By now, we’ve read the news that bookings for Singapore Airlines’‘Restaurant A380’ was sold out in just 30 minutes as travel-hungry passengers pay top dollar to dine inside a grounded plane. The national carrier is known globally for its food on-board-- however, this time, it’s not even about the food. Options was given a chance to dine on the A380 last Saturday night, and left impressed.
I recall the first time I flew on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight from Singapore to Los Angeles in 2019-- a grueling 16-hour flight that I, a un-frequent flyer and hater of air travel, dreaded. The prospect of hurtling across the sky at incredible speeds while trapped in a giant metal can, for hours on end, with no relief in sight, was not one I looked forward to.
Yet I can categorically state that despite my trepidation, that journey on SIA was certainly the only flight I’ve ever actually enjoyed in my 30-odd years of life. It was comfortable, even in economy, I actually fell asleep during the flight (which I never do), and the service and meals were impeccable.
Some time later, I was given the opportunity to fly business class on SIA (which I had never experienced before) and it was again, genuinely the best flight experience I’ve ever had. I left the plane full of praises for SIA-- well-deserved, in my humble opinion.
So when I was told about Restaurant A380 and given the chance to dine-in their newly-retrofitted jumbo A380--the world’s largest passenger jet-- I was curious, and also somewhat excited to get on an SIA plane again, even if it were grounded.
The experience started with some ‘boarding gate’ activities, including some batik-rose making, a temporary tattoo station (lines were too long, I did not partake), and a showcase of SIA uniforms from the past. It was a bit too much waiting around for dinner, which started late at 7.20pm instead of 7pm, to which I jokingly said to my friend that they were truly recreating that boarding experience, right down to the endless waiting around at airports.
But it didn’t matter, really. A few moments after I was shown to my seat, a stewardess came to give me a glass of Singapore Sling, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And, as always, the dinner started with a serving of satay, which I have had a few times now and always liked. Meaty, hearty and with a really nice, chunky peanut sauce, I wish I could’ve had more of that.
I selected the International menu, which came with an appetiser of flaked smoked salmon, grilled beef fillet, and a baked cheesecake to end; finished off with a selection of cheese and fruit.
The salmon was pleasant enough, and the beef was slightly overdone (reheating is a bane). The cheesecake, however, was lovely-- nice chunks of mango on the top, and a buttery biscuit base. Overall, I can’t say the food was fantastic, and for $300 (excluding GST), I would’ve gotten a far better meal at a nice restaurant in the city.
However, a caveat: anyone boarding the plane that night thinking that the fantastic food is the point of the money they paid, would be gravely mistaken.
By now, we’ve all read the news that some 400 dining slots for lunch and dinner were completely sold out in 30 minutes the moment booking opened. People were eager to support the national carrier, which has been hit hard from the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, it cut thousands of jobs and grounded nearly all its planes this year.
Truly, it would’ve been easy for SIA to take for granted that people would be travel-starved enough to pay up to $600 for a three-hour meal in the suites cabin, or the support that came pouring in. Regardless of whether they did a good job or not, many would still do it for the novelty.
Yet they didn’t take the support for granted. Service was impeccable, attentive and warm. They made sure to check in on you if you needed anything at all. Your glass was never left empty and they maintained their smiles throughout-- yes, you can tell even behind the mask.
It’s not even about the food anymore, it’s about courage. It’s about supporting each other in these challenging-- nay, downright awful, times.
These are folks who’ve lost their jobs or who’ve had no income for at least the past six months. Yet, they volunteered-- they are not getting paid for this-- to come on board and serve their passengers with food and drink. And as we left for the night, all the staff thanked each and every one of us profusely for our support.
Yet I think, ultimately, it is we who have to thank them for showing us that even with these hard times, there are people who continue to smile through it all. And that’s something worth much, much more than $600.