We’ve just taken off from Sydney and Aussie Captain Wayne Trent tells us the flying will be smooth all the way to Singapore. The weather is good and our 787 Dreamliner will take seven and a half hours to travel the 6302 kilometres to our journey’s end.
It’s lunchtime and the sound of the crew’s seat belts being unbuckled signals the start of refreshments and entertainment. It also signals something unique to budget airlines: the shop is now open and almost everything’s for sale.
Want more legroom? No problem. You can have a seat with 31-inch pitch, super-seats with 34-inch pitch and 30 per cent more leg room starting at US$5.39, or stretch seats with 50 per cent more for US$20.79 (cash on board please – we don’t take credit cards). You can even block the seats next to you. And what’s more, you can purchase on board and be upgraded after take-off.
Entertainment? Sure – you can stream movies and TV series to your own laptop or hire an iPad. Food from the Scoot Café? Power to your seat? All available for cash on board, or by booking in advance.
And somehow, that’s just fine. The way it should be, especially for an airline that is charging 50 per cent of a standard economy flight for a business-class seat.
Scoot, the four-year-old, low-cost sibling of Singapore Airlines, is targeting the region’s young cruisers with some terrific deals and itineraries that fit with many Asian ports. What’s more, it’s fun. Virgin’s founder Richard Branson once said he hired inflight staff for attitude. This airline maintains its cabin stewards have “Scootitude”.
In fact, they’ve invented a whole new language to describe their offerings. “Scootee” trolley-dollies ply the aisles with high energy, helping passengers tune in to ScooTV, conducting passengers to the Scootinsilence zone (US$9.24) or selling duty free from the Scootalogue.
My Scootbiz seat – at 22 inches wide, bigger than most airlines’ premium economy by 1.5 inches – is certainly a step up. It cost US$387, just over one third of the US$1,096 Premium Economy one-way fare from Singapore Airlines.
CNN’s Richard Quest recently travelled round the world in eight days using 10 budget airlines at a cost of US$2,345.
“Stow your snobbery,” he advises. “If you’re flying low-cost, get yourself into the state of mind so that you can enjoy it. Reckon on the basis it’s not going to be first or business class, you’re not going to have a flat bed. There’s not going to be champagne, unless you buy it. If you look at JetStar or Norwegian or Scoot, all of whom are running 787 Dreamliners with brand-new leather seats and seat-back videos, it’s as good as anything you’re going to get in economy on a legacy carrier – if not better. I think that once we’ve got rid of the snobbery around low-cost carriers, then I think you start to understand that it’s just as good to go on a low-cost carrier if it’s a short flight.”
As I tuck into my pre-ordered (but available at the Scoot Café) salad, Hainanese chicken rice and Hagen Daas dessert, I have to agree. I’m watching a movie on my MacBook Air and settling back for coffee ($4). I could easily be planning what I could be doing with the US$600 I have saved.
Down the back in a bright and respectable economy class (on sale for US$114.74), Wi-Fi needs to be purchased for US$11.95 an hour or
24 hours for US$21.95. And for the mainly young crowd the entertainment system is loaded with nine Hollywood movies, 10 international films, six TV comedies, six dramas and four kids’ shows.
The “Scootilicious” menu in the Scoot Cafe includes nasi lemak, vegetarian pomodoro fusilli, summer salad and a chicken and ham croissant (US$12 with a Coca-Cola). Or, of course, that staple, pot noodles (US$5). My princely chicken and ice-cream meal costs US$21.99, washed down with a glass of Wolf Blass chardonnay for US$9.
We arrived almost bang on time and left our flight feeling fresh … and US$600 better off. We’d certainly take off with Scoot again.
Seats: My leather business-class seat had more than enough room, though things got a little tight when the seat in front reclined all the way back.
Meals: My chicken rice contained plenty of breast, vegetables and chilli sauce; the salad starter was crisp and refreshing.
Amenities: You can purchase a Scoot Snooze Kit – woven fleece blanket, eye mask and inflatable neck pillow for US$13.30 pre-ordered or US$17 on board. Just don’t expect lotions and balms in the toilets.
Cabin Crew: Our Scootees were attentive, smiling and got the job done. They were happy to explain how things worked.
Overall: It was a smooth, comfortable flight – my Scootbiz seat was way more comfortable than economy on a legacy airline. Okay, so the movies weren’t the latest and my screen was my own. But the flight was Scootiful none the less.