Singapore Airlines has opted for measured evolution rather than radical revolution with its new Airbus A380 business class seats, but with a twist: some middle seats can convert into a double bed, in keeping with the airline's new 'space made personal' marketing mantra.
The second-gen superjumbo seats – revealed at an international launch held today at Singapore's Suntec Convention Centre, alongside new first class suites – are a fresh product from JPA Design, which also created the airline's Boeing 777-300ER business class cribs launched in July 2013, which also appears on its Airbus A350 jets.
SQ's A380 'business class 2.0' seats are 25 inches wide (three inches less than their Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 counterparts) and well-appointed, albeit with a lighter and slightly more contemporary colour scheme.
Singapore Airlines has retained the familiar forward-facing layout and 1-2-1 configuration, with a similar degree of 'personal space' plus an extended seat shell for privacy and a slide-down divider between middle seats.
However, 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 current seats have passengers nearest to the aisle.
Travellers can extend the seat into what SQ terms Lazy Z and Sundeck positions for relaxing before reclining the seat into fully-flat bed mode, which gives you 78 inches (1.98 metres) of snooze space from head to heel.
The middle seats directly behind each of the business class cabin's three bulkhead rows can convert into a double bed – those are 11D/F, 91D/F and 96D/F – although Singapore Airlines says it doesn't expect these to sell at any premium over the rest of the cabin.
There's room enough under the seat to stow your carry-on bag, and find ample space around the seat for getting work done above the clouds, plus nooks for items such as laptops and tablets, smartphones, books and reading glasses.
Of course, each passenger gets a pair of AC and high-powered USB sockets to keep their tech charged up en route, and an 18 inch HD screen for chilling out to the airline's KrisWorld inflight entertainment system.
Travellers can even choose their mix of inflight movies, TV shows and music before they fly, using a smartphone or tablet app which lets them select content from the current KrisWorld catalogue for their flight and then sync that list against your seat over the A380's WiFi system.
(You can also use your Apple or Android device as a remote control for the IFE and call up real-time information on your flight path.)
Other creature comforts include a height-adjustable table which swings up and out from the side console, a personal vanity mirror and a cocktail tray.
These could also be the seats we'll see in SQ's long-range Airbus A350-900ULR jets which will restart direct flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York in 2018, in what some pundits expect to have a two-class configuration alongside SQ's premium economy seats.
Same space, more seats
Singapore Airlines' new and upgraded Airbus A380s will sport 78 business class seats, running from directly behind the six-suite first class cabin – which has been relocated from the lower deck to upstairs – to the aircraft's tail, allowing Singapore Airlines to create a 'premium' upper deck dedicated to its highest-paying passengers.
The business class cabin is divided into three sections 50 seats, 20 seats and just eight seats.
Interestingly, all of those 78 seats fit into the same floorspace as 66 seats in the airline's current A380s (counting from the first upper deck exit row, ahead of which now sits first class).
This is evidence of a more space-efficient design for the new seats compared to the first-gen business class benches, even though both list as having 55 inches of pitch.
However, the airline has not opted for any form of social space – similar perhaps to what Qantas plans to do for its own Airbus A380 fleet – nor of course an inflight bar a là Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
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.
David Flynn travelled to Singapore as a guest of Singapore Airlines.