In order to qualify for Krisflyer elite status, you need to earn 25,000 or 50,000 elite miles within a 12 month period for Silver and Gold respectively.
Krisflyer Silver has fairly few benefits but Gold is a decent enough proposition for the frequent traveller. You get priority check-in, luggage and boarding, plus lounge access. You also get to say you’re part of the same (non-swimming) club as Joseph Schooling.
I can’t say the Krisflyer Gold lounge in Singapore is anywhere near my list of favourite lounges (no toilets, showers, champagne or happiness), but you are able to access the Silverkris lounges outside of Singapore, including the very nice “Home” themed ones they’re gradually rolling out.
50,000 miles, however, is a hefty target to meet especially if you only do regional travel (Singapore to SFO- 8,440 miles. Singapore to Bangkok- 890 miles).
So what if you’re just short of that target? This was the case of my colleague who was 70 miles short of re-qualifying for Krisflyer Gold.
She asked me whether she could write in and ask for an exception. I laughed. Loudly. Tears streamed down my face as I chortled at her naivety. “Do we remember the man who almost climbed Mount Everest?” I said in my most condescending tone. “Or the guy who almost discovered America?” (I’m not an easy colleague to have). I patted her on the head and told her that there was no way on earth an airline that doesn’t upgrade its highest tier Solitaire PPS members unless it absolutely positively has to would make an exception.
She said something to the tune of “up yours” (we’re a flat organization) and went to write in to membership services. And got an email a few days later congratulating her on re-qualifying.
To say I’m surprised she got an exception is beyond an understatement. But I asked around and found another friend who had managed to get a waiver of a 150 mile difference a few years back. Another reader wrote to me and said that SQ had given him an additional 2 months to requalify for PPS when he was a few hundred dollars of PPS value short and had imminent business travel planned.
So credit where it’s due, it does appear that SQ has some degree of flexibility in renewing memberships. If you’re just short of a little bit, I’d encourage you to write in and try your luck.
Remember that if you’re working for a fairly large-ish firm and have existing status with a competing airline + a lot of forward travel booked with SQ, you might be able to apply for a status match on a case by case basis.
Orchid, Elephant, Turtle:
Touring the Thai Conrads
Thai Airways Business Class SIN-BKK (A350)
Conrad Bangkok (Executive Corner)
Thai Airways Business Class BKK-USM
Conrad Koh Samui (Oceanview Pool Villa)
Thai Airways Business Class USM-BKK-SIN
When the (amazing/short-lived) Visa/Conrad promotion went live last year, I’d obsessed over how I could make the most of the deal. Having never been to Conrad Koh Samui (often mentioned as one of the aspirational properties in the Hilton Portfolio, also previously lauded by Aaron), I decided that March 2017 would be as good a time as any to check it out, swinging by Bangkok on the way while enjoying another 50% discounted Conrad stay there.
Thai Airways seemed like the logical option to get from SIN to USM with a BKK stopover; I enjoyed the experience (especially flying on the new A350) but looking back I kinda wish I had saved on the air ticket and got “a la carte” direct flights instead. For such short trips, flying business class is really rather unnecessary – especially if the hardware for regional flights is not particularly great.
Thai Airways Business Class SIN-BKK (A350)
Since Thai Airways was operating the A350 on some flights between SIN-BKK, I made sure that I was able to get on board one of them for my outbound flight.
I don’t know about you, but when flying on business class around lunchtime I try to make it a point to get to the airport earlier to grab some food at the airline’s lounges, which tend to serve better food than the contract lounges that Priority Pass gets you into.
Changi Airport Terminal 1 Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class Lounge
So, immediately after checking in, I headed straight for the Thai business lounge in T1.
Since (if I’m not mistaken) Thai Airways is the only Star Alliance airline operating in T1, and there are only a handful of flights to Bangkok daily, the lounge doesn’t seem to get all that crowded – a good thing, in my book.
[Edit: Clearly, the internet is full of people eager to point out just how mistaken I was – Air China, Shenzhen and Turkish fly from here too. Thanks to Avinash and Nick for pointing that out!]
I was actually pretty impressed by the offerings at the lounge – the drink selection was a bit more limited than I’d have liked, but the food spread worked well as a quick bite before boarding the plane.
After stuffing my face with lounge snacks, I proceeded towards the plane in the hope of continuing to stuff my face with in-flight food. The new(ish) A350 was clearly visible from the boarding area.
You can tell how new the plane is from the state of its interior.
The seat was pretty comfortable, with more than adequate legroom.
Other than the large screen in front of the seat, there was a touchscreen to the side of the seat. The seatbelt resembles the type you find in cars (fastened diagonally) – while I’m sure this is more secure, I did find it more uncomfortable. I usually keep the seatbelt on when flying, but found myself unbuckling whenever possible during this flight.
The dining table is stowed away in plain sight pretty much in front of you, to be unfolded diagonally when food is served. A rather elegant approach, I thought.
The fare was pretty good, but nothing earth-shattering. I opted for the Squid Ink Spaghetti for myself. It was… okay, but not all that memorable.
Towards the end of the flight they started giving out orchids for the ladies on board. While a clearly sexist move, Griffles ended up a happy beneficiary when The Wife opted to pin it on him instead of in her hair.
All in all, a pleasant flight – I left the plane feeling rather pleased that I’d opted to fly Thai business for this trip. That said, for a quick 2h flight it’s not really that big a deal – I didn’t even manage to try switching the seat to flat bed mode!
Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.
He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.
According to the press release, one-way fares from Singapore to London will start at S$199 for economy and S$839 for premium-class with the following schedule
It looks like that the press release was incomplete, as from November 2017 the Friday departure from Singapore moves to a much more sensible 10.50pm slot, allowing you to start your vacation on Friday without taking an additional day of leave.
The route is expected to start in late Sept/early October, but in the meantime, here are a few things you should know about the new Singapore-London route.
You’re flying to Gatwick, not Heathrow
One of the ways that Norwegian can keep prices low(er) is by flying to London Gatwick (LGW) instead of London Heathrow (LHR). LHR is a major international hub and as you can expect, landing slots sell at an obscene premium ($75M for a prime slot, anyone?)
What does that mean for you as a traveler? Well, let’s look at where the two airports are on a map
I’m taking Paddington Station as the de facto centre of London for the purposes of this illustration. You’ll see that Heathrow (dot 2 on the map) appears to be closer than Gatwick (dot 1 on the map)
But that’s not the whole story- in terms of public transport (trains in particular), Heathrow and Gatwick have very different options
Heathrow is served by
Heathrow Express (15 mins to Central London, GBP 5.50 one-way if booked 90 days in advance for weekends, otherwise GBP14-25)
Tube (1 hour to Central London, GBP5-6 any time)
Gatwick is served by
Gatwick Express (30 mins to Central London, GBP 17)
Thameslink (80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)
Southern ( 80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)
The biggest difference is there is no tube option for Gatwick (although Oyster cards are accepted for payment). Anecdotal stories on Flyertalk suggest that Gatwick is less congested than Heathrow as well.
Landing at Gatwick also means there will also be implications for Singapore passengers looking to use the Norwegian flight as a means of connecting to the rest of Europe- depending on where your connecting flight departs from, you may need to budget more time or money.
Fortunately, Gatwick has a wide variety of carriers like Ryanair, Vueling, WOW Air and Norwegian Air Shuttle that can connect you to your onward destination, which should minimize the need to change airport.
Norwegian has 5 types of fares
If you’re flying in economy, you’ll have a choice of booking a Lowfare, Lowfare+ or Flex ticket. If you’re flying in premium, you have the option of Premium or Premium Flex. You can see the differences in each ticket above.
It obviously defeats the purpose of buying a budget airline ticket if you opt for Flex. I mean, SQ’s promotional return economy rates to London are S$1,218, so a one-way Norwegian ticket for S$1,190 just doesn’t make sense.
Based on what I can see, the cheapest possible option for a Norwegian round trip to London is about S$520.
In case you were wondering, it will cost you 76,000 Krisflyer miles and ~S$240 of taxes to travel round trip to London in economy. Despite the removal of fuel surcharges during the recent Krisflyer devaluation, surcharges on UK award flights remain high because of the Air Passenger Duty that the UK authorities charge.
From a quick search on Kayak, the cheapest flights to London are with Air France at S$878. These aren’t direct, however, and require a 90 min layover in CDG. Direct flights would start upwards of S$1,200.
So on the surface, Norwegian appears to be offering a very good deal for a direct flight.
Of course, there’s always the add-ons…
Prepare to be upsold
I suppose it’s part and parcel of opting for a budget carrier that you’ll be upsold left right centre. That said, Norwegian isn’t half as egregious as some other carriers– for starters, none of these add ons are gotcha style pre-selected options.
Where luggage is concerned, it costs you S$45 for 1 bag (max 20kg) and S$100 for 2, per way (the prices are the same SIN-LGW and LGW-SIN).
It costs S$45 to select a seat, but interestingly Norwegian does not seem to discriminate among “better” exit row seats and regular seats. It costs you the same amount of money to pre-select a middle seat at the back of a plane as it does an exit row one.
Note that Norwegian has 3-3-3 seating in economy and 2-3-2 in premium.
Meals on Norwegian aren’t cheap at S$45 (this covers 2 meals on the SIN-LGW flight)
As per the Norwegian website, here’s what you can expect.
A hot meal including beer, wine or mineral water during the service
You get to choose between two different dinner options. Which one of the options you want you decide on board.
You’ll get a small starter, a main course and something sweet to go with your coffee afterwards.
Got a special dietary requirement? Don’t worry. We’ve got alternatives for you.
On flights with two meal services you’ll also get a light meal
You should also be aware that the second “meal” isn’t much of a meal, more like a cold item.
A cold pasta/salad starter
For the main course you have the choice between either a meat or fish dish with vegetables and potatoes or rice
The meal is rounded off with a dessert
Coffee/tea is served after the meal
A snack bag which includes a sandwich, a sweet or savoury treat and a juice box
Just what is the Norwegian Air experience like, anyway?
Given that the flight is blocked at 13h 40 mins outbound and 12h 40 mins inbound, I imagine a lot of people want to know what they can expect on the aircraft.
Here are trip reports from Norwegian Air’s 787 economy and premium cabins respectively to give you some idea. All seats on the 787 have free IFE and every 3 seats share 2 power sockets. Each seat will also have a USB socket under the IFE screen. Norwegian offers free Wifi on some flights, but it doesn’t look like they’ve extended this to long haul international yet.
Again, it’s difficult to describe the product without actually trying it, but it seems like apart from the absence of a free meal, your cabin experience would not be too different from flying any other full service carrier.
Would I take it?
The flight definitely looks like a spectacular deal to London. 13 hours is a long time, but Norwegian’s cabin doesn’t look particularly punitive in the way that Ryanair or Spirit try to make theirs. In fact, with free IFE and presence of charging outlets, you could argue this would be no different from any other long haul flight.
I think it’s great that long haul budget options are finally coming to Singapore, and I hope the additional competition compels SQ/BA to reduce their cheapest economy fares on this route.
That said, I would probably look to redeem miles (for premium cabin travel) to London, then take a cheap flight to Paris to avoid APD on the return leg to Singapore.