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What is it like to fly 22 hours aboard Singapore Airlines Suites? Is it bling? Or is it overrated?
Many consider Singapore Airlines Suites one of the best products in commercial aviation today. So much so that Singapore Airlines ranks Suites Class a tier above their First Class and is available exclusively on their A380 aircraft with the longest route running between New York-JFK and Singapore with a stop in Frankfurt. When I heard that the scarce first-class saver award space from JFK to Singapore was available thru Krisflyer, Singapore Airlines reward program, in December 2021, I immediately jumped at the opportunity for 132,000 Krisflyer points + $30.40 in taxes.
You’ll be able to read more about the booking process and how this flight fits into my 8-day, 7-country adventure.
Introducing the “Door Score🚪!” I will assign a score out of 5 for each category I review. This scoring system will be employed in my upcoming reviews, beginning with Singapore Airlines Suites. If you have not guessed, the Door Score has nothing to do with an actual door. I love airline seats with doors, and the Door Score is a fitting name to identify with my obsession. I will, of course, be reviewing business and first-class doors as part of my reviews. Lastly, I will not assign half scores as cutting a door in half is blasphemy!
Many travelers like myself don’t live in hub cities like Toronto, Montreal, New York, Chicago, etc., so we have to position ourselves to catch a long-haul flight out of the hub. This can often mean purchasing a separate ticket with points or cash. Ensuring sufficient time between the flights is essential. I aim for at least 12 hours, especially when a particular flight like Singapore Suites is at stake. Could you imagine having an aspirational international trip booked, but it ends up being canceled? Always consider the unexpected, such as weather, maintenance delay, or if you’re flying Sunwing or Flair to your positioning city.
My paranoia was at its extreme to ensure I would not miss SQ25 at 8:55 pm out of JFK. I had booked the 6 AM direct Ottawa to Newark flight and three others departing several hours later. Luckily, the United flight I booked for 6,000 Aeroplan miles left on time.
Tip: Always strive to take the first flight of the day.
A bonus for this flight was my complimentary upgrade to United First. This was offered to me at the gate because I’m a United Premier Silver status member. This status can be acquired by anyone who is also a Marriott Titanium Elite status member or higher. It appears that being Bonvoyed still has its advantages! However, for this short flight aboard an Embraer, “First Class,” there was nothing special besides a wider seat offering extra pitch. I was also provided this breakfast meal:
After arriving in Newark, I took an Uber to the TWA Hotel at JFK to rest for the adventure ahead. The Uber to the hotel was paid for using my US-issued American Express credit card Uber credits.
The TWA Hotel is one of my favorite airport hotels, and you can get a day room if staying for a few hours.
For any aviation enthusiast, I highly recommend you check out this hotel even if you don’t plan to stay. During the off-season, you can access the rooftop pool and enjoy the view of all the widebodies; quite the sight!
My stay at the TWA hotel was paid for using my TD Reward points, which I acquired from the TD First Class Travel visa card I received earlier in the year. My stay at the TWA hotel was essentially free, given that the credit card had no annual fee and 100,000 sign-up bonus points were awarded, translating to $400 in direct travel credits.
It was 5 pm, and the show was about to begin, so let’s dive right into why Singapore Airlines Suites is a nearly perfect first-class product.
Suites Ground Experience
Suites passengers have a dedicated check-in counter and receive priority security at JFK, which is not exclusive to first class but instead shared with business class, status members, etc. No escort is provided at any point from check-in to boarding, which is often offered to first-class passengers.
The experience in Frankfurt during transit was worse: I was fully immersed in the hundreds of business class passengers crowding the boarding gate, and at no point did I feel any different than one of them. At least in JFK, Suites passengers boarded before business, but Frankfurt offered no such priority. The relief from the crowd came when I took the first left down the jet bridge. You expect exclusivity and privacy when you “pay” for first class. It’s important to recognize when this occurs and when it does not.
To summarize, the ground experience could have been better. Besides a dedicated check-in counter at JFK, nothing else felt special about it. I was not expecting the same experience as departing first class from Singapore, but I was expecting a little more. I understand that JFK and Frankfurt are Singapore Airline’s outstations, but enhancements could be possible. For example, Lufthansa offers an escort at JFK; why not Singapore Airlines? In Frankfurt, is it so hard to offer priority boarding to Suites customers?
Tip: Fly out of the airline country’s hub for the best ground experience.
There is no doubt that Suites is the most oversized “seat” in commercial aviation today, with a dedicated bed, captain’s chair, and so much space that you could do some yoga.
The divider, when opened, the space behemoths twofold with a double bed in the center. The amount of shared personal space is truly mind-boggling! I enjoyed bouncing around the suites, exercising, lounging in the chair watching movies on the 32” screen, and conversing with my friend in the other suite while drinking our Dom Perignon 2008 bottles in the comfort of our luxurious Lalique pajamas. Although the divider went up during sleep periods, I had no problem getting hours of sleep in our individual beds.
Now let’s assess the Door of this Suites product and break it down in detail:
- The door is well-built, stays closed during turbulence, and does not feel flimsy.
- Metal construction with a good handle inserts to open/close.
- More than the expected level of effort is required to open and close the doors. Perhaps the ball bearings need replacing or some lubrication.
- The door has holes in the shape of flower petals. While this is visually appealing, a fellow passenger could peep at you while you change, so I advise you to use the bathroom and not change in your suite.
- The height of the door is substantial and offers enough privacy so that someone walking by cannot look down upon you.
Overall, I’m pleased with the door. For those who think doors are a gimmick, next time, fly a proper product and reassess, not the BA Club Suite, for example.
The Suites hard product is nearly perfect in every way. The only quirk I have is the need for more windows. There are only 2 per suite, and for someone who enjoys keeping the window open, it wasn’t easy to enjoy the passing scenery down below and take in some natural light. Most first-class seats offer 3 or up to 4 windows, so 2 was certainly underwhelming.
Suites Pajamas & Amenity Kit
Lalique pajamas and a solid amenity kit with all the essentials are provided. What stood out to me in this amenity kit was the Lalique candle. It is an odd item to include, as you can’t use it in the air. However, I appreciated something different, and it had a wonderful fragrance when I burned it later at home.
Lalique pajamas are great and one of the top pajamas I have worn in terms of softness and breathability.
Singapore Airlines’ obsession with service perfection was clearly evident on my flights. The Flight Attendants (FAs) always greeted me by name and were readily available.
First-class service should feel natural rather than scripted and be personalized. You should be able to do what you want when you want to. Do you want to sleep as soon as you are airborne? No problem. Or you want a bottle of Dom Perignon to kick off the flight. And how about not being force-fed to eat as per the service schedule? Absolutely!
My friend and I established a rapport with the FAs on our flights, which may have contributed to the excellent service we received. I encourage everyone flying premium airline products, especially first class, to build a connection with your FAs and Purser, as it will significantly improve your overall flight experience. Don’t be the snob demanding requests because you feel entitled. Good behavior will often be reciprocated with good service.
For example, the Purser went above and beyond to find an extra SQ teddy bear for my daughter. She scoured the entire A380 to locate one and returned with it, along with some other goodies in a gift bag. This was an unexpected gesture, and I appreciated it.
Later, during the flight, I received a personalized tour of the A380, which was a good reminder that we were not the only ones on this behemoth aircraft. We also tested the business and economy seats. Did you know that business class seating goes up to row 97 on the upper deck? If you end up sitting back in business, avoid the higher rows. Otherwise, you will be waiting a while to deplane, just as if you were in economy.
Overall, the service I received surpassed my expectations. It ticked off all my checkboxes of what I would expect from first class.
Tip: If you’re going to tour the aircraft, don’t do it in your first-class pajamas and slippers, especially not with a bottle of Dom in your hands! Try to blend in the best you can. 😊
Suites Food & Drinks
There is a myth that Singapore Airlines meals are always A+. Well, this is certainly not the case. What I have experienced is a degradation of quality over the past decade. Of all the meals I had on Suites, not a single one left a lasting impression, not even their famous chicken satay or c.
However, that’s not to say that the meals were not good, they were excellent, but not up to par with the competition. I am no food connoisseur (or a sommelier), and I won’t pretend to be one. Simply put, no single dish tempted me to return for more. I will attribute my disappointment to the catering out of JFK and Frankfurt, as I’ve always had much better meals out of Singapore. This stresses the point I made earlier: always strive to fly aspirational products from their country hub; food will always be better!
Now, there is one perk that Singapore Airlines offers that is unique in the industry: Book the Cook service. This service allows you to choose from a wide selection of meals. This is available in Suites, First, and Business Class flights. The offerings vary depending on the departure city. Given that we were still not out of the pandemic by June 2022, the choices out of JFK and Frankfurt were minimal and unappealing. Otherwise, you would see a selection such as this:
Moving onto drinks, the menu was extensive with unique cocktails and two premier champagne offerings: 2008 Taittinger Comtes and 2008 Dom Perignon, a champagne lover’s heaven! I appreciated the bottles were left for us to devour.
Overall, the food was average (for first class), and the drinks were fantastic.
Tip: If you are force-fed, kindly ask the FA if you could eat later. You might be surprised by the answer.
KrisWorld is the name of Singapore Airlines’ Inflight Entertainment (IFE) system. Its a fantastic system offering many shows, movies, and games to keep you entertained for hours on end. The IFE control is via a wireless tablet to the large 32” screen that swivels at the touch of a button to set the perfect viewing angle. The system also has an HDMI input, a lifesaver, allowing me to watch any downloaded video off my phone.
Where is the shower? That’s my question. Sure, the bathroom is “huge” with a vanity in the middle, but I’d rather have a shower on board. This would have been the icing on the cake of an otherwise nearly perfect product. Instead, Singapore Airlines opted to put a gimmicky vanity that serves no purpose to the male sex, at least not for myself. Overall, both the bathrooms are great bathroom but not mind-blowing in any way.
I visited 3 lounges during the Singapore Suites adventure from New York-JFK to Singapore. Let’s review each one.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (New York-JFK)
I was at the American Express Centurion lounge for a while before I decided to check out the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse that Singapore Airlines provided access to for Suites passengers, located in JFK Terminal 4. The Virgin Clubhouse was quite a surprise! I have low expectations for North American lounges, and this was undoubtedly much above par. The ambiance of the lounge, the varied seating options, and the delicious a la carte dining! I understand that all Virgin lounges are like this, but this was my first experience, and it did not disappoint. The lounge staff were also excellent and very attentive to serving you.
The lounge also provided views of the Singapore Airlines flights that day, including our A380:
Singapore Airlines chose a great contracted lounge to provide access to its Suites customers. Business class passengers use a third-party Wingtips Lounge while Star Alliance/Krisflyer Elite Gold members can bear the wrath of the Air India Maharaja Lounge.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge (Frankfurt)
Holding a Suites boarding pass in Frankfurt meant access to several lounges, including the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, to which I decided to pay homage. I’ve found that Maple Leaf Lounges outside North America are generally quite good, and this was no exception. The lounge is cozy and offers excellent tarmac views, above-average food, and, most importantly, clean showers. However, the lounge is not up to the caliber of a first-class lounge, so it only gets a 2-door rating.
The Private Room (Singapore)
After flying for 22 hours, most folks would run home or to their hotel. Not me; I had another agenda in mind. As an arriving Suites passenger in Singapore, I received access to all the newly renovated Singapore Airlines lounges, including the exclusive, The Private Room, which is accessible only as an arriving Suites or departing First-Class or Suites passenger on a Singapore Airlines operated flight. I spent 4 hours in The Private Room, which was a great conclusion to the overall Suites experience.
The new lounges opened just a few weeks before my arrival. As I approached, I was welcomed by the Singapore Airlines signature Batik Flora scent piping through the vents at the entrance to the lounge, which was backdropped by a gorgeous 12-meter, 8k high-resolution screen featuring the airline’s new batik motif. I stood there, allowing my senses to be tantalized, while the staff checked me in and then escorted me to The Private Room. That’s right, escorted to the lounge—an extra door score just for this.
Entry to The Private Room was through a bronze-lined passageway to the reception, set beneath a gorgeous light dome comprised of crystal and metal leaves that Lalique designed for Singapore Airlines.
A lounge of this caliber had all the expected offerings, such as sleep rooms, a family room, a playroom, shower suites, a business center, a la carte dining room, etc.
Wines and champagne are showcased in an attractive display. The lounge felt private, unlike the zoo over in the business class, and surprisingly, first-class lounges.
There was an extensive international menu for dining, completed by a myriad of drink options, including 2008 Taittinger Comtes that I happily indulged in again.
I tried a few dishes from the menu. The highlights were the signature wagyu satay and the lobster laksa. If you come here, these are a must-try! Delicious and likely one of the top dining experiences in a lounge I have experienced. While the satay in the air was OK, it was delicious here in The Private Room!
As perfect as it may seem, The Private Room is not without its faults. It can seem too minimalist, and there are no windows to view the outside world, which makes it feel overly cozy and private. The food here is the highlight. I think Singapore Airlines did an excellent job with its redesign, and I feel it’s a lounge that embodies the essence of Singapore Airlines.
The first time I flew Suites was in 2019 from Singapore to Mumbai, and despite being a relatively short flight, it left a lasting impression on me. However, the flight was too short to appreciate fully, and I’m glad I got the opportunity now to take it all in for nearly 22 hours.
Singapore Airlines Suites is a fascinating product that should be noticed when booking travel. It is the closest experience to flying private. Today, finding award-saver fares on a long-haul flight is extremely difficult. Additionally, Singapore Airlines will also no longer be flying the A380 to New York-JFK post-May 2023. This means there will be no Suites to North America anymore. However, despite these negative changes, some strategies can still be employed to fly the product. I will cover this in an upcoming article that will help you enjoy the same experience I did.