While short-haul flights don’t usually offer the best value for Krisflyer redemptions, I decided to fork out some miles when I had to fly from MNL to SIN right smack during the busy new year holidays. For this particular route, the miles required for business class were still quite reasonable – at 17,000 Krisflyer miles as MNL is considered under Zone 3. The flight time is about 3.5 hours which makes this route the farthest (and best value!) among Singapore Airlines’ Southeast Asian destinations (ex-SIN).
Expecting it to be particularly busy, I arrived at MNL’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport extra early to find a snaking queue already forming by the entrance. You’ll need to go through a baggage scanner just to enter the departure terminal. Thankfully, there was no queue when I got to the business class counters of Singapore Airlines and I was handed my boarding pass in no time.
I ended up going through immigration way earlier than expected. By the time I arrived at the Silverkris Lounge, I still had over 3 hours prior to boarding. The lounge was just as I remembered when I was last here a few years back. For an airport that is sorely lacking in decent lounges, the Silverkris Lounge was a breath of fresh air. But more about it in a separate review.
Since I had quite a bit of waiting time, I managed to get myself reassigned to another flight. I was originally supposed to take SQ921 on an Airbus A330 but ended up boarding a slightly earlier flight – SQ919 on one of the Boeing 777-200s. Singapore Airlines has quite a few versions of this plane – including a number that still sport the old school business class seats. I had flown on another version of this aircraft a few years back. You can check out my previous review here.
Thankfully, the plane that I got on was a Boeing 777-200 from the retrofitted SR series. There were 38 seats in business class spread over two sections, with the arrangement following a 2-2-2- configuration.
Many of Singapore Airlines’ flights within Southeast Asia follow the same setup in Business Class. With a seat pitch of 60 inches and width of 24.5 inches, it is not the most spacious among SQ’s regional offerings (there are some 777-200ER’s with big boxy business class seats or SQ’s A380 Business Class which is one of the widest in the industry) but I thought it was just fine for a day time flight. In terms of ergonomics, the seats are also more conducive for meal service and for watching movies via the inflight entertainment system, Krisworld.
A control panel allows you to individually control the three sections of the seat (the head rest, the seat itself and the leg rest) while there are more advanced controls for conversion into a 172-degree lie-flat bed.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of storage space found throughout my seat. There were two drawers right in front of me just below the personal screen and a cylindrical one beside it. The latter seemed to be for storing mineral water bottles though none were offered during the flight.
I also could not help but notice that Singapore Airlines no longer uses in-house branded headphones. Instead, they are now from Phitek. The earcups are markedly smaller but I still found them quite comfortable. They are also quite decent in the noise-cancelling department.
Prior to take-off, a stewardess came by to ask what I wanted to drink. Before I could mutter anything, she suggested the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne and I obliged.
A few minutes after take-off – right after the seatbelt sign was turned off – a stewardess – who assumed I had already read the menu – came up to me to ask for my choice for main course. Craving some home style food, I originally wanted something from the new Teochew classics that the airline was offering in premium cabins until I realized it was not being offered on this particular flight. Instead, I went for the Seared Salmon with Corn Succotash, Onion, Fava Bean, Zucchini and Corn Kernel, a specialty item which was a collaboration between Singapore Airlines and Suzanne Goin of Lucques Restaurant in Los Angeles.
Dinner commenced with an appetizer consisting of salad with Parma Ham with Roasted Pears. While the starter was nothing to shout about, I thought it looked uncannily familiar to the starter I had on my very first “J” class flight with SQ nine years ago. Coincidentally, that flight was also ex-MNL. Same caterer, perhaps? Anyway, my attention was focused on the bread basket as I asked for seconds of my favorite garlic bread – my default choice in Singapore Airlines business class.
The collaboration dish soon followed – consisting of a chunky portion of salmon on top of thin slices of carrots, eggplant and with sweet corn and red pepper thrown in. While the serving of the fish was large, I thought it was rather dry – quite possibly because the cut was too thick. The vegetables underneath provided a bit of consolation – fresh and with a nice buttery coating.
The dessert soon followed and the stewardess brought out a large tray containing delightful cheese cake and ice cream. While I like cake, the words “Avocado Macchiato Ice Cream” seemed like music to my ears so I ended up getting ice cream instead. My scoop came coated with chocolate and while the avocado flavor was not as pronounced as I had hoped, I thought the ice cream was a great ending to the meal. It was even better with a piping hot cup of ginger tea with honey – the same beverage usually served in spas in order to calm the nerves and relieve stress.
I wanted to get a bit of shut-eye after the meal service and noticed that slippers were no longer automatically provided. A quick query revealed that these were still available – just that they’re now given upon request. I thought it was actually better that way. Only a small proportion of passengers would likely have a need for slippers on a 3.5 hour flight anyway.
For a regional business class product, I thought the retrofitted 777-200 was more than sufficient given all that it offered. Service was efficient and the food was not wanting in terms of variety. I have flown J on these regional flights a couple of times now and beyond the variations in the seats, I always end up discovering some small nuances with each flight. I remember a time when the cabin crew would actually kneel when speaking to seated passengers (which I thought was totally unnecessary). Thankfully, that is no longer the case. One thing I wish they retained though is the addressing of business class passengers by name. It is not an issue by any means – I thought it made for a nice touch back then. But I may just be nitpicking.