Singapore Airlines announced the new design of their first, business and economy class cabins yesterday on select 777-300ER and A350 aircraft. I just completed a trip in Singapore First, Suites, and Business Class and there is a tendency to look at the pictures below and wonder how much of a difference there possibly could be betwen first and business class. But the pictures do not tell the whole story.
Picuture one and four above look remarkably similar and although the first class seat is wider, the business class seat looks tremendous–spacious and very comfortable when in the lie-flat position.
But the impression I came away with after two longhauls in Singapore First Class, one longhaul in Suites Class, and two longhauls in Singapore Business was that service between first and business varied dramatically.
On United, for example, the Global First seat is a bit roomier than business class and the wines are a bit better, but service and food are essentially identical. First has slightly different crockery and adds a soup course, but the overall difference in first and business is quite minimal.
On Lufthansa, the difference between first and business class is stark in all respects. First, business class does not even have horizontal lie-flat seating on the majority of the Lufthansa fleet, compared to lie-flat seats throught the first class cabin. Food and service are also much, much better in first class than in business class. Lufthansa ground service also varies substantially between business and first class–the difference between a private terminal chock full of amenties including a Mercedes or Porshe to the airplane and a crowded lounge with liver and soft pretzels.
Then there is Singapore, where the difference between first and business lies somewhere in between United and Lufthansa. The hard product is great in both cabins, minimzing the advantage of first over business in that respect. Singapore does have an exclusive “Private Room” in Singapore, but it is not all that much different from the business class side of the lounge. Cook-to-order food is available, but service is not nearly as polished or personalized as in Lufthansa’s first class lounges. Singapore also has no golf carts or vehicles to the aircraft, so the difference in ground experience between business and first class is also small.
Singapore also has a Book the Cook option in both business and first/suites that I fully took advantage of. Food was better in first, but not substantially better. Put another way, the food in business class was great too. Singapore does offer Dom Perignon and Krug in first class and not in business and there are certainly extra touches in first like a caviar and soup course, but I do not think anyone would pay the difference between first and business just for the champagne.
What really separates Singapore First Class or Suites Class from Singapore Business is the service. You’ll hear about my flights in the coming weeks, but what surpised me most was how much different the service was between the two cabins. There were (minor) shortcomings on four of my five Singapore flights, but if my recent trip is any indication of how Singapore operates, there is limited personalization of service in business class. And the pictures don’t tell that story…
While the lines continue to be blurred between business and first class, the new seats on Singapore are not the only factor to consider when choosing between business and first class.