Last summer, I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Singapore and the Indonesian islands of Java & Bali. You can read my reviews here:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 new First Class suite London to Singapore (today)
- Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel (Singapore)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
- Review: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java)
- Review: Amandari, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amankila (Bali)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Bulgari Bali Resort (Bali)
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Singapore Airlines B787 Dreamliner Business Class Bali to Singapore
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class Singapore to London
Today (September 12, 2018): Review of Singapore Airlines’ new A380 First Class suite from London to Singapore.
Singapore Airlines (SQ) – often regarded as one of the world’s best carriers, no matter the class you are flying in – took its stellar reputation to new heights last autumn when it introduced a new First Class cabin on its Airbus A380 aircraft. I was extremely lucky to try out this new product during my recent journey onboard a one-month old A380 from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN). Even though my expectations were sky-high, flying in this “hotel room above the clouds” completely blew me off my feet. Currently, the new product is installed on SQ’s newly delivered A380 aircraft (flying selected routes to London, Zürich, Sydney and Hong Kong). Retrofit work will also take place on 14 existing aircraft, to ensure product consistency across the airline’s entire A380 fleet by 2020.
SQ features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the best airlines for longhaul First Class, the most luxurious A380 First Class products, the world’s best airlines for in-flight meals, and the best First Class amenity kits.
Have you ever flown SQ’s First Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: London (LHR) to Singapore (SIN)
- Airline: Singapore Airlines (SQ)
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380
- Aircraft registration number: 9V-SKY
- Flight Number: SQ317
- Date: July 10, 2018
- On time departure: yes (11.30 am)
- On time arrival: yes (7.30 am; + 1 day)
- Miles: 6760
- Flight time: 13 hours
- Seat: 3A
- Class: First
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- SQ First Class Lounge at London
- Facts & figures about SQ’s longhaul fleet
- First Class cabin
- First Class suite (+ best & worst suites)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
- My verdict (score)
1. COST OF MY TICKET
One of the most remarkable aspects of my recent journey onboard SQ’s new A380 First Class cabin was the cost of my ticket. I paid 115,000 KrisFlyer miles and 200 GBP (British Pound) for the one way journey from London to Singapore. KrisFlyer is the frequent flyer program of SQ and an award seat in SQ’s A380 First Class suites can only be booked via KrisFlyer (and not via any other Star Alliance loyalty program).
Since I always credit my Star Alliance flights to Miles&More – the frequent flyer program of Lufthansa – I had zero miles on my KrisFlyer account. However, I managed to acquire 120,000 KrisFlyer miles at once by transferring 100,000 ‘old’ SPG points (now equivalent to about 300,000 ‘new’ SPG points) to my KrisFlyer account. SPG is the loyalty program of Starwood Hotels, now owned by the Marriott Hotel Group. One of the great perks of the new combined SPG and Marriott Rewards program is that you can transfer hotel points to airline miles at a 3:1 conversation rate. In addition, you receive a 5,000 mileage bonus when you convert 60,000 points into miles (resulting in 25,000 airline miles instead of 20,000). As a consequence, one of the single best values of Marriott Rewards is to transfer your points in bulks of 60,000 to an airline partner and book free award tickets or upgrades, which is what I did for this flight. Read here my review of the combined SPG and Marriott Rewards program.
One problem remained. SQ normally charges an insane amount of KrisFlyer miles – 210,000 in total – for a one way First Class ticket between any European destination (including London) and Singapore. They do release a limited amount of saver awards thought on certain routes (sometimes in advance, sometimes last-minute), which require fewer KrisFlyer miles. Saver awards between London and Singapore require 115,000 KrisFlyer miles instead of 210,000 miles for regular awards. However, availability of saver awards on SQ’s new A380 First Class cabins is virtually zero (I had been keeping an eye on this for months). But miracle happened and a last-minute saver award became available on the SQ317 route, which I quickly confirmed.
2. SQ FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AT HEATHROW
SQ has its own First Class lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 2, which is also known as the Queen’s Terminal. Designed by renowned architectural and interior design firm ONG&ONG, the lounge’s interior follows SQ’s “home away from home” concept. The intimate, rectangular space comprises two distinct areas: one end features a sitting and relaxation area with different seat types reminiscent of SQ’s new Business and First Class seats; the other end features a dining area with a small buffet station, a dozen tables and a self-service wine counter. Natural light pours in via large floor-to-ceiling windows on one side, offering a view of Terminal 2A and a massive construction site. Five different menus operate throughout the day, and the breakfast menu – which was provided during my visit – lists signature dishes like nasi lemak, fried carrot cake, chicken curry and Singapore laksa.
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT SQ’S LONGHAUL FLEET
SQ operates an all wide body aircraft fleet. Currently, this comprises the following aircraft types:
- 18 Airbus A330 planes (read here my review onboard a SQ A330 in Business Class)
- 21 Airbus A350 planes (read here my review onboard a SQ A350 in Business Class)
- 19 Airbus A380 planes
- 7 Boeing 747 planes (cargo only)
- 44 Boeing 777 planes
- 6 Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes
Over the coming years, SilkAir will merge into SQ. This will see the addition of narrow body planes (mainly Boeing 737 planes) to SQ’s fleet.
4. FIRST CLASS CABIN
SQ’s new First Class cabin in the A380 is located in the front cabin of the upper deck, contrary to the A380s with the old layout, where you find the First Class cabin on the lower deck. The new First Class cabin features a beautiful, warm and stylish decor with light shades of grey and beige, creating a calming and neutral color palette. Pictures don’t really do justice to the sense of exclusivity, intimate privacy and understated elegance you feel when you board the plane.
The First Class cabin consists of only 6 suites, with 3 suites on each side of the aisle. That’s a considerable downscale compared to SQ’s A380s with the old layout, which feature 12 First Class suites (8 along the windows and 4 arranged in the center). The aisle itself is framed by beautifully crafted walls, only interrupted by the sliding doors which give access to the individual suites. The exclusivity of the First Class cabin is further accentuated by its two stylishly furnished lavatories in the front, one of which features palatial dimensions and has a sit-down vanity counter.
Although SQ doesn’t like to be compared to its competitors, it’s clear that the design of the new First Class cabin was inspired by Etihad Airways’ First Class Apartments, a concept which revolutionized premium air travel when it was launched in 2014 (and which I reviewed here). Etihad Airways and SQ are so far the only airlines to operate single aisle First Class cabins on the upper deck of their A380s. However, I feel that SQ beats its Middle East competitor, because SQ’s First Class cabin feels even more exclusive (6 larger suites on SQ compared to 9 smaller suites on Etihad) and all of SQ suites face forward which is not the case with Etihad Airways (with 5 rear-facing seats on a total of 9).
For a seat map of SQ’s A380 with the new layout, click here.
5. FIRST CLASS SUITE (+ BEST & WORST SUITES)
I had pre-booked suite 3A for the 13 hour flight from London to Singapore.
Separated from the aisle by artistically designed sliding doors and surrounded by high walls to ensure privacy, all suites have an identical decor, complete with lavish yet stylish furnishing and finishes. The suites are designed in such way that they are conceived as hotel room, and similar to a hotel room, it does take some time to get used to the suite’s unique layout and all the amenities that are on offer. Each suite comes with a large leather seat and a separate folding bed, a configuration which enables you to lounge comfortably in the chair or rest in the bed without the need to convert the bed from a sitting position. All of the suite’s features (e.g. seat position, lighting, entertainment, etc …) are controlled by a handset in the armrest, an electronic control panel on the side, and a tablet along the windows.
The 53 cm (21 inches) wide armchair is the centrepiece of SQ’s five-star ‘hotel room above the clouds’, with most of the suite’s amenities located within arm’s reach. The seat itself is upholstered in fine leather from Poltrona Frau, a renowned furniture-making company based in Tolentino, Italy, that also has Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati among its clients. The super-comfy chair is fully adjustable, accommodating a variety of sitting and lounging positions. The seat has a swivel capability between 135 and 270 degrees, so you can swivel either towards the windows to enjoy the views (albeit the A380 upper deck windows are quite small) or towards the table or TV. In addition, the seat can also recline up to 45 degrees, so overall, the adjustment features are pretty crazy for an airline seat and provide added flexibility for dining and relaxation.
The suite’s folding dining table is aesthetically integrated behind a top in a marble table, located next to the seat. The small table itself is decorated with white flowers and also features a holder for the menu, which is beautifully lit by a reading light (it’s clear that a lot of efforts went into the design). A large 32” touchscreen monitor in high-definition – attached the suite’s aisle-side wall – is located in front of the seat; this TV can be swiveled, allowing different positions depending on where you want to watch the TV from (bed or seat).
In front of the seat, perpendicular to the suite’s forward facing wall, is the bed. The latter is folded up when you board the plane and made up by the crew when you request turn-down service during the flight. The bed itself – 80.5 inches (205 cm) long – is comfortable but not particularly large. In addition, the bed is quite firm, and although I realize that Asian travelers prefer harder beds, I believe that SQ should offer a choice of mattress pads to increase the sleeping comfort of all passengers. Also, once the bed is folded out, the suite becomes a bit cramp, but of course, if you’re not sleeping, it’s better to stow the bed to create a larger space.
While SQ’s A380 First Class cabin doesn’t feature overhead bins, there’s plenty of storage space within the suite. A personal wardrobe is located in the seat’s aisle wall, with enough space for smaller bags, shoes and jacket and with a mirror in the door. Larger items can be stored under a fixed panel along the windows that serves as a support for the bed’s head when unfolded. Along the window, you also find three stylishly designed storage compartments, one of them featuring a backlit vanity mirror.
For couples traveling together, the beds in the first two suites of each aisle can be converted to form a double bed by lowering the partition between these suites. When not in use, the bed can be stowed completely, creating even more personal space within each suite.
What are the best First Class suites on SQ’s Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- If you are traveling with a partner, then choose 2 adjoining suites in row 1 and 2 that can become one space when lowering the divider in between them.
What are the worst First Class suites on SQ’s Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- As you can imagine, there are no bad suites on SQ’s A380s.
SQ’s First Class passengers receive the following amenities:
- While SQ is one of the few airlines that does not provide amenity kits to its Business Class passengers, it’s an entirely different story in longhaul First Class. Male and female amenity kits from the renowned French brand Lalique are provided for passengers traveling out of Singapore while a unisex amenity kit is distributed on Singapore-bound flights. I received the latter during my flight, and the kit came under the form of a black pouch containing a scented candle, lip balm, body lotion and soap.
- A Lalique branded sleeper suit
- A pair of Lalique branded slippers
- Bose noise-cancelling headphones (you cannot keep these as the crew collects them before landing)
During my flight, I also received a present containing a special edition SQ A380 glass, but I am not sure whether this is standard or the crew gave it to me because they noticed I was taking a lot of photos.
SQ enjoys a stellar culinary reputation, which is reflected in its collaboration with world-acclaimed chefs who own Michelin-starred restaurants, like Singaporean culinary maestro Sam Leong, Suzanne Goin of Los Angeles’ Lucques, Carlo Cracco of the Michelin two-star restaurant of the same name in Milan, and Matthew Moran of one of Sydney’s finest restaurants. The airline is famous for its ‘Book the Cook’ service where you can select your gourmet main course from a premium selection of dishes at least 24 hours before departure.
The food I was offered during my 13 hour flight from London to Singapore was some of the best I had during all my years of traveling.
Lunch was served shortly after takeoff, and I choose the following selection from the menu:
- Canapee: Singapore chicken and beef satay with onion, cucumber, and spicy peanut sauce
- Appetiser: marinated lobster with radish and saffron yoghurt, served with chickpeas, orange and frisee
- Soup: pea cream soup with mussels and squid ink
- Main course: seared Aberdeen angus beef Rossini style, served with foie gras, Anna potatoes-spinach, mesclun salad, and Marsala wine sauce
- Dessert: vanilla meringue on chestnut mousse with vanilla icea cream and mango sauce
- Another dessert: Tarte tatin or warmed classic caramelized apple turnover tart served with milk ice cream and fresh berries
- From the basket: a variety of fresh fruits
- Apres dinner treat: Charbonnel and Walker chocolates
Mid-flight, I ordered a snack – Kway Teow noodles with chicken, black mushroom and Oriental chicken stock – which tasted excellent.
Ninety minutes prior to landing, above the Gulf of Bengal, the following breakfast was served:
- Freshly squeezed orange juice
- Selection of sliced fresh fruits
- Bircher muesli, rolled oat soaked in milk and natural yoghurt with fresh berries
- Natural yoghurt
- Pancake with Kaya mascarpone cheese, mixed berry and apple compote
The 32 inch, swivelable, high-resolution TV screen in the suite is controlled by a tablet and displays KrisWorld, SQ’s inflight entertainment system. The latter features an impressive selection of 1,000 entertainment options, with tons and tons of movies, television programmes, music, games and apps.
SQ also offers a Companion App that allows you to discover what is playing on KrisWorld even before you step onboard. Via the app, you can browse content pre-flight and place movies and TV shows in a folder that you can access on board by linking your smart phone to your tv screen. You simply need to download the free SingaporeAir mobile app from Google Play or App Store to enjoy this features.
Contrary to most other airlines, and to my own great disappointment, SQ hasn’t installed tail, nose and/or belly cameras on its A380 aircraft.
9. ONBOARD INTERNET
WiFi is available on SQ’s A380 and of reasonable speed. To access the onboard internet, you need to enable WiFi on your smart phone, tablet or laptop, and connect to the ‘KrisWorld’ or ‘OnAir’ network. SQ offers 100 MB and 30 MB of complimentary data to First and Business Class passengers respectively. Once your data have been used, you have to pay, and unfortunately, the rates are on the high side and data limited:
- Basic (30 minutes; maximum of 30 MB data): $4.99 USD
- Standard (3 hours; maximum of 150 MB data): $12,99 USD
- Pro (entire flight; maximum of 500 MB data): $29.99 USD
10. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: Dressed in her signature sarong kebaya, the female SQ flight attendant is the symbol of Asian hospitality recognised the world over. But besides being an iconic eyecatcher, SQ cabin crew – both male and female – are often regarded as the best in the industry, and with good reason. They address every customer by name and do all they can to make your flight as enjoyable as possible. The First Class crew on this flight was beyond exceptional. One of the younger flight attendants even wrote down an itinerary for me for spending 24 hours in Singapore (since it was my first visit to the city state).
# BAR: Contrary to some other airlines that operate the A380, SQ does not feature a bar on its flagship plane, but you can order snacks from the menu at any time during the flight.
# TOILET: There are 2 large bathrooms in the front of the First Class cabin, one of them coming with a sit-down vanity counter. The lavatories are stocked with Lalique toiletries (e.g. special citrus-scented facial mist, body lotion and fragrance). Contrary to Etihad and Emirates, SQ’s A380 lavatories do not feature a shower.
11. MY VERDICT
- First Class lounge (Heathrow): 8/10
- Cabin design: 10/10
- Seat comfort (upright): 10/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
- Food (quality): 10/10
- Food (quantity): 10/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,5/10