Singapore Airlines and the art of airline management
Meticulous planning of each and every detail has helped the carrier soar
Airlines compete to provide the best flying experience to passengers, in terms of safety, comfort, punctuality, hospitality and meals provided onboard. If you are a business or first-class traveller, you get that extra care and attention from the cabin crew. But behind those services are various training programmes, joint ventures with multiple organisations and immense planning.
A look at what happens behind the scenes of one of Asia’s best airlines, Singapore Airlines.
Training in simulators
As safety of passengers hinges on the expertise of pilots, most pilots undergo recurrent/refresher training programmes at least twice a year.
All the pilots from Singapore Airlines, who operate Airbus fleet, are trained in the Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC) — a joint venture between Singapore Airlines (45 per cent) and Airbus (55 per cent). AATC, located in Singapore, trains about 6,000 pilots every year from 60 different airlines.
Depending on the qualifications and experience of the pilot, the training programme at AATC spans between three days and one month. The three training technologies used in AATC include interactive training applications such as Airbus Cockpit Experience (ACE), Airbus Pilot Transition (APT) and Full Flight Simulators (FFS). Airbus A350 full flight simulator gives pilots a hands-on experience
ACE replicates the airplane’s cockpit either on a laptop or a tablet from which the pilot learns about aircraft systems and procedures, digitally. The APT is a fixed cockpit set-up that gives an idea about the position and functioning of an Airbus cockpit.
And FFS simulates the aircraft and the environment in which it flies. It allow pilots to be trained in scenarios, such as take-off, landing, emergency landing and water landing; it may not be possible for pilots to undergo training in a few of these on a real aircraft.
Catering — a world in itself
Behind Singapore Airlines’ inflight meal, there’s enormous planning on the quantity and quality of meals, menus and meal specification for each class, raw material requirements, introduction or inventory of kitchen equipment, timely delivery and managing food waste.
To meet the meal requirements
for flights departing from Singapore, the Airlines has outsourced these catering services to SATS — the chief ground-handling and inflight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport. SATS, in Singapore, prepares 120,000 meals per day.
SATS operates with a team of food technologists, dietitians and culinary chefs who work together to develop various menus. Singapore Airlines, on its part,develops meals for the premium cabin classes, in association with celebrity chefs, including Alfred Portale from New York and Sanjeev Kapoor from India.
Then, the ‘Think Lab’at SATS conducts various tests essential to the product’s development process. Further, the new items are tested in a simulated cabin, that recreates in-flight conditions when it is cruising at 30,000 ft. This is to assess the actual in-flight experience of the food, as our taste buds work differently at different altitudes. To prepare and process the meal, SATS uses new technologies such as omelette vending machine and a rice line that is capable of cooking varieties of rice — Jasmine rice, Japanese rice, Indian basmati rice and flavoured chicken rice.
Recently, SATS also invested in a pasteurisation and sterilisation technology that can supposedly extend the shelf life of freshly cooked food from two to 90 days.
Apart from food technologies, SATS is also making use of other scientific advancements, robots within its premises to carry food from one destination to another.
Small things matter
At Singapore Airlines Training Centre, one can see wellgroomed girls and boys training for cabin services, security and emergency evacuation drills at various aircrafts’ cabin mock-ups for first, business, premium economy and economy classes.
The cabin crew are given training in activities that are construed as trivial, such as arranging news-papers, selecting appropriate glasses for each variant of beverage and serving meals of various cuisines — Indian, Chinese and Japanese. For instance, placing chop-sticks appropriately in Chinese and Japanese meal trays.
One facility that catches everybody’s attention during a visit to this training centre is the wide swimming pool forsimulating water conditions, should the aircraft have an emergency landing on water. Training for newly-inducted Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew takes over 15 weeks.
The writer was in Singapore at the invitation of Singapore Airlines.