Following a fantastic few days in Lapland, I first headed to Frankfurt to make my way home. Why Frankfurt? I snagged an award seat in Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class to New York. An award at Saver pricing, in fact, just 86,000 miles plus ~€122 in fees to to fly the “blogger special”. No, it’s not quite the same as an ultra long-haul flight to Singapore. But it was still a great way to mark another First Class product off the bucket list for a good price. And on the increasingly rare A380, no less.
(And yes, I do intend to post about about my experience aurora chasing in Lapland. I’ve just been having a devil of a time getting the photos to format properly.)
Singapore Airlines (SQ) Flight 26
- Tuesday, October 25, 2022
- Depart: Flughafen Frankfurt am Main (FRA), Terminal 1, Gate B46, 09:13, 38m late
- Arrive: New York – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 4, 12:35, 1 hour 25m late
- Duration: 9 hours 22 minutes
- Seat: 2F
- Equipment: Airbus A380-800
Note that while the Frankfurt – New York Fifth Freedom route continues, the A380 disappears effective May 15, 2023. Instead, Singapore plans to deploy a 777-300ER after that date. Unfortunately, while First Class will continue to be offered, it will be the “standard” First offered on the 777. See reviews by Brad and Rocky for more info. So you can no longer look forward to Suites on the cheap on this route. Also note that Saver pricing now costs 97,000 KrisFlyer miles, up from 86,000 when I booked.
Check-In and Boarding
If there’s one letdown about the Singapore Suites experience in Frankfurt, it’s the lack of a distinctive check-in process. Compared to Air France La Première or Lufthansa First, Singapore offers pretty much…nothing…at Frankfurt. Sure, you get a dedicated Suites Class check-in desk, but there are no special lounges or other special services. No, I don’t expect Singapore to offer its own First Class lounge at an outstation. But when other world-class products like La Première offer things like escorts to the gate, even at outstations like Barcelona, it feels like Singapore can do better.
All that said, I appreciated the dedicated check-in, because take a look at the Economy queue…
Singapore Airlines Suites Class passengers at Frankfurt receive access to two lounges, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, and the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. I arrived at the terminal nearly 3 hours early, so I had plenty of time to visit both lounges. I’ll post reviews of both later.
Due to a late arriving aircraft from Singapore, our flight also took a scheduled delay of 35 minutes. I headed over to the gate about 15 minutes prior to boarding, hoping to hop on board early. What I encountered was a rather chaotic scene, with signs denoting boarding groups but long, disorganized lines for each. (Supposedly, Singapore offers a roped-off area up front for Suites Customers, but I didn’t see it.) As boarding began, I asked a gate agent if she could point me to the Suites line, and she quickly invited me to skip the queue and head onboard. Singapore uses two jet bridges for the A380, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. After heading down the bridge for the upper deck, a FA warmly welcomed me on board and directed me to my suite.
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class – Seating and Interior
In this configuration, Singapore offers just six suites on the upper deck of the A380 over three rows. Note that some versions of the A380 have the Suites on the lower deck. These aircraft feature 12 suites over four rows, with two sets of middle seats. The setup sort of resembles the Kosmo 2.0 Suite on Korean Air’s 747. However, the overall design is much more distinctive, and the walls seem to go up higher.
And of course, there’s just always something special about a staircase on an airplane.
My only minor complaint is that the high suite walls make the aisle seem dark.
As for the suite itself, holy moly, the space is huge. Measuring nearly 50 square feet, the A380 Suite features a recliner seat and a separate bed. This contrasts to the standard F product, which features a regular seat that flips forward into a bed. I’ve taken pictures from a variety of angles to provide a better idea of the entire space. Looking in from the door, the recliner looks forward from the back wall, with the bed stowed in the forward wall.
As a point of reference, here’s how the space compares to some competing First Class “closed suite” products. First, Korean Air’s Kosmo 2.0 Suite.
Second, Air France’s La Première suite on the Boeing 777. I count this as a “closed suite” since the curtain wraps around the seat completely.
Yes, it really is a massive footprint for an airplane seat.
For takeoff and landing, the recliner faces forward, looking like a standard premium class seat. However, these recliners offer considerably more width than most seats, at 35 inches.
What makes the seat particularly innovative is the 270 degree swivel feature. You can look straight ahead if you want. But you can, for instance, turn the seat 90 degrees to look straight out the window.
Or you can swivel 45 degrees to the left for a better view of the TV.
Or swivel a full 90 degrees left to line up with the tray table. (I’ll have photos of the table when describing the meal service.)
Thanks to the large footprint, the suites include a very large amount of storage space. First and foremost is the storage closet by the door. It’s plenty large enough to hold a full-size carry on, plus quite a lot more. Got carried away at the duty free before boarding? No sweat, you’ll have plenty of room to store all your goodies.
In the back corner, there’s a “cradle” style compartment large enough to store a backpack or laptop bag.
Or you can also shove a backpack or small bag underneath the tray where the top of the bed folds down. Speaking of which, when not sleeping, the tray can double as a storage space for small items.
As you can see from the first few photos, there’s also storage along the window for personal items like phones or cameras. Finally, there’s one last storage compartment holding the headphones. It’s a decent nook to stick a wallet, passport, or glasses. (Personally, I never use these spaces for anything but glasses. As absent minded as I am, I’m all but certain to forget whatever I stick in there.)
The suite contains two sets of controls. First, next to the window is a control panel to adjust the lights, window shades, and “Do Not Disturb” sign. This aircraft features full blind-like shades that can be fully lowered while sleeping.
Meanwhile, the seat controls are on a touchpad in the recliner’s left-hand armrest. The bottom part of the touch remote controls the swivel, while the top is supposed to control recline. The contrast washed out in the lighting, but the swivel control is pretty simple. You push the picture of the window to swivel towards the window, “TV” to swivel towards the door, and the airplane to put the seat back in take-off/landing mode. However, I think the recline settings might have been broken on my remote (more on this later). Below the touchpad is a remote control for the TV. There is an additional “TV” button at the bottom of the touchpad which moves the TV towards or away from the seat.
Singapore Airlines places an orchid at the front of the armrest that connects to the tray table. It’s a nice touch, perhaps intended to mimic the rose provided in Lufthansa First. I also hadn’t noticed this previously, but even the wallpaper in the back has some nice floral designs.
So what about the door? I’ve been critical of the trend towards business class seats with doors. Mainly because the ones I’ve tried, like Delta One on the A350 or the new BA Club Suite, feel like…a business class seat with a door. But I do think if you’re going to do a suite with a door, this is how you do it. The enormous space, combined with the high walls, make this feel like a real enclosed room with the door closed.
But wait, there’s more! In two pairs of suites (1A/2A and 1F/2F), the wall by the bed lowers, allowing the two suites to transform into a double bed. 1F was occupied, so the FA couldn’t demonstrate. But it’s a terrific option for couples traveling together.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of legroom in these seats. When in the take-off/landing position, my feet couldn’t touch the bed folded against the wall.
But what about the most important part, the bed? When you’re ready to sleep, the bed folds down from the wall. Unlike seats that recline into a bed-like space, this is an actual, honest-to-goodness bed. I had the FA make the bed for a much needed post-lunch nap.
Singapore’s Suites Class bed includes a thick mattress pad. From my perspective, the bed and suite were really comfortable, and I slept soundly for a good 3 hours. But I should also note that I like my bed on the firm side, and prefer a warm cabin. There’s several reviews out there commenting that the mattress is too firm, and the placement of the bed by the wall contributes to making the suite too warm. Both are valid criticisms.
So were there any things I didn’t like about the space? There were a couple. First, when in take-off/landing mode, the seat sits pretty far back from the window. Looking out the window requires leaning forward quite a bit. For that matter, maybe it’s an illusion due to the size of the suite, but the window seemed rather small.
Second, try as I might, I just couldn’t get the seat to recline. It’s very possible it was user error, or maybe a busted controller. Either way, the lack of recline did impact seat comfort after a couple of hours. I also found the padding a little on the hard side. The firmness worked for the bed, but not so much for the recliner.
Meanwhile, Suites Class passengers have access to two lavatories at the front of the cabin. The lavatory to the left is a standard sized A380 lav, though it does have a nice sitting bench in front of the sink. The one on the right, though, is another story. While there’s no shower like on Emirates’ A380, the lav is huge. There’s not only plenty of space to move around, but also a separate sitting area in front of the vanity mirror. Combined with the mood lighting, it’s arguably the second fanciest setup in the sky.
A bouquet of flowers in front of the large mirror adds a touch of class to the space.
The one addition I wish for? A window, because who doesn’t love a window in a lav?
Overall, purely from a hard product standpoint, this is one impressive offering. While I haven’t sampled the Emirates A380 suite (that’s coming in November), it does beat beat all of the other products I’ve tried so far. In my opinion, it even edges out La Première on the 777. But how does it stack up in the soft product?
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class – In-Flight Entertainment
The centerpiece of Singapore’s IFE in Suites Class is the 32″ TV screen featuring the KrisWorld entertainment system. The screen takes up quite the amount of space in the corner by the door. As mentioned earlier, it can also swivel towards the recliner if desired.
A second controller by the window contains a dual display. However, it isn’t possible (at least as far as I could tell) to view different programs on the TV and controller. Rather, it’s just a duplicated display. I suppose that’s useful if you prefer to face forward or look out the window while using the IFE.
The KrisFlyer system is quite good, with a wide variety of Western, Asian, and Bollywood TV series and movies, both new and classics, and even regional specialties like anime and Ultramax. Perhaps best of all, there are several full seasons available on demand. While this relatively short 8-hour flight isn’t necessarily the best for binge watching, those full seasons surely come in handy on ultra long-haul routes. (As an aside, I remember a very early iteration of KrisFlyer on a SQ 747 back in the late 1990s. It certainly felt revolutionary at the time, but it’s come a LONG way since then.)
I did find it interesting that KrisFlyer differentiates between “Bollywood” and “Indian Regional” for specific South Indian languages. That’s something you usually see lumped into one category.
There are even Singapore-centric channels, including one dedicated to Formula One.
And of course, if you don’t want to watch TV or movies, there are plenty of other selections available. This includes games, music, and even audiobooks and podcasts.
Don’t even want to do that? There’s always the moving map for your viewing pleasure.
As far as power for your own gadgets, each suite includes two 110V power ports and USB ports. The first set is underneath the window and auxiliary IFE controller. This area includes the headphone jack, an HDMI port, and a contactless payment reader (if you fancy on-board duty-free purchases).
Then, underneath the seat is a second combo 110v and USB port.
Speaking of which, Singapore provides Bang & Olfusen noise-canceling headphones in Suites Class. These are excellent, but unfortunately, use a special adapter that is incompatible with a personal device.
Singapore does offer WiFi on its A380s. Suites Class passengers receive free WiFi for the entire flight with no data caps. Business Class and PPS Club members, meanwhile, receive 100 MB of free WiFi. For those not eligible for free WiFi, pricing is as follows:
- A “chat pass” is $3.99 (good for 2 hours only, for apps like WhatsApp, FB Messenger, etc.).
- A 100MB pass is $9.99.
- A 200MB pass is $15.99.
- A three hour pass with no data caps is $15.99.
While I find these metered plans obnoxious, there is at least an unlimited plan available, though time limited. The bad news? Speeds weren’t very good. This seemed odd, as this aircraft is a newer A380, which entered service in 2018. Nevertheless, speeds were mediocre at best, and borderline unusable at times.
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class – Food & Beverage
Here’s where I’m probably going to draw some flack from the bloggerati. While the soft product rated very highly in my book, I came away less impressed with the food & beverage. Yes, I probably spend too much time obsessing on airline food and drink. But it’s an important part of the experience for me, so it does make a difference in my book.
I’ll start off with an admission of inexcusable user error – I forgot to Book the Cook. It’s not that I didn’t know about book the cook. I simply forgot about it until it was too late. Some of the selections available from Frankfurt certainly looked good, and might have changed my opinion. Anyway, things started nicely enough with an offer of a pre-departure beverage. The one time I drink champagne is when it’s PDB time. And there’s no way I was missing this #champagneselfie featuring Dom Perignon 2009. The FAs were nice enough to take a photo both of the bubbly getting poured, and of me with the expensive beverage. Included with the beverage was a ramekin of warm mixed nuts. (You can choose Krug Grand Cuvée if you prefer. Or one of each if you really want to go wild.)
And then, of course, selfie time…
So why does someone who doesn’t care about champagne care about a glass of Dom Perignon? Back in the 1980s, while I was in grade school, my late father and I used to enjoy dreaming about stuff we couldn’t afford. Fancy cars, big houses, anything in the “I want to make lots of money at work and buy that someday” bucket. My dad didn’t drink, but one day he read about Dom in a magazine somewhere. My dad didn’t drink, but the obscene price tag caught his attention. And so it became one of those things he’d hoped I’d get to try when I grew up. It took 30+ years, but I can just imagine his face lighting up if I could tell him I finally enjoyed that glass of Dom. And so here’s to you, dad…
Anyway, after offering beverages, the FA handed out menus for the flight to New York. Meal service on this route includes both lunch and a pre-landing snack.
The wine selection is impressive. In addition to the aforementioned Dom and Krug, the list includes a selection of vintage whites and reds.
Singapore also offers an extensive selection of cocktails in Suites Class, including the iconic Singapore Sling.
Don’t drink (or not in the mood) and want something other than soda? There’s also a selection of mocktails available.
The liquor selection, while not as impressive as ANA First Class, does include one notable item. That’s the Macallan Lumina, which retails for $300 a bottle.
Finally, Singapore offers a large selection of coffees, espresso drinks, and teas. The tea selection, in particular, has to be the biggest I’ve seen in the air, one that takes up 2 full pages. Note that while not specifically shown on the menu, the FAs can make typical espresso drinks like cappuccino.
Formal meal service began quickly, about 20 minutes after take-off. I ordered a Singapore Sling to go with SQ’s signature satay. I enjoyed the Sling, which I found well-balanced; not overly sweet but refreshing. While I’m sure this will get me skewered in some circles, I’m not a huge fan of the satay. That’s partly because I’m not a huge fan of the dish in general, as I find the peanut sauce too sweet. Although advertised as “spicy”, it’s probably a 2/10 on the heat meter. The chicken is good quality, though. And the onion and cucumber shaped like a lotus is creative presentation.
After appetizers were cleared, the FAs offered another drink. This time, I switched to the Bordeaux. However, they didn’t have the 2008 listed on the menu, and offered a Chateau Leoville Porferré 2007 instead. This wine runs about $100 a bottle in the US, assuming you can find it.
This Bordeaux had some nice berry notes, and almost a slightly carbonated feel on the finish. It’s perhaps a little on the bold side, but it paired decently with my main course (I’ll get to that in a second). Next up was the bread basket, and I took an excellent pretzel bread. The roll was warm and soft, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
That was soon followed by the appetizers. I passed on the caviar (yes, I know, blasphemy) and went with the sea scallops and red pepper soup instead.
The sea scallops were beautifully presented, and was a decent dish overall. While I enjoyed the sauce, I detected more turmeric than carrot (it didn’t overwhelm the dish, though). I also found the scallops nicely cooked. The red pepper soup, though, was a big miss. The fish dumpling wasn’t my thing, at all, and I found the soup itself remarkably bland for a pepper soup.
Then came the main course; I went with a Chinese selection and ordered the braised pork ribs.
Once again, I received a beautifully presented dish. But once again, the dish came in too bland. It had good potential, with a flavorful sweet sauce, but the steamed vegetables screamed for some spices. Notice a recurring theme here?
Now the time came for desert. I briefly thought about the cheese plate, but I really wanted something with ice cream. So I went with the lemon tart (note the typo on the menu, with “cirtron” instead of “citron”).
I usually don’t do deserts with lemon, but this one worked. The lemon wasn’t too overpowering, with the ice cream providing a nice balance. And it’s not often you come across a well-executed meringue on an airplane. And of course, I couldn’t resist ordering the Macallan. This single malt is smooth rather than smoky, and has a very nice caramel apple flavor. It’s a nice whisky to slow sip and draw out a fancy meal.
Meal service from start to finish took about 90 minutes. That seems appropriate for a westbound daytime flight. You can ask the flight attendant to speed up the meal service if you prefer to get some extra sleep.
Following my nap, I asked for a cappuccino, which the FA happily brought within a couple of minutes. Singapore offers proper espresso drinks in Suites Class, a much appreciated perk.
About an hour prior to landing, the FAs offered the pre-landing snack. This time, I decided to try the cheeseburger sliders.
These actually were pretty good. The beef wasn’t hammered, and the onion jam gave the sliders a nice flavor. Too bad I wasn’t terribly hungry at this point. Afterwards, I tried a cup of the “1837” hot tea. It’s a nice, smooth blend. It’s just too bad it’s impossible to make a proper boiled tea in the air. (And what I would give for a lounge that can make a proper loose tea at the bar…)
So why did I feel unimpressed with the overall meal service? It’s the inconsistency as much as anything else. The scallops appetizer and the pre-landing snack were good, I enjoyed the wine selection, and The Macallan was a nice treat. But I found the main course and the soup mediocre, and everything needed more heat. As much hype as Singapore gets for its First Class meal service, it didn’t meet the mark IMO.
In this regard, the product really did match the hype. The cabin service was simply excellent from start to finish. Reading other reviews, I feared the service might be too over the top to the point of feeling intrusive. But this crew struck the perfect balance between attentiveness and giving you space to savor the experience.
From the very start, the primary FA warmly welcomed me aboard, and took a few extra minutes to give me an overview of the suite when I told her it was my first time aboard Suites Class. Bonus points for helping me take the photo with the Dom, too. During meal service, both Suites Class FAs ensured drinks stayed filled while pacing the meal as each passenger preferred.
It was between meals where service shined the most, though. Perhaps recognizing I preferred a more hands-off approach, the FAs were there instantly if I needed something, but otherwise, left me to enjoy the experience. That ability to adapt to each passenger takes skill, and is similar to the exemplary service I received in Lufthansa First. (All I can say is, thank goodness nobody tried to remove my shoes…)
Frankfurt is one of my favorite airports for planespotting, and this morning certainly didn’t disappoint. As we pushed back towards the taxiway, I first spotted an Etihad 77W headed to Abu Dhabi later.
Next up, a Sun Express 738. I’d never heard of Sun Express, an airline founded in 1989 as a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines. The airline operates a leisure-heavy operation with a fleet of mostly 737s throughout Europe.
Then, as we reached the taxiway, I got a clearer shot of a Condor plane in the old livery (pretty sure it’s a 767-300).
As we headed to the runway, I spotted an Ethiopian 777 in the distance. I’ve seen the Ethiopian 787 before, but I’d never captured the Triple Seven.
And finally, as we lifted off, a shot of Lufthansa’s iconic 747. Long live the Queen.
Shortly after take-off, the clear morning afforded a nice view of the German countryside below.
Unfortunately, things clouded over shortly thereafter, and remained overcast the entire way across the Atlantic. The puffy clouds were picturesque, at least.
Skies finally did clear briefly over northeastern Quebec, giving a glimpse of lands quickly becoming ice covered.
The clouds finally broke again on final approach, as we flew along the barrier islands south of Long Island. As you can see in the last shot, there was quite a bit of fog around JFK, finally breaking as we approached midday. That same fog mucked up domestic flights pretty good, ultimately delaying my flight back to Dallas by about an hour.
After landing, we headed to the penalty box, and proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait some more. Incredibly, JFK has just one gate capable of handling an A380. Our flight has a scheduled arrival time of 11:10. An Emirates A380 to Dubai has a scheduled departure time of 11:20. That by itself guarantees a trip to the penalty box. But then, the Emirates flight had issues loading baggage, and so we ended up stuck there for nearly an hour. Not Singapore’s fault, of course, but annoying nonetheless. Luckily I had plenty of time to make my connection, so no real harm.
Anyway, once we finally got moving, I saw a couple of interesting sports-themed jetBlue A320s. The first was a Brooklyn Nets livery.
And the second, a special livery dedicated to the J-E-T-S Jets! Naturally. (As a Cowboys fan, as long as it’s not the Giants, it’s all good.)
One other neat find – an Air India 77W preparing for the long flight to Delhi.
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class – Final Thoughts
To be honest, I’m a little torn about what to think here. Rocky dropped the dreaded overrated label on Singapore’s Business Class. I’m not quite ready to go that far on Suites Class. The hard product and service are objectively great. I found the food less than great, though, clearly outgunned by ANA, Lufthansa, and even Korean Air. Meanwhile, the ground service at Frankfurt really isn’t “First Class” at all. Air France and Lufthansa really set the standard there. If Air France can offer escorts to the plane on a connection from Barcelona in Business Class, and Lufthansa can offer escorts to passport control at an outstation like Washington Dulles, then why can’t Singapore offer anything special at Frankfurt or JFK?
Perhaps it’s a case of the hype setting the bar impossibly high. But I left this flight placing Singapore Suites a distant third behind La Première and Lufthansa First. Maybe a true ultra-long haul up front might change my opinion.