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On the heels of a blogger circulating his review of Singapore’s sought-after First Class Suites last week (and then being called out for plagiarizing his work!), there has been a lot more interest in just how it is possible to snag one of these over-the-top seats. We asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to look into booking them as awards and what routes and miles might be best to do so.
Despite more recent announcements like Etihad’s ultra-premium “residences” and a new first class from Emirates, not to mention the unveiling of Qatar Airways’ A380, the Singapore Airlines First Class Suite is back in the news due to a recent travel blogger review that became a viral sensation before being discredited.
Points and miles enthusiasts are giving the Suite another look thanks to the fact that Singapore Airlines’ Krisflyer mileage program recently became a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, in addition to already being a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. So even if you have never flown Singapore or even accrued a single Krisflyer mile, suddenly there are a lot more means to get miles into your account if you so choose.
Some of the reasons you might want to do so are that Singapore releases more business and first class award space to members of its own Krisflyer program and offers a 15% mileage discount for award reservations booked online on its own flights, meaning there are some pretty great bargains to be had.
The Suites and the Experience
What’s so special about these Suites? They were among the first such product introduced on the market, and Singapore launched them on its A380’s back in 2012.
The A380 first class cabin has just 12 of these beauties, which feel more like mini-cabins in and of themselves. They were designed by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste.
The layout is slightly staggered, with just aisle seats in the first and last row of the cabin and then two rows with a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration in the middle of the cabin. The middle two seats able to combine into one larger suite if you are traveling with a companion.
Each Suite has a light Cognac-colored, hand-stitched Italian leather seat and its own closing sliding door with curtains for privacy. The seat is up to 35 inches wide when the armrest is down, and can recline up to 130 degrees. However, the crew offers signature turndown services that transforms the chair into a fully lie-flat 81-inch bed dressed with Givenchy linens including a duvet and full-size pillows. Passengers can change into their Singapore Airlines pajamas (Givenchy as well, of course) and hang their clothes in their personal storage wardrobe.
Suites have 23-inch entertainment screens controlled with a handheld remote, and a power panel that includes a universal adapter and USB port.
First class passengers can pre-order any of about 60 dishes that have been conceived by the airline’s “Culinary Panel” of celebrity chefs with the airline’s optional “Book the Cook” service. Meals are served on Givenchy tableware, and on the wine list, you can expect some of the world’s biggest names including Krug and Dom Perignon, not to mention a healthy allotment of Bordeaux and Burgundies.
The amenity kits handed out these days include French Sothys products such as moisturizers for the face and hands, lip balm, and your usual assortment of toothbrush, eye mask, etc.
The Suites are available aboard Singapore’s A380. The airline is also introducing new business and first class seats aboard its new 777-300ER’s and refitting its current 777-300’s, but the new planes are only flying to London for the moment with plans to add either Houston or San Francisco into the mix. If you want to fly one of those planes, look for the denotation “77W” on your flight information. But for now, let’s just stick with the A380’s.
Singapore currently operates 19 A380’s and flies this big bird on the following routes (though as with all things air travel, this is subject to change):
- Frankfurt to New York JFK
- Singapore to Auckland (starting later this month)
- Singapore to Beijing
- Singapore to Frankfurt
- Singapore to Hong Kong
- Singapore to London
- Singapore to Melbourne (starting in 2015)
- Singapore to Mumbai
- Singapore to New Delhi
- Singapore to Paris
- Singapore to Shanghai
- Singapore to Sydney
- Singapore to Tokyo Narita
- Singapore to Zurich
- Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles
As you can see, the preponderance of these routes are to/from the airline’s hub in Singapore. Also, unlike the airline with the most A380’s, Emirates, Singapore only operates a few non-long-haul routes with this behemoth, so it’s harder to find little tag flights that might require less mileage. However, there are still some very decent mileage finds here including using Krisflyer miles as well as those of some of its partners.
So let’s take a quick look at the likeliest routes and how many Krisflyer miles some of these routes require and what the taxes/fees look like, and the few instances it can make sense to use another mileage currency.
Note: Aeroplan levies fuel surcharges on many partners including Singapore (though intra-Asia and transpacific flights tend to have surcharges under $100), so I have only quoted the mileage amounts below. You can find a handy roundup of typical Aeroplan surcharges in this post.
One of the best ways to fly Singapore’s Suites is to take one of its interesting connection flights such as from Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles, or from JFK to Frankfurt, which will give you around 8-10 hours of fabulous flying time.
Both routes are pretty popular, so you do have to do some searching for awards on each of them, but as I mentioned Singapore releases more awards to Krisflyer members and they get a 15% discount for booking Singapore award flights online, so you could really luck out.
For instance, this flight from JFK to Frankfurt in first is just 57,375 miles and $240 in taxes and fees instead of the usual 67,500 miles.
If you’ve been racking up the Aeroplan miles (also a transfer partner of Amex), you would need 62,500 miles for the same award. That’s just about 5,000 more miles, so if you already have a stash of these, it might be worth transferring more here instead.
To contrast that, you would need 110,000 United miles to fly this same flight, or even if you just took United on this same route (though it flies out of Newark), they would charge you 57,500 miles just to fly their business class and 70,000 to fly Lufthansa’s or Singapore’s. Why not spend fewer miles and a couple hundred dollars to fly one of the world’s premier products instead?
And this flight from LAX to Narita will cost you 74,375 miles and $183 and lasts 11.5 hours.
But if you were to take the other leg of this flight just from Narita to Singapore – which lasts just over 7 hours instead – you would only need 51,000 Krisflyer miles and $149 in taxes and fees. Not a bad value.
United would charge you 60,000 for the same itinerary…provided you could find the award space using your United miles. Though that might be more difficult and if you had Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you could just make things easier by transferring to Krisflyer instead, if you just have United miles, this is still a viable option in my opinion.
I would suggest avoiding Aeroplan miles on the LAX-NRT route since first class will run you 105,000 miles each way!
However, if at all possible, Aeroplan is the program whose miles you should use on the route from Singapore to Tokyo (assuming you find the first class award availability through Aeroplan) . That’s because the program’s Asia Zone 1 is enormous and encompasses both Singapore and Japan, not to mention China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. This truly has to be one of the hidden gems in Aeroplan’s award chart since one-way economy awards are 10,000 miles, business awards are 15,000 miles each way, and first class awards are 25,000 miles each way!
That’s the same as you’d use flying business class transcontinentally in North America for a flight that’s just as long in one of the world’s top first class products. Before you get too excited, remember that Singapore does not release nearly the amount of first class award space – and especially Suites space – to partners, so you might be out of luck. However, it’s worth searching.
If you’re just looking for a short hop, the Singapore-Hong Kong route is probably your best bet. Krisflyer will charge you 31,875 miles and $50 to fly it.
United would charge you 50,000 miles for the same service- and of course there’s almost never availability made available to partners.
Both these cities are also within Aeroplan’s Asia 1 zone, so the program will only charge you 25,000 miles each way to fly this route if you can find the award space.
One of the little-known Singapore A380 routes is the flight from Singapore to Zurich. It does not seem to be much trafficked (so beware an aircraft type switch out in the next few months), so there are plenty of award seats in Suites class, and you can enjoy nearly 13 hours for just 91,375 miles and $245.
However, this might be another good use of those Aeroplan miles. Singapore is in Asia Zone 1, and Zurich is in Europe Zone 1. Each way in first class (assuming there is partner award space available) would be just 72,500 miles. Again, beware of possible fuel surcharges, but otherwise, that’s a nice low number for a 12+ hour flight.
SIN-BOM and SIN-DEL
A good way to split the difference between a minor long-haul and the shorter Hong Kong route is to fly to India via Singapore. The flights to Mumbai and New Delhi are each between 5-6 hours.
The flight to Mumbai requires just 42,500 miles and $184.
While the flight to New Delhi requires the same 42,500 miles and $202.
Due to a quirk of its award chart, United would require a whopping 110,000 miles for either route!
Aeroplan might also be out since it would charge you 60,000 miles on either route.
This is another good mid-range flight that lasts just over 6 hours where using your miles for an experience in the Suites might be worth it. This range of zones requires the same as flying to India: 42,500 miles and $184.
Not bad for a daytime flight where you could spend your waking hours taking full advantage of the Suites’ amenities.
If you do have United miles but no option of garnering some Krisflyer miles, you could always spend the 50,000 United will require for this route. Both these cities are also within Asia 1 on Aeroplan’s chart, so that first class ticket (assuming Aeroplan shows the partner award space) would be just 25,000 miles each way – a phenomenal value.
Finally, in what might be one of the best options out there, flying from Sydney to Singapore in a Suite will get you 8.5 hours of flying time for just 63,750 miles and about $275.
However, this route is also one of the silver linings in United’s award chart devaluation, where some of the new values actually beat the old, including first class.
If you wanted to fly Sydney to Singapore, United would require just 40,000 miles – clearly the better value in this case. And then if you wanted to continue on to Japan, you would actually only need 55,000 miles total, so you might be coming out way ahead if you planned your travel accordingly.
Aeroplan would require 65,000 miles on this route, so it’s not terrible, but not great either.
Have any other questions about Singapore’s Suites or strategies on how to book them? Share your questions in the comments section below. With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.