I think the new Singapore Airlines “world class” ad campaign is a masterpiece, but also adds a subtle touch of defiance that pushes back against not only Gulf carriers, but carriers that have gone woke.
Singapore Airlines World Class Ad Campaign
Start by watching the ad:
In terms of cinematography, this is a masterful ad. But let’s dig a bit deeper.
First, the ad attempts to distinguish Singapore Airlines from Gulf carriers:
It’s the unexpected six-star hospitality, rather than a five-star badge.
Because while first class is something you can buy, world-class is everything we do.
(Flight attendants from some Gulf carriers wear badges proclaiming that their airline is five-star)
And the word “unexpected” is key, especially (as VFTW also noted) when you finally see the Singapore Girl (the name given to female flight attendants) standing onboard in economy class, not Suites Class.
I’ve flown economy class on Singapore Airlines before and it really is a much more “humane” experience than so many airlines. Think hot towels, amenity kits, silverware, and most importantly sufficient legroom for every passenger.
> Read More: Singapore Airlines A380 Economy Class Review New York – Frankfurt
But here’s the thing: I receive great service on Gulf carriers too. And all those things I mentioned above are available on carriers like Qatar Airways and Emirates too. Flight attendants are great too.
I don’t think that Singapore Airlines is objectively better than Qatar Airways in economy class.
Thus, I think we have to dig even deeper. Could it be that this ad campaign offers an even more subtle pushback against what we’ve seen from other carriers concerning personal autonomy?
A point of clarification. I don’t use woke as a pejorative as much as a descriptive trend from carriers in the West to embrace individuality at the expense of uniformity (we’ve discussed that quite a bit here). Think visible tattoos, piercings, and abandoning traditional gendered uniforms.
Do you notice that the ad starts with the very feminine flight attendant applying makeup, throughout the ad she maintains her impeccable appearance (at least as measured by traditional norms of gender appearance), and in the end is pictured in her sarong kebaya?
Singapore Airlines continue to embrace this traditionally-gendered look for female flight attendants, even as it has come under pressure for doing so and neighboring Malaysia Airlines is considering ditching the sarong kebaya for female flight attendants.
Here’s how Singapore describes its new ad campaign:
“At Singapore Airlines, service excellence is deeply ingrained in our DNA and our customers are at the heart of everything we do. This campaign highlights our unwavering commitment to deliver a world-class travel experience, no matter the duration of the journey. Our award-winning cabin crew are central to this promise, with their rich and diverse experiences, as well as their dedication to customer service, having a positive impact on everyone around them.”
And yet the focus is on the woman: not only her inner beauty in her display of service, but on her outer beauty. From the very start of the ad.
Western airlines have focused on letting flight attendants cultivate their own look, arguing that it will lead to better service onboard. But appearance itself is still a central part of the package on Singapore Airlines.
The bottom line is that Singapore Airlines wants you to recall its great service onboard. Yet this new ad campaign does more than that, drawing a deeper distinction between its peers both in the West and Middle East. At Singapore Airlines, you can expect beautiful service inside and out. It’s still about the look, even if you have to read between the lines.
The Singapore Girl is still at the heart of Singapore Airlines’ identity.
I think you are trying to make an issue out of something that isn’t there just to get views and comments. Which is a shame.
I don’t think so, but you are certainly entitled to draw that conclusion.
I’ve also came to that conclusion. It’s not just this article, Matt has a track record of doing this.
Very interesting analysis, thanks Matthew. You have some very valid points in here. And I would like to add to that my personal judgement: Isn‘t SIA totally right here? Don’t we all enjoy a good-looking, smiling FA in a contemporary yet traditional gown as the sarong? Isn’t that a much more desirable flight environment than your typical Western old, grumpy and fat FA? And isn’t it even much better than the trans-bi-queer FA whom I insult be calling him with a gendered pronoun. I‘m gay myself, yet I do simply not approve of all this woke gendering going on at this time. Wasn’t everything much simpler yet much more beautiful before all this? And I think that’s the spirit SIA embraces here…and I love it!
Woke has nothing to do with gays. When Ron desantis was asked to define it under oath his lawyer said it was the belief that racism exists.
So find a new word for “things Republicans don’t like”
Exactly. Boomer-speak for “If it were cloudy I’d be yelling at them, too!” Even “gay” Boomers are bigots, it seems. Or it’s just a typical RWNJ Boomer claiming/lying “As a [minority], I disagree with everything…” Okay you old, white POS. We hear you and don’t care. You’ll be dead soon enough – for the betterment of the world.
Oh no,,, did a boomer hurt your feelings? “You’ll be dead soon enough – for the betterment of the world.” So sad that you would have such harsh feelings about a stranger a few years ahead of you. FYI: young people die all the time from a variety of causes, no guarantee that you will actually outlive the “boomer”.
I think I would prefer a “Western old, [smiling] and fat FA” over a “good-looking, [grumpy] FA in a contemporary yet traditional gown as the sarong.” In other words, I think the attitude and personality of the FA is a much more important attribute than their appearance, for the passengers. Of course, unfortunately, your unedited description presents a more accurate picture of the current state of affairs.
Christian Dior would cringe at your statement. While beauty may come from within, the pride you take in your appearance is an extension of this and will also directly reflect in the way others treat you. It’s at the very heart of why US flight attendants are laughed at around the world. They demand respect while having none for themselves.
They are laughed at because of their lack of service relative to other FAs in other parts of the world.
I think giving people choice is not a bad thing. US and other airlines’ female FA can choose to wear skirts or not, or appear more or less feminine/gendered. Why is giving them a choice taking anything away from the flying passenger? I don’t understand it at all. No one is going about in torn ragged clothes or disheveled. There are still requirements that FA look neat and tidy. I don’t understand how on earth it is my place to tell them whether to dress one way or another and it matters zero to me. What matters to me and is changed not one whit by outfits is how they act, treat me, and do their job. I see the SIA FA as almost part of a theme they use to promote a feeling of going to their country which is lovely, but I also would be fine if they switched to all black pantsuits since the service would still be stellar or if they gave FA the choice between outfits. Their choice does not/would not take anything away from my experience.
I wholeheartedly agree. I think, however, that the “discipline” imposed on the FA’s by far and mid east airlines such as SIA, through uniforms and generally higher appearance/behavior expectations, do translate to a more professional and warmer service experience for the passengers.
I also agree. That SQ and QR is always no.1 and no.2 in the world year after year, with Emirates, JAL and ANA not far behind, just reinforces this.
As Jerry refers to below, it has more to do with their service standards than how their FAs are dressed and look.
To me, the physical appearance of a flight attendant is meaningless as long as they are professionally dressed. It doesn’t matter if they are a petite woman who is conventionally beautiful, or any other person that falls anywhere on the spectrum of beauty. If SIA wants to equate the Singapore Girl with their service that’s their prerogative, but I don’t fly SIA because their FAs are pretty. I fly SIA because the FAs provide fantastic service; not because they are “Singapore Girls.” My takeaway here was “SIA has good service,” not “SIA has good service and pretty FAs.”
The Patriarchy has spoken! Jesus H is it 1950 all over again? You don’t know the meaning of “woke” btw. And yes I’m a “boomer” but don’t blame this sexist opinion on me.
“Woke” does not have a single meaning.
General usage is an attempt to disparage some form of social progress that you disagree with but can’t come up with an actual reason to disagree. That doesn’t seem to be where you’re going with this but the vast majority of cases where the word “woke” is used it doesn’t refer to getting your sleeping kids off the sofa.
Woke DOES have a single meaning, a meaning that Black Americans, who created the term, meant. You’re simply appropriating a term and turning it into a pejorative.
No, you’re wrong. So now what?
Flew Singapore Airlines’ SIN-JFK nonstop mid-November in Premium Economy (which, actually better resembles Economy++ in comfort & flight attendant service; the Book the Cook meals were among the best Premium Economy class meals on any airline, and in many ways better than USA domestic 1st class…), but there were some flight attendants that easily could’ve been mistaken for those found on American, Delta or United in that they did the job “efficiently”, but not particularly friendly or personable.
Oh, and at least two of the flight attendants working in the “E++” cabin on our 18.5 hours flight were male, one of whom was friendly and pleasant, while the other one was much less so and among those that was who could’ve been mistaken for an F/A at one of the USA “Big 3” airlines!
But, overall, most of the F/A’s were wonderful & for sure we’d happily fly Singapore Airlines’ “E++” to/from Asia again.
“Classy” is another term that comes to mind describing the Singapore experience. Rather than use their brand to push social or pseudo-political issues, the do something rather revolutionary in this day and age: they focus on the customer.
A company could do both if they wanted to.
Meanwhile back in the real world, I’ve just returned from LHR-SIN-SYD in SQ Suites on the A380 all the way there and back. There’s no doubt the seat is good but I still think not as good as the Etihad A380 which fortunately is soon making a come back at least at LHR.
As for six star and world class, ROTFL. I would have awarded them no more than three stars for service and two for the food.
Singapore Airlines trades on past reputation and people are waking up to it.
Interesting, James. What made it mediocre, specifically concerning the service?
Enjoyed the article Matthew!
I have flown Singapore Airlines several times over the past 2-3 years and each flight (most of them were the SIN-LAX route in PE solo seats). While the flights were probably not flawless, they were close to perfect with amazing FAs (regardless of gender) who genuinely seemed to care. I walked away from those flights with warm feelings towards SQ. Whenever anyone asks my opinion, I strongly endorse SQ (Qatar leaves a similar feeling). Loved Book the Cook btw.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… uniforms have a purpose, people respond to the direction of and respect smart, neat, sharp, professional looking, presentable, well put together people. In a world where air travel is increasingly a free for all of entitled, misbehaving people, that don’t seem to feel inclined to follow the direction of airline employees are relaxed dress standards and sloppy looking airline employees contributing to this downward trend?
Your use of the word “woke” is indeed used as a pejorative. Shame on you for stealing a term created by Black Americans—a term that relates to equality and justice—and lazily using it to deride those with whom you disagree.
Sorry, I disagree.