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The lounge experience for business class passengers at Changi Terminal 3 was disappointing, the plane was old and in need of a refresh but the selection of amenities and onboard food blew U.S. domestic First Class out of the water.
Pros- Delicious Onboard Food, Wide Array of Amenities, Business Class Privacy, Attentive Service
Cons- Strict Enforcement of Rules, Disappointing Business Class Airport Lounge, Old Plane, Weak In-Flight Entertainment , Mediocre Drink Selection
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Our flight to Male, Maldives on Singapore Airline's regional affiliate Silk Air took off from Changi Terminal 2 which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was the home for the vast majority of Singapore Airline's regional flights. During the pandemic all Singapore Airlines flights have been consolidated in Changi Terminal 3 which allowed for the closure of Terminal 2 for 18 months. This move was done in response to very-low passenger volume and allowed Changi to shave approximately one year off of the time for the renovation of Terminal 2. I found this work was sorely needed. Since our flight in May 2019, Silk Air has ceased operations and had its planes completely folded into Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines is still operating these 737-800 planes on regional flights I am going to share our experience since I think it could be helpful for those looking to fly on Singapore Airlines.
Our check-in experience for Singapore Airlines (Silk Air) was awkward since it was completely automated including the baggage check. In the United States typically passengers with bags to check have to see the gate agent, however, at Changi the entire process was automated including weighing and scanning baggage. While I found this to be impressive it was also somewhat frustrating since it took us a while to figure out how to work the machine.
As we headed to the SilverKris lounge, which was used for business class and first class Singapore Airlines passengers leaving out of Terminal 2, we noticed that this terminal was much more dated than Terminal 3, where we arrived on our flight from Frankfurt. However, we really appreciated the lovely flower displays throughout the terminal and it showed us that Singapore takes seriously its nickname the Garden City.
It took us a while to find the SilverKris lounge since the signage in the terminal was not clear.
However, we finally realized that the lounge was on the second level and we headed left to the business class portion of the lounge. The lounge had an array of seating with a small business area, an array of black seats around the television, and seating in the dining room. The lounge was large but nearly completely empty. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, conversations happened only at a whisper, and it felt more like a library than an airport lounge.
The food was set up near the entrance to the lounge and included a special station for Laska which is a spicy Singaporean soup. During our time in the lounge I tried the majority of the hot food and it was a huge disappointment. The Dim Sum lacked in both presentation and taste, the Laska was average, while the apple juice was cheap and not good. The food in the lounge paled in comparison to the culinary adventure we had during the rest of our stay in Singapore.
To add to the disappointing experience at this lounge the business class bathrooms were out of order so I needed to go to the first class lounge to use the bathroom. I found the first class bathrooms to be in good shape, the service in first class lounge to be more attentive, and the first class lounge overall to be much nicer. For example, the bathroom had two bathroom attendants along with complimentary toothbrushes and shaving kits. It is clear that Singapore Airlines needs to renovate the business class lounge and that that they put significantly more resources into the first class ground experience.
We headed to the gate about five minutes before boarding. As we approached the gate area I remembered that security checks are performed at the gate area and I got nervous that we would miss the initial boarding call. The gate area was packed and it was clear this was a full flight. We got through the gate quickly and boarding started five minutes late so we ended up being the first people on board.
Plane and Seats
As we entered the plane I was impressed by the color palette of pale yellow and brown along with the light blues and reds on the flight attendants' uniforms. The business class had 12 seats arraigned in a 2-2 configuration with 38 inches of pitch and 22 inches of width. The seats had substantial recline which meant that when the passengers in front of us reclined it was difficult getting in and out of our seats. The seat also had a foot rest which is very rare in US domestic first class.
Another positive feature of this plane is that it had a hard bulkhead and a thick curtain which really made the business class cabin feel private. One big downside of the plane was its age which showed in the seats. The seats were very difficult to recline because the levers to recline the seat were old and manual. At one point Christina's seat was completely stuck in recline and she had to yank at the lever to move it up or down.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
Waiting at each business class seat was a pillow and a blanket. I found the pillow to be comfortable and much more substantial than the pillows offered on U.S. domestic first class. Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant came by with slippers, various newspapers and magazines, and an iPad pre-loaded with in-flight entertainment (IFE) since there were no seat back screens. I selected the local newspaper and a Time magazine to read. I really appreciated having a pillow, slippers, and footrest on this four-and half-hour flight.
The IFE on the iPad was weak. While the iPads had a ton of content most of it was very old. Initially, the iPad was very annoying to watch because I had to hold it up to see any of the movies. However, I noticed that another passenger had an iPad stand so I asked and received one from the flight attendant. It was frustrating that these were not proactively offered the iPad stand since it would be very annoying to watch the iPad on this long of a flight without one. Another problem about receiving this array of amenities is that the seats did not have sufficient storage space to hold them all when they weren't in use. For example, when we were eating we had to find somewhere to put away the iPad and this is another downside to not having seat back IFE. There were also several additional amenities offered on the flight in the bathroom but these were not at all impressive. The amenities included lotion, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. However, these were not at all at the caliber of our Singapore Airlines Suites experience. I utilized the toothpaste and it looked like whiteout and tasted disgusting.
The in-flight dining experience began before takeoff when the flight attendant came by to confirm our food orders, take our in-flight drink order, and offer us pre-departure drinks. The pre-departure drink choices were apple juice or orange juice. I took the apple juice while Christina took the orange juice. The apple juice was bad so I sent it back and instead asked for orange juice which was good.
Once we were in air the flight attendant brought our drink order of champagne which was really bad. I don't know if the champagne was really that bad or we were spoiled from drinking so much Krug on our Singapore Airlines Suites flight. We were also given hot towel service which included a steaming towel. I wish that airlines would adjust from a hot to a cold towel in climates that are already warm. It was strange that the towel was steaming hot because the cabin was already warm. After this I was served mixed nuts as a starter while Christina had the snack mix both of which were good. Next, we were served a salad with tomatoes, lettuce, and chicken which also good. After we were served the salad we were offered bread and I chose the garlic bread and Christina chose a cracker. My garlic bread was good and Christina liked her cracker and said it had Indian flavors.
For our main courses we pre-ordered from the expanded All Time Favorites Menu which offered meals beyond those listed in the onboard menu. The All Time Favorites Menu offered a massive selection for relatively short flight. I choose the beef brisket noodles and Christina chose the Nasi Goreng. My meal came out piping hot and was delicious. The beef was very tender and the noodles were cooked excellently. The broth was also flavored very well but was really messy so I ended up having to use napkins as a bib. Christina's meal had a chicken satay (kabob) with rice, pickles, and zucchini. While Christina thought the chicken was on the sweet side and the rice was somewhat spicy overall she thought the meal was great though still not at the Singapore Airlines Suites level.
Once the main course was done we were offered a choice between Merlot or Chardonnay wine. I chose the Merlo while Christina selected the Chardonnay. I liked the Merlot while Christina thought the Chardonnay was too sweet.
At the end of the meal service the flight attendant came by with Maldives Airports Fast Track passes for the business class passengers to clear immigration on an expedited basis. However, they ended up not being necessary as there was no line when we landed in Male.
As we got closer to the end of the flight the flight attendants brought by a pre-arrival dessert of Double Chocolate ice cream which was really good. Christina had hers with coffee which she said was surprisingly very good for airline coffee. Overall, I found the onboard drink selection, with the exception fo the coffee, to be mediocre on par with American Airlines. This was surprising for a Singapore Airlines affiliate. Finally, as we entered our final decent we got our first glimpse of the beautiful Maldivan water which we had traveled half way around the world to experience.
I would say that the service on this flight was a mixed bag. The flight attendants were clearly well trained by Singapore Airlines. They executed on the service very well and they were very attentive constantly looking to see if we needed refills and quickly clearing plates. For example, they were able to complete extensive multi-course meal service in about one hour. However, they were far too strict at enforcing rules. Our flight had a long taxi of about 30 minutes and while we were taxing several people tried to get up to get something from the overhead bins or to use the bathroom and the flight attendants on several occasions got up to reprimand tell these passengers off. While I thought their tone may have been too harsh I didn't think too much of this since this is something that is usually enforced in the U.S. as well. Once we took off and were climbing I tried to use the bathroom and the flight attendant gave me a nasty look and shook her head no. Once again I had an incident relating to flight attendants enforcing the rules about using the bathroom and I felt like this was now a trend after the incidents on our CLT-LHR and LGW-BCN flights. This wasn't the only rule which the flight attendants vigorously enforced. While we were landing the flight attendants came around and asked Christina and I to remove our headphones for landing which is the first time I had ever heard of this rule on any airline.
Our experience flying on Singapore Airlines' 737-800 with its regional affiliate Silk Air was a mixed bag. We really enjoyed the privacy of the business class cabin, the wide-array of amenities, and attentive service. Moreover, the onboard food was significantly better than U.S. domestic airlines. However, the plane and seats were old, the flight attendants vigorously enforced the rules, the IFE was weak, and the KrisFlyer business class lounge was very disappointing. I hope that the full integration into Singapore Airlines and renovations at Changi Terminal 2 improves on these weakness and leads to a more consistently positive experience.