Dining aboard the Singapore Airlines A380 is the closest thing we'll get to flying, for now. And yes, it was a great way to dine

While green lanes and travel bubbles are slowly opening up, the reality is that it will be a while until we’re able to fly as freely or frequently as we did before 2020. Sadly, it’s unlikely to ever return to the level of the spontaneity we had in the past.

Pre-pandemic, airline food wasn’t exactly something people raved about, resulting in many airlines enlisting celebrity chefs to spice up their menus. However, months of being grounded have given the entire flying experience—food included—a brand new sheen.

Singapore residents are generally keen travellers and with many of us travel-starved, any chance to head to Changi Airport and sit inside a plane, a retrofitted A380-800 at that, is quite a draw. So it’s not surprising that the Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi received such a warm reception when it was first announced, so much so that the slots for the exclusive experience sold out in just 30 minutes.

(Related: Singapore Airlines To Resume Weekly Non-Stop Flights To New York This November)

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Above Business Class dining aboard the Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

Singapore Airlines is running the pop-up restaurant over this weekend and the next (October 24, 25, and 31 as well as November 1) with two seatings a day, lunch and dinner, on two of their jumbo aircraft. Of course, given the demand, there are murmurings of an extension but no definitive news yet.

So what is it like to dine aboard the Restaurant A380? Here’s the play by play:

The Airport: Smooth Sailing

Anticipation is what makes travel so exciting and seeing Changi Airport after months of not flying brought a smile on my face. Getting through the airport was as efficient as we’ve all come to expect at this award-winning venue. Passengers (or rather guests) will still have to go through necessary steps: you have to do SafeEntry when you enter Changi, leave your passport when you check-in, as well as go through a security screening at the boarding gate.

(Related: Japan To Remove Travel Ban to 12 Countries, Including Singapore, in November 2020)

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Above The A380 aircraft flies to London, Paris, Frankfurt and more (Image: Singapore Airlines)
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Above Activities at the departure area before boarding the Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The biggest difference is at the boarding or pre-departure area, which has been transformed into a lively events space. There was a caricature artist on hand, a tattoo station, a stall giving away fabric roses crafted from the same material used in the cabin crew uniforms, and prizes for those who came in traditional wear.

There was a jovial atmosphere overall especially when the cabin crew arrived—everyone welcomed them with a round of applause. Boarding commenced by rows and classes, exactly the same practice that we’ve all been accustomed to.   

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Above The A380 Suites on Singapore Airlines (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The Plane: A New Perspective

Diners were also entitled to a comprehensive plane tour that showcased the new look of the A380 aircraft, which has recently been retrofitted. It was heart-warming to be welcomed by the Singapore Airlines cabin crew—not even a mask can conceal their smile and enthusiasm—as we boarded the plane. The guides took our small group of five people to the luxurious Suites first, then onto Business Class, Premium Economy, then finally to Economy Class. The tour ended with a visit to the cockpit, with the pilots inside eagerly waiting to answer your questions and take your picture.

The visit also offered a peek into what flying will look like in the new normal. One notable change is that hand sanitiser stations have been installed outside lavatories and high-touch areas such as doors. Each seat also comes with Singapore Airlines care pack, which contains a mask, hand sanitiser as well as a cloth wipe for the screen.

(Related: Phase 3 Could Happen By End-2020, Social Gatherings of 8 People May be Allowed)

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Above Dining on Business Class aboard Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The Meal: Up In The Air

The plane may be parked on the tarmac, but Singapore Airlines has pulled out all the stops to make you feel as if you're about to head somewhere. After settling into my business class seat, a Singapore Sling was served, putting everyone in a celebratory mood. 

There was an audible gasp of delight when the captain spoke welcoming and thanking everyone for being on board. It wouldn't be a captain’s announcement without safety reminders, but this time it was about the precautions the airline is taking to keep everyone safe (such as installing a high-grade HEPA filtration system). He also reiterated that guests should not wear the seatbelt during the three-hour dinner service.

(Related: Get to Know Regenerative Travel—the Movement We Need to Shape the Future of Travel)

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Above First and Business Class - SIA Signature Satay at Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)
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Above First Class - Chilled Oscietra Caviar at Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)
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Above First Class - Suzuki Saikyo Yaki at Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)
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Above Business Class - Grilled Beef Fillet at Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Image: Singapore Airlines)

The meal started with Singapore Airlines' signature satay—a dish of pure comfort and nostalgia (it surely brought back memories of the long-haul flights I’ve taken with the carrier). The business class experience on Restaurant A380 offered two menus to choose from: a Peranakan menu by Shermay Lee and an International Selection with a variety of dishes inspired by French, Japanese and Italian cooking techniques. Wines were offered for every course, with the selection of bottles similar to what was previously offered in-flight.

(Related: Singapore's PasirpanjangBoy Opens Nyonya Restaurant Bibi & Baba in Hong Kong)

I chose the Shermay Lee menu and the first course, Chicken, Prawn and Jellyfish Salad with Coleslaw Dressing, was a refreshing start. At this point, my seat was already reclined and I was happily watching reruns of Friends, which really made me feel like I was travelling (we all have our in-flight rituals, don’t we?).

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Above Business Class - Nonya Grandma's Nasi Lemak at Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 @ Changi (Courtesy of Singapore Airlines)

The main course of Nonya Grandma’s Nasi Lemak—jasmine rice infused with coconut with fish in a tangy tamarind sauce, sambal prawns, fried ikan bilis—arrived complete with keropok and dipping sauces. The complexity of this dish would be difficult to replicate on a normal flight; this ensures that the pop-up experience will still be memorable even when flights eventually resume. The meal ended with a medley of indulgent offerings—a gula melaka ice cream sandwich, a fruit plate, a cheese platter and more wine for those who wanted it.

It was close to 10 pm when dinner started to wind down, and many guests engaged in deeper conversations with the crew followed by selfies while sipping their coffee and tea. As a pop-up restaurant, Restaurant A380 @ Changi offers more than just a great meal but also a chance to rediscover the joy of flying. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and while we may not travel as often as a result of the new world order, I have a feeling it will be more special than it was before. 

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