Airline: Singapore Airlines | Aircraft: A380-800 | Class: Suites | Flight: SQ286 (AKL-SIN)
When Singapore Airlines first announced the super luxurious Suites Class on the Airbus A380 in 2007, everyone who was even remotely interested in aviation went crazy for it. When I visited Auckland last month, I decided to give this Suites class a try (since it has been almost 10 years since it was first introduced) as there have been rumours of Singapore Airlines discontinuing this product. In case you are wondering about The Private Room, check out my review when I flew from Singapore to Auckland.
I arrived at the Auckland Airport and proceeded directly to the queue for Suites class passengers - I was issued with one of the beautiful gold tickets with an Express Lane sticker on it. If the airport is really busy during the time of your flight, the Express Lane sticker is going to make a huge difference. Since there is no Singapore Airlines lounge at the Auckland Airport, I made my way to the Air New Zealand Auckland International Lounge which opened in 2015. Since I was traveling in Suites, I had the privilege of bringing an additional guest who was traveling on the same flight in (otherwise, your Star Alliance Gold status works perfectly here as well).
Unfortunately the gate was located at the extreme end of the airport and there was plenty of walking to be done. When I finally got there, long lines were already forming and since it was an Airbus A380, the entrance to Suites and the main Economy cabin was the same. This is when things started to get really impressive - one of the ground staff from Singapore Airlines actually spotted my golden ticket and immediately offered to take me to the front of the line. Upon reaching the door, I was immediately greeted by one of the delightful Singapore Airlines cabin crew who were really excited to show me my home for the next 9 to 10 hours - Suite 3F.
Upon settling down, I was immediately offered a choice of beverage and of course anyone should know by now that Singapore Airlines only serves the Krug Grande Cuvee and the 2006 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne in Suites class - I'm definitely a Krug guy but if you don't know your preference by now, try both! While I am no Champagne connoisseur, I really do love that expansive bouquet that you get with a nicely-chilled bottle of Krug.
As I waited for the plane to take-off and the rest of the passengers to board, I was given a pajamas suit to change into - they used to be Givenchy-branded but now it just says Singapore Airlines. The truth is, apart from the brand, that pajamas is still made of the same soft material and definitely one that you will grow to love (and eventually take home!) over the flight. I opted for an M size as the sizes run a little larger - M is actually slightly baggy for me so you know if you are somewhat the same size as me, you can also try the small S size if you prefer. In case you are wondering what is up with the pajamas on-board the plane, it really is to make you feel a lot comfortable - even if you do not intend to sleep! More importantly, if you are wearing a nicely starched crisp shirt, the last thing you want to do is for the flight to crease everything up. Change into the comfortable pajamas and have your clothes hung up in a private closet that is attached to each suite (yes, you get your very own 'wardrobe'!).
Alright let's talk numbers now and see what you are truly paying for when you fly in Suites class on-board Singapore Airlines. Firstly, the product itself is amazing. Keep in mind that the product has been announced in 2007 and probably in the market since late 2007 or early 2008 but the condition of these cabins (at least the one I was on!) was still topnotch. The seat pitch in Suites is 81 inches which is at least 2.5X the seat pitch in Economy at 32 inches. I mean honestly, even the Business Class on-board the 777-300ER with a seat pitch of 55 was more than sufficient! The seat width in Suites was also a whooping 35 inches wide - I literally had my camera next to me throughout the flight and still had plenty of space to space. If you are fairly comfortable in Economy on-board most Singapore Airlines flights, keep in mind that that is only 19 inches wide so 35 is truly amazing.
While waiting for the flight to take-off, I also took the time to peruse the menu for my flight back from Auckland to Singapore - all in a leather-bound folder and while sipping on a glass of Krug of course. Mid-way through perusal, I noticed that there was a really comfortable-looking blanket and some socks that were on the seat across of me (of course the seat belongs to me too!). In case you are wondering whether you can bring a friend from a different cabin to sit with you in your private suite, the answer is no - I actually asked one of the friendly cabin crews. So really that seat is just there for another friend who is traveling in Suites with you - or you can choose to sit there instead (I did for a bit as I wanted to see the turbofan engines) during your flight but definitely not during take-off and landing.
Now to the juicier bits of the flight (pun unintended) - the amazing food that you will get to enjoy while you are on-board the Singapore Airlines Suites class. While food on Business Class is generally already quite amazing (unless it is a breakfast meal service), Suites is a whole different level on its own. Before we even get started on appetisers, lunch service on-board the SQ286 Suites Class was an assorted plate of chicken and lamb satays. Interestingly enough, they actually started serving the satays before setting the table - I am not too sure if this is a norm since I have only taken Suites twice but perhaps someone who has taken it many times can shed some light on this mystery. The satays were quite delicious but it lacked the smokiness that you generally get from outside (I did not expect them to be of the same standards though!) - that being said, I hear Malaysia Airlines serve up a pretty decent Satay dish in Business!
The second course is appetiser - I had the choice of the Chilled Malossol Caviar with Melba toast and condiments or the Warm Lobster with Kombu Butter, Celeriac Puree and Asparagus. Since I had the caviar on my overnight flight to Auckland but did not get to take a proper photo of it as the cabin was quite dark, I decided to go for it again because it is that good! Caviar is generally served using an inert material (usually mother of pearl) as metal is believed to ruin the taste of quality caviar. Let's just say Malossol caviar and Krug could very well be the best thing you can eat on the flight - every bite felt like an blissful memory.
The delightful cabin crew in Suites then made their rounds with a basket filled with assorted bread rolls and gourmet breads. Of course, I couldn't resist getting two slices of the famous garlic bread (just remember to eat them AFTER the caviar) - while you may request for more than one piece in Business, the cabin crew actually asks how many do you want in Suites! Anyone who has flown with Singapore Airlines on Business or First Class will definitely know how great these are - hey even Ben thinks it is the best in the sky!
For my fourth course, I had the option between the highly-recommended Savoy Cabbage Soup with Caraway Seeds and Fourme d'Ambert Cheese or the more homely Chicken Broth with Ginseng and Wolfberries. I opted for the latter as I was really craving for something a little more Oriental and comforting - it was exactly what you would expect from a highly concentrated chicken broth (in a good way). Every spoonful of soup was delicious and complex with a few layers of flavours. The soup was also served at the right temperature which is always impressive since soups are often served below the desired temperature. Another thing that I have to point out is that in Suites, your finished plates and bowls do not last very long on your table - they all magically disappear once you are done with it. In fact, if you are a slow eater in general, take your time because individual courses are served based on your own tempo. While you are not able to 'dine anytime' on this flight, you can be sure that no one is rushing you to serve the next course of meal.
I gave the fifth course a miss as I did not feel like having a salad but a Salad of Mesclun, Fennel, Cherry Tomato, Pistachio and Mozzarella Cheese with a choice of Apple Balsamic Dressing or Creamy Garlic Ranch Dressing is served during my flight. Finally on to the main course (which is the sixth course really) - Book the Cook is not available for flights exiting Auckland so you will be stuck with whatever is being offered onboard. The good news is, the dishes offered onboard are delicious and you probably will not go wrong with either one you pick:
- Seared Beef Fillet with Herbs
- Grilled Chicken in Teriyaki Sauce
- Oven Roasted Herb Crusted Ling Fish Fillet
- Gosht Korma, Sabzi Jaldrezi, Palak Makkai
I was pleasantly surprised at how tender and juicy the beef fillet was - the lamb loin that I had on Business Class from Sydney was slightly on the well done side but this beef fillet was just delicious! This glorious piece of meat is also served with smoked and roasted beetroots, asparagus, yuzu-mustard dressing and a yoghurt-miso puree. At this point, I also opted for a glass of the famous 2012 Penfolds RWT Shiraz that generally retails between S$250 and S$300 a bottle outside. This wine from the famous Barossa Valley in Australia has been matured in French Oak and it truly showcases the region's versatility in producing fine wines.
Finally desserts - this is the seventh course of the meal service already! I had the choice of having either the Eclair with Caramelia Chocolate Ganache or the Belgium Chocolate Mousse Cake (of course, there is also the option of having both!). I opted for the formal instead as it looked amazing with a vanilla ice cream and Morello compote. While the eclair itself was on the harder side, the flavours were amazing - I love the tartness from the morello cherries, the sweet and rich flavours from the chocolate ganache but more importantly, the fragrance from the vanilla bean ice cream. While I am generally not a fan of desserts, this was a dream on a plate!
For my eighth and ninth courses - I had a platter of cheese (minus the Kahurangi Blue) and some fruits. While I am generally not a cheese person, it felt customary for me to end off this super luxurious lunch experience with a plate of brie, camembert and aged cheddar (just no blue though!). I also took the opportunity to order a glass of the 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis ler Cru Beauregard AOC from the Burgundy region of France. I do not generally like whites and have very little knowledge in them but I was not particularly keen with this glass - I just ordered another flute of Krug instead which seems to pair well with everything white! I was also offered some fine chocolate pralines (course number ten!) before coffee and tea orders were taken.
I ended off the lunch service with a cup of the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee which you can only order in First Class or on Suites when you travel on Singapore Airlines. Sure the freshly-extracted espresso-based coffee from illy is pretty amazing (especially when you are in the air), but the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is spectacular. Known to be one of the rarest and most highly sought-after coffee beans in the world, the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee has a vibrant and smooth consistency with very little bitterness (so Australian coffee drinkers watch out!).
I was tempted to take a nap after that incredible lunch service but I decided that I would check out the in-flight entertainment instead since I was pretty much asleep for most of the journey from Singapore to Auckland in Suites. In the month of November, I took four Singapore Airlines flights have already watched most of the new movies that they were streaming but how can I give up the opportunity to watch a movie in a private suite on that ridiculously large 23-inch LCD screen with Bose branded noise-cancelling headphones? If you are wondering how much larger this screen is, the new Economy Class on Singapore Airlines features a 11.1 inch LCD screen so this is massive!
I had the privilege of wearing the QC25 model from Bose (which is a huge upgrade from the QC15 version) on my flight from Auckland to Singapore in Suites. These noise-cancelling headphones are incredibly comfortable and the noise-cancellation is actually pretty impressive (sure the QC35s are better and wireless but these are really great too!). I am not too sure when Singapore Airlines decided to upgrade the headphones to the newer QC25 version but it is definitely a much-welcomed change.
Since I had the sliding doors and windows drawn in my suite onboard Singapore Airlines, I decided that it was time to get a little more comfortable - you can actually recline your chair to a pretty impressive sundeck position which looks pretty unsightly but it is actually incredibly comfortable. There is also the Do Not Disturb button that you can activate if you are thinking of taking a nap and you do not want the cabin crew to wake you up for meals. If you do want the bed, make sure you let one of the crew members know - the bed is actually a private one that is not converted from your seat. I tried it on my flight from Singapore to Auckland and had over four hours of uninterrupted rest (my personal best was two hours on my flight from Sydney to Singapore) so hey, brand new personal record!
The handset in Suites is nothing to shout about and it resembles the one that they have in the Business cabin. While I am generally quite restless in Economy, seeing that I have 9 hours more to go in Suites was strangely comforting.
Since I had the doors and shades drawn, I decided it was time for a shameless (but definitely customary!) selfie in the privacy of my own Suite. Do note that people from the outside can still look in from the translucent areas of the blind so do not get too crazy or creative with your selfie - take one and move on. In case you are wondering why I have a glass of water on the table (instead of a flute of Krug), well, it is important to stay hydrated between drinks and they actually serve Evian and I happen to be one of those people that genuinely likes the taste of Evian. Also that top is part of the Pyjamas Set that was given at the start of the flight.
In case you do not already know, every passenger in Suites will also be given a flight amenity kit - unfortunately you do not get this in Business on Singapore Airlines but many airlines do give them out in Business Class as well. There are two versions - one for men and one for women and it comes with four items from the ACQUA Essenziale range by Salvatore Ferragamo. The new wash bag is actually quite a nice one (something that I would definitely recycle and bring on my personal staycation trips) and there's even a strap which doubles as a hook. You will find a decent-sized 30ml Eau de Toilette, 10ml Lip Balm, 30ml Hand Cream and a Cleansing Towel inside. I received one on my night flight from Singapore to Auckland and was actually wondering if they were going to give these out since my return flight was a day flight but hey here it is!
If you are feeling hungry in-between meal periods, you may opt for noodles and sandwiches on the flight from Auckland to Singapore. On my flight, I had the option of Ee Fu Noodles, Bee Hoon or Kway Teow if I was craving for something more Oriental but there was also the option of having a number of different sandwiches. Since I just felt like having a snack, I opted for a pack of potato chips instead (with an accompanying glass of Krug of course). There were also chocolate bars, muesli slices, assorted nuts and butter biscuits that you can pick from! With that being said, I was a little disappointed with this particular glass of Krug - if you were to compare this glass with the photo of the first glass that I took on this flight, you will definitely notice the dramatic decrease in bubbles. Someone in the galley probably did not close it well! That being said, I am sure the cabin crew would be happy to replace the glass if I told them about it.
The service onboard the Suites Class is impeccable. When I waited outside the occupied bathroom for my turn, I was actually invited by the IFS to take a seat in my suite and he will actually come and get me when the bathroom is vacant for my usage. I mean I was happy to wait outside but hey, when someone offers, it is rude to decline!
Mid-way through the flight I also spotted a coat hanger which I thought was interesting since I literally have a private wardrobe in my suite to store my clothes - why would I leave it to dangle during the flight? If you are looking for the seatbelt sign, this is also where you will find it but trust me, even the seat belts in Suites are pretty comfortable so you will probably leave them on for most of your flight.
After watching a couple of movies and enjoying countless glasses of Krug, I notice that I only had two to three hours of flight time left (which is great news in Economy but tragic news in Suites) and before I knew it, light dinner was starting to be served. The first course was appetiser and on my flight, a Tuttafetta Ham Salad with mesclun leaves, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, blue cheese and balsamic dressing was served. While I am personally not a fan of blue cheese, it was strangely palatable in this dish and I finished every bit of it.
I also did not give up the opportunity to have a second serving of that famous Garlic Bread (only one this time though!) as the friendly cabin crew came around with the impressive bread basket
There were three difference choices for main course onboard the flight and your preferences were actually taken before the meal service started:
- Seared Chicken Breast with Yuzu Pepper Dressing
- Seared Lamb Chop with Natural Jus
- Thai Style Prawns with Massaman Curry Sauce
While I was tempted to go for the lamb chops, I figured that I would try the prawns instead since I love a good massaman curry and boy was I impressed! Even though the beef for lunch was really good, the massaman curry was absolutely delicious - it had the right levels of coconut milk, cashews and cardamom pods which resulted in a deliciously creamy and consistent curry sauce. Eating all of that with steamed rice is just bliss at first bite.
Finally for dessert before coffee and tea was served, I had the Coconut Panna Cotta with Blueberry-stained Pineapple and Puffed Rice which was pretty decent. The texture of the panna cotta is not exactly right but considering how this was served on a plane, I would say it is pretty good.
One of the questions that I got a lot from my friends when I got back to Singapore was "how was the Suite experience?" and truth to be told, I do not know how to answer that question. I mean, how do you summarise a perfect flight experience to someone without soundly overly pompous or arrogant? The Suites product was not designed for an everyday person in mind and therefore indulgence is truly key in the whole experience. I loved every second of the journey and it made a ten hour flight extremely comfortable - in fact, time just flew by so quickly. Singapore Airlines should be unveiling their new Suites product next year or early 2018 and as much as I hate to see this go away, I am extremely excited to see what else do they have up their sleeves.