Singapore Airlines To Trial Business Class Dine On Demand

Filed Under: Singapore

For decades Singapore Airlines has been known for being one of the best airlines in the world, though I can’t help but feel like they’ve somewhat been resting on their laurels. I feel like the airline used to be super innovative, but is less innovative nowadays:

  • For the most part I don’t find Singapore Airlines’ new cabins to be that cutting edge, and their business class seat hasn’t evolved that much in the past decade
  • Their meal services in business class are good, though nothing special
  • I will say that their cabin crew are consistently exceptional, and they’re one of the best parts of flying with the airline

Singapore Airlines’ A350 business class seat

Along those lines, it looks like Singapore Airlines may soon update their business class service.

Dine On Demand: Coming To Singapore Airlines Business Class?

ET quotes Singapore Airlines’ Director of F&B as saying that the airline is exploring a dine on demand option in business class. More specifically, Singapore Airlines plans to trial offering dine on demand in business class in early 2020, and then based on feedback will make a decision about what to do long-term.

This is due to customer feedback, though Singapore Airlines is careful to note that they want to make sure they develop a system that works before fully implementing this.

Part of that will be ensuring that flight attendants can deal with the increased work required from dine on demand while maintaining high levels of customized service.

Could we soon see dine on demand on the world’s longest flight?

Is Business Class Dine On Demand A Good Thing?

On the surface the addition of dine on demand sounds like a good thing. Especially for an airline like Singapore Airlines, where I sometimes can’t figure out the flow of their meal service.

But I’ve also sometimes in the past noticed that I don’t always think a dine on demand system is best. Sure, in an ideal world dine on demand is great, but there are some downsides:

  • It significantly increases the workload for the crew, and will make them more stressed, and perhaps not provide the same level of service
  • If you’re like me and are a sensitive sleeper, I find that the sounds, lights, and smells, from people dining throughout the flight can make it much harder to sleep

So while I’m generally in favor of dine on demand, there are also some downsides that are at least worth acknowledging.

I’d note that quite a few airlines have done dine on demand trials in business class, but ended up deciding against it. Take Emirates, for example — they trialed it for a while, but then decided not to implement it on a widespread basis (meanwhile both Etihad and Qatar offer dine on demand).

Qatar Airways offers dine on demand in business class

Bye Bye Lobster Thermidor?

Singapore Airlines offers a “Book The Cook” menu, where you can order from a much larger menu before your flight. One of the most popular options is their lobster thermidor dish.

It looks like that may not be on the menu forever in its current form:

“Like everything, the Book The Cook programme evolves. The lobster thermidor is a perennial favourite but we’re looking at opportunities to modernise that, whether it be a lobster thermidor-type of dish or something similar and lobster- themed which is a little bit more modern, a little bit more healthy perhaps.

People like lobster, but we’re moving to an environment where people are becoming more health-conscious so maybe the creamy lobster dish is not the right one… maybe a beautiful grilled lobster with fresh asparagus or veggies might be another alternative, as long as we maintain the integrity of the dish.”

Bottom Line

I’ll be curious to see what kind of a dine on demand trial Singapore Airlines runs, and how successful it is. Generally I’d say dine on demand would be a positive development, though assuming it allows the crew to maintain their high service standards.

As someone who struggles to sleep without perfect conditions I’m also generally somewhat apprehensive about dine on demand, though I realize that’s mostly just my problem.

Comments
  1. This is a very interesting move especially for an airline like SQ: Due to the number of seats they offer in Business Class, service always feels to me like an assembly line. Service is always very good but also a little bit robotic; so I seriously wonder: how will they manage the workload…

  2. I’m glad you mentioned Qatar. I was in business class from Doha to Philadelphia in 2015, which I think was something like 14 hours. They had dine on demand, and I thought it was magnificent. With jet lag and everything, it was so much more convenient to be able to sleep for the first 8 hours of the flight, wake up and then order anything from the menu à la carte.

    So it increases the workload of the crew – isn’t this their job?

    Also, if you have trouble sleeping, get a Mindfold sleep mask which comes with fantastic earplugs. Surely as much as you travel you must have a sleep mask and earplugs, don’t you? With these I can sleep through anything, even screaming babies.

  3. “Also, if you have trouble sleeping, get a Mindfold sleep”

    And avoid coffee before and during the flight as much as possible too.

  4. If SQ is concerned about health conscious passengers, then they should offer both the lobster thermidor *and* a healthy lobster option. Let the passengers decide which meal they want.

  5. I found my two flights from JFK-FRA-SIN to have incredible service and food quality during the meals. Every meal we pre-selected was delicious. It also felt highly personalized, especially as my husband I were in the center seats. The crew noticed and served us off of one aisle so we weren’t on different courses. I will say, though, we were in the small rear business class section on the upper deck of the A380.

  6. They did rest on their laurels. Twenty years ago they were the undisputed world best ( with Cathay a close second). Now they’ve fallen from grace, but it will take more than gimmicky meal arrangements ( including the grossly tacky Lobster Thermidor…this is a dish from the culinary dark ages, although it might appeal to the caviar set) to get back on track.
    They were slow to innovate in seating, they were among the first to slash and burn their FFP, and they became just a little passé.
    On a positive note: they now regularly come up as the cheapest J option on my routes ( unthinkable until quite recently). On that basis, I’m looking to try them again ( after a long break and as a former Solitaire PPS member).

  7. Not innovative in the past ten years?

    I flew SQ25 from JFK to SIN in December 2009.

    It was business class in the upper deck of their 747.

    The seat was their old “wedgie” seat that was far from lie flat.

    The ife screen was about eight inches, was on the bulkhead wall, and had few selections.

    I think they’ve innovated a bit..

  8. So what makes it work for EY and QR and not the other carriers. Dan, yes it is their job, however like I said what makes it work for some and not others. I guess with not having to take care of the entire cabin can help distribute the efforts. A whole meal service can sometimes take 2 hours, this way some get their meals and you have a few less to deal with later, but the fact remains they always have to being their toes.

  9. For a long time the only longhaul international business class I had ever flown was Qatar and Etihad, so one day I was flying BA from London to Dulles and I was exhausted, so I passed on lunch and went right to sleep. When I woke up I asked the flight attendant for my meal and he told me no, the meal offering was already done. I literally had no idea that you couldn’t just order food whenever you wanted in business class. To his credit he did get me a snack plate of food to eat, so he wasn’t just being lazy, he just couldn’t serve me the hot lunch because it had already gone bad.

  10. I really appreciated dine on demand on our recent QR flights, as @Dan did – it is so nice to be able to eat when you’re actually hungry rather than worry about missing out over the course of a 14-15 hour flight.

  11. @Marco – I took Singapore out and Etihad back. While Etihad had dine on demand, I found the meal service to be not as personalized and much more assembly line. The crew just wasn’t as over the top in their service. Singapore’s meal had almost double the amount of courses and required many more carts and items. I imagine it’s easier for Etihad since they have the standard appetizer, entree and dessert sections. For what it’s worth, the majority of passengers ate the meal on Etihad right after take off so they could sleep after.

  12. Re SQ business class cabin and innovation: i avoid their a350s, i havent flown one on any airline that i LOVE but SQ’s seem so bland and unappealing. If it’s a 77W i’ll take it but otherwise i’m fine with EVA, ANA (can’t wait to try their new business) or a handful of others.

  13. Fifteen plus years ago service on Singapore Airlines was something special and along with Cathay they were the cream of the crop.

    Since then they have rested on their laurels and have innovated nothing besides a new seat on the A380 which is one of the most awful business class seats in the sky, hard, no useable leg rest and at an angle if you want to sleep.

    Meanwhile service has got more and more robotic and prescriptive and if you don’t like it, it’s your fault because this is Singapore Airlines, the best in the business.

    These days they fall far short of Qatar, Etihad and in first are not in the same league as Air France or Lufthansa. The new suites are a slightly different matter but they only exist on 6 x A380s so not statistically significant.

    The only above average thing about Singapore these days is the pricing – if you’re daft enough to pay it. There are better choices out there all for less money.

  14. @Lucky — “It significantly increases the workload for the crew, and will make them more stressed, and perhaps not provide the same level of service”

    Sounds like never-tiring robotic flight attendants should get developed for off-schedule dining, incorporating advanced AI to engage in pseudo conversations, but only if/when desired? 😛

  15. The writer and all the other comments feels like middle class people who can barely afford to pay for business class but whine and complain just because you guys have experienced it. What do you guys expect airlines to do? Have a personal butler to serve you on board? Or even better put a spa on board? Seriously, you guys sound like whiney old hags, “I wanna see how they will do on demand dining on board, but you know, I am a light sleeper, so I don’t like the noise” blah blah blah.

  16. I think it’s a great idea, and will assist in taking your mind off sitting at a back twisting angle on the weirdest seat in the air.

  17. So for those of you mentioning “it’s the crews job” or “just retrain them for on demand”, let me shed some light on a few things as a United flight attendant. Air crews, both pilots and flight attendants are given several hours to sleep on the flight in an area with sleeping berths for crew rest. Each airline has a different policy depending on the workers collective bargaining agreements or work rules set up between the company and crew. The breaks are usually distributed in two parts to maximize the sleeping time of crews. Remember a flight attendants first responsibility is the safety and security of all passengers and crew onboard. So being rested is a crucial step in having crews that are capable to deal with any inflight emergencies and possible evacuations. So generally, one half of the crew begins their breaks 2.5-3 hours after departure. Leaving only one half awake to tend to passengers whom are awake. Depending on the length of the flight, they will swap out after 3-4 hours and repeat this process. All crew are then awake for the arrival and sometimes the mid flight snack. So you can see that there will be concerns. What if too many desire to dine at one time, while now there is only 3 crew awake for a certain cabin, while normally there is 6 during a regularly scheduled meal service? I know some may say, send economy flight attendants to assist, this would not be possible, as they have a minimum number of flight attendants assigned to each cabins and even cabin coverage is required by the FAA and other agencies. I know some are still livening in the age thinking we are still pretty faces giving 5 star service, and while we still strive to give everyone good service, the new reality is that times have changed, and we now are dealing with more security training, medical training, etc. I’ll reiterate this one last time. Flight attendants are mandated now by all government agencies, but this mandate is not so that we are there to give turn down service and serve meals, it’s there to make sure that if an airplane is on fire we can get everyone out safely in 90 seconds or less. It’s there to insure that if someone has a heart attack somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, that we can give that person a fighting chance at survival until the airplane has safely landed. It’s there to ensure there will never again be another 9-11 type security breach. I’m afraid the times have changed, and customer expectations need to change also. We do our best, given that since deregulation, we now are working with 50% less crew to do the same job, with more responsibility, so airlines can once again be profitable for the shareholders and grow to offer new destinations. Also when asked, most airline customers now value comfort most of all, a good nights sleep. Less than 25% are interested in the food as their top priority. So if you are one that wants lobster thermidor served at your convenience, remember that you are now in the minority and airlines have noticed that and are evolving, and you too, may need to evolve.

  18. @Dean

    This WHINER is why I don’t set butt on United anymore.

    He represents the company’s entire attitude that they are not there to provide a service to the customer. And why I NEVER book onto a US line when going abroad.

    Absolutely unbelievable that he would post this drivel online, not realizing that he is stating exactly what is wrong with the US carriers in spades.

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