When Singapore Airlines introduced it's Suites class ('A Class Above First'), it was the epitome of luxury air travel and one I thought I'd never get to try in my life. However, due to some fortuitous circumstances, for my trip back to England to celebrate Christmas with my family, I was extremely fortunate to be able to try it out and finally cross it off my bucket list.
This post will be primarily about the 'hard' product; the lounge, the seat as well as a bit of the service. For the food, I will touch upon that in a later post which I'll combine with a new Book the Cook review (See the original here).
Hope you enjoy!
In Terminal 3 for Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines has it's own check in area for first class and above. There's a porter service that picks up your luggage from your taxi/car and you get a seamless check in process. You can go from check in to lounge in less than 5 minutes.
It's a wonderfully over the top, and completely unnecessary affair (there's banks of seats in the check in area...but after you've checked in, who wants to stay in the check in area?) After the check in area it has its own private immigration area which leads directly to the lounge(s)...which is where all the fancy-pants stuff starts to come into play.
That being said, it's a nice touch.
The Lounge aka "The Private Room"
With the introduction of the Suites class, Singapore Airlines (SQ) unveiled a third lounge. Along with their business and first class lounges, they introduced a third, higher tier dubbed "The Private Room". It's the most exclusive of all SQ's lounges. Only Suites class passengers (and PPS Solitaire) can access it.
So what do you get with that level of exclusivity? Well, in terms of the actual lounge itself, unfortunately there's not much of a difference between the two other lounges - just extra seats, so it's a bit of an anti-climax.
Where there is a difference though, it's in the food (but it is marginal). There's only a small buffet area with finger food with an a la carte service for more substantial items (this doesn't exist in the other lounges).
However, if you strip away the improved food servings (and that feel-good feeling from being somewhere uber exclusive), the lounge doesn't have that much of a tangible benefit over the First Class lounge.
I personally prefer the business/first class lounge with their buffet stations (and the first class lounge has a full bar too). I find it's more conducive to the rushed nature of an airport. The food at the private room can take a while to prepare which means there's less food for you to try in the limited time you have at the airport.
The absolute pinnacle of SQ's cabins is it's Suites class. When it was first announced in 2006 with the launch of the A380, it was absolutely awe inspiring - a private cabin, premier dining, leather seats, a full double bed (when both the centre cabins are used) and a 23 inch TV was something that, at the time, was ahead of anything else in the sky. However, as good as the suites are, we can't view the Suites in isolation anymore - it's been 10 years since their introduction and the competition has caught up.
Although the exclusivity, space and fine dining is always welcomed (and extremely cool to experience) – the cabin is certainly starting to show it’s age, and not just with the competition. When measured against the other classes in SQ, it’s woefully out of date (See my New Business Class Review here) and the gulf in the finishing is vast (every class has been upgraded but Suites). There are a lot of minor annoyances that still exist which have been rectified in the refurbished cabins. For example, it still has the power socket which doesn’t fit the Singapore/UK plug (despite this being a Singaporean Airline….). Luckily the cabin crew had a spare one but it’s something that’s not guaranteed on every flight. Also the IFE controller is slow and unresponsive and the screen not as crisp as the other refurbished cabins.
However, what is still very cool is the single bed (or if you have the middle cabin, a pseudo double bed) that you get to sleep on. First and Business do have their own flat beds but there’s nothing quite like having a ‘real’ bed to lie and stretch out in. However, whilst a lot of the marketing material likes to portray that it’s a double bed, there’s still a small but very noticeable divider in between the beds, so you can’t lie in the middle comfortably. However, if there are two of you, you can still get close to each other, but just can’t roll from side to side.
As expected, the food in Suites, as with every other class in SQ, is absolutely wonderful (except the Kaiseki I had, more on that later). I'll go in more detail in the eventual Book the Cook update, but suffice to say, you generally won't be disappointed in the food.
Below is the goody bag that you get when flying Suites - Salvatore Ferragamo toilletries bag
The service was a bit of a let down - it wasn't up to the standard I was expecting (The seats can go for SGD 7K one way after all...) and they fell short in a few key areas. For example, they spilled wine over my table and they had completely forgotten that I ordered book the cook. In the grand scheme of things, these are minor annoyances but, if you pay over 14K SGD for a return ticket in SQ's highest class, you should expect service to be flawless. Unfortunately it wasn't this time.
So, is Suites worth it? The simple answer is yes, but with a few caveats...
- Wait until the new refurbished cabins enter sometime in 2017. The current cabin has lost its allure and is in desperate need of a facelift.
- You have a *lot* of cash and/or miles to burn
- You want to cross it off your bucket list
I really cannot stress enough the first point - the cabin in its current iteration is just not worth dropping the cash/miles right now. For the entire flight, the feeling of "this would have been jaw dropping 10 years ago" kept on appearing my head - especially when you consider how their competitors competing cabins have evolved (Etihad's Apartments look absolutely incredible).
However, when the eventual refurbishment arrives, if you can somehow afford it, I would recommend it – if only to cross it off your bucket list and see how the ‘other half’ live. Who doesn’t like pretending to be a millionaire, if only for 13 hours?
Otherwise, if it's not on your bucket list and you're only curious, just stick with business class. It's the best balance between luxury and price (I use that term loosely) and can be compared favourably to other carrier's first class cabins. When you go above business class, you're met with a still wonderful cabin albeit with diminishing returns.
Tip : If you do fly First Class, and if you're nice enough (and are extremely lucky), you'll even get to see the cockpit :-)
Bonus - The First Class SQ Lounge in Heathrow
Below is the first class lounge in Heathrow for Singapore Airlines. The main difference between this and the business class lounge is that there is also a menu to order from as well slightly wider variety of drinks.
The lounge, for breakfast at least, has a wonderful array of Singaporen Breakfast dishes to order and they were expertly cooked. Food wise, this is one of the best lounges I've ever been in.