The Best Way To Fly

Everyone has an opinion about airlines. Everyone has a preferred airline. When hiccups occur, as things don’t always go to plan, opinions can quickly change. I didn’t think I would write an article praising an airline, but I have felt the need to do so for some time now.

For I am constantly astonished at just how excellent Singapore Airlines is. I don’t profess to be an expert on all of the world’s carriers, and there are many that I haven’t travelled with. But I have flown many, and I have flown a great deal, particularly over the last ten years. For now, and for a long time prior, Singapore Airlines (referred as SQ for the rest of this article) has, for me, been the best of them and deserving of the analysis and praise that I am giving here.

SQ is the proud, deserved winner of many of the world’s top airline awards, Skytrax World’s Best Airline 2019, TripAdvisor 2018 Best Airline in The World, Conde Nast Traveller (UK) Best Cabin Staff 2018, amongst them. But awards aside, my own personal thoughts and observations are what count here.

At the outset, let me make clear that I am talking about the Business Class experience. The premium product is really where airlines are measured. Examination at that price point is most fascinating and make or break for full service carriers.

It’s the consistency of SQ across all areas that astounds me. On every flight I take with them I watch the most professional of cabin crews at work. They work seamlessly together, all with their dedicated responsibilities, and flow as a team better than any I have seen in the air.

The impeccably styled men and women that form the SQ crew never miss a beat. There is obvious and clear respect between both the men and women, something that I have not seen on other carriers. There is also a level of calm and cool control, something that I believe to be very important, as flying can be a stressful exercise for many. The feeling that the SQ crew convey to passengers is perfectly in-tune. 

The service simply must be singled out. It is so very good. From calling you by name, remembering your drink preference, and the friendly banter at just the right time, coupled with the knowledge of when that is appropriate.

To the aircraft – SQ has invested heavily in new planes, the super fuel-efficient and long-range Airbus A350 (variants) and Boeing B787 (variants). Along with the shiny new jets are brand new Business Class hard products (seating). This is an area that divides many, as comfort is a highly individual thing. The pride the crew take in the planes and the product is obvious. The “older” fleet, including the B777’s (a personal favourite) are constantly updated and refitted.

Compared to other national carriers in the Asia-Pacific region, SQ’s investment is clear, constant and proud. Pricing remains very competitive on the sparkling new product, whilst other national carriers (not to mention names) continue with old planes, inferior product, diminishing service and food, at an equal price point.

The SQ food offering deserves special mention. The excellence cannot be understated. From the linen tablecloths, to the china plating, laid out initially as in a fine-dining restaurant, the appetiser arriving shortly after, followed by your selected main course.

The (mostly) spectacular offerings of the Book-The-Cook service, created by a specially selected international culinary team of world-famous chefs, are well worth ordering online in advance of your flight. Particularly out of the Singapore home base, where almost 50 meals, covering Western, Asian, Indian, Singaporean and wholesome Wellness options are yours for the choosing. The way these are executed sets an absolute airline food standard. The presentation of the dishes equals any fine-diner I have ever experienced. Any airline that can execute perfect Lobster Thermidor 30,000 feet up gets my vote!

In fact, just this month, I chose a dish from the Book-The-Cook menu that turned out to be one of the best dishes I have enjoyed in the past decade on the ground, let alone in the air. How this could be so incredibly good on a plane completely blew me away. The dish, Chinese Style steamed Cod, beautifully tender, drizzled with a delicate spinach emulsion, served with seasonal oriental vegetables, Chinese black mushrooms and egg fried rice. The delicate dish, in exquisite balance, designed by SQ International Culinary Panel chef Zhu Jun, the classically trained Executive Chef at Shanghai’s renowned Jade Garden Restaurant, was absolutely superb.

And so to another. On a recent morning flight, the breakfast choices off menu were few and I didn’t have high expectations. How wrong I was. An absolute knockout Mee Goreng (pic at left) was textbook perfect and made even the more luxurious with tender fat scallops, juicy tiger prawns and lovely grilled white fish, accompanied with Chinese vegetables, mung beans, tomatoes and crunchy dried shrimps. What a breakfast!

So yes, the planes, the service, the food – oh, and the world-beating viewing choice of the Kris Flyer entertainment system. A massive amount of content. All the big stuff, the important things that you want to be just perfect for the long flight ahead. They are. But it’s also the little things, the over-and-above. Here’s a few I have noticed.

Possibly the worst part of the cabin crews’ job is the cleaning, or should I say “refreshing” of the bathrooms. Not once, and I mean not a single time, have I ever seen a dirty washroom. I noticed this mostly on my last SQ flight, where the bathrooms were odour free, the mirrors spotless, the vanity wiped down and most amazingly, the loo rolls never empty and the edge of them had been folded in a triangle formation – like new, just like when your hotel room has had the full morning clean. With each visit to the loo, this was the case.

Of course, nothing is perfect, but I do find it hard to fault SQ. I have been on board at times when sometimes something has not gone to plan, the meal service is a little late, that kind of thing. The crew never lose their s**t, they might speed up a little, but the team unison is always there, and tension is invisible to passengers, unless you are right in the galley. This is just as it should be.

As a frequent flyer, the SQ Kris Flyer frequent flyer programme is generous with its redemption availability and it is not a complicated exercise to redeem points online. Unlike a greedy other national carrier (again, no names), where there are no guaranteed upgrades (you have to wait to be advised until just prior to flying, or, even at the gate at boarding time) Just in case that revenue comes in, of course. Too bad for the loyal flyers. 

SQ has been criticised of still using their female attendants so heavily in their marketing, but now without the mention of the “Singapore Girl”. In this age of MeToo and women’s rights, is this the right image to present? The airline is one of the world’s most recognisable and successful brands, why wouldn’t they continue the imagery? There is something very reassuring about the symbolism.

Marketing has been refreshed, of course, as with every other element of the SQ experience, but it has always remained on point and on brand. A study in image excellence. The airlines humble slogan for so many years was the memorable “A Great Way To Fly”. Well, in my eyes, it could be upgraded, quite simply, as “The Best Way To Fly”

I have some trips ahead on some major national carriers which will be my first experiences with them. I wait for the day SQ may be knocked off the top of my perch, but frankly, I can’t see it coming. The airline is a model in excellence and consistency and for that, and everything else they give me and have done for me, much of it silent and beautifully executed, I will remain loyal to my most admired brand in the world.

 

FOOTNOTE

All my flights on Singapore Airlines have been at my own expense. The company has not had any involvement or endorsement in this article. This rule applies to all articles in my journal.

Mr. R