Airline: Singapore Airlines | Aircraft: A380-800 | Class: Business | Flight: SQ285 (SIN-AKL)
I flew on Singapore Airlines' Suites last year from Auckland to Singapore (and vice versa) and was completely spoilt by the experience - having your very own private suite (particularly where the doors shut) is an ultimate luxury in modern day travel. As such, when I upgraded my flight from Premium Economy to Business Class this year for 35,000 KrisFlyer Miles both ways, I was slightly worried that the experience wouldn't quite match up. After spending over a week in Auckland (where I stayed in the Hilton Auckland and the Rydges Auckland this time), I caught an Uber from the hotel to the airport.
Traveling in Business Class and above on Singapore Airlines here in Auckland meant that you will get an Express Lane sticker on your boarding pass - you can then use the well, express lane when going through immigration. Since the airport seems to be undergoing some kind of refurbishment or improvement, the line for the security checks joins back with the regular queue once you get through the Express Lane (this was different when I traveled from Auckland last year where passengers going through the Express Lane has their own dedicated line for security checks as well). I went straight to the Air New Zealand Auckland International Lounge (I have reviewed this lounge HERE last year) after clearing customs and security - since I got there fairly early, it was comparatively empty and the food served in the lounge was catered towards a breakfast service.
Be sure to check and confirm your boarding gate at the lounge before heading down - the last three times I have been here, the flights were all departing from gates 15 to 17 (these are the furthest gates so make sure you have ample time to walk there). The SQ286 flight back from Auckland to Singapore was boarding at Gate 15 and boarding was a little bit of a nightmare this time. Passengers traveling in Suites and Business alongside PPS (as well as PPS Solitaire) Club members were first to board - shortly after, passengers traveling in Premium Economy as well as KrisFlyer Elite Gold members were invited to board as well - this created a little bit of a mess because PEY passengers who were boarding on the J/F side were told to go on the other side of the boarding gate. To make things worse, passengers traveling in J were boarding from the left even though they had to go to door 2 (to get to the upper deck of the A380) so that created a little bit of a criss-cross madness.
The flight back from Auckland to Singapore is a full flight - I know this because I have previously checked the Seat Map via ExpertFlyer prior to boarding. Upon boarding, I was greeted by one of the cabin crews by name and was directed to my favourite seat that I have pre-selected - 14K! I was initially seated next to a Chinese man who was then visited by two passengers traveling in Suites (I presume they were family or distant relatives) who offered to exchange their seats in Suite for his seat in Business Class. That went on for a while (the volume of this discussion was quite shocking) but in the end, everything remained at status quo - I would have volunteered for the seat in Suites to solve their problem but hey they resolved this issue a lot quicker than expected.
A cabin crew then went around offering newspapers and magazines. Since I wasn't traveling in Suites today, I did not feel the need to pretend to be intellectual and therefore I passed on the opportunity to select a magazine from the pile. Strangely enough, Champagne and juice was offered on the ground (well, it's not strange to be offered juice on the ground) so I had to pick the only sensible choice. As you may already know, alongside most major airlines, Champagne and alcohol is typically not served before takeoff as taxes may be applicable for consumption on the ground. As usual, a pair of socks and slippers can be found on the seat - passengers will be able to change into them (preferably after takeoff) to get more comfortable.
Shortly after take-off, a cabin crew came around to confirm our meal choices for lunch. PPS Club members' orders were taken first before a natural progression for passengers seated in rows 11 to 15 were taken in the mini-cabin. Therefore, if you are not a PPS Club passenger traveling in Business Class and if you do foresee a full load on your flight, It may be a good idea to sit upfront - just remember that seats 11K and 11A are both windowless on the existing A380-800 planes operated by Singapore Airlines. Since Singapore Airlines has just offered the Book the Cook service for the AKL-SIN route (this was not available on my flight back in Suites last year) recently, I decided to take advantage of this and pre-ordered the Wakanui Beef Fillet from the Book the Cook menu. More importantly, having looked at the inflight-menu beforehand, I was further convinced on selecting a Book the Cook option since most of the dishes on this flight appear to have both Asian and Western components - I am very picky with fusion food unfortunately.
The first course was a canapé of Singapore Chicken and Lamb Satay. I do not personally fancy the satay sauce (or any satay sauce at all to be honest) so you can either have it on the side or without. If you prefer, you may request for just Chicken or Lamb instead of having both - I personally recommend the chicken since the lamb is often quite tough due to reheating. One of the greatest things about flying with Singapore Airlines is that they will not typically clear your Champagne glass without asking you beforehand (this cannot be said about my flight on Air China) so if you are thirsty traveller or simply an alcoholic, you are in for a jolly good time onboard.
No points for guessing which bread I chose out of the bread basket on this flight. In fact, I have always been puzzled as to why this course is always printed as one of the final courses on the menu when it is always served with the appetisers - shouldn't the menu reflect the actual progression of the meal? Since I did not actually have breakfast, I decided to go crazy with two bread choices this time. My conclusion? Stick with the garlic bread and save your disappointment for people in life instead.
The third course was a Mediterranean Antipasto that consisted of tuttafetta ham with grilled vegetables, bocconcini, tomatoes and basil pesto. While I typically do not even tough this course of the meal, I actually finished everything on my plate this time (except for the nasty eggplant but I do not like eggplant personally so this was a personal preference). Perhaps it was a personal determination to eat more greens after feasting and drinking so much in recent months or perhaps the dish was just a lot more appetising than what I have gotten on previous flights on Singapore Airlines.
Selecting the beef fillet or the steak is always a bit of a gamble and usually, you end up losing the bet. I have gotten a really overcooked piece of meat on my flight from Singapore to Bali (SIN-DPS) previously and previous experiences with steak onboard have always been average at best. So when I selected the Grilled New Zealand Wakanui Beef Fillet from the Book the Cook menu, I did not have very high expectations. In fact, I was mentally prepared for a throughly-cooked, super well done beef fillet since the Business Class cabin was full and hey, who has time to take special care for a BTC meal when the passenger isn't even part of the PPS Club?!
When the dish finally made its way to my table, I was firstly taken aback by how beautifully-presented it was. Don't get me wrong though, most of the main courses onboard Singapore Airlines Business and First Class (including Suites of course) are plated beautifully - there is actually a plating guide that the cabin crew follow. With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the plating was - no sauce spillage at all! In case you were wondering what main courses were actually available on the flight, here they are:
- Seared Beef Fillet in Red Wine Sauce and Horseradish Butter (no thank you)
- Seared Salmon in Hot and Sour Sauce (nope)
- Cajun Spiced Chicken with Oregano Tomato Sauce (ok this could work)
- Braised Lamb Rendang (yes that sounds delicious)
What further impressed me however was how beautifully-cooked (or should I say reheated) this piece of beef fillet was. You can't ever compare a steak served in the air to those serve in proper steakhouses. While this is nowhere near to the quality that one can get from CUT by Wolfgang Puck, this is by far the best steak or beef fillet that I have ever eaten in the air so well-done to the cabin crew who has actually taken the time and effort to reheat this! After tasting how good this was, I knew I had to order a glass of haut-médoc to enjoy with this - I typically just stick with Champagne in the air but this is a rare occasion.
For dessert, I had the option of having either the Gianduja Mousse (essentially a chocolate mousse) or the Strawberry Ice-cream - I decided on the latter since I wanted something that wasn't that rich.
I am typically not a huge cheese-eater but having spent an entire week in Auckland and having learnt to pair them with wine during my short day-trip to Waiheke Island, I decided to pick both the cheddar and camembert from the cheese tray (still no blue for me though!).
While clearing the table however, one of the cabin crews has forgotten to ask the passengers seated in rows 14 and 15 if they would like any coffee or tea. No issues since most of them actually went straight to bed after eating but I was actually bent on trying the SevenTea by TWG (especially since the year is ending and despite taking a number of flights with Singapore Airlines this year, I have not had the opportunity to try it). The verdict? The SevenTea is delicious and it could very well be my new favourite caffeinated-tea on Singapore Airlines (even though they would probably remove it once the whole 70th anniversary celebration is over). I also picked a slice of ValrhonaChocolate out as a cabin crew went round the cabin offering pralines.
As mentioned earlier, most of the passengers went to sleep immediately after bed and even though I would have liked to keep my window shades up (since it doesn't plunge the entire Business Class cabin into the dark), I felt compelled to lower them because I did not want to be the inconsiderate passenger that left his window shades open and therefore affected someone else's sleep quality but hey if it's bright outside, you shouldn't be sleeping! Since it was a fairly long flight (especially if you did not plan on sleeping) from Auckland to Singapore, I took the time to write this article - this very same one that you are reading right now. In fact, I should probably mention that I am writing this after my fifth glass of Champagne so please pardon any typos or spelling mistakes that you find (or have found).
On a side note, if anyone of you is using a MacBook Pro, it is highly probably that your charger would not fit into the universal power outlet here in Business Class since it adapter doesn't go all the way in because of how big it actually is. Since I was one of the only passengers awake, I was also given a survey form by one of the cabin crew to complete (oh joy!). Even though the pages were relatively small, it had multiple pages and it actually took a lot longer to complete than expected. Well on the bright side, I was offered the opportunity to keep the Singapore Airlines pen that came with the survey which I politely declined. During these long flights, the galley is actually filled with pralines and snacks in between meal times so if you are feeling peckish, do take a walk down to the galley (it is actually good for you since it prevents DVT!) instead of pushing the call button.
Approximately 2 hours prior to arrival, the cabin lights were switched on and passengers who were sleeping are now ready for their light dinner. As we all know, light dinners or lunches on board Singapore Airlines are by no means 'light' in any sense - the main courses are full-size and they are very substantial for an actual meal so don't let the name fool you. In fact, I have flown so many times on Singapore Airlines and have not actually ordered a snack ever before - that Tom Yum Noodles Soup on the snack menu is calling out to me but I simply have zero stomach space in between meals. The first course of this 'light dinner' is a Peppered Gravadlax with Beetroot Relish and Mesclun which was delicious!
Honestly, how many garlic breads can one eat on the plane? Personally, I would go with 2 every five hours and since this is at least a 9-hour flight, I would say 4 is a good estimate. Seriously, I don't know why the cabin crews bother to offer a selection of breads anymore - just give everyone a garlic bread and if they want something else they can ask for it. Okay, maybe I am kidding but also, maybe not.
Similar to the situation during lunch service, I have opted for a Book the Cook meal instead of the inflight selection - I looked at it beforehand and decided that the BTC-way is a better method for me. For my main course, I have selected the Grilled New Zealand King Salmon.
Other main courses that were available on this flight include:
- Roasted Pork Belly with Cider Sage Sauce
- Grilled Snapper Fillet in Red Pepper Sauce
- Braised Chicken in Hot Bean Sauce
The Crème Brûlée which was served for dessert is probably the most unimpressive dish on the whole flight. I did not expect perfect caramelisation on top but the crema catalana underneath it was extremely wet and it was still floating in some kind of sugary mixture. Needless to say, I did not finish this dessert at all. Similar to what happened during the dinner service, coffee and tea was not offered after the meal on my aisle but I could see that it was on the other side.
I have mentioned this many times and I will continue to stand by this - the Business Class product on Singapore Airlines' existing A380-800 fleet is a solid product and if you are not excessively tall (under 1.85m), you should not have any issues with sleeping on the flatbed at all. The food on Singapore Airlines is consistently good (even though on this flight, it was great) and they actually do not scrimp and save on pouring you more alcohol (yes, Air China, I am looking at you again). While there is definitely less privacy as compared to Suites, most of us average civilians would be happy with this 1-2-1 configuration that offers a decent amount of privacy so long you are not a celebrity - I will be doing a fun comparison of both Suites and Business Class on the AKL-SIN route soon so look out for that!