SINGAPORE: "Bedroom” cabin suites and new seats that leverage on technology were among the changes unveiled on Thursday (Nov 2) by Singapore Airlines (SIA) for its revamped Airbus 380s.
The US$850 million (S$1.16 billion) cabin overhaul comes as SIA marked a decade of flying the superjumbos and as the national carrier carries out a review of its business amid stiffening competition.
The changes include a revamp to its first-class suites, which were reduced from 12 to six and moved from the lower to upper deck.
Apart from being “significantly more spacious”, each suite also offers more privacy with its sliding doors and electronically adjustable roller-blinds, said SIA’s chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong at the product launch.
The suites are also equipped with a 21-inch wide leather chair upholstered by Italian furniture maker Poltrona Frau, alongside a standalone full-flat bed with plush bedding and duvet designed by French luxury label Lalique.
Designed to feel like a “bedroom”, the revamped first-class suites will give passengers the options of both a bed and a seat, SIA's divisional vice-president for customer experience Betty Wong told Channel NewsAsia in an earlier interview ahead of the launch. Currently, the seat in the suite needs to be folded in for the bed to be made.
Apart from “demand-supply considerations”, the changes to the suites will allow more efficient use of space in the aircraft, Mr Goh said.
Other updates include a change in the number of business class seats. The new A380s will have 78 business class seats on the upper deck, compared to previous configurations of 60 and 86.
Tapping on new technology, the business class seats have a carbon fibre composite shell structure, compared to conventional aircraft seats which use metal as the primary support structure.
This creates a thinner base structure which allows for better optimisation of the seat and creates more under-seat storage space to accommodate a standard-size trolley bag, which Mr Goh said is a "first in the world".
The seats can also recline directly into a full-flat bed of 78 inches, and the center divider can be lowered to form double beds.
Meanwhile, the premium economy class will get its own exclusive cabin zone. With 44 seats, the premium economy section on board the new A380 will be SIA's biggest thus far.
In the economy class, seats will offer more legroom and back support, with a six-way adjustable headrest with foldable wings. The seats will also come with an 11.1-inch touchscreen monitor, personal storage space for small items, a coat hook, in-seat power supply and a footrest with adjustable positions.
The new-look cabins also come decked with the latest in-flight entertainment system myKrisWorld, which includes features that are new in the industry.
These include content recommendations based on customer preferences and viewing history, and KrisFlyer members being able to bookmark and resume content, as well as customise and save preferences on myKrisWorld for subsequent flights.
“We are pushing the boundaries (with) new design concepts, new materials and new technologies but still focusing on how those innovation can bring greater comfort and convenience to our customers,” said Mr Goh.
The research and development of the A380 cabin upgrades first began in 2013 and involved extensive customer feedback. The overhaul was a necessary move given rising expectations from travellers, according to Ms Wong.
"Ten to 20 years ago, people may expect that when you get on board, you can get a bit less but somehow the expectations have changed. The gap between what you do on the ground and in the air has narrowed. That's difficult because your aircraft is a finite space so you get a lot more challenges in managing space and inventory,” she said.
The new cabin products will be fitted on the five new A380s that SIA has on order with Airbus, with the rest of the fleet scheduled to be retrofitted from now until 2020.
Mr Goh said the airline’s “significant investment” on new cabin products demonstrates its commitment to continued investment in products and services, as well as a long-term approach to ensure SIA retains its leadership position and “confidence in the future of premium full-service air travel”.
The first revamped A380, flight SQ221, will depart Singapore at 8.40pm on Dec 18 and arrive at 7.40am in Sydney the next day. Additional destinations will be announced in the coming months.
Since entering into service with SIA in October 2007, the superjumbos have flown to airports including Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York and Paris.