Why Singapore Airlines is so special… sometimes

It’s amazing how relative airline quality is. If I’m flying a US airline, I consider the service to be phenomenal if I’m addressed by name once or twice and/or the flight attendant is smiling and mutters the occasional “you’re welcome” in response to my “thank you.”

Meanwhile I flew Singapore Airlines today from Singapore to Seoul Incheon in first class, and I had what I consider to be one of the worst Singapore Airlines first class flights of my life (which, to be clear, is the same as whining over the worst blow… ice cream sundae one has had in their life – it’s still great, it’s just relative). The funny/sad part is that it’s still probably leaps and bounds better than what you’d get on other airlines. But I think the more you fly certain airlines, the more you get used to small touches that blow you away.

I find on Singapore that the service is exceptional roughly every other flight, while it’s acceptable on the other half of flights. And like I said above, “acceptable” is an extremely relative term here, because we’re talking acceptable by Singapore standards and not by American/European/South American standards.


So what are all the things I’m noticing that make this the least special Singapore flight I’ve ever had?


How an exceptional crew does it: The inflight supervisor, leading stewardess, and leading steward all personally introduce themselves, wish you a pleasant journey, tell you the flight time and weather conditions enroute, and tell you to let them know if you want anything.

How this crew did it: No introductions.

Pre-departure beverages:

How an exceptional crew does it: “Mr. Lucky, it will be my pleasure to ensure you have an exceptional flight today. How about we start that off with something to drink before we depart, perhaps a glass of Krug or Dom?”

How this crew did it: “Do you want something to drink, maybe some water or orange juice?”

My thoughts: I guess popping open bottles of champagne is a lot of work…

After takeoff sitting:

How an exceptional crew does it: I see you’re reading, would you maybe care for a blanket? Please let me know at any point in the flight if you’d like your bed made.

How this crew did it (mind you, before any of the service started): Do you want me to make your bed now?

My thoughts: The faster they send us to sleep, the less they have to do.

Lunch orders:

How an exceptional crew does it: “Mr. Lucky, our meal service is completely on demand, so please peruse the menu and let us know what you’d like to eat and when you’d like to eat it.”

How this crew did it: “Are you ready to order, and may I suggest you eat at around 11:30AM local time in Singapore, in about an hour?”

My thoughts: It says a lot when the crew tells you when to eat with an on demand meal flight.

Small talk:

How an exceptional crew does it: “Mr. Lucky, did you enjoy your time in Singapore? Were you there for business or holiday?”

How this crew did it (the inflight supervisor, to be exact): “Did you stay at the casino hotel in Singapore? You people always seem to stay there.”

My thoughts: Seriously?!


How an exceptional crew does it: They walk through the cabin every 10-15 minutes during the non-service parts of the flight. They use their x-ray vision to determine whether you might need anything.

How this crew did it: They sat in the galley. For the whole flight. And didn’t emerge for the four hours between the meal and the time the cabin had to be prepared for landing.

My thoughts: They must have been there primarily for our safety.

Anyway, fortunately my connecting flight to San Francisco was spectacular, though I’ll cover that later. Interestingly there was an inflight auditor on that flight, and I couldn’t help but wish she were on the previous flight instead.

Filed Under: Singapore, Travel
  1. Yep – have had meh service on 3 prior SQ flights similar to the type you describe today. That’s why I go for foolish consistency and try and take Apology Airlines (aka ANA) when I can 🙂

  2. The one SQ F I took was kind of like your subpar experience. The service while good at points lacked refinement and the worst was when the inflight supervisor walked around in a tank top in the middle of the flight. And something I thought was strange was that there was only one flight attendant serving the cabin. I thought the ANA F flight I took was so much better than the SQ flight. The bed was more comfortable, food 100 times better, and the inflight supervisor did some special touches that just made you feel warm inside. SQ on the other hand made me feel I was almost in a factory of sorts.

  3. I think you and Gary take your luxury problems to an extreme too much, to the point where i wish the girlfriend from My Cousin Vinny would come out and say “What a f… nightmare”!

    But I suppose being referred to as a pronoun is a bit much. I once actually had a disgruntled UA FA on a flight from Singapore to Narita refer to “us people” as human ATM machines.

  4. WOW, “Did you stay at the casino hotel in Singapore? You people always seem to stay there.” – That is really bad and something I would never expect to hear on SQ even if the crew was not top quality.

    Honestly, I have better luck with landing phenomenal crew with CX than with SQ. I really find SQ’s crew overrated.

  5. @ MEOW — Because I was traveling with a friend and they only release one seat in Suites for routes to the US. Beyond that, had a very special FA working the leg from ICN to SFO. 🙂

  6. lucky, now I see why you had an auditor in your flight: they just wanted to make sure you weren’t getting an FA all to yourself 😉
    BTW, when is she going to have guest posts around here?

  7. First the “blow…ice cream sundae” comment and then the reply to @Meow about the “very special FA working the leg” on your spectacular flight to SF. Did you intend to be so suggestive about Singapore Airlines? Perhaps I misread this.

  8. After getting all exceptional SQ treatment, got the Blah one, and its unfortunate but that one tends to stand out. Whereas on UA, its the rare exceptional that stands out.

  9. I assume you were meaning ‘blowjob’ when you truncated up there, but as it current reads it could look like you meant ‘blow’ and you were complaining about inferior quality, um, blow, which is probably worse than just writing blowjob.

  10. Traveling in first a lot as you do, you are able to discern the top notch crews from the “meh” FA’s. Singapore usually sets the bar high so it must be disappointing to feel underwhelmed by the service.

    Ha–so risque a comment. I love it but be careful as I recall your Mom reads this. 😉

  11. I recently flew CX F from HKG to JFK and found it odd not to get a personal thank you note for flying the 15 hour journey with them (since the flight crew on the previous flight wrote one to me despite the flight being only 2 hours.) Also, I found it odd how the purser never introduced himself/herself during the entire flight until after landing!
    Regardless, I enjoyed reading this post, especially the examples of your opinions on what makes an exceptional crew. Quite helpful.
    How did you know there was an inflight auditor on the ICN-SFO leg? Do the FAs know there is an inflight auditor present or is he/she more like a ghost rider?

  12. @ Joey — They’re usually good about passing out the cards on Cathay, so kind of surprised they didn’t. Also, in my experience on Cathay Pacific the inflight service manager usually introduces themselves at the beginning of the flight when they hand out the menus. Sorry that didn’t happen for you!

    The auditor actually had a nametag that said “auditor,” introduced herself to passengers, etc. She was oddly integrated into the crew, which is an interesting way of auditing.

  13. I guess they would have been an exceptional crew to me.

    How an exceptional crew does it: “They walk through the cabin every 10-15 minutes during the non-service parts of the flight. They use their x-ray vision to determine whether you might need anything”

    Me: “Could you please go back to the galley? You are getting on my nerves ! ”

    This is why I love CX !


  14. @mark #17, why don’t you go read oxfam or world vision’s blog then? oh right, because you want to find out more about your first world traveling lifestyle and how to enhance it……

  15. A fair post Lucky. When Singapore are good, they are great, usually on their A380 services. However, I had one flight in Business from Singapore to HK where it seemed I was on a different airline, a dirty plane interior with seat backs showing marks and a crew that were below SQ’s usual standard. I had a feeling it was almost as if SQ had put such a crew together, ie, on a regional early morning run. The difference between them and their colleagues on the A380 was markedly distinct.

  16. Had similar/worse experience just 3 months ago on sin-pvg flight, IFS never came out from the galley, and the leading stewardess was so busy sucking up with rich chinese family that she forgot to do landing announcement..

    I find that you have better odds of getting exceptional crew when you fly suite, since afterall, not all crew can work in suites, they need to be specially trained.

  17. Interestingly, I experience that same things!… it’s almost up to 30% of my SQ F experiences that they were quite … not upto SQ F Standard while the 70% they were spectacular!…. and everything is almost like what you described!!… Sometimes I had really nice crews while the inflight supervisor was the bad one… never come introduce him/herself, not smile much, etc. Even one of my suite experience, it was quite bad.

  18. My bad experiences in F (both CX and SQ) also involve slow services during the meals. It took them so long to come and get my empty dishes or fill up drinks, I had to push the button many times to ask them to refill the drink.

  19. @ mike — I don’t really get offended easily so it’s not something I lost sleep over, but I thought the comment would certainly be offensive to some.

  20. Good observation. Whenever we experience a below-the-standard-service with SQ or other airlines, my husband always asks for the “C” form and their attitudes always and instantly change and improve. Have you ever tried that?

  21. Lucky…I am from Singapore. I fly SQ if I travel for trips like to Europe etc. SQ service is like a hit and miss depending on the crew you get. I flew back from Amsterdam to Singapore. They ran out of the chicken option which my mum wanted. My mum did not want the other option. The FA who did the service was sweet enough to say she will check and see if there was extra of the chinese vegetarian and arrange for it. And true enough,she did and even came back and check on my mum to see if she like her meal.And not frogetting that my in-flight entertainment hanged thrice. The FA had to re-set it for me. Each time, she keep coming back and check on me to see if the in flight system was working which I felt was a nice touch.

    In June this year,I flew back from Spain Barcelona to Singapore. My sister was on the way to the bathroom(She was about to go in to the bathroom) then we had an air turbulence. The FA plonk herself down and told my sister rudely that you ought to sit down. We are having air turbulence. My sister was like I gotta go.The FA told her, fine it’s your own business. I think she could have put it in a nice way than that.

    Looking forward to your next A380 SQ trip report. My aunt is a Leading Stewardess with SQ. Hope your next report I might get to see her in one of your report.

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