Flight Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Frankfurt-JFK
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Earlier this year I had the chance to try out Singapore Airlines’ impressive first-class product from San Francisco to Seoul, and I loved it. Between the gigantic seats, the actually delicious food and drink options and the impeccable service, the attention to detail was staggering. Still, I wanted to go one step further and try out the in-flight product everyone is raving about since they launched in 2013: Singapore’s Suites. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that on the return leg of my recent trip to Cannes and Paris.
Booking the Award
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is one of just two frequent flyer programs that partners with all four of the major transferable loyalty currencies: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Citi ThankYou Rewards (the other is Virgin Atlantic Flying Club). To book my Suite, I decided to draw from the stockpile of Citi ThankYou points I earned from my new Citi Premier Card. The transfer to my KrisFlyer account took a day or two, so note the delay if you’re trying to book an award urgently.
Suites are only available on Singapore’s Airbus A380 aircraft, which the airline uses on its service between Frankfurt and New York-JFK, among other routes. If I had purchased my seat, I would have paid $5,500 each way based on a round-trip. Singapore charges 67,500 miles for this award at the Saver level, but also offers a 15% discount to KrisFlyer members who book online, so it ends up costing 57,375 miles, giving you nearly 10 cents in value per redeemed mile.
Unfortunately, there was only Standard availability when I searched, so I used Singapore’s waitlist option to see if anything would open up. I only waitlisted a couple weeks out, and while there were a ton of seats available both for award redemptions and for sale, they never cleared the wait list. I emailed and called KrisFlyer customer care, and the agent I spoke with politely said she would put in a request for more Saver award space, but I think those efforts only really pay off when you have KrisFlyer elite status, which I don’t.
I ended up booking a standard one-way award for 110,500 miles plus $240 in fees (130,000 miles minus the 15% online booking discount). That sounds high, but when you consider that United charges the same amount each way for first-class partner awards to Europe, and that Singapore generally doesn’t release first-class award space to partners, it’s not too bad. Thanks to all the transfer opportunities, KrisFlyer miles are pretty easy to get, and that Standard award space is available almost anytime. So if you’re eager to try the Suites, the opportunity is there.
Airport and Boarding
Singapore’s Frankfurt-JFK service is one of the earliest flights departing from the US, at 8:40am, so it’s hard to build in a connection on the same day unless you leave super early. The plus side of having such an early flight is that you get into JFK at 11am. Plus, it was Memorial Day, so I was able to enjoy the entire day without feeling exhausted.
I had to get to Frankfurt, but I didn’t want to include a Lufthansa flight as part of my award because that would require booking by phone, and I would lose the 15% discount for booking online. Instead, I decided to book a business-class SkyMiles award from Paris to Frankfurt the night before for 25,000 SkyMiles and 82 Euros, and had an inexpensive stay at the Sheraton in the airport.
After arriving at the terminal, I made my way to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, which I was able to access since I was flying same-day on a Star Alliance first-class ticket.
The Senator Lounge is Lufthansa’s elite member lounge, so it’s a little less crowded and a little fancier (though still nothing special). It’s open to Star Alliance Gold members, passengers traveling in first class on another Star Alliance airline (such as Singapore) and Lufthansa’s own elites. It is nice, but doesn’t hold a candle to Lufthansa’s own First Class lounge/terminal, which offers fine dining and VIP transfer service.
There are showers, but nothing crazy with respect to food and drinks. It’s comfortable and has good views of the tarmac; I only spent about 20 minutes there, but it was nice. Generally, I wouldn’t plan to spend much time in the lounge — Dom Perignon served on-board Singapore always wins out over ordinary sparkling wine, so board the plane quickly to maximize your Dom (or Krug) time.
If you have significant time before your flight, you might want to check out the lounge’s Senator Spa. Here’s a sampling of treatments:
– Traditional Thai Massage Power Pack: 45 min for €90, 60 min for €120, 90 min for €160
– Hot Stone Massage: 30 min for €65, 60 min for €130
– Foot Massage: 30 min for €60, 60 min for €120
– Aroma Oil Massage: 30 min for €60, 60 min for €120
The gate was just two minutes away, and even though I got a free secondary screening “massage” by authorities, I was soon relaxing onboard.
Suites and Service
Suites class occupies the bottom-front deck of the A380. There are four rows with four seats across in rows 2 and 3, but no middle seats in rows 1 and 4. Row 1 is by the stairs, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Row 4 is by the galley, which can be loud/feel less private.
I think Row 3 is the best because it has three full windows (versus just two in the other rows), so it feels nicer, especially when you’re landing at JFK on a beautiful day.
If you sit with a partner, the middle seats can actually convert into two side-by-side double beds.
It was only me and two TPG readers in the cabin, so it was pretty quiet and there was plenty of room. The other passengers had booked months in advance and got Saver level awards; I guess Singapore just didn’t want to release a third Saver seat, so they made me splurge.
As expected, the service was phenomenal. Even before take-off I was served several glasses of Champagne, and they never let my glass go empty. The flight attendants are super friendly and cheerful.
Singapore offers a sleek first-class amenity kit with a Ferragamo bag and designer toiletries.
The main drawback of the flight was the Wi-Fi, which managed to be simultaneously slow and super expensive. I had a similar experience on my last Singapore Airlines flight, in first class — which I otherwise loved. (According to this shocking article from The Washington Post, I’m not the only one who’s been surprised by the cost of the Wi-Fi on Singapore.)
Even the best first-class food isn’t going to compare to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but the food served on this Singapore flight was all restaurant-quality and very tasty.
The brunch featured a nice line-up, including assorted breakfast pastries and bread, and a dessert intriguingly named “asparagus cake with whisky and strawberry.” Here was the main menu:
– Fresh fruit plate
– Choice of cereals or yoghurt
– Cornflakes or Bichermuseli
– Plain or fruit yoghurt
– Kway teow in soup — rice noodles with five-spice chicken roll and Chinese greens in rich broth
– Lor mai kai and savoury radish cake
– Steamed glutinous rice with chicken-black mushroom and radish cake fried with egg
– Panfried beef fillet and chicken with café de paris butter, vegetables and potato cake
– Fresh eggs prepared on-board (baked, boiled or scrambled)
– Your choice of pork meat loaf, bacon or beef sausage with brie cheese and mesclun
There are a ton of in-flight movie choices, and the screen is huge. In honor of Memorial Day, I watched American Sniper.
The seats are extremely spacious, providing plenty of room for even my 6’7″ frame.
When it’s time to turn down, the flight attendants actually come and lift a full bed out from behind the seat, so you can’t really do it yourself. Since there were two middle seats open, I could have had both beds to myself, but you can’t really take full advantage of the extra space, as there’s still somewhat of a partition. It was double the work for them, so I just used Row 3 for eating and to keep all my stuff, and used Row 2 for sleeping and watching movies.
The “light meal” that was served later in the flight was still three courses, and more than any US carrier would serve as a main entree:
– Timbale of marinated crayfish, asparagus, caviar with tomato consommé
– Chicken breast with herb crus, Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes and tomato salsa
– Oriental lobster and ginger-spring onion with flower mushrooms, leafy greens and fried rice
– White German asparagus with butter sauce, new potatoes, smoked and cooked ham
– Tart with frangipane and dome of vanilla Bavarian cream, fig and coffee sauce
The on-menu Champagnes were a Krug Grande Cuvée and a 2004 Dom Pérignon, which respectively would have cost about $190 and $170 a bottle down on terra firma. The choice of two white wines included a 2012 Marimar Estate La Masia Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley that would have cost $36 a bottle if ordered on land, and the three red wines included a 2007 Château Cos d’Estournel from Saint-Estèphe, France that generally goes for $75 a bottle.
Dessert wines were a Sauternes and Taylor’s tawny port, the beers were Heineken and Singapore’s own Tiger, and spirits included a Macallan 12-year-old whisky, Momono Shizuku sake from Japan and good old Jack Daniels. The cocktail line-up featured a dry martini and a traditional Singapore Sling (gin, DOM Benedictine, orange liqueur, cherry brandy, Angostura bitters and Grenadine, mixed with lime and pineapple).
Maybe it was the Champagne, but eight-and-a-half hours flew by like nothing, and I was sad to see it end! I thoroughly enjoyed the flight, and I think it’s an excellent award redemption, especially if you can get it at the Saver level.
Singapore Suites is an amazing way to travel, and I arrived back in New York very well rested (since I slept like a baby on the flight for a couple of hours). I don’t know if I would spend 110,000 miles on an award going to Europe, since the flight is just over six hours and business class is really nice. However, for a full 8.5-hour day flying Frankfurt to JFK, I highly recommend it. At the Saver level, it is an absolute steal.
That said, if I had to choose, I’d say Lufthansa first class is probably a better experience all around. It’s easier to redeem, with no option (or generally a need) to waitlist a flight, and the ability to add partner legs without having to call or risk losing the 15% discount. Compared to Singapore, the lounge is superior and the Wi-Fi is cheaper and faster. There was no caviar service on my Singapore flight — just some caviar in one of the dishes that I had (boo hoo, poor me) — and I’d also love to see Singapore add a shower in the new A380 Suites it has planned for 2017.
However, I think Singapore Suites represent a great value for the redemption of 110,500 Thank You points for a $5,500 seat. Also, I’m pretty sure I made back my taxes in Dom consumption alone!
For more info about Singapore Suites and how to fly them, check out these posts: