Review: Singapore Airlines (A380) Premium Economy from New York to Frankfurt
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TO THE POINT: Singapore Airlines’ premium economy product is a comfortable option for those seeking a step above regular economy on a long-haul flight. The pros: a spacious cabin, good food options with Book the Cook and tremendous service. The cons: the lack of a true amenity kit and an IFE screen that required a remote.
Last year, Singapore Airlines began rolling out its new premium economy product on its A380 and 777-300ER aircraft, eventually adding it to the A380 on the carrier’s route between New York (JFK) and Frankfurt (FRA) — the German city currently serves as a stopover point when flying from New York to Singapore, until the airline relaunches the world’s longest flight between NYC and Singapore in 2018.
Last year, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen tested out the new premium economy product aboard the 777-300ER while flying from Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG) — although he had a pleasant experience, he found it hard to justify the hefty price tag for such a short-haul flight. However, for a longer flight, the extra legroom in premium economy can make all the difference.
After noticing that I could fly on the inaugural flight for a discounted price, I decided to jump at the opportunity to test out the new cabin myself.
I managed to book a seat on the inaugural flight during a special sale by Singapore Airlines in conjunction with TPG that offered $999 round-trip flights in premium economy. The same route in the same cabin usually hovers around the $1,200 mark, so I saved around $200 by booking through this sale — that fact that the inaugural flight coincided with the valid travel dates of the sale only sweetened the deal.
I paid for my ticket with my Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, earned 3x Membership Rewards points (since my booking was made directly through the carrier) and yielded a total of 2,997 Membership Rewards points.
Not long after I booked this flight, Singapore Airlines started allowing KrisFlyer members to redeem their miles for premium economy flights, a perk that wasn’t previously available. You can now also use Krisflyer miles to upgrade your cabin from economy to premium economy or from premium economy to business class.
When I arrived at JFK’s Terminal 4, I had noticed some bright orange balloons out of the corner of my eye.
As I got closer to the check-in counter, which happened to be next to all the orange balloons, I realized Singapore Airlines had — quite literally — rolled out the
red orange carpet in honor of its inaugural premium economy flight on the JFK-FRA route.
Flight attendants at the orange carpet handed out free hats so we could get in on the celebration.
There were two Singapore Girls in the area posing for photos with guests. It was a really neat experience, and you could tell everyone — from the executive-level people who were there to the Singapore Girls to the check-in agents — was excited about the event.
The Singapore Girls’ uniforms are so unique and widely recognizable, but I never heard until this trip that they had any real meaning — it turns out the color of their dresses corresponds with their rank. Who knew?
There was a special check-in lane for premium economy passengers, which definitely expedited the process. When flying with Singapore Airlines, don’t forget that there’s a weight restriction for carry-on bags (7kgs, or 15lbs). I accidentally forgot all about this rule and was forced to check my bag. It wasn’t a big deal, since each premium economy passenger is allowed to check two bags free of charge, but I still wish I could have just carried it on.
Following the check-in process with a very friendly agent, I headed to the TSA security line. Before getting there, I passed by the refreshments area, which was stocked with all kinds of sweets just for the inaugural flight’s passengers.
Just as I was approaching, a TSA agent moved us down to the lower level of T4’s security screening area, where I was one of the first travelers in line and through security in no time.
After successfully getting through security, I headed up to the Wingtips Lounge, which I was able to gain access to thanks to the free Priority Pass membership that came with my Platinum Card from American Express.
The Wingtips Lounge is open to premium passengers on several airlines, including China Southern, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Air Europa, among others. It’s also a part of the Priority Pass network as well as Lounge Club, Diner’s Club and Airport Angel.
The lounge was small, but not very busy at the time I was there. Its buffet featured all the basics, like small finger foods, vegetables and hummus.
There was also a self-serve bar, which was stocked with wine, beer and some liquor options. There were a decent number of power outlets throughout the lounge, and large windows that allowed for plane-spotting. Nothing was too over the top, but it was a nice space to kill some time before my flight.
I boarded the flight early so I could get a good look at the new cabin, but otherwise would have boarded with the premium economy group, which is called to enter the plane after Singapore Suites and business-class passengers.
I got a quick picture of the A380 and took some time to check out the other cabins before settling in.
Cabin and Seats
Singapore Suites is one of the best premium products in the skies. The cabin is comprised of 12 fully private suites with lie-flat beds.
Singapore’s business class takes up the entire top floor of the A380. The business-class cabin is comprised of 86 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each of the lie-flat seats is 30 inches wide and offers 55 inches of pitch.
Next, I peeked at the economy cabin of Singapore Airlines’ A380. It’s a tight fit and looks pretty outdated, with washed-out colored seats that alternate between sections of the main cabin.
The main economy cabin is comprised of 245 seats arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration. Each seat has 32 inches of pitch and is 19 inches wide. The cabin did appear to be somewhat cramped, especially having just come from the business-class cabin.
Finally, I entered the new premium economy cabin, which was great — and had plenty of orange.
When walking from the main economy cabin to the premium economy cabin, the difference is stark — one is dated and the other is sleek and much more spacious.
The premium economy cabin on the A380 is comprised of 36 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. Each seat has 38 inches of pitch (six more inches than the regular economy seats) and 19.5 inches of width — that’s just 0.5 more than in regular economy, but trust me, it makes a difference.
Each of the seats has more than the average amount of legroom, which really helps you have a more comfortable flight. There also isn’t as much crowding, as the seats here are in a 2-4-2 configuration.
Even when the seat is reclined, it doesn’t impede much on the legroom for the passenger behind, which was nice.
Although each of the seats in the premium economy cabin had more legroom than its economy counterparts, the bulkhead row offered even more space to stretch out. There were small pouches for those passengers to store their things during taxi, takeoff and landing. The IFE screens for these seats were mounted on the wall in front of them at just above eye level, making them more convenient than the typical bulkhead row IFE screens that come out of the armrest and are required to be stowed during taxi, takeoff and landing.
As I’ve mentioned, the cabin’s theme color was an orange and grey combination with a touch of powder blue — it was modern, but not too overwhelming.
Each seat came with a footrest that descended from the seat in front of it as well as a leg rest that rose up from below it. Having both options was extremely beneficial and made for an even more comfortable flight.
My seat (34K) was a window seat. One of the nicest parts of the A380 is its curved cabin. Usually, window seats are nearly flat against the side of the cabin wall, but on the A380, the extra space from the curved wall creates much more space.
Note that the aisle seat has an extra leg that splits the foot space down the middle, whereas the window seat does not, which could be annoying, especially during a long flight. In the center rows, the two aisle seats also have this strange feature, whereas the two middle seats do not.
Because the side rows only consist of two seats, there’s plenty of room, so I’d recommend choosing one of these if possible.
That being said, even the central rows of seats have plenty of room when compared to their economy counterparts.
Each seat was equipped with a large in-flight entertainment screen (more on that later) and an illuminated USB port right below it.
Near the shoulder of every seat, there was an adjustable reading light, which was perfect for whenever you didn’t want to turn on the bright overhead light. The small reading light had a couple of brightness settings, and the dimmest one was bright enough for what I needed.
Between each seat on the front end of the armrest was a set of cupholders, which was nice for whenever you didn’t want your tray table down but still wanted to rest a drink somewhere. I found that my drinks didn’t spill while in the cupholder either.
Across from the cupholder and at the back of the armrest of the seat in front of me were two small containers, which I used to store my phone when I wasn’t holding it, as well as my headphones.
Each passenger traveling in the premium economy cabin also received a set of noise-canceling headphones, which was definitely a nice touch and helped to make the flight more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the in-flight entertainment system required a three-prong headphone set to get the full sound, so I wasn’t able to use my own set for watching movies or TV on the screen — the set you get from Singapore Airlines is compatible though. The headphone jack was located all the way at the back of the armrest, along with another USB port. There was also an AC power outlet located underneath the seat.
The seat reclined and the footrest came out from below the seat via a dedicated button — I thought it was a nice touch that helped add to the cabin’s luxury factor.
The seat reclined to a comfortable position and was worlds apart from one you’d find in regular economy — the footrest being there helped me get some sleep.
Food and Beverage
Meal service started not long after we reached cruising altitude. I decided to use the carrier’s Book the Cook perk for my dinner, a service available to all Singapore Suites, first, business and premium economy passengers that allows you to pick your meal before boarding and gives you more options to choose from.
The meal wasn’t served in different courses, like it usually is in a premium cabin, nor was the tray table covered with a tablecloth. Upon boarding, each premium economy passenger received a menu in the seat-back pocket in front of them, but because I had used the Booked the Cook service, I had already picked my dishes.
To start, flight attendants came around with drinks and a light snack made up of almonds and cashews. I opted for Chardonnay as my wine, which was served in a plastic cup.
For my dinner (the flight left around 9:00pm ET), I had pan-seared chicken, which was served with roasted vegetables and potatoes. It also came with a side salad with shrimp, a roll with butter and cheese and crackers. The chicken was nice and not rubbery at all, however I was surprised to see that parts were still a bit pink. The potatoes and vegetables were both very tasty.
The options available to passengers who didn’t Book the Cook included stir-fried fish fillet with ginger and spring onion, beef goulash and gaeng phed kai.
For dessert, flight attendants came around the cabin with a selection of Haagen-Dazs ice creams. I opted for the chocolate flavor, which was tasty, but a little too frozen — I let it thaw for around 10 minutes before even trying to use the plastic spoon to dig in.
For breakfast, I chose one of the two options available — iced lemon cake or a smoked fish sandwich. Still somewhat full from dinner, I opted for the cake, which was served with strawberry Greek yogurt, water and your choice of coffee or tea. The lemon cake itself was very sweet, but tasty.
Arguably, the best part of the flight was the amazingly friendly and attentive service, which isn’t a surprise given Singapore’s thorough training process. Everything was done with a smile and every crew member I encountered tried to make sure I had the best experience possible — something that felt so different from flying transatlantic with an American carrier.
Prior to meal service, we were each given a warm towel, which was a nice touch.
I really can’t say enough about the service. Everything was promptly taken care of and the flight attendants were more than accommodating with any request.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
Just before meal service started, flight attendants brought around a small amenity kit of sorts — it was in a small, cloth bag and contained a dental kit and a pair of orange socks, which wasn’t much, but was still better than nothing.
The in-flight entertainment was great. I felt there were enough choices in the system to keep me occupied for the duration of my 6.5-hour flight.
Each of our monitors was 13.3 inches wide — the screens are just 10.6 inches wide in regular economy, and it’s a noticeable difference.
Unfortunately, the screens weren’t touchscreen, so I had to use the remote in order to control it. The remote itself was pretty small and located in the side of the armrest just under the seat recline control buttons.
The IFE system offered a variety of entertainment options ranging from movies (both new releases and classics), to TV shows and music.
The monitors were noticeably new, and the picture was crisp and bright, which made for a great viewing experience.
Singapore Airlines’ premium economy product is a great way to get across the Atlantic. The new seats are very spacious and offered above-average comfort, especially for a long-haul flight. The footrests, extended seat width and widened cabin walls made for comfortable sleeping conditions and the food was very pleasant.
I’d definitely consider flying in Singapore Airlines’ premium economy cabin again in the future — if anything, just for the service. As the carrier continues to improve its product and expand the new cabin to more routes, it’ll be much more available for travelers to try out themselves.
This post has been updated to reflect the correct configuration of the cabin.