Airbus A350-900 Premium Economy Class
Singapore Changi Airport- Johannesburg ORTI
BACKGROUND: Part of Singapore Airlines’ 120 craft fleet, the brand new A350-900 – the latest generation Airbus – now serves the long haul flights from Singapore Changi Airport to O.R. Tambo International Airport seven times a week and on to Cape Town International Airport four times a week. With advanced technology, fuel-efficiency and bespoke design of seating in all classes, the A350-900 offers passengers a significantly improved flying experience. Expect larger windows, higher ceilings, an extra wide body and carefully placed lighting, styled to reduce jetlag.
CHECK-IN: I arrived from Thailand in Changi Terminal 1, so strolled to Terminal 2 to check in. There is a Skytrain connecting all three terminals for those who are tired or in a hurry. It impressed me that there was already a record of my baggage from Thailand – on another airline – having been checked in for my Singapore Airlines flight to Johannesburg. In a few minutes I had my boarding pass, with a suitable window seat, so I could photograph the elegant wing tip of the A350 at sunrise.
LOUNGE AND BOARDING: There is no designated lounge for premier economy passengers, but Changi Airport has several areas with reasonably comfortable seats in darkened areas, where you can snooze till your flight leaves at 02h10. Being a Singapore Airlines passenger in transit means you can present your SGD20 Changi Dollar voucher – valid until 31 March 2017 – to spend time in the Ambassador lounge where refreshments and hot showers are available. KrisFlyer Elite Gold members can use the KrisFlyer Elite Gold lounge. In Terminal 3, it was sheer pleasure to bypass the queue of economy class passengers, to be waved ahead for priority boarding.
THE SEAT: The 24 new seats in the premium economy cabin of the A350-900 offer far more space, comfort and convenience than economy class. Configuration is 2-4-2. Every seat has full leather finishing, a calf-rest and foot-bar and increased legroom. Even tall and wide people, like myself, can sit more comfortably with a seat pitch of 97 centimetres, a width ranging between 47-50 centimetres and a 20 centimetre recline. I appreciated the lumbar support and adjustable headrest, the individual in-seat power supply, two USB ports, bright personal in-seat reading light and the additional stowage space for my iPhone. With only eight seats in a row, elbowroom is generous. The new A350s offer eX3 in-flight entertainment system. The personal 33.8 centimetre full-HD monitor – 5.6 centimetres larger than in economy – has a video touch-screen handset. Comfortable, active noise-cancelling headphones are provided. You can surf the internet, send and receive emails on smart phones and other electronic devices, and send and receive SMS text messages with GSM-compatible mobile phones, using Panasonic connectivity services.
THE FLIGHT: Greeted by professional, well-groomed cabin staff dedicated to Premium Economy Class, I was helped to place my hand luggage in the capacious overhead storage units. Hot towels and a welcome drink of Ernest Rapeneau Brut Prestige champagne helped me to feel better in these wee hours of the morning. An upgraded amenity kit held an eye-mask, anti-slip socks a toothbrush and toothpaste, in a pouch designed as a collectible item. Besides a standard menu with three meal choices, on certain long-haul flights – including Singapore to Johannesburg and Cape Town – selections are available from the ‘Premium Economy Book the Cook’ service featuring special dishes like seafood thermidor, rosemary beef brisket, roasted chicken rice, pork congee with century egg and other delectable options. I slept well using the cotton-covered pillows, beneath a light blanket. My request to be left to sleep through breakfast was respected. I was graciously offered a meal when I woke up, although standard service was completed.
ARRIVAL: We arrived at ORTIA on time, at 06h55 and I exited the plane easily, ahead of economy class passengers, so I had a shorter wait at the passport control.
VERDICT: Premium economy on the A350-900 is well worth the extra cost, for its comfortable seats with extra all-round space, positioned in a separate cabin for added privacy, the superior food and cabin service, 35kg baggage allowance, as well as priority check-in and baggage handling, boarding and disembarking.