Friday, 27 Nov 2020

SIA's A-380 restaurant takes off

For the first time since air traffic was mostly grounded by the Covid-19 pandemic in March, a palpable buzz was evident in a section of Terminal 3 at Changi Airport when SIA’s Restaurant A380 @ Changi opened for business.

Within the transit area, there were children, some of them dressed in mini sarong kebayas, running about and playing.

Customers streamed through the entrance usually reserved for first-class passengers, trading in their passports for a card that indicated seat numbers.

Airport security crew were hard at work, screening the constant stream of people before the boarding area. Those who had bottled water were politely asked to empty them, while those who had laptops were asked to take them out at the X-ray scanning machines.

Like a normal flight, dozens of cabin crew from Singapore Airlines (SIA), with the stewardesses donning the carrier’s signature sarong kebaya, soon arrived to board two waiting Airbus A-380 planes, with luggage in tow.

The scene drew applause from about 400 customers who were waiting to board the planes. They were also treated to a mini fashion show put up by other cabin crew who modelled SIA uniforms from the past.

After boarding the planes, the customers – spread across economy, premium economy, business class and the suites – plugged into in-flight entertainment. At the same time, cabin crew went down the aisles to serve food and drinks.

But, in a stark reminder of the times, both crew and passengers were wearing masks whenever possible. Gaps were left between seats to ensure safe distancing, and each plane was filled to only about half of its usual capacity.

The planes did not take off, as the crew went about serving the customers for three hours as SIA launched its first Restaurant A380 experience at Changi Airport.

The airline offered an initial 900 or so seats for lunch on Oct 24 and 25, and these were sold out within 30 minutes after bookings opened.

SIA then announced that it would have lunch sessions as well on Oct 31 and Nov 1, and dinner sessions on all four days. The three-hour lunches and dinners cost $50 per person in the economy cabin, $90 for those in premium economy, $300 for business class and $600 for the suites.

Almost 200 SIA staff including cabin crew volunteered to help out at the event yesterday.

Mr Lee Lik Hsin, SIA’s executive vice-president (commercial), who spoke to the media on the sidelines, said: “We are very, very grateful for the support that has been shown to us by the people of Singapore.

“This weekend is all sold out, but there are still some slots available for the next weekend… if the demand continues to be strong, certainly (opening up more dining sessions) will be something we will think about.”

Mr Lee said there has also been strong interest in SIA’s other new non-flight initiative, which is the offer of delivery of its premium meals, with more than 500 packages sold so far.

In response to a question on how these initiatives have helped SIA financially, he said: “All these are revenue generating, but we are an airline and we do have to get back to flying. So we do hope to be able to do that as soon as possible.”

I know the price is steep for a dining experience… but since we are not going anywhere, this will be something that is memorable.

But, for now, the opportunity to dine on board a plane is as good as it gets for those hit with the travel bug.

Menu at Restaurant A380 @ Changi

ECONOMY

• Roast chicken with potato and pumpkin salad

• Ayam tempra and brinjal sambal or Miso kakuni or Pan-fried salmon with creamy dill sauce

• Haagen-Dazs ice cream

PREMIUM ECONOMY

• Prawns on mung bean

• Itek siow and chap chai or Miso kakuni or Pan-fried salmon with creamy dill sauce

• Mango ice cream with almond tuile

BUSINESS

Option 1:

• SIA signature satay

• Chicken, prawn and jellyfish salad with coleslaw dressing

• Nonya grandma’s nasi lemak

• Nostalgic local ice cream sandwiches

• Cheese platter and fruit

Option 2:

• SIA signature satay

• Flaked smoked salmon

• Book The Cook favourite grilled beef fillet with black pepper sauce or Pan-seared prawns and scallops on saffron broth or Suzuki saikyo yaki

• Baked cheesecake with sable crust

• Cheese platter and fruit

SUITES

Option 1:

• SIA signature satay and chilled oscietra caviar

• Roast duck salad in sweet plum sauce

• Bakwan kepiting soup

• Nonya grandma’s nasi lemak

• Trio of nostalgic local ice cream sandwiches

• Cheese platter and fruit

Option 2:

• SIA signature satay and chilled oscietra caviar

• Antipasti and/or bakwan kepiting soup

• Book The Cook favourite lobster thermidor or Grilled grass-fed beef tenderloin with morel mushroom sauce or Suzuki saikyo yaki

• Warm fondant chocolate cake

• Cheese platter and fruit

Procurement specialist Halim Rahman celebrated his 37th birthday on board the plane yesterday with a meal in the business-class cabin.

He had waited until midnight for registration to open online earlier this month, and eventually succeeded in reserving slots for himself and his best friend, senior product executive Fairus Ahmad, 38.

“It’s definitely about the experience,” said Mr Halim.

“I know the price is steep for a dining experience… but since we are not going anywhere, this will be something that is memorable.”

Retired civil servant Emily Loo, 68, who was in economy class with her husband at Restaurant A380, said: “We managed to see the suites section today, which was very impressive, and we also got to see the cockpit and take a photo with the pilots.

“We had wanted to travel to Taiwan and Hong Kong, but this experience does help to make up for not being able to do so.”

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