We get the low down from Betty Wong, Divisional Vice President of Customer Experience, on everything you didn’t know about the Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class product.
How much research has gone into the design of Singapore Airlines’ business seats?
We started about four years ago with a focus group with Airbus. And then we had different stages of design conceptualisation and of course prototyping, and then we went on to test the design with a group of our frequent flyers before finally going into production.
During the production process, we went to see our manufacture in Japan quite a bit because we had to make sure that the engineering solution did not compromise the intent of the seat design as well as the customer experience.
In the two middle seats, you can actually have the seat become a double seat or double bed without any barrier in between. We wanted to make this a seat and bed for couples.
What if you’re not travelling with your partner?
We have a divider that goes completely up and the person next to you won’t be able to see you or what you’re watching on TV at all. It’s all about privacy.
How important are the materials you use?
The materials place a very important part in finishing the seat. We think about a few things, it’s not all about the colour and the style. We think about maintainability and cleanliness. We don’t want this product to look old after two years.
So a lot of thought goes into using the correct materials. Things that need to be luxurious need to have a particular feel. What complicates the process is that everything you see on the seat needs to be tested. If we choose a different colour or shape that will also need to be given a ‘burn test’ because every colour burns differently.
You can imagine in a design process there is a lot of effort involved. This takes many many months that will add up to years. It took four years to launch our new business class product.
And what about the space? The seats seem very large.
Every inch of free space is given to the customer. We want to give couples the flexibility to use as much as of the seat as they want. The seats go fully flat. We use a patented a design that allows us to free up the space beneath the seat. This means passengers can store their belongings underneath their seat instead of in the overhead compartment. And that is unique to Singapore Airlines.
What aspects of being on a flight are important to you when you’re travelling?
I think the Singapore Airlines experience is a total experience. When I come onboard the first thing I look forward to is seeing the familiar cabin crew who are always friendly and attentive. And once seated, the environment and ambience is important to me including the features you would discover as a passenger.
What’s important during a flight is the in-flight entertainment system and our food and beverage offering is second to none. Today in this age we have also connectivity so passengers can work and everything comes together to meet everyone’s individual needs.
And what are you most proud of with the product?
The entire Singapore Airlines team worked together, we have a big team from all over operations. We all have to come together to make sure the engineers are happy and it’s operational and that the cleaners who service the aircraft know how to work the seats. And most important the cabin crew because they are an integral part of the design and we need to make sure that whatever we come up with can help them deliver that iconic Singapore Airlines service.
Can you give us a hint about what’s next?
As we speak we are starting our new project for 777X and it will take a couple of years. Most airlines take advantage of cabin design to differentiate themselves and that’s one area that we will be working on to come up with more ideas and leverage more technology to narrow the gap of what people get on the ground vs what’s in the air. Everything we do is for the customer.