A Look Inside the Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR

Singapore Airlines re-launched its nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Singapore on November 2, and I headed over to LAX for the festivities.  Before you start thinking this is a trip report, let me stop you.  I didn’t go anywhere.  (And that’s a good thing since the inaugural had a mechanical issue and had to turn around an hour into the flight.)  But Singapore did invite me to crawl around the aircraft before boarding, and here’s what I saw.

The ULR in the aircraft name stands for “ultra long range,” and that’s exactly what Singapore needed.  Singapore and the US are nowhere near each other, and up until now, it’s been impossible to fly nonstop between the two points profitably.   That, however, didn’t stop Singapore from trying.

Previously these flights were operated by an A340-500.  That gas guzzler was barely able to make it, so it was outfitted in a very light configuration.  You could get around 300 people in a normal 3-cabin layout on that airplane, but Singapore started flying it in 2004 with just 64 business class seats and 117 extra legroom economy seats. 

By 2008, a change was made, and Singapore stripped the interiors and installed only 100 beds in business class.  This service lasted until 2013 when the economics just couldn’t be ignored any longer and the flights were cut.

The A350-900ULR has two efficient engines compared to the A340’s four thirsty ones. I had expected a more dense cabin, but I was wrong. Singapore’s regular A350-900 has 42 business class, 24 premium economy, and 187 coach for a total of 253 seats.  The ULR, however, has only 67 business class and 94 premium economy for a mere 161 onboard.

Premium Economy

Let’s start with the 94 in the back, because that to me was the most impressive cabin.  Singapore has these seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.

It’s a nicely designed seat from an aesthetic standpoint, and it has a lot of space with 38 inch pitch. 

Each seat comes with a pillow and blanket, but there’s nothing particularly opulent about them. There’s an adjustable snake light for each seat, as well as a place to put cups on the armrest.  It has a domestic First Class feel to it from that perspective, but there’s more to it than that.

There is a padded legrest that comes out of the seat as well as a footrest that comes down from the seat in front. Though we couldn’t sit for long, this seemed very comfortable for the time I was there.

There is also a gigantic screen in the back of the seat. Any of these seats would provide a nice ride, but there are six seats in the back that take the prize for best seats in the back cabin.

The aircraft narrows at the back, so the last three rows are in a 1-4-1 configuration.  It feels something like flying on the upper deck of the 747 since you just have a giant bin next to you for storage.   It looks strange, but for people who prefer aisles, these are the clear winners.

Business Class

Of course, business class is much nicer than premium economy, but that’s how business class is supposed to work.  This isn’t the newest version of Singapore’s business class that you’ll find on refitted A380s but rather it’s a slightly older model.  All the A350s (ULR or not) will have the same seat.

The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration and have a ton of room.  

The bed goes fully flat, but your legs have to angle toward the side where they fit in a snug cubby under the console of the seat in front.

When I say “snug,” I mean it.  There isn’t much room to maneuver.  Someone I spoke with who has taken one of these flights confirmed that it’s tight at the feet.  But up above, there’s nothing but room.

In the center section, feet angle toward the middle.  When you’re lying down it’s very private.  When sitting up, it’s still hard to talk to the person next to you.  (There is a divider you can close if it’s still not private enough.)

Possibly my favorite thing is that there is decent stowage in this seat, including a place to put your shoes or a small bag down at the bottom, even during take-off and landing.

At first glance, the controls appear a bit overwhelming, but with 17 hours to figure it out, it can’t be that hard.

Overall, it looks like a solid experience in both cabins.  The seats themselves aren’t significantly different from premium economy or business class on other Singapore aircraft, but for those who haven’t seen any of those, this will give you a good idea of what you can expect onboard.

These airplanes are on all Singapore – Newark and Singapore – LA flights as well as some of the Singapore – San Francisco flights.  The rest of the San Francisco flights along with the newly-announced Seattle nonstop will be flown with regular A350s.

While the product looks nice, I still wonder if Singapore can make money flying these with only 161 seats onboard.  That’s a lot of fuel to burn for not that many people.  Then again, Singapore has tried this before, and should know the revenue potential. 

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