In the far distance, a white speck swoops down over a patch of green and rumbles onto the runway. Its telltale raked wings and long body, embellished with a streak of midnight blue and an iconic bird logo on the tailfin, are almost unmissable.
The world’s first Boeing 787-10, after flying for nearly 22 hours from its production facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, pulls to a halt at Changi Airport — named the world’s best airport for the sixth year in a row in the annual World Airport Awards by Skytrax this year. Camera flashes and a customary water cannon salute shower the newest Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft, while on the tarmac, the crew — bursting with pride — cheer at yet another historical aviation milestone for their national carrier.
The shiny plane that arrived last month is only the first of SIA’s planned 49-strong fleet of 787-10s, making it the airline with the largest order of the Dreamliner variant. The dramatic leaps in design of the 787-10, powered by the new Trent 1000 Rolls-Royce engine, no less, is paving the way for the modern jet era. Its suite of technologies includes innovative systems that counter the effects of turbulence to alleviate symptoms of jet lag or dehydration, engine noise reduction and electronically dimmable windows, so flight attendants never have to breathe down your neck for not raising the window shade during take-off or landing.
Privacy is a scarce resource these days but the 787-10 offers a way to win it back. In the lavishly appointed Business Class, all 36 seats — which are arranged in a forward-facing 1-2-1 configuration with retractable arm rests and adjustable dividers to avoid awkward eye contact — can recline directly into a 76” fully flat bed. Luxury is truly the operative word here: the sumptuous seats are covered with Alcantara (the same material used to upholster the interiors of luxury sports cars and yachts) while the wide windows reveal a panoramic view of the earth stretching out below you.
Although much is made of the airline’s glitz — from shuttling the most elite of its clientele to the generous allotment of quality champagnes on board — customers still prioritise in-flight entertainment, especially during a long-haul flight. The new 787-10 affords passengers a greater control through myKrisWorld, a personalised system with an 18in full high-definition touchscreen monitor that recommends films, TV shows and music based on your preference. Your viewing history will then be bookmarked for your subsequent flights.
The immense growth of business travel may have spurred significant innovation in the front of the plane but not all is forgotten at the back, where passengers are privy to some of the perks too. Comfortable economy class seats are no longer an oxymoron as they are equipped with ergonomically-designed contour backrest and six-way adjustable headrest to ease you into slumber. Nothing puts a damper on a vacation like a knee cramp — luckily, the 3-3-3 configuration on the 787-10 provides a personal storage space and enough legroom for you to curl up with a good book.
Going the extra mile for passengers
“Get out, get out!” a flight attendant-to-be bellowed in front of a stern examiner and her fellow trainees, who had just embraced a new-found expectation that they are as responsible for passenger safety as those piloting the plane. The Singapore Airlines Training Centre was buzzing with activity during our private tour of the facility — a class of new hires were familiarising themselves with mock-ups of SIA’s various aircraft, while another glided down an inflatable evacuation slide of a Boeing 777. It looked fun, but none of the trainees were smiling because they knew the real thing would not be a day at the playground.
Pop culture has elevated flight attendants to their apex as icons of glamour and part of the mystique, perhaps, has to do with their trademark uniforms. But SIA attendants — particularly the Singapore Girls the airline is so revered for — understand that duty extends well beyond their Balmain-designed sarong kebaya and navy suits. From dealing with brawls on the plane, terrorist threats and crying children to snooty passengers who demand their mixed nuts to be sorted (true story), cabin crew are trained to treat every passenger courteously and fairly.
SIA has achieved tremendous international acclaim partly because much of the airline’s reputation is entrusted to its perfectly groomed crew, diligent engineers and a team of airport staff who ensure customers enjoy an end-to-end, stress-free experience. The airline’s new in-flight safety video, which educates passengers through visual puns scattered across Singapore’s famous landmarks such as Boat Quay and Gardens by the Bay, is a smart way of imparting aviation rules and the country’s heritage to tourists at the same time.
In an age when seemingly everyone can afford to fly, what truly separates an airline from its contenders are top-notch service and state-of-the-art technology. No wonder SIA, which delivers you to your destination even more relaxed than when you boarded, has always been an enduring symbol to capture the imagination of the world’s travellers.
Singapore Airlines’ new Boeing 787-10 fleet will be servicing Osaka and Perth routes in May. This article first appeared on Apr 30, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.