Since discovering the Miles and Points game 3 years ago, Jeriel has now spent a disproportionate amount of time reading the T&Cs of credit cards and frequent flyer programs. His grand plans for round-the-world premium travel has taken a hit since the arrival of his daughter, but he is still determined to fly as far, frequently and luxuriously as possible on Miles and Points. Expect more family-orientated trip reports and travel tips from him!
SIN LHR on Singapore Airlines Suites Class
We made our way to our gate slowly, and arrived about 5 minutes before boarding was due to start. I took the opportunity to take some photos of the beast which was going to carry us to London.
Seeing this never gets old
I must have stood there for a good 3 minutes or so just staring at the plane; specifically at the front few windows of the main deck. You can make out 9 windows at the front arranged 2-2-3-2, for the 4 rows of Suites (row 3 has 3 windows). What secret luxuries lie hidden behind those windows? It was an amazing feeling to know that I was just a few minutes away from finding out.
This flight was obviously the best flight I’ve had in my life. I mean, people actually pay more than double the price of a Business Class ticket to fly this product, so it has to be good right. But was the service perfect? Far from it. I suppose travelling during the June holidays with the Suites cabin 11/12 full contributed to the slight dip in standards. The hard product is undoubtedly amazing though, and I’ve never slept better on a flight. Instead of waxing lyrical, I shall try to be as balanced as possible in this report.
Singapore (SIN) – London (LHR)
Date: Friday, 10 June 2016
Aircraft: Airbus A380-841 (9V-SKS)
Seat: 3C/3D (Suites Class)
Cost: 91,375 Krisflyer Miles (after 15% online disc.) + S$274.20 per person one way
We turned into the dedicated Suites’ air-bridge with a grin on our faces, and walked slowly down so as to savour the feeling of win for as long as possible. The Leading Stewardess (LS), Chief Steward (CS) and the In-Flight Supervisor (IFS) were waiting by the door to the aircraft and smiled at us. By the time we reached around the halfway point the smiles were getting a little too awkward, so the LS walked forward to meet us on the air-bridge, checked our tickets, and escorted us to our seats. We were greeted of course, but not by name, which is apparently supposed to be a thing when flying First Class. On hindsight, I wonder how hard that would have been, seeing as we were the only Chinese couple in the cabin. 😛
We were shown to our seats, and we promptly set about exploring our surroundings. As you can see, the seats were the refurbished, brown leather finish ones. That being said, 9V-SKS is one of the newer A380s in the SQ fleet, so I’m not sure if it ever saw the old, light brown finish. Irrelevant aircraft enthusiast musings. Anyhow, I like the new finish better as I feel it fits much more nicely with the door and table colours.
Seat 3A across the aisle before it was occupied
Lovely rays from the morning sun in seat 3A
The corridor showing the Suites’ doors. They are about 5 feet high
IFE and light controls immediately to your side on the door. Seat controls (not pictured) on the hand-rest, which only controls back incline and the calf/foot rest
Power plug, headphone jack, 2 USB ports, RCA and LAN cable inputs on the table console to your other side
Noise-cancelling Bose headphones already in one of the many cubby holes. Great improvement over the Business Class Phi-tech ones. iPhone in background sold separately.
Vanity mirror on one side of the TV
The usual in-flight reading material. Note the small strip of see-through material on the window shade.
Small wardrobe with hangers outside your seat for your clothes
Coat hanger on the inside of the door panel. Because a personal coat wardrobe outside your seat is not enough
Whew! That was a lot of photographs for just one seat!
There were a good 4-5 more little cubby holes to put your personal belongings scattered around the suite which I couldn’t be bothered to post pictures of. When your personal area can fit at least 4-6 economy seats, rest assured that space won’t really be an issue. You must have noticed the absence of the overhead bin compartments as well, which adds to the feeling of height and spaciousness. Carry-ons are stowed under the ottoman in front of your seat.
I must really emphasize the space you get in this seat. I’m more than 6 feet tall, and even in SQ International business class my feet get cramped up in the small leg cubby hole to the side (if you’ve flown it before you’d know what I mean). But here, I could barely reach the ottoman with my feet when sitting upright. The ottoman itself is huge and I found it more comfortable to sit there so that I could face my wife for conversation. With both of us in our actual seats it felt like there was a gulf separating us (apart from when the double bed was made of course). I had to stretch just to touch her arm!
Ottoman with Pyjamas and Amenity Kit
We were promptly offered our welcome drink (Krug and Dom Perignon, without hesitation this time) and brought our pyjamas, amenity kit, selection of newspapers and magazines, hot towel, and menu. The stewards and stewardess were scurrying around attending to the 11 of us, so everything was quick, efficient and business-like, no time for the ‘personal touch’. Can’t really blame them as well, seeing the insane number of things they needed to check off the list for each and every passenger.
I amused myself with checking out my fellow revellers in luxury. There was a family of 4 (with 2 young children not more than 6 years) another couple in the double seats in front of us, and another family of 3. Assuming that we were the only ones on Saver level award tickets, SQ must have made a pretty penny (or recovered a significant number of miles from standard/full awards) from this flight! It’s a pity that with the new Suites class product due to be introduced in 2017, we will see a decrease in the number of Suites per aircraft. Although the product is likely to be more competitive with the newest A380 First Class products like the Etihad Apartments (I have my money on a single aisle configuration), award availability will definitely take a hit as well. Better aim to make a redemption soon!
Who needs small talk when you have this?
There was ample time to browse slowly through the menu. One of the biggest first world problems when flying premium with SQ is their Book the Cook service. I mean if you fly premium frequently, tried everything on that menu and have a favourite, then BTC is probably ideal for you. But for the rest of us mere mortals? I think I spent several days agonizing over the many BTC options for First Class/Suites. Even after you’ve made your choice, you wonder if the in-flight options would be better. Well, if you happen to be in a similar conundrum, here’s the current SIN LHR First Class Menu for you.
Breakfast and Lunch menu on SIN LHR Suites
Suffice to say, I was satisfied with our BTC choice of Nasi Briyani and Kyo-Kaiseki for Breakfast service. But more on that later.
Meanwhile, I suddenly found myself in dire need to pee. My glass of Krug must have been refilled a good 3-4 times thus far, even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. However, it was at this exact moment that the aircraft pushed-back. I hesitated for a moment but thought foolishly; ‘nah, no one will notice me anyway’ and decided to slip off to the loo, only to walk into the whole complement of flight crew in the aft galley. Awkward stares ensued.
‘We’re just about to take off Mr. J, so do return to your seat as soon as possible!’ said the LS cheerfully while holding the lavatory door open for me.
With that, I was addressed by name for the first time since boarding the plane. I think I must have been marked as a potentially difficult passenger from then on! 😀
Anyway, I did what I had to do, and even found time to take some photos of the severely uninspiring First Class toilets.
Ferragamo amenities; WC with bench folded down. Who says you can’t take aircraft loo photos without appearing in them!
A stalk of red orchids and some faux wood trimming the only indicators of luxury in an otherwise standard aircraft lav.
It was noticeably bigger than the Business Class toilets; I could manoeuvre around without having to crouch down at any point in time. But when I am touting that as the best feature of a toilet it is evidence that there is really nothing there. Regarding the new Suites product, we already know there aren’t going to be any showers, and I hope I’m wrong but I doubt we’d see any improvement over the current offering.
Anyhow, I returned to my seat in time for take-off. Sipping premium champers while feeling the lumbering beast claw its way into the air, I couldn’t help but let a small smirk spread across my face.
Breakfast service started promptly after seatbelt signs were turned off. As mentioned, I had BTC-ed the Nasi Briyani and my wife went for the Kyo-Kaiseki. However, one simply doesn’t jump to the main course while sitting up at the very front of the plane. We were asked to choose our breakfast beverage, and offered a wide selection of fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereal first.
At my wife’s behest, I simply had to try the famed Jamaica Blue Mountain, just because I could.
Failed attempt at an artsy insta-worthy photo. I obviously don’t do this much.
We declined the fruit and appetisers, and so the mains came soon after.
It’s so comforting and appealing to my obsessive compulsive traits to see each item being laid out in its exact position. I used the butter for my croissant and when serving another course the LS actually replaced the butter to its original position.
Kyo-Kaiseki first course.
Kyo-Kaiseki second course.
According to the description on SQ’s website, Kyo-Kaiseki is a ‘traditional Japanese array of dishes presented in sequence… reflecting and changing with each season’. In other words, the meal changes from season to season and you’d never know what you’d be getting! My wife loved it so much I didn’t even manage to get a bite before it disappeared.
I really wanted to try a local dish (especially Malay, Indian or Peranakan) to see if SQ could replicate the complex flavours of these hawker favourites in the air. Reviews of BTC dishes on internationally-based blogs generally focus on the Western menu, so I had little to go on. It ended up to be a choice between Chicken Nasi Briyani and Nasi Lemak. I had to flip a coin and ended up with the former. I did not regret the decision.
I loved everything about it, from the fragrance and texture of the Basmati rice to the succulent curry chicken thigh and delicious sauce. The only 2 things that reminded me I was not at an Indian eating house was that it wasn’t served on a banana leaf, and that the garnish on the Briyani itself was a little out of place. Otherwise, excellent. Regret not asking for a Milo Dinosaur to top it all off (can SQ even do Milo Dinosaurs??).
It was only about 10am and we had already finished our 3rd full meal of the day, so we slowly went to change into the pyjamas and get ready for some R&R. We requested for the bed to be made as soon as the meal service ended.
Note the hard divider and centre protrusion at the head of the bed.
Of course, it was still mid-morning Singapore time and after that cup of Blue Mountain, there was no way I was going to fall asleep. We settled down for some TV. Krisworld is excellent, as always, and I prepared to catch up on The Big Bang Theory.
It was nice.
It’s difficult to be superlative about lying in bed and watching sitcoms. I’m sure it’s a comforting pastime many of us engage in at home. Lying there next to my wife snuggling under the warm duvets with the doors and shades drawn, it felt exactly like that – home. Never mind the fact that we were cruising at 37,000ft. I think that goes a long way to demonstrate how private and comfortable the set up really is.
There is room for improvement of course. While touted as a double bed, we were really separated by a hard divider throughout the length of the bed which… hindered (‘nuff said).
Anyway, after a couple of hours of laughing too loud because I couldn’t really hear myself with those noise-cancelling Bose headphones on, I decided to try to take a nap. I only slept about 3 hours in the end (it was midday after all), but I must say I slept like a baby. Quite literally.
Those among you who are parents may know that there is a theory explaining why rocking and white-noise help newborns sleep. In the womb, the baby is cushioned by amniotic fluid, and every move the mother makes rocks it gently. It is also continuously surrounded by the hum of blood flowing through maternal blood vessels.
Well, as I curled up in a fetal position, serenaded by the low-pitched whine of the 4 Rolls-Royce Trent engines, and as the plane gently jiggled up and down due to minor turbulence, I slowly but surely drifted off to sleep.
When we woke, it was just about time for the lunch service. I read somewhere before that there is actually a separate stand that can be used to set up the table for a meal service with the bed deployed. I asked the CS if it was possible for us to have our lunch in bed, but all I got in return was a long, awkward pause…
‘Ok you know what, nevermind, I think we will just have the seats back!’
I think I was suffering from Singaporean Economy Class Syndrome. Too paiseh to be an inconvenience to the usually very obliging but overworked stewards/stewardesses in Y! It ended up being the biggest mistake of the flight, as the beds are way more comfortable than the seats, and there were still several hours of flight time left.
I know, I could have asked for the beds to be remade after lunch… But that would just have been a jerk move. If I had paid the full S$15k in cash I might just have done so though…
As the crew were making the bed, my wife and I decided to walk around the rest of the Suites cabin. Most of the other passengers were still asleep. Again, the privacy afforded to the Suite occupant was very apparent. Even at about 186cm tall, I could not peer over the ‘walls’ of the Suite without making significant effort to tiptoe. Reviews always mention the see-through portions of the blinds, but these are relatively small and will require one to intentionally position oneself before you can see anything on the interior of the Suite. Throughout our rest, while the crew did their regular rounds through the cabin, they always walked briskly and we never felt our privacy being intruded.
We ended up chatting with the IFS at the front of the Suites cabin, just by the cockpit door. We talked about the A380, his NSF stint as a dental assistant in the SAF in the 1970s, the various passengers he had encountered in his long career with SQ… I fully agree that it is the informal, personal nature of interactions in a service setting that really sets the best apart. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.
Before long, the seats were ready and we returned for the Lunch service. We started off with the signature Satay canapes, which never fail to impress.
Somehow my only picture of the Satay turned out weird. Wait a minute, why no table cloth!
This was followed by the Chilled Malossol Caviar.
Chilled Malossol Caviar with Melba toast and condiments
At this point, I decided to join my wife in her seat, so you will see the table set for 2.
Creamy Belgium Endive Soup with Mussel and Smoked Haddock; Baby Romaine Lettuce, Lamb Lettuce and Cherry Tomatoes
I’m definitely no caviar connoisseur, so I think ‘tasty’ and ‘interesting’ would be good adjectives to describe the appetiser. The soup was excellent though, with great balance of flavours from the endives to the sweet tang of the mussel to the salty haddock. The salad was salad.
For our lunch choices, my wife had chosen the much-vaunted Grilled Chilean Sea Bass while I went for the Roast Rack of Lamb.
Grilled Chilean Seabass on New England style clam and mussel chowder served with ciabatta crouton.
The seabass was every bit as good as advertised in the many reviews. Fresh, tender fish with just enough QQ. Also, there was an abundant supply of clams and mussels. By abundant, I really mean a lot. It was like a never ending supply. It helps that I love clams and mussels, so I was smitten with this dish.
As we were happily digging into the Seabass, the LS came by slowly with a deliberate grimace on her face. ‘Wait a minute… this can’t be good’ I remember thinking to myself.
‘I’m really sorry Mr. J, but I accidentally served your Book the Cook option to another passenger. They were both lamb dishes and I made a mistake. I’m very sorry but can I offer you another choice of a main course?’
I was actually dumbstruck for a moment. Not so much that I was devastated at not being able to consume my rack of lamb, but more because it hadn’t crossed my mind that confusing 2 main dishes when there was a LS, CS and IFS serving 11 passengers was possible!
Since I had not actually replied, the LS continued with;
‘The other passenger’s BTC option was the Indian style Lamb Shank, but since you already had Nasi Briyani for breakfast, I thought you might want to consider the other options instead. How about the Yu Pian Mi Fen? It’s very good.’
I tried to order the Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin, but they were out of that as well. I was really not at all into Yu Pian Mi Fen, which I usually only take when I’m sick, but the other options didn’t really appeal to me as well. I was left with no choice.
Yu Pian Mi Fen.
To be fair, the YPMF was actually quite good. The soup was tasty with generous servings of large and fresh pieces of fish. It’s just that between the Fish Porridge I had earlier in The Private Room, the Mussel and Haddock soup, and the Chilean Seabass with clams and mussels, it was simply just too much seafood for a 10 hour stretch.
Caramelized Apple Crumble with fresh berries, caramel sauce and vanilla Bourbon ice-cream.
We finished up with the dessert options of the Apple Crumble and Red Bean soup with sesame tang yuan. Throughout dessert, the CS followed by the IFS took turns to come by to apologize for the mix up with the main course. I didn’t make any fuss of the issue verbally, but I guess it wasn’t difficult to tell that I was quite disappointed. I reassured the various crew which came by that it was ok, and left it as that.
The LS who made the mistake seemed rather subdued as she continued to serve our seats though, so in an effort to reduce the awkwardness I decided to ask her for any recommendations she might have for London. With that she perked up immediately and started rattling off the various must-try restaurants and her personal favourites. We also chatted a little on the crew schedules and turn-around times. I thought that broke the ice again quite effectively. Either that, or she’s very good at pretending to be interested in making small talk with passengers.
With that, in a blink of an eye, we were approaching London, with the Captain coming on the PA to make the first of his series of arrival announcements.
All good things must come to an end.
We were issued with express immigration passes for LHR, which proved to be invaluable.
Fast Track Immigration passes.
As we were nearing the last 20 minutes of the flight, the Chief Steward came to me with a S$75 in-flight voucher, as a token of apology for the mistake regarding my BTC option. I was certainly not expecting any compensation, but no one rejects money, so I gladly accepted, once again reassuring the crew that it was ok. My wife was probably much happier than I was though; she promptly started browsing through the KrisShop Magazine to look for a purchase.
You’d think that after a mix up in main courses on the main meal service, that would be the extent of the drama on my maiden SQ Suites experience.
After a fairly uneventful approach and landing, we found the plane slowly rolled to a stop, with no attempt to taxi off the runway. Thereafter, the captain came on the PA again to announce that there had been an issue with the steering control, and we had to wait for a tow-truck to get us off the runway.
All in all, we were stranded on the runway for a good 25 minutes. For the passengers back in Economy, as well as the hundred other passengers who probably subject to being held in a holding pattern over one of the busiest airports in the world, I suppose it must have been a hellish wait. But for me, it was a good 25 minutes more of soaking up the last moments of my first Suites experience.
3A was the only seat empty so I hopped in for some tarmac views.
But eventually, we returned to the terminal, and I had to reluctantly leave…
We were originally scheduled to fly back to Singapore from Paris CDG, also on Suites Class, but a family emergency compelled us to reschedule our flight to several days earlier. Of course, we were unable to find Saver Suite availability at such short notice, but thankfully there were some Business Saver awards open for redemption.
We flew back on another A380, which operates the old (not refurbished) long-haul business class product. Being able to compare Suites and Business Class in a relatively short space of time, I must say Suites is more than well worth the additional 23,400 odd miles. While SQ long-haul business is on par with many other airline’s First Class product, the hard and soft product in Suites is the clear winner by a long shot, even when this flight with all its imperfections was used in comparison.
One thing is for sure, I’d definitely be trying to book myself into this cabin in the near future again!