- Singapore Airlines
- SQ 317
- 7th February 2019
- Airbus A380-800 (9V-SKY)
- London Heathrow to Singapore Changi International Airport
Singapore Airlines (SQ) is one of the world’s best airline brands, known for its on-board products, service and its ability to constantly push the envelope to enhance the customer experience. I have been flying with Singapore Airlines for a long time now and have experienced all of their premium products, bar the new A380 suite; so it would only be apt to kick off 2019 in style and see how the new suites have evolved from SQ’s previous First Class suite product, which itself was one of the best products in the sky.
The airline currently has 19 x Airbus A380s in its fleet, 6 of which (at the time of writing this review) have been retrofitted with the new suites; these suites are currently serving on select frequencies to Sydney, London, Zurich, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New Delhi. Additionally the new A380 First Class suites will debut on the Mumbai sector effective 1st September 2019, on which I have already booked a seat using 53K KrisFlyer Saver miles, and Tokyo effective 1st January 2020. As more aircraft are retrofitted with the new suites, they will also be offered on a second daily frequency to London and Sydney (dates to be confirmed)
Since I was in London in February 2019, for a college reunion and then had to head to Singapore for a work meeting, it presented me with the perfect opportunity to try out the new First Class suites on this 12 hour 55 minutes long haul.
However it did not come cheap, I had to fork out 210k KrisFlyer Advantage miles + £202.62 (before Singapore Airlines introduced the devaluation). I was also wait-listed on the 115k KrisFlyer Saver redemption; sadly that did not come through, as all the 6 suites out of Heathrow were booked. This was still a reasonable cost, considering that a cash booking would have set me back £5,687.
The airline operates 4 x daily flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Singapore’s Changi International Airport (SIN), using a mix of the Airbus A380 (thrice daily) and the Boeing 777-300 ER (once daily). However, not all the A380s operating on this sector are equipped with the new suites. At the time of writing this review, the new suites are only available on the following frequencies:
SQ 317 LHR – SIN 10:55 – 07:50 +1
SQ 322 SIN – LHR 23:30 – 05:55 +1
How else can you identify that you are flying on the latest and greatest? The A380s equipped with the new suites have only 6 suites on offer, whilst the A380s still fitted the old 2006 suites have 12 suites on offer.
At London Heathrow
Singapore Airlines operates from Heathrow’s Terminal 2. Check in was smooth and thanks to Heathrow Airport’s Fast Track service for premium class flyers, clearing through immigration and security checks was a breeze.
After clearing immigration and security I made my way to the Silver Kris Lounge, located on the 2nd floor of Terminal T2B opposite Air Canada’s Maple Lounge. The SilverKris lounge is one of the four Star Alliance lounges located in Heathrow’s Terminal 2, with the others being operated by Air Canada, Lufthansa and United. Thanks to Star Alliance’s policy, premium passengers and Star Alliance Gold status holders (flying on a Star Alliance carrier) can access any of these four lounges. First Class passengers can access the First Class lounges and Business Class passengers, along with Star Alliance Gold status members, have access to the Business Class lounges.
For the First Class lounge, you make your way to the left from the reception and for the Business Class lounge you make your way to the right. As you enter the lounge, you will notice that it has two distinct areas – a relaxation area and a dining area.
The First Class lounge at first glance feels spacious and comfortable, but it can get crowded very quickly. The interior of the lounge is designed by Ong&Ong, following SQ’s concept of ‘Home Away from Home’.
The dining area covers the first half of the lounge and the seating / relaxation area, with showers, covers the latter half of the lounge.
There are various type of seating arrangements available, ranging from sofas and chairs to private cubicles.
Beyond the seating area at the far end are the washrooms and showers, which were absolutely spotless.
The lounge offers both a buffet and an la carte option, however the buffet selection was fairly limited, with only Dim Sum and Chicken Congee on offer for breakfast.
The a la carte selection was however decent; I opted for the Nasi Lemak, which was delicious, accompanied with a mango smoothie.
The breakfast selection also had on offer: cereals, smoothies, juices, croissants, pastries and fresh fruits.
The breakfast selection also had on offer: cereals, smoothies, juices, croissants, pastries and fresh fruits.
The Lounge offers a self-service wine and bar service, stocked with a respectable selection of spirits, wines, and cocktails, along with Laurent Perrier champagne.
After breakfast I settled down with a SilverKris sling, in a chair next to the floor to ceiling glass window for some plane spotting. However, there wasn’t much to see outside due to the ongoing construction work on the tarmac.
Overall, it is a decent lounge, but I was a tad disappointed with the offerings. It didn’t exactly scream “First Class” to me! This was probably my fault in that I was expecting something along the lines of The Private Room – SQ’s First Class lounge in Singapore; I should have tempered my expectations.
The designated boarding gate was B42, which was quite a walk from the lounge. For First Class passengers this is not a problem, Singapore Airlines arranges a buggy to speed you from the lounge to the gate.
The aircraft, registered 9V-SKY, was delivered to Singapore Airlines in June 2018, it is configured to seat a total of 471 passengers as follows:
- 6 First Class Suites on the upper deck
- 78 Business Class seats on the upper deck
- 44 Premium Economy seats on the lower deck
- 343 Economy seats on the lower deck
Boarding was through the L1 door on the upper deck, where I was greeted by the purser at the entrance of the aircraft and escorted to my Suite – 1A.
First Class Suite
The A380’s fitted with the new suites feature only 6 First Class suites in a 1-1 configuration, across 3 rows, on the upper deck, vis a vis the 12 First Class suites offered on the lower deck of the A380’s fitted with the old 2006 suites.
One look at the suite and I was gobsmacked – WOW! just WOW!
The first thing that strikes you is the SIZE, it is huge! I chose Suite 1A, as suites in Row 1 are the biggest, at 57 sq ft, followed by those in Row 2 and Row 3 respectively in terms of size. With over 50 sq ft worth of space, this is one of the most spacious First Class products in the world; this is definitely bigger than my old college dorm. The immediate comparison that comes to mind is with the Etihad Apartment.
The suite looked resplendent with the cabin lighting; the decor is modern, elegant and well styled with subtle pallets of brown and beige with clean lines. It is designed like a mini-hotel room, with a swivel chair, fold out bed and a tablet to control everything in the suite (from the lighting to the entertainment options).
If you are travelling with a companion, Suites 1A and 2A and 1F and 2F are the ones to go for, where the divider can be lowered and the suites can be turned into a double bed.
As I settled in, the lovely Singapore Girls were on hand to offer the Dom Perignon Brut 2006 and / or Krug Vintage 2004, for pre-take off bubbles. I had a glass of both but later continued with the Krug, which is one of my favourites.
After a couple of tipples of the Krug, I started exploring the suite.
To the right of the armchair is a sleek white marble counter, with a flower vase and in-built slide out dining table.
On the wall, behind the seat, is the fold out bed, which is stored at the bottom of the privacy divider.
Next to the bed is a ledge, which supports the bed when it is folded out.
On the left side of the armchair, along the windows, are 3 small storage compartments with a back-lit vanity mirror, which are used to store the amenity kit and head phones.
Just beside them, is a detachable tablet that controls the IFE, seat and the ambient lighting.
Below the 3 storage compartments there is additional open storage space with a leather strap, which can be used to store a small backpack.
There is a pouch on the forward bulkhead of the suite, to store magazines and other literature.
Flush against the privacy door, is a decent sized closet with a vanity mirror to store your bags and jacket; my Rimowa cabin bag slotted in here just fine.
There is a row of illuminated icons, on the lip of the panel, on the window side of the suite which include: ambient lighting controls for the suite, a call button, controls to swivel the TV to the optimum viewing angle and buttons to adjust the window shades.
Below these controls, under a cover, are: an RFID card scanner, USB port, universal power socket and a HDMI outlet.
To the left hand side of this housing is a headphone jack, should you wish to watch TV in bed.
The white marble counter, which houses the tray table, has another power socket and USB outlet on the side.
The swivel armchair takes centre stage. Considering that this chair swivels nearly three quarters of a circle, everything is within arm’s reach.
The seat has a width of 21″ and is upholstered in fine leather by Poltrona Frau, the makers of high-end Italian furniture. The soft leather recliner seat is full and plush, it is a comfortable experience when sitting in an upright position. However not so whilst reclining, considering it can only be reclined in certain positions. It is also a bit rickety, which I experienced during take off and landing.
The seat features can be controlled using the controls, which can be found under the left hand arm rest along with the IFE remote.
On the front side of the left arm rest there is a second headphone jack to connect the headphones, should you wish to view the TV whilst seated in the chair.
The seat controls has four pre-set modes to swivel and adjust the chair:
- Take-off / landing – during which the seat is locked in the forward facing position
- Meal / TV position
- Window facing
A 32″ HD TV monitor is located in the right rear corner of the suite. The TV monitor can be swivelled and adjusted into position using the tablet or the controls in the seat arm rest, depending on your preference from where you wish to catch up on some entertainment – the chair or the bed.
KrisWorld has a huge selection of entertainment and, after the meal, I settled into bed to watch “BlacKkKlansman”.
There is also a smaller screen mounted on the forward bulkhead; this can be viewed for important information and demos during take off and landing, when the seat is locked in the forward facing position.
The IFE can be controlled using the remote control under the left arm rest of the chair or the detachable tablet. Unfortunately my tablet had a battery issue and wasn’t charging when placed into the holder, so I could not use it remotely. I could only use it whilst it was placed in the dock or else it would go dead.
The IFE system is complimented with noise cancelling Bang & Olufsen headphones, these are a big step up from the Bose headphones which were previously provided.
On this flight First Class passengers were provided with complimentary WiFi for the first 100MB, after which you could buy additional bandwidth should you choose to. The upload / download speed was good and I did manage to catch up on some work and send some emails out prior to arriving in Singapore. Since I quickly burnt through the data, I ended up purchasing an additional 500MB for $23.99; this was a discounted rate from the regularly priced $29.99, on account of the Lunar New Year.
Effective 1st August 2019 Singapore Airlines will offer their First Class passengers unlimited complimentary WiFi, which is a nice touch.
At the front the of the First Class cabin are two washrooms, 1 located on either side. The one on the port side (left) is smaller than the one on the starboard side (right). In addition to the usual sink and toilet, the larger one comes equipped with a sit-down vanity counter; however, there are no shower facilities like on Emirates and Etihad.
The washroom is stocked with amenities such as: dental kits, shaving kits, facial mist and cotton wipes.
Singapore Airlines provides their First Class passengers with the Lalique Amenity kit, which includes: a lip balm, body lotion, soap and a scented candle.
Additionally an eye mask, socks, slippers and pyjamas are also provided.
The Lalique bedding was comfortable, though the mattress was a bit hard; unlike some other airline, such as JAL, a choice of mattress was not offered.
Food and Service
Post take off, I continued with the Krug Vintage 2004. Once the seat belt sign was switched off, the crew began preparing the meal service.
The meal service started off with Singapore Airlines’ signature Beef and Chicken satay served with peanut sauce, cucumber and onions.
This was followed by an appetizer of chilled Malossol Caviar with blinis, creme faiche and chives.
For soup I opted for the clear chicken soup with black mushrooms, this was followed by a salad of mache and baby romaine with pecan nuts, cherry tomato and parmesan.
For the main course, I opted for the Lobster Thermidor from their “Book the Cook” selection. I am a fan of their Lobster Thermidor, they just seem to get it right every single time and this one was no different; it was perfectly cooked and flavorful, not too chewy and beautifully creamy.
For dessert I opted for the Tarte Tatin – warm caramelized apple turnover with milk ice-cream, followed by a cheese plate which was paired with Dow’s 20 year old Port.
By now, I was ready to tuck into bed and made a request for the turn down service. By the time I had changed into the pyjamas and returned back to the suite, the bed was made and I jumped right in. I continued watching the “BlacKkKlansman” and then dozed off for a good 7 hours. I wanted to get some rest, as I wanted to be fresh before landing in Singapore and heading straight to the office from the airport.
I had requested the purser wake me up for breakfast; 2 hours before arrival in Singapore, she promptly did so.
The breakfast choices of: soya duck congee, pancakes, Mee Siam Goreng and fresh cakes did not quite tickle my fancy, so I ordered the noodle soup with beef briskets along with some fresh seasonal fruits and mango juice. I am a sucker for noodles and they hit the right spot.
As always, the crew delivered an excellent and personalised service; everything was handled with a smile. I regularly fly with Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar and the one thing that sets the Singapore Airlines crew apart is the consistency, I have never had a sub-par experience.
This was one of my most anticipated flights of 2019. The suites are huge and at first glance the product looks classy and innovative. However you just can’t help but feel that Singapore Airlines have over engineered the design, there are indeed some gremlins that need sorting out.
Though the suites are huge – practically a mini-hotel room, the space is not used in the most attuned way. In Suite 1A you will not get a good window view during take off and landing; this is because the seat is positioned ahead of the first window, which means you literally need to crane your neck behind your shoulder to see outside. The seat positioning is slightly better in Suite 1F, so on my next flight in September 2019, between Singapore and Mumbai, I have booked Suite 1F.
When the seat is swivelled and locked in the dining position, if the privacy door is not closed, you end up facing the person across the aisle. For such large suites, it is a shame that there was no provision made for companion dining. I just cannot comprehend the fact that a provision is made for a double bed for couples, travelling in Suites 1A and 2A, but no provision has been made for the two to enjoy a meal together.
The meals, service and in flight entertainment were fantastic, could not fault that.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my flying experience, excluding some of the design flaws mentioned above, it is one of the best products in the sky at the moment.
The pictures do not do justice to this product. You need to fly it to feel it and I am certainly looking forward to my flight next month.