EVERETT, Wash. (USA Today) -- Singapore Airlines is often lauded as one of the world's most luxurious airlines. But the Asian carrier's not resting on its laurels.
The airline is set to begin flying what it says will be its most luxurious plane yet, taking delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER featuring a new cabin interior on Thursday at Boeing's production line north of Seattle.
The jet flew to Singapore Friday and will go into service on the airline's Singapore-London Heathrow in late September or early October. The carrier will roll out the cabin design to more planes as it takes delivery of new aircraft in the coming year.
Singapore Airlines' spokesman James Bradbury-Boyd notes "the polls have been kind to us" -- a reference to the ratings that consistently rank his carrier among the world's best -- but says the airline must "continue to innovate." Bradbury-Boyd adds, "We're already working on our next product."
Among the upgrades unveiled in the new model:
- Completely redesigned seats in first, business and coach classes.
- Pod-like seats in first class and business class seats that convert to what the airline claims is the "industry's widest full-flat bed." BMW subsidiary DesignworksUSA helped design the new first-class cabin.
- A revamped in-flight entertainment system with more content and options for premium customers to use their own devices via options such as HDMI or USB ports.
- Enlarged seatback monitors for passengers, measuring 24 inches in first, 18 inches in business and 11.1 inches in economy.
While Singapore's new cabin is part of its effort to remain an industry leader, it also underscores increasing competition among the world's top long-haul carriers to lure customers on luxury.
The efforts to keep their cabins fresh are important, especially for airlines that battle for high-spending travelers on long international flights.
"There is a growing market of air travelers who are unwilling to sacrifice comfort while flying -- especially on long-haul flights," says Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways -- another award-winning international carrier. He says the airline emphasizes "designing the best flying experience, including the most comfortable cabin interiors."
That's not just idle talk, says Alan Bender, professor of aeronautics at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"It is more important than ever," says Bender. "Business travel is on the upswing, and passengers appear more willing than ever to pay for premium classes of service, particularly on long flights such as those Singapore operates."
First-class fares can top $15,000 on some of the world's longest routes, leaving little doubt why airlines like Singapore, Qatar and others invest so much in their products.
But do passengers even notice?
"A plane is a plane to many people -- perhaps most people," Bender says. "But in the rarified world of platinum and diamond fliers, many passengers do notice. Since Singapore operates many of the longest flights in the world, passengers have plenty of time to notice absolutely everything around them."