Airlines

How to try SQ’s new A380 suites, a.k.a A380 roulette

Speculation on the launch routes and timings for SQ's new A380 suites product.

Singapore Airlines is going to launch its new A380 cabin products in 2017. That much we know. AusBT recently managed to confirm with SQ that the new A380 products will be unveiled “early in the second half of this calendar year”, and that the first new A380 will start flying from October 2017.

Details are scarce about the new product (apart from the fact that it will not feature showers), but given SQ’s history of cabin innovation and the extent to which rivals (especially the ME3) have upped the First Class game, I retain high hopes.

Image result for etihad apartment
Etihad Apartment

I’ve flown SQ suites twice, and each time has been an amazing experience. It goes without saying that I would do unspeakable things to review the new cabin product when it launches (in case anyone from SQ corp comms is reading this). However, those unspeakable things do not include spending upwards of $10,000.

That leaves me with award options. Unfortunately, I anticipate that it will be very difficult redeeming miles for the new Suites product on the A380. This is because

  • The number of Suites is being cut from 12 to no more than 8 (possibly 6 if SQ goes with a single aisle config?). Fewer seats = fewer awards. And it’s not like Suite savers are super easy to find these days…
  • It would not be unlike SQ to restrict saver award redemptions on new cabin products like the tight-fisted Scrooges they are (I hope no one from SQ corp comms is reading this). They did it when the 2006 First and Business class cabin products launched, they did it when Suites launched in 2007. If this new product is truly groundbreaking, it stands to reason that SQ will want to maintain its exclusivity by keeping out the hoi polloi. The only thing that gives me hope? When SQ launched its new cabin products in 2013, there were no restrictions on saver redemptions. Let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson

This leads me to my thesis statement

My best chance to try the new A380 suites product is to bet on which route SQ will introduce the product on, book a suites award ticket now and hope the aircraft gets swapped to a new A380

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. In December. A few times.

Guessing the launch route

SQ currently operates the A380 to the following destinations

  • HKG
  • PEK
  • PVG
  • DEL
  • BOM
  • LHR
  • CDG
  • ZUR
  • JFK via FRA
  • MEL
  • SYD
  • AKL

I am 100% sure that SQ will not launch the new cabin products on a short/medium haul route. When new aircraft types are acquired it’s normal to run them on short haul routes first before deploying them elsewhere so airlines can train as many crew as possible on the new type within a short period. This is why we saw A350s plying routes like CGK, HKG and KUL before being deployed elsewhere. But the A380 is a known entity to SQ pilots and crew. The pilots know the controls, the crew know where the exits are. All that’s different is the cabin product. Therefore there won’t be so much safety and technical training as there will be service training, and that can take place on the ground over in SQ’s training school.  We saw this when SQ launched its 2006 and 2013 cabin products on its 77Ws- they straight away went long haul to LHR. This therefore rules out HKG, PEK, PVG, DEL and BOM.

Besides, there’s no precedent for launching new cabin products on short/medium haul routes. I’ve gone to trace every new cabin product launch since 2000 and here’s what I found (if you like nostalgia, check out my history of SQ’s cabin products article)

2002- Launch of Spacebed: LHR

Image result for space bed singapore airlines


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2006- Launch of new business and first class seats: CDG

Image result for singapore airlines business class new

2007- First A380 flight (and launch of Suites product): SYD

Image result for singapore airlines launch suites media

2009- Launch of new regional business class seat: BNE (this doesn’t strictly count as the choice of destinations was limited to those reachable by an A330 aircraft)

Image result for a330 singapore airlines launch business class

2013- Launch of new business and first class: LHR

Image result for singapore airlines new seat launch

2015: Launch of new Premium Economy cabin: SYD

Image result for singapore airlines new seat launch

Based on this, it seems Sydney and London are the two routes that have the highest chance of seeing the new cabin products first. In a way it makes sense- both are large, premium traffic heavy commercial centres, with extensive business traveller media outlets that will cover the launch from their own end.

The rest of the destinations don’t seem to have much going for them. Zurich is too sleepy (sorry, Swiss readers), Paris has lost its shine with visitors staying away, North America almost never gets new cabin products first (ruling out JFK and therefore FRA), Auckland’s A380 is a seasonal route only and Melbourne is, well, Melbourne.

Guessing the right flight

Guessing the route is only half the equation. The other important question is: which flight?

SQ operates two A380 flights to Sydney, SQ221 and SQ231. I ended up booking one ticket on each to hedge my bets.

SQ also operates two A380 flights to London, SQ308 and SQ322. I have a confirmed suites seat on SQ308, but SQ322 didn’t have saver availability. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that if London is indeed the launch route, SQ will pick SQ322 as the first flight.

Why? Think about the optics and logistics of the launch event. SQ308 departs at 9.10am, SQ322 at 11.45pm. Which one lends itself more to a glitzy black tie media event? I can imagine a full dinner and cocktail program with the who’s who of society scarfing down canapes and sipping champagne while eyeing the unwashed masses outside the media area. It is much harder to imagine that amount of glitz and glamor for a 9.10am departure.

It is possible to book an award ticket on SQ322 if you’re willing to pay Standard award rates, but I’m not. Ask me again after the SQ unveiling event and I might change my mind though.

But here’s the other thing- I don’t really care about being on the first route per se. All I need to do is ensure by the time I fly in December, the aircraft operating my flight has the new A380 product. Singapore Airlines is scheduled to receive 5 new A380s. I’ve searched all over the web but haven’t been able to find the exact delivery schedule.

So here’s where I have to guess and play the odds. The more new A380s SQ has in service by December 2017, the greater my odds of at least one of my 3 suites tickets becoming the magic ticket.

Conclusion

Only SQ could create so much anticipation about a product that no one has any concrete details on, much less seen.

As it stands, I now have ~220K of miles and S$810+ of taxes tied up in tickets I may not even use. Am I crazy? Probably. But assuming everything I’ve predicted comes to pass (SQ launches new suites, they’re amazing, they close off award redemptions) then what I’ve done is bought 3 call options for US$45 (if I can’t travel for whatever reason, I’ll just cancel and pay a US$15 fee per ticket)

Of course, it would be highly amusing (on some cosmic level) if I’ve totally misread the launch route tea leaves and the new cabin product ends up launching on some other route.

Like Melbourne.

I need to book a ticket to Melbourne.

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46 Comments on "How to try SQ’s new A380 suites, a.k.a A380 roulette"

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This article makes me sad – have a confirmed suites ticket SIN-JFK in early Sept. Gonna be weeping into my glass of Krug…

I preferred the Dom Perignon ’06, but I suggest trying both. A few times. Just to be sure.

So you’re not coming back after flying the new Suites?

Interesting analysis Aaron. Hope it pays off for you. Just a note, the eithad picture you have up there is of the residence rather than the apartment.

Redeemed a ticket to LHR in mid October on SQ308, fingers crossed…

Is there a particular day of the week on which launches tend to happen?

No.

Good call, Aaron: I expect SIN-SYD and SIN-LHR as launch routes, with SIN-SYD up first because it can be flown with a single A380 and then SIN-LHR to follow as more of the new superjumbos arrive.

I have a SQ308 redemption around xmas period. Hopefully I’ll have a good xmas gift! And it never seems possible to get SQ322 on saver. I have looked at it everyday for the whole of dec16.

Really in depth analysis there! Was curious how many gazillion spare miles you have in ur vault to be able to put 3 first class ticket on hold. Great post!

Aaron, are you SQ Gold or Silver? You can ask for the 15usd cancellation fee to be waived. Works everytime for me.

I guess hang up and try someone else if they say no.

One reason that MEL could well be the launch route….SQ may want to deflect attention away from the announced QF 787 MEL-PER-LHR service…which may replace QF9 / 10…

Nice.. I have 800K miles to burn thanks to the last 3-4 months of MS. Might use it on SIA Suite to and fro the US.

Care to share pls? Would really appreciate. Thank u 🙂

I’m also trying my luck with SQ221 in Nov.. hopefully it won’t go to SQ231. Aaron, what do you think?

[…] and proceed to book 3 Suites award on different routes, hoping they will be "upgraded". How to try SQ’s new A380 suites, a.k.a A380 roulette | The MileLion Personally I have booked A380 Suites on SQ221 and SQ231. Let's see if I am the lucky one. […]

Hi Aaron, just wanted to get you opinion or anyone who have experienced Suites on Sq. I will be trying Suites for the first time to Sydney end of this year, which route will be better? SQ231 which departs midnight 1245am or SQ221 @ 840pm? Thanks a lot for your comments!

My hunch is SQ221 to be with the new suites come October. I will try to redeem on that before devaluation comes later this month. Fingers crossed!

[…] as it is expected that redemption of those flights with New Suites will be severely limited: How to try SQ’s new A380 suites, a.k.a A380 roulette | The MileLion It would be interesting to see which flight will have the New Suites. Qantas Ultimate […]

I was looking at Feb 2018 redemptions in view of the impending devaluation. SQ317, presumably the turnaround flight for the elusive SQ322, looks available. Of coz there’s the U.K. APD but with the GBP at current levels, it isn’t too stinky, considering there would be positioning costs as well.

Hi Aaron

Do you know if there are certain flights without caviar on first class? Eg: red eye flights perhaps?

Hi Aaron

What if the flight is at 10pm? Also no caviar?

The new A380 upper deck seat map has been posted on SQ website. Six suites single isle.

From the delivery schedule of past SQ A380s, it usually takes 5-7 months after the first flight for the plane to be delivered to SQ. First flight of the new SQ A380 was back in March 2017 so it looks like it’ll be delivered by September (October the latest.)

Thanks for this article! Your hypotheses all made sense with SYD/LHR but I’ll go rogue and say MEL. 😉 I made a booking for MEL since I have to be in MEL anyway in late January.

Looks like your roulette will likely pay off in December! But what if it has been overbooked (i.e. more than 6 passengers in Suites)? How do you think they might re-shuffle?

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