Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Premium Economy Hong Kong to Singapore

From now on I’ll start excluding flight numbers from trip reports. While they’re quite useful when reviewing some longhaul flights, e.g. Lufthansa flight 796 which will be operated by an A380 possibly through the end of the schedule, they’re less useful in most cases, where SQ 863 could easily be operated by a 777, an A330, an A350, etc.

Since this trip report only consists of three installments, I’ll just write them separately, instead of producing a cohesive, multi-chapter trip report which I normally do. We were able to find promotional Singapore Airlines premium economy roundtrip fares for HK$3,800 per person, which you wouldn’t normally be able to find in such a premium market.

We arrived Hong Kong Airport at around 12 PM for our 2:25 PM flight, and were promptly on our way, as I had checked everyone in beforehand. Since I didn’t have lounge access this time around, I stuck to plane spotting, though made my way to behind the gate area at 1:30 PM to watch our massive A380 tow itself into the gate.

Behind Gate 15 Hong Kong Airport

The A380 is a very impressive plane – I don’t think there will be a plane that surpasses its ability and capacity – so it was great watching our plane tow itself into the gate.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Rumour is that the best views of the plane can be spotted at Café Deco, but that isn’t true – people are normally permitted in the gate area I took these pictures in, right below Café Deco, where you get a direct view of the plane.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Adjacent to the Singapore A380 was a Cathay Pacific A350 – one of the three aircraft that will be undergoing a refit due to faulty business class seats.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

I asked if I could be one of the first onboard the plane, but since I didn’t inquire earlier, my request was rejected – fine by me, as it was my fault for not calling Singapore beforehand. It was interesting to watch all the Suites Class passengers be called using a whiteboard that was hauled around, as the agent doing so tended to ask every single white or suited passenger in the gate area if they were one of the people listed. There has to be a better way.

Gate Area for A380 Hong Kong Airport

I hate being “that guy” that hangs around the gate area, but I had to do so in this instance to guarantee being first onboard. Man, there were a lot of people on this A380 – the load factor must have been at least 90%. Slowly, passengers started lining up, and unfortunately boarding was delayed from 1:45 PM to 2 PM, as the plane arrived slightly late from its outbound flight to Hong Kong. It’s insane how Singapore schedules the A380 to be turned around in an hour and 45 minutes.

Singapore Airlines has a very orderly boarding process. Those needing assistance are invited to board first, along with first class passengers. Business class passengers and PPS club members are then invited to board second, followed shortly by premium economy and Star Gold members flying economy. Economy class is then boarded starting with those in the upper deck and those flying in rows 51 and backward, followed finally by those flying in rows 41-50. In no part was the rule broken during our boarding process, unlike other airlines, which just board everyone at the same time in two separate lanes. It is a very complicated process, and I overheard one of the junior gate agents, who was “scared” to be boarding such a massive plane in such an orderly fashion.

Within a minute after business class started boarding, Star Gold, KrisFlyer Gold and premium economy passengers were invited to board.

Singapore Airlines Flight 863
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 15 Dep: 14:25 (14:40)
Destination: Singapore (SIN) Gate: B2 Arr: 18:20 (18:35)
Duration: 3 h 55 min (3 h 55 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 34A (Premium Economy Class)

I managed to be the first onboard the lower deck, as business class passengers are seated in the upper deck. Premium economy is situated directly to the right of door L2, and I found myself alone in Singapore Airlines’ premium economy cabin, as I don’t believe there were any PPS club members on this flight.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy

Singapore Airlines’ A380 features 36 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration (the windowside blocks have five rows, while the center block only has four rows due to how the bulkhead is positioned). Each seat is allegedly 19.5 inches wide, though there probably is more space, considering that economy is apparently 19 inches wide and is 10 abreast.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seatmap

If I hadn’t known beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that these seats belong to Singapore Airlines. The seats themselves are grey, though there are vibrant orange pops throughout the entire cabin, contrary to Singapore’s normal beige, brown and blue colour tones.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy

I had assigned seats 33A, 33C, 34A and 34C for our family, and seated myself in 34A. These are the third and fourth (third and second last) rows of the cabin, respectively. Obviously my preference in premium economy, no matter what, is to sit in the last row so I can recline my seat without having to be “considerate”, but the seats at the back were taken in this instance, as we only confirmed around a month or two before departure (Singapore Airlines doesn’t allow seat selection prior to confirmation).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seats 34A and 34C

Unlike their dated economy and business class counterparts, Singapore’s premium economy cabin is slick and swanky, with bright pops of colour. While the orange seems “cheap” at first glance (the other airlines that notably use this type of orange are easyJet and Jetstar), it’s placed so subtly around the cabin that it lifts the colour tones up without overwhelming the passenger, which I appreciate.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Cabin

In this instance I guess row 35 wouldn’t have been the best place to sit, as there’s a peephole in the back so cabin crew can easily look into the economy cabin from premium economy in case of an emergency. The issue is that whenever the peephole has to be flipped, the cabin crew has to ask those sitting in row 35 to put their seatbacks upright, which can cut up to 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I still would choose these seats given the choice, as I’m more comfortable seated at the very back of a cabin, though I wouldn’t actively recommend them.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seats 35A and 35C

Honestly, the cabin is gorgeous, especially when complemented by the orange hue the mood lighting provided during boarding, which cuts through any sterility imposed by the grey seat covers.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Cabin

Before exploring my seat I had a quick peek at the empty economy cabin, which I’d have to pass through anyway as I needed the bathroom. Economy class is in a 3-4-3 configuration, so unless I snagged an upper deck seat, I’d avoid flying the A380 when booked in economy class. Ultimately the seats are from 2005, so obviously the colour tones are getting slightly dated by now – but there certainly have been a couple of updates, such as a USB port at every seat. I didn’t manage to get a picture of the upper deck cabin, though I’d try my best to choose that, even under a small fee.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Class

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Class

While 3-4-3 cabins aren’t ideal as they feel really crowded, at least the cabin was broken up into three separate sections, the largest of which sat 87 people.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Class

I’m not sure how much recline the last row provides, though as a rule of thumb I’d try to sit there anyway if in economy class, as there’s no risk of the person behind you in need of your seat being upright.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Class

Each seat featured a relatively large TV with a remote – apart from a footrest at each seat, which I’m sure economy travelers would appreciate, the seat is pretty standard, and I’m sure frequent economy class travelers would have seen the same type of seat elsewhere.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Class

I returned to my seat to explore it a little bit, as Singapore’s premium economy seat is still one of the relatively newer ones in the market. The seats are slightly hard, which wouldn’t be ideal for sleeping on a long flight. They featured decent recline, though (I didn’t get a photo as I wasn’t seated in the last row, but I did on the return flight, which ultimately features the same seat albeit on the 777-300ER), and the recline doesn’t protrude too much into the space behind you, as your seat cushion slides forward ever so slightly maximising your comfort.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seat 34A

I was excited to see that within the 38 inch pitch, the seat was complemented with two windows. While I don’t normally geek out over that, the A380 windows are large and certainly one-of-a-kind.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Windows

The cabin filled up relatively slowly, as the jetbridge was quite long and I walked at a fast pace to be able to maximise my time for photos before it filled up. The crew were happy to let me take photos, so I certainly made sure I was spending my time wisely.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Cabin

The seat was quite decked out for a premium economy seat. It featured a decent amount of legroom, actually quite splendidly, as the seat pitch was only 38 inches.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Legroom

Swinging out from each non-bulkhead seat was a footrest, which was easy to use and actually quite handy, contrary to what I expected – I expected that just a legrest would be fine, as the seat featured a legrest as well, but the footrest stopped my feet from dangling off the legrest each time. It wouldn’t have been a big problem, but it was easily resolved, which I commend Singapore for.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Footrest

As for the legrest itself, it was small, but still fit both of my legs, which I can’t say I was expecting. It certainly maximised sitting positions and while I wasn’t sleeping on this flight, when turning your torso slightly it was actually a quite comfortable sleeping space.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Legrest

The seat itself maximises storage options, starting from a pocket for each seat that would fit an iPhone or a small camera. Unlike the Cathay Pacific regional business class nooks, these could probably fit an iPhone 6+ or 7+.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Storage

There was another (slightly larger) seat pocket by the legrests, though I believe there was only one, so it would have to be shared during the flight. It helps, as there are two power ports by each seat – if you wanted to charge your phone so it could be near you, you could put it in the storage area by the legrest, and if you wanted to charge your phone so it wouldn’t be in your way when stepping in and out, you could put it in the storage area in front of you.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Storage

As for the USB ports, one was featured by the seat, and the other was embedded in the seat in front of you, which I found quite thoughtful (so to maximise the choice of where your device could be placed while charging).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy USB Port

The back panel USB ports could be used for connecting USB devices to the inflight entertainment system, though iPhones were not compatible (you can’t browse pictures you took on your iPhone with the inflight entertainment system, though I suppose legitimate USBs would work in that instance). The headphone jacks were also featured there, which, slightly annoyingly, were of the three-pronged version, so “standard” headphones would have to be awkwardly slotted in halfway in order to have sound playing out of both ears.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy USB Ports and Console

The seats feature reading lights, though they certainly could be more flexible, as positioning them felt like handling an elephant. Under the reading lights were coat hooks, which I guess are redundant as coats are hung in most cases (and certainly redundant in this case, as the A380 was operating from a hot city to a hotter city).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Reading Light

The seat could be controlled by fully functional buttons located by the armrest, which didn’t require a lot of strength to adjust.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seat Controls

In terms of other charging options, larger devices could be charged with the 110V universal charging port, which is always handy.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy 110V Power Port

The seat also comes with cupholders, and they’re well placed – unlike on Virgin Atlantic, swiping glasses onto your seatmate’s lap would be slightly harder. In this case, my seatmate was my father, so I certainly would’ve had crap if I spilled anything on him, so I’m glad they were positioned carefully.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Cupholders

A final thing was that the seat pocket was designed to be of high capacity, and featured two compartments (you could pull the “pocket” out and there would be a separate netted area to place iPads and laptops), so I could actually comfortably tuck my 13″ MacBook Pro behind the pocket without it jutting out. That’s actually really smart of Singapore, and something that I wish other airlines would consider.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Seat Pocket

There was also another storage option under the armrest, which I realised that I didn’t take a picture of on either flight. It was enough to fit headphones or a phone, but that was about it.

In terms of the hard product, it’s worth noting that there was a lot of space between the seat and the wall due to the curvature of the aircraft – that’s great if I want to put my pillow there when I’m not sleeping, but less great if I want to lean against the wall and nap. Ultimately I was fine with that, as I wouldn’t be sleeping on the flight, but it is something worth considering.

The seat pocket also featured some amenities, as was positioned around the rest of the seat. Featured on my seat was a plush pillow and a decent blanket, which were of a nice variety (some other airline would benefit from these pillows in business class on regional flights).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Pillow

The blanket was substantial, though I know that other airlines provide duvets for premium economy passengers on longhaul flights, which I don’t believe is true for Singapore. That said, Singapore isn’t known for good bedding in premium cabins as a whole.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Blanket

Headphones are also featured, and they’re certainly more substantial than what you’d find in economy, though it still isn’t really high quality – the padding on the headphones is worse than that of the seat, so I ended up using my own.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Headphones

Apparently earbuds were also passed out during boarding, which my dad took advantage of, though I don’t think they were as high quality either.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Earbuds

I had to visit the lavatory when I first boarded, so I was pointed towards the back of the first economy cabin. The lavatories are substantial, though it was clear that there was a bit of age on them, which is fair enough since the plane was seven years old.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Lavatory

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Lavatory

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Lavatory

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Lavatory

I initially used what I believed was had soap to wash my hands, and it smelled slightly reminiscient of something else I use in the bathroom. So I had a look at the signage on the bottle, and was horrified to find that it was mouthwash. Oops…

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Economy Lavatory Mouthwash

Singapore’s A380 overhead panels featured the A380’s standard fare – reading lights and the seatbelt sign. Unfortunately they didn’t include air nozzles, but it wasn’t like the cabin was that hot to start with – good thing the cabin wasn’t created to reflect the Singapore “experience” (in case you haven’t been before, that’s really hot weather).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Overhead Console

Boarding was completed at around 2:25 PM, around departure time. I neglected to check ExpertFlyer before my flight, but economy seemed mostly full, and the left middle seat in our row was empty, as was the left center aisle seat in the row behind us. The man sitting in the left middle seat of that row moved to the aisle seat before takeoff.

After the door was closed, the crew came by with hot towels – something also provided in economy on Singapore, establishing how premium they are as an airline.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Hot Towel

The really friendly cabin manager soon came by and confirmed our Book the Cook orders – Singapore Airlines offers Book the Cook for premium economy passengers, which is a service that lets you order (marginally better) meals. I had ordered “fish with garlic butter” for myself, and my parents and Hailey all chose the “beef stew with mushroom”. Stickers were placed on our seats to reflect that we had chosen this service.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Book the Cook Sticker

I looked out the window, and saw a gorgeous Singapore A350, which features a slightly different premium economy product (I would’ve asked to try it out, but it does arrive Singapore quite a bit later, so I was happy on the A380).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

I was able to get a nice view of the plane as we pulled back at around 2:40 PM (an hour before that flight would be departing, as it would be operating SQ 861, which used to be the A380 flight operated out of Hong Kong).

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

The safety video was then played. Singapore Airlines has to feature the most boring safety video, if you ask me – not only is it the standard fare to start with, but it also features quite a few long pauses in between instructions. Thankfully it’s in English, and isn’t repeated in the three other official languages that Singapore has. I love it when humour, dramatics or local culture is injected into safety videos, as people just tune out if it’s the same boring fare every time – remember, the key is to get the passengers’ attention, so you get the point across, and not just to “go through the motions”. I believe Singapore has the same safety video no matter which aircraft you’re on, which is as follows (they don’t upload the “original video” onto YouTube):

Singapore Airlines Safety Video

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Safety Video

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Premium Economy Cabin During Safety Video

After the safety video was played, the Australian captain came onto the PA, saying that he wasn’t expecting a delay and would get us to Singapore in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Shortly after, the cabin manager came around to collect cups, as well as the plastic that our blankets came with. That’s pretty impressive, as most airlines just let you deal with your trash yourself.

When taxiing we passed a few interesting aircraft, including a Finnair A350, a Cathay Pacific A330, an Emirates A380 and a Thai A330.

Traffic Hong Kong Airport

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

Emirates Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Traffic Hong Kong Airport

We then turned to taxi towards the runway, and through the FlightRadar24 app I found out we were third in line for takeoff, behind a Korean Air 747-8 headed to (Seoul) Incheon and a Royal Brunei A320 headed to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 Hong Kong Airport

Royal Brunei Airbus A320 Hong Kong Airport

Next in line was a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER in a oneworld livery, which was operating the afternoon Cathay flight to London.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Hong Kong Airport

We took off on runway 07R. While my personal seat preference is to sit by the right side, I certainly don’t mind occasionally sitting on the left side when departing Hong Kong, as I get a view that overlooks the airport.