Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Suites — Singapore to Tokyo
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Vietnam-based TPG Contributor Daan van Rossum recently flew Singapore Airlines' Suites product from Singapore to Tokyo, which he booked using 51,000 Krisflyer Miles.
Ever since I read TPG's review of Singapore Airlines Suites I knew I had to try it myself someday. When two of my friends said they would be visiting Tokyo, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get in on the Suites action.
Although Vietnam Airlines and other carriers do operate nonstop flights to Tokyo from my current hometown of Ho Chi Minh City, the draw of trying out the Singapore Suites was big enough for me to endure a layover, so I started quickly looking into options. Unfortunately for me, all Saver level award Suites were already taken for my intended travel date and I was given the option to either redeem more miles for a Standard ticket or to take my chances with the waitlist.
I opted for the latter and was pleasantly surprised to see that contrary to what I had read online, the miles for waitlisted tickets were not taken out of my account upon booking, allowing me to increase my chances by putting myself down for three different dates. My choice was quickly confirmed by the three separate emails I received shortly afterward, like the one shown below.
The total cost of this booking was 51,000 Krisflyer miles — basically it's the 60,000 miles usually charged for a Saver award ticket on this route, minus the 15% discount the airline provides for booking online with their own miles rather than through other partners. At about $3,664.42 for this one-way flight, the value per mile worked out to be 7.18 cents. TPG values Singapore Air Krisflyer miles at 1.5 cents each, so I ended up getting a great deal!
I had collected the miles needed mostly by using my Citibank Singapore Rewards Card, which gives me four miles per dollar at clothing and department stores. The miles are transferable to a wide range of hotel and airline partners, including Singapore Airlines.
This TPG article goes into the specifics of how to book Suites — note that you have to double-check which airplane you'll be on as the Suites product is only available on the Airbus 380. In my case, that meant I needed to take a 9:20am flight from Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) because the various day and night flights to Tokyo are serviced by Boeing 777-300ER planes featuring Singapore's first class product — while presumably very nice, it's not quite the same as the Suites experience I was after.
Just two weeks after my booking, I received an email with tremendous news: The waitlisted flight for my ideal date out of the three was now available. All I had to do was to log onto SQ's website and confirm my booking.
I had also heard an extra leg could be added to award trips, which would allow me to fly from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to Singapore (SIN) on SQ. From what I had gathered, this perk is included with Standard or Full award tickets, but costs an additional $100 for Saver tickets. It still wasn't a bad deal so I called SQ to inquire about this option.
A representative offered to help me add the leg without mentioning any costs, but sadly all the flights feasible for me to do were already booked. As a result, I was waitlisted for the second time. Miraculously, I once again received good news and was able to secure the flight from Ho Chi Minh City to SIN.
Unfortunately, that's where the good news stopped. Apparently this construct is not a typical booking which resulted in multiple calls and emails to SQ to confirm, reconfirm and at some point completely re-book the trip. Fortunately, I was able to do all of this without too much effort by leveraging a virtual private assistant service, which is a fantastic solution for anyone dealing with similar headaches. Everything was finally settled the night before the trip and I was ready to take it all in.
Airport and Lounge
After a stop in Singapore that turned a layover into a hangover, I was truly ready to kick back in style for a few hours, starting with a visit to The Private Room, SQ's lounge for Suites passengers.
Everything up until then had been pretty unremarkable. Yes, there was a special line for first class and Suites passengers, but the treatment there was just like checking in for any other flight. In fact, I even had to ask for the lounge as the only direction I was given by the staff was how to get to the gate. With more than two hours to kill, I certainly wasn't planning on hanging out there!
Everything changed when I entered the lounge. Upon inspecting my boarding pass and realizing that I was flying in Suites, someone walked me past the business-class lounge, through the first class lounge and all the way up to my seat in the Private Room. You read that right. I was escorted past the first class lounge. Ah, the perks of having some awards miles to spend!
The seat was a big leather one and before I could make myself fully comfortable I was already being introduced to a waiter. He asked me if I wanted coffee and whether I was interested in the breakfast menu. I said yes to both, because, hello, it was 7am.
The Private Room has a small food and drinks buffet that looked all but impressive. Fresh juices were available and there were some small sandwiches and oatmeal up for grabs.
The same couldn't be said for the coffee, as the espresso tasted more like a regular Cup of Joe then anything reminiscent of strolling down piazzas in Italy. I guess Suites passengers don't really need the caffeine boost to wake up — our excitement about the upcoming flight should do the job.
I realized the far better option would be to order from the menu, which wasn't very extensive but did list an omelette, which was a perfect way to start the day.
Upon leaving for the plane, I took a quick look around beyond my section. The Private Room at Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN) is divided into a number of smaller areas including a dining-focused area, a typical lounge area and a TV room with a few seats facing a large LCD screen.
Upon exiting, a staff member greeted me by name and asked if I was indeed on my way to the plane, while providing helpful instructions on how to get to the gate. She also offered me to take a photo of me with The Private Room logo, but after remembering what I must have looked like after a big night out in Singapore, I politely declined.
Turning into the gate area, I realized I was pretty much the last one to board — I walked straight up to the counter, handed my boarding pass to the agent and made my way to the plane.
Having flown SQ in economy and business-class several times, I knew some of what to expect, but needless to say, it was a very different experience altogether in the Suites. Coming down the jetway, I saw a sign for Suites and so before I even could reach business-class — or heaven forbid, economy — I turned left.
Four friendly crew members stood at the plane's door — one of them actually stepped out of the plane to welcome me. They seemed eager to see me, when in reality it probably had more to do with the fact that this guy who didn't even pay for his fancy Suite came onboard after everyone else. In any case, I was welcome by name (magic, once again) and the crew introduced themselves once I was in my spot.
Cabin and Seat
I asked Singapore in advance if I could take pictures during the flight and they had said that that would be no problem whatsoever, that I should just let the staff know after I boarded the plane. I started taking photos once I hit the seat, starting with this cute sign that was just the beginning of all things attentive and personal.
Next, our lead flight attendant came over and personally informed me of the flight pattern and weather situation en-route, a whole 15 minutes before the rest of the passengers were informed of these facts.
SQ Suites come in two flavors: Those with two windows and those with three. When you have the chance, I'd highly recommend booking any of the Suites with three windows, like my dearest, seat 3A.
I had a great view on one side, so what about the other? I seemed to be fortunate enough to have a completely clear view on my right, too, as none of the other Suites were taken.
When I later spoke to one of the flight attendants and asked about how quiet it was, she told me that it's usually not the case but agreed it was a good thing for the both of us. While I meant that she wouldn't have to work as hard, she took it as an opportunity to stress that she could spend even more time on me. Oh, that sweet Suites life.
Service and Amenities
Initially, I ordered a soda water — a chilled Perrier with a twist of lime — but it didn't take long for them to sell me on some Champagne instead. When I finally ceded, the flight attendant joked about how many bottles he should put on ice for me. Between the 2006 Dom Perignon and the Krug Grande Cuvée, I chose the former and was not disappointed.
It really has to be said that the Suites staff were so incredibly fun, lighthearted and seemed genuinely pleased to be working on our flight. It was also quite clear that they've perfected the craft of tailoring their attitudes to the passenger in question, reacting quite differently to me versus the two other passengers in front of me.
After the Champagne was brought out, I was subsequently offered newspapers, magazines, headphones, pajamas and an amenity kit, which was nice and included a medium-sized bottle of cologne, among other goodies.
I was later reminded that I had ordered a vegetarian meal, and since this was a pre-set meal, the flight attendant joked that he should probably just give me the drink menu then. He also thanked me personally for flying with Singapore Airlines on multiple occasions. Needless to say the pleasure was all mine this time.
Just before takeoff, my glass was collected and a post-takeoff drink order was noted — I opted to stick with the Dom.
Within minutes after reaching cruising altitude, eyeshades, socks and slippers were handed out — and yes, the staff did take them out of the plastic and place them in front of me. My drinks arrived shortly by the super-attentive staff. Some more water? Sure! Perrier, lime, no ice? Yup, you remembered. Some nuts with it? Like you read my mind.
Given the Dom, it was eventually time to find the bathroom. I was personally escorted, the door was opened and the toiletries were put back into their original places, as if I would have been disturbed by seeing a lotion bottle in a less-then-desired angle. I'm still impressed by this incredible level of detail.
Leaving aside my small screen, it was time to focus on the big screen in front of me. Scrolling briefly through SQ's well-appointed list of in-flight entertainment, I noticed The Big Short was one of the options and pressed play.
This was also my first SQ flight with onboard Wi-Fi. Having traveled with them extensively ever since I moved to Asia, I've never experienced this, especially on a long flight. Note that the prices are based on data used rather than on time spent, which could end up making this an expensive exercise quickly.
Food and Beverage
I'm really not someone who likes to be disturbed during a movie, but when it's someone asking me about my preferred lunch time, I'm all ears. Noon Tokyo time was the agreement — within minutes after the clock hit twelve in the country of the rising sun, my first course made its way to my perfectly set table.
My vegetarian meal was really nothing special, if not flat out terrible, but everything was forgotten once we concluded with a tasty vanilla ice cream-topped apple strudel.
While my Champagne was refilled throughout, there was also a separate wine service during which two flight attendants passed by with a multitude of bottles — by that point I had indulged enough.
The Rest of the Flight and Arrival
About two and a half hours before the end of the flight, I was asked if I wanted to have the bed made. All the TPG posts I'd seen detailing Suites passengers sleeping in Givenchy sheets at 30,000 feet were really tempting, but in the end, I decided I was fine staying in my seated position —I didn't want to miss a thing and couldn't imagine being asleep for two out of the 5.5 hours of this experience!
Within an hour of our landing in Tokyo, I realized that with all the excitement, I hadn't had a chance to look at the menu for any good drinks. Well, those were apparently plentiful and I so I hit the attendant call button.
While I was tempted to go for a limited edition Macallan whisky, in the end I ended up choosing Johnnie Walker Blue. Some warm, candied nuts came with it, proving to be the perfect ending to a tremendous flight experience.
With a bottle of Evian as a parting present, the flight was now officially over. If you want to set yourself a worthy awards redemption goal, I can't imagine anything better than the Suites on Singapore Airlines. Even if it takes you a while to get there, the payoff is totally worth it in the end.
Have you ever flown in the Singapore Airlines Suites? What did you think?