Tag Archives: singapore

NUSS member? Get complimentary lounge access next time you fly

NUSS is a club in Singapore that is open to any graduate from NUS or “recognised” local and overseas universities (they never actually specify a list. Trump University, anyone?)

Image result for nuss clubhouse

Think of NUSS as “country club lite”, offering many of the benefits of a club without the high costs of membership. You have sports facilities, dining facilities, hosting facilities, regular activities, reciprocal golf arrangements with larger country clubs etc.

You can now add an additional benefit to that list- lounge access. NUSS recently announced a partnership with dnata to offer NUSS members complimentary lounge access in Changi Airport Terminal 1 and 3.

Displaying

Each NUSS member can redeem a maximum of 2 complimentary passes from 1 Dec 2016 to 1 Dec 2017. There is a maximum of 250 passes that can be redeemed by members each quarter, i.e. Dec 2016- Mar 2017, April 2017- Jun 2017 etc etc.

The booking interface should be familiar to anyone who has used the NUSS portal to book any facilities. Not the prettiest but it gets things done.

If you’ve exhausted your 2 complimentary passes you can buy a maximum of 5 additional passes per quarter at the following discounted rate-

  • DBS NUSS Cardholders- $10 each
  • Regular NUSS members- $25 each

Regular priced passes start at $50 for adults and $30 for children up to the age of 12. Children below the age of 6 do not require a pass. Have a full read of the FAQ here.

In Terminal 1, dnata operates the Skyview lounge that is used by Cathay Pacific, Delta, Finnair, Priority Pass, Airport Angel and pretty much any other airline/lounge program. I remember visiting this lounge a long time ago and was generally impressed, it was quite good for a contract lounge. You can read a proper review on the lounge here.

EDIT: Since November 2015 dnata is operating a new lounge in T1 that looks a lot nicer. Check out the review here. Thanks Alvin.

Image result for skyview lounge terminal 1 singapore

I’ve not yet visited the Terminal 3 facility, but here’s the account of someone who has.  Again, if you go in expecting First Class Terminal or Private Room levels of luxury you’re going to be disappointed, but if you see it as a quiet place to catch up on some work before your flight, or to unwind with a free drink and watch Netflix I think you’ll be just fine.

My stance has always been that Changi Airport is good enough that you don’t really need lounge access (and so efficient that you don’t need to show up that early). However, if you’re already a member, no reason not to take advantage of this.

NUSS membership usually costs S$10,700 but if you’re within 36 months of the date of your graduation (first degree/postgraduate degree provided you’re taking it within 12 months of your first degree) you pay S$2,140.

If you’re thinking of joining, consider using my referral- we’ll each get $250 worth of vouchers (F&B at NUSS for me, Robinsons/CapitaLand for you). You’ll need to provide my referral code WA738R when you sign up.

The Racquet Club Experience at the WTA Finals Singapore

Regular readers will know I’m a big tennis fan (and player- if anyone out there is ~NTRP 4.0 and wants to play do reach out). And I just wrote a report about the US Open, including a visit to the SPG Luxury Suite.

The WTA Finals are in Singapore this week, and although I think it’s fair to say that women’s tennis doesn’t attract nearly the same amount of interest as the men’s tour, it’s still a chance to see the best 8 in women’s tennis in one place.

Image result for wta finals 2016

Through a series of unexpected events (the details of which I will not bore you with) I received an invitation to the BNP Paribas hospitality suite for the Thursday evening session. I was keen to see how this corporate hospitality experience would stack up to the one at the US Open, and would like to share some highlights and photos with you all.

We were bussed into the grounds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from our meeting point for the evening session which started at 7.30pm. We reached at 6.15pm, which gave lots of time for wining and dining.

20161027_181553

All corporate hospitality suites at the WTA Finals are part of The Racquet Club (The Racquet Club is the official hospitality program of the WTA Finals).  The Racquet Club is an annex built alongside the Indoor Stadium (but isn’t physically part of the stadium, a minor inconvenience I’ll touch on later)

20161027_181701

20161027_181644

The buses dropped us off here and we headed inside for registration.

20161027_181707

The registration counter was chaotic but everyone was processed quickly enough.

20161027_181938

20161027_182321_3

I received 2 passes- one of which would get me into the BNP hospitality suite, the other into the Aces Lounge. The Aces Lounge is (and here’s where it gets a bit confusing) within the Indoor Stadium but it’s a much parred down selection of F&B. The hospitality suites are where you really want to be.

bnp-pass

The first floor of the Racquet Club contains the reception area as well as a handful of suites for companies like Rolex.

20161027_182056_3

20161027_214519

20161027_182153

There is also a spanking new Porsche Panamera parked in the middle of the room as a sort of conversation piece (Porsche being one of the headline sponsors of the WTA Finals)

20161027_182128

There is a big sign on it saying “not for sale”. Which is disappointing. Because I was totally going to take out my PRVI Miles card and earn 1.4 miles per $1 on it.

20161027_182135

Up the stairs and you’ll find more suites, as this very poorly taken photo shows. I really need to hire a professional photographer for this site.

20161027_214441

20161027_204950

The BNP Paribas suite is a sizable suite, as you would expect from the title sponsor of the WTA Finals. I reckon it could take up to a 100 people with some standing.

20161027_204939

20161027_204952

The Suite is a place to hobnob before the game (or during, if you don’t really care for tennis and just want to network, as it appeared many did) and it’s well set up for that. There are a few sit down private tables, but the majority of them were communal high chairs that make it uncomfortable to sit for too long. There was also a fully stocked bar where the champagne (Moet, sadly. Come on guys, even prosecco would be preferable to Moet) flowed freely.

20161027_183551

The menu today was created by Emmanuel Stroobant of the ES Group. The ES Group is behind some really nice restaurants in Singapore including Picotin, Brussel Sprouts, Saint Pierre and Rocks Urban Bar and Grill. I knew the food was going to be excellent when I heard the chef barking in French at his crew.

The actual spread was different from the printed menu. The romantic in me would like to believe that the truck delivering fresh produce from the farm had been waylaid because the young man driving it had suddenly found the words he for so long had lacked in describing his affection for the quietly aloof sous chef who was at home with her bedridden grandfather and the bewildered head chef had no choice but to modify the menu on the fly all while fighting with his dastardly landlord who wanted to repossess the premises and lease them out to a fast food chain. Although in reality someone probably messed up the printout.

20161027_184456

There was a very generous appetizer spread of mini bagels with smoked salmon, tomato confit,  tomato gazpacho and assorted charcuterie.

20161027_184503

There was also a station with steak tartare. I don’t think it’s possible to actually make steak tartare look good in a photo, but here’s my best attempt. I’ve often wondered how steak tartare doesn’t give more people food poisoning but apparently so long as you take the beef that’s below the skin you’ll be ok.

20161027_184653

The main courses were on a separate station.

20161027_184619

There were some roasted root vegetables. No description here because it wasn’t on the printed menu.

20161027_184412

Goose-fat duck leg confit, ratte potato, balsamic and honey jus.

20161027_184423

This dish was heavenly. The goose fat that lined the duck leg melted in your mouth and made you come to the realization that people who went on diets simply had no joy in their life. I attribute my wheezing during the tennis game the morning after solely to this one dish.

Roasted white Miso cod, grilled Kinome rice, poached jade eggplant

20161027_184433

Cod tends to be a more forgiving fish because of its high fat content, but credit where it’s due, the caterers got this spot on. The skin was flakey and the meat did not have a hint of overcooking. When I returned to the suite about 3 hours later however the cod had become mushy, probably as a result of being left on the heat for too long.

There was a ravioli dish that had some meat that I couldn’t quite place.

20161027_184437

And mushrooms with other greens.

20161027_184428

There was also a carving station with beef wellington.

I assembled myself an unphotogenic plate or two or three. I rationalized that we were at a tennis event and surely the cuisine served would be in line with the healthy ethos of the overall setting.

20161027_183252

The desert tray featured a fruit salad, apple pie and various fruit tarts. It was a bit muted compared to the main courses, or maybe I expected a bit more given the French reputation for killer deserts.

20161027_184443

That said, one standout item was the Louis XV Guatemala chocolate cake, which came topped with milk chocolate popped rice. It’s the two cakes in the top left hand of this photo.

whatsapp-image-2016-10-29-at-6-41-05-pm

There was a bar area to round things out serving red and white wines and champagne.

20161027_185130

20161027_184524

The waitstaff were very generous with the bubbly and proactively went around giving people top ups. Why couldn’t we have this at the US Open, I thought.

20161027_184658

The crowd that evening was a mixture of industry movers and shakers, as well as what I presume must have been HNWIs, based on the number of pretty private bankers swarming around the tables.

I contemplated picking up my phone and shouting “If you clowns at UBS don’t wake up your ideas and do this simple $50M trade I’m going to take all my business to BNP” to see whether I could get some of them to accost me but decided against it in favor of remaking loudly to no one in particular how damned expensive private school fees were in Zurich. It didn’t work. But that could also be because I had a very messy table. That was probably it.

20161027_185941

Midway through dinner, an emcee came on stage to introduce the first of two tennis personalities who would visit the suite that evening.

20161027_183401

I forget the name of the first guest. But I gather she was a former woman’s champion.

20161027_183438

20161027_183452

The second was Caroline Garcia. I felt really bad for her, because no one really cares about doubles. I mean, I certainly don’t. I often wonder how the players feel about such publicity events. They have to disrupt their match prep to visit each and every suite for a 5 min cameo where they have to smile and answer inane questions like “do you think you have what it takes to win this year?” and try not to say “actually no I don’t, I just came to Singapore for the chili crab and pleasant climate”. I mean, I don’t think I could resist that sort of temptation to snark.

20161027_191235

20161027_191238

But to Caroline’s credit she took the questions with grace and aplomb. And signed commemorative tennis balls after the Q&A.

20161027_191958

I asked her if she could make mine out to “The Milelion” but after several seconds of stunned silence I thought it better to use my birth name.

Adequately fed and watered, it was time to go for the tennis. If there’s one problem with the layout at the Indoor Stadium it’s that the hospitality suites are physically disconnected from the action in the stadium. To get to the stadium you need to walk about 100m under a sheltered walkway into the stadium grounds. It wasn’t like the experience at the SPG Luxury Suite where you could go out onto the balcony to watch (but of course, the F&B here was way superior to that at the SPG Suite)

20161027_194907

The Indoor Stadium is a cozy an intimate venue and if you’re not in the upper balcony there really aren’t any bad seats in the house per se. I had tickets just behind the baseline which was awesome, but the view 10 rows back was perhaps half the price and just as good.

20161027_195055

20161027_194417

20161027_202058

Here’s the view from the top of the second tier.

20161027_194410

I think it’s great that Singapore finally has a world class tennis event here. (I do not consider the ridiculous International Premier Tennis League to be a real tournament. I mean, just read these ridiculous rules and tell me if this sounds like tennis to you-

Each team can call a power point once in each set when receiving serve, and the next point played will count double. Effectively, a player trailing 15–0 can directly get to 15–30 by winning the power point. Games are played to four points using no-ad scoring. Each game won by a player or doubles team adds one point to the team’s score in the match. The team with the most points at the end of the five sets wins the match. Each set is won when a team is the first to reach six games won. If the score is five-games-all, a timed five-minute shoot-out will be played. The player or doubles team leading at the end of five minutes wins the set.

Omg power points!!one11!!)

The WTA contract is currently under renegotiation to see if Singapore can become the permanent venue after the current iteration expires in 2018. I certainly hope it continues to stay here because it can only be a good thing for the tennis community. And who knows, maybe before long we’ll get a men’s tour event too!

The Milelion reviews USS Halloween Horror Nights 6

Back when I was serving NS there was one evening when my buddy and I drew the short straws for the 3 a.m. guard duty shift. I’m normally a cheerful, avuncular individual but deprive me of my sleep and I get sullen and moody. So I didn’t say a single word as we geared up and prepared to defend our camp from the imminent danger of an errant possum scaling the fence and stealing our military secrets.

After trekking in silence for about 20 minutes my buddy asked me whether I believed in ghosts.

I conceded that I did not.

He affirmed that not only did such apparitions exist, they lurked in the deepest darkest night, waiting to emerge and torture the unsuspecting living.

I gently suggested to him that he might perhaps have watched one too many movies. He insisted that he had seen them before, and we were now in grave danger at this very point in time.

I was perplexed as to why he would be scared. After all, each of us had an assault rifle with five rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition. I wasn’t what you might call a crack shot, but I did fancy our chances of, between my buddy and I, winging a wraith with at least one shot. The odds were exceedingly in our favor.

Eventually we finished our shift without any incident. We had not been assaulted by any spirit, demon and/or woman who lost her baby under tragic and suspicious circumstances. My buddy was thoroughly concerned about my hubris towards the supernatural, and assured me that “one day I’d see”.

I mean, I’m hardly a brave person. I am terrified of antibiotic resistance, the likelihood that cured meats are carcinogenic, the struggling fortunes of Blackberry and Rafael Nadal, and the liberal agenda. Oh, and spiders too.

I guess you could say my fears are somewhat more existential.


Image result for halloween horror nights 2016 singapore

Given this background, I am probably not the ideal candidate to write a review of USS’s Halloween Horror Nights. After all, I don’t care much for Halloween. It’s full of high-energy young people, I’m too old to get candy and the entire occasion veers to much into the occult for my comfort.

In fact, I’m not sure why you’d even need to read my review. Many other more attractive bloggers have written detailed reports on each of the houses with nicer photos and less snarky commentary.

But our office informed us that in lieu of a bonus, we would each be given a ticket (and an express pass- it had been a good financial year) for the event and we were expected to go and partake in some mandatory fun.

Which is how I ended up at the gates of USS on a balmy and humid Saturday night. To be honest, I was already experiencing a great deal of fear because the young lady I was earnestly courting ended up not being able to attend that evening, and I was having progressively mounting visions of dying alone.

USS had a high bar to reach that evening.


Ask any theme park designer what Disney does better than anyone else in the business and he or she will tell you one word- immersion.

Immersion is when the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. When you can believe, if only for a few fleeting moments, that you are in fact not you, but a character in the world of the story. It’s why Disney situates Disneyland away from any built up areas and constructs high walls, fake mountains and backdrops so little Sally can feel like a princess admiring the ramparts of Sleeping Beauty’s castle without catching a glimpse of a yellow schoolbus in the parking lot reminding her that come Monday, it’s back to school.

But true immersion is not always possible. See, USS has the unenviable task of trying to scare people while dealing with all the logistics, health and safety complications a mass event like this generates. Therefore, it’s inevitable that immersion will be broken. It’s not “talking through the fourth wall” levels of breaking immersion, but it’s certainly a hefty wink at the audience that prevents people (at least me) from being truly scared.  This isn’t so much a failing on the part of USS per se, but rather a by-product of the environment in which they have to operate.

First, all performers have a set of ground rules that they need to abide by-

(1) Do not touch the guests
(2) Seriously, do not touch the guests
(3) When in doubt see (1) and (2)

This is a perfectly rational restriction. USS wants to avoid situations from escalating, and the last thing they want is a scenario where a chivalrous but ill-advised gentleman decks a zombie for physically accosting his date. In fact, there is a well-lit sign outside each haunted house that says something to the tune of  “anyone who physically assaults the performers will be ejected”.

The result is you wander through a haunted house with perhaps the most well-behaved ghosts ever. As scary as they may appear, they’re probably more scared of you than you are of them.

Second, USS is deathly afraid of corporate liability. So each haunted house needs safety personnel inside with flashlights to shepherd the guests through safely. Nothing breaks immersion like seeing a polo T clad USS employee standing in the midst of an orgy of body parts waving guests along with a flashlight and warning them to mind their heads on the low clearance ceiling.

Third, the economics of the evening dictate that USS try and get as many people through the haunted houses as possible, subject to some fire safety restriction on maximum occupancy. The result is that you’re never really alone. I can imagine I’d be significantly more scared if I were wandering through the exhibit alone, but it’s really hard to be frightened when you’re surrounded by other guests Instagramming the entire experience.

Fourth, all the haunted houses rely on the same basic tropes

(1) Sudden loud noises/gushes of air
(2) “Jump scares” where performers jump out from behind some obstacle
(3) Gross out body parts, blood and guts

And once you’ve figured out this pattern there really isn’t anything novel they can do to frighten you, apart from more of (1), (2) and (3). I mean, they could have a ghost at the exit telling everyone that the CPF minimum sum is expected to grow to $445,200 by 2040 at a 4% moderate inflation scenario, but I somehow think that wouldn’t quite elicit the desired response.

So even though I shriek like a little girl when I see a cockroach, I just can’t bring myself to be scared in a haunted house. Call me irrationally rational.


USS has divided its haunted houses into five different zones. Since the whole of USS is basically a giant circle, you’d have to be some sort of colossal dunce to miss any of them. So naturally, I somehow conspired to miss both Hu Li’s Inn and the Salem Witch House. I comforted myself with the fact that 3 out of 5 wasn’t bad, and that the scale of the Salem witch trials as an actual history event was horribly overblown with only 20 women ever executed for witchcraft. I was, however, upset to miss Hu Li’s inn because that one is supposed to have chiobu.

My colleagues and I made our way to the first haunted house.

Bodies of Work

Artist Damien Shipman takes fans on a heinous trip down memory lane as he unveils his controversial exhibition titled Bodies of Work. Displayed in a macabre fashion, his twisted memories are played out in this horrific homage to his family who perished tragically in a fire.

The basic premise of this house is that mild mannered everyman Damien Shipman has one bad day at the office where his family dies in a fire. So naturally, instead of investing in better fire-suppression equipment, he creates an art gallery of dismembered body parts. “It sort of reminds me of Alan Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke” and the premise how one bad day is enough to turn any man insane” I said aloud. Then got sad because no one got my pop culture reference.

At the entrance, as a sort of precursor, we were presented with a family style portrait of the happy Shipman family. Pre-fire, I assumed.

“Why are they all white people?” I wondered aloud to my colleague. “Couldn’t we have localized it a bit?”

“Yeah, but it’s sadder when white people die,” he quipped. I guess I couldn’t argue with that.

The house itself is basically Shipman’s art gallery of horrors. There are random body parts scattered around, disfigured gallery staff and victims who have had body parts chopped off and resewn on in really inconvenient locations. “This draws very heavily from the Sander Cohen level in the original Bioshock,” I said aloud. Then felt sad again because no one understood what I was saying.

Audience members are then treated to a series of exhibitions, one for each member of Mr Shipman’s departed family. His wife has an installment dedicated to their wedding. Think Corpse Bride and you’ll get the gist of it. His daughter’s room has  an installment dedicated to her life as a ballerina. Think Black Swan but without Mila Kunis. And his son’s room has the usual assortment of tired horror cliches, from psychotic clowns to creepy dolls to something I think was a Frankenstein-esque monster.

Immersion was somewhat ruined by the fact the video montage of Mr Shipman’s happy family had a very visible Windows Media Player box around the edge. And that one of the monsters was wearing a t-shirt with a very large Transformers logo on it. Product placement of key Universal Studios I.P must have been high on the list of KPIs for this gallery

I left the house convinced more than ever that modern art was a big sham.

Old Changi Hospital

Old Changi Hospital HHN6
photo credit: rwssentosablog

The infamous Old Changi Hospital puts Singapore on the map as one of the most haunted places in the world. Visitors who dare enter will chance upon vengeful ghosts from Singapore’s bloodiest history – from patients who do not know they are dead to the Pontianak, a female Malay vampire who wanders the hallways

The premise for Old Changi Hospital plays upon a common trope in Singapore folklore that the place is haunted. Inside, you’ll find psychotic surgeons, disfigured patients and ghosts of unborn babies. Basically, it’s what happens if you let socialized medicine and Obamacare run to their logical conclusions.

Old Changi Hospital was part of a Japanese prison camp during WW2 and allegedly housed a torture chamber for the Kempeitai. There are clear call outs to this. In one room, a character dressed in an army uniform (but strangely with an armband in Chinese rather than Japanese) inflicts punishment on his victims.

I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this house drawing upon the horrors of war as source material for amusement. I mean, I guess you could argue that this is an alternative form of National Education where we all come out the wiser for knowing how safe and blessed we are today in Singapore, but you’d have to do some sort of mental gymnastics to see it that way.

In any case, Old Changi Hospital was doing a great job of triggering many of my repressed fears. My fear of injections, beautiful nurses and colonoscopies had all come together in one place. Just then, a group of foreign tourists rudely brushed past us, triggering my fear of immigration.

This was probably also my favourite haunted house because it featured one room with particularly strong air conditioning. I don’t know if it was meant to be the morgue and they air conditioned it to make it more convincing (and if so, that’s great attention to detail. Morgues are meant to be maintained between 2 °C and 4 °C )

My one biggest thought as I was going through the haunted houses was “man, I feel bad for the performers”. I was only in there for 5 minutes and I was sweating like a pig. These guys were wearing layers of costumes and make up and had to gut it out for, I don’t know, the entire evening (do zombies have understudies?). The houses in general have very poor ventilation, and when a nurse with blood running down her scalp ambushed us at the turn of a corner, I almost felt like asking her to drink more water and not exert herself too much.

Thus ended Old Changi Hospital. “Still better than Delhi public hospitals”, my Indian colleague remarked at the exit.

Hawker Centre Massacre

Hawker Centre Massacre Halloween Horror Nights 6
photo credit: rwssentosablog

Mayhem breaks loose at the Hawker Centre Massacre where a meal turns into a banquet of horror as victims of radioactive food poisoning transform into savage, flesh-eating creatures.

When I first heard of the title I was mightily intrigued by the overall concept. Could this house be a cautionary tale of our dying Hawker trade? Would I see dioramas of famous marquee hawker stalls closing down when the next generation refuses to take up the spatula? Perhaps the final scene would be a dystopian vision of air conditioned food centres serving bland, anonymous versions of the classics we all knew and loved. That sounded scary.

Unfortunately, reading the description put that possibility to bed. Still, the premise confused me. If you fed people radioactive food would it be more of a Alexander Litvinenko type situation rather than a zombie apocalypse?

But I wasn’t scared. No hawker centre could scare me. I had survived Kofu at SMU for 4 years.

I walked in and screamed.

In front of me was a Halal tray return station. But I didn’t see a corresponding non-Halal tray return. Which meant that this was a halal hawker centre. Which meant it wouldn’t be serving my favourite lard-infused char kway teow. What other horrors awaited in here?

I was so upset at this I shuffled mindlessly past the first room of zombies feasting on hawker centre partons. That’ll teach them to leave tissue packets on chairs to chope seats, I thought.

Some aspects of the house were particularly well done. There was a counter where you had to pay 10 cents to access the toilet. This was a common nightmare scenario of mine. What if I didn’t have my wallet with me? And what if there was no one manning the booth but I didn’t have exact change? And what if they were out of toilet paper? Some fetid water then dripped on me from the ceiling, jolting me out of my thoughts.

There was also a walk through market with hardware and household stores. It was scary that none of them took credit cards, because think of how many missed mile earning opportunities take place there all the time.

Oh, and just before you exit the hawker centre there’s a (possessed?) truck that lurches at you before stopping a few feet away. Most people were shocked by this but my time in Mumbai trained me to deftly dodge out of the way and shout “chutiya” at the driver.

I was bummed out that I missed Hu Li’s inn, because I totally dig the whole 1930’s era Shanghai vibe. That said, I thought the house perpetuated unfair stereotypes of mainland Chinese women. I mean, not all of them are out to rip out your intestines and cut out your tongue. Some of them just want your CPF money. In any case, it was probably going to be the only time an attractive woman paid attention to me so it has to go down as a wasted opportunity.

The scariest event of the evening? That would have to go to the crashed car exhibit around the Suicide Forest area with a dead zombie inside. I felt shivers down my spine seeing it, knowing I would never be able to afford a car in Singapore, what with the COE prices and everything.

On that note, it was close to midnight and past my bedtime and I was afraid of the long term medical consequences of not getting enough sleep so I headed home.


Back when I was in Hwa Chong there was an event called Fright Night. At least I think it was named Fright Night. It might have since been renamed to Hwalloween. Which is an altogether better name.

This event is towards the end of October where J2s are going all out for A Level preparation. They segment the school pretty well to avoid disturbing exam prep but I had had a particularly grueling day and in my distracted state managed somehow to wander into the haunted house zone while making my way to the exit.

It was then that I ran into a group of J1 students in the corridor. They paused and stared at me as if they were unsure whether I was part of the haunted house or not.

I decided to try my luck

“This is you in one year’s time”, I told them with my heavy set of past year papers in my hand.

They didn’t scream and run like I thought they would, which really reflects more on them than it does me. But I’d like to imagine that at least one of them woke up screaming in the middle of the night.

Or maybe I should design my own haunted house.

A chat with the OCBC Voyage team

I think it’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the OCBC Voyage card. I’ve written several articles on the topic and have invariably come to the same conclusion- that its proposition simply doesn’t make sense for aspiring travel hackers.

An introduction to the OCBC Voyage Card
In-depth analysis of the OCBC Voyage card
Revisiting the OCBC Voyage card

But just because it doesn’t work for me, does that make the card a complete write off? As much as the egomaniac in me would like to say “yes”, this wouldn’t be much of an article if we stopped here. Besides, based on its thread in HWZ and random observations at the payment counter, the card seems to be gaining traction just fine despite my misgivings.

My interest in the card was re-piqued (neologism ftw) recently when OCBC’s Corporate Communications team reached out to me. I suppose that’s understandable given if you google “OCBC Voyage Card” the second link is my rather unflattering take on the product.

They asked if I’d be interested to meet them for lunch and a chat. I thought this would be a great opportunity to speak to someone on the other side and we got it set up. I ended up meeting one person from the communications department and one from the Voyage product team. I’ll admit to feeling a bit paiseh meeting the latter, given that I’ve been pretty much saying his baby was ugly the whole time, but that didn’t get in the way of a great discussion. And although I still don’t think the Voyage card is right for me, at least the discussion helped me to see what type of consumer OCBC is targeting with this and how it might fit into the travel patterns of some people.

This article assumes you already understand the Voyage card. If not, do have a read of the above articles because that will help you contextualize this much better. Here’s a quick recap of the key points of the OCBC Voyage Card

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”13″ class=””]

The OCBC Voyage versus traditional miles cards

OCBC’s stance is that the Voyage card can hold its own against traditional miles cards because it offers customers something above and beyond a traditional miles card- the flexibility and convenience of being able to redeem Voyage Miles for any airline and any seat.

I agree that’s a great feature. My question is whether or not that feature in and of itself is sufficient to compensate for what I see to be the two main drawbacks of the Voyage card

  1. A higher number of miles required to redeem premium cabin tickets when compared to SQ saver rates
  2. A miles earning rate below that of competitor cards

With regards to the first point, yes, saver availability on certain SQ routes can be like a rare pokemon, so from one point of view it’s unfairly penalizing to the Voyage to compare it against saver rates. That said, however, if you’ve got the flexibility in travel dates and the patience to bug SQ repeatedly, you can come up on top by sticking to a traditional miles card and Krisflyer redemptions.

With regards to the second, the Voyage card earns 1 VM per $1 on general spending, 2.3 VMs per $1 on dining and overseas spending. While the bonus on dining and overseas spend are good to have, there are other cards out there which do as well if not better.

The UOB Visa Signature gives you 4 miles per overseas $1 with a minimum of $1,000 overseas spend in a statement period, the UOB PRVI Miles gives 2.4 miles per overseas $1 without restriction.

Dining wise, both the UOB PPA and the HSBC Advance Visa give you 4 miles per $1 on dining with no cap. In terms of general spending, the Citibank Premiermiles, UOB PRVI, DBS Altitude, ANZ Travel, heck, even the relaunched Krisflyer cobranded portfolio will all outearn the Voyage card.

But to say “outearn” is to say that a Krisflyer mile is the same as a Voyage mile. And that’s not strictly speaking true.

Doing a like to like comparison

The fundamental difficulty in comparing the Voyage card to a traditional miles earning card is that they earn different currencies.

DBS Rewards Redemption Portal
UOB Rewards Redemption Portal

 Traditional miles earning cards earn points with a bank, which can be converted to Krisflyer miles. For example, the DBS Altitude earns DBS Points, the UOB PRVI Miles earns UOB UNI$, the Citibank Premiermiles earns Premiermiles, all of which are convertible to Krisflyer/Asia miles. These miles are then used to redeem for award seats on a specific airline based on when seats are available. 

The Voyage card earns Voyage Miles (VMs), which can be redeemed against the cost of a revenue ticket on any airline, any seat and any date (assuming you have sufficient VMs)

This is how the two currencies compare

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”14″ class=””]

Two important observations arise from this:

Conversion

It should be clear that although VMs can be converted to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 ratio, to do so would be silly.  It does not make sense to use the OCBC Voyage card to earn Krisflyer miles, because if you want to earn Krisflyer miles, there are traditional miles cards that can earn better rates, as mentioned previously.

Valuation

When I first wrote about the Voyage card my conclusion was that VMs were valued internally at about 3 cents each. That was based on this chart released by Voyage as part of their marketing materials when the card launched.

voyage
the chart that OCBC published when the Voyage was first released, from where we get the approximate 3 cents per VM calculation

After getting several different quotes from the Voyage Concierge, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. 

Based on the routings I was provided with and my subsequent back-checking of the respective commercial prices, I can only conclude that the value of a VM can range between 1-3 cents, but I cannot explain how it is determined exactly.

Presumably the valuation fluctuates every day based on some internal algorithm. At a high level, I can say that I noticed as I moved up cabin classes the value per mile increased, but I never saw it go above 4 cents per VM.

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”21″ class=””]

On the other hand, the value of a Krisflyer mile can be anywhere from 2 cents to 7 cents, depending on whether you redeem it for economy, business or first and whether you get saver or standard availability.

And here’s where it gets even more complicated.

The above analysis doesn’t take into account the whole picture. You need to somehow place a value on the fact that

  • VMs can be redeemed for revenue ticket space rather than restricted award space
  • VMs can be redeemed on any airline

That means that to do an apples to apples comparison, if you want to give a Krisflyer mile a potential value of 7 cents per mile, you also need to boost the value of a VM to take into account these features.

And therein lies the rub-do you value the flexibility and certainty of being able to redeem your miles for any airline, seat and date? Your miles can certainly go further on SQ, but very often on certain routes you’ll be stuck with a waitlist, and given SQ’s erratic behavior in clearing waitlists, you may not be able to confirm the rest of your travel plans in advance. But on the other hand, if the premium cabin experience is what you’re after (and it should be),  are you willing to have to incur much higher spending thresholds to redeem through Voyage?

The above factors make it very difficult to do a straight out comparison of the Voyage and traditional miles cards.

Let’s look at an example of how the Voyage card can work for someone (and how it might not)

Who should use the Voyage card?

Consider John. John’s main goal is to pay as little as possible for air tickets. He wants to stretch his miles as much as he can and is ok with flying economy on any airline, so long as the price is right.

John wants to go to Hong Kong, in economy.  He calls up the Voyage concierge. The concierge gives him the following options

  • Via TigerAir for 13,300 VMs + $96
  • Via United for 24,600 VMs + $70.80
  • Via Cathay for 22,900 VMs + $79.70

If John were were to redeem with SQ  he would have to pay 25,500 Krisflyer miles (after the online 15% discount) and S$62.90 in taxes.

John doesn’t like the “hassle” of using multiple cards (you might be able to tell that I don’t really like John already). He hears from a reliable source that the UOB PRVI has the best general earning rates in Singapore (1.4 miles per $1 local, 2.4 miles per $1 overseas). So if he were to use an alternative, he’d use this and only this card.

Assuming a mix of 40% dining spend, 20% online spend, 10% overseas spend and 30% general spend, he would earn an average of 1.65 VMs per S$1* with the Voyage versus an average of 1.5 miles per S$1* with the UOB PRVI.

*2.3 VMs per $1 for overseas and dining spending with Voyage, 1 VM per $1 for general spending. 2.4 miles per $1 for overseas spending with PRVI, 1.4 miles per $1 for general spending

In this one-card only situation, John comes out on top in two ways- he earns more miles per $1, and he requires fewer miles to redeem his tickets. To redeem this flight to Hong Kong, John would need

  • S$8,060 spending on the OCBC Voyage (assuming the Tiger Air option is chosen. Remember, John just wants to get there)
  • S$17,000 spending with traditional miles cards
Image result for tiger air cabin
hey, it gets you there.

John thinks: Wow! I not only need fewer miles to redeem my tickets and less spending, I also have more choices of flight timings and airlines. Plus I don’t pay any conversion fees and I can get instant confirmation.

John is very happy.


Now consider Cindy. Cindy’s dream is to try First Class, something she will never be able to afford out of pocket.

Cindy wants to go to San Francisco.  She calls up the Voyage concierge. The concierge gives her the following options

  • Via Etihad for 252,700 VMs + S$725
  • Via ANA for 350,900 VMs + S$755
  • Via Singapore Airlines for 402,500 VMs + S$826
  • Via United Airlines for 451,100 + S$161
  • Via Cathay for 488,200 VMs + S$178

But, had Cindy gone with a traditional miles card she would have the following options

  • 182,750 Krisflyer miles and S$800 to get a round-trip SQ First Class ticket to San Francisco (assumes saver availability, otherwise 357,000 miles are needed)
  • 225,000 Krisflyer miles and S$104 to fly the same route in ANA first class through a Krisflyer partner award redemption
  • Or she can turn her DBS Points/UOB UNI$ etc into Asiamiles at the same rate as Krisflyer, and spend 205,000 Asiamiles and S$150 to fly the same route in Cathay first class.
L1010005
ANA First Class. Gets you there too

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, imagine Cindy is not averse to using multiple cards and plans to maximise the number of miles she can earn by using the optimal card in each situation (I like Cindy). So with her 40% dining, 20% online, 10% overseas and 30% general spending, she could generate 3.22 miles per $1* on average.

*4 miles per $1 on dining, online and overseas respectively with HSBC Advance/UOB PPA, DBS Woman’s/HSBC Advance, UOB Visa Signature, 1.4 miles on general spending with UOB PRVI

In order to fly First Class, Cindy would have to spend

  • ~S$153,150 with the OCBC Voyage (assuming she goes with the Etihad option, keeping in mind the 1.65 VMs per $1 we calculated with John)
  • ~S$56,750 by using a mixture of traditional miles cards

Cindy thinks: So if I use the Voyage card, I’ll have to spend more than 2.5X the amount I’d have to spend with traditional miles cards to get my First Class ticket.

Cindy is sian.

Some caveats to the above analysis. First, there is a cash outflow involved with using a traditional miles card (reasonable for Cathay and SQ partner awards, ridiculous for SQ), but the huge difference in the number of miles required (and the earn rate of Voyage versus traditional miles cards) is the counterbalance to that.

Second, you can argue that instant confirmation may not be available when you go with traditional airline awards programs. That’s certainly not ideal, but in my mind that’s not worth paying double the miles.

Third, you can talk about how the ticket purchased through VMs will earn some miles because they’re revenue tickets. That will bring the calculations a little bit closer, but certainly not enough to tip the balance.

You can see here how John may value the Voyage, but Cindy will not. John and Cindy are two fundamentally different types of consumers and that brings me to my next point

Value vs Access

Conceptually speaking, there are two main benefits that travel hacking gives:

The first is value. When people build up miles and points, they get to save money by not spending as much as they would have to on airline tickets and hotels. That’s what John is going for in the example above.

you can normally afford this, but would you rather save some money?

The second is access. When people build up miles and points, they get access to experiences they normally would not have been able to/willing to pay for.  I would never pay to fly SQ Suites, but I am able to fly SQ Suites because I have miles. I would never shell out $1K+ per night at the Conrad Koh Samui, but I am able to experience the Conrad Koh Samui because I have points. That’s what Cindy is going for.

suites1
you probably can’t afford this (and if you can, I’d like to be your friend), but you can gain access to it through your miles

For me, access always trumps value. Which is why I generally advocate not redeeming miles for economy class travel, because economy class is something most of us could normally afford anyway.

Cindy is making an access play; John is going for value.

The Upshot

So here’s my stance.

The ideal person for a Voyage card is someone who travels mainly to regional destinations that are served both by budget and full service carriers (the presence of budget competition nudges full service to keep their fares down), like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Western Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia etc. This person doesn’t care about premium cabin travel but does care about paying as little out of pocket as possible. This person also prefers just using one card for all spending for the sake of convenience.

But if you’re someone who wants to fly premium cabins, who doesn’t mind using multiple cards and is willing to plan a vacation around award space availability, then you’d be much happier off using a combination of traditional miles cards. And that’s as fair a conclusion as I can come to.

I don’t for a minute doubt that OCBC genuinely believes that its product has a serious value proposition. I agree it does. But their target audience is not people who do what we do. The Voyage card is for the convenience seeking individual, who likes having a bespoke concierge service who can prep itineraries for them, who wants to be able to jet off as and when without worrying about the vagaries of award space.

I realise there are other aspects we haven’t touched at all in our analysis, namely qualitative ones. OCBC Voyage has a full featured concierge that helps you secure hard to book reservations/concert tickets/walk your dog/buy flowers for your spouse or mistress/whack people you don’t like and make it look like an industrial accident etc. I’ve not tried this service so I can’t speak to whether or not it is better than the many similar services out there. And I suppose different people will value this benefit differently, depending on how much time they have.

So TL;DR, look at your own travel patterns, preferences and where you stand on the access vs value question and decide whether you want a Voyage card based on that.

[Thanks again to OCBC for the help provided in writing this article. This is not a sponsored piece and The Milelion did not receive any compensation for writing it. An advance copy was sent to OCBC before publishing as a courtesy to check for the accuracy of calculations and Voyage quotations. However all opinions remain those of The Milelion]

cover photo by baileycheng

Does SQ’s survey hint at upcoming improvements in ground services at T3?

I received an invitation from SQ to take part in a survey yesterday that would help “redesign your future pre and post flight experience at Terminal 3 in Singapore”

I think it’s well known that as good as Singapore Airlines is in the sky, its ground services are nowhere near those of some of its competitors. So I’m glad they at least appear to be taking this issue seriously. Although it’s not conclusive, the questions they asked might be indicative of what SQ has planned for its ground experience

You can read a copy of the full survey below, but here are some highlights

Additional Ground Services in the works at T3?

The survey asked my opinion on which of the following ground services would improve my experience at Changi Airport. Among the options were-

  • Manned valet parking at carpark or curbside of premium check-in lounge (doubt this will happen because long term parking at Changi Airport is so expensive it almost always makes more sense to take a cab there)
  • Curbside concierge service (what would this do exactly? Drop off your dry cleaning while you’re away?)
  • Personalised security, passport and customs processes (don’t they already offer this for First Class/Solitaire passengers in Terminal 3?)
  • Buggy service from check-in counter to departure lounge (the lounges are fairly centrally located in the terminal so there isn’t a whole lot of walking, plus they’re up a flight of stairs. I’m not sure how this would work in practice or what benefit it would bring)
  • Buggy service from departure lounge to boarding gate (This might be more beneficial, especially if you’re departing from a gate at the far end of the terminal. Fun fact, you can already request this from the lounge on an ad-hoc basis, but YMMV)
  • Meet and greet from check in counter to departure lounge (this idea makes sense in overseas airports where security is done in a centralized manner and the escort can help you cut to the front of immigration+ security, but given that security in Singapore is decentralized and our immigration queues move so fast, does this really help?)
  • Meet and greet from departure lounge to boarding gate (Not sure what this adds, unless the escort helps you cut the queue at the gate security)

The fact remains that Singapore’s terminal is so efficient these proposed enhancements don’t really add a lot of value. What would be game changing were if SQ were to build an entirely separate First Class terminal, or if that’s too far fetched, maybe it might be possible to drive First Class passengers in a rush directly from the Terminal 3 check in area to the aircraft on the tarmac? That would be all kinds of awesome.

A much more realistic and helpful option would be if they offered First/Business class passengers complimentary airport pickup. I’ve said it before when reviewing the TG First Class lounge, there’s really no reason why other airlines operating out of much bigger countries can offer these services whereas Singapore, which can be traversed in about 40 minutes, can’t. How much would this cost the airline, maybe with bulk volume they could do it at $30 a passenger? And as much as I’d hate to see them do this, they could limit it to only revenue First and Business class passengers. Surely that’s a potential real value add?

What do you want in your lounge?

SQ provided a full list of potential features they might add to a lounge. I’m only going to highlight those they currently don’t offer

  • Concierge service for changing seat assignments, checking on upgrades, changing reservations, verifying connections, tracing baggage, etc. (I included this here but I’m pretty sure the counter staff can already help you with this if they approach you)
  • Automatic reminder to leave lounge for designated boarding gate (I can just see SQ adding this feature while removing some other major perk and trumpeting this as an “enhancement”)
  • Pampering with spa, manicure, and/or massage service(s) (Yes, yes, yes. Please)
  • Children’s play area (If we could soundproof it)
  • Shoe shine services (Why not?)
  • Nice viewing gallery (The aerophile in me would like this very much)
  • Clothes pressing services (Useful perhaps more for arriving passengers who need to go off for a business meeting)
  • Money exchange services (With new and improved rates!)
  • Shop for duty-free goods from within the lounge (physical shop and retail activities) (Changi Airport is already more or less a giant mall with an airstrip, so unless they’re offering something unique you can’t find outside…)
  • Trial new duty-free products (e.g. food and beverage, skincare, etc.) (SQ has started doing this on a small scale basis. I think it’s a nice fun feature to have, and I’m sure they make some money off of it, so why not?)
20160902_172618
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge pop up booth with Singleton

If SQ added spa services that’d be a major win for me. But I’d also settle for things like day rooms to sleep in or more freshly prepared food items.

I should also add that there was a separate section on potential new entertainment options that mentioned the following

  1. Movie screening zone
  2. Games zone
  3. Gym and fitness classes
  4. Short promotional events (e.g. food, art, wine tasting, cocktail making workshops, etc.)

 

You can already watch movies in the main terminal and play games on PS4 consoles, so that might not add too much. A gym would be very welcome to a lot of people. Could SQ be the first airline lounge to have a full outdoor pool…(?)

What can we copy from other lounges?

They asked me to name up to 3 overseas lounges I really enjoyed visiting and upload some photos of said lounges. I can’t believe SQ doesn’t already have a mystery shopping team doing this, but just for laughs and giggles I uploaded photos of the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. Come on SQ, be all you can be

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also mentioned the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in JFK as another lounge worth emulating (full report on that coming!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Should have mentioned the Turkish Airlines IST lounge too…

Is SQ considering an arrivals lounge?

Traditionally, SQ doesn’t really “do” arrival lounges. Currently, PPS Solitaire members can use the First Class lounge in Singapore as an arrivals lounge, together with a guest. They also get to access the Plaza Premium Lounge in Heathrow upon arrival on SQ306 or SQ322 (but, in typical magnanimous SQ fashion, only give with one hand- guests are not allowed). Everyone else, even arriving First Class passengers, are out of luck.

But as more and more airlines start offering these services (at last recollection, British Airways, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines,  United, Delta and Qantas offered these services in some form or another. Heck, even South African Airways operates a small arrivals lounge at JNB), SQ may be starting to realise they need a more substantial offering to remain competitive for business traffic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is how SQ phrases its proposal for an arrivals lounge

Conveniently located after Customs & Immigrations, the arrival lounge will offer shower facilities, light refreshments and work terminals for passengers to freshen up upon arriving into Singapore.

What would you use the arrival lounge for? (Select all that apply)

Shower
Food & beverage
Place to rest and relax before heading directly for an appointment
Reclaim baggage (arrival lounge with integrated baggage reclaim belt)
In-lounge limo and car rental counter

I think it’s long overdue for SQ to operate a proper arrivals lounge, at least in its home base of SIN. I can’t see myself using it a lot, but I think business travellers do value having a place to grab a quick bite and shower before heading straight off for meetings. Having an arrivals lounge also allows business travellers to maiximse sleep on the plane by skipping meal service, instead taking something from the lounge.

Conclusion

I’m glad to know that SQ is taking a serious look at its ground facilities because they’re a weak spot in an otherwise excellent product. Let’s hope this is more than just mere talk and some of these proposed enhancements really do come into place.

Although knowing our luck we’ll probably just get automated boarding reminders…

Appendix- Full Survey

  • Which of the following best describes your typical experience at Changi Airport?
    • I am departing from Singapore.
    • I am transiting in Singapore, en-route to another destination.
  • On the day of your flight, what are your main concerns from the time you arrive at Changi Airport, till the time you board your plane? (Select all that apply.)
  1. Knowing which door is closest to your check-in counter, upon arriving at the airport
  2. Efficiency at the check-in counter
  3. Queue at immigration/ passport control
  4. Walking distance from the check-in counter to the departure lounge
  5. Wayfinding from the check-in counter to  the departure lounge
  6. Finding shops and restaurants
  7. When to start making your way to the boarding gate
  8. Walking distance from the departure lounge to the boarding gate
  9. Wayfinding from the departure lounge to the boarding gate
  10. Efficiency at security control and boarding
  11. Notification when there is a change in the boarding gate
  12. Notification when there is a delay
  13. Others, please specify
  • Which of the following if offered when you are departing from Changi Airport, will help address some of your concerns? (Select all that apply)
  1. Manned valet parking provided at the car park or curbside of premium check-in lounge
  2. Curbside concierge service
  3. Personalised security, passport and customs processes
  4. Private meeting rooms for last-minute business meetings
  5. Buggy service from the check-in counter to the departure lounge
  6. Buggy service from the departure lounge to the boarding gate
  7. “Meet and Greet” (guide and personal assistant) from the check-in counter to the departure lounge
  8. “Meet and Greet” (guide and personal assistant) from the departure lounge to the boarding gate
  9. Others, please specify
  • Do you typically visit a lounge at Changi Airport on your day of departure?
  • Which lounge do you typically visit at Changi Airport on your day of travel?
  • When do you typically visit the lounge? (Select all that apply)
  1. When I have a long-haul flight (>=6 hours)
  2. When I have a short-haul flight (<6 hours)
  3. When I have an overnight flight
  4. When I have a morning flight
  5. When I have a mid-day flight
  6. At my destination
  7. In my home country
  8. On business trips
  9. On leisure trips
  10. During transit
  11. Whenever I can
  12. Others, please specify
  • What do you look for in a departure lounge? (Select all that apply)
  1. Peace and quiet to rest and relax before your flight
  2. Open space as a respite from the crowds at the airport
  3. Place to work and clear emails
  4. Place to access WIFI for the purpose of messaging or to browse the Internet
  5. Concierge service for changing seat assignments, checking on upgrades, changing reservations, verifying connections, tracing baggage, etc.
  6. Automatic reminder to leave lounge for designated boarding gate.
  7. Entertainment
  8. Food
  9. Alcoholic drinks
  10. Non-alcoholic drinks
  11. Shower facilities
  12. Pampering with spa, manicure, and/or massage service(s)
  13. Children’s play area
  14. Shoe shine services
  15. Nice viewing gallery
  16. Clothes pressing services
  17. Money exchange services
  18. To be able to bring additional guests into the lounge
  19. Shop for duty-free goods from within the lounge (physical shop and retail activities)
  20. Trial new duty-free products (e.g. food and beverage, skincare, etc.)
  21. Others, please specify
  • What types of entertainment would you be interested to see in the lounge? (Select all that apply)
  1. Movie screening zone
  2. Games zone
  3. Gym and fitness classes
  4. Short promotional events (e.g. food, art, wine tasting, cocktail making workshops, etc.)
  5. Others, please specify
  • How would you like the food in the lounge to be presented?
  1. Self-service buffet selections
  2. Ala-carte menu with restaurant service
  3. Self-service buffet selections, with “Live” food stations where some items, e.g. roast beef, Laksa, etc. are prepared on the spot
  • What type(s) of food would you like to see in the lounge? (Select all that apply.)
  1. Light meals/ snacks
  2. Full meals/ main course
  3. Healthy meals (whole-grain/ gluten-free/ low carbohydrates)
  4. Singapore local cusine
  5. Western cuisine
  6. Japanese cuisine
  7. Korean cuisine
  8. Indian cuisine
  9. Vegetarian meals
  10. Desserts
  11. Others, please specify
  • Rank the following attributes in order of importance to you (1=Most important):
  1. Variety of food
  2. Frequency of menu refresh
  3. Visual appeal of food
  4. Taste of food
  5. Food is freshly prepared upon order
  • How would you like to enjoy the alcoholic drinks at the lounge?
  1. Bar counter with a professional bartender
  2. Self-help bar counter
  3. Others, please specify
  • What do you like about the current Singapore Airlines’ lounge at Changi Airport?
  • If there’s one major change/enhancement you could make to the Singapore Airlines’ lounge at Changi Airport, what would it be?
  • How can we improve our service at the SilverKris Lounge in Terminal 3?
  • Have you visited airline/airport/hotel club lounges, other than that of Singapore Airlines?
  • Please name your top 3 favorite lounges (excluding Singapore Airlines lounges), and which city you visited them in.
  • Have you visited an arrival lounge before? Have you visited an arrival lounge before?
  • If Singapore Airlines were to offer an arrival lounge at Changi Airport, how much would it help in enhancing your travel experience?
  • What would you use the arrival lounge for? (Select all that apply)
  1. Shower
  2. Food & beverage
  3. Place to rest and relax before heading directly for an appointment
  4. Reclaim baggage (arrival lounge with integrated baggage reclaim belt)
  5. In-lounge limo and car rental counter
  6. Others, please specify
  • Is there anywhere else you feel we can work on to improve your on ground travel experience?Is there anywhere else you feel we can work on to improve your on ground travel experience?

4 simple ways to find cheaper staycations

It’s difficult to get a decent, cheap staycation in Singapore, where the average hotel rates are the third highest in Asia Pacific. At an average price of  $236 per night, you might be better off grabbing a cheap budget flight to Bangkok and enjoying a much nicer hotel for less than half that price.

But unless you’ve got a long weekend, going overseas isn’t generally worth the hassle. So what are your options if you want to save more on staycations in Singapore?

Below I’ll discuss four things that can potentially save you some dough.

1. Last Minute Aggregators

HotelQuickly and Booking Now are OTAs that sells last minute hotel inventory at markdown prices. The downside is that you can’t book too far in advance so you can’t really plan. While this might be a problem if you’re travelling overseas, I think it’s perfectly ok for a staycation (and given that Singapore is so small anyway…)

HotelQuickly lets you book up to six days in advance of your stay (It used to only let you book a maximum of one day in advance. I’m assuming the best deals will come with bookings made on the actual day itself though as hotels get more desperate to dump their inventory). Booking Now, run by Booking.com only allows you to book same-day rooms.

I generally find Booking Now to be much less user-friendly than HotelQuickly. It only shows you one hotel at a time, making it more difficult to do quick price comparisons (versus HotelQuickly’s interface which allows you to quickly scroll up and down to see other options)

Screenshot_2016-07-30-11-39-58Screenshot_2016-07-30-11-42-55

HotelQuickly on the left, Booking Now on the right

A further word of warning- although there may be good deals to be had through last minute aggregators, it does pay to check the official hotel site to see what the going price is for the period you’re looking at. Based on an unscientific sample I found several instances when the official site was even cheaper than the last minute aggregator. Don’t get sucked into the discounts the app shows- very often they’re quoting you a discount from the rack rate or some other unrealistically high benchmark that no one would have paid anyway.

I tried looking at same-day availability for a Saturday-Sunday night stay. In general, Booking Now’s deals were almost useless. HotelQuickly came out slightly ahead of the official website, but only by very small margins. It could be that I was just looking at the wrong hotels, of course. If you want to try out HotelQuickly you can use my signup code (AWONG380) and get S$25 off your booking.

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”16″ class=””]

Overall, I’d say that there’s definitely value to be found here,  be sure to double check the price represents a genuine saving.

2. Coupons and Cashback

Assuming that loyalty isn’t an issue and you’re ok booking through OTAs, you should also check out the Hotel Deals thread on Flyertalk that has a well-curated list of the latest codes that can be used with various OTAs. Note that as with all OTA deals, restrictions and exclusions will apply. If you’re confident your staycation bill will be more than US$200 you can get US$35 off using TravelPony and my referral link.

These discount codes can be used in conjunction with a cashback portal like Shopback and TopCashBack to save some additional money. Read more about cashback portals here and here. You’re generally looking at between 5-10% additional cashback for most OTAs.

Remember that you can get a bonus $5 cashback when you sign up for Shopback here. Alternatively, you might want to try TopCashBack which has a wider variety of merchants.

Shopback is generally easier to cash out because they have an option to do a bank transfer to your local (Singapore) bank account. TopCashBack may be slightly more generous with the rebate %, but they’ll only cash out via Paypal or Amazon gift cards. Cashing out is free, but Paypal will charge you a fee if you want to transfer your balance to a local bank account.

3. Priceline and Hotwire

Priceline and Hotwire are opaque booking channels that let you pay discount rates for hotels, provided you’re ok with not knowing the name of the hotel beforehand.  You can list the star level and area you want to stay in. Have a read of the primers for Priceline and Hotwire  to get you up to speed.

When it comes to Singapore, I find Priceline to be slightly more useful because it divides Singapore into 13 different zones, versus only nine for Hotwire. This gives you a greater degree of control over deciding where you’ll stay.

Priceline- Singapore is divided into 13 zones
Hotwire- Singapore is divided into 9 zones

Hotwire is offering 4.5 star hotels in Singapore for ~US$125 (before taxes). That means you can probably try bidding just below that threshold for Priceline in order to score a nice hotel for cheap.

I generally prefer Priceline over Hotwire because even though it takes a bit more work to feel out the right bid zones, you can save more. Remember that both Priceline and Hotwire can be used via cashback sites for further savings.

4. Buy a room from someone who can’t use theirs

Suppose you’ve booked a non-cancellable reservations in a hotel but for whatever reason can’t show up for it. Short of calling up the hotel to beg them for an exception, you’re out of luck.

Enter Roomer. Roomer lets you list your hotel reservation online (at a discount of course) for someone else to take up. What this means on the buy side is that you can take someone else’s distressed hotel reservation for a discount.

I was surprised to read this was possible because I thought hotels would prefer to maximise their revenue by selling the same room twice (i.e. if you can’t show up, too bad! We’ll take your hotel room and sell it to someone else, getting 2X the revenue for the same room ). But apparently Roomer handles the entire transfer process, getting the name on the reservation changed for you so all you need to do is show up.

This sounds great in theory, but when I actually went to check prices I noticed that Roomer wasn’t pricing any different from other OTAs. I believe what’s happening is that when Roomer doesn’t have any distressed inventory to sell, it reverts to being a regular OTA.

I tried searching for another city, one that I knew would probably have distressed inventory. I think if you see a green logo with savings and a cut price, that means the room is being sold by a 3rd party. If you see just a regular blue button, then Roomer is functioning like a regular OTA. So in the example below, Ramada Plaza would be a distressed sale and DoubleTree by Hilton Metropolitan would not. I’m just guessing here.

I think Roomer is still a relatively recent innovation so it’s not very widespread in Singapore. This is definitely one to watch for the future though.  You might also be interested in another similar service called CancelOn, but again that one’s not very widespread yet.

Conclusion

If you want a good staycation in Singapore and you don’t have hotel points, be prepared to pay a steep premium. But hopefully the four tips above can help you save a bit more. I personally find a lot more value in taking an additional day off and heading to Bangkok though, given the abundance of cheap flights and hotels there.

Any other tips for saving on staycations?

Uber to offer supercar rides this F1 weekend

I’ve previously written about Uber in Singapore and how it can be your outlet to earning 4 miles per $1 spent, if paired with the DBS Woman’s World Card.  Remember, if you haven’t signed up for Uber yet you can use my referral link and get $10 towards your first ride.

For the F1 weekend Uber is doing its regular stunt and offering supercar rides for the 19th and 20th of September. Riders get free GH Mumm champagne and the choice of a one or three seater vehicle.  Cars up for booking include the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a Maserati GranTurismo Coupe, a Rolls-Royce Phantom or a Ferrari F430 F1 Spider

No word on the price yet, but if March’s supercar promotion was anything to go by, base fares will start north of $165 with a $7 per minute charge. Of course, they could make this a publicity stunt and offer the rides for free…