We had to do a last minute trip to Wuhan for a few days. It was unfortunate that we had to give up the same ticket we redeemed in September using the 50% discount on spontaneous escape. I had wrote a brief review on Silkair Economy Class for our travel in June (exact destination) and let’s see how does Silkair’s Business Class stand?
I paid 110,000 miles for 2 return in Business (as opposed to 55,000 when I did my redemption using the Spontaneous Escape) and paid a total of $130. Silkair has 2 different timings to Wuhan, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays (as MI 986 departing at 9am) and they return as MI 985 at 3pm. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays Silkair will fly as MI 988 (departing at 155pm) and return as MI 987 (at 8pm). All flights are turnarounds for crew.
Silkair departs from Changi Airport Terminal 2 but for this trip I entered via Terminal 3 (as I had to do some last minute purchasing in Terminal 3) and this allowed me the opportunity to use the Silverkris Lounge in Terminal 3. Although Silkair is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, it is NOT part of Star Alliance. Miles accrued on MI flights cannot be credited to Star Alliance frequent flyer programme.
Although my flight was on 13 November, I brought my luggage to Changi Airport on 11 November for check in as I was to go straight to airport from my work place.
This was my first time in Silverkris Lounge in the afternoon and the crowd at 12pm was minimal (and so was the food selection). I could not find any laksa and neither was the live cooking station up (to my disappointment). However, there were plenty of seats and they serve Charles Hiedsieck in the lounge! After a quick meal, we proceed to Terminal 2 on the Skytrain. As MI 988 arrives into Wuhan at 7pm, this flight is not as popular which the reason is probably for the half-filled Economy Cabin. Business Class was 7/12.
For our return flight, Silkair uses Hubei International Airport Lounge. My verdict? Just give it a miss. Have a good meal elsewhere and just be at the gate on boarding. We had a short stop in the lounge for some photos and there was absolutely no food at 230pm (food is only served during breakfast, lunch and dinner time). There are some soft drinks and a coffee machine.
Business Class in Silkair is comparable to North America’s Domestic First as it spots large recliner seats, but I would rate it considerably better than Delta’s and Air Canada’s recliners. The seats are wide and the leather upholstery makes it fairly comfortable. There were only 3 rows of Business Class seats and I would recommend probably row 2 or 3 as the bulkhead seat’s leg space is a little more restricted.
There are no built in IFE but each Business Class passengers will be given an iPad which streams from the plane’s Wi-Fi (using the Silk Studio app). It was unfortunate however that we were given cheap ear buds (similar to that of Singapore Airlines’ Economy Class ear buds) instead of a proper noise cancellation headphone. There was also no apparatus for us to mount the iPad on the back of the seat. This is not an issue until one wants to watch the iPad while having the meal simultaneously! Movie selection is a far cry from that of KrisWorld’s (so don’t expect much, better still – load your own phone or tablet with your movie of choice and bring your own earphone/headphone). The shows on Silk Studio was pretty old.
We had a pre departure hot towel and drinks and right after take-off, we had more drinks (with wider choices) accompanied by choice of snacks (mixed nuts, chips or cheese pretzel) which were nicely plated on porcelain wares. Drink selection were certainly not as great as those on Singapore Airlines and the menu certainly looked less than impressive for Business Class. One recommendation though is the Joy Signature Drink, which was available both as Cocktail and Mocktail. I wasn’t sure which champagne was used by Silkair, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t Charles Hiedsieck (the difference was quite significant that my less than sophisticated tongue could notice it).
There was no physical menu available in each seat, rather the crew will go from seat to seat to take the order of main menu. Silkair has its own version of Book-The-Cook (called All Time Favourite). This can be booked up to 24 hours before flying and it is available on both legs (this is possible due to the same flight making a turnaround). The selection of course is dwarfed by that of Singapore Airlines’. For both legs, we opt for the All Time Favourite selection. I chose the salmon on MI988 (Salmon has never been my favourite on board, but the wife insist that I choose fish as I am getting too fat) and the Fish Briyani on MI985. My wife chose the Abalone noodle to Wuhan and Beef Brisket noodle back to Singapore (which she subsequently changed back to Abalone noodle).
As expected, the salmon was a little dry but it was flavourful. The Fish Briyani was pretty good and unlike the salmon, the fish was soft but not mushy. My wife loved the abalone noodle that she changed her beef brisket noodle to abalone noodle but the noodle on return was kind of disappointing (as the noodle was too salty).
The bread selection is not as great as that of SQ’s but one bread that stood out was the Polo Bun. Although the garlic bread was great, I felt the polo bun trumped it!
On MI988, the different course was served separately. First to come was the appetizer and bread, followed by the main course before we end it with the dessert. For our flight back, everything was plated together (as everyone on board dined on demand). Most of us had our meal at about 6pm (only slightly less than 2 hours before landing) although meal service was supposed to commence about 1 to 1.5 hours after take-off. The crew was kind enough to accommodate our request to dine later.
Lunch service on MI 988
Dinner service on MI 985 (everything was plated together) – the abalone noodle don’t look as good (and certainly don’t taste as good)
Service was prompt (in fact, more prompt that what I had on SQ308 Suites back in March). On our return flight, the senior crew was very proactive in topping up our beverage! Just like what you get on Singapore Airlines, the crew were friendly and courteous. On my way to Wuhan, the crew was kind enough to give me some memorabilia. Silkair has their own version of the ‘teddy bear’, which is a plane soft toy. They also have something which I thought has gone extinct on planes – playing cards!
I have to admit that I was expecting a lousy product and service given the hearsay but I have to admit that it is much better than I anticipated. No doubt it does not sport state of the art lie flat seats (which is rumoured to be coming in 2021 once Singapore Airlines absorbs Silkair), the seats are quite comfortable for a 5 hour flight (may not say the same for redeye flight). I would certainly rate it higher than Malaysia Airlines, Delta and Air Canada’s seats. Service was prompt and efficient and food wasn’t shabby. It is certainly a choice for direct regional flights (to destinations not served by Singapore Airlines). It is even better if one can get a 30% (better still 50%) discount on redemption via Spontaneous Escape promotion.
Few months ago, Silkair had very good promotion for Business Class fares (e.g. $500+ to Thailand, $998 to China and $1.3k to Hiroshima and Cairns) and with such fares, it is probably not worthwhile to redeem using Krisflyer miles. For my flight however, a return ticket cost almost $2.6k per person! (Making the 55k miles more worth it).
Silkair would be a good choice for destinations not served by Singapore Airlines. Although the Business Class is not great, it is certainly a significant upgrade from Economy and the availability of Silverkris Lounge sweetens the deal. Try to aim for Spontaneous Escape to give you a better redemption value. It would be interesting to see how Singapore Airlines will convert these narrow-bodied planes into one with full flat seat. This is not undoable as COPA Air has rolled out full flat seats on their 737 MAX (I am still hoping that my flight from Panama City to New York next year will have this).
Just before posting this, Silkair has announced that 17 destinations will be transferred over to Scoot and this includes Wuhan. This will happen in mid-2019 and with that, it spells the end of MI986/988 and MI 985/987. Unless demand is great, chances are this route will be served by the old Tiger’s A320 (which is an all Economy cabin).
L – evening view on MI 988 R – evening view on MI 985