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SIA set to welcome millionth A380 passenger
The Singapore Airlines publicity machine is revving up to celebrate the carrier’s one-millionth Airbus A380 passenger, who is expected to step aboard one of its six big double-deckers some time next month.
The SIA fleet has now clocked up over 18,000 flying hours since the airline became the first in the world to offer A380 service 14 months ago. Next month the lucky millionth customer will hear the good news at check-in. This will be the prelude to an exceptional inflight experience, probably centring on the use of one of the aircraft’s industry-first fully enclosed Singapore Suites. On arrival there will be the offer of a limousine ride to a luxury hotel for a three-night stay, top-class dining and various goodies to take home.
At the same time, the several hundred people who just miss out on being No 1,000,000 will be consoled inflight with champagne and SIA giveaways.
Singapore Airlines fired the first shot in the A380 cabin one-upmanship war in 2007, when it unveiled the first-class suites - featuring sliding doors for complete privacy, a metre-wide fully adjustable seat and a separate flat bed - along with industry-leading business and economy products. There are 12 suites per aircraft, plus 60 business-class seats and 399 in economy for a total of 471 in an airframe that Airbus nominally rates as a 525-seater.
The leather-upholstered seat in each first-class suite is almost a metre wide with the armrest folded away and can be set to a variety of sitting and lounging positions. When the passenger is ready to sleep, the cabin crew will make up a separate full-sized bed with a mattress, duvet and cushions. As well as having a full-flat position, the bed can be adjusted to allow the passenger to sit up or recline while reading or watching the IFE screen.
The other furniture in what is effectively an individual cabin comprises a chaise longue for companion seating, luggage stowage space, a coat closet, and a wide, height-adjustable table capable of being used for work, meetings and dining. Work facilities comprise in-seat laptop power and a USB port to accommodate a data stick holding the passenger’s files so that he can work on them with the suite of office tools available via the Panasonic eX2-based IFE system.
Entertainment facilities in addition to the 23in wall-mounted LCD screen include a Bose noise-cancelling headset and a KrisWorld IFE offering comprising a hundred on-demand films, more than 180 TV programmes, 700 music CDs, 3D games, learning programmes and other content.
Like the suite-dwellers, business-class passengers enjoy LED intelligent lighting designed to promote a calm atmosphere. They also occupy what SIA describes as the world’s widest business-class seat. Designed by James Park Associates of the UK and manufactured by Koito of Japan, the basic seat has been flying in SIA’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet since 2006. The extra space in the A380 has allowed the airline to order a bigger, 34in-wide, variant than can transform into a fully flat bed. Other features include a 15.4in LCD screen, USB ports, laptop power, a height-adjustable dining table, underseat luggage stowage, and a backshell that can be extended for greater privacy.
The cabin is arranged 1-2-1, with all seats facing forward and giving direct access to the aisle. A “Passenger Corner” offers snacks between meals and allows travellers to socialise.
The economy-class seat, manufactured by Weber of the USA and introduced in 2006, incorporates lighter and thinner materials, resulting in increased leg and knee room. Features include a 10.6in screen, USB port, laptop power (in two seats out of every three), a reading light beneath the screen, storage space for spectacles and other small items, a coathook and a footrest.
Among the operators that have since sought to match or exceed the SIA A380 treatment is Qantas, which currently has three aircraft out of a total of 20 on order. Today the Australian carrier is showing off one of its aircraft at San Francisco Airport to promote the Melbourne/Sydney-to-Los Angeles service that it launched last month with the second A380 to enter its hands. The third was delivered just before the end of the year and will be used to launch service between Sydney and London via Singapore this Friday. Qantas is due to receive a further four this year and to have all 20 in service by the end of 2013.
Amenities aboard the aircraft include OnAir connectivity and Panasonic eX2-supported IFE. The carrier has outfitted it with four classes masterminded by eminent Australian industrial designer Marc Newson.
The 450 seats are located in four cabins – 14 in first-class, 72 in business, 32 in premium economy and 332 in economy. The first-class suites each feature a widescreen 17in LCD screen for IFE, a touchscreen passenger control unit, and a B/E Aerospace seat that transforms from comfortable armchair to fully flat bed. The business seat is the latest generation of Qantas’ Skybed, now offering an extra-long and fully flat bed, a larger in-arm screen, extra storage and more privacy.
The premium economy and economy seats are supplied by Recaro (Inflight Online, September 19, 2007). The former features a fully adjustable in-arm widescreen IFE screen, the latter a sliding base that moves with the seatback to yield a more comfortable sleeping position.
Qantas’ A380 passengers do not want for opportunities to socialise. The upper-deck business-class cabin has its own private lounge with leather sofas, a self-service bar, and a large video screen. Premium economy also has a bar, while the masses of economy have no fewer than four.
Laptop power and OnAir connectivity are available in all classes, as is an on-demand IFE service offering more than a hundred films, 350 television programmes, 500 audio CDs, 30 PC-style games, and a selection of audio books, language tutorials, destination information, business education and radio channels.
The OnAir services are Webmail and Webchat, available via either the seatback screen or passenger laptops, wired or wireless. Full Internet connectivity is due to be added before the end of the year, following the introduction this spring of Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellite coverage over the Pacific.
Thirteen A380s are now in airline hands. Besides SIA and Qantas, Emirates has four and plans to receive another 54. Airbus aims to deliver 21 A380s this year. Air France (April), Lufthansa (June) and China Southern (September) will receive the first of their respective orders for 12, five and 15. Next in line is Korean Air, due to get its first aircraft next year.
The Air France aircraft will be fitted with Thales’ TopSeries i-5000 audio/video-on-demand IFE, the China Southern and Lufthansa aircraft with Panasonic’s eX2. The Panasonic system equips the Emirates aircraft as well as those of Singapore Airlines and Qantas A380s. British Airways, due to receive the first of 12 A380s in 2012, and Etihad (first of 10 in 2013) have opted for Thales.
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