Flying 5th Freedom on Singapore Airlines’ Business Class

Flying 5th Freedom on Singapore Airlines’ Business Class

DALLAS — Singapore Airlines (SQ), apart from being the flag carrier of this little country in Southeast Asia, acts as a worldwide connection airline for travelers flying to and from five continents, only escaping South America due to its isolation on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

From all its destinations, 13 are served directly by SQ, and two others, Berlin (BER) and Athens (ATH) are connected to the rest of the network by its subsidiary Scoot (TR).

Anyone who has ever flown from Barcelona (BCN) to Changi Airport (SIN) on SQ has experienced a brief technical stop at Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP) before proceeding to Asia.

The most interesting part is that, if someone only wants to fly this short 450-mile route between BCN and MXP, Singapore Airlines offers its own separate tickets for fair prices thanks to their ability to operate 5th Freedom flights inside Europe.

In this trip report, we fly on the shortest SQ A350 flight in their highly rated business class seat and discuss whether it is worth it to select it over SQ’s regular economy class cabin on these short trips across Europe.

Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport has a very modern lobby with plenty of natural light, which reminds the famous T5 at Heathrow Airport in London. Photo: Pop9000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Our Expectations

Singapore Airlines has been awarded many times the title of “Best Airline in the World” by many organizations, and their Business Class has some of the best ratings worldwide, so our expectations this time are not going to be low.

Even though this is one of the shortest A350 flights ever seen, we can expect today to have:

  • Priority Check-In, security line, and boarding.
  • Lounge access prior to departure.
  • A full-flat bed seat.
  • An Amenity kit with noise-canceling headphones.
  • A welcome drink after boarding.
  • A menu card offering a hot meal selection.
  • Free Wi-Fi service and a good IFE film selection.
Along with the BCN-MXP flight, Singapore Airlines also offers a 5th freedom flight from Singapore to Houston via Manchester with the A350. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways.


We will be flying today on flight SQ377, which runs five times a week. The scheduled departure time from Barcelona is 10:15, arriving in Malpensa at 11:55 (all in local times).

This 1-hour and 40-minute flight is operated by the standard Airbus A350-900 aircraft SQ owns. The carrier does fly seven modified A350-900ULR aircraft with only Business Class and Premium Economy seats, but these are reserved exclusively on ultra-long-haul flights like SQ22, which connects Singapore with New York Airport (JFK) on a daily basis.

At 13:20, flight SQ377 continues to Singapore after a short break with newly booked passengers from Milan, along with those that originated their trip back in Spain. The scheduled arrival time at Changi Airport is 8:15 the next morning.

Check-in was quick and easy at the origin, as the airline dedicated a separate counter for Business Class passengers, SQ frequent flyers, and Star Alliance Gold Members. We chose seat 17A, located in the 6th row of the aircraft, just in front of the lavatories and second door. The basic baggage allowance for Business Class travelers is 40kg per passenger on all SQ flights except those to Canada and the USA.

Our aircraft, registered as 9V-SMH, is a six-year-old Airbus A350-941 delivered to SQ in December 2016, and it was the 68th A350 to exit the assembly line. It features a 253-seat configuration distributed across three classes: Business, Premium Economy, and Standard Economy class.

All Business Class seats have direct aisle access, which enhances the privacy and comfort of passengers on long-haul flights. Diagram: Singapore Airlines

The Business Class Seat

Singapore Airlines configured a total of 42 seats on the A350-900 aircraft. Our seat was located on one of the last rows of the first section of the cabin. This seat gave me great views of the Trent XWB engine. Its main disadvantage was its proximity to the bathrooms and galleys. This wasn’t a major problem since those restrooms were only available to Business Class passengers and were rarely used during the entire flight.

The main feature of the Business Class seat is its size. This seat is very wide and spacious in comparison to many other products offered by airlines of the competition. Additionally, storage units were available in three separate spaces: on the left side and under the seat, and also near the IFE screen. A separate and complimentary literature compartment was discretely placed next to the tray table, which was hidden and camouflaged with the rest of the furniture.

More gadgets were available and quite useful, like universal power outlets and USB and HDMI ports, in addition to a mirror placed next to the IFE and an adjustable reading light. However, these features are now standard in Business Class. The seat was very wide and was convertible into a full-flat bed, and the IFE screen was very big, reaching the 18-inch mark.

However, the usability of the entertainment system was all but comfortable. The screen was controlled with a remote, and the software was neither predictable nor intuitive. Despite this, the film and series selection was good, and it featured quite recent films to be enjoyed by the passenger.

But the biggest setback we found with this seat is the lack of privacy. The seat is very wide but also quite open. During the flight, we had the feeling of being observed by the rest of the passengers, as we were also able to watch what was happening in the rest of the seats and to the other passengers.

A separator screen would be highly appreciated, as there is enough space to install one next to the entrance to the seat. This would have significantly improved the entire experience of the flight, not to mention that being able to check out the full-flat bed would have been nice.

The seat was spacious and comfortable, but no privacy was granted at all. Photo: Adrian Nowakowski/Airways

The Inflight Experience

Talking about the experience, we would also like to identify and analyze some aspects that made this flight unique and special. The flight crew was kind and charming during the journey, from boarding to deboarding. The experience was personalized. Flight attendants addressed every passenger by their name, and all requests were attended to individually by a separate crew member.

As soon as they boarded, the cabin crew gave business class passengers the option to store their coats and personal items separately in the galley, which was greatly appreciated. This is not a common courtesy seen on many airlines. Additionally, a welcome drink was provided to passengers before taxiing.

However, the only option available was water. This was quite disappointing, especially knowing that other airlines tend to offer other beverages in this class.

The in-flight meal, on the other hand, was by far the most disappointing aspect of the flight. The context of a nearly 2-hour flight should not justify that the only meal option offered was a cold ham and cheese sandwich.

The presentation fit the standard of business class, but the quality of the food was comparable to what you would get from a vending machine. At least there was a decent selection of complimentary beverages such as soft drinks, coffee, or tea.

Lastly, passengers had access to complimentary Wi-Fi service over 10,000 feet for messaging and other services but not for streaming. The internet connection speed exceeded 5 Mbps, which was quite comfortable and appreciated. Business Class passengers were provided with a complimentary set of noise-canceling headphones for the duration of the flight.

The only meal option served on this flight was a bad-quality cold sandwich along with a beverage of your choice. Quite disappointing. Photo: Adrian Nowakowski/Airways

Is It Worth It?

Arrival in Milan was quick and happened without any issues. After a smooth landing, the aircraft arrived at the non-Schengen gate section of Malpensa Airport, in order to start preparing for the next and longer hop to Singapore.

Passengers flying the whole trip to SIN were instructed to remain onboard while the rest of the passengers terminating their journey in Italy, including us, disembarked. And with that, our 5th freedom trip from Milan to Barcelona onboard Singapore Airlines in Business Class came to an end.

The real question is, is it worth it to buy a more expensive ticket for this short flight? From our point of view, the overall service on this flight did not meet our expectations and was not worth the extra cost. Additionally, flying in Business Class on such a short flight does not give you the full experience of upper-class air travel. After all, the seats and inflight services of Singapore Airlines Business Class are designed for the Milan-Singapore route.

Almost twelve hours of flight time is enough for the airline to organize and show the full potential of this Business Class experience. However, there were some aspects that should really be modified to improve the product, such as the lack of privacy and the mediocre meal service, which did not equate with a “Business Class” experience.

All in all, SQ offers an excellent BC product on their Airbus A350-900 on long-haul flights, as it has been receiving continuous awards for its exclusiveness and inflight experience, so this airline would end up being one of our first choices to fly longer routes. However, on shorter hops like this 5th Freedom flight from Barcelona to Milan, we suggest trying out SQ’s Economy-class product, which has been better adapted to the short-haul market.

Featured image: Luca Flores/Airways

Deputy Reporter - Europe & Middle East
Commercial aviation enthusiast from Madrid, Spain. Studying for a degree in Air Traffic Management and Operations at the Technical University of Madrid. Aviation photographer since 2018.

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