NBTA: Qantas and Singapore’s Battle of the Suites

A380, Emirates, Qantas, Seats, Singapore Airlines

It’s Friday, so let’s just forget about reality and move into the world of the super rich and famous. The hot trend these days? Private suites doubling as First Class. Emirates, Qantas, and Singapore are all entering the ring as are others, and it’s just ridiculously awesome, to say the least.

Now I didn’t get the chance to see Emirates’ stuff because I ran out of time. Since I’ll be on their A380 demo flight next week, I figured I could put them last. I did, however, get to see Qantas and Singapore show off their stuff. Which one wins? Well, they both do. Singapore has fantastic privacy while Qantas has some pretty cool uses of space. I’d be happy to take either one on my next trip.

Let’s start with Qantas, since that’s the one I saw first. Qantas First Class SuiteThese suites will be going into the A380 aircraft that begin flying for the airline soon. When you enter the suite, you can see that it appears to be open on the far side. This will usually be the side of the aircraft, but if you’re in the one in the middle, it may still be open to the aisle. I didn’t get clarification on that.

From the picture at left, you can see the floorspace to the left of the center of the seat. Qantas SuiteThat’s where your TV is, and it’s where your tray table rolls out as well as your bed. The seat turns left and goes flat that way to avoid taking up so much room on the plane.

At right, you see the friendly flight attendant presenter sitting at what would be the foot end of your bed. When you’re not laying down, that becomes a seat and the tray table rolls out in between you so you can share a meal. It’s quite nice. That metal thing at the right of the picture? That’s your TV screen folded up.

The coolest part of this? Qantas First Class RemoteThe remote control. Check out this bad boy at left. It’s actually pretty heavy, but it’s impressive what it can do. Watch videos, listen to music, turn on your massager, dim your lighting, and electronically shade your windows if you’d like. It’s so cool. Hopefully it doesn’t break with so much complexity.

Now let’s talk about Singapore. They’ve gone for a different style of suite. The view at right is from the door. Singapore First Class SeatYou look right and you see the very plush seat. If you looked left, you’d see the TV. Straight ahead of you is where the tray table rolls out. There is no angle here at all.

The bed is completely separate from the seat here. In fact, it took a couple minutes to set up and it’s a fairly complex procedure. Since this is Singapore, the flight attendants do it for you, and will of course be at your beck and call. The bed itself lies in the wall behind the seat. Singapore First Class BedThe seat folds down and the bed unfolds over it. You can see this (sort of) at left. You can also see that the attention to detail is phenomenal. They’ve even put a place for you to hang your headphones when you’re in bed. All of the suites here (and on Qantas, for that matter) have multiple locations for entertainment controls so that regardless of your position, the controls are always within reach.

This last shot (at right) shows me sitting down with spokesperson James Boyd. He is where my feet would lie in flat bed position. And you can see the screen behind his head. The table was very big and seemingly sturdy. Singapore First Class TableIt was a very comfortable place to be.

Though the walls of the suite don’t go all the way up, you have plenty of privacy here. There are shades over two open air holes looking to the aisle, and when you pull them down, only the bottom is see-through. This is, of course, for flight attendants to perform their duties.

As you can see, these are incredible and ridiculous all at the same time. It’s amazing to think how quickly First Class has gone upmarket. As long as there is enough demand for these seats, we can expect to continue to see more and more innovation in this area. Though I may not have the chance to fly it, it’s still fun to drool over.

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19 comments on “NBTA: Qantas and Singapore’s Battle of the Suites

  1. I have to wonder if first class is going so far up-class because of the proliferation of private business jets? Everytime I pick up an issue of Forbes there’s another ad for Gulfstream or Lear. I know the boardroom isn’t flying commercial, so what’s the market for these “suites”? I can’t imagine they’ll give them away for the 100k mile/year business traveler, or will they?

  2. Actually when you look at the range of most dedicated business jets they are not trans-Pacific. So in a manner of speaking these suites are likely geared for the high end traveller who usually uses her/his private jet when flying overland.

  3. A huge percentage of people will probably never get to fly in these classes…
    You’ll be darn lucky if you did get to fly in this luxury!

  4. bryan – I didn’t see them, but Amtrak was!

    A – You know the saying, “the rich keep getting richer”? That seems to be the case here. While the middle class finds itself shrinking in many places, the rich are doing quite well, thank you very much. That’s the target here. For someone like Emirates, it’s a no-brainer since there is so much money flowing through there.

  5. I think the uplift in the quality of many airlines’ business class offerings has put the pressure on those airlines that still offer first class to come up with something better, especially for those airlines with ultra longhaul routes like Qantas and Singapore. Flat beds in business at almost half the price of first class but with only a marginal sacrifice in comfort really focuses the minds of the product marketers. I saw in BA’s quarterly results release today that they have hired some design consultants to help them with the relaunch of FIrst next year, so it will be interesting to see what they do.

  6. I’ll take Singapore Air’s. Singapore Girls are gorgeous. If you ever want to know what air travel used to be like before the access lawsuits, any flag carrier in Asia will do. Singapore, Vietnam, etc. Very sexy stews.

  7. CF, did you see any private showers on display? If so did you find the answer to the question of whether it dumps water overboard. That’s your homework for the Emirates trip, and we want a full to drained completely test report like Motor Trend does.

  8. Brian – Nope, I didn’t make it over to the Emirates display. I’ll see what I can find out next week. And trust me, you don’t want a full test report on the shower if it involves pictures of me. That’s enough to scare anyone.

  9. The Singapore Airlines Suites kick ass. They are awesome and I’ve never slept so well on an airplane.

    Qantas’ product is good. You can’t scoff at First Class but it’s now where as innovative as the Singapore Airlines Suites…. and why does it swivel for no apparent (useful) reason?!

  10. Dan – I believe it swivels so that the length of the bed can be offset by going diagonal. That means you need less room in between suites and can probably squeeze a couple more on.

  11. The suites look nice. I have a tenative trip planned on SQ that will involve taking their A380 in F SIN-LHR. That’ll be the highlight of the entire journey.

    Contrast how the foreign flag airlines have been investing significant amounts of cash into product upgrades across all of their cabins against the pitiful excuses offered by the US carriers. I recently flew UA F round-trip to HKG (both flights had the “old” UA First lie-flat, not the new version). On my return flight, when I put my seat into the lie-flat posiiton, up popped used tissues, papaer napkins and a toothpick. I guess that’s UA’s thinking of “value add” for my $9K fare.

  12. 250kflier – if you bought an F ticket you’re not going in the suites or the A380 I don’t think. If I remember correctly I told my travel agent to book F, she replied there was no F but just R? Some other letter but not F. Only by booking that did I get the suite, I’m not even sure they even marketed an F on the flight (I think just R, J and Y).That was for SYD-SIN at least, not sure if that’s how they do LHR also.

    I also tried to book SQ around the world in F because the suites were so amazing (and I assumed I could just get the suites for that segment), and I was told I could either fly J or would have to pay more for the “R” segments (I ended up doing a cheaper F OW ticket instead of SA).

  13. Here’s a look at how Emirates is marketing the shower feature. It doesn’t do a great job of showing you exactly what the logistics of the thing will be, but from what I can tell, it’s going to be fairly large with a washroom/dressing area adjacent to an enclosed shower:

  14. CF is correct. The Qantas seats swivel to allow for the full length of the bed.

    Airfares? Last I looked, QF was charging $12,000 one way between LA and Sydney. And it is precisely the “very few” that these products are catering to, the CEOs, film and entertainment stars and humble owners of $100 million waterfront properties in the Hamptons, Hamilton Island and the Mayfair borough of London. Free upgrades? I’d just about bet they’ll refuse traffic than dilute the value and ambience of those suites for the sake of the Chicago-New York commuter crowd. Last I looked it was something like 400,000 miles for a frequent flyer ticket, too. But hey, at least the meals are included!

    My apologies to QRC, whom I incorrectly referred to as PRC in a separate post.

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