On Sunday 10 October 2021, I had the pleasure of flying Business Class on a Singapore Airlines A350-900 operating a scheduled flight between Copenhagen and Rome. Three months earlier, on Friday 16 July 2021, the airline had introduced this new route, a so-called ‘fifth freedom’ route, to optimise its aircraft efficiency. After operating the Singapore-Copenhagen flight, the Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 would fly an additional return flight between the Danish and Italian capital cities instead of being parked at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport for almost 30 hours. A unique opportunity, not only to fly Singapore Airlines and enjoy their generous hospitality and Business Class product, but also to fly on an Airbus A350-900 widebody aircraft on a shorthaul flight in Europe.
Here is my detailed trip report, so you can relive this special flight between Copenhagen and Rome. So fasten your seatbelt, put the table in front of you in the upward position and enjoy this trip report.
On Tuesday 22 June 2021, Singapore Airlines announced that it would open a new route between Copenhagen and Rome. Until early 2020, the airline had already operated direct non-stop flights between Singapore and Rome multiple times a week, but the route had been stopped due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, with the final flight operating on 11 March 2020.
The new route from Copenhagen to Rome and back would be launched on Friday 16 July 2021 and Singapore Airlines would operate the new route three times a week. The flights from Copenhagen to Rome would leave on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and the flight from Rome to Copenhagen would leave on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
|SQ352||CPH||FCO||Tuesday, Friday, Sunday|
|SQ351||FCO||CPH||Monday, Wednesday, Saturday|
The new return flight would be an extension of the airline’s already existing route between Singapore and Copenhagen. Instead of keeping the aircraft parked on the ground for almost 30 hours in Copenhagen after arrival from Singapore, the airline would simply operate an additional flight from Copenhagen to Rome, keep the aircraft on the ground in Rome for about 20 hours, and operate the flight back from Rome to Copenhagen the next morning, before operating the flight from Copenhagen to Singapore.
What made this announcement so unique, especially for European travellers, is that the airline had gained so-called ‘fifth freedom traffic rights’ on this route, allowing Singapore Airlines to sell tickets for the flights between Copenhagen and Rome. In other words, European travellers were now able to buy a flight ticket and enjoy the unique Singapore Airlines service on a shorthaul flight within Europe. Singapore Airlines was already operating another intra-European flight between Barcelona and Milan, but it had no fifth freedom traffic rights for that route, meaning it could only fly passengers flying from Barcelona or Milan to Singapore or vice versa.
With this new flight announcement, travellers could look forward to a flight on one of Singapore Airlines’ 56-strong fleet of Airbus A350-900 widebody aircraft. The airline operates the Airbus A350-900 in three configurations: C67W94 (mainly used for their ultra long haul flights between Singapore and New York), C40Y263 and C42W24Y187. For the flights between Singapore and Copenhagen and onwards between Copenhagen and Rome, the airline would operate the Airbus A350-900 in the latter combination, meaning 42 “flatbeds” in Business Class, 24 seats in Premium Economy Class and 187 seats in Economy Class.
Flying a widebody aircraft on an intra-European service is always tempting for avgeeks. Especially if there are only a few chances of doing so. And even more if the operating airline is Singapore Airlines, an airline with a very strong reputation and known all over the world for its excellent product, especially in Business Class and First Class.
As soon as this interesting new route announcement and the route schedule was published, I started to see if, how and when I would be able to fly this new Singapore Airlines flight. I began to draft multiple itineraries and eventually decided that the easiest (and cheapest) way for me to fly Singapore Airlines, would be to fly from Copenhagen to Rome on Sunday 10 October 2021 onboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ352. Fares for the Singapore Airlines flight in Economy Class were cheap: an Economy Class seat would cost me DKK 686 (base fare of DKK 520 plus airport and government taxes of DKK 166) or EUR 94,08. I did not hesitate and on Friday 16 July 2021 (by pure coincidence on the very first day on which Singapore Airlines operated this new route) I booked an Economy Class seat and paid an additional small fee of DKK 32 or EUR 4,39 for a pre-reserved seat (I chose seat 53K).
In order to get from Belgium to Copenhagen, I booked a flight with Scandinavian Airlines from Brussels to Copenhagen via Stockholm Arlanda on Saturday 9 October 2021 for EUR 113,35 (including EUR 28,00 for pre-reserved standard seats in Economy Class) with following itinerary:
For the return flight from Rome to Brussels, I decided to use a British Airways eVoucher (which I had received after British Airways cancelled one of my flights in spring 2020 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic) and booked a flight from Rome to Brussels via London Heathrow on Sunday 10 October 2021 for EUR 136,00 (including EUR 21,00 for pre-reserved standard seats in Economy Class) with following itinerary:
For my hotel accommodation I booked a one night stay in a standard room at the Comfort Hotel, located just next to the main terminal building at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport. My flights were booked, my hotel was booked and I was looking forward to a nice avgeek trip from Brussels to Copenhagen via Stockholm with Scandinavian Airlines, a short stay in Copenhagen and then onwards to Rome with Singapore Airlines followed by two flights from Rome to Brussels via London with British Airways.
Flight Schedule Changes
About three weeks after I completed my itinerary and booked all flights with Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines and British Airways, the first issues started to show up in my flight schedule (In July 2021, most European airlines were still in some sort of a recovery mode and their flight schedules were still very volatile after ‘hibernating’ for more than a year because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic).
On Wednesday 4 August 2021, I got a message from British Airways stating that my flight BA0398 LHR-BRU was cancelled. They had rebooked me on their evening LHR-BRU flight, BA0404, leaving London Heathrow at 20:15 and arriving in Brussels at 22:25. That was a bit of a setback, as this would mean I would be stuck at London Heathrow Airport for almost 6 hours, and would be back home much later than I initially anticipated. But no real harm done, other than a deteriorated flight schedule.
On Friday 27 August 2021 (while I was on a holiday in Finnish Lapland), I got a message from Scandinavian Airlines, to inform me of a schedule change. I checked my booking on the Scandinavian Airlines website and unfortunately it looked as if my flight from Brussels to Stockholm was cancelled. However, on another section of the website my booking BRU-CPH via ARN was still marked as ‘confirmed’. I didn’t really know how I should interpret this information, so I simulated a new booking for a BRU-ARN flight on the same day and indeed, the flight was not available. Few days later, when I was back home, I contacted the Scandinavian Airlines helpdesk via phone and the operator still confirmed my booking. I decided nevertheless that it would be too risky to assume the booking was still confirmed so I cancelled the entire booking and requested a voucher. I began to look after other options to get from Brussels to Copenhagen. Fortunately, KLM came to the rescue as they appeared to have a good (and even more favourable) schedule. I could fly from Brussels to Copenhagen via Amsterdam on Saturday morning and still have the entire afternoon to explore Copenhagen. I did not hesitate and on Saturday 4 September 2021 I booked my tickets with KLM for EUR 82,76 and paid an additional EUR 24,00 for pre-reserved standard seats in Economy Class on both KLM flights. Here is the itinerary of my KLM flights:
Unfortunately, that was not the final episode of my ’Singapore Airlines avgeek trip planning nightmare’. On Monday 13 September 2021 I received a new message from British Airways that my evening flight BA0404 LHR-BRU was now also cancelled. Oh bloody hell! But, good news (at least according to British Airways): they had now booked me on the BA0392 flight, which leaves London Heathrow at 08:15 in the morning. Wait a minute: So British Airways put me on a LHR-BRU which departs at 08:15 in the morning, but I’m still booked on flight BA0549 FCO-LHR which lands at London Heathrow at 14:40? Unless something really strange happens in the known space-time continuum on Sunday 10 October 2021 between 12:55 and 14:40, there was no way I would be able to make it on time for my flight from London Heathrow to Brussels. So unfortunately, I didn’t have any other option but to cancel my two British Airways flights and look for other alternatives. This time Alitalia came to the rescue. The Italian carrier, which would stop operations on Friday 15 October 2021 after operating for more than 74 years, had a direct flight from Rome to Brussels in the afternoon. I decided to take the risk (knowing that there was always a chance of my flight getting cancelled due to union actions or some other way of protest few days before Alitalia’s shutdown) and on the same evening I booked my final flight ticket with Alitalia for EUR 117,24. Few weeks later I would pay an additional EUR 10,00 for a pre-reserved standard seat in Economy Class. Here is the itinerary of my Alitalia flight:
So finally, my ‘Singapore Airlines avgeek trip planning nightmare’ was over. Instead of flying Scandinavian Airlines from Brussels to Copenhagen via Stockholm and British Airways from Rome back to Brussels via London, I was now flying KLM from Brussels to Copenhagen via Amsterdam and Alitalia directly from Rome to Brussels. The only flight that had not changed, was my flight with Singapore Airlines from Copenhagen to Rome. Here is the full and final itinerary of my avgeek trip:
Upgrade To Business Class
After my last itinerary change, the dust finally settled and I gradually started to make necessary travel preparations. Should I visit Copenhagen or Malmö on Saturday afternoon? Should I try to visit both if my schedule allowed it? Which COVID-19 requirements would I need to fulfil for all my travel destinations? Would my EU Digital Covid Certificate be sufficient, or would i need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form and/or have a negative Covid test?
I also began to read some online reviews of the Singapore Airlines flight between Copenhagen and Rome and checked out some Youtube videos. Most reviews looked very promising and gave Singapore Airlines an excellent rating, as should be expected from a Skytrax 5-Star Airline of course. Some fellow aviation geeks even took the opportunity to travel in Business Class. One video caught my attention, mentioning the fact that you could make a bid to upgrade your ticket from Economy Class to Business Class. My first idea was that this would be way out of my budget league, so I didn’t really bother to look it up on the Singapore Airlines website. Few days later however, the idea of flying Singapore Airlines in Business Class was really starting to grow on me. Maybe I should investigate it after all?
So eventually I went to the Singapore Airlines and retrieved my flight booking to see if it was eligible for making a bid to fly in Business Class. And yes, the Singapore Airlines website confirmed it, so now I was really tempted to take a chance. On Sunday 3 October 2021, exactly one week before my Singapore Airlines flight, I made a bid of DKK 1440 (about EUR 190) to fly in Business Class from Copenhagen to Rome. Even though it was the lowest amount I could offer for the upgrade from Economy Class to Business Class, some of you may think that this is a huge amount to pay for an upgrade for a flight on which you have already booked a seat. And in a way, it absolutely is. On the other hand, if you’ve never flown Singapore Airlines’ Business Class, any true aviation geek would have to be crazy to not even try to get this upgrade, certainly if chances of you flying Business Class from e.g. Europe to Singapore are basically non-existent (on longhaul flights Business Class ticket prices are just too expensive for me, unless I could redeem frequent flyer miles).
After I made the offer, I got a confirmation email from Singapore Airlines. Now all I could do is sit back, relax and wait and see if they would accept or refuse my offer. The Singapore Airlines email also offered me a link to view, modify or cancel my offer (which was possible until 50 hours before scheduled departure time). Of course, I decided not to make any changes nor cancel my offer.
On the early morning of Friday 8 October 2021, one day after I joined KrisFlyer, the Singapore Airlines Group rewards programme and about 48 hours before boarding my first Singapore Airlines flight, I got an email from Singapore Airlines to confirm my successful offer for an upgrade to Business Class on SQ352. Wow, I felt quite relieved after some nerve-racking days. I would be flying Business Class on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 from Copenhagen to Rome!
So my upgrade was confirmed, but I still had to choose my Business Class seat for the flight. I checked again some Youtube videos and did some additional research on SeatGuru.com. Eventually I opted for seat 16K as it would probably offer some good exterior views, just in front of the engine and wing. Furthermore, the seat was also located on the starboard side of the aircraft, the best side of the aircraft for that specific flight and time of the day to have good lighting conditions.
To conclude, it was a long and nerve-racking process, but eventually I was all set for a nice flight with a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 from Copenhagen to Rome on Sunday 10 October 2021.
About The Airbus A350-900
The Airbus A350-900 is one of two main variants of the Airbus A350, sometimes also designated as Airbus A350 XWB (‘Xtra Wide Body’). The Airbus A350 is the latest twin-engine longhaul widebody aircraft designed by the European aircraft manufacturer. The maiden flight of the Airbus A350 was on 14 June 2013. At moment of writing, Airbus has developed two main variants of the Airbus A350:
- Airbus A350-900
- Airbus A350-1000
The European aircraft manufacturer initially planned to offer three main variants of the Airbus A350 (A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000) but as airlines began to gradually convert their A350-800 orders into either A350-900 or Airbus A330neo orders, the development of the Airbus A350-800 was cancelled in September 2014. In July 2021 Airbus confirmed the development of an Airbus A350 freighter variant.
The Airbus A350-900, being the first variant of the Airbus A350, made its maiden flight on 14 June 2013. It has a MTOW of 280 tonnes and has a range of 8.100 nautical miles. The Airbus A350-1000 is the largest variant of the Airbus A350. It has a MTOW of 316 tonnes and has a range of 8.400 nautical miles.
In 2006, Singapore Airlines signed its first letter of intent for 20 Airbus A350 aircraft. In 2012 the airline added another 20 aircraft to the Airbus order book, followed by another 30 in 2013. Two years later however, the airline cancelled 3 aircraft orders and converted 7 orders into the Airbus A350-900ULR (‘Ultra Long Haul’). The Airbus A350-900ULR is a subtype of the Airbus A350-900 and would allow Singapore Airlines to relaunch direct non-stop flights from Singapore to the United States.
Today, Singapore Airlines is the world’s largest operator of the Airbus A350. In total, the airline ordered 67 Airbus A350 aircraft, of which 56 have currently been delivered. Qatar Airways, another operator of the Airbus A350, ordered 76 Airbus A350 aircraft, of which 53 have currently been delivered. When all outstanding orders will have been delivered (excluding all possible new orders), Qatar Airways will become the world’s largest Airbus A350 operator.
The Airbus A350 is clearly becoming the backbone of the Singapore Airlines fleet. More than half of its active fleet at this moment (i.e. excluding aircraft in storage due to the COVID-19 pandemic) are Airbus A350 aircraft. The airline currently operates the following subtypes of the Airbus A350:
|Airbus A350 subtype||Delivered||Seats||Configuration||Business||Economy+||Economy|
On ‘normal’ longhaul destinations (including flights to Copenhagen), Singapore Airlines currently operates one of its 27 ‘normal’ Airbus A350-900 aircraft. This is also the Airbus A350 subtype I would be flying on, relaxing in one of the 42 Business Class seats.
Other airlines currently operating the Airbus A350 include British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Qatar Airways, Air France, Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa.
Positioning from Brussels to Copenhagen
Before enjoying my first Singapore Airlines flight ever, I still had to get to Copenhagen of course. On the early morning of Saturday 9 October 2021, I took a train to Brussels Airport, where I arrived at around 06:00. I followed the signs to the Departures zone of the airport (due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all departing passengers arriving by train first had to exit the main terminal building, before entering the main terminal building again via one of three entrance zones, depending on the flight you were taking and which airline you were flying). Hence, I exited the main terminal building, entered it again just a few moments later, and made my way to check-in zone 7 for my two KLM flights (flight KL1722 from Brussels to Amsterdam and flight KL1127 from Amsterdam to Copenhagen).
On Friday evening, I had already checked in online, but for an unknown reason (most probably – again – the COVID-19 pandemic) I did not get my boarding passes. All I received was a so-called ‘check-in confirmation’ document (never seen anything like this before) and a message that I would still need to pick up my boarding passes at the baggage drop off zone.
The queue at the KLM check-in counters was already pretty big, so I knew it would probably take a while before I would get my boarding passes. Twenty minutes later, the queue was still quite significant. Many passengers were checking in for flights to other continents and had multiple pieces of check-in baggage. At the counters, everybody had to show their passport or ID card, COVID-19 vaccination certificate and – depending on the final destination – even a PCR test results and a Passenger Locator Form (PLF). At 07:00 it finally was my turn. I showed all necessary documents to the check-in agent and received one boarding pass for both flights. Another ‘first’ for me.
After I passed the security inspection, I bought a small breakfast and went to the gate. At 07:40, boarding for the flight to Amsterdam began. I showed my boarding pass to the gate agent, who kindly asked me why I had not checked in my hand luggage if the check-in agent had requested to do so. I replied that I had not been requested to check-in my hand luggage at all (admittedly, I did get an email the night before), and the gate agent said that it could be possible that the cabin crew would be p***ed due to the lack of storage space onboard the Embraer E-175. She also told me that there was no option to have my hand luggage ‘delivered at aircraft’. Eventually however, I boarded the aircraft and managed to find some free overhead bin space for my hand luggage.
Boarding was completed just before 08:00. We were welcomed by the flight crew and cabin crew members. Doors were closed, our aircraft was pushed back from the gate and the engines were started. During the safety demo we taxied towards runway 25R at Brussels Airport. At 08:05 we entered the active runway, takeoff thrust was set and we rolled down the runway. Few moments later we rotated gently and very quickly broke through the dense mist over Brussels Airport. As we banked to the right and headed towards Amsterdam Schiphol, I enjoyed some magnificent views of a beautiful dawn over Belgium.
The flight from Brussels to Amsterdam is a very short flight indeed, but nevertheless the KLM cabin crew did a great job and even did a full cabin service, offering every passenger something to drink (water, orange juice, tea or coffee) and a tasty coconut macaroon. Well done, KLM!
At 08:15 we were already descending over The Netherlands, and had some nice views of the Dutch coastline. Few moments later we were aligned with runway 06 at Schiphol Airport, where we landed at 08:30. Our Embraer E-175 exited the active landing runway and after a short taxi we arrived at stand B28. The aircraft came to a complete stop, engines were shut down and the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off.
I exited the Embraer E-175 and thanked the crew for a very good service. As I arrived at Amsterdam’s E-concourse, I still had to find the gate for my connecting flight to Copenhagen, since I did not have a very long connection time. The flight information display screens (FIDS) announced that flight KL1127 would leave from gate D87.
After a long walk, I arrived at gate D87, the last gate in the D-concourse. I took a seat and waited for the boarding call. At 09:20, boarding began, and when the boarding for my group was announced, I stood up and boarded the KLM Boeing 737-800 for the short flight to Copenhagen.
The flight seemed to be pretty full, but the two seats next to me (I was seated in seat 05F) were still empty after most passengers had boarded the Boeing 737. At 09:45 the flight crew announced that they we still waiting for some passengers with short connection times and that we would wait as long as possible. However, just a few minutes later, boarding was announced as being completed and the cabin crew closed the aircraft doors and armed the emergency slides.
We pushed back from our gate, engines were started and we began a long taxi ride towards RWY 36L (also known as ‘Polderbaan’). At 10:06 we entered the active takeoff runway and while we were still rolling, the two thrust levers were advanced and takeoff thrust was set. Few seconds later we took off from RWY 36L and set course to Denmark.
After an uneventful flight (with plenty of leg room compared to my seat in the Embraer, even without the two empty seats next to me) we reached our top of descent just east of Jutland. As we approached Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport, passengers on the right side of the aircraft could enjoy some good views of the Danish capital city as we were on a downwind leg for RWY 22L. Few moments later we turned right to base and onto final approach for RWY 22L. At 11:04 we made a smooth landing and rolled out on the active landing runway. After exiting the landing runway, we made a short taxi towards the airport parking zone and parked at stand A20. The parking brake was set and both CFM engines were shut down. Another KLM flight in the logbook.
I made my way to the main terminal building at Kastrup Airport and followed the signs to my hotel for the night, the Comfort Hotel just across the street. After checking in at the hotel (fortunately my room was already available) I took a short break before heading towards the city.
In the early afternoon I headed towards the airport train station and took the train towards the central train station in Copenhagen, where I arrived at 13:00. The sun was shining, there was almost no wind and the temperature was about 13-14 degrees Celsius. Perfect weather for an enjoyable afternoon in Copenhagen. At first my idea was to rent a Donkey Republic bike, but because of the nice weather and the fact that I did not feel too tired, I decided just to take a walk. I visited some shops including the Lego Store (whenever you’re in Denmark, you simply have to visit a Lego Store) and Illums Bolighus (a very interesting store if you like Danish design). I enjoyed the cityscapes and atmosphere of Copenhagen and visited the ‘Rundetårn’ (the Round Tower, a famous tower in the city of Copenhagen that you can visit). After a short stroll I arrived at Kongens Have (one of the many parks in the city) where I took a small rest and made an online reservation for dinner at 17:30 in a Jensens Bøfhus restaurant near the central train station. I continued my walk and arrived in Nyboder, a neighbourhood in Copenhagen well-known for its yellow houses and one of my favourite places to visit whenever I’m in Copenhagen. After taking some photos in Nyboder, I continued my way to Kastellet, a citadel and one of the best preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. After enjoying the scenery in Kastellet, I finally arrived at the most famous spot in Copenhagen and probably Denmark: Den lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the city of Copenhagen. It was quite crowded over there, but still I managed to get some nice photos of the Little Mermaid.
As I had already walked about 10km by now, I decided to rent a Donkey Republic bike for the remainder of the afternoon. So I opened the Donkey Republic app on my smartphone and made a reservation for a bike called ‘Gelato’ (every Donkey Republic bike has a unique name). Once I arrived at the designated bicycle parking spot, I unlocked ‘Gelato’ and took it for a ride in great sunny weather to Christiania, a freetown in Copenhagen and known for its special culture and creativity. Christiania has about 1.000 residents and is also a well-known spot to visit whenever you’re in Copenhagen, to enjoy the unique atmosphere and various mural paintings. After my visit to Christiania I drove to the central train station of Copenhagen where I finished the rent of ‘Gelato’. At a total cost of just DKK 33, I would certainly recommend to rent a bike whenever you’re in Copenhagen. The bicycle infrastructure in the city is very good and many inhabitants use a bike for their daily transport.
By now, it was almost 17:30 so I went to the Jensens Bøfhus restaurant near the central train station. After a tasty dinner I walked back to the central train station, took a train back to the airport and made my way back to the Comfort Hotel. I felt quite exhausted after a long day, but really enjoyed every bit of it: two flights, a nice walk and bicycle ride in downtown Copenhagen in great and sunny autumn weather. And the best was yet to come the day after. Time to get some sleep…
Singapore Airlines SQ352 CPH-FCO
After a good night’s sleep in the Comfort Hotel near Copenhagen Kastrup Airport, I woke up at around 05:30. I felt fully ready for a nice flying experience onboard a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 flying in Business Class from Copenhagen to Rome. I packed all my personal belongings and was ready to go.
The evening before, at around 20:00 (when flight SQ352 SIN-CPH had already left Singapore and was on its way to Copenhagen), I had received an email from the airline, stating that my flight had been rescheduled. Remember that the STD (Scheduled Departure Time) for flight SQ352 was 08:15. The email stated that the flight had been ‘retimed to 10 October 2021, 08:50 due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft’. In the weeks before my Singapore Airlines flight, and in some reviews, I had already become aware of a structural late arrival of the aircraft from Singapore. The reason is that due to the current geopolitical situation, the flight has to avoid certain airspace and is always rerouted, adding at least an additional flight hour. I appreciated the heads up from Singapore Airlines, which allowed me to have an additional 35 minutes of sleep.
After checking out from the hotel at 06:18 and without having any breakfast (I usually don’t eat that much during breakfast, especially when it’s still early in the morning so I thought it would be cheaper to buy a simple breakfast at the airport instead of paying a lot for a breakfast buffet where I eat almost nothing), I walked towards the airport’s main terminal, which was located just across the street. After a 5 minutes walk, I arrived at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport’s main terminal building, which actually looks like a gigantic paper airplane from above (even though the actual idea was that it should look like a wing).
I walked towards the Flight Information Display Screens (FIDS) in the terminal building and noticed that my flight was mentioned on the displays with a planned departure at 09:00. This meant that an additional 10 minute delay was planned on top of the initial 35 minute delay because of the late arrival of the aircraft. As my flight from Rome to Brussels would only depart at 15:25 in the afternoon, I still had plenty of time available for any additional delay on the flight from Copenhagen to Rome. The FIDS also mentioned that my flight would leave from Terminal 3, so I took the escalator towards the first floor and the Terminal 3 departures area.
Two days ago, on Thursday 8 October 2021, at 08:20 in the morning, I had received an email from Singapore Airlines, stating that online check in for my flight from Copenhagen to Rome was open. I went to the Singapore Airlines website, entered my surname and booking reference and was indeed able to check in for the flight without any problem. My seat was confirmed as seat 16K and in less than ten minutes after I received the email from Singapore Airlines, my check in process was completed and I received my digital boarding pass via the Singapore Airlines app.
But let’s go back to Copenhagen Kastrup Airport now where I was on my way to the Terminal 3 departures area. At 06:37 I scanned my digital boarding pass at the electronic gates and, few moments later, I was already queueing at the security inspection point. The security inspection point seemed to have plenty of capacity, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and also maybe because it was still quite early on a Sunday morning) the number of passengers awaiting their security check was still limited to a few dozens. I noticed that only two security inspection lines were open (line 15 and 19, for those who are acquainted with Copenhagen Kastrup Airport) but due to the low number of departing passengers, queueing went smooth and the line in front of me moved fast. Just before 07:00 I had passed the security inspection and it was time for me to get some breakfast.
I went to a bar named ‘Espresso House’ and ordered two croissants and a hot chocolate. After I paid and got what I ordered, I noticed it would be very challenging (if not impossible) to take my trolley, hot chocolate and a plate with two croissant to a free table. Yet, one way or another I managed to get all my items to a free table without spilling hot chocolate all over my clothes. That would, most definitely, not have been a fun way to start my trip with Singapore Airlines.
While I enjoyed my light breakfast, I took my smartphone and opened the Flightradar24 app. I noticed that Singapore Airlines flight SQ352 from Singapore to Copenhagen was already approaching Copenhagen Kastrup Airport. At 07:40, Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 9V-SMU landed on RWY 22L. I looked up through the airport terminal windows and I could indeed see 9V-SMU rolling out on RWY 22L and exiting the runway. Few moments later it had already reached its designated arrival gate and came to a complete stop. That was my cue to go to the gate.
About ten minutes after Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 landed at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport, I started to make my way to gate E6, the departure gate for my Singapore Airlines flight to Rome. At 07:58 I had almost reached gate E6 but was stopped at a gate checkpoint. A friendly female gate agent asked me to show my boarding pass, ID and asked if I had all necessary documents for the flight to Rome (a vaccination certificate or negative test certificate and a fully completed Passenger Locator Form for Italy). Even though I would not enter Italy, I had filled in the PLF document so was compliant with all COVID-19 measures. The gate agent then asked me to go her colleague at the gate desk. This gate agent checked all my documents and if they were OK. She told me that I should have printed all documents, which was a bit strange as none of the documents stated this explicitly. Anyhow, after the gate agent had checked all my documents, she printed out a new boarding pass and wrote ‘DOC OK’ on it with a red marker. I was ready to go!
For the next half hour, I just prepared myself for the boarding process and looked at other passengers being requested to show their PLF’s and vaccination certificates. An American couple showed their vaccination certificates with date of the second dose stated as ’02/10/2021’. The gate agent stated that these certificates were not valid as the couple got their second dose just 8 days ago instead of at least 14 days. The couple however replied that they got their second dose on 10 February 2021 instead of 2 October 2021 and highlighted that in the United States a different date formatting is used. The gate agent admitted her mistake and approved the couple’s vaccination certificates.
At 08:29 a boarding announcement was made and Business Class and other priority passengers were kindly invited for boarding. Gate E6 appeared to be a remote boarding gate, so a couple of bused were waiting outside to take Singapore Airlines flight SQ352 passengers to the aircraft. I took my boarding pass and ID card, showed it to the gate agent, and went to the bus. Just before boarding the bus however, the boarding agent quickly came to the bus and handed me and a couple of other passengers a document that she forgot to give us. It appeared to be a formal declaration document that we would need to fill in before entering Italy, basically stating that we are aware of the COVID-19 containment measures in Italy, have not been tested positive and will take a test if and when required. Anyhow, about eight minutes later, our bus was full, doors were closed and we made our way to our aircraft.
Less than one minute later our bus arrived at stand C36, where Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 9V-SMU was parked. As soon as the bus doors opened, I stepped out of the bus and began to take some photos. Unfortunately, taking a good photo of the entire aircraft was impossible, as the Airbus A350-900 was still docked to a gate and the the ground handling company had put a mobile passenger boarding stair with a canopy at the back of the aircraft (because it was needed for boarding the passengers of course, but it ruins any photo of an aircraft). Anyhow, I took some photos of the aircraft followed by a few close-ups of the tail of the Airbus A350-900 and its distinctive Singapore Airlines tail logo. After my improvised photoshoot, I joined the queue for boarding the aircraft via the back of the aircraft.
At 08:43 I boarded the Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 9V-SMU. I was kindly welcomed by the Singapore Airlines cabin crew. I showed my boarding pass to one of the crew members and was given directions to my Business Class seat 16K. Another cabin crew member offered me a bottle of still water, which I did not refuse. I made my way through the Economy Class section where lots of other passengers were already stowing away their personal belongings. I estimate that the load factor must have been 30-40%.
I continued my way through the Economy Class section of the aircraft cabin and tried to make some photos of the cabin and seat configuration, which was not very easy while carrying a trolley, a shoulder bag and my boarding pass. The PA was playing the usual relaxing boarding music. When I arrived at the front of the Economy Class section, I was kindly welcomed by another cabin crew member, who asked me my seat number again. I replied with “sixteen kilo” (I still haven’t figured out why I didn’t reply with “sixteen kay”) and she kindly showed me the way to my seat. As we passed the Premium Economy Class section of the aircraft cabin, I slowed a bit down and tried to take some photos of the cabin and seat configuration.
Few moments later I finally arrived at my seat “sixteen kilo” (or just “16K” as from now on). It looked very comfortable, clean and tidy. I was ready to enjoy this trip and put my hand baggage in the overhead bin. No hassle to find some free space, no mess with moving other passengers’ bags, just a calm and relaxed atmosphere and plenty of space to put my bag.
Before I jumped into my seat, I decided to make a quick walk around the cabin to make some photos, as other passengers still needed to board the aircraft. After this photo session, I made my way back to my seat 16K and sat down. I immediately felt relaxed and at home. I definitely would not mind spending 13 hours or so in this seat. Too bad we would only fly the Airbus A350-900 to Rome instead of Singapore.
Airbus A350-900 9V-SMU is one of Singapore Airlines’ 56-strong fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft (at moment of writing). It was delivered factory fresh to the airline in February 2016, so the age of this aircraft was about 5.6 years when operating my flight. After the aircraft delivered to Singapore Airlines, it was ferried from Toulouse to Singapore on 2-3 March 2016. 9V-SMU is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engines, each offering 84,000 pounds of thrust.
As already mentioned earlier in this trip report, the cabin configuration of this specific aircraft was as follows: 42 Business Class seats, 24 Premium Economy Seats and 187 Economy seats. The Business Class seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 abreast configuration. The main characteristics of the Singapore Airlines Business Class on the Airbus A350-900 are:
- Seat positions – A comfortable 28 inch seat, handcrafted from Scottish leather and diamond-stitched. It offers two seating positions: the Lazy Z, a cradling positions that ensures you weight is centered and balanced when you are sitting down, and the Sundeck, a lounging positions that extends the base and foot of the seat so you can stretch and rest your legs on the ottoman.
- Fully-flat bed – The seat transforms into a 78 inch fully-flat bed with a cushioned headboard for greater sleeping comfort, complete with linen, duvet and pillow.
- Stowage space – A side console, specially designed to sit above the armrest. This side console lets you stow and conveniently reach for your laptop, in both seat and bed mode. Concealed within your seat are the ports—eXport, HDMI and USB—and the power supply you need to charge your electronic devices.
- Book the cook – You can reserve your main course up to 24 hours before you fly, including creations by notable chefs from the airline’s International Culinary Panel. Dine in restaurant setting onboard with full table service, and wines to match the food and altitude.
- KrisWorld inflight entertainment – A selection of 1,800 entertainment options (movies, television programmes, music, games and apps), a video touchscreen handset, and an 18-inch HD enabled personal LCD with noise-cancelling headphones. On selected flights, Singapore Airlines also offers onboard WiFi to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues via Internet connectivity as well as text and multimedia messaging.
Since the flight from Copenhagen to Rome would only take about two hours, it would unfortunately not be possible to enjoy the Business Class seat in fully-flat bed position (although the cabin crew members would convert one Business Class seat into a fully-flat bed as a demo). It had also been impossible to ‘book the cook’, but I did not really mind for this shorthaul intra-European flight.
My first overall impression of my Business Class seat was very good (admittedly, I do not travel in Business Class that often, so it is difficult to compare with other airlines’ Business Class products). The seat itself was very comfortable and felt spacious, there was sufficient space available to store my personal belongings, there was plenty of legroom and the IFE screen was big. One thing I did notice quite fast, is that the 18-inch screen was not a touchscreen. You had to use the console to scroll through the IFE menu and make your selection. Not a big deal, but when you are used to touchscreens, it takes a while to adapt again to a non-touchscreen. Not a real problem of course, but it can be a bit annoying to check out the IFE via the remote console to see what the IFE has to offer. But let’s admit, the best IFE on any aircraft is on the other side of the aircraft window, right?
At 08:48, when I was finally sitting in my Business Class seat, one of the female cabin crew members came to me, and gave me a personal and friendly welcome onboard the flight from Copenhagen to Rome. She gave me some practical information on the flight from Copenhagen to Rome and asked me what I would like to eat and drink during the flight. I chose the salmon sandwich option (unfortunately I do not recall the other option). She also offered me a complementary drink before boarding would be completed. I did not hesitate and kindly requested a glass of Champagne. Gotta love Business Class, right?
As boarding was still ongoing, I took a deeper look at my Singapore Airlines Business Class seat. I had already noticed that the Business Class seat offered quite a few storage areas. One of the storage spaces was located just next to my arm rest and could be opened by gently pressing the cover. It was already opened and contained a personal care kit (consisting of a face mask, hand sanitiser and a disinfectant surface wipe) and noise-cancelling headphones. Later during the flight, I would test these headphones and be pleasantly surprised by their quality and noise-cancellation ability. Other characteristics of the Business Class seat included a small reading light and an iPod, USB, HDMI plug and power outlets as well as another storage space, all located next to my comfortable headrest. I also noted the console to navigate through the Singapore Airlines IFE. Finally, there was also another storage area to put some reading magazines, a comfortable cup/glass holder (actually, more like a mini table) and a mirror you could open or close (very useful after a long flight from Singapore to Europe, but not really necessary for this short hop to Rome).
Just after 09:00, all passengers were kindly welcomed again onboard the Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900. Few moments later, boarding was announced as being completed and final flight preparations were made. Doors were closed and all passengers were kindly requested to be seated.
At 09:15 (exactly one hour after the initial STD of 08:15 and about 25 minutes behind the revised departure time), our Airbus A350-900 was pushed back from parking position E6 at Copenhagen Kastrup Airport. Few moments later the crew started up the two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engines. I looked out of my window and noticed how the fan blades of engine two started to spin. The A350-900 came to life.
After two successful engine starts and running the before taxi checklists, 9V-SMU was cleared for the short taxi via taxiways F, A and A1 to RWY 22R. The pilot flying gently advanced the two thrust levers and our A350-900 started to move. Meanwhile, the 18-inch HD enabled LCD showed the Singapore Airlines safety briefing.
Eleven minutes after our pushback was initiated and at a ground speed of about 16 knots, we entered the active takeoff runway via taxiway A1 and were cleared for a rolling takeoff. At 09:26, our engines spooled up and once stabilised and checked, takeoff thrust was set. Our Airbus A350-900 accelerated and after a short takeoff roll, we rotated and took off from RWY 22R.
As we climbed out of Copenhagen Kastrup Airport and while still maintaining runway heading, I looked outside one of my windows and enjoyed some fabulous views of the Danish scenery including the Køge Bay (Danish: ‘Køge Bugt’), a shallow Danish bay southwest of Kopenhagen. About three minutes after takeoff we had already reached FL100 and made a left turn as we set course for Italy. I continued to enjoy the outside views and admired the power and aesthetic beauty of the right Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engine as its outer fan blades were spinning at a stunning pace.
We continued our climb to FL410 and I decided to take a deeper look at KrisWorld, the Singapore Airlines inflight entertainment system (IFE) and what it had to offer. I took the console which displayed a quick overview of our flight. Initially, I navigated to the movie section of KrisWorld but eventually I decided to open Voyager 3D Airshow, developed by Panasonic Avionics Corporation to allow passengers to get a live synthetic display of the aircraft they are in, its current position on the globe (heading, altitude, heading, speed,…) and some statistics such as time since departure, time to reach the destination, outside temperature etc. Nowadays, this application is almost a standard feature on most IFE systems. When using Voyager 3D Airshow, the KrisWorld console transformed into a ‘Voyager Remote Touchpad’, allowing the user to control the Voyager Map via hand gestures.
KrisWorld offers more than 1,800 on-demand entertainment options, including movies, television shows, music and games. After closing Voyager 3D Airshow, I scrolled to the movies section, and noticed several categories such as New Releases, Hollywood and More, Singapore Showcase and Awards Showcase.
After my first quick look at Singapore Airlines’ Krisworld IFE system, I unfastened my seatbelt and took some additional photos of the forward Business Class section of our Airbus A350-900. The load factor in this part of the aircraft was quite low, with just 4 seats being occupied out of 26 available seats, or a load factor of 15% (admittedly, some of these Business Class seats were reserved for the cabin crew members). The second Business Class section of the aircraft, behind the galleys, offers 16 additional Business Class seats and the load factor appeared to be higher than 15%.
Few moments later I went back to my seat, and requested a cabin crew member if I could still change my soon-to-be-served drink into a Singapore Sling instead of another glass of Champagne. She kindly acknowledged without any hesitation. The Singapore Airlines cabin crew members are just top-notch, even after a long Singapore-Copenhagen duty.
At 09:40 my meal was being served. As already mentioned, it was a salmon sandwich, a glass of water and a Singapore Sling cocktail. Although being a bit ‘limited’ for Business Class (especially for Singapore Airlines), it was sufficient for me (I’m more of a light eater). The food tasted very well and I can fully understand that this is what Singapore Airlines feels it can offer to Business Class passengers on a two hour intra-European flight, especially for the cheap Business Class fare. Guess I’ll have to book a Business Class ticket to Singapore in order to fully appreciate the Singapore Airlines Business Class product.
After enjoying a tasty meal, I decided to ask one of the cabin crew members if it would be possible to explore the rest of the aircraft, including the Premium Economy and Economy class. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not allowed to move between the different cabin sections. Nevertheless, one of the cabin crew members invited me to the second Business Class section of the aircraft, where I could enjoy some nice wing views of the Airbus A350-900. Few moments later, I asked if it would be possible to visit the cockpit after landing in Rome, but this was unfortunately also declined due to the sanitary measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I did get some good news however. The cabin crew invited me for a short tour of the aircraft after all other passengers would have vacated the aircraft after landing in Rome. How great is that?
I continued my exploration of the Business Class section and made some photos of seat 11D, a Business Class seat that was converted by the cabin crew members into a fully-flat bed (or more likely: not yet converted into a regular seat configuration after the Singapore-Copenhagen flight). It definitely seemed to be very spacious and comfortable for a longhaul flight.
Any review of an aircraft cabin interior would not be complete without a visit to the toilet. So that’s what I did to conclude my tour of the Business Class section: a quick visit to the toilet. It was very clean and tidy, as to be expected from any item in Business Class of course. It had all the typical aircraft toilet amenities but also (at least) three special items: first of all a hard ‘seat’ that was conveniently attached to the toilet wall but could be pulled down and used to sit on in order to change your clothes and/or put on your pyjamas. Much more comfortable than just sitting on the toilet seat, right? Second item were some make-up products including eau de toilette and mouth wash. I’ve never seen this in a toilet before, but maybe that’s just because I’m not used to travelling in Business Class. Finally, some fresh white flowers added a gentle decorative finishing touch to the Business Class toilet. Well done, Singapore Airlines!
By now it was time to check the inflight WiFi. I’m not a big fan of inflight WiFi as I prefer to be disconnected from the ‘real world’ during a flight, but occasionally it can be useful, especially if you’re trying to get some work done during a flight or when you need to make additional travel arrangements. Singapore Airlines offers complimentary WiFi to its passengers travelling in Suites, First Class, Business Class, PPS Club members, supplementary cardholders and KrisFlyer members in Premium Economy and Economy Class. You can also purchase a WiFi plan when flying onboard a Singapore Airlines aircraft. The airline has inflight WiFi available on all its aircraft except the Boeing 737-800.
|Suites / First Class||Unlimited|
|Business Class / PPS Club members and supplementary cardholders||100 MB|
|KrisFlyer members in Premium Economy and Economy Class||2-hour chat session|
|Chat (2 hours)||3.99 $|
|Pro (100 MB)||9.99 $|
|Premium (200 MB)||15.99 $|
|Surf (3 hours)||15.99 $|
I opened up my smartphone and connected to the aircraft’s ‘KrisWorld’ WiFi network. Few moments later my WiFi connection was already up and running. The speed and reliability was very good, at least for basic connectivity such as sending messages and posting on social media. I sent out a tweet with a live inflight photo, another tweet with a Flightradar24 screenshot while tracking SQ352, and sent a few text messages to my family.
At 10:26 we were halfway into the flight and had just passed Munich. I was ready for some breathtaking views of the Alps, so I focused on making some good videos and photos of the beautiful scenery. Fortunately, the weather was quite good. It always amazes me how all those mountains appear to be so small when looking down from 41.000 feet.
About fifteen minutes later, at 10:40, we had crossed the Alps and Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 9V-SMU was cruising at 41.000 feet abeam Venice, Italy. One of the cabin crew members offered all Business Class passengers a complimentary KitKat snack. One minute later, there was a short announcement from the flight deck and the pilots announced that we would reach our top of descent (TOD) in ten minutes. This announcement was followed by one from the cabin crew, highlighting the need for a complete Passenger Locator Form (PLF) when entering Italy.
At 10:51 we were cruising over the Apennines of Tuscany, Italy as we reached our TOD. Our two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engines spooled down as thrust was reduced to begin our descent into Rome Fiumicino Airport. The weather in Italy appeared to be quite good, with blue skies and almost no clouds. The passengers seated on the right side of the Airbus A350-900 could enjoy some fabulous views of Lago di Bolsena and Lago di Bracciano. We continued our descent and at 11:11 we were already flying abeam Rome and descending through 10.000 feet. Unfortunately you had to be seated on the left side of the aircraft to get a nice view of Rome (facing the Sun).
The cabin crew made final preparations for landing and all passengers had to be seated as we were now on a downwind leg for RWY 34R at Rome Fiumicino Airport, which was clearly visible when looking out of the window. As we headed further south before lining up for RWY 34R, I continued to enjoy some nice views of the Italian coast. Few moments later we descended through 6.000 feet. I noticed a runway and airport just below us, the ‘Pratica di Mare Air Base’, also known as ‘Aeroporto Militare Mario De Bernardi’ (ICAO code: LIRE). It is Italy’s biggest military air base.
Our Airbus A350-900 made a right turn towards a heading of 300 degrees. This was followed by another right turn few minutes later towards a heading of 341 degrees, to be fully aligned for landing on RWY 34R at Rome Fiumicino Airport. The landing gear was extended and flaps were set for landing. Few moments later, at 11:23, our widebody aircraft landed on RWY 34R. The flight crew reduced our speed as we rolled out on RWY 34R and vacated via TWY DD. Our Airbus A350-900 taxied to its designated parking position at the International Terminal of Rome Fiumicino Airport.
At 11:34 our Airbus A350-900 arrived at stand 608 (gate E23). The aircraft came to a complete stop, the parking brake was set and the two engines were shut down. The fasten seatbelt sign was switched off and one of the cabin crew members came to me to kindly remind me of the short aircraft tour after all other passengers would have vacated the aircraft. I was informed by another cabin crew member that the crew would stay in Rome for three nights. On Wednesday morning, they would be back on duty, flying from Rome to Copenhagen and then continuing from Copenhagen to Singapore.
Few moments later, all other passengers had vacated the aircraft, except for two other ‘aviation geeks’ who had also travelled in Business Class and would join me on the brief tour of the cabin. I took my hand baggage and put in the Business Class galley. Then a couple of cabin crew members invited me to follow them for a quick tour of the cabin, showing the Premium Economy class and Economy class of the Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900. The tour did not last very long but I did manage to take some photos and I have to admire the crew, going the extra smile after a very long duty.
At 11:50 I thanked the entire Singapore Airlines crew for their great service and got off the aircraft. Another great avgeek experience had come to and end.
Positioning from Rome to Brussels
Few hours later, after grabbing a healthy lunch in the International Terminal departures hall and having some rest, I boarded an Alitalia Airbus A320-214 (EI-IKF) for my very last flight with the Italian airline. Alitalia would cease all operations on 15 October 2021 and would be replaced by a new Italian airline ‘ITA Airways’.
The flight from Rome Fiumicino Airport to Brussels Airport was uneventful and the load factor was high (especially when compared to the load factor on the Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 Business Class of course). At 17:38 we landed on RWY 25R at Brussels Airport and few minutes later the engines of my final Alitalia flight were shut down as the Airbus came to a complete stop at stand 152 (gate A52).
I would like to thank Singapore Airlines for operating their fifth-freedom right flights between Copenhagen and Rome, and the flight crew and cabin crew members of my flight SQ352 for the smooth and uneventful flight as well as the good service in Business Class. I also thank KLM and the flight crew and cabin crew members for a great service on my flights to Amsterdam and to Copenhagen. Finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Alitalia and its entire staff for 74 years of service. Grazie mille per tutto Alitalia!
10 October 2021