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May 22, 2008

Singapore Airlines' New "FlyPod" Service

Kick back, plug in, and nosh.

by Barbara S. Peterson

A few days ago, Singapore Air rolled out what it touts as the industry's first all-business-class wide-bodied plane. I was one among a handful of voyeurs who slipped onto the jet at Newark Airport for a brief look before the real passengers took their seats.

The moment you board, the plane definitely has a different feel--it will be a feeling of relief for some, since there's no worrying about your upgrade and no fear of being sentenced to middle-seat hell. The Airbus A340 has 100 business-class seats in a 1-2-1 layout, so every seat is on an aisle. Each podlike compartment has an oversized video screen, a work area, and pulls out into a flat bed (it's no surprise to learn they were designed by a yacht builder). Seats are 30 inches wide versus the normal 20 inches for seats in this league. In its former incarnation, the aircraft held 181 seats in two classes: executive economy and business. And the plane is also the first to feature iPod connections in the entertainment system. Using a unique in-flight cable, passengers will be able to use their iPods or iPhones throughout the flight.

The plane debuts on the Newark to Singapore run--an 18-hour nonstop marathon--and a second jet with identical seating will start departing from Los Angeles in September. (Flying time from LA to Singapore clocks in at 18.5 hours, the longest in the world.) Fares begin at $7,000, and fliers get all the Singapore touches, including use of the airlines' airport lounges, and an "all flight" buffet, which allows you to eat--and rest--when you want. The airline has wisely kept its snack bar areas on this plane, so you can always slip back and raid the larder if you're bored.


How can it be 18.5 hours to Singapore from LAX when it's "an 18-hour nonstop marathon" from EWR?

Yes it does sound strange that it would take longer to fly LA to Singapore than New York to Singpore -- but it's true. The difference is the routing. The New York flight goes over the pole -- and it takes advantage of corridors that were opened up over Russian airspace after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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