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Singapore Airlines raises benchmark in new A380 Suites

SINGAPORE/HAMBURG - It will have been ten years and barely two months since the world’s first A380 passenger flight when the new cabins of the first freshly delivered Airbus A380 for Singapore Airlines (SIA) are seeing their premiere.

On December 18, 2017, the first of five additional A380s for the launch operator ordered in 2012, registered 9V-SKU, will operate flight SQ221 from Singapore to Sydney. Exactly the same route that flight SQ380 took the morning of October 25, 2007 as the world’s first A380 passenger flight ever.

(© Singapore Airlines)
(© Singapore Airlines)
(© Singapore Airlines)
(© Singapore Airlines)
(© Singapore Airlines)
(© Singapore Airlines)
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For the first time since December 2014, when Etihad received its first A380, there will be an all-new cabin revealed by an A380 operator. In a ceremony in Singapore in the morning of November 2 local time, Singapore Airlines will show the concept for the first time in public, though only in small batches of the new seats.

PaxEx.com, however, had exclusive access last week to the first actual aircraft 9V-SKU at the Airbus factory in Hamburg Finkenwerder, where it is awaiting delivery in December. Photos of the cabin installations from the aircraft are shown here exclusively. Total seat count is back where it started ten years ago with 471.

, © Singapore Airlines

At entry into service, Singapore’s A380s featured twelve Suites and 311 Economy seats on the Main Deck and 60 Business Class plus 88 Economy seats on the Upper Deck.

With the introduction of Premium Economy this changed to two versions with either 441 seats total (unchanged Upper Deck and twelve Suites, 36 Premium Economy and 245 Economy seats on the Main Deck) or 379 total with the same Main Deck configuration and an all-Business Class Upper Deck, seating 86.

, © Andreas Spaeth

Now the newest A380 cabin has six Suites on the Upper Deck plus 78 Business seats, meaning a pure Premium Upper Deck, like many other A380 operators. On the Main Deck, in the very front is now Premium Economy with 44 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, behind there are 342 Economy seats in 3-4-3 featuring 32” pitch and 18.5” width.

"We are now able to make much better use of the space the A380 offers by moving the Suites to the Upper Deck,” says SIA-CEO Goh Choon Phong.

The most important change in the new A380 interior concerns the ultra-luxurious "Suites” Class, a term Singapore Airlines introduced ten years ago for First Class on board the A380.

, © Andreas Spaeth

So far, the twelve Suites were located in a 1-2-1 configuration on the forward main deck. Now even from the outside any of the five new A380s can be distinguished, as three individual windows on the upper deck in front of the first door have been plugged where the partitions between the now three new Suites on each side are located.

Meaning the number of Suites has been halved from the original configuration and the now six Suites in total moved up from the front of the Main Deck to the top of the grand staircase.

The "Skyrooms” manufactured by Zodiac from the UK are truly spectacular, while not as much over the top as Etihad’s Residence. Each suite covers between 3.23 and 4 square meters of floor space with 1A and 1F being the biggest.

They measure two meters by 2,50 meters on the floor – a lot of space for a single passenger. They are shielded towards the aisle by two-piece sliding doors operated manually, as opposed to electrically with other carriers, a source for prolonged malfunctions.

Each Suite on the SIA A380s now appears like a studio or combined living and sleeping quarters, dominated by a massive swivel armchair. Designed by PierreJean Design Studio in France, the 21” wide electrically-controlled swivel seats can be turned around by over 270°, are upholstered in finest Poltrona Frau leather and can recline up to 135° for lounging.

, © Andreas Spaeth

The armchairs are steered from a touchswitch console in the armrest, which at the same time can swivel the 32” HD touchscreen monitor mounted on the wall into the position. A wireless tablet is provided with integrated control functions for IFE and lighting, each Suite even offers customizable mood lighting scenes.

A separate handset is used for basic IFE control. If the passenger wants to work on his tablet, it can be anchored in a holder installed underneath the two windows, or rather on a laptop on the foldout table. The main feature is a separate foldout flat bed measuring 76” by 27” (1,93m x 0,68m) which comes complete with mattress bedding, duvet and pillows.

The bedhead has a gas spring to keep the head up to watch a movie for example while lying down. When Singapore Airlines introduced the A380 in 2007, its former CEO proclaimed the double suites in the middle were "bringing back the romance into flying.”

Which the airline didn’t fully live up to, as crews were instructed to not let get romantic activities out of hand. This time again, dividers between two or even all three suites on one side of the aisle can come down, creating up to two double beds in the two forward Suites 1A/2A and 1F/2F.

The two windows in each Suite feature electrical blinds and each Suite has a personal wardrobe which also provides cabin luggage stowage. For the first time one of the two bathrooms, the more spacious one on the right side, has been fitted out especially for female passengers with a vanity table and stool, more mirrors and mood-lighting.

But Singapore Airlines still didn’t consider to offer showers such as Emirates and Etihad. "According to our surveys this still is not a priority of our customers,” states SIA-CEO Goh, "they’d rather have more personal space and all important things within reach.”

In Business Class, the basic concept has been kept, with just 50” pitch Singapore Airlines passengers are still forced to sleep diagonally, which many dislike. The new seats designed by JPA Design and manufactured by JAMCO feature a kind of noise-suppressing cocoon made of carbon fibre to shield the passenger.

, © Andreas Spaeth

Also for the first time the seats, clad in Poltrona Frau leather now, are lowered into bed position electrically rather than manually before, the length of the bed has remained the same with 78” (1,98m), two inches longer than in Suites, but very narrow at the foot end, while seat width is a generous 25”.

Big news is a kind of fold-out ottoman towards the aisle enlarging the bed space, which was done with a smaller foldout triangle before. Also for the first time the divider between the two middle seats can be put fully down to enable partners to travel together, as before they could hardly see each other.

, © Andreas Spaeth

There is also an intermediate position to lock the divider half way down. Once fully down it creates almost a double bed. There are smaller new features as well for storage and a bright orange or rather bronze-coloured fixed side table.

As they have by far the biggest foot space and don’t require passengers to sleep diagonally, the bulkhead middle seats 11D/F, 91D/F and 96D/F are preferred choices.

, © Andreas Spaeth

As the first A380 operator SIA now gets rid of the stowage compartments underneath the Upper Deck windows and gains a bit of space in cabin width. Thanks to more efficient use of space and offering even more room to each passengers each compartment still needs less floor space than before.

ZIP-Seats for Premium Economy

Premium Economy Class at the front end of the main deck features customized seats by German manufacturer ZIM, also providing Lufthansa’s Premium Economy seats. Seat pitch is a generous 38”, width 19,5”, every seat includes foot- and leg rests plus a spacious pocket even able to store a laptop, coming with a frame in easyJet orange, same on the armrests.

, © Andreas Spaeth

All seats in all classes now offer touchscreens, with the ones in Premium Economy measuring 13.3” in diameter, while it is 11,1” in Economy. The 343 Economy seats are now manufactured by German market leader Recaro.

The two best choices in Economy, not even costing an extra charge, are the window seats 71A/K, which do not have a seat in front of them despite being in the second row behind the bulkhead. All 471 seats on Singapore’s new A380 now feature plug ins to recharge electronic devices and also USB ports, plus contactless card readers to pay for purchases.

, © Andreas Spaeth

For the time being Singapore Airlines has been charging passengers for connecting to the internet while inflight, as industry sources tell PaxEx.com that the airline will soon roll out a scheme offering free wifi to First and Business passengers, though SIA CEO Goh didn’t want to confirm this yet.

In total, Singapore Airlines has adhered to its philosophy to remain one of the most comfortable network carriers in all classes, without overdoing it or being overly fancy.

"We are now investing US$850m in the new A380s and retrofitting the other remaining 14 until 2020, showing our continuous belief that the A380 is good for us, b but not in larger numbers than the 19 we had before,” says SIA CEO Goh.

© Andreas Spaeth | Image: Andreas Spaeth | 02/11/2017 11:43

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