Many things in travel are debatable. What’s the best country? Where is the best food? What’s the best city? Beach? Resort, etc.? In my mind, and in the minds of many of the world’s premier travelers, one thing that’s not debatable is that Singapore Airlines is the best airline in the world.
The first time I flew Singapore Airlines was back in 1999; which was also the first time I went to Asia. I took their 747-Megatop from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo. At that time, I was still a novice traveler and didn’t have a ton to compare it to but even then I knew it was the best.
Their economy service in 1999 was the best I had ever experienced. The food was the best I’d had and needless to say Singapore had the most beautiful cabin crew I had ever seen.
14 years later and some 200 airlines flown later, Singapore Airlines is not only still great but it has just gotten better. While their economy class service is still tops, I have been fortunate to fly business class and along with their new suites, is the best I’ve ever flown.
It’s not only the actual flat bed seats in business; which allow you to actually get some sleep on the really long haul flight but it’s the attention to detail. For example, on my flight down to Singapore a few days ago, I fell asleep immediately after the fasten seatbelt sign went off. I had my bed down and the do not disturb sign up. I hadn’t talked to any cabin crew or anything.
Several hours later I woke up and slightly disoriented I walked up to the crew station and asked if they had anything to eat and drink still available. The two crew said, “absolutely Mr. Abbamonte, seat 18D right” and gave me several options. I was befuddled that they knew my name and seat number when they hadn’t seen or talked to me. Its little things like that that I remember and it’s the attention to detail that makes Singapore different.
During my time in Singapore I was able to go on a behind the scenes tour of Singapore Airlines with a group of International media. I had never done that before with any other airline and I imagine most airlines wouldn’t want to let you see behind the scenes of their operations-especially any US carrier!
We visited their training center where I got to see firsthand how they train their amazing cabin crew. Singapore Airlines cabin crew goes through intensive training both before they start working short haul economy class service and again as the crew graduates to different classes of service and different lengths of flights.
We also saw behind the scenes of how the signature Singapore Airlines girl becomes what she is. We went into the hair and make-up room where each girl’s make-up color, shades of skin and facial complexions are scrutinized. It was intriguing to hear the stringent requirements with their cabin crew.
At first it seems a little harsh as they even take body mass index measurements to make sure they fit properly into their customized outfit and maintain that size. But as I thought about it more, it makes a lot of sense. The cabin crew is what most people associate with Singapore Airlines. The look, the outfit and the manner in which they act are so important to their brand and in fact the brand of Singapore as well.
Additionally, I visited the SATS (formerly called Singapore Airlines Terminal Services); which is where the food you get on the plane is made, prepared and packaged. This was truly fascinating and also reassuring because of the lengths of safety and cleanliness we had to go through before we went in.
This included wearing hair nets, face masks and also going through a CDC style room where you are pelted with air to get any potential dust particles off you. So you know their food is sanitary!
Singapore Airlines does boast the best food of any airline. Many dishes are created by Michelin star chefs from famous restaurants around the world. It’s not just that they have the best food but they have the most varied food as well. Much like the country of Singapore; which is made up of so many different ethnic groups, the food on Singapore Airlines is the same-varied.
They actually have a massive kitchen facility where they make all different types of food. Labeled such things as western kitchen, Thai kitchen, Halal kitchen etc., they freshly prepare all meals in this facility. All meals are cooked fresh from the best ingredients and done to an exact specification. The food is then stored at proper temperature and is always consumed within 24 hours of its preparation at the facility. Anything older than 24 hours is thrown out.
It was also fascinating to see how individual meals are prepared for people with special needs. When people sign up for special meals like vegetarian or a religious meal; they are prepared at the SATS facility. They are labeled with the passengers’ name and flight number. It was really cool to see how organized that process was. It’s one of those things you never think about as a passenger but that is so important to the airlines service.
The other thing that really impressed me was how Singapore Airlines selects the wines they serve on board. Again, another thing you never think about or pay attention to but that is another thing that sets Singapore Airlines apart.
I was privy to attend a private wine event at Singapore Airlines. We did a tasting along with the distinguished panel of three acclaimed wine consultants that actually select and buy wines from around the world for Singapore Airlines. These are the people that pick the wines you drink on board. I love wine and think I know more than the average person about wine but when you hear these experts speak, you realize you know nothing!
For me, it was a thrill to listen to why they like and dislike certain wines and follow along and compare what you thought to what they thought. Not to brag but I did win a bottle of 2000 Dom Perignon because I scored the top three wines the same as the panelists!
Singapore Airlines is the only airline that takes this much care and invests this much into wine selection. Again, it’s the attention to fine details that goes unnoticed but when it’s pointed out, you realize that other airlines don’t do it.
Singapore Airlines sets the global standard in service, food, wine and hospitality. It is the best airline in the world and there really isn’t a close second in my view. Now having met the talented and friendly people behind the scenes, I can see why.
Disclaimer: Singapore Airlines flew me free of charge to Singapore, business class, so I could attend these sessions and write a story about it. In no way did they influence my opinion. All views expressed here are mine and mine alone.