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Singapore Airlines Is a Consistent Favorite Among T+L Readers — and We Just Got a Behind the Scenes Look Into Its Food and Beverage Service

An inside look into Singapore Airline's dedication to its food and beverage service ahead of a major revamp coming March 31.

<p>Courtesy of Singapore Airlines </p>

Courtesy of Singapore Airlines

A lot of what goes behind being a consistent favorite airline is its food and beverage service — and Singapore Airlines has understood the assignment.

The airline, which regularly makes Travel + Leisure's annual reader-voted Best International Airline list, is rolling out a major revamp of food, beverage, and amenities in premium economy on March 31— its first comprehensive update since the cabin’s launch in 2015. Included are over 200 new meals, 20 pre-order options, nearly 30 percent larger portion sizes, and a post-take-off champagne toast serving Charles de Cazanove Brut Tradition NV.

While it might not be the sexiest product to get a makeover, the premium economy cabin — a perfect middle ground between business class and economy — is a huge money maker for airlines like Singapore. The airline flies its premium economy cabin to 32 destinations, including the longest flight in the world between New York (JFK) and Singapore (SIN). 

So, with a full get-up of personal protective equipment from head-to-toe, I toured some of the facilities that make Singapore Airlines a renowned carrier in the industry. 

All About the Food

<p>Courtesy of Chris Dong</p>

Courtesy of Chris Dong

Singapore Airline's 600,000-square-foot catering facility is a well-oiled machine, churning out high-quality meals, all have which made Singapore a leader in the food and beverage realm. While airline catering logistics are incredibly complex, few other carriers offer the level of dining options and dishes that the airline does, especially in premium economy, Antony McNeil, director of food and beverage for Singapore Airlines, told me.

“It’s all about listening to the customer and understanding what their needs are,” McNeil, who leads the team responsible for the 60,000 meals Singapore produces each day, said. “There’s an immense sense of pride our airline has for the onboard experience and it’s been that way for decades.”

Each morning, McNeil’s team creates a “golden sample” dish that then must be mimicked in presentation and taste, as I learned that the the hardest thing in the kitchen for an airline to manage is consistency, “Our chefs must build a meal based on the photo and recipe specifications and then mass produce it at scale,” he explained.

I watched as chefs in the kitchen stir-fried Singaporean hor fun noodles in massive high-heat woks and hand-flipped egg omelets after they were poured onto skillets by a rotating semi-automatic machine. (The airline makes so many omelets — over 7,000 per day — that nonstick pans must be replaced each week.)  

Somewhere in that kitchen, chefs were prepping the airline’s new premium economy menu items like garlic-roasted prawns with smoked aioli and patatas bravas; Beef Bourguignon served with bacon, mushrooms, vegetables, and potato gratin; Chor Mee (minced pork noodles); and Thai-style crab curry served with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables with egg.

Another new addition, “Book the Cook," allows passengers to experience the local flavors of a destination and it’s a true fine dining experience,” McNeil explained. The program allows premium cabin passengers on select routes to pre-order meals, with a massive selection of dishes that wouldn’t otherwise be available onboard.

According data from the airline shared with T+L, it’s food and beverage is the number one driver for passengers to choose premium economy. More specifically, taste, availability of choice, and portions are the most important factors in the dining experience.

“Taking all this into account, we worked for over two years to differentiate and enhance our premium economy class menu offerings," Betty Wong, divisional vice president of in-flight service and design, explained.

Fine Dining Training Takes to the Skies

<p>Courtesy of Chris Dong</p>

Courtesy of Chris Dong

Around the corner at the Singapore Airlines Training Center, the carrier’s cabin crew are trained to serve all passengers with elegance, grace, and of course, safety, in mind. All 7,700 current Singapore crew have gone through the doors of this center, a state-of-the-art facility that houses one of the most rigorous training programs among all airlines.

The nearly four-month-long program includes five dedicated weeks of service training, including etiquette, grooming, meal preparation, and more. (The airline industry average is only five weeks of total training, the same amount of time that Singapore dedicates to its service culture alone.)

The airline even has an air sommelier program, a highly selective initiative in which cabin crew can apply to become wine experts. The airline has around 100 air sommeliers, offering guidance on wine pairings, like a new red and white in premium economy, a 2023 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc and a 2022 St Hallett Faith Shiraz.

Finally, the Singapore crew will be serving premium economy passengers their meals in elegant porcelain stoneware, a major step up from the plastic containers previously used.

“People eat with their eyes and the aesthetic of our dishes was an important consideration,” Wong noted.

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