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More meal choices, bigger portions in SQ's premium economy

Passengers who fly in premium economy on Singapore Airlines (SIA) can look forward to a greater variety of meal choices and larger portions from March 31, when the airline rolls out a revamp of the cabin class.

As part of the revamp, SIA has expanded the food and beverages menu to a total of 175 main courses, 48 appetisers, and 34 desserts. These are either brand new dishes or existing ones that have undergone significant changes.

An example of a dish that has been tweaked is the nasi lemak ayam rendang, a Malay rice dish served with slow-cooked chicken in coconut milk with spices. Its previous rendition was nasi lemak which featured fried chicken.

The entirely new dishes include nine from the Book The Cook selection, which allows customers to pre-order main courses such as slow braised lamb ragout, plant-based roasted cauliflower steak, and roti jala with Malay style lamb curry.

Additionally, the serving sizes of the dishes will increase in weight: by 28 per cent for appetisers, 33 per cent for main courses, and 26 per cent for desserts, said SIA food and beverage director Antony McNeil at a media showcase event on March 14.

These meals will be served on porcelain tableware on larger linen-lined trays, compared with the current disposable plastic casseroles.

This is the first large-scale revamp of SIA’s premium economy class since its introduction in 2015, said the airline in a statement on March 15.

The upgrade also includes new amenity kits on flights longer than seven hours. Held in an eco-friendly kraft fabric pouch, the kit includes eyeshades and slippers made from recycled materials.

SIA senior vice-president of customer experience Yeoh Phee Teik said the revamp comes after conducting market research and gathering feedback from customers.

The upgrade is one of the ways for SIA to deliver a personalised customer experience that will delight passengers, he added.

SIA divisional vice-president of public affairs Siva Govindasamy said demand has increased across all four passenger classes after the Covid-19 pandemic, with passenger load factors reaching 86 per cent in recent years.

This translates to increased demand for the premium economy cabin, he noted.

The premium economy class is available on 74, or over half, of SIA’s passenger fleet of 143 aircraft, serving 32 destinations – which amounts to 42 per cent of its network.

Asked about the potential expansion of premium economy cabins on SIA’s aircraft, Mr Govindasamy said the configuration of existing aircraft is unlikely to change. He added that the seat configurations for its upcoming Boeing 777-9 jets – scheduled to be delivered from 2025 – have not been announced yet.

On why SIA decided to improve its premium economy menu, Ms Betty Wong, the airline’s divisional vice-president of inflight services and design, said in-flight food and beverage was ranked first in value drivers – or factors that add worth – of the premium economy class among customers, surpassing other traits such as seat comfort and loyalty benefits.

Taste, availability of meal choices, and serving portions are factors that contribute to the in-flight dining experience, she added.

SIA had conducted various workshops, including one with 20 children over a few days to understand their tastes and preferences by studying the meals they chose, Mr McNeil said.

Ms Wong said the revamp took close to two years. Much time was spent on the design and choice of porcelain tableware, as the team had to consider the versatility of its colour, heat retention, durability and weight, she added.

On how SIA decided on the menu changes, Mr Govindasamy said the team did not want to take away some of the “old favourites” such as the fried carrot cake, so they decided to reimagine these flavours instead of replacing them.

Citing the beef bourguignon as an example of a dish that is not entirely new, Mr McNeil said it was revamped in terms of cooking processes and ingredients used.

While each individual component of the dish is not new, its composition and presentation has been refreshed, for instance, by providing couscous as an alternative to mashed potato, he added.