Singapore Airlines has a reputation for being the top luxury airline in the aviation industry. Such kudos seems almost like folklore, these days, when nearly every aspect of air travel is so uncomfortable on many other airlines.
The airline’s reputation has triumphed long beyond the once-grand image of Pan-Am Airlines.
Singapore Air's ability to sustain the top ranking all these years to a well-thought-out, big-picture philosophy regarding the airline's global brand. It maintains a high standard that is executed by an impressively trained staff.
It’s no mystery that the Singapore Girl service experience for passengers aboard the airline is still tops in the open skies. But how they continue to keep things relevant, desirable and smooth is another story.
Last week, I flew from JFK to Singapore for the inaugural flight of the massive double-decker Singapore Airlines A380 plane, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. The plane was designed with the branding familiarity of Singapore Air’s color scheme and fabrics, but with the sensibilities of a luxury cruise ship. It was outfitted with luxury suites reminiscent of Pullman train cars. And the business-class seats are the widest in the industry.
At the end of the flight, Singapore Air is the same business it originally set out to be. That keeps customers booking and the airline thrives as the industry’s second largest, with an estimated worth of $14 billion.
Before taking off, I spoke with Singapore Airlines’ VP of communications, James Boyd, about how the company continues to soar after nearly 40 years flying.
What is it about Singapore Airlines that is so thrilling to someone who has never experienced the brand?
The Singapore airlines experience is essentially about a level of privacy, luxury and service that maintains what we look back on as the Golden Age of travel, something only some remember. That is what we strive to create and maintain.
Pan-Am was a classy airline that offered top service, as the new ABC drama reminds us. Does Singapore Airlines refer to Pan-Am as a guide for what to do and not do?
We look back on those days of Pan-Am and that level of service, and that's very much a part of the inspiration to create this global standard of air travel. But the airline has largely been built around our own commitment to create more than the world’s best airline experience or the world’s best air travel experience.
Our goal for the last decade has been to create the world’s best travel experience overall.
What is involved with creating the world’s best travel experience? That sounds like a tall order.
We don’t just compare ourselves to the best airlines, but we have also long been comparing ourselves to the best hotels, the best resorts and the best destinations. Our research has been to find the best things about all aspects of the travel experience and find ways to incorporate them into the product that we have created and continue to create. That is our philosophy, our goal, and we’re very fortunate that customers have responded in kind.
What are these “best of” amenities passengers find so attractive that they are willing to pay top dollar to fly with you?
They love having the choice of having Dom Perignon or Krug champagne. They love being served their dinner in a very specific, choreographed way on beautiful Givenchy china. With caviar, nine different types of rolls to choose from and eight varietals of wine. They are presented with so many choices to customize their experience, whether it’s a soup or a salad, warm nuts or homemade chocolates.
These are just a few of the types of amenities that passengers experience. All of this adds up to an airline that reminds people that this is and can still be a very special way to travel. We want people to experience the great air travel of the decades past, today.
What guided you on the in-flight luxury suites? There isn’t a lot of research on what is essentially a small studio apartment for passengers to fly in.
For the suites, we took the First Class concept to another level. These are private cabins and private double cabins that offer the industry’s only in-flight double bed.
We thought outside the plane, and then didn’t just go to luxury hotels for ideas, we went to a luxury yacht designer. He brought some very specific skills in terms of how you create a luxurious environment that is also durable, certified and very private—all within a moving structure. That is a lot of criteria to build around a brand and around which to build your creativity.
How to you keep up with your passengers to know what makes them happy, most comfortable and impressed with what you offer?
We know that our customers have a certain expectations. One of those expectations is that they don’t have to suspend the lives that they lead on the ground because they are boarding an aircraft.
At home, they don’t sleep on an inclined bed, they sleep on a fully flat bed. When they sleep, they sleep beneath a down duvet. At home, they have access to hundreds and thousands of entertainment options, so we offer something similar with our entertainment system.
As the second largest airline in the industry, you have somehow managed to customize the experience for the individual. Typically, large companies end up doing the opposite.
We don’t just look at other related industries for ideas about what our passengers value and desire. We also look at the individual lives and individual habits of consumers, and then find way to replicate those in flight.
To what lengths will you go to make your customers happy?
Image credit: Singapore Airlines