The idea behind Singapore Air Games is that various games will be available all the way through April 2017, and that there’s an ongoing leaderboard that rewards those who persistently play. The top 3 scorers when the games period ends on 15 April 2017 will get Krisflyer miles equivalent to their game points scored. Now before you get all excited, note that the fine print reads-
*Free trip is based on round-trip Economy Class Saver award ticket on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights only. Taxes, surcharges and fees are applicable in addition to the required redemption mileage and must be separately paid by the passenger. The KrisFlyer miles will only be valid for 1 year from the date on which it is credited into the KrisFlyer member account of the winner of the KrisFlyer miles, and no extensions will be permitted. The KrisFlyer miles are not negotiable nor transferable, either in part or in full. The KrisFlyer miles must be used in accordance with the terms and conditions of the KrisFlyer programme.
So yeah, don’t get excited.
Now, the main attraction of this promotion to me isn’t about scoring and accumulating points for the leaderboard, it’s about the economy fare deals that SQ gives out to players.
TL;DR here are the cheatcodes that you can get from playing the game that give you discounted economy class fares to selected destinations. The number in the code is the price you pay. I’m going to include in square brackets at the end how much these fares were during the Santa Gift Grab game for comparison. You enter these codes at the booking screen when it asks you if you have a special code.
Ho Chi Minh: CNY188S [$188]
Colombo: CNY388C [$388]
Beijing: CNY388B [$388]
Paris: CNY808P [$808]
Melbourne: CNY588M [$588]
Bali: CNY228D [$228]
Hong Kong: CNY228H [$228]
Bangkok: CNY188B [$188]
As you can see, all promotional prices are the same as last time. The main difference is they don’t have Manchester this time round ($808 during the Christmas sale). These fares need to be booked by 31 January for travel till 31 March 2017. My pick of the deals? Bangkok and Beijing seem to be fantastic value. Seats are limited, so if you’re thinking of booking you’d better do so sooner rather than later.
Now save yourself time by not playing the game. I mean, look man, I love my games. I think Bioshock Infinite is a work of art, a grandiose exploration of themes like American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, predestination and the illusion of choice, constants and variables and how you building a floating city to avoid the Sodom below might not be the best idea. I love the Last of Us, Psychonauts (it’s really your fault that all the games now are military FPS derivatives), the Fallout series (maybe not New Vegas) etc etc.
I suppose it is unfair to demand something similar from SQ . But couldn’t they at least make sure the game works properly? Here’s my experience playing The Prosperity Tree.
This is the loading screen. I was concerned there was no intro cut scene as this not only reflected corner cutting, it also made it difficult for me to identify with the protagonist of the game.
I was then taken to the launch segment. The premise of the game was explained to me in clear and simple English. I was excited at the epic quest I was about to embark on. Maybe I’d find, on this quest, elusive rare items like saver space on SQ25/26, an SQ website that lets me make online changes to tickets after the first leg’s been flown, or maybe the ultimate rare Pokemon, an op-up!
Or you could just give me these. Yeah, that’s cool too.
Too quickly I was thrust into the heat of battle. I panicked because I felt unready. Don’t most games usually have an in-game tutorial where the first mission’s just learning about your basic moves? How was I supposed to rescue the princess? Which was the jump button? And would the Konami code do anything?
It was evidently too late to think about that as the game began. I gave the tree several half-hearted shakes, swiping my IBM trackpad mouse to the left and the right. I imagine this game would be more fun with a gamepad. The fruits fell. The game told me to quickly click on them to grab them. I complied dutifully and was excited to see what bounty I had gathered.
At this point the whole game hung and refused to reload.
Maybe this is a deliberate glitch, I thought. I mean, it ‘d be like a cool cliffhanger setup for The Prosperity Tree 2- Maximum Overdrive.
I waited 30 minutes in anticipation of an easter egg.
Nope, still broken.
At this point I had given up trying to understand the plot and simply looked for a walkthrough. By which I mean I went to the comments section and took the codes from P, a helpful reader.
Do tell me if you manage to defeat the final boss though.
Details are scarce about the new product (apart from the fact that it will not feature showers), but given SQ’s history of cabin innovation and the extent to which rivals (especially the ME3) have upped the First Class game, I retain high hopes.
I’ve flown SQ suites twice, and each time has been an amazing experience. It goes without saying that I would do unspeakable things to review the new cabin product when it launches (in case anyone from SQ corp comms is reading this). However, those unspeakable things do not include spending upwards of $10,000.
That leaves me with award options. Unfortunately, I anticipate that it will be very difficult redeeming miles for the new Suites product on the A380. This is because
The number of Suites is being cut from 12 to no more than 8 (possibly 6 if SQ goes with a single aisle config?). Fewer seats = fewer awards. And it’s not like Suite savers are super easy to find these days…
It would not be unlike SQ to restrict saver award redemptions on new cabin products like the tight-fisted Scrooges they are (I hope no one from SQ corp comms is reading this). They did it when the 2006 First and Business class cabin products launched, they did it when Suites launched in 2007. If this new product is truly groundbreaking, it stands to reason that SQ will want to maintain its exclusivity by keeping out the hoi polloi. The only thing that gives me hope? When SQ launched its new cabin products in 2013, there were no restrictions on saver redemptions. Let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson
This leads me to my thesis statement
My best chance to try the new A380 suites product is to bet on which route SQ will introduce the product on, book a suites award ticket now and hope the aircraft gets swapped to a new A380
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. In December. A few times.
I am 100% sure that SQ will not launch the new cabin products on a short/medium haul route. When new aircraft types are acquired it’s normal to run them on short haul routes first before deploying them elsewhere so airlines can train as many crew as possible on the new type within a short period. This is why we saw A350s plying routes like CGK, HKG and KUL before being deployed elsewhere. But the A380 is a known entity to SQ pilots and crew. The pilots know the controls, the crew know where the exits are. All that’s different is the cabin product. Therefore there won’t be so much safety and technical training as there will be service training, and that can take place on the ground over in SQ’s training school. We saw this when SQ launched its 2006 and 2013 cabin products on its 77Ws- they straight away went long haul to LHR. This therefore rules out HKG, PEK, PVG, DEL and BOM.
Besides, there’s no precedent for launching new cabin products on short/medium haul routes. I’ve gone to trace every new cabin product launch since 2000 and here’s what I found (if you like nostalgia, check out my history of SQ’s cabin products article)
2002- Launch of Spacebed: LHR
2006- Launch of new business and first class seats: CDG
2007- First A380 flight (and launch of Suites product): SYD
2009- Launch of new regional business class seat: BNE (this doesn’t strictly count as the choice of destinations was limited to those reachable by an A330 aircraft)
2013- Launch of new business and first class: LHR
2015: Launch of new Premium Economy cabin: SYD
Based on this, it seems Sydney and London are the two routes that have the highest chance of seeing the new cabin products first. In a way it makes sense- both are large, premium traffic heavy commercial centres, with extensive business traveller media outlets that will cover the launch from their own end.
The rest of the destinations don’t seem to have much going for them. Zurich is too sleepy (sorry, Swiss readers), Paris has lost its shine with visitors staying away, North America almost never gets new cabin products first (ruling out JFK and therefore FRA), Auckland’s A380 is a seasonal route only and Melbourne is, well, Melbourne.
Guessing the right flight
Guessing the route is only half the equation. The other important question is: which flight?
SQ operates two A380 flights to Sydney, SQ221 and SQ231. I ended up booking one ticket on each to hedge my bets.
SQ also operates two A380 flights to London, SQ308 and SQ322. I have a confirmed suites seat on SQ308, but SQ322 didn’t have saver availability. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that if London is indeed the launch route, SQ will pick SQ322 as the first flight.
Why? Think about the optics and logistics of the launch event. SQ308 departs at 9.10am, SQ322 at 11.45pm. Which one lends itself more to a glitzy black tie media event? I can imagine a full dinner and cocktail program with the who’s who of society scarfing down canapes and sipping champagne while eyeing the unwashed masses outside the media area. It is much harder to imagine that amount of glitz and glamor for a 9.10am departure.
It is possible to book an award ticket on SQ322 if you’re willing to pay Standard award rates, but I’m not. Ask me again after the SQ unveiling event and I might change my mind though.
So here’s where I have to guess and play the odds. The more new A380s SQ has in service by December 2017, the greater my odds of at least one of my 3 suites tickets becoming the magic ticket.
Only SQ could create so much anticipation about a product that no one has any concrete details on, much less seen.
As it stands, I now have ~220K of miles and S$810+ of taxes tied up in tickets I may not even use. Am I crazy? Probably. But assuming everything I’ve predicted comes to pass (SQ launches new suites, they’re amazing, they close off award redemptions) then what I’ve done is bought 3 call options for US$45 (if I can’t travel for whatever reason, I’ll just cancel and pay a US$15 fee per ticket)
Of course, it would be highly amusing (on some cosmic level) if I’ve totally misread the launch route tea leaves and the new cabin product ends up launching on some other route.
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…
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)
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?