SIA's been 'good to me': Why people are paying to eat on a plane

In August 2015, Ms Amy Tay's then boyfriend Tan Si-Rong proposed to her while on a flight to Australia. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMY TAY Mr Nicholas Lim and his girlfriend Eleanor Teo will be boarding a plane for the first time together on Oct 25. PHOTO: C
Mr Nicholas Lim and his girlfriend Eleanor Teo will be boarding a plane for the first time together on Oct 25. PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICHOLAS LIM

They have been dating for about a year and on Oct 25, Mr Nicholas Lim and his girlfriend Eleanor Teo will be boarding an aircraft together for the first time.

The couple's destination is no far-flung locale, but Singapore Airlines' restaurant in an A-380 plane which will be parked at Changi Airport next weekend and the one after.

The pair, who opted for the economy cabin lunch at $50 each, are among the lucky 3,500 or so customers to get a seat for lunch or dinner.

More than 900 seats that were available for SIA's Restaurant A380 @ Changi dining experience were sold within 30 minutes of bookings opening last Monday. Prices ranged from $50 for economy to $600 for suites.

Two aircraft will be deployed, with guests occupying about half the seats to stick to safe distancing guidelines.

Besides the meal, Ms Teo, a 31-year-old who works in a charity, and Mr Lim, 34, will get to explore the world's largest passenger aircraft in the three hours they have on the plane.

They also plan to catch the Harley Quinn: Birds Of Prey movie.

Ms Teo, a fan of the DC Comics character, wanted to watch the movie when it was released in cinemas in February but hesitated due to rising Covid-19 cases then.

"For $50 per person, the experience is reasonably priced, since you get a three-course meal, watch films on board and receive a souvenir," said Mr Lim, who works in a non-government organisation.

He is opting for a Peranakan meal of ayam tempra and brinjal sambal, while Ms Teo has picked a Japanese-style lunch.

The Sunday Times spoke to five Singaporeans who purchased either the Restaurant A380 @ Changi dining experience or the SIA @ Home package, which offers customers first-or business-class meals delivered to their doorstep.

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In August 2015, Ms Amy Tay's then boyfriend Tan Si-Rong proposed to her while on a flight to Australia. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMY TAY 

SIA, which reported its first annual loss in its 48-year history, launched the initiatives to engage customers amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Another initiative, which would see SIA opening the doors to its training centre, will accept bookings from Nov 1.

Those who secured a seat or meal said the dining experience is "worth paying for".

Ms Amy Tay booked a suites lunch for Oct 25 using the 80,250 KrisFlyer miles she took years to accumulate.

The 34-year-old auditor said she has not travelled since 2017 due to family and personal commitments.

Having spent five years in the United States, where she studied at the University of Michigan before working in New York City, Ms Tay said that boarding an SIA flight always gave her a "warm and fuzzy feeling when I see my fellow Singaporeans".

In August 2015, her then boyfriend Tan Si-Rong proposed while on a flight to Australia.

She said the airline gave her a cake, which travellers could request in advance if they are travelling on their birthdays.

"SIA has been good to me when times were good for them. I want to help them out now that times are tough," she said.

Another customer, who wanted to be known only as Dr Goh, bought French chef Georges Blanc's first-class set offered under SIA @ Home, which opened for orders on Oct 5.

The meal was delivered on Oct 11.

She had bought the meal to support the airline, out of concern that thousands of jobs in the aviation industry are at risk due to Covid-19.

"Chefs, bakers, even concierge staff may lose their jobs, not just the cabin crew and pilots," the 50-year-old said.

Dr Goh described the meal as outstanding, adding that it was a wonderful experience to have a three-star Michelin dinner at home, especially for her elderly and vulnerable parents and in-laws.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'SIA's been 'good to me': Why people are paying to eat on a plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe