Tag Archives: business class

How does a 20th century airline seat hold up today?

Going to Bangkok post-Christmas has become something of a ritual for me. It’s not that Thai food or massages or shopping are particularly good elixirs for an entire month of overeating, but I’m just a creature of habit that way.

The problem with going to Bangkok post-Christmas, however, is that half of Singapore has the same idea. So (unless you’ve booked really far in advance), if you’re hoping to leave Singapore early in the morning and come back in the evening, it shouldn’t surprise you to see prices like this…

It therefore seemed more prudent to look at award flight options. I know it goes against the general principle I preach of not using miles to redeem for short haul economy, but given the very high revenue prices (even on budget airlines), doing so made sense.

Because SQ was unwilling to provide instant confirmation for economy saver awards, I looked at business saver availability which was wide open.  As soon as I clicked through to seat selection something struck me as odd-

No prizes for spotting that the seatmap was showing a 2-3-2 configuration. This was something I hadn’t seen in a while. And by a while, I mean a long, long while. 2-3-2 in J meant that this aircraft was using SQ’s Ultimo seats (There’s some disagreement online whether or not it’s accurate to call these Ultimo seats, as I’ll explain later, but given the similarities in design philosophy we’ll just go with that for now) introduced more than 15 years ago.

As per the fleet list curated by the boffins on SQTalk, there are only 2 aircraft left in SQ’s fleet with such a J arrangement- 9V-SRJ and 9V-SRL. I had evidently just landed one of the two (while we’re on a retro theme there is still one Spacebed equipped 777-200ER, 9V-SVF. I know, right? I thought those had been long put to pasture. Have a read of my SQ through the ages piece to see how the business class products have evolved)

Now here’s where most people would cancel the booking and think of something else. I mean, who wants to spend hard earned miles on a product that’s more than a decade out of date?

Yet, I was intrigued. I had already reviewed SQ’s middling regional J angled-flat product more times than I could care to remember. In fact, I’ve reviewed pretty much every SQ product there is out there (or at least experienced it and been too lazy to write a full report). But the Ultimo seat? The last time I saw an Ultimo seat, I was 10 or 11 years old and flying to San Francisco on a 747 back when Business Class was still called Raffles Class. This seat was so old it even pre-dated the 2002 Spacebed.

Here’s how the 1998 SQ annual report describes the Ultimo seat

SIA’s Raffles Class offers comfort, service and amenities that rival the First Class experience of other airlines. Cabin features and amenities are designed by Givenchy. The new seat on board the B747-400s, dubbed Ultimo, offers an extended seat pitch of 52 inches, the longest business class seat pitch among any major airline offering three classes. The seat also has the industry’s first business class privacy screen. Automated footrests, four-way lumbar support and six-way adjustable headrests are introduced for greater comfort. An individual fibre-optic light is located on the back of the seat for enhanced reading comfort, and there is also an in-seat laptop power supply point.

And that was that. I had to try it, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Besides, the flight was only slightly over 2 hours and it’d make for a great retro trip report. Why not?


SQ972 was set to depart at 940am the day after Christmas, so I showed up at the airport around 815am.

It was nice to see the airport still had its sense of festive cheer, albeit with Pokemon mixed in. Changi Airport has some sort of Pokemon tie up right now.

I never got into the whole Pokemon Go craze (and have very select opinions about those who did) but you’d have to be made of stone not to at least go a little “awww” at this.

I had no spending to do at Changi, but if I did I could have got a pokemon plush toy for about $10. It’s interesting that you need to spend $120 in the transit area to get a plush, but only $60 in the public area. Says a bit about who they’re trying to target perhaps?

I’ve reviewed the J section of the SQ lounge in T2 before so I’m only going to touch on a few points I found interesting during this visit.

SQ’s put up some decorations in the lounge for Christmas, but apart from some gingerbread dioramas

and making all the service crew wear Santa hats, there wasn’t really anything beyond that. I would have much like to see a special Christmas menu in the lounge, but it was the usual assortment of Chinese and Western dishes.

There was a special display of teochew culture and food in the lounge, in line with SQ’s special teochew menu onboard, but as far as I could see there were no special teochew dishes in the lounge either.

I’m not sure if it was an enhancement or just the earliness of the hour but the champagne was tucked away.

In the spirit of festive cheer, SQ had put up this note saying that it was available on request. The charitable side of me believed that they did this so they could store the champagne at its proper temperature and to preserve freshness. The other side believed it was to discourage timid people from asking for champagne at 9am for fear they’d be considered lush.

As you can see, that wasn’t an issue for me. The lounge food was really forgettable, and SQ needs to step up its lounge catering a gear if it wants to stay competitive,

SQ has set up several advertising displays in the lounge recently. Today there was a display for an LG steam clothing care system, something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.  Presumably SQ earns a little fee from LG in exchange for positioning this advert in a place where a reasonable number of affluent travellers will see it.

I remember seeing a similar pop up display in the lounge before for Singleton Whiskey. I’m not against advertising in the lounge per se, and I think where the product being advertised is something that can be consumed and experienced by passengers first hand then it’s a nice tie up. So things like sponsored alcohol tastings are more than ok in my mind.

I feel a bit differently about static displays such as LG’s, however, given that there’s no actual functionality for passengers. It would be one thing (and a good idea) if there were someone on hand who could offer to press customers’ clothes after a long haul flight, but if the sum total of your display is one unit plus a few brochures, it doesn’t really do anything except take up space.

We were departing from one of the furthest gates in T2 (F42), so I started the hike down early. I wanted to take photos of the cabin before it got too full. By the time I reached, boarding has just started.

Let’s get some technicalities out of the way first. Technically, the seats below are the “true” Ultimo seats. Note the privacy ears and the square headrest. You can’t find these any more as they were on the 747s that have since been retrofitted and retired.

The seats on my flight today have rounded headrests and no privacy ears. The crew refer to these as Ultimo seats but they are technically modified versions. You can call them “old regional J” if you want, or Ultimo Minus as others do. But they’re similar enough to the mainline Ultimo that I’m just going to stick to that naming convention.

Waves of nostalgia hit me the moment I saw the seat. I remembered flying long haul in the days before Krisworld, where the stewardesses endeavored to keep young kids occupied any which way they could. I remembered receiving coloring books, model airplanes, little sets of reversi and playing cards, those “Young Explorer” giveaways and trips to the cockpit to get my log book signed. I remembered how excited I was when they finally introduced Krisworld, playing hours of Super Mario and Super Bonk to while away the flight. I felt like a kid again.

Let’s deal with layout first. The cabin is configured in a 2-3-2 layout. I was in the centre row of 3, but fortunately had an empty seat next to me.

This is what the seats at the side look like. You’re not going to get a whole lot of privacy in this cabin, that’s for sure. Everyone is in each other’s line of site. Privacy is another fascinating feature that has been gradually grafted onto business class seats. A long time ago, no one would really have any issues with such an open concept cabin. But now you can go an entire flight without having to so much as make eye contact with another passenger because of the high walls and privacy screens you find in business class. I of course much prefer the current arrangement, but isn’t it fascinating to think that people used to be ok with less privacy?

These seat controls take me back. They’re not manual, thank goodness (because I have very weak upper body strength), and the motor makes very reassuring loud hum whenever you adjust the seat position.  You can see that you can adjust lumbar support, legrest angle or length and seat recline. There’s also an easy reset button when it comes time to land.

Fortunately the aircraft is not too old to have AVOD.

Does anyone remember those old Krisworld advertisements they used to play on TV about the Wisemen 3000 AVOD system? I can’t find it on YouTube sadly. It’s the one that demonstrates the pause, fast forward and rewind features of the system by pausing, fast forwarding and rewinding the advertisement. I thought that was clever. But then again I was 10.

There is indeed in seat power- but this seat is so ancient you need a special adapter to use it! I saw one passenger request for an adapter, which the crew have on hand. It’s this laptop brick-like device they bring around that has a regular 3 ping plug output.

Remember the days when your tray table used to be found in your armrest and not some other cleverly designed nook?

The table can’t match what we now have in modern day J products for size (or sturdiness). It was clearly designed with the tray approach to dining in J class, not the modern day course by course layout which really needs a larger footprint. Indeed, when the crew served the meals later on they used trays (as, I should note, is the practice on regional flights)

Remember when all the literature you needed was stored in the seatback pocket infront of you?

It’s interesting to see how airline seats have evolved to incorporate more in-seat storage as the number of devices we carry increase. Back in the late 90s when this seat was first conceptualised most people would probably have a laptop and a cellphone. Now we need storage space for tablets, second cellphones, cables, smartwatches and a whole host of what not. Apart from the seatback storage, the Ultimo seat has only a small stowage space under the armrest. More suited to a water bottle than anything else.

The crew came around to take pre-departure drink requests. They brought juice and water, but after more than a few passengers (myself included) requested for adult beverages, they brought champagne around as well.

I was sitting on the left aisle seat, but needed to put my drinks on the middle armrest space because my drinks area was actually sloping to the right at a precarious angle (you can’t really see it here). I’m guessing the plastic warped a bit after so many cycles and was now popping up.

This aircraft has a large projector screen at the front of the cabin where the safety video is played (because the personal video screens need to be stowed during taxi takeoff and landing)

Once airborne the crew started preparing for brunch service. Despite the very nice festive menu cover, they weren’t actually serving any Christmas dishes (or maybe brunch is a difficult meal to cook Christmas dishes for). Interestingly, they were also not serving any dishes from the special teochew menu either.

Brunch started about 20 minutes after the seat belt sign went off.

I had ordered from the BTC menu the Chinese Style Cod with Fried Rice- Served with seasonal oriental vegetables, Chinese black mushrooms and egg fried rice. Designed by Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel Chef Zhu Jun. Although I’ve had mixed experiences with fish onboard (in particular salmon), I realise that Cod holds up very well in the cabin, maybe because of its higher fat content.

The other great cod dish on the BTC menu is the Steamed Cod Fish Thai Style-  traditional dish of cod steamed with spicy lime sauce, served with shredded white cabbage, carrot julienne, Chinese sliced celery, fried garlic and steamed rice. I’d encourage you to try that one too if you like cod.

As for desert, let’s just say I miss the old days when they just gave out ice cream.

After lunch I flicked on the IFE system. I’ve come to realise that SQ is inconsistent as to what type of noise cancelling headsets they provide in J. Sometimes I get these old ones, and other times I get the Phitek ones (see below)

today’s headphones
IMG_20160123_145749
Phitek headphones. Sometimes available in J, also available in PY

The cover says they’re noise cancelling (and interestingly, also Phitek branded). I actually prefer the old design which goes over the ear rather than the new design which is on ear, but the audiophile in me believes the on ear ones have better sound quality.

The personal video screen is in the armrest. Oh, how savage we used to be.

Because the IFE software is older, the selection of movies is smaller than what you’ll find on SQ’s newest aircraft. It’s still a very decent selection though and featured several recently-in-theater shows like Suicide Squad and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

The main issue with the screen was the contrast was rather poor, and much of the screen got washed out in bright sunlight, the kind of which was streaming  through the cabin windows. Modern IFE screens counter this by having stronger backlighting. I had to bump up the brightness all the way to the maximum and even then I wasn’t able to see everything clearly.

I tried to see how good the seat was for napping. I reclined it all the way and found it maxed out at what was a very comfortable angle. In a way it reminded me of SQ’s premium economy product, not in terms of seat width (PY is definitely a good degree narrower) but in terms of recline angle.

Given the luxury of modern day J products it’s hard to believe that once up on a time this was market leading. I guess there’s a sort of trickle down economics when it comes to cabin products. Business Class 15 years ago is now Premium Economy today, First Class 15 years ago is now Business Class today. Is it too much of a stretch to say that one day, a long time from now, we might see Angled Flat products in Premium Economy? It’s certainly food for thought.

The loo had the usual Miller Harris toiletries. The amenities bin interestingly enough didn’t have any toothbrushes or combs, but I imagine you could request these from the crew.

We landed about 30 mins late at BKK due to heavy air traffic. The crew passed out priority immigration cards prior to arrival. I’m saving up mine because my APEC card allows me to skip the queues anyway.

There’s something to be said about nostalgia. I was more than happy to take this flight because it’s a short one and I really wanted to review this old product, but I imagine if an equipment swap led me to have this aircraft on a red-eye medium haul flight (think Seoul or Bombay) I’d be pretty upset. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before these aging 772s get replaced by the A350s.

Did seeing this bring back memories for anyone else?

Malaysia Airlines business class fare sale is back with more great deals

No sooner did I write about how hard it was to get cheap premium cabin fares ex-SIN than Malaysia Airlines pops up with some very intriguing offers for year end.

The longest route MH now flies is to LHR as it seeks to transform itself into a regional carrier

Unfortunately MAS’s route network has been scaled back ever since they ran intro financial difficulties, but they offer a good variety of medium and long haul routes to Sydney, Melbourne and London. Business class on the first two will be on their A330s, and London is operated by the A380. All will have full flat seats.

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MH Business Class on the A380
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MH Business Class on the A330

Here’s the list of Business Class return fare deals from Singapore. One way deals are also available but they’re generally not as great a deal. See the full list (including economy deals) here.

From To Offer Ends Travel Period Price From
Singapore Melbourne 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1441
Singapore Kuala Lumpur 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 357
Singapore Langkawi 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 357
Singapore Alor Setar 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 397
Singapore Kota Bharu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 397
Singapore Kuala Terengganu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 397
Singapore Penang 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 397
Singapore Kuching 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 427
Singapore Ho Chi Minh City 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 464
Singapore Hanoi 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 471
Singapore Medan Kuala Namu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 508
Singapore Bangkok 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 515
Singapore Phuket 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 515
Singapore Jakarta 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 550
Singapore Denpasar-Bali 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 556
Singapore Miri 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 557
Singapore Phnom Penh 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 569
Singapore Siem Reap 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 569
Singapore Yangon/Rangoon 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 571
Singapore Bintulu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Kota Kinabalu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Kuantan 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Labuan 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Sandakan 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Sibu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Tawau 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 577
Singapore Colombo 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 674
Singapore Manila 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 700
Singapore Chennai 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 705
Singapore Bandar Seri Begawan 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 796
Singapore Taipei 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 806
Singapore Bengaluru 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 816
Singapore Mumbai 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 822
Singapore Hyderabad 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 829
Singapore Delhi 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 840
Singapore Dhaka 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 916
Singapore Kathmandu 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 927
Singapore Perth 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 985
Singapore Seoul 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1069
Singapore Tokyo Narita 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1120
Singapore Osaka 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1126
Singapore Adelaide 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1442
Singapore Sydney 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1454
Singapore Darwin 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 1455
Singapore Auckland 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 2205
Singapore London-Heathrow 25/11/2016 14/11/2016
30/06/2017
SGD 3161

Observations

  • In general these fares are slightly more expensive than the last fare sale. Melbourne and Sydney are about S$100 more than last time, London is S$200 more expensive, Toyko and Taipei about S$50 more expensive. I wouldn’t let that put me off buying though
  • Singapore to London in business class (S$3.1K) is even cheaper than SQ in premium economy (S$3.6K). My word. And SQ wonders why it needs to resort to a bidding system to fill up its PY cabin
  • You can get to Sydney and Melbourne for less than 1.5k round trip. That’s again fantastic value, considering SQ charges 3 times that
  • As usual, fares are even better departing from Phuket (check out fare deals from Phuket here). I personally think it doesn’t make sense to fly up to Phuket before flying down to Australia, but if you want to go to London it’s sort of along the way. Phuket to London is S$2,050 in business class round trip. That is amazing value (although, again, the last time round it was a jaw dropping S$1,620. Unreal). Throw in a cheap budget flight to Phuket and you could potentially fly to London in business for less than full fare economy on SQ.

Of course not all business class is made equal. I’d be less likely to spring for business class if it’s on a narrow body 737 (which MH operates to places like Bali)

MH 737 Business Class

The following routes do have the new A330 and full flat business, so check below and see which ones work for you.

Route
Kuala Lumpur – Sydney
Kuala Lumpur – Sydney
Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne
Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne
Kuala Lumpur – Auckland
Kuala Lumpur – Tokyo
Kuala Lumpur – Auckland
Kuala Lumpur – Tokyo
Kuala Lumpur – Tokyo
Kuala Lumpur – Osaka
Kuala Lumpur – Shanghai
Kuala Lumpur – Beijing
Kuala Lumpur – Adelaide
Kuala Lumpur – Perth
Kuala Lumpur – Delhi
Kuala Lumpur – Seoul
Kuala Lumpur – Jeddah

When you consider the fact that SQ operates A330s and 772s with angled flat business class to places like Perth, Beijing, Adelaide and Seoul yet charges more than three times the price of MH…

Image result for singapore airlines a330 business class
this man is slowly sliding off his seat

The sale is on from now till 25 November and all travel must be completed by 30 June 2017.

How Singapore-based flyers can get cheap(er) premium cabin tickets

Singapore is number one in a lot of things. Unfortunately, that also includes cost of living. The good folks at the EIU have been telling us as much for a long while now.

Even more unfortunately, it seems that airfares are not immune from the high cost environment we have here either- the relative wealth in Singapore means that airlines consider it to be a “premium” market. Therefore, you don’t see very good fare deals in premium cabins originating from Singapore.

As much as we talk about redeeming  miles and never having to pay for premium cabin travel, there are some times where you simply can’t get your awards to clear and may want to consider looking at revenue fares. What then?

Starting your journey from outside Singapore

If flying from Singapore in premium cabins is too expensive, why not position ourselves elsewhere to start our trip? There are certain cities that are well-known for cheap premium cabin fares.

Qatar Airways, for example, is known to offer great fare deals for flights originating from Cairo and Colombo.

Image result for qatar business class
Qatar business class. YMMV may vary though- as their 777 aircraft have 2-2-2 full flat configurations. This is the configuration you’ll find on the A350s and 787s.

Some examples of recent great fare deals from Cairo include (all fares round trip)

  • US$1,150 Cairo to New York in Qatar Business Class
  • US$1,070 Cairo to Los Angeles in Qatar Business Class
  • US$1,150 Cairo to Bangkok in Qatar Business Class
  • US$2,660 Cairo to Sydney in Qatar Business Class

And from Colombo (all fares round trip)

  • US$4,700  Colombo to Los Angeles in Etihad and BA First Class (+ 1 leg in Sri Lankan Business)
  • US$1,105 Colombo to Boston in Qatar Business Class
  • US$600 Colombo to Casablanca in Qatar Business Class

Source: One Mile at a Time

I realise that for most Singaporeans it’s difficult to position yourself to Cairo (especially since SQ has terminated its Cairo route for quite a while now). Colombo is somewhat more do-able (~4 hours flight) especially if you’re going onwards to Europe or the East Coast of the US, but are there any closer starting points if you’re in Singapore (and headed in the opposite direction, say Australia?)

Flying from Bangkok and KL

If you’re not able to position yourself to Colombo or Cairo to take advantage of premium cabin deals deals (I don’t know about you but I’d sure as heck buy a cheap ticket to Colombo to get to Boston in business class for $1.1K…), then consider 2 of our neighbour cities, Bangkok and KL.

Bangkok and KL are easily accessible by budget airlines. I am not saying that you will definitely find better deals ex-BK/ex-KUL than ex-SIN. What I am saying is that if you’re paying out of pocket for premium cabins and have the time,  you could potentially save a lot of money by buying a cheap budget flight to Bangkok or KL and starting from there.

Let’s look at some examples for round trip business class travel to key destinations in the USA, Europe and Australia.

Non Stop 1 Stop 2 Stops
SIN-FRA S$6,641 S$2,779 S$4,380
BKK-FRA S$5,188 S$2,898 S$3,304
KUL-FRA N/A S$3,406 S$3,488
SIN-LHR S$5,839 S$3,103 S$3,736
BKK-LHR S$4,690 S$3,240 S$3,815
KUL-LHR S$3,871 S$3,030 S$4,086
SIN-JFK N/A S$4,500 S$5,142
BKK-JFK N/A S$3,541 S$3,545
KUL-JFK N/A S$5,663 S$5,079
SIN-SFO S$8,668 S$4,035 S$4,220
BKK-SFO N/A S$2,930 S$2,616
KUL-SFO N/A S$4,910 S$4,296
SIN-SYD S$4,097 S$2,351 S$2,724
BKK-SYD S$3,580 S$2,193 S$2,044
KUL-SYD S$2,779 S$2,157 S$1,950
SIN-MEL S$4,084 S$2,581 S$2,710
BKK-MEL S$3,079 S$2,903 S$2,881
KUL-MEL S$3,287 S$2,146 S$2,815

A few caveats about the above analysis-

(1) I simply plugged in two random dates and looked at the prices for flights originating from Singapore, Bangkok and KL respectively. There may be other dates on which the fare differential is higher/lower.

(2) It is obviously not possible to do an apples to apples comparison as we are not comparing the same flights and the premium cabin product among airlines can differ dramatically. That said, I did remove budget carriers like Jetstar and Scoot from this analysis because although they do have a business class product, it’s certainly not in the same league as a full service carrier.

(3) The fares mentioned above are regular fares. I imagine the price differences will become bigger when there are sales ongoing.  (For example, we saw some great deals in the recent Malaysia Airlines sale)

(4) Do remember that when you’re flying out of KUL/BKK the 1 stop in flight effectively becomes 2 stops, since you need to fly SIN-KUL/BKK-Stopover-Destination.

Observation 1: Cheap premium cabin fares from Singapore are possible if you don’t mind long layovers

My first observation is that it is still possible to get some good fares out of Singapore (i.e. no positioning needed) provided you are willing to do a long-ish layover. This means you will fly on one ticket the whole way and no separate budget ticket needs to be bought.

For example, It is possible to fly SIN-HAN-FRA on Vietnam Airlines business class for S$2.8K, if you’re willing to do a 5 hour layover in Hanoi. Vietnam Airlines may not be a world class airline, but you’ll get to fly on their newest cabin product on the 787 from HAN-FRA, which is a reverse herringbone product that could give SQ business a run for its money. At S$2.8K this is much cheaper than the S$6.6K SQ wants for a direct flight. Heck, it’s cheaper than flying SQ premium economy (S$3.5K- and they wonder why they can’t fill the cabin…)

Image result for vietnam airlines business class 787

Similarly, if you’re willing to fly China Eastern and take a 10 hour (!) layover in Shanghai (get out and enjoy the city) then you can fly from SIN-PVG-SFO for S$4K, less than half the price of flying direct. For PVG-SFO you’ll be flying on China Eastern’s 777-300 aircraft. I don’t know about you, but this cabin seating arrangement looks pretty decent to me…

Image result for china eastern 777-300 business class
photo credit: OMAAT

And if you want to go from Singapore to Melbourne and are ok with a 3.5 hour layover in KUL, you can buy a S$2.6K ticket with Malaysia Airlines that will first send you to KL on an unmemorable MAS flight, then onwards to Melbourne on Malaysia Airlines’ new business class on their A330. This is another excellent looking full flat product where the majority of seats (but not all) boast full aisle access. Have a read of a trip report here.

Observation 2: Positioning yourself to BKK/KL can also yield some attractive deals

If you’re not keen on a long layover, it is possible to position yourself to BKK/KL via a budget flight and do a non-stop flight onwards to your final destination. But be warned- budget airlines are unlikely to offer through check-in and this means you may, in a worst case scenario, need to budget time to clear immigration and collect your bags before checking in for your onward flight. All that takes time.

For example, Singapore to Frankfurt direct on SQ will set you back S$6.6K, but flying from Bangkok will cost S$5.2K. TG operates the A380 from BKK-FRA, where you can enjoy the 1-2-1 full flat Thai Business Class.  I think Thai’s business class product is inferior to SQ’s, but it’s still a  full flat and all aisle arrangement (plus, you’ll get to use the Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok). I think that’s worth saving S$1.4K, provided you can arrange a quick transit in Bangkok.

Image result for thai a380 business class

Similarly, KL to LHR costs S$3,871 direct on Malaysia Airlines (versus S$5,839 on SQ). This is the only route where MAS operates its A380s, and although the business class product here has very little privacy, it’s still a full flat bed.

Image result for malaysia airlines a380 business class

Observation 3: Positioning + 1 stop can yield  some very good deals

You can get to Melbourne in business class for S$2,146 or S$2,245 with Royal Brunei and Thai Airways respectively if you fly out of KL.

Royal Brunei operates its 787 on the route to Melbourne and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the business class cabin looks pretty good too. You will have a 5.5 hour layover in Bandar Seri Begawan. I’ve never been there but I think it’s safe to say it isn’t exactly the entertainment capital of the world. Also, Royal Brunei is a dry airline, so be warned. You won’t be popping bottles in the aisles. Here’s a trip report if you’re curious.

Image result for royal brunei 787 business class

Image result for royal brunei 787 business class

The Thai option seems better in the sense that the layover is only 2 hours. So you’ll find your own way to KL, then go KUL-BKK-MEL for a total flight time of 11 hours (+ 2 hour layover). Sure you’ll need to budget in some time for transit but it’s not that much worse than flying from SIN direct. And S$2.2K for round trip business class is a good deal in my book. Thai operates a 777-300 on this route with a similar product to that on the A380.

Sydney can also be reached from KL and BKK for roughly the same price with 1 stop as well.

Conclusion

I think there’s something to be said here about the comfort vs time trade off. Your leave is precious, and I can understand why people would rather take a 10 hour direct flight in economy than spend 20 hours with connections and layovers. If you’re the sort of person for whom the destination is the point, by all means book economy and enjoy more time on the ground.

I guess I’m weird that way in that the getting there is the highlight of my trip. And if you take it from the point of view that you’re getting an additional stopover in another city while travelling in a better cabin class and paying less, then the equation certainly changes. For example, even if I were ultimately heading to San Francisco, I could certainly make a case for a 10 hour stopover in Shanghai just to take in some sights and food en route (I think the difficulty comes in when the layover is neither here nor there. 5 hours in Hanoi, for example, is a bit too short to do anything meaningful in the city but too long to just wait in the airport)

Are there any other closeby cities to Singapore with good options for premium cabin revenue fares?