Flight Review: Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR from LAX to Singapore Changi
We were heading to Bali in late December and on the prowl for award availability about 6 months out. Our usual favorite carrier, EVA Air out of Seattle didn’t have anything available ahead of time, though they usually free up some seats last minute. I wanted to lock something down earlier considering we were travelling in the very busy travel days leading up to Christmas and I ended up on Singapore Airline’s for the journey.
Back in July 2018 Singapore Airlines announced they would be re-launching their flight from LAX to SIN and about 2 business class seats opened up throughout their schedule shortly after.
While I don’t absolutely love Singapore Airline’s business class seat, the rest of the product is classy and I jumped at the opportunity to book a one-way flight from LAX to Bali via Singapore for 88,000 Krisflyer miles. I transferred most of these over from my stash of Citi ThankYou points and they hit my account instantly. I was also about to schedule a 23 hour layover in Singapore - just enough time to get some Chili Crab! I did have to also shell out 10,000 Delta SkyMiles for a positioning flight from Seattle to LAX.
Star Alliance Gold members holding a same-day boarding pass and Business Class passengers get access to the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX in Tom Bradley International Terminal.
I posted full review of the lounge here, but the highlights included a large outdoor patio:
A sizeable buffet and self-server noodle bar:
8 clean shower rooms that had about a 20 minute wait:
And plenty of seating with outlets::
Agents from Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Asiana and EVA were also all stationed at the lounge this particular evening to support passengers as needed.
Boarding, Cabin and Seat
About one hour prior to departure we made our way to Gate 142 which is a bus gate in the Costco-like part of TBIT. Boarding started with families and those who needed assistance followed by a large group of Business Class passengers. Since this was one of SQs Ultra Long Range birds, it only has two cabins - Business Class and Premium Economy with a 161 seats total. 67 in Biz and 94 in Premium Economy. Considering normal configurations carry over 300 passengers, this is quite a premium-heavy bird.
Rather than board the aircraft directly from stairs, we entered a hangar of sorts that had handicap-accessible walking switchbacks up to the aircraft jet bridge. We the entered the plane from door 2L and made our way to seats 15D and 15F. There were two FAs checking boarding passes upon entering the aircraft and directing passengers. Even after I had my pass verified an FA literally ran over from the far aisle around the front of the aircraft to me just to ensure I was going the right way (but he really wanted to make sure I was actually booked in biz).
I liked the Maroon and Brown hues of the seats and the bronze accents. Each seat was already stocked with an eye mask, socks and two cozy pillows - the houndstooth design was classy. The entire cabin looked extremely modern and sleek.
The seats are wide and extremely comfortable in an upright position, though they were slightly awkward in the flat position. You have to sleep at an angle across the seat to have enough room to stretch out. It wasn’t terrible, though definitely a mild issue. Also the seat itself was quite hard which might be annoying to some, though I actually prefer firmer sleeping surfaces. The pillows and comforters were top notch.
The way the seat was created you have to actually get out of the bed and pull the mattress down to lay flat. You cannot transition between upright and lie-flat positions in one go. The FAs though were happy to make your bed whenever you wanted to transition. When the seat was all the way down though, it was easy enough to lounge with a few pillows against the back wall. There were some seat controls available to get more comfy in the upright position.
The in-flight entertainment screen is massive and clocks in at 18 inches and is controlled by a wired remote. There was also a convenient cup holder and storage compartment next to the TV. The Krisworld entertainment system had a ridiculous amount of content from movies to TV shows to games. More than enough content to keep you occupied for 16+ hours.
Singapore also provided noise-cancelling headphones which were sturdy and offered decent sound quality.
More storage was available close to the headrest - this area would be ideal for a book or magazine. There was also a convenient light and USB charger along with a host of other ports.
SQ does not offer pre-packaged amenity kits in Business Class, though they do come around and assemble one in front of you after boarding is complete. While I like the idea to reduce waste, the FA just put one of each item into my kit without asking what I would like, so the net result was the same as a pre-packaged kit. None of the offerings were particularly luxurious and the kit as a whole was disappointing compared to most airlines - even United has been offering Cowshed toiletries for years.
The bathroom was sparkling throughout the flight and was stocked with dental kits, lotion and other toiletries to freshen up. No pajamas were available.
Food and Beverage
Shortly after boarding the FAs made their way to our seats to bring us a welcome drink - I indulged in my first glass of Champagne.
After taking a peak at the menu it seemed that the first meal was a lighter meal, and the main meal would be served 8-10 hours into the flight.
SQ was serving Charles Heidsieck Brut which retails for $60 to $70 a bottle. The rest of the wines on the menu which included a Bordeaux, Rioja, Riesling and Chardonnay all retailed for around $20 on average. I had also Booked The Cook online ahead of time and chose the “Sweet and Sour Fish” though I requested to change my meal to the Biryani on the normal menu which the FA on my side was happy to accomodate.
I overheard another passenger in the other aisle who didn’t have the same luck when he made a similar request with a different FA. The menu was incredibly large and diverse - credit to SQ who take their food very seriously - I included pictures of the whole thing towards the end of the review.
About 30 minutes after takeoff, the FAs came around with carts to serve another round of drinks. I couldn’t pass up another glass of some silky smooth Champagne which was served with an elegant ramekin of nuts.
My Biryani came out about 20 minutes later which was off-the-wall good. Almost as good as the stuff you can find in the hawker centers in Singapore and bursting with flavor. This was served with a small fruit bowl as dessert. There isn’t a true “dessert” service as part of the first meal considering its pretty late at night in our departure time zone - close to 11:30 PM. I washed it down with a beautiful French Red.
I was still pining for dessert so I looked through the snack menu and saw Randy’s Donuts listed - an LA Delicacy! I requested one which was the highlight of the flight. I’ve never eaten a donut a) with a fork and knife and b) in-flight!
I sunk into a food coma shortly after gobbling down the donut.
The second and “main” meal service began about 8 hours into our flight. It’s tough to get the timings of meals perfect on an 16 hour flight, but this one felt just about one hour too soon. I had to do it justice, so I mustered up the energy to slunk out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth and get ready for round two.
The meal started with smoked duck, walnuts and endive.
I didn’t book the cook on the main course and opted for the Halibut Korma which was outstanding. The fish was nicely cooked and spiced well without being too spicy. The side of okra was also sublime and the presentation on Narumi China dishware was snazzy.
Finally for desert I went for a chocolate cake, which was more of a mousse in cake form. It was quite heavy and tasted as you’d expect. A few bites was more than enough.
Overall, quality was the food was top-notch. The timing of the meals was a little strange, but again I’m not sure how I would change it. It was also cool to see “Canyon Ranch” options which are lighter, healthier options for the health-conscious traveler, though I couldn’t resist the heavier stuff.
The FAs throughout the flight were professional and elegant. I love the “Singapore Girl” outfit and the team overall was solid. That being said, there were 67 passengers in this full Business Class flight throughout two large cabins which inevitably makes the experience lose some of the personal touch of smaller cabins. The aggressive re-verification of my boarding pass slightly annoyed me and there were a couple of times I had requested water or refills which never came. None of this was a big deal at all and the utmost of first world problems, but after flying SQ Suites and Biz where we were absolutely spoiled rotten by Singapore FAs, I have an unfairly high expectations of SQs service in premium cabins. As a whole, their service was better than 90% of the business class flights I have been on, even though at times it felt rushed. I can imagine these ultra long-hauls are incredibly tiring to work, even with their scheduled breaks.
I had a great time on this 17 hour flight from LA to Singapore - the convenience of a non-stop cannot be beat and enjoying a doughnut at 35,000 feet was an enlightening experience.. That being said, I don’t think SQs business class product is truly industry-leading. While none of it was bad, I find standard reverse herringbone seats more comfortable than Singapore’s seat. In addition, the “build-your-own” amenity kits felt kind of cheap, no pajamas were offered and the business class cabin is absolutely massive which makes personalized service tough. Some of this is also probably attributed to Singapore having a First Class product which they need to differentiate - but First isn’t offered on these A350s. The flight was still better than the majority of biz products out there, though I would probably choose to take a layover with EVA Air if I was parting with the exact same amount of dollars or miles on the same route.