Monday, October 19, 2015

How we flew Singapore Airline's (SIA) Suites Class for s$200! (SQ 12, SIN-NRT)

This is one post of a multi-part series covering our Two weeks Tokyo & Hokkaido Travel Guide:
    ▫ Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Singapore to Tokyo
    ▫ Three Days in Tokyo: Off the Beaten Path
    ▫ Sapporo, Otaru and Cape Kamui: Scenic Self-Drive Guide
    ▫ Furano, Biei, Sounkyou and Asahikawa: Amazing Autumn Colours
    ▫ Jozankei, Noboribetsu and Hakodate: Unparalleled Beauty
    ▫ Scoot's ScootBiz Class from Tokyo to Singapore



"I don't always fly, but when I do I fly First class" ... is probably what many of us wish we could say. In the case of Singapore Airlines / SIA's A380s, First class is Suites Class - an almost fully enclosed private mini cabin of your own, with unparalleled comfort and service in the sky (but you knew that already, of course). Naturally the darling and I have wanted to sample this luxury for many years now.

Well, one thing led to another, and in mid-March this year we confirmed a Suites Class booking from Singapore to Narita (Tokyo)!

* insert girly squeal of disbelief and joy here *

As you can imagine, our anticipation has been building up gradually for months as the flight date grew closer and closer, until the day we finally got to pack our bags and book a taxi!



On The Ground

The awesomeness begins at the airport, as we pull up to Changi Terminal 3's dedicated First Class Check In concourse, with bellhops on standby to take our luggage from our taxi. A receptionist greets us at the door to escort us inside ...

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT First Class Check In

... to the huge reception / check-in lounge area! We're not quite sure why this room needs to be so large - It certainly gives a great first impression of grandeur, but since each passenger only spends a couple of minutes checking-in, it's also feels pretty deserted and underutilized.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT First Class Check In

Anyways, the segregation from the hoi polloi continues after check-in, with our own dedicated First Class immigration clearance lane (no photos allowed, unfortunately). The immigration tunnel exits into the Terminal 3 transit mall, one floor below the lounges. Singapore Airlines' First Class passengers get access to the best airport lounge in the region - The Private Room - which we wrote about in a previous post.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT The Private Room

An hour before the 9.25am departure time, we leave the comfort of The Private Room and head to our gate for the security check. Seeing the Airbus A380 in the flesh really brings our anticipation to a peak; It's an amazing testament to human ingenuity that a beast this big and huge can fly safely and comfortably for hours on end.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Airbus A380
We actually snapped this photo only upon arrival in Tokyo ... oops :P

Once boarding is called, naturally we're first in line to board the aircraft. We're giddy with excitement but put on our strongest nonchalant, "oh we've done this a million times before" faces as force ourselves to slowly walk down the Suites-dedicated aerobridge.

As we approach the aircraft door, three flight attendants come out to greet us with a "Welcome back, Mr Timing" and lead us to our seats (they don't even ask to see our boarding passes). The moment we're seated we're handed a luxurious leather binder with the menu for the day plus our choice of pre-departure beverage ("Oh, apple juice will do for now, thanks."), and left alone for a couple of minutes.



The Airbus A380 Suite

Words cannot describe how unbelievably amazing this cabin is. In the months since making the flight booking we've browsed countless photos but that hasn't diminished the sensation of how luxurious this cabin feels in person one bit. It's spacious, it's private (you can close the doors and draw the blinds), it's aesthetically amazing.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Cabin
That's an 'oh em gee I can't believe I'm really sitting here' smile.

The seat itself is immensely comfortable, and decked out in leather hand-stitched by 'master craftsmen Poltrona Frau.' It's good good support for the thighs, and armrests spaced out just far enough and exactly at the right height.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Seat
To be honest, we didn't know who on earth Poltrona Frau is, either.

Up front there's an ottoman for resting of feet (which also doubles up as the storage area for your carry-on luggage), a blanket and two nicely sized pillows for comfort. One minor niggle: In this 'seat mode' the 23-inch wide LCD screen is offset slightly to the left (or to the right, depending on which side of the cabin you're on).

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Ottoman and Television
Watching an episode of Just for Laughs while wearing SQ-provided socks & slippers.

If you're not quite tall enough to reach the ottoman with your feet fret not; you can recline your seat and raise the foot rest. Electrically powered, of course. Some other bloggers have complained that the seat recline is limited but we felt that the angle was more than adequate to achieve a comfortable lounging position.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Cabin Reclined

On the 'inner' side of your cabin you'll find a 110v power socket, video-in jack, USB ports and the headphone plugs. Singapore Airlines, like practically every airline nowadays, uses Bose noise-cancelling headphones, which are remarkably comfortable and do a stellar job in eliminating ambient noise.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Bose headphones and Power Outlet

The handset for controlling the excellent KrisWorld entertainment system is on the 'outer' side (i.e. facing the aisle) of the cabin, just below the controls for lights (on/off and intensity), attendant call and do not disturb buttons.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Lights and A/V Controls

On longer flights (7 hours or more) you also get a set of Singapore Airlines-branded pajamas (SQ calls it a 'sleeping suit'), eye-shades and a Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit - with mini-sized bottles of cologne/perfume, lip balm, towelettes and moisturizing cream.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Pajamas and Amenity Kits
'His' on the right, 'Hers' on the left. Doesn't the 'Hers' kit look way nicer?

On pretense of visiting the lavatory, I change into my pajamas / sleeping suit as early into the flight as possible. It turned out to be a decision I would regret slightly later: the darling and I had intended to take a tour of the rest of the A380, but we decided it would be way too hao lian (show off) to do so while wearing Suites/First class pajamas.

Anyways the lavatory, while being ever so slightly blinged out, is just as small and tiny as those in economy or business class. No showers here (unlike Qatar and Emirates on their A380s). On the plus side I got to experience a little bit of what makes SQ service so legendary: I had scarcely gotten out of my seat when a steward held open the lavatory door for me, handed me a hanger (to hang my Suit and Business attire T-shirt and jeans), and waited outside for me to finish changing up so he could help me hang my clothes in the wardrobe behind my suite. Two thumbs up!

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Bathroom

Shortly after I return to my seat the A380 pushes back and taxis to the runway for the beginning of our 6-and-a-bit hour flight. This Airbus is my favorite aircraft: thanks to its size it's one of the more stable aircraft in flight, but most importantly it's one of the quietest in the cabin (probably the quietest). I've been on some B772/B773's that were so loud I could barely hear myself think; no such problems here as I'm able to comfortably have a normal-volume conversation with the darling.



Fine Dining at 40,000 feet

Serving good food in an aircraft is probably more challenging than most of us appreciate. Flight attendants aren't chefs, and an airplane galley isn't a kitchen (you can't exactly install a charcoal grill behind the lavatories), so all the food is prepped, cooked, and then chilled or frozen on the ground, many many hours before it's served in-flight. If you think about it you're basically eating frozen dinners!

The airline tries its' best within the constraints it has, though, and in the case of Singapore Airlines, this means hiring eight celebrity chefs to imagine and cook up their Suites / First class chow. As this is a flight to Japan, Chef Yoshihiro Murata's Kyo-Kaiseki is given menu front-page honours, but if you feel like something less Japanese-ey there's an alternate six-course menu available, too.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Lunch Menu

Before we take a closer look at the food, allow us a little digression to our second favorite thing about SQ's suite. Remember that ottoman in an earlier picture where we rested our feet on? During meal times you can use it as a companion seat, so you can totally invite your partner over to your own suite for lunch or dinner! The seat even has its' own seat belt so you can remain safely strapped in during turbulence.

It's exactly like booking your own private table in a nice restaurant, except that you're infinitely more comfortable here thanks to the soft, fluffy, stretchy pajamas / sleeping suit. Amazing.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Eat Together

Oh, and of course no meal is complete without a proper drink. Our alcohol tolerance is effectively zero, but such a small detail isn't going to stop us from trying at least a quarter glass of 2004 Dom Pérignon and Krug Grand Cuvée champagnes.

(Yes ... even our cheerful flight attendant was disappointed that we only wanted so little bubbly. "Such a special occasion you're only drinking so little champagne? No fun lah, like that.")

If champagne isn't your thing, there's also an extensive range of red and white wines, aperitifs, cocktails, spirits, beer and liqueurs. Oh, and sodas and fruit juices. And a dozen different coffees from Illy, and teas from TWG. Chances are whatever you want is on the menu. If you're interested, we've listed the full range of what's available at the end of this post.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Champagne

In the interest of greater variety, the darling decides to go with the regular menu, and I try the Kyo-Kaiseki. Both options start off with the same pre-meal canape: Singapore Chicken and Beef Satay (you get caviar with dinner services). It's pretty similar to the ones we tried at The Private Room - probably catered by the same kitchen after all.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Satay

The regular menu then moves on to as much bread as you want from this bread basket. The garlic bread comes in particularly high regard; we perhaps made the mistake of keeping it aside until the soup course, which meant it was a little cold and soggy by the time we partook.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Bread Basket

Parma Ham and Perigourdine Truffle with rock melon and honeydew was our choice of appetizer. We're big fans of this Italian dish; we love how the salt, fat and flavours of the ham are accentuated by the sweet, juicy melon.

(Alternate choice: Oriental Antipasto with poached king prawn, smoked balik salmon and marinated octopus)

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Parma Ham

For the soup course we tried the Cream of Asparagus with shiitake mushroom and scallop chawanmushi. Nice, hearty soup, given a touch of texture and complexity from the egg custard. Shame that the garlic bread from the basket was no longer crispy by this point.

(Alternate choice: Cantonese Watercress Soup with Pork and Red Dates)

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Soup

By far the worst course of the afternoon was the Salad. The french dressing seemed to be pure vinegar, and ladled on so generously as to render the salad unpalatably sour. In hindsight we should have requested the dressing on the side.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Salad

For our main course, we had earlier pre-ordered a Lobster Thermidor via Singapore Airlines' Book the Cook service. I mean, how could we have possibly resisted such a tempting description?

"Lobster Thermidor
Whole lobster sautéed in butter, flambéed in brandy, sprinkled with cheese, and served with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic and spicy mustard, and buttered asparagus."


Total yums. Also, having lobster on a plane just seems more awesome than anything else.

(Alternate choices: Pan Fried Black Cod Fillet, Singapore Style Herbal Chicken and Miso-Marinated Wagyu Beef Fillet)

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Lobster Thermidor

We're told that Book the Cook dishes are catered on top of the standard menu offerings for the day, so if you're a big eater you should be able to request an additional main course off the menu.

Dessert-wise, the Warm Lemon Tart with mango ice cream and citrus salad is heavenly to me (I really dig sour, citrus-ey flavours).

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Citrus Tart

Moving on to my choice of Kyo-Kaiseki: The Sakizuke (先附, 'appetizer course') and Mukozuke (向付, 'sashimi course') are served together:

Sakizuke (upper, from L-R): Grilled Matsutake Mushroom with Yuzu, Marinated Mackerel with Persimmon salad, and Squid and Red Capsicum Salad with Caviar.
Mukozuke (lower): Seared Yellow Tail Tuna with Mixed Salad and Mustard Yuzu dressing.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

These dishes set out the Chef's tone for the Kaiseki: Clean, simple cooking with focus on the taste and choice of ingredients rather than on heavy seasoning or flavours.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

Next up: Oshinogi (御凌ぎ, 'palette cleanser course') of Pacific Saury-Saffron Sushi, Chicken Liver Terrine and Fish Cake (in the foreground), and Chilled Buckwheat Noodle, Spring Onion, Wasabi and Seaweed (background):

Some interesting, unique flavours here: The Sushi being flavored and coloured with saffron. Soba was pretty par for the course.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

The cold dishes done with, we move on to the hot dishes, starting with the Futamono (蓋物, 'lidded dish'): Lily Bud Dumpling with Foie Gras and Quail meat.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

Yakimono (焼物, 'flame grilled items'): Beef Fillet Teriyaki with Carrot, Sweet Potato and Turnip Flower (L); Grilled Barracuda, Shiitake and Sudachi Lime (R).

Gohan (御飯, 'rice dish'): Steamed rice with Chestnut, Saikyo Miso Soup with Awafu Tofu, Mustard and Assorted Pickles.

We very much liked the sweetness in the carrot and sweet potato, but didn't like the beef (it was cooked well done and hence really dry). Rice was fluffy, steamy perfection.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

Mizugashi (水菓子, 'fruits/dessert'): Fig Jelly with Azuki Ice Cream: A nice, sweet, fruity ending to an ... interesting meal.

We thought the Kyo-Kaiseki was pretty decent overall. We felt that there are simply too many mini individual items for SQ's catering chain to get totally right (sixteen in total, if you haven't been keeping count), but that in the grand scheme of things it's a great accomplishment.

Just a side note, though: This Kyo-Kaiseki probably won't be to everyone's liking: If you like your food bold and bursting with flavour you might be a bit disappointed.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Kyo-Kaiseki

The Kaiseki and non-Kaiseki menus converge here to the Cheese course (which we declined due to non-availability of stomach space, much to the disappointment of our waitress attendant).

We did, however, find some space for fresh fruits - sweet strawberries and some rock melon ...

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Fresh Fruit

... and some chocolate petit fours. There's always room for chocolate!

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Petit Fours

With all the many courses finally devoured, we top off our stomachs with some coffee and tea (check out the end of the post for a listing of what's available). Forgot to take photos, unfortunately :)



The pièce de résistance

It is said that sleeping immediately after eating is A Bad Idea. But our tummies are so overloaded from three huge meals in the previous 18 hours that we're in total food coma zombie mode. So we ask the attendants for some help with our beds and go for a short walk and lavatory break ...

... and come back to our suites to find this ... magnificence.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Double Bed

Nothing prepares you for just how awesome this looks and feels like in person. A double bed? In an airplane? With your own (almost) fully-enclosed private cabin? Ohmigawd yes please!

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Double Bed
That uncontrollable grin when a double bed at 40,000 feet becomes reality.

Now, if you're thinking that this looks like the perfect opportunity to get some mile high club action going on, well, you can probably see from the photos that the suite isn't fully enclosed. There are little windows where attendants can walk past, peek in, and see what you're doing. So if you're going to try, well ... be discrete about it. We decided not to risk the embarrassment of potentially getting caught :)

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Double Bed

The attendants will gladly make a double bed for you if you're flying alone (and the cabin is empty enough), but do note that it isn't really a double bed. It's two single beds with a divider running down the middle, so you'd end up lounging / sleeping on either one of the two sides.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Double Bed

We both finish watching Inside Out (a superb animated film, great for adults) and settle down for slightly over an hour of shut-eye.

You can probably imagine how the anti-climatic the rest of the flight is: The captain comes on the PA to announce starting the descent. We begrudgingly change out of our pajamas while the attendants convert the suite back to seat mode. Plane lands and we drag ourselves to the airport to a chorus of "Thank you very much and see you again Mr timing!"

Although it doesn't really feel that bad, because we have two whole weeks of holidays ahead of us in Tokyo and Hokkaido!



That's great and all, but about that s$200 you mentioned ...

3rd March 2017 Update: Singapore Airlines has unfortunately carried out a devaluation exercise: mileage requirements for redemptions have increased, and the 15% discount for online bookings has been removed. So while previously a first class one-way redemption to Tokyo was 51,000 miles, it's now gone up to 65,000 miles: A hefty 27.5% increase. The new rates take effect on the 23rd of March, though, so if you've got some miles stashed away, you've still got around three weeks to book at the old rates!

Don't worry, we haven't forgotten! A one-way trip in Suites class from Singapore to Tokyo normally costs s$4,950.90. Naturally we didn't pay anywhere near that. If you've heard of the phrase "frequent flier miles" then you already knew up front how we financed this flight: Frequent Flier Miles!

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Full Fare

To be exact, we spent 51,000 KrisFlyer miles and s$201.70 for each ticket.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Miles Redemption Amount

But 51,000 miles seems like a huge number!

Actually, not really. If you're blessed enough to have your company fly you around for work on Singapore Airlines (even in economy class), the miles can rack up mighty quickly. For example, a single return trip to Johannesburg and back nets you 13,448 miles (with 25% bonus from KrisFlyer Silver/Gold).

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT SIN JNB mileage accrual

In addition to flying (or if you don't fly many long hauls), supplement your earning rate with an air miles credit card. Holding both the Citi PremierMiles Visa and Amex * cards net you 25,000 miles a year, in addition to up to 10 additional miles for each dollar spent (for seasonal hotel booking or other promotions).

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT SIN JNB mileage accrual

So let's put together a quick, simple scenario:

Jan-Feb 2016: Fly a single Economy class long-haul Singapore Airlines flight: 14,000 miles.
Mar 2016: Annual renewal for Citi PremierMiles Visa and Amex: 25,000 miles.
Jan-Oct 2016: Charge monthly expenditure of s$1,000, @ 1.3 miles per dollar: 13,000 miles.

Total accrued in less than a year: 52,000 miles, enough to take the exact same journey that we did!

Yes, it really is that straightforward. Obviously you'll need to set your own target according to your own individual mileage earning rate and/or how many family members you have. For a quick and easy guide to how many miles you need for selected destinations, do check out our Ultimate Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles Redemption Guide. Quick tip: 31,875 miles is enough to buy you a one way Suites class journey to Hong Kong.

* Disclaimer: There are dozens of Mileage cards in Singapore: Choose one that suits you best. We are only using Citi's cards in this blog post for illustration, and we do not gain anything if you decide to apply. Having said that, Citi does have a 'friend referral' facility, so if you found this post useful and would like to throw us a bone do get in touch :)



Final thoughts and et cetera

If you weren't aware of Mileage redemptions up til now, we sincerely hope that this post has inspired you to follow in our footsteps, and start building up your own little nest egg of KrisFlyer miles to fly in supreme comfort to wherever your next upcoming destination is. If you're interested and would like to know a little bit more detail, don't hesitate to contact us via email (or via the comments section below); we're definitely eager to share.

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ12 SIN-NRT Suite

Despite being almost a decade old, Singapore Airlines Suites is definitely still one of, if not the best overall experiences you can get in the air. Yes, their ground services have fallen a little behind the curve, and yes, Etihad's amazing new Apartments are bigger, more spacious, and probably a little more comfortable. But as a package deal SQ's Suites are still as competitive as they were the day they were introduced.





Beverage Options for this flight (as promised):

Champagnes: 2004 Dom Pérignon, Krug Grand Cuvée
White Wines: 2012 Marimar Estate La Masia Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay, 2008 Domaine William Fever Montmains Chablis Premier Cru, 2013 Richter Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett
Red Wines: 2009 Louis Latour Chateau Corton-Grancey Grand Cru, 2007 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2013 Clonakilla O'Riada Shiraz
Port: Dow's 20 Year Old Port
Cocktails: Singapore Sling, Dry Martini
Aperitifs: Campari, Dry Vermouth
Spirits: Macallan 12-Year-Old Single Malt, Johnnie Walker Blue Lable, Jack Daniel's, Hennessy Cognac XO, Belvedere Vodka, Bacardi Superior Rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Sawaya Matsumoto Sake
Liqueurs: Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Bailey's Irish Cream, Aragoshi Umeshu
Beers: Tiger, Budweiser, Asahi
Illy Coffees: Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia, Espresso, Jamaican Blue Mountain
TWG Teas: 1837 Black, Silver Moon, Rooibos, Royal Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Chamomile, Breakfast Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint
Other Teas: Jasmine, Oolong, Pu-Erh, Sencha Green, Indian Masala, Hojicha, Peppermint
And of Course: Still & Sparkling waters, fruit juices, sodas and ice milo

3 comments:

  1. Hi, thanks for the great review! Are the amenity kits given out on sq12: SIN-NRT? u've mentioned that amenity kits are only for 7 hrs and longer flight but sin-nrt is only 6 hrs +.

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    1. Hi AL, our SQ 12 SIN-NRT was scheduled from 9.25am-5.30pm(+1), so scheduled flight time was 7hr5mins. You're definitely right that actual flight time is only 6hr+. We did get amenity kits and pajamas on our flight.

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    2. thanks for the reply. looking forward to my flight :)

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