Airline review: Scoot business class, Sydney to Singapore
THE PLANE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the airline received its first Dreamliner this year, for the Singapore-Perth and Singapore-Hong Kong routes. By the end of 2015, all Australian routes will be serviced by Dreamliners.
THE ROUTE Sydney to Singapore.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME Scoot joined Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer frequent flyer program in April.
Business class, seat 1H (aisle) but before takeoff, I shimmy down to 3J (window) to score two empty seats. The flight is less than half-full today, and quite a few people seem to have been upgraded.
DURATION 7 hours.
FREQUENCY Scoot currently flies Sydney to Singapore non-stop five times a week, going daily from May 1. Conveniently, the flight leaves at lunchtime to arrive in Singapore just in time for dinner (The return flight's 1am departure is less convenient.)
THE SEAT A 38-inch (96-centimetre) pitch, 22-inch (56cm) width. There are 35 seats in ScootBiz, in a 2-3-2 formation.
BAGGAGE Checked luggage up to 20 kilograms and 15kg (two pieces) of carry-on.
COMFORT A Dreamliner is still a Dreamliner, no matter if it's sporting full-service or low-cost livery. That means low engine noise, cleaner air and lower fuel consumption (and hopefully, lower ticket costs). The seats are broad and comfortable, with an extendable foot rest to help stretch out. Be prepared to pay extra for a snooze kit, which has a fleece blanket, eye mask and neck pillow, or bring your own. Costs $17 pre-booked or $21.80 on board.
ENTERTAINMENT As I'm sitting up at the bulkhead and gossiping, it takes a while to realise there are no screens. To watch a movie, you have to download an app beforehand and they'll send the movie to the app. It's far easier to load your own movies onto your tablet or laptop. AC power is available in every seat, no adaptors required. (Economy passengers have to pay $7.60 for power). There are no USB sockets, crazy given they're pushing inflight Wi-Fi. You can go online once you hit 10,000ft and costs $11.30/one hour, $16/three hours, or $20.80/24 hours and you can use any remaining time on the return flight. There are no download limits.
SERVICE The pleasant, dignified staff hide any indignation at being referred to as "Scootees" and one even shares his hot tip for the best Hainanese chicken rice on the ground in Singapore. (I may have also been warned off ordering the western breakfast on the return leg.) The pilots are called Scooters and announce on takeoff: "We're getting outta here!"
FOOD Lunch arrives shortly after takeoff. We have pre-ordered the soya sauce chicken rice – braised chicken, Chinese mushrooms and quail eggs: no marks for presentation and "saltiness" does not equate to "flavoursome". The meal includes a small Toblerone chocolate and is presented on a tray that is broader than the narrow pull-out tables, and slides dangerously. Quick, save that Wolf Blass chardonnay! The ScootBiz fare includes one meal and one alcoholic drink. Additional drinks can be bought with cash or credit card. Beers cost $8, $9 for wine or pre-mix Singapore Sling. The peckish can order cup noodles (add an instant egg for only $2), packet soup, biscuits or ice-cream. I learn, too late, that the classic Singapore dish, Hainanese chicken rice, is available only as a pre-order on the Sydney-Singapore leg.
ONE MORE THING Scoot is slated to start a Melbourne-Singapore direct service in November.
THE VERDICT Apart from the spacious Dreamliner surrounds, this is not business class as you know it. Think of it as premium economy. I'm good with BYO amenities and entertainment, but the big let-down is the quality of the food and wine, especially as Singapore prides itself on its cuisine. But any qualms are far outweighed by the price: no-frills economy fares cost as little as $219 and ScootBiz is priced from $499, with plenty of sales available.
Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew courtesy of Scoot. See www.flyscoot.com.
This Flight Test by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney's Sun-Herald Traveller section.