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Outstanding privacy, excellent bedding and amenities, Book the Cook, phenomenal beverage program
Sluggish service, hard bed, dated entertainment, awful Wi-Fi
Back in 2007, the Airbus A380 took to the skies on its first scheduled flight. It bore the iconic Singapore Airlines livery and what at the time was the most luxurious first-class suite commercial flyers had ever seen.
Now, more than 11 years later, one of the original Singapore A380s is flying for charter operator Hi Fly, and even carried Norwegian Airlines passengers for a time. Most of SQ’s original superjumbos are still flying for the airline, though, with the exact same Singapore Suites that carried first-class flyers more than a decade ago.
Still, although I’ve since flown well over a million miles, not a single one has been in Singapore Suites — which has remained near the top of my bucket list ever since its debut. As a component of the requisite reviews for our inaugural TPG Awards, I finally got to fly in Singapore’s legendary double bed in the sky, from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA). And it really was quite the treat.
What’s better than scoring a long-haul flight in Singapore’s A380 suites? Getting it for free!
Though there wasn’t any saver availability around my travel dates — and I checked back often — I did manage to find an Advantage award for 130,000 miles, worth $1,820 based on our valuations. That’s a far cry from the $6,500 or more you’d have to pay when booking this leg with cash.
A saver award would have been a much more reasonable 76,000 miles, but that level is incredibly tough to come by for first class on Singapore’s A380 routes.
You can’t use most partner miles to book Singapore Suites, so our best option was to transfer points to KrisFlyer. TPG transferred 130,000 points from Amex Membership Rewards, and they appeared the next day — award space had actually disappeared by the time the miles arrived, but it returned a few days later. We also had to pay a negligible $5.60 in taxes for the TSA security fee.
I arrived at Terminal 4 around 4pm, more than four hours ahead of our posted departure time of 8:15pm. Traffic to JFK can be horrendous, and I wanted to spend my afternoon in the lounge, not bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Singapore’s check-in desks hadn’t opened yet, but I had no trouble getting through security with the boarding pass I’d printed at home.
The TSA checkpoint was a total mess, though. There is a line for premium passengers, but it eventually merged with the regular queue — I got to bypass about 100 other travelers, though, so it did save some time. As I approached the checkpoint, the line came to a standstill. Apparently we were waiting for a TSA canine to arrive, which took about 10 minutes. All in all, security screening took 20 minutes, exactly the amount of time posted on the sign.
Delta flyers are probably quite familiar with Terminal 4, but I had only visited a couple times before. It was certainly not the most exciting concourse I’d come across.
It did have a Shake Shack, though, as TPG reported back around the time it opened more than half a decade ago.
But I had places to be! So I made my way straight to the lounge.
Singapore Suites passengers got to use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which was easily one of the best lounges I’ve come across in the US. There was fantastic food, a great bar and even a spa! There was so much ground to cover that I broke the lounge out into its own review.
The only real downside was that it was a bit challenging to find. I imagine the check-in agent would have told me where to go, had one been waiting when I arrived, but I did manage to locate the lounge on my own above Gate A6. Just head there and walk up the stairs.
After a few hours of hanging out in the Clubhouse, I walked one gate over, to A7, for a passport check. I had noticed that suites 3C and 3D were both still unassigned, so I asked to be moved from 1A to 3C, hoping I’d score Singapore’s famous double bed!
After a short wait, Suites passengers were called five minutes ahead of our scheduled 7:45pm boarding time.
And with that, I walked down the jet bridge to 9V-SKL, our 8-year-old Singapore Airlines A380.
Singapore also operates fifth-freedom flights from Houston (IAH) to Manchester (MAN), Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT), and San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG). in addition to nonstops to Singapore (SIN) from LAX, Newark (EWR) and SFO. But this was the carrier’s only US flight on the A380.
Cabin and Seat
Singapore’s original A380 first-class cabin had a total of 12 suites, arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration — twice the number you’d find in the airline’s latest Suites cabin.
I had originally selected 1A, which seemed especially private, since passengers walked backwards to use the lavatory.
As I mentioned, I decided to move to 3C at the gate, giving me an opportunity to land two side-by-side suites for myself.
3C ended up being a great pick — it was marked as yellow on SeatGuru, since it was just a row up from the galley and lavatories, but I didn’t find light or noise to be a bother.
It also got me a ton of space, since 3D remained open for the entire flight.
It’s hard to describe just how spacious the suite felt. While each individual suite wasn’t nearly as large as the new version, having two to myself made such a big difference.
As big as the cabin itself was, the lavatories were a bit of a letdown. There were two set aside for the 12 first-class suites, and since there were only nine passengers on my flight, there was never a wait. Still, because first class was on the lower level on this version of the A380, the airline didn’t have the same gigantic lavatory space available on the upper deck — as with SQ’s latest product. Singapore also didn’t offer a shower or a walk-up bar, as you’d find on Emirates and Etihad.
After a visit to the lavatory, I gave myself a self-guided tour of the cabin.
My first stop was 1A — I was eager to see what would have been had I not asked to move to 3C.
1A had the advantage of offering a window view, but there’s no question that I had far more space with my two adjacent suites in the middle.
So back to 3C I went, where I began exploring the suite.
I was most curious about the center divider. I didn’t need to use it myself, but I wanted to see what the suite would feel like with it raised to the top. As expected, it felt significantly smaller — if you’re traveling solo in a full cabin, I might recommend grabbing a window seat instead.
One of the first things I noticed was that there weren’t any overhead bins in the cabin. Instead, you could keep your carry-on under the ottoman in your suite, which also doubled as a seat for a guest to join you during a meal.
There were various storage compartments elsewhere in the cabin as well, including two small areas (plus a small garbage can?) above the wired remote.
There was a second large storage area in the center console, but it was well-hidden — I didn’t actually spot it until it was time to deplane.
Of course, the highlight here was the massive double bed — it was still one of the flashiest first-class perks in the sky, even over 10 years later. First-class passengers got turndown service, and since the seat lifted up and folded forward to create a bed, you really did need a flight attendant to help. The process took about five minutes, but it was clearly worth the wait.
Each suite also had sliding doors and even curtains that pulled down to create about as private a space as you could expect on an airliner — aside from, say, the Etihad Residence.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist having my picture taken in the double bed.
What was most remarkable to me about this version of Singapore’s A380 suite was that the design was now a decade old. It could perhaps have been better maintained — my suite was showing some wear and tear, pictured below — but overall it was still a very competitive product, more than 11 years after launch.
Amenities and IFE
Singapore partnered with French luxury brand Lalique as part of its new first-class suite launch, and those products are now available on other first-class flights as well. Amenities vary depending on the route.
On this flight, I was offered a set of pajamas and a “gift.” I really loved the pajamas — they were very soft and not too heavy. I ended up leaving the top behind, though, since I found the Lalique logo to be almost obnoxiously large.
The gift set definitely came home with me, though. In addition to a very slick leather case, there was body lotion, lip balm, a bar of soap and a candle (with strict instructions not to light it on the plane).
Oddly, Singapore didn’t offer traditional amenity kits on this route. Instead, toothbrushes and shaving kits were in the lavatories, and eye masks and earplugs were available from the crew upon request.
You also got a mattress pad, comforter and pillow — or two, in my case. I did find the bed to be especially hard, and think Singapore could benefit from adding a thicker mattress pad.
The inflight entertainment was one area where the older suites were really starting to show their age. I remember thinking a 23-inch screen sounded huge back when it was introduced in 2007. That’s certainly not the case anymore, especially when the screen is positioned so far from the seat.
While Singapore’s latest inflight entertainment systems offer super-high-tech features, like a mobile app that lets you select and sync content in advance, this version was entirely dated.
There were roughly 50 new releases to choose from, but only 19 were US films. There were also older Hollywood and foreign films and TV shows. The picture quality was decent but didn’t quite feel high-definition. On a longer flight, I might recommend loading up content on a laptop or tablet, instead.
There was a moving map as well, but no exterior cameras.
Singapore also offered satellite Wi-Fi, available throughout the flight.
First-class passengers got 100 MB for free just by entering their name and seat number. Normally, I’d blow through that amount of data in a couple of hours, but the Wi-Fi was so slow that I’d barely made a dent by the time we landed in Germany.
The speed test failed several times, but I was eventually able to get one to load. The connection really was slow.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
I’d been hearing about Singapore’s first-class beverage program for ages — particularly the fact that the airline serves both Dom Perignon and Krug. So which did I get during boarding? Neither: SQ isn’t permitted to serve any alcohol on the ground at JFK, so I ordered a glass of lemonade.
The crew stayed seated for 15 minutes after takeoff, then the real fun began five minutes after that, starting with a tray of mixed nuts.
Singapore’s first-class menu was presented in a fancy leather folder and included the options for both legs of the journey, including JFK to Frankfurt and the onward flight to Singapore.
Moments later, my Champagne finally arrived.
I prefer Krug, so that’s what I ordered first.
But then I thought, “Hmm, this is first class. Why not taste them side by side?” (Krug still won.)
Forty minutes after takeoff, another flight attendant came to take my order. Both of the appetizers sounded interesting, so I requested the caviar and the warm seafood with lemon dressing. She immediately shook her head and said “No, not catered enough,” even though three suites were open and it seemed at least one other passenger had gone right to sleep. Fine, fine … caviar it was.
Before walking away, the flight attendant said, “We’ll come for drinks later.” I was thirsty then, though, so I pressed the call button. Someone arrived 15 seconds later, at which point I asked for sparkling water. I was also offered more Champagne.
One full hour after takeoff, my table was finally set for the meal. It was not a huge deal, of course, but I did notice that the water bottle used to fill the glass looked especially cheap.
The salt and pepper shakers had also seen better days.
A bread basket arrived a few minutes after that. I grabbed a pretzel roll, which was just barely warm.
And then it was time for the first course: caviar! I love eating my inflight caviar with creme fraiche and blinis, but Singapore only had toast onboard. I also didn’t get a spoon, though I suppose eating caviar with a fork is better than not eating caviar at all!
Shortly after, the captain asked the crew to take their seats due to turbulence, so it was 45 minutes before the soup arrived. It was supposedly a New England chowder, but it didn’t look like anything I’ve ever been served in New England. It was decently flavorful but lukewarm. It was also bright yellow.
For my main course, I’d taken advantage of Singapore’s Book the Cook option, available for flights departing JFK (but not Newark). That was the only way to try the airline’s lobster Thermidor, since the options on the plane were limited to a seared beef fillet in cabernet sauce, seafood noodle soup, chicken stuffed with walnut and spinach, and a Thai red-curry pork with mixed vegetables.
The lobster arrived two hours and 15 minutes after takeoff, with just about four and a half hours to go until landing. At that point it became clear that I wouldn’t be getting much sleep during the flight.
The lobster was filling and fresh, but while I could really taste the cream sauce, I didn’t pick up on the flavor of the lobster itself. It was still quite a treat, though, especially paired with an outstanding Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2006 from Margaux, France, which retailed for about $90 on the ground.
Twenty minutes later — more than two hours and 30 minutes into the flight — the dessert arrived. I had ordered the warm chocolate-peanut tart, but the flight attendant thought I had requested both, so they brought the ricotta-raisin cheesecake as well. I actually much preferred the cheesecake, which I enjoyed with a Macallan Lumina scotch. By that point, I was stuffed and really needed to get at least a little sleep, so I skipped the cheese course.
Since I missed breakfast entirely on a TAP business-class flight earlier this year, I mentioned to two flight attendants that I very much wanted to be woken for breakfast, but as late as possible, so I could get a little sleep. One flight attendant insisted that breakfast needed to be served at least 90 minutes before landing, but that he would do his best to bring it a bit later, which seemed entirely reasonable to me for a continental breakfast served on a single tray.
Another flight attendant ended up waking me one hour and 15 minutes before landing, apparently just to ask if I wanted to sleep more before eating breakfast? I said that I did, and managed to pass out for another 15 minutes before the pilot came on with his prearrival announcement. I got up to change out of my pajamas, then ate breakfast when I returned, about 40 minutes before landing. I had more than enough time, really.
The breakfast was fine, with fresh fruit, yogurt and a tiny croissant. Oddly, there wasn’t a spoon for the yogurt, so I ate it with a fork. Not the end of the world.
I also asked for a cup of coffee, which was delivered promptly.
While several flight attendants were exceedingly friendly and outgoing, overall the service fell short of what I’ve come to expect from Singapore Airlines. The main meal ended less than four hours before our anticipated arrival, drink refills were delayed and one crew member insisted on waking me 90 minutes before landing just to serve a cold, single-tray breakfast. That said, service was prompt and friendly when I pressed the call button, and several flight attendants went out of their way by offering to take my picture before and during the flight.
While the new product really takes the experience to a whole new level, Singapore’s older A380 Suites Class is still fantastic, even 11 years in. It’s been a bucket-list item for me since its launch in 2007, and I was thrilled to finally have a chance to fly it, even though our six-hour-and-45-minute red-eye wasn’t nearly enough time to take in the whole experience.
If you’re thinking about flying Singapore Suites yourself, I highly recommend booking business class for SQ25, the red-eye from JFK to Frankfurt, and Suites for SQ26, the eight-hour return to New York. Reserving first class on SQ26 will give you at least an extra hour to enjoy the product, and since it’s a daytime flight, there’s far less pressure to rush to sleep.
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