In my last post, I wrote about my experience flying in premium economy class on Lufthansa. Recently, I have flown twice on Singapore Airlines in their premium economy cabin: once to Paris and the second time to Australia and New Zealand. I’ll do a quick review of the experience here as a point of comparison.
On my flights between Singapore and Paris and Singapore and Melbourne, I flew on the Airbus A380, the largest passenger plane flying. On the flight between Singapore and Auckland, I flew on the Boeing 777-300ER. Both planes feature premium economy class in a 2-4-2 configuration.
Above, the Airbus A380 after our arrival in Paris.
Of the planes, I prefer the Boeing 777. The Airbus A380 is a massive, double-deck plane and it simply feels like a huge plane with heaps of passengers in it. In reality, the A380 has only 379 seats (Lufthansa puts 509 on the same plane!) so it is not as densely configured. Nonetheless, the Boeing 777-300ER has only 264 passengers so feels much less crowded.
On the Airbus A380, there are 38 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout. The seat is 19.5 inches wide with a 38-inch pitch. According to the stats on SeatGuru.com, this is 1.5 inches wider than on Lufthansa. That said, I did not find the seat any more spacious.
There is a large seat back monitor, which is controlled from a remote in your armrest. The screen appears marginally larger than on Lufthansa but that doesn’t make a huge difference.
The seat has many storage areas and useful amenities, including an individual power port and a USB plug. The magazine pouch has a cheap, plastic feel and was broken on two of the seats. Overall, the seat was comfortable although I found it more so if I place a pillow on the front of the seat cushion under my legs.
There is ample legroom and, as with other airlines’ premium economy, each passenger has his or her own armrests. There is also a nice pillow and large blanket for each passenger along with noise-cancelling headphones.
As a comparison, here is a view of the regular economy class during the flight. It is in a 3-4-3 layout and feels considerably more crowded.
Before departure, the flight attendants did not offer beverages – different than on Lufthansa. Menus were placed in the seat back pockets. Singapore does offer a “book the cook” option, allowing you to select certain main courses in advance, a feature Lufthansa does not offer in premium economy.
After takeoff, warm towels were handed out followed by a service of drinks and nuts. The signature Singapore Sling cocktail is available as well as a full selection of premium beverages.
The flight attendants are friendly and attentive. They are more polished than at Lufthansa, in terms of having very specific customer service phrasing they are expected to use. Some people perceive this as robotic, other people like it.
As an example, when Tawn asked for a beverage that they didn’t have on the cart, the flight attendant said she would be happy to get him the drink but it would be a few minutes – but would he like something else while waiting?
I thought that was a good touch.
Also, when I was boarding, the flight attendant saw my boarding pass, recognized my seat number, and said “Oh, 35D! You have the special meals ordered, a XYZ for dinner and XYZ for breakfast.” I was impressed that he remembered that off the top of his head.
Meal services are decent, although I liked the ones on Lufthansa better. Here is a braised beef dish with mashed potatoes.
There as also a Chinese-style stir fried chicken with rice, which was a little oily but tasty. Notice that for this flight served out of Paris, we had a little block of cheese.
The breakfast service before arriving into Singapore was sad. This quiche and hash brown was limp.
And the waffle was soggy and the egg rubbery. Overall, a poor showing from Singapore airlines.
While I do not show them here, I did try the “book the cook” meal service when fling to the southern hemisphere. While I liked having the option of choosing a meal in advance, I was not overwhelmed by the quality of the catering. Only the cumin-spiced lamb chops out of Melbourne were impressive.
For the Paris flights, premium ice cream was served – a nice treat.
The timing of the service was generally fine. The exception was the overnight flight from Melbourne to Singapore. Only 7.5 hours in length and departing at midnight, there is only a light snack service to begin with (which I slept through) and a full meal is served before landing. Unfortunately, they started the service 2.5 hours before landing. Had they pushed it back another 30-60 minutes, it would have allowed people to get more rest.
In terms of inflight entertainment, Singapore Airlines has a huge selection of movies, TV shows and music to keep you occupied. The selection was wider than on Lufthansa, although there is only so much time you have on the flight so on either airline you will be able to find something to fill your time.
The screen is high-resolution and bright and the controls were responsive. Unfortunately, the screens were not touchscreen, requiring you to fiddle with the handset controller.
Singapore Airlines has just recently opened a new lounge in Bangkok on the D concourse, a location superior to their previous lounge on the A concourse. The lounge is beautiful and continues to have a wide variety of foods and beverages.
A selection of food in the old lounge in Bangkok
Above, in Paris all the Star Alliance carriers use a shared lounge facility which has a good selection of food and beverage but which can become quite crowded and is also a bit dark.
Most disappointing is the “Gold Lounge” in Singapore, especially the one in Terminal 3. Singapore Airlines, like all Star Alliance members, welcomes other members’ gold-status passengers. In Singapore, their main hub, they have a separate lounge just for non-Singapore gold members. These lounges are not that nice: crowded, limited food selection and no showers or other amenities.
Premium economy is usually a reasonable value: more space and comfort without breaking the bank. Depending on the route and when you fly, Singapore offers some attractive prices for this good service.
Comparing Lufthansa and Singapore, they are quite similar. Singapore has a better entertainment system. Lufthansa has better food and a slightly better seat. Singapore has friendlier flight attendants but slow service. Lufthansa has service that gives you more time to sleep but with flight attendants who, while professional, are not as buttery with their words. Lufthansa offers better lounge experiences across the system; Singapore offers good lounges for non-Singapore passengers everywhere but in their hub city.
At the end of the day, if the two airlines offered me the same price on the same route, I would choose Lufthansa as I think the experience was just slightly better. But you will not go wrong with Singapore at all.
In a few weeks, I will be flying EVA Air, the Taiwanese carrier, on their premium economy service. I will post another report covering that trip.
I guess it is to be assumed by your post, but one thing I’m not sure you clarified – is lounge access included in this Premium Economy purchase or were you able to access it because of your gold membership?
Good question. Lounge access was based on my gold membership and is not a perk of premium economy. However, SQ does offer a dedicated check-in lane for premium economy passengers.
I’m not a globe trotter and so if I was flying to Australia I’d be thrilled just to be on a plane, any plane, and thankful that I was given anything to eat at all!! (too many flights on United where you are lucky to get a beverage)!
Safe to say that you poor folks in the United States have really had the bar of expectations drastically lowered. On my QANTAS flight from Sydney to Melbourne, not even 90 minutes long, there were beverages, apples and these nice snack packs with carrot and celery sticks and olives.
Chris, do you consider Premium Economy good value? Especially to Europe, I usually can find Business Class tickets on Turkish Air or Middle Eastern carriers for just a few hundred dollars more than PE on LH or SQ…
This is a challenging question. I flew these flights for work and company policy allows only premium economy on intercontinental flights – even though, as you point out – in many cases some carriers offer a business class product for the same or similar price. MH would have been a competitive ticket to Australia but if it was J class, the company would not have reimbursed for the ticket.
I’ve never flown an A-380 but I always wanted to try. I’ve flown the Dreamliner from Boeing (not sure what the airplane model number is) and I really like it. Even in regular economy the seats feel roomier. Maybe because the seat itself seems less bulky?
I’m also surprised to hear about your experience with the Singapore airlines staff being slow, which is the opposite of what I would expect from them. I’ve flown Scoot a few times and their flight attendants are always very attentive.
The Singapore staff was friendly and attentive. It is just that their meal services seemed uncoordinated and there was a lot of back and forth between the cart and the galley. For long-haul flights, especially overnight ones, I place a premium on time to rest and slow, disorganized meals services cut into that time.
I’ve never flown Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa. I also want to try the A380 and the 787. When you said the SG attendants are attentive, I read that word as attractive. (I know…). I think if the entire plane was premium economy, it would still sell very well. It seems premium economy used to be what we found in the old economy. But then again, I’m dating myself (I remember when they allowed smoking on airplanes).
There is some evidence to support your view that premium economy matches pretty closely to what used to be economy, but it is probably more accurate to say that it is what “business” used to be. And business class these days far exceeds what first class used to be, which is one reason many carriers such as Air Canada have removed first class entirely.
I always get confused – is first class better than business class? Or does it depend on the airlines?
Hmm… I wasn’t particularly impressed by Luftansa’s food… Singapore Airlines doesn’t look bad… I might try it one day.
Certainly, Singapore’s food was not bad. It was just closer to typical airline food whereas I felt the food on Lufthansa was better. The mashed potatoes and sausage were actually a really tasty dish.
I haven’t flown Lufthansa before, but would like to sometime. I thought my flights on SIA were good enough – I remember how they kept serving meals throughout the flight (more than any other airline I’ve been on). And, what a long flight you had!
i have not tried a premium economy seat on any airline, but having tried and compared the experience of business class on lufthansa and singapore air, i do feel the seat on lufthansa is better AND i love their pretzel bread. but yes, sq does offer a better entertainment system than many other airlines. something that is important for people like me who can’t sleep during flights, even when flying with business class.