Singapore Airlines first class is perhaps the most aspirational airline product in existence. It’s rarely available to Singapore’s mileage partners like United and Air Canada, but availability is quite good for Singapore’s own Krisflyer members.
That’s lucky because Singapore Airlines Krisflyer is a transfer partner of both the US American Express Membership Rewards program and of Starwood Preferred Guest. As are result many people have access to Singapore miles and don’t even realize it.
(At the beginning of July 2012 Singapore award availability was opened up briefly to all of their partners, and I made several bookings at that time.)
Singapore’s award chart isn’t cheap, and they do add fuel surcharges on awards. But you get a 15% mileage discount when booking on their (only semi-functional) website, and you get.. Singapore Airlines first class.
Sure, they don’t have the Emirates onboard shower, the Lufthansa First Class Terminal or Thai spa on the ground. And you don’t get food quite as good in my opinion as Asiana’s or ANA’s. And to me it isn’t as aspirational as Transaero’s Imperial Class — which is really just about its inaccessibility, they used to partner with british midland but you could redeem for business and not first, and their new interline agreement with JetBlue does not seem to include reciprocal frequent flyer earn and burn.
As a total package it’s hard to argue that anything is more aspirational than Singapore First Class.
… But it’s far from perfect.
What’s Wrong With the Singapore Airlines First Class Seat
Let’s acknowledge that Singapore Airlines first class seats are very good. They’re good for sleeping, which is super important on long haul flying. And of course what I consider defects still leave them legions better off than flying coach. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t walk to another cabin on the plane and ask a passenger to trade in order to get out of these seats.
But judging them for what they are, and what they try to be, they really could be better — and other first class products are indeed better.
The Singapore Airlines first class seat has one major problem in my view, and it’s that the seat is ‘built differently’ — it isn’t a seat that adjusts into a bed.
You don’t use your seat controls and move into “bed mode.” Instead, the flight attendant comes by to flip the seat over to the mattress. That’s great for sleeping, and I do find the Singapore Airlines first class seat good for sleep. But it is not at all good for lounging.
The seat doesn’t recline very much, it’s just a wide back that adjusts down ever so slightly. Similarly the foot rest comes up a little. You’re either mostly upright, though, or in full flat bed mode.
The problem is that you can’t really get comfortable for anything other than sleep.
Usually on a long haul flight I will eat a meal and then convert into bed mode but I will adjust the seat up to be ‘mostly’ in bed mode, sitting upright a bit to watch a movie. Laying straight down isn’t great for watching TV until you’re tired enough to fall asleep.
The only solution I could come up with was to get the seat converted into a bed and then sit upright, cross-legged, in bed propping myself up with a pillow at my back.
For sleeping though? The bed is fantastic.
Singapore Airlines Food is Really Good, and Artfully Presented
The best meal I’ve ever eaten on a plane was on Singapore, and that was flying business class. Singapore does a good job with its main meals, and their flight attendants do a fantastic job with the presentation of those meals.
I do think that overall the food service on ANA and Asiana is better, but Singapore is nearly as good (and ANA gets the notch for a combination of its high quality Japanese meals and overall variety, but the variety piece can be somewhat matched by Singapore’s “Book the Cook” option).
Here’s the supper menu from my San Francisco – Hong Kong flight. Note that ‘supper’ means a shorter meal due to the late departure, with no satay or caviar service.
I wanted to stay up for a bit so began with some Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. It’s good stuff and what I like best about having it on a plane is the same thing I like about caviar and good champagne — I wouldn’t normally spend for it on the ground, it’s good but probably not worth the price (to me) — and yet I do enjoy it when it’s offered.
The tuna appetizer was very good.
Corn chowder soup, though, was underseasoned.
Given my concerns about the supper meal options I pre-ordered the Lobster Thermidor. Having it to do over again I’d definitely pre-order the beef bulgogi from San Francisco instead.
Dessert this late would have been a bit much, I suppose, so it didn’t much matter that no sweets were even offered for dessert. Here’s the cheese plate instead.
I do love breakfast on a plane from a good non-US airline. I don’t like — and will try to pre-eat so as to avoid — what US airlines consider breakfast. I think I like Cathay Pacific’s breakfast the best, but Singapore’s was pretty good.
Here’s the menu.
Their fruit plate
And who can resist dim sum?
Singapore Falls Down on the Midflight Snacks
While I much like the meal service that Singapore offers, I’m reaelly vexed by their midflight snack offerings. On a 14 hour flight, if you can’t sleep, you may get the munchies haflway through. Some airlines have real cooked to order options. I like the noodles on Cathay Pacific much more than Singapore’s. No airline has the extensive snacks that ANA boards.
For an airline that does such a good job with their meals, it just seems odd that there’s so little they offer for nsacks.
I found it interesting as well that they don’t actually board very many of each item. Noodles are the showcase and yet they boardedonly one service of the kway teow noodles (and what could be more Singaporean?). So I didn’t get to try those.
Here are the noodles with chicken and black mushroom though.
And the chicken croissant which far from creamy was rather dry.
Service and Amenities Are Mostly Outstanding
Prior to take off there’s only going to be a single champagne option. But once in the air one of the most distinctive things about Singapore Airlines is that they serve both Dom Perignon and Krug.
When the steward comes over (and I’m usually asked my chamgagne preference by a male cabin attendant, I’m not certain why this is or if it’s just random chance across my Singpapore first class segments), the question begins “Would you care for some champagne, sir?”
Me: “Why yes please.”
The steward, with a smirk: “Would you prefer Dom Perignon or Krug?”
And so I reply, really, with the only reasonable response I can muster. “Well that depends. What year is the Dom?“
On three of my four recent flights it’s been the 2003 Dom Perignon which frankly I do not think should have become a vintage. But one of my flights featured the ’02, and that was unquestionably the choice I’d make, again and again.
The beginning of the flight is very busy, as the volume of items distributed is vast.
Here’s the Bose headset for use with their inflight entertainment.
A Sothys amenity kit. There was no toothbrush (but there are disposable packages in the lavatory) and no lip balm which I found odd.
And many of their 777-300ER long haul aircraft feature inflight internet. My San Francisco – Hong Kong flight was broadcasting a signal but I could never manage to connect to it.
The bathroom is tastefully done, but small — and interestingly while it’s refreshed by the cabin staff throughout the flight the toileteries in the lavatory weren’t topped off during the aircraft’s turn in San Francisco — the breath freshener bottle began the flight two-thirds empty.
The real skill of Singapore Airlines flight attendants is in making you feel taken care of. This isn’t true of all crews, but certainly most of the long haul crews that I’ve had. They’re friendly and act excited to be serving you, almost as though you’re a long lost friend and nothing you could ask for seems too much trouble.
They also make small talk, asking you about your travels and what you think of various destinations. That could be a total waste of time except that if you’re going somewhere they’ve spent much time you can wind up with excellent insider tips, not to mention tips about Singapore itself.
It’s the top notch Singapore crews that really set the airline apart.