It was the first day of winter with a cold front and rain pushing through Australia’s southeast, making it a perfect day to leave town and head somewhere warmer. A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 was my ticket to ride, and after two and a half years of international travel downtime, I was very happy to buckle up and go.
This was a paid ticket, using 53,000 Virgin Australia Velocity points (plus AU$104 in taxes) to fly Adelaide (ADL) – Singapore (SIN) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) in business class. This trip report covers the six-and-a-half-hour daytime leg between ADL and SIN onboard 9V-SHK, one of Singapore Airlines’ medium-haul A350-900s.
A fast and easy exit out of the country
Departing Adelaide was a breeze with a dedicated business class check-in and time for breakfast and a flat white in the Virgin Australia lounge before passing through immigration (Singapore Airlines has permanently closed its KrisFlyer lounge in ADL). After hearing so many reports of travel dramas, I was all paperworked up, but beyond showing my COVID certificate to the lovely lady at check-in, I could have left it all behind.
Boarding commenced on time, with a lengthy list of priority type passengers called first. The flight attendants, including a stellar cabin manager, were waiting at the door to greet us. The Airbus A350-900 medium-haul business product differs from the long-haul product in several ways. The seats are narrower, and the cabin lacks any particular wow factor beyond “oh, it’s business class – how nice.”
There is nothing particularly flashy about the Singapore Airlines A350-900 medium-haul business class cabin. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
Nice champagne smooths the way for a nice flight
But the devil is in the detail. Cocooned in your little pod/cubicle, I’d argue the medium-haul SQ business seat offers more privacy than the long-haul seat, and the foot well is directly in front of the seat rather than angled away. Winglets at head height fixed to the seat’s frame meant other passengers were out of direct eyesight. However, in my case, the left winglet also blocked out most of the window, making choosing a window seat in this particular row (15) rather pointless. Still, it was cloudy nearly the entire way, so no matter.
Singapore Airlines A350-900 medium-haul (or regional) business class seat in lie-flat mode. Photo: Singapore Airlines
Doors were closed ahead of a scheduled 09:10 departure, a short roll-out to the runway, and we were airborne over the St Vincent Gulf ten minutes later. A firm resolution to say no to wine before midday dissolved at 09:35 precisely when a flight attendant came around offering glasses of Piper Heidsieck. Thirty minutes later, I wondered how I got through life not realizing champagne tastes much better in the morning.
Ample room to stretch out in business class on Singapore Airlines A350-900. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
I’d like to tell you I browsed the inflight entertainment or prowled the plane measuring the seats, but I didn’t. I mostly sat back, feet up, sipping something (slowly), and quietly cheered not being on a plane to Brisbane or somewhere equally done to death lately. The cabin was full, with a mixed crowd onboard, but peace and quiet reigned, so I was happy.
Rule 1: Never say no to lunch
Around two and a half hours after takeoff, the lunch service began. The tray table came out (the table was big, solid, and stable), linen and cutlery down. The starter was a smoked salmon salad. It was a little on the small side, but the salmon quality was decent. At this point, in the interests of variety, I switched from the Piper to Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling. The flight attendants also offered an assortment of bread, rolls, and warm garlic bread
A smoked salmon starter was simple but hit the spot. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
There were four book the cook options plus four onboard menu options for the main course, including a ubiquitous but popular barramundi offering. I went with the braised beef cheeks with crushed carrots and parsley. It may sound a bit boarding school, but it was delicious. I found the sauce particularly moorish, but I suspect a little too heavily salted for some. What I did need but never got was another round of bread rolls to soak up the sauce.
The braised beef cheeks were delicious. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
Dessert and cabin managers like Gerrard will be the death of me. I’m full of beef cheek and wine, and it’s barely past midday, Gerrard wheels down the dessert trolley. There are four choices – vanilla bean ice cream, a cookies and cream roll, fruit salad, or a cheese plate. “Have one, have all four, spoil yourself,” says Gerrard so nicely I’d almost feel rude saying no. So I naturally settled on the ice cream and the cookies and cream roll. Heart attack, be damned. The cheese plate also looked good, but the fruit plate never troubled my eyeballs. Gerrard helped me wash it down with a flat white. Like most airline coffee, it was only so-so.
Death by dessert courtesy of Singapore Airlines. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
Time flies on a daytime flight
After lunch, I made the mistake of firing up my laptop and accessing the 100MB of free data for business class passengers only to see some work had come in since takeoff. 100MB disappears like that, so I purchased a three-hour pass for US$15.99 that worked okay (just) and saw me working until well over the Java Sea. It wasn’t part of my flight plan, but freelancers never knock back work.
Around 90 minutes before landing, we were offered a “refreshment” – a choice of chicken and mushroom pie or seafood noodle salad. I went with the latter. After a good lunch, I could have skipped this entirely and probably should have. The warm noodles were dry and not great. The three prawns and a couple of pieces of calamari were much the same. Coffee and more wine were offered.
An underwhelming seafood & noodle salad. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple FLying
I didn’t bother testing out the lie-flat seat, although several passengers around me after afternoon siestas. They probably appreciated having the foot well directly in front of them. While working, I had access to charging ports and a universal powerpoint. In a little storage bay at head level was a bottle of water and SQ-issued headphones. There was stacks of storage room around the seat and cavernous overhead lockers. The toilets were clean and stocked with the usual business class amenities on my two bathroom runs.
Seat power supplies. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
Gerrard the cabin manager was terrific. The remainder of the flight attendants were good. One came and introduced herself by name after I boarded, and I was addressed by name several times inflight (and once I was addressed as someone else entirely!). On the whole, I found the service professional and attentive, but a little light on the smiles – that’s more an observation than a criticism.
The toilets on the plane were kept clean. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
Singapore Terminal 3 lounge update
I was on the right side of the plane for the approach into Singapore. The pilots warned of bad weather and some chop, but the descent was smooth. We were on the ground ahead of time and cooled our heels on the apron while another jet exited our parking bay. All in all, it was a terrific flight. Singapore Airlines is widely regarded as one of the world’s best airlines and a personal favorite of mine. After so long away, it was a pleasure to be back on board.
I had a three-hour transit in Singapore just days after the new Singapore Airlines lounges opened. I wasn’t on a media junket, so didn’t have access to the Private Room and First Class Lounge, but I did have access to the Gold KrisFlyer Lounge and the Business Class Lounge in terminal 3. We’ll do full reviews at a later date, but in short, the Gold KrisFlyer lounge is a substantial upgrade on the previous version but still nothing to get excited about. However, the new lounge does have showers and toilets.
The Business KrisFlyer lounge was serving as the catch-all lounge and was reportedly a bit of a zoo. It’s quieter now but is still seeing plenty of traffic. Unsurprisingly, this lounge remains a better option than the Gold KrisFlyer lounge, with better food and beverage and seating options. My connecting flight was from Terminal 2 where there are presently no lounges.