Singapore’s A380 ‘Has No First Class’

By Adam Plowright

Agence France-Presse

TOULOUSE, France ~ “There is no first class on this plane, sir. This is Suite Class,” repeats the Singapore Airlines steward as she shows off the front of the plane to curious onlookers.

All of the guides parroted the same line on Monday as the carrier unveiled what it called a “new standard for luxury and comfort” in the Airbus A380, the world’s biggest passenger jet.

First class has been rejected by the Asian carrier as a label for the 12 seats on the plane that feature 58-centimetre flat-screen televisions, sheets by French designer Givenchy and a full-length bed with separate mattress.

For couples with the money, there is an option to join two suites together to make a double bed, forming a self-contained bubble for two with closed sides and complete privacy.

“The piece de resistance will be our new premier cabin, which will introduce a travel experience beyond first class,” said Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines.

The business class area will have the biggest business seat of any airline, measuring 87 centimeters across, while economy passengers will benefit from extra legroom and a more spacious cabin area.

Singapore Airlines has fitted just 471 seats in the 600 square meters of floor space available in the double-decker plane, which can take a maximum of 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

A staircase at each end links the two levels and the business and first class areas have a self-service bar with food and drinks.

There are none of the more fanciful ideas discussed when development of the plane was launched in 2000, such as restaurants, gyms, showers, beauty salons or casinos.

Nevertheless, Singapore is banking on some travellers being prepared to pay more for space and comfort and has mounted artwork and designed space for flowers to brighten the interior of the aircraft.

The “suite class” seats on the Singapore-Sydney route, on which A380 flights will begin regularly from October 28, are to be 40-80 percent more expensive than first class on a Boeing 747, a spokesman told AFP.

The price of a suite is to be about 8,000 euros (US$11,400), roughly 1,000 euros per hour of flying, according to an AFP calculation.

Other early buyers of the A380, such as Qantas of Australia or Dubai-based Emirates, are also expected to limit seat numbers to about 500, but analysts believe in the future other carriers might use the plane’s capacity to the full.

Fitted out in mostly beige, brown and white, both levels in the plane feel spacious because of the almost vertical sides of the fuselage, which is far bigger than its nearest rival for size, the Boeing 747.

Singapore Airlines also claims passengers will notice the significantly reduced noise pollution, mainly because of the new technology used in the four Rolls-Royce engines that will power its planes.

The in-flight entertainment system, developed by Japanese electronics group Panasonic, includes more than 100 films, 180 television programs and numerous computer games, available in all three classes.

In economy class, which has two aisles with either 10 or nine seats across, depending on the floor, passengers will have a 27-centimetre television screen, a power point and computer functionality.

The in-flight entertainment system includes word-processing and spreadsheet software and the handset has a keyboard. Documents can be downloaded to a USB key.

Thomas Enders, the chief executive of Airbus, predicted that other airlines would look at what Singapore had done and would attempt to follow suit.

“The impact of Singapore Airlines’ cabin innovations will ripple out across the industry,” he forecast.

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