TRIED & TESTED FLIGHTS
Singapore Airlines’ MAN-IAH
Singapore Airlines has 19 A350s in its fleet, and orders for another 50. This flight starts from Singapore and flies via Manchester five times weekly. The flight has a two-hour stop when it arrives in the UK in the morning and then flies westward to Houston. It then returns from Houston to Singapore via Manchester.
I arrived at Manchester International Terminal 2 at 0800 for the 1020 departure on SQ52. There were separate queues for economy, premium economy and business passengers, though at 8am there were only a few people queuing in the check-in lanes. I didn’t have any bags to check. I was given a sticker for fast-track security that saved a little time, but the rest of the airport was busy. Premium economy passengers do not get lounge access.
The flight started to board from the gate at around 0930. I managed to get on early, so I could film the cabin (see youtube/businesstraveller).
Singapore Airlines has a three-class configuration of the aircraft: 187 economy seats, 24 in premium economy and 42 in business. There is no first class. The premium economy cabin is lovely and small at just 24 seats, arranged in a 2-4-2 layout across three rows. Each seat is 19-inches wide, with a 38-inch pitch and a recline of eight inches. The front row of the cabin (row 31) has more leg room, and a supplement is charged for seats here (£76 for this trip). There was a bottle of water at the seat and after take-off we were given a small amenity kit containing a pair of flight socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Ear plugs and eye mask are available on request. Added benefits of premium economy include a larger IFE monitor (13 inches), Nicholas Feuillatte champagne, and a slightly expanded food choice.
The front row seats are best, though the middle four seats here are where the bassinets go if there are babies on board. The back row (row 33) has bassinets directly behind, in the front row of economy. Go for window or aisle seats (AC or HK). There are no dedicated washrooms – you walk back into economy to find them.
There was a delay while we waited for de-icing, and it was about 1130 before we took off. We were kept informed by the pilot throughout. Shortly after take-off, drinks including champagne were brought round. The wifi was switched on at 1200. I was tempted to use it, but thought it was quite expensive at $25.95 for the flight. I realise it’s costly to provide the service, and I doubt any airline has worked out how to make money from it. But if it is offered, it needs to be at a better price.
There was a choice of three main courses (chicken, fish or beef). I had stir-fried beef in black pepper sauce with Chinese vegetables and fried rice, followed by Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
About an hour after lunch, the lights were dimmed to allow passengers to sleep. The aircraft is so quiet that you can hear snoring on the other side of the cabin. Some travellers worked, keeping their devices charged with the in-seat power, and using the wifi. I watched a couple of films, worked for a while, dozed and then read a book. The seat reclines by eight inches, but also moves forward, so you don’t impinge too much on the person behind (neither does the person in front squash into you). It felt comfortable, whether working on my laptop or watching a film. The only problem was that my front row leg rest and calf rest were broken, and despite the best attempts of the flight attendants, it could not be fixed. I didn’t mind because my feet were propped up on my bag.
The flight went by surprisingly quickly. Before landing we had another meal with a choice of sandwiches, and some fruit and a chocolate bar. We landed only slightly late from our de-icing in Manchester and came off the aircraft immediately after business class.
An excellent flight – I arrived feeling no more tired than when I set off. The premium economy seat on the A350 is very comfortable, the service friendly, and the food choice, presentation and quality were all good.
The aircraft is so quiet that you can hear snoring on the other side of the cabin