The Year of COVID19.
2020 has been riddled with transformation, by COVID19 turning the world we know inside out, forcing us to change how we lead our lives, and adapt to the new climate in a post COVID19 world. Corporations and businesses have also been severely affected, some more than others. The Airline industry was one that was greatly hit by the pandemic, as without tourism and business travel, the demand for air travel greatly diminished overnight. In order to survive, Airlines had to adapt in order to stay afloat. Many began shifting to cargo operations using passenger aircraft. Novel concepts of Flights to Nowhere were introduced in Taiwan and Australia, while Thailand opened up an Airline themed restaurant and offered members of the public a chance to be a flight crew in their training facilities. In Singapore, we were introduced to "Discover Your Singapore Airlines", a series of different initiatives curated to allow everyone a chance to experience Singapore Airlines in a different light.
First to launch in the series was "SIA @ Home", a wonderful experience of airline cuisine brought to your home. Second, came "Restaurant A380@Changi", turned the largest airliner in the world into a fine dining experience. Newest to launch is "Inside Singapore Airlines", which brings members of the public behind the scenes on a special tour of SIA's training facilities. Now I must point out, alot of these events were sold out pretty quickly, and I went onto the waiting list along with Dillon from Radar Photography to try our luck. Initially, a business class slot was offered but at S$300 a head, I felt that was a little over our budget. Fortunately, we were able to get 2 slots on the Premium Economy dining experience at S$90 each for the "Restaurant A380@Changi".
In this review, we will showcase the overall impression of the event itself, and give some personal opinions from our experiences on the "Restaurant A380@Changi".
The Registration / Check in Process
It all began with an email from Singapore Airlines confirming the slots for 2 Premium Economy seats at lunch time. After which, we needed to fill up a supplementary form with our details, and make a request for the Pre-dining Aircraft Tour. 5 working days later, another email from Singapore Airlines confirmed our reservations, as well as the Pre-Dining Tour, and sent along a itinerary for the entire event.
On the actual day, we arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 3 and proceeded to Row 2 to "Check-In" to the event. As it was relatively early, there was no crowd. The Singapore Airlines staff greeted us warmly, and even though everyone had their masks on, their friendliness can be seen through their eyes, and felt in the warmth of their words. After receiving our invitation cards, we proceeded through what normally was the First Class Check in Counter to collect our Designated Wristbands, go through a small bag inspection, had our passports retained for the duration of the event, and was guided through to Gate B2 in the Transit area.
Pre- Tour Activities
Arriving at Gate Hold Room, we went through the standard security screening and baggage check as per a normal flight. Once cleared, as I was wearing a Batik themed shirt, I was directed over to a special counter to collect a unique SIA Umbrella. The staff tending to the counter were so kind to compliment the floral patterns on my shirt, and thanked me for taking part in dressing in Batik for the occasion. This little extra effort on SIA's side was a nice touch, and one could really feel the warmth and gratitude of the staff.
As we proceed into the main area of the gate, we were briefed on the activities we can take part in before boarding for the tour. The main activities included having your photo taken at a Logo Wall with 2 of the Cabin crew, learning to make a batik rose, and having your portrait sketched by artists. There was also a scheduled Heritage Show, presenting all the Uniforms of the Cabin crew from the Early days of Malayan Airways Limited, all the way to present day's Singapore Airlines uniforms.
Of all the activities at this point, the most popular ones were the Sketch Artist Portraits and the Heritage Walk. At one point I was a bit concerned about issues of Safe Distancing due to the crowds gathering at the central isle to take photos of the Heritage uniforms, but the event crew were very professional in asking everyone politely to keep their distance, and to have a little patience in waiting for their turn to have some photos taken of the heritage uniforms worn by the crew.
The bonus highlight for us was certainly the Airbus A380 tour. Now of course we have flown on this majestic aircraft before, but never had the chance to fly on any class besides Economy, nor have we ever stepped into SIA's Suites before. Grouping for the tour was done alphabetically, and we were assigned to Group DELHI. It was a group of 15-20 people, but we were further split into smaller groups of 5. Entry into the aircraft was staggered between each group of 5, ensuring no overcrowding and ample space for us to explore the A380. Our A380 today was 9V-SKS, parked at gate B2, while her sister, 9V-SKN was parked at gate B4. The aircraft features all of Singapore Airlines' latest products and amenities, adding on to our excitement and anticipation.
Our guide met us along the jetway to the aircraft, greeting us all with an exciting and joyful vibe. First stop on the tour was to the Suites, located on the upper deck of the aircraft. We boarded via the upper entry way, made a left turn into the suites. While first impressions was the deck was pretty tight, especially along the isle, when we entered the suites, it was quite spacious. We were all separated into different suites, so in our double suite set up, was just myself and Dillon, giving us alot of space to take photos and preview what makes SIA's Suites such a luxurious experience. We were only given about 5 to 7 minutes in the Suites, making the experience a tad rushed. Our guide was kind enough to allow us to separate from the main group to finish our shoot in Suites, giving us an extra minute or so.
After Suites was covered, we proceeded aft of the upper deck to Business Class where again, we were given about 5 minutes to explore the Cabin. My initial impression of the new seat designs in business class was honestly, a little underwhelming. Having seen the previous generation of business class product and felt the new designed seats were not as grand or spacious than before. In retrospect, the new seats are perfectly suited for today's standards of flying, presenting a modern sleek design, ergonomic and functional while cutting away unused space to fit in more business class seats in the cabin of the aircraft.
From Business Class, we proceeded down the aft galley stair well, something I always wanted to check out, and made our way to the Economy class cabin. There is nothing new to the Economy class cabin since our flight to Hong Kong in 2019. The Layout, the seat arrangements are identical. But this tour did give us a good opportunity to take some nice empty shots of the massive cabin. As we zoomed by Economy class and made our way forward to Premium Economy, some special VIPs boarded the aircraft to greet the flight crew. I did not realise at first until Dillon pointed out it was the CEO of Singapore Airlines himself, Mr Goh Choon Phong. It was really humbling to see Mr Goh dressed simply in the SIA Polo Tee shirt, same as the rest of the event staff, coming to the floor to visit the crew at the event. Mr Goh's visit did delay our tour by a few minutes, to which our guide was very apologetic for. We told her it was totally cool, and we were happy to see the airlines CEO at our tour. It's not something we get everyday. The extra minutes also gave us more time to check out the Premium Economy class cabin, the same cabin where our dining experience will be taking place an hour later.
Lastly, to end off the tour, we were allowed to visit the flight deck of the Airbus A380. Knowing we were aviation enthusiasts, our guide let myself and Dillon go last in the flight deck visit, so as we could have a little more time with the flight crew. As we entered the flight deck, we were not allowed to take any photos, with one exception; Photos can be taken by the flight crew using our handphones, but not featuring any of the cockpit instrumentation. That was not a deal breaker at all, the chance to be inside the cockpit was worth any rules and stipulations. Inside the cockpit, I was amazed at how spacious the flight deck was. There was ample space for me to stand, with my backpack slung and not hitting anyone or any wall panel. The captain heard we were avgeeks and was delighted to show us as he called it, "The Christmas Tree", also known as a Panel Light Test. Now that was really a cool light show, and I personally was very appreciative of how the crew reacted to us as fellow aviation lovers, and took the extra step in making the visit even more memorable for us.
Pre- Dining & Boarding for Lunch
Once our tour was concluded, we were brought back to the gate hold room to await the main event; Lunch. Before boarding, a welcome ceremony was held for the crew, as they walked down the walkway led by the Captain and his flight deck crew. Everyone in the room clapped and cheered for the SIA Cabin Crew, as they waved back and smiled gracefully through their masks.
With the crew onboard preparing for our Dining Experience, we waited again in the gate room for about 40minutes before boarding commenced. The boarding process was very orderly and timely, going from Suites to Business Class, followed by Premium Economy and finally Economy Class. At the door of the aircraft, each of us collected a Care kit prepared by the airline, consisting of a Face Mask, Hand Sanitiser and Disinfectant Wipe.
The Dining Experience & Service
As we settled into seats 33J & 33K, we were greeted warmly by Amanda, our service crew for the event. She gave us a brief introduction of the aircraft, asked if we have flown with SIA's new cabin products before, and provided us a detailed introduction to the features of our Premium Economy Class Seat Features. She also gave us a modified safety demonstration, reminding us in the interest of our safety, please DO NOT Fasten our seatbelts while in the "Restaurant A380@Changi" dining experience. We got a laugh out of that one, really a good touch with the humour SQ! Each person was also given a lovely tote bag, which contained several interesting SIA Branded goodies.
Our lunch was served about 30mins after we stepped onto the aircraft, using SIA's business class plate settings instead of the standard Economy / PEY setting. The presentation of our meal was simple, yet elegant. Our meal selection was the Pan Fried Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce, and while the star of the event was the Shermay Lee's Selection, my personal preference of a non-spicy lunch option won over. Along with the main course, we ordered SIA's famous Singapore Sling for our first alcohol beverage. Amanda did note the drink was in high demand, but she will get it to us as soon as possible so we could take some nice photos for our coverage, which was really most kind of her. And indeed, our Singapore Slings arrived in just 4 minutes, with much gratitude from myself and Dillon.
The food was ever so delectable, as are most of SIA's inflight meals. Some initial concern I heard from others were quickly debunked, as the food was not overly salty and I believe the recipe was adjusted for low altitude consumption. While most of our fellow guest enjoyed some form of TV entertainment or a movie, we as aviation enthusiasts opted from something more nostalgic to us, the Voyager 3D flight map system. The plane of course was not moving, but just the visuals of the map and using a bit of imagination brought back some old memories of our journeys with Singapore Airlines. While everyone else was slowly enjoying their meals, my force of habit of dining quickly on a flight shortened my meal time to a meagre 15mins. Even the cabin crew was shocked to see clean plates in such a short time, which indicated to them either we were very hungry or the food was just extraordinary.
For desert, we were served this amazing cube shaped Mango Ice Cream, which was beyond my initial expectations. With another hour and a half to spend, we just sat back and relaxed onboard the A380, I ordered a beer after finishing the Singapore Sling, and soaked in the moments onboard the Airbus, looking out the window and thinking of when we can fly again.
After lunch, the cabin crew got ready for Duty Free shopping. Now I was not expecting any forms of shopping in the experience, and this time round, it was quite different. We had guest calling their family and loved ones, asking if they like to purchase any items. We even had the senior flight attendant talking to one of the guest's family member, explaining the different items on hand and making some attentive recommendations for the person on the phone. Now that is something we never saw before on any flight, anywhere. To show some support, I bought 2 Collins Tote bags, printed with beautiful batik patterns. Not long after, the MC came onboard, and thanked everyone for attending the event, and for showing our continued support for Singapore Airlines, ending the event with a simple but touching, "It's not a matter of if, but when, we will see you all again onboard Singapore Airlines."
All In All
In retrospect, I personally felt Singapore Airlines did well in their plans and their events to survive our current situation. While a lot of us would have preferred the initial "Flight To Nowhere" proposal, the implemented strategies have been received quite favourably by members of the public, as well as professionals in the aviation industry. While certainly these events can only help so much, it is still a move in the right direction, allowing the airline to connect with the people that love them so, as well as give us a chance to experience something different in such times.
For the "Restaurant A380@Changi" experience, I truly applaud Singapore Airlines for their planning & execution, their attention to detail, their warmth and openness to everyone who attended, as well as their understanding and humility during such crisis. We all have gone through a lot, and I cannot say I will ever know how hard it must have been, especially for the crew. But to see all of them greet us, with such warm smiles, putting aside their hardship and giving it all for this event, really goes to show the lengths Singapore Airlines and her crew goes to, to make all of us feel at home.