Johannesburg – Singapore
BACKGROUND: Singapore Airlines has 102 aircraft, with an average age of seven years and six months, making it one of the youngest fleets of any major airline. The A350-900 is a brand new, fuel-efficient aircraft on the Johannesburg-Singapore route. On 30 October, the A350-900 launched ex Cape Town, so all flights on Singapore Airlines from South Africa will now be on this exciting next generation craft. As with its eight new B777-300ER aircraft, an advanced Business Class product is featured, which will be fitted on all 19 existing B777-300ERs progressively by 2017.
CHECK-IN: At one of two counters for Singapore Airlines Business Class passengers, I was quickly and professionally checked in, allocated my preference for a window seat over the wing and given a ‘Fragile’ sticker for my scuba diving equipment by a polite staff member. Online/mobile check-in can be done between 48 and two hours before your flight.
LOUNGE AND BOARDING: Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance passengers use SAA’s International Departures Baobab Premium Class Lounge, which is adequate. Besides lounge seats next to the window, areas include tables and chairs next to a staffed bar, a boardroom table section and an enclosed smokers lounge. An audio-visual entertainment space has built in entertainment screens. Wi-fi is free, but the signal became weak when the lounge filled. Complementary food and beverages are available at basic self-service buffets in three locations. As the bar had no gin or Sauvignon Blanc in stock, I tried a white wine blend. A small selection of local and international newspapers and magazines is available. We boarded easily and on time.
THE SEAT: I was impressed with the feeling of space generated by the height of the ceiling on the A350.There are no compartments above the middle seats. Capacious overhead compartments line the side of the craft. Business class seats have so many store spaces that I did not need the overhead section. My camera equipment, sling bag with books, laptop case, and handbag fitted easily into the various storage consoles. Business Class seats are arranged in a forward-facing, four-abreast (1-2-1) configuration, so all passengers have direct access to the aisle. Seats are 72 centimetres wide, reclining 132 degrees, with a spacious foot well, making this an exceptionally comfortable seat, even for a tall person like myself. Working was made easy with the height-adjustable table, well-positioned lights (that are floodlit, not spotlight), in-seat laptop power supply, and USB and HDMI ports. The innovative design allows the seat to be converted into a full flat 198 centimetre-long bed, with padded headboard.
THE FLIGHT: Cabin crew welcomed us to the new A350 with smiles, hot face towels and French Champagne. I found navigating through the vast array of programmes on the inflight Entertainment Centre and playing computer games, to be intuitive and user-friendly, on the 46-centimetre touch-screen. The noise-cancellation headphones at each seat ensures clear sound. Noteworthy is the fact that this cabin is unbelievably quiet during flight. For lunch, a four-course meal is served on porcelain service ware with restaurant-style full table settings. An appetiser of smoked duck breast followed canapes of chicken and beef satay, on cabbage-apple remoulade. Complemented by 2014 yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand, I savoured pan roasted salmon fillet with tomato basil-olive ragout for my main. The mango ice cream was delicious, as were the selection of cheeses. This feast was topped off with fine pralines. Single origin and unique blend coffees, plus TWG teas, are on the menu. Soft beddings on the wide, fully-flat bed ensured several hours of sound sleep.
ARRIVAL: I was well rested and after refreshing myself in the rest room, using L’Occitane products, savoured a leisurely breakfast. The flight arrived on schedule in Terminal 3.
VERDICT: An outstanding business class flight experience. When you book, make sure you fly on the days that the A350-900 is in operation. You can look forward to an exceptional time in the SilverKris Business Class Lounge in Singapore on your return journey, where delectable food, with a wide range of drinks – including top champagnes – is constantly available. Seats are luxurious, the showers strong and the variety of international magazines and newspapers is impressive.