PICTURES

SIA's new-look cabins take to the skies

SIA's overhauled cabins include (from left) a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class; and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins de
SIA's overhauled cabins include (from left) a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class; and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins debut on the new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft today to London, on flight SQ318. The improvements will also be included on the airline's new Airbus 350 jets, which will start joining the fleet in 2015.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
SIA's overhauled cabins include a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class (above); and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins debut
SIA's overhauled cabins include a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class (above); and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins debut on the new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft today to London, on flight SQ318. The improvements will also be included on the airline's new Airbus 350 jets, which will start joining the fleet in 2015. -- ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Seats in the economy class of Singapore Airlines (SIA) showing the folding screens. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in t
Seats in the economy class of Singapore Airlines (SIA) showing the folding screens. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Seats in the economy class of Singapore Airlines (SIA) showing the folding screens. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in t
Seats in the economy class of Singapore Airlines (SIA) showing the folding screens. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) business class seats showing the amenities available, such as laptop and mobile device charging sockets and cubby holes. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia,
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) business class seats showing the amenities available, such as laptop and mobile device charging sockets and cubby holes. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO :  ALPHONSUS CHERN
The TV screen in the business class seats of Singapore Airlines (SIA). SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST
The TV screen in the business class seats of Singapore Airlines (SIA). SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) new first-class seats. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSU
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) new first-class seats. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) business class seats in the bed mode. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) business class seats in the bed mode. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seats have a compartment for storing personal items. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new produc
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seats have a compartment for storing personal items. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seats with Bose headphones. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOT
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seats with Bose headphones. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seat in bed mode. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  A
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) first class seat in bed mode. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN
Seats in the updated cabin of Singapore Airlines' (SIA) economy class. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST
Seats in the updated cabin of Singapore Airlines' (SIA) economy class. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN      
The degree of adjustability the seat is capable of is shown in this photo of Singapore Airlines' (SIA)  economy class taken on Sept 25, 2013. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia,
The degree of adjustability the seat is capable of is shown in this photo of Singapore Airlines' (SIA)  economy class taken on Sept 25, 2013. SIA's cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, comes amidst other airlines like Garuda Indonesia, British Airways and Air France putting their new products in the air. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
SIA's overhauled cabins include (from left) a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class; and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins de
SIA's overhauled cabins include (from left) a new inflight entertainment touchscreen monitor in economy class; more storage space in the seats in business class; and first-class seats that can be turned into longer beds than before. The new cabins debut on the new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft today to London, on flight SQ318. The improvements will also be included on the airline's new Airbus 350 jets, which will start joining the fleet in 2015.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

It is third airline in last three months to debut overhauled cabin products

Singapore Airlines will put its latest cabin products in the air today, becoming the third airline in the last three months to do so as competition in the sector intensifies.

Passengers flying on SQ318 to London this afternoon will enjoy wider, cushier seats, and more personal and storage space in first, business and economy cabins.

The new-look cabins are also decked with the latest inflight entertainment system featuring wider LCD screens and touchscreen handsets across all classes.

Economy-class passengers can browse through more than 1,000 entertainment options by scrolling through touchscreen monitors.

Click photo for an interactive peek at the SIA's new cabins.

SIA

The overhaul comes as rival airlines like Garuda Indonesia, Cathay Pacific and British Airways are nipping at SIA's heels by offering new or improved cabin products.

In July, Garuda debuted its new first, business and economy class seats while Cathay Pacific refreshed six-year-old first-class seats and started flying them in the same month.

This week, Air France also unveiled its latest economy and premium economy seats which boast more legroom and new seat cushions. They will debut next year.

The Straits Times got a first look at SIA's new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft - the first of eight that will come with the new furnishings - on Wednesday.

The US$150 million (S$188 million) cabin overhaul, the most extensive since 2006, will be rolled out on the eight new 777-300ERs in the next two years.

The second aircraft, which has been kitted out with the new furnishings in Seattle, will arrive here this weekend and also ply between London and Singapore next month.

The improvements, which were undertaken by two world-renowned design firms - BMW Group subsidiary DesignworksUSA, and James Park Associates, which is based here and in Britain - will also be included on the airline's new Airbus 350 jets, which will start joining the fleet in 2015.

SIA is also looking to retrofit its existing fleet of 19 777-300ERs, which The Straits Times understands may start as early as the end of next year.

The cabin upgrades are a result of two years of research and development, said SIA vice-president (product innovation) Chew Tai Lu in a recent interview with The Straits Times.

For instance, some 170 people, including SIA staff and passengers, were asked to test out the new seats, with some staff even sleeping overnight in them.

Mr Chew added that 15 trips were made to the US by his colleagues and designers to decide on the type of customised cushions to use for the seats.

"A lot of science went into it... In a long-sector flight, after sitting on a cushion for four to five hours or beyond, if the cushion is too soft, you get this sinking-in feeling. That will not be comfortable."

Although some analysts have said that SIA's overhaul is not revolutionary, some airlines like Cathay Pacific say there is a limit to product innovation.

Cathay's general manager (products) Tobey Smith said: "We don't innovate for the sake of innovation. Seats are not going to get any flatter or bigger. There are certain realistic expectations in how much space can be expanded."

For Cathay's upcoming cabin overhaul for its new fleet of Airbus 350s, Mr Smith said it will not be a "major revolutionary radical rethink" but a "logical improvement" on current cabin products.

Mr Smith told The Straits Times that improvements include better cushioning, better headrests, more private spaces, as well as high-definition monitors that are more touch-sensitive.

SIA's business-class seat chief designer James Park said: "The challenging and intriguing part of design is to get that final few per cent out of every little aspect of the seat. That's really what we had to do here."

BMW's director for creative consulting Magnus Aspegren said: "It's not about making the hard product and the seat but creating an environment that provides the best experience for the passengers".

jermync@sph.com.sg