Late last year we received the following email from TravelSkills reader Jason Vaudrey with a query about submitting a reader report about his upcoming Singapore Airlines Premium Economy flight. He wrote:
My name is Jason Vaudrey and I really enjoy reading TravelSkills each week. I just finished reading about Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flight with their A350 and it made me more excited for my trip to Myanmar and return from Bangkok in December when I’ll fly on the A350. I am fascinated by air travel, commercial aircraft, the hustle and bustle of airports and have been this way since I was a child. I am somewhat envious of your ability to be able to make a career for yourself doing what you love. When I was younger, I flew quite often and used to save my ticket jackets and would often use the Official Airline Guide to plan out my father’s travels that would often take him up to the North Slope of Alaska. Today, I am fortunate to have a career that allows me to travel internationally once or twice a year…I’m more than happy to provide a review of Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy experience in December aboard their A350. I am very excited for the 17-hour flight.
That sounded great, and my reply to Vaudrey was:
Hey Jason! You sound like me! We’d love to consider a trip report from you. Here are some guidelines for you to consider: http://travelskills.com/travelskills-reader-report-guidelines
Earlier this year, Jason submitted the following report:
I love taking a big international trip at least once a year, preferably to a country I have never visited. I usually like to include scuba diving, whitewater rafting or something adventurous as part of my destination. I always believe in my vacation beginning at SFO and look forward to the long haul flight that awaits. I will pay upwards of $400 more for an airline with a better reputation as opposed to defaulting to the least expensive ticket to a destination.
To allow myself the freedom to travel, I work as a substitute teacher with San Francisco Unified School District and also do HIV and reproductive health research on short term projects or as an independent contractor. This holiday and during my winter break from school, I chose to go to Yangon (Burma) and to see Bagan and scuba dive the Burma Mergui Archipelago, which involved me starting that portion of my trip in Thailand.
I flew nearly two months after the inauguration of Singapore Airlines’ nonstop SFO to Singapore Changi flight. Our flight flight time was approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes. I sat in seat 33H, the third and last row in Premium Economy on the two seat side. There were approximately 30 seats empty on board the plane, according to the chief steward.
There are 24 seats in Premium Economy in a 2-4-2 layout and I definitely recommend the last row because your seat is not pulled on when the person behind you often uses the head rest as support to get up from their seat not realizing how jarring it is for the person seated.
The seven cabin crew who attended to both the Premium Economy and Economy sections did an amazing job to make sure everyone was seated and comfortable and we had an on time departure and upon boarding handed us a hot towel, a menu and confirmed with those passengers who requested a special meal. The menu for premium economy covers all four meal services for both Flight 31 and Flight 32.
The check-in procedure at SFO has a special lane for Premium Economy, although when I arrived about 2.5 hours ahead of my flight, there were no passengers at the check-in counter and the ticketing agent had indicated that most everyone had checked-in already. On my return trip which originated in Bangkok, I still was able to use the Premium Economy lane and also for boarding the flight which had no Premium Economy section. Although in Bangkok, the ground staff operating the flight from Bangkok to Singapore allowed for Premium Economy passengers to board with their frequent flier mileage tier groups after Business Class boarded.
Both flights are designed the same in terms of service and meals offered. You are served a hot breakfast with three options that are the same three options being offered in economy. I chose the braised egg noodles with pork and it was delicious. The other two options were Western breakfast style options. For the second meal service from SFO-SIN, I ordered Korean BBQ ribs from the “Book the Cook” option that is given to premium economy passengers. All special meal order services are delivered first before the cart is pushed down the aisle serving the other passengers. Only drawback for ordering any special meal service is the delay in getting a beverage to go with it. So just request a beverage when your meal is delivered, but sometimes they will ask you to wait until the cart comes down the aisle.
The seat in premium economy is great. The problem with the exterior aisles, is the box that controls the seat back monitors obstructs and prevents you from being able to store a backpack and anything greater than a slim bag or purse. With my short legs, this did not pose a problem, but if you are tall, it might be an obstruction that is not welcome. The recline is nice along with the greater elbow room, because an arm rest is not shared with your seatmate. And there is also seat pitch of 38” and wider seats than in economy.
The only drawback is the engineering design of the calf rest. My seat mate on the return from Singapore to San Francisco brought this to my attention when he said that the calf rest doesn’t raise enough for you to at the same time rest your feet on the foot bar. And, even the passenger across the aisle from me pointed it out to a flight attendant after we took off and she tried to yank on the calf rest to get it to raise more, and I leaned over and told them, I think it’s a design flaw. My seat mate, cleverly, took his pillow and placed it under his legs, raising them, to allow his feet to reach the bar. I ended up not using the calf rest and prefer just resting my feet on the bar.
The return flight was fantastic and shorter. The second meal service was still approximately five hours after the first meal service. A change I noticed with this flight is the lead flight attendant approached all 24 passengers (premium economy was full) and asked them what they wanted for the three main course choices offered.
The flight attendants delivered premium economy meals without serving directly from the cart. The cart still was brought up the aisle to offer beverages, but I thought her asking those who did not already have a special meal request, was just another perk to sitting up in premium economy that I did not see, but also did not mind, when flying to Singapore from SF.
I bought my ticket in July 2016 and the price was approximately $1750, about $100 more than economy at the time. I found even the business class, priced at $3,200 roundtrip in July to be very reasonable, considering the distance. And, this would have also included my flight to Yangon from Singapore and my return from Bangkok to Singapore. By the end of August, the price for economy still hovered around $1650, but premium economy was priced at $2,400. I find it definitely to be worth it, because it is quite the long flight and the seat itself is worth the increase in price between economy and premium economy.
[Roundtrip, premium economy fares between SFO and Yangon on SIA are currently about $2,900 according to Google Flights]
My trip to Myanmar consisted of flying to Bagan to see the pagodas and take a hot air balloon at sunrise on Christmas Eve morning. From there, I took AirKBZ to Yangon, spent the night at a nice budget hotel by the airport, called the High Five Hotel. In the morning I flew to Ranong, Thailand, via Bangkok on AirAsia to Bangkok. From Bangkok to Ranong, Thailand, I flew on NokAir (nok in Thai means bird). Ranong, Thailand lies on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. From there, I boarded a 7-day liveaboard scuba dive boat with 17 other individuals and crossed back into Myanmar waters to scuba dive for 7 days in the Myanmar (Burma) Mergui Archipelago. I was the only American on board, but had a great adventure and befriended many on board.
Nice work, Jason! Thanks!
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