After 18 months of closed borders, the mirage of the Hong Kong ATB, dinner on an A380 and other amusing ways of burning miles on the ground, it’s finally time to return to the skies.
The inaugural VTL flight from Munich departs on 8 September, and I’ll be onboard to cover everything you need to know about the experience both in Germany and on return to Singapore.
It’s been a while.
|✈️ Bavarians at the Gate: Flights|
|To Munich||From Munich|
|Total Cost: 184,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$188.90 |
I booked a flight to Germany within 15 minutes of the VTL’s announcement, worried there’d be another mad rush like with the Hong Kong ATB.
Surprisingly, that feeding frenzy never materialised. Maybe it’s because Germany’s a lot further and doesn’t lend itself to a short getaway, or maybe fewer Singaporeans have family in Germany, or maybe everyone just prefers dim sum to sauerkraut. Whatever the reason, it’s still possible to find ~S$950 round-trip Economy Class fares to Frankfurt and Munich. And to think that’s how much Hong Kong tickets were selling for shortly after the ATB’s unveiling!
But who pays cash for tickets, anyway? After 18 months of accumulation, it’s time to finally unleash the kraken. I redeemed a round-trip Business Class ticket from Singapore to Munich with 184,000 KrisFlyer miles and S$188.90.
It should be noted, however, that Singapore Airlines is blocking Saver space on VTL flights for everyone except PPS/Solitaire PPS Club members. I’m just an Elite Silver, but thankfully my father could help me book a Saver ticket via the redemption nominee feature. If not for that, I’d have to cough up an additional 28,000 miles- not the end of the world, but why pay more?
Both the outbound and return flights will be operated by an Airbus A350-900, which I’ve reviewed previously. What I haven’t reviewed, however, is how the inflight experience has changed post-COVID.
What does it mean for the boarding process? The inflight dining? The service routines? And will there be any good movies to watch? Important questions all.
I’ll be flying out on the 5th and returning to Singapore on the 9th. You don’t need to tell me that’s a short trip, but it’s not really meant to be a holiday anyway. The mission is to recce and report, and if all goes well, return with the Milelioness a month or so later.
While I was previously toying with the idea of doing some domestic travel within Germany, that unfortunately won’t be possible with the schedule. I may do a separate trip to Frankfurt if First Class Saver space opens up.
|🏨 Bavarians at the Gate: Hotels|
|2||Aloft Munich||37,500 Marriott points|
|3||Hilton Munich City||68,000 Hilton points|
With time at a premium on this trip, it’s all about location, location, location.
That’s reflected in my choice of hotels: all within or close to the main tourist area around Marienplatz. I’ve selected three different hotels, at three different price points.
I scheduled Kempinski Munich (technically called the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten München– confusing because Vier Jahreszeiten means four seasons) for the first night, because my flight lands at 7 a.m and the DISCOVERY Black 9 a.m check-in benefit could really come in handy. It’s not guaranteed, but I figure I have more of a chance than at Aloft or Hilton.
I also hope the two-category upgrade comes through, because the lead-in Superior Room I booked measures in at just 25 sqm (it’s always funny when a hotel calls the basic category “superior”- to what, exactly?). European hotel rooms are small, as you may already know.
Otherwise, the Kempinski’s location can’t be beat. It’s at the doorstep of the historic Altstadt neighborhood, with Marienplatz just a six minute walk away. I can take the train directly from the airport to the hotel, with a short walk at the end.
After Kempinski I’m relocating to Aloft Munich, which despite its cheaper positioning seems to rank well on TripAdvisor (#31 of all hotels in Munich, ahead of the Kempinski and Sofitel even).
Munich hotel prices really spike during the weekdays, and the Aloft would normally have cost €264 per night. Fortunately, Marriott Bonvoy is offering a PointSavers rate of 37,500 points per night, which nets me a value of 0.83 US cents per point (the experts say it’s kosher).
I’m open to the idea of replacing this with another boutique hotel that’s around the €100-150 mark, but that may be hard to find around the same area on a weekday.
Hilton Munich City
I’ll spend the final night at Hilton Munich City.
A Hilton, you say. Why, how exotic, and also unexpected. Would you perhaps like to review an Olive Garden too, while you’re at it?
Fine, even the name sounds boring. But the Hilton Munich City is next door to the train station that will take me back to the airport, only two stops from the Marienplatz district, and has an executive lounge I’ll be able to access as a Diamond member.
At least the hotel was renovated back in 2019, so it’s not nearly as old as one might fear.
If you read my initial post on the VTL, you’ll know I was also considering the Andaz Munich. Even though it looks gorgeous, I decided against it in the end simply because it’s way too far from anything touristy.
I also thought about spending my S$400 AMEX Platinum travel credit on an FHR booking at an uberlux hotel like the Bayerischer Hof or Rocco Forte, but these were frighteningly expensive; upwards of S$1,000 per night.
SIA SilverKris Lounge Changi
Singapore Airlines will open its brand new SilverKris lounges by the end of 2021. In the meantime, it’s operating out of a temporary facility at Changi Terminal 3. This will eventually become the new KrisFlyer Gold lounge, but currently serves as the common lounge for all.
A Milelion reader recently gave us an inside look at the lounge, which seems to be perfectly functional, if a little uninspiring. The good news is that it has private shower cubicles and made-to-order meals (plated-to-order might be more accurate though).
His visit was back in April, when Business Class was the highest cabin offered by Singapore Airlines. First Class has since been restored, and I’d be curious to find out if they’ve hived off a separate area for First Class passengers.
I may also review the Ambassador Transit Lounge, Marhaba Lounge and SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3 just for that post-COVID snapshot. Tell me if you’d find this valuable.
Lufthansa Senator/Business Lounge Munich
Singapore Airlines uses the Lufthansa Senator and Business Lounges in Munich Terminal 2, which I doubt will be life-changing. Pre-COVID reports say there was a decent selection of drinks and food, but overcrowding was always an issue.
It’s not like there’s much of a choice anyway, since Priority Pass doesn’t have a lounge in Terminal 2 (Dragon Pass has access to the Lufthansa Business Lounge, FYI).
Getting around Munich
My initial thought was to minimise the risk of infection by taking taxis and Uber everywhere. But then again, if I’m going to be visiting tourist sites, restaurants and shops, would avoiding public transport really make much of a difference? Mask wearing (of FFP2 masks, no less) is compulsory on German public transport anyway, and supposedly well-enforced.
So public transport it is, then. Munich is well connected by trains and bus, and although the prices may seem steep on first glance, there’s many ways to save. Buying a day ticket gives you unlimited rides (on bus and train), and groups of up to five can share a single group day ticket.
|Zone M||Zone M-5||Child (6-14)|
|Single Day Ticket||€7.90||€13.20||€3.20|
|Group Day Ticket^||€15.00||€24.70||€3.20|
|^Group tickets accommodate up to five adults or ten children aged 6-14|
*Up to three children travel for free with a weekly ticket holder after 9 a.m on weekdays and anytime on weekends
Most tourists will just require a Zone M ticket which covers all of central Munich. On the day of arrival and departure, you will need a Zone M-5 ticket (aka Airport-City ticket), which will take you from the airport to the hotel. Buy a day pass, and you can use it for rides within Zone M once you get to the hotel.
Tickets are valid from the moment of purchase until 6 a.m the following day. Refer here for an excellent guide on Munich’s public transport system.
Here’s my thought process where travel insurance is concerned.
Since I’m fully vaccinated and in decent health (well, general lack of core strength aside), odds are that even if I catch COVID-19, it’ll be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic at worse. Under German protocols, that means self-isolation for 5-14 days in a hotel.
Therefore my immediate concerns are medical expenses (e.g. outpatient consultations with doctors and medication) and non-hospitalisation quarantine allowance. I was looking for coverage that cost no more than S$100 for five days, and found the following.
(Per Day | Cap)
|Aviva (Prestige)||S$68^||S$20K||S$100 | S$2,000|
|AXA Smart Traveller (Comp.)||S$63||S$150K||S$50 | S$700|
|NTUC Income (Deluxe)||S$92||US$100K||None|
|Sompo COVID-19 (Superior)||S$101||S$200K||S$100 | S$1,400|
^Reflects 30% discount for those who have or whose immediate family members have MINDEF Group Term life/Personal Accident policy + 18% off with TRAVEL18 code
Allianz and NTUC Income immediately fail the cut because of their lack of non-hospitalisation quarantine allowance. Since hotels in Germany won’t be cheap, I’d prefer a plan that provides a S$100 per day allowance, which then rules out AXA.
So that leaves Aviva and Sompo. Sompo offers significantly more medical coverage, but also requires a pre-departure PCR test, even if the country you’re travelling to does not mandate it (and Germany doesn’t, for fully vaccinated Singaporeans [excluding Sinovac]). In the absence of a test, they will not cover any diagnosis of COVID-19 within 14 days from the start of the trip.
This effectively increases the price by at least $135-200 in the case of travel to Germany, and Aviva became the clear winner. It doesn’t hurt that Aviva offers 30% off travel insurance for anyone who has a MINDEF group term life policy, and a further 18% off with the code TRAVEL18. I bought the highest tier plan and paid just S$68 for five days.
To be clear: you only need to buy travel insurance for the intended duration of your trip. If a covered incident occurs that causes an extension to your trip, you will still receive coverage.
You can find this in your policy wording under “automatic extensions” or some similar title.
|Example: AXA Smart Traveller|
Your insurance cover will automatically be extended without additional premium for:
(a) up to 30 days if You are Hospitalised (or placed under compulsory quarantine) while Overseas upon the written advice of a Doctor or the local government authority in the case of a Quarantine Order; or
(b) up to 72 hours if You are unable to complete Your trip as planned due to Public Transport delays that are not Your fault.
As a side note, Great Eastern is offering fully vaccinated individuals a complimentary post-vaccination protection plan with up to S$2,000 of hospitalisation coverage in Singapore and overseas. I see no reason not to take it up.
I have to admit: after being grounded for so long, it felt strange to be planning a trip. I could sense some rustiness at times, like having to look up lounge access rules or status benefits or other information I used to recall at the back of my hand.
I suppose it’ll take a little time to get back in the saddle, but man, what a feeling to finally be doing it.
If there’s other things you’d like to see reviewed, do give a shout out below.