Singapore Airlines to roll out ‘total connectivity’ in 2011

Travelers have long found the electronics ban to be a mixed burden and blessing – for some, it’s an oasis of peace and quiet during an otherwise hectic day. For others, flights, particularly long ones, are time sucks of lost productivity. In recent years, the roll-out of in-flight Wi-Fi services has dramatically improved the ability of business travelers to stay on top of their work.

Now, Singapore Airlines is entering the race to become the first major “fully connected” airline in Asia, rolling out the ability to make and receive phone calls, texts, and use Wi-Fi Internet on long-haul flights. Part of a collaboration with in-flight connectivity provider OnAir, the carrier will debut a range of on-board communication offerings as early as the first half of 2011.

These services will will be introduced progressively on flights operated by the Airline’s A380, A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

“The environment that our customers have gotten used to on the ground can soon be replicated in the air, when they fly with Singapore Airlines on aircraft fitted with this new connectivity platform. Traveling for business or pleasure, they are just a click or a text message away, with access to live information, social networking and news updates, as well as in-flight shopping,” said Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice President Product & Services, Mr. Yap Kim Wah.

“The agreement is extremely significant. It sends a strong signal to the industry that in-flight passenger communications has come of age – and is a must-have for airlines looking to remain competitive in the future,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir.

Customers who use the mobile services will see their usage reflected in the monthly bills from their telecommunications provider where international GSM roaming rates apply.

We’re curious to see the backlash from this, particularly as abuses of the new-found “power” begin to occur. Will your overweight, unshowered middle eat companion now be allowed to yap endlessly to their friends about last night’s escapades, or will calls be limited in time and duration? Will flights have a designated “quiet zone”? We’ll be sure to follow up on any developments, and any airlines that follow suit.

[Flickr via William Hawkins]

Daily Pampering: Three most luxurious first-class cabins

America can learn a lot from the Far East in the way of air travel. We rounded up the three best first-class cabins for your flying pleasure. After all, if you’re going to travel around the world, you might as well do it in style.

Singapore Airlines: They call them SkySuites, we call them ‘heaven.’ There are only 12 on each plane and if you’re lucky enough to grab one you can expect luxury like never before. Sit down in your leather-upholstered, Burrwood-trimmed seat that fully reclines and comes complete with a turn-down service and down-filled mattress and duvet. The first-class meals are prepared by world-class chefs, and you can choose your meal before the flight. Enjoy some Dom Perignon and Krug while you fly through the skies.

Cathay Pacific: From the concierge-style service at check-in to the on-demand prepared food in-flight, Cathay Pacific is worthy of a ‘most luxurious’ status. Once you sit down, amenity kits with Acca Kappa Italian products and Shanghai Tang pajamas await. The seat is easily extendable into a full-length bed with pillows and duvets and, thanks to a privacy screen, the seat is transformed into a cozy bedroom. The first-class ‘bedrooms’ give a whole knew meaning to sleeping in the sky.

Emirates Airlines: The first class, fully-enclosed cabins are relatively new to Emirates, but a welcome amenity to first-class fliers. The doors to the cabins can be opened and closed at will, and like your hotel comes with ‘do not disturb’ signal. The best part? Tall passengers will appreciate the no overhead bin space, but don’t worry – there is plenty of space to stow your carry-on. Our favorite part? The personal mini-bar is your pod.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

The world’s longest and shortest flights

Because you’re just apoplectic to find out how you can maximize your time on an airplane, right? We covered this a while back, but things keep changing: planes keep getting bigger, stronger, and faster, routes change based on demand and somehow, we keep increasing our tolerance for being locked up and pressurized like pringles in a can. Fortunately, the world’s many airline nerds have already done the technical legwork–we just had to fact check:

  • At present, the world’s longest non-stop commercial flight is Singapore Airlines SQ21 from Newark Liberty (EWR) to Singapore Changi International (SIN) clocking in at a whopping 18 hours 50 minutes! Thankfully, the huge all-business-class Airbus A340-500 and world-famous in-flight service makes the halfway-around-the-world jaunt from New Jersey quite bearable. (In that same time, you could drive from Newark to Kansas City.)
  • The world’s shortest regularly-scheduled, non-stop commercial flight is on Scotland’s Loganair, from the island of Westray (WRY) to Papa Westray (PSV) in the Orkney Islands, clocking in at a meager 2 minutes (so I’m guessing there’s no beverage service).There are plenty of other super short commercial flights all over the world, mostly inter-island and commuter connections. The Caribbean’s LIAT flight between the islands of St. Kitt’s (SKB) and Nevis (NEV) is scheduled at 15 minutes long but rarely takes more than 5 minutes from take-off to landing.

(Photo Flickr: William James Tychonievich)

The most over-the-top first class cabins

While most coach flyers would kill for a little extra leg room and a free bag of peanuts, first class passengers are often living the good life with free-flowing drinks and fully-reclining seats. But there are some first class cabins that go beyond simply luxury and begin to cross into the land of excess.

For example, according to a post on Divine Caroline, Singapore Airlines offers its first class passengers Givenchy sleepwear, Ferragamo toiletry kits and personalized turndown service. Jet Airways welcomes passengers into their own private room with a door that shuts for privacy, while on Emirates, they get their very own suite, complete with personal lounge and shower.

On Lufthansa, the VIP service starts before you even board, as a Mercedes Benz chauffeurs you to the plane. Qatar Airways’ first class lounge has a Jacuzzi and full-service spa.

Some airlines turn your seat into a cinema or a four-star restaurant. Qantas Airlines’ first class seats offer a 400-channel entertainment center and an eight-course meal with wine pairings. Seats on Cathay Pacific have built massagers and flight attendants cook each passenger’s breakfast to order.

And here I was just hoping for a good in-flight movie and a few free drinks. . .

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Travel and Leisure names Virgin America best domestic, Singapore best international carriers

The prestigious Travel and Leisure “World’s Best” awards were announced today, covering everything from best hotels to best islands to best airlines. Not surprisingly, no legacy carriers were in the top domestic airlines list — as we expected, Virgin America and JetBlue were the winners. And how couldn’t they be? With in-seat video, internet and hipsters on their side it’s hard to compete.

On the international side, Singapore Airlines wins once again, with all-star global service including private rooms on their delightful A380′s.

The full list of top contenders in the domestic category:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Midwest
  4. WestJet
  5. Southwest
  6. Sun Country
  7. Hawaiian
  8. Frontier
  9. Alaskan
  10. USA 3000.

Check out the international rankings after the jump.
Top international airlines raked as such:

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Qatar
  3. Emirates
  4. Japan Airlines
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. All Nippon Airways
  7. Cathay Pacific
  8. Thai Airways
  9. Air New Zealand
  10. Asiana

Airlines were ranked on a number of factors (and we do love it when they publish methodology,) from cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service and value. You can read the entire list here.