port are pockets perfectly sized for stowing a tablet or smartphone while it recharges.

The USB jack behind the armrest is a more conventional lower-power version which still has sufficient juice for topping up the battery of a smartphone or similar.

(For all that, I can’t help but wonder why Singapore Airlines didn’t opt to make both USB ports cable of charging a tablet rather than relying on passengers to work out which socket they need to use.)

All aircraft fitted with Singapore Airlines’ premium economy also boast a satellite Internet connection.

Fire up the WiFi on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, join the OnAir hotspot, select your plan and whip out your credit card. 

Plans start at US$6 for 5MB of data – suitable for quick smartphone social media sessions and web-based email, as long as you avoid sharing photos of your meal with the world at large – through to US$29 for a meatier 30MB geared towards tablets and laptops.

AusBT review: Singapore Airlines’ inflight Internet service

Customers travelling in Premium Economy Class will also receive an amenity kit that will come in exclusive limited editions, like these ones featuring SG50 motifs to commemorate Singapore’s 50th birthday.

The amenity kit, which consists of a toothbrush, toothpaste and a pair of anti-slip socks, is designed as a collectible item, and pouches can be clipped together.

Summary

Apart from the close quarters if the passenger in front of you reclines all the way, there's little else to fault in Singapore Airlines' premium economy – taken as a whole, the seats, meals, service, entertainment plus optional inflight WiFi Internet makes this the best premium economy I’ve ever flown.

Also read: Singapore Airlines brings premium economy to Melbourne

David Flynn travelled to Singapore as a guest of Singapore Airlines.

David
David

David Flynn

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

stredinnick

stredinnick

30 Jun 2011

Total posts 50

At an extra inch, everyone will surely be clamouring for the A380 and sounds like bulkhead is the way to go.  The AVOD is fantastic, I experienced the 'swish' touchscreen version in J recently which was a 777.  So J have swipers while PE have push-buttons on the same plane then.  Book-the-cook a great option, but rather than Lobster Thermidor PE has 'Seafood'.  Sea-it-and-eat but what, precisely?

subichow

subichow

06 Jun 2015

Total posts 11

FWIW even Business Class out of Sydney has 'Seafood Thermidor' instead of Lobster Thermidor on the BTC list.

DrSK

DrSK

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 49

Great review, as usual, David. 

Has anyone tried Turkish premium economy? 2-3-2 with 46" pitch on a 777-300 - might this be the seat to beat? SQ's food/service/IFE/connectivity would likely be superior, but TK's real estate looks impressive. 

hotwog4all

hotwog4all

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Sep 2014

Total posts 17

I've flown TK's comfort class a number of times! It's by far the best 2/3/2 + 46" of space - felt like Swiss Air biz before Crossair took over at the turn of the millennium!  

Its a shame that they didn't promote it better because the product is truly a proper 'inbetween' J & Y. 

although at 70 seats in the cabin it doesn't feel as exclusive. Prices between HK and EU were about $1500 return the last time I flew them but the service was taken off that route :(

traveller99

traveller99

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 105

I did Turkish premium from London to Tokyo earlier in the year.  It's a great wide cloth seat and the food was great. Fast in flight internet too. 

The downside (and it was a big one) is the cabin temperature. It must have been 26/27 degrees which was uncomfortable and I was sweating on my back and bottom. I read after other reviews that this high temperature is common on their flights i.e. They set the temperature high. 

nige00160

nige00160

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 18

Would be great if the new 777 service flagged by Singapore Airlines for BNE (ref: AustBT article December 7) had the Premium Economy cabin installed. Certainly a much more comfortable way to get to Europe compared to the regular Economy product offering.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

It looks nice and SQ AVOD is always fantastic.

But being based out of SIN, the orange is a weird choice, it just looks very Jetstar.

TomGoddardd

TomGoddardd

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 286

Seat wise I wouldn't say it's the best PE worldwide, I'm quite fond of ANZ's spaceseat

Bobfromwa

Bobfromwa

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Jul 2014

Total posts 12

I flew LHR TO SIN on 380 late September. All was great except the gap between the seats at front meant I had peripheral vision of the seat in front TV screen and in my case the reading light, as the person read all the way. A little distracting. Travelled to Perth from Singapore on old 777-200 .Although dated the seats are comfortable and a pleasant flight? I am not sure I would travel on their Premium economy again. I find the Virgin PE   A better more value proposition.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Nice food is nice. Extra booze is nice. Extra baggage is nice. Bigger screen is nice. However I would trade all of those (in fact EVERYTHING) for flat bed, even if it lie-flat! They know this even better then I do, yet shoveling in my face all those “goodies” and “perks” that I never ask for. Those “perks” cost them nothing and they make out of it such a big deal that I should pay ½ price of business or even more!!!

Give me true premium economy – that means economy everything, but proper seat and I am first in the queue!!!

travelislife

travelislife

03 Jun 2014

Total posts 27

That is exactly what AirAsiaX offers. Lie flat seat, no IFE average economy meals.

JimWang_SYD

JimWang_SYD

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Sep 2015

Total posts 12

With Singapore's excellent new Premium Economy (well not THAT new), I'm hoping Cathay either matches or tops this with their Next Generation PE on a350. Cathay launching new premium economy might tempt me to fly them again. It's not that they're bad, it's just better products are availible

Geoff58

Geoff58

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 May 2015

Total posts 4

Hi David. Great review as usual. Is the PE cabin separated from economy, with its own toilets?

TanyaB

TanyaB

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jan 2016

Total posts 1

I notice that the middle two seats in the 4 have what appear to be moveable armrests - is that the case please David? And do you think this PE SIA offering is better than that offered by Qantas? The Qantas seats appear to offer more shoulder room and the QF pillows and doonas look to be of better quality than those pictured above. I flew QF PE MEL-JFK-MEL recently for the first time and with the extra storage bin on the window seat of the A380 I was actually able to sleep - a minor miracle for me....admittedly I was in exit or bulk on all legs. But I am interested in your big statement that SIA world's best. I have another long haul coming up later in the year and am split between the two airlines. Cheers.

satuocp

satuocp

qantas

23 Jun 2014

Total posts 12

A very uncomfortable short-haul business seat!  Worse than economy as on an empty flight you can't stretch out over several seats

 

Howie50

Howie50

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2016

Total posts 10

interesting review, shows why SQ are at or near the top of world airlines, however from you photos i think QF are still the one to beat...plastic cups dont really cut it for me with a business class drink!

mushmush

mushmush

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

14 Nov 2013

Total posts 42

SQ has made the same mistake as the did with the suites on the A380. They have priced their premium economy offering about $500 more than others in the market, what will happen is in 6 months they will reduce the price and start offering deals to get ppl to book. I was offered 3 times to upgrade to suites for $500 and each time i was 1 of 3 travelling in suites. Yes their product is good, but with so much competition now they have to be more realistic with their pricing.

kikoenaivoice

kikoenaivoice

08 Mar 2012

Total posts 27

I got a complimentary upgrade at check in for the same flight (I never thought SQ would do op-ups). It was certainly very nice experience though (since it was complimentary). I'm not sure if I'm willing to make a commercial booking for it thought.

dodgeydiver

dodgeydiver

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Mar 2017

Total posts 1

Anyone have any updates regarding the PE option Bris-Lon by July 2018?

Pjj

Pjj

27 Apr 2017

Total posts 1

I recently flew Singapore Airlines premium economy from Sydney to London and I'm surprised that no one has called them out yet. I was very disappointed in their offering. I flew Qantas PE from New York recently and it was much more comfortable and with better service. 

The key differences being that the seat on Qantas was much better. I had difficulty reclining my seat on SA so that I was upright for most of the trip. 

The SA PE seats are at the front of the economy cabin whereas the Qantas PE seats are upstairs. 

The difference being that on SA the flight attendants are serving the rest of the economy cabin and therefore the level of service is inattentive, disinterested and hurried. I probably would be too if I was also looking after a cabin with another 350 people. The Qantas attendants were more relaxed, friendly and attentive. 

Qantas provided a pre-flight champagne whereas SA did not. 

I would not fly PE with SA again as I just can't see the value. I don't know if I was unlucky and had malfunctioning seats on 2 flight segments or if that is how they are designed, but I didn't think the product was considerably more comfortable than normal economy. I was also annoyed with how disinterested the flight attendants were. I've had better service in the economy cabin.

Tom-125

Tom-125

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Nov 2015

Total posts 11

I'm writing this from the rather ordinary (not even its own loos!) Gold Kris lounge in Singapore en route back to SYD from LHR, and I'm not a huge fan of SQ PE having flown 3 out of my 4 legs...

On the plus side the seat width is good, recline is ok, but the backrest is short, even with the headrest extended my head was way above it. The IFE and charging ports/pockets are great.

However the whole experience is definitely Economy+ rather than Business-. You have to walk half way down the economy cabin to get to the shared bathrooms. The flight attendants are polite but disengaged. The food is under economy style foil lids, and whilst ok wasn't the best I've ever had. I used book the cook - the food did look better, and I was served first before the regular food, but I didn't get a drink until the trolley came around. 

I've never been on QF PE. I flew BA PE many years ago (nothing special either), and recently have been on VA and VS a lot. SQ is a cut above BA but not as good as VA in my opinion. And it doesn't come close to NZ which is definitely a J- product even with the new leather seats instead of the space seat - food served on proper crockery, good bread, flowing wine, friendly service... a real shame they are parting company with velocity in my opinion!

Richard

Richard

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Jul 2012

Total posts 4

I have just flown from Melbourne to Singapore and on to Haneda in premium based on this article and on both flights we were the forgotten passengers. Waited 3 hours for our meal. after pushing the attendant button twice waited 40 minutes for a glass of water and at no time were we asked if we would like a drink - tea, coffee, wine etc.

I am a Velocity Platinum and will not fly with Singapore again. They do not recognise velocity status, have no lounge access in Haneda unless flying business, the singapore lounge that you have access to is very second rate. All in all am very disappointed in the premium product and are dreading the return flights.


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