Review of Singapore Airlines flight Hong Kong Singapore in Economy

Airline Singapore Airlines
Flight SQ863
Class Economy
Seat 48A
Aircraft Airbus A350-900
Flight time 03:59
Take-off 01 Jun 19, 14:29
Arrival at 01 Jun 19, 18:28
SQ   #2 out of 134 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 585 reviews
4enginesnot4longhaul
Published on 2nd June 2019

Arrived at Hong Kong International Airport using one of the airport buses around 2 hours before departure. For anyone visiting Hong Kong, I'd really recommend using the bus over the airport express for travel to and from the airport, with the reason being that the bus can normally get you directly closer to where you want to go in the city, while you will most likely have to transfer to a shuttle bus in the city if you are using the Airport Express (especially for Kowloon MTR station). Most importantly, the buses are always less than half the price of the Airport Express, and have luggage racks which makes taking the bus feasible.

The gate assigned for today's flight was gate 26, which is close by after clearing immigration and security. Indeed, this is one of the plus points of taking SQ to and from HKG, the gates assigned are always close to immigration, and does not require you to take a shuttle train which can be quite a hassle. Especially so considering that HKG is a large airport with quite a few gates located very far away.

Arrived at the gate to find this A350-900 parked here. Boarding was slightly delayed by 10 mins which otherwise proceeded uneventfully. 


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Once everything was ready, the aircraft taxied out to the runway, and surprisingly took off relatively quickly. This was quite a pleasant surprise because based on past experiences, HKG is quite commonly congested with long takeoff queues.


Looking out of the window, I could see the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, along with Chep Lak Kok island (which HKG is built on) and Lantau Island.


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Settled into the flight with some beer and Family Guy on the IFE. Crackers were also given out (but I forgot to take a picture of it).


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The cabin of the A350 is probably my favourite among all Airbus/Boeing Fleets. The large overhead bins, mood lighting, higher cabin pressure, and quieter engines all contribute to a more enjoyable flight. Most importantly, being in cattle class, having 18 inch wide seats is the biggest plus point over the Boeing 787s. I did not feel my neighbor's shoulder pressing against me on this flight, unlike previous experiences on the 787.

However there were some issues with the specific seat that I sat in (more on that below). 


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For this flight, a full lunch was served complete with ice cream, with two choices - international and oriental selection. I opted for the international selection, with red wine to go along with it.


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Took a bite out of the appetizer and returned it after two bites. It was only after the meal that I noticed that the salad was the selection for the oriental selection, when I have selected the international selection. No big deal for me, since I already had lunch before the flight. But for some travelers who may be more particular with these minute details, they may expect better.


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The main course was edible but average. Chicken was a bit dry and overcooked (to be expected for an airplane meal), but otherwise nothing much to write home about. The bun was just like your normal airplane bun, which is good.


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After the meal, Haagen-Dazs ice cream was distributed, which was the best part of the meal. This is the part where I really like about the catering for SQ out of HKG, this ice-cream brand is almost always served in Y. Personally I prefer this over the magnum/SATS brand ice cream given out when catering is done by SIN. 

Overall, the meal was somewhat disappointing (except for the bun and ice cream), I would have expected better given that I have had some amazing meals coming out of HKG in the past. 


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One issue with the fold-able tray table is that the left half droops down slightly. So during the meal I had to put the try on the right half to prevent the tray from sliding down. Not sure if this is normal or due to wear and tear, since I rarely seat in the front row.


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Watching my favorite IFE channel - the airshow.


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A picture I took out of the window when the aircraft (briefly) crossed over Vietnam.


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Being an extra legroom seat, the handset was located in the armrest. The layout was totally user-friendly, and so was the interface of the IFE. Indeed I should say here that the Krisworld IFE does live up to its expectations, with a wide variety of options.


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I always believe in presenting both sides of a story, both good and bad. In this case, I find everything that I've written above to be satisfactory and have given credit where it is due. However there is something that is really unsatisfactory about this flight, and I will mention it below in detail. If any you find the following section long (or boring), do feel free to skip the following section.
 
As mentioned briefly above, there was some issue with the seat and the manner which the crew handled the incident on the flight was totally unacceptable to me. I am normally not a fussy traveler, and to put this into perspective, I have traveled on UA's long haul economy class and I have no complaints about their food or IFE (despite there being much room for improvement). Neither do I have any complaints about the very tin seats with almost no padding, or the (lack of) food that UA offers on their domestic flights in economy.

I was assigned seat 48A during online check in. As you can see, it is an extra legroom seat and I was assigned that although I did not pay or reserve for one (this is something I would commend SQ for). But there was an issue getting into and out of the seat.


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The tray table and IFE are located in the right armrest of the seat, leaving a very narrow gap between my neighbor in 48B. When I wanted to leave my seat to use the toilet, it was almost impossible to cross. This is before the seat in front (47B) reclined, so if that were to happen on a long haul flight, you probably need to be a stick-man to exit via this way.


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So instead I went through the front (as anyone with common sense would so), since the space was larger there. But guess what, the lady in 47B decided to rest her feet (the feet you see in the picture below) against the emergency slide. When I got up, the essentially placed the sole of her shoe on the wall/door (even higher up than seen in the picture below), and told me to via the back.

Here's bit more about the middle aged Chinese lady in 47B.  It was obvious that she was a frequent flyer, since the cabin crew were attending to her very attentively throughout the flight, bringing coffee and tea, as well as other foodstuffs to her continuously (from right after takeoff to right before landing) - I have no issues with that. She also spent quite a bit on the inflight shopping products - again I have no issues with that, since that is totally within her rights.

Back to the issue of the lady blocking the path in front of my seat. I went to the toilet twice during the flight. The first time, she let me get out but when I wanted to get back in, she barked at me to get back in at the back. I barely squeezed in (my legs hurt in the process) given the very narrow space caused by the armrest

The second time I needed to go to the toilet, I asked the flight attendant if I could be allowed to exit via the front given the very narrow space caused by the armrest. After talking to the lady in 47B, the flight attendant simply repeated the story that the lady in 47B said to me (for e.g. since this was an emergency exit seat with extra legroom, blah blah blah …). I mean I would have expected a solution, not more stories and explanations! Since you have to go when you have to go, I sternly insisted that I was going to pass through that area and asked her to put her leg off the emergency slide/door for a moment to let me pass.

The issue that we have here is a need (to use the washroom), and not a want (such as IFE and other stuff).  To put it bluntly it is a human need, and you cannot ignore it since it relates to your health and well-being.  That is why cannot accept what has happened here.
 
I accept that the root cause of the issue here is due to the issue in design of the seat. I also understand that the cabin crew have a challenging time serving such demanding passengers, such as the lady sitting in front. However, as a paying customer, I would expect a solution from the cabin crew (e.g. a change of seat), which did not happen, but instead got explanations and stories which did not help one bit in solving the issue at hand. I let the issue go in this case since the flight by that point was going land and be over soon. This is the reason I am putting a low rating for the cabin crew below.


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Anyway, the flight soon neared Singapore, and soon started decent. However due to congestion, we were put into a holding pattern. This lasted for around 15 minutes. The captain handled this professionally, constantly providing updates from the flight deck (very good, this is beyond my expectations). Screenshot from flightradar24 with the path taken.


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Spotted another aircraft in the holding pattern out of my window (pardon the poor quality picture).


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Soon we landed into Singapore and parked at Terminal 3 uneventfully. Baggage came quickly and I got out to landside in no time.



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Verdict

Singapore Airlines

4.2/10
Cabin2.0
Cabin crew1.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering5.0

Hong Kong - HKG

10.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Singapore - SIN

10.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

Cabin - The seat has issues as mentioned above, and combined with a nasty seatmate in front, made for a poor flight. However the A350 is still my favorite aircraft and I would pick this aircraft (in another seat) if I had the choice, especially for long haul flights.
Cabin crew - Really a let down on this flight. While it's understandable they have a challenging time dealing with that demanding passenger who has frequent flyer status, from a customer's point of view, what I experienced is unacceptable and makes the experience fall far short of expectations overall.
Entertainment/wifi - one of the best, wide variety. Did not try the wifi although it was stated that it's available (it's not free)
Meal/catering - Average but edible, some minor hiccups (e.g. with the appetizer), but doesn't matter to me. The ice cream saved the day.
HKG airport - Efficient as always, and good experience with SQ since they are always assigned to gates close to immigration
SIN airport - also efficient and indeed a good airport as well.

A piece of advice: If anyone is choosing a seat on the long haul version of SQ on a long haul flight, I'd really recommend against 48A or 48K since you may encounter difficulty getting into/out of the seat, especially if you encounter any unruly passengers sitting in front of you

Overall, we often forget that safety should be the top priority, and indeed SQ takes care of that very well. This is one of the main reasons I will continue to take SQ in the long run.

Information on the route Hong Kong (HKG) Singapore (SIN)

2 Comments

  • Comment 505332 by
    lbfortress 62 Comments

    That's a tough situation to find yourself in. I will remember this if I fly Singapore and this model. I wonder if others have said the same thing about that seat on other sites. I'm a fan of the A350 too. I love how quiet it is, even compared to the 787.

  • Comment 505783 by
    ThomasDutch GOLD 385 Comments

    While I absolutely love the comfort of an A350, I usually tend to avoid those kind of seats despite the extra legroom, which in regular seats is never really a problem with SQ, but I'm kinda shocked on how that crew was handling the situation. Yes, she may have been a special status traveller, but there are more passengers and it's not about just one.... but people are people and many can be jerks. I hope the people in your row were more attentive if you needed to move out.

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