New York Suite Heart: Trip Planning

Double beds in the sky, two Conrads, and all the bright lights of the Big Apple.

In October 2021, something incredible happened.

For reasons only Singapore Airlines knows, a ton of Suites Saver space suddenly appeared on the Frankfurt and New York JFK routes. This was the infamous SQ26 flight, which veterans know is hard enough to redeem on Advantage, much less Saver, much less Suites Saver, much less two Suite Savers with immediate confirmation. 

I seized the opportunity to snap up a pair of Suites tickets out of JFK, scheduled for one year in the future. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to show The MileLioness the bright lights of New York City, which I firmly believe everyone needs to visit at least once in their life. Regardless of whether you feel the United States is on an inexorable decline or just finding its second wind, New York’s status as a mecca for pop culture, finance, the arts and gastronomy remains unrivalled.

Besides, one ride on the subway and you’ll never complain about the MRT again.

🗽 New York Suite Heart

Travel to USA: Pre-departure logistics

🇺🇸 Requirements for travel to USA
  • Fully vaccinated with approved vaccine (aged below 18 exempt)
  • Apply for ESTA (if national of visa-waiver country)

The USA scrapped pre-departure testing in June 2022, so there’s just two things that travellers need to be aware of. 

Vaccination requirement

The United States requires all non-citizens and non-permanent residents to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they enter the country by air.

Fully vaccinated is defined as receiving the primary series of a recognised vaccine (i.e. a booster jab is not required). The list of recognised vaccines is as follows:

Single DoseTwo Doses
  • Janssen/J&J
  • Convidecia (CanSinoBIO)
  • Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech)
  • Spikevax (Moderna)
  • Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • CoronaVac (Sinovac)
  • Nuvaxovid (Novavax)
  • Covovax
  • Medicago

Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. 

ESTA

ESTA

Singaporeans and nationals of other visa-waiver countries must apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation).

This costs US$21 (recently increased from US$14) and is valid for multiple entries of up to 90 days per trip, over a two-year period. An ESTA allows for business or pleasure travel, but not work (business= attend business meetings relating to employment outside the USA, work= set up lemonade stand).

Make sure you apply via the official ESTA website. There are many lookalikes out there which charge a lot more!

Most of the ESTA application is routine stuff; the only part likely to cause consternation is the Social Media section. It’s optional, and everyone’s going to have to decide for themselves if they’re comfortable filling it up.

I personally didn’t, and still got approved in less than 20 minutes. I think one of the perks of Singapore citizenship is that you’re automatically considered lower risk, so leaving it blank is unlikely to be a deal-breaker (though obviously I can’t speak to every situation). 

It’s recommended that you apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before departure. A new ESTA is required if your passport details have changed (e.g. if you recently renewed your passport), as a current ESTA linked to an old passport number cannot be used. 

Flights

✈ New York Suite Heart: Flights
SIN-JFKJFK-SIN
SQ26
Depart
: 2355

Arrive: 1110 (+1)
Cabin: Business
Cost: 99,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$109
SQ25
Depart
: 2055

Arrive: 0650 (+2)
Cabin: Suites
Cost: 132,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$31

In addition to the Suite Saver awards from New York to Singapore (132,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$31 per person), I also managed to secure two Business Saver awards on SQ26 for the outbound leg (99,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$109 per person; keep in mind all of these are pre-devaluation prices).

SQ25/26 is operated by the Airbus A380, which has unique cabin products you won’t find on any other airplane. There’s the headline-grabbing Suites of course, but also a new generation of Business Class seats. This means I’ll enjoy a double bed both ways- more on that in the reviews!

Singapore Airlines A380 Suites
Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class

While these products were introduced in 2017, I’ve only ever flown them once (Restaurant A380 doesn’t count!), on a trip to Sydney in early 2018. 

I figure an updated review is long overdue.

Hotels

🏨 New York Suite Heart: Hotels
NightHotelPer Night Cost (Nett)
1-5Conrad New York Midtown76,000 points
6-10Conrad New York Downtown64,000 points

There’s simply so much to do and see in New York that I thought a good strategy would be to split my time equally between upper and lower Manhattan.

Since I have Hilton Diamond status, I decided to check out both the New York Conrads: one in Midtown (West 54th Street), and one Downtown (near the 911 Memorial). 

They both cost a hefty number of points, even with the fifth night free- 76,000 points/night for Midtown, and 64,000 points/night for Downtown. In retrospect this was probably overpaying, since we wouldn’t even be in the room a whole lot, but well, at least you can read the reviews. 

Conrad New York Midtown
Conrad New York Downtown

I justified the decision by saying we’d save on breakfast, but as you may know, Hilton has nerfed its breakfast benefit at hotels in the United States, replacing it with a US$10-25 F&B credit per person for the remainder of 2022. There’s no way US$25 will cover breakfast in New York, so this is at best a subsidy. 

Lounges

🍸 New York Suite Heart: Lounges
AirportLounge
SINSilverKris First Class Lounge
FRAAir Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
JFKVirgin Atlantic Clubhouse

While I’ll be passing through a few lounges on this trip, the one I plan to review is the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK. This lounge is accessible to Suites and Solitaire PPS Club members flying on Singapore Airlines (access was previously available to Business Class and even KrisFlyer Elite Golds/Star Golds in Economy, but that policy has unfortunately ended). 

Virgin Clubhouses are always a good deal of fun, with their quirky interiors, tended bars and dine-on-demand menus. The JFK location even has a spa and beauty salon, though it’s currently closed, and non-Virgin passengers were never entitled to complimentary treatments anyway.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK

One key concern I have is that management of the Clubhouses was outsourced to Plaza Premium last year, who lost no time in striking deals with American Express and Capital One. With Dragon Pass members also getting access, I could see the lounge getting very overcrowded indeed, with a commensurate deterioration in service quality.

Conclusion

While I’ve been to New York quite a few times already, I can never say no to an opportunity to revisit Singapore Airlines’ A380 cabin products (or Magnolia Bakery banana pudding). Interestingly enough, my last visit was in Feburary 2020 to review ANA’s new First and Business Class, and we all know what happened after that…

Can’t wait to get a New York slice!

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Sean

Looking forward to your review! I’m flying my first suites on SQ26 next month.

ken

“A new ESTA is required if your passport details have changed (e.g. if you recently renewed your passport), as a current ESTA linked to an old passport number cannot be used. ”

Any idea about Global Entry is it the same? Thinking of applying but passport expiring in 2024 oct..

Heading to NY next week on Spontaneous PY…

ken

thanks Aaron!

Xin

Thanks for the review and lucky F Saver but just can’t see why NYC is still an attractive destination for the int’l traveller. Crowded, smells, poor public transport, expensive, security risks and full of… Americans. May as well go to Latin America (Peru!) for a more welcoming and enjoyable experience.

I did previously enjoy some of the NY boroughs and food is great, but at the cost of everything else.

beezelbub

Not sure this is fair. No doubt NYC has a fair share of problems and the general sentiment is “I cannot see myself living there”. But as a tourist I think NYC still has a lot of charm and unique aspects not found elsewhere. Enjoy the sights (and smells) for a few days and leave with memories made.

Andy Chan

I wanted to do similar for one year ahead but the redemption becomes “Unavailable” from late October 2023 onwards. I am still checking everyday and wondering why. All redemptions from SIN->JFK/NEW seems to be not available anymore

Benjamin

Not just JFK…I think almost all destinations haven’t been loaded for normal flight schedules let alone redemption.
Trying to get a year end 2023 booking but can’t find any for about a week now

Ranjiv

I believe the virgin clubhouse is gone; i just flew back from JFK late last month and they informed this privilege has been removed for SQ. Used the Amex centurion instead

Benjamin

Ahh the USA. Best value for redemptions if u ask me.

Flew SQ12 to LAX in First, did some national parks and back via SQ25 in Suites in October.

Brilliant flight, excellent crew. Food…out of Frankfurt was the usual meh. The virgin Clubhouse at JFK was…crappy.

Enjoy the trip! Can’t wait for my next US trip

Jem

Do they ever offer suites paid upgrade if you are on business awards?

Jem

Thanks Aaron!

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