Singapore Airlines' new premium economy makes its debut this week on selected Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER flights between Sydney and Singapore.
Hong Kong and London will follow at the end of August and Frankfurt, Paris, Beijing and Shanghai through September as the airline moves to rapidly fit the new seats across its flagship fleet.
The leather-clad seats, created for Singapore Airlines by JPA Design, are between 18.5 inches and 19.5 inches wide (depending on aircraft type) with a pitch of 38 inches, compared to a 19 inch width and tighter 32 inch pitch in standard economy.
In addition to a greater 8 inch recline, padded legrest and more in-seat storage space, passengers will also be treated to champagne and meals from Singapore Airlines' 'Book the Cook' service.
Made famous in SQ's first class and business class cabins, Book the Cook lets you choose your inflight meals before you fly, with a wider range of dishes – and, generally speaking, of superior quality – to what you'd be offered onboard.
You'll typically be able to pre-order your main course for all meals served during the flight – breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or supper: here's the Book the Cook selection available from Sydney to Singapore.
Each premium economy passenger will have access to their own AC power socket (with a universal design that'll take all common plug types) and a pair of USB sockets.
SQ late to the premium economy party
Singapore Airlines is a relatively late adopter of a 'better than economy but less than business' cabin, trailing the likes of Qantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and most recently Lufthansa.
"Because of changing consumer trends and industry landscapes, a gap opened up between business class – which has become even more luxurious – and economy class," Singapore Airlines Executive Vice President Commercial, Mak Swee Wah told Australian Business Traveller at the official launch of SQ's premium economy seats.
First look: Singapore Airlines premium economy seats
"We studied the market for offering a category between business class and economy over the last few years, based on many factors including route economics, customer demand trends and the fact that premium economy is increasingly popular in other parts of the world."
Only Singapore Airlines and British Airways offer premium economy on flights from Australia to Singapore, with Qantas opting not to fit its premium economy seats (below) to upgraded Airbus A330-300 jets flying to Asia.
Cathay Pacific also chose to scale back the size of its premium economy cabin on Australian flights, removing one row to fit an extra two rows of economy seats.
The new design will offer slightly more legroom plus padded legrests for every seat, compared to the current CX premium economy seat (below) which has a proper legrest only in the first row of seats, while travellers in other rows must make do with a less comfortable swing-down 'T-bar' footrest.
“We’re always looking for what’s out there in the market” CX product exec Toby Smith tells Australian Business Traveller, “and for premium economy there was a new seat which we felt was better than the current one.”
All SQ A380s upgraded by early 2016
Singapore Airlines plans a fast roll-out of premium economy across its long-range fleet including the flagship Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER, as well as the airline's first 20 Airbus A350s, which will take wing in early 2016.
The A380 will be fitted with 36 premium economy seats on the lower deck, nestled between first class suites and economy (below), while the long-range Boeing 777 will have 28 seats; in both aircraft they'll be arranged in a 2-4-2 layout.
The airline's entire superjumbo fleet will be fitted with premium economy "by the first quarter of 2016", Mak says.
"We want to reach a certain critical mass to be offering to customers to, hence our decision to go for a rapid and aggressive rollout to ensure we have critical mass of this product in the market."
Singapore Airlines pegs total investment in the project as US$80 million.
But not all of the Airbus A350s are likely sport a premium economy cabin, with Mak indicating that a second tranche of A350 deliveries would adopt a two-class version without premium economy and intended for medium-range flights.
“The exact number (of A350s) for long-haul flights is still something to be pinned down but certainly the first batch that will come in will be earmarked for long-haul flights and will have premium economy” Mak said.
Singapore Airlines expects to have three Airbus A350 jets by March 2016, with at least the first 20 of the 70-strong order being a three-class fit-out with its latest business class, new premium economy and economy seats.
More exclusive Singapore Airlines news from AusBT
- New Singapore Airlines A380 first class suites, business class seats in 2017
- Singapore Airlines lobbies Airbus, Boeing for ultra long-range jet
- New flagship Singapore Airlines lounges for Changi by 2017
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