Suites Class on the Singapore A380 is Something Special (Trip Report)

This is the final post in my Japan trilogy. Unlike most should-be-trilogies today, I haven’t blown this out into a two-part extravaganza. Oh, and no zombies or werewolves either. If you haven’t seen them, read the first post on booking the trip and flying up to San Jose. Then read the second on my ANA flight from San Jose to Tokyo.

I can’t say I was ready to leave Japan after what seemed like a very short week, but at the same time, I was really looking forward to the flight home. We used our miles to book two seats in the vaunted Suites class on the Singapore Airlines A380 back to Los Angeles. It lived up to the hype.

Our Singapore A380

Not wanting to miss out on any of the Suites experience, we decided to get to Narita early… too early. Apparently the ticket counter doesn’t open until 3 hours prior to departure and we needed to check bags, so we had time to kill. After wandering the vast mall outside security, stopping to listen to some lounge singers in the check-in area, and then paying a visit to the big and awesome observation deck, the counter finally opened. Apparently the huge sign proclaiming Star Alliance First Class check in doesn’t apply to Singapore, so we were a bit turned around. Singapore’s check-in is at the other end of the hall.

Narita Observation Deck

Though there were lines in coach and Business, there was no line for us. We had our boarding passes right away and were told to go through the Gold security line. Once through, we slowly made our way down toward the gate area for our flight which wasn’t exactly a short walk. Of course, we didn’t stop there. We went straight into the ANA Suites lounge which Singapore uses.

Gold Security Narita

I probably should have done my research, but I hope this lounge wasn’t the best one ANA had to offer. It had ample seating, light appetizers, a place to order more substantial food, and a little cubicle work area. But it didn’t feel like anything special. In fact, it felt a lot like the Business lounge I visited with two exceptions. The Business lounge was much more crowded, and it also had no windows. At least the Suites lounge had a nice view as the sun began to set.

ANA Suites Lounge Narita

A half an hour before departure, we walked down to the gate and with the coach passengers lined up, we walked right through our dedicated line. But then, when they scanned my boarding pass, it buzzed me and said “unable to board.” Uh oh. The agent pulled me aside with a very apologetic look. It turns out that in my seat, one of the armrests wouldn’t stay up entirely. They wanted to apologize and offer to move me to one of the two open seats before I got on board. I told them I’d rather sit with my wife in the center section than move to one of the two empty seats on the side. She was fine with that but apologized again. We walked down the boarding gate to our dedicated jet bridge for Suites Class.

Private Jetway A380


May 30, 2015
Singapore 12 Lv Tokyo/Narita 715p Arr Los Angeles 125p
Tokyo/Narita (NRT): Gate 45, Runway 16R, Depart 7m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 154, Runway 24R, Arrive 2m Early
9V-SKM, Airbus A380-800, Standard Singapore colors, 10/12 in Suites, largely full in back
Seat 3C, Suites
Flight Time 9h31m

We were greeted by a couple of crewmembers at the door and taken back to our Suites. Naturally we were swarmed by people asking to take our coat, give us drinks, hand out newspapers, and of course, apologize to me for the armrest issue. Here’s a photo of that awful problem.

Singapore Broken Armrest

It was such a minor thing, I couldn’t believe they made such a big deal about it, but I must have had 5 people apologize along the way.

Singapore A380 Suites

The Suites are impressive, to say the least. There are 4 in each row, with one on each window and then two in the middle. We chose the two in the middle together because the boundary between the suites comes down to form a mega-suite. Ours had been lovingly (or spitefully, how should I know?) prepared by H. Tomori.

Singapore Suite Personally Prepared

The seat wasn’t littered with amenity kits and blankets at all. Those were hand-delivered at different times. I couldn’t get over how big the TV was, but also how far away it was from me.

Giant TV on Singapore A380 Suites

Meanwhile, my wife started off with Dom Perignon and went for the Krug later. I’m not much of a champagne person, but she was really enjoying herself.

Enjoying Champagne

We finished boarding a few minutes early and taxied out to the runway for a long wait while traffic cleared. The Captain came on and told us it would be a relatively quick flight but he expected it to be bumpy during the last half. That’s not fun.

We took off and service began right away. My wife and I had both “booked the cook,” meaning we pre-ordered our food, but I didn’t want to eat yet. My wife did and enjoyed her lobster thermidor. I watched a movie.

We can talk about the seat and the food all day, and there are plenty of reviews out there that have done just that. But to me, the service was far and away the most incredible thing on this flight. Beyond the never-ending flow of armrest apologies, there was one thing in particular that really stuck with me.

Regular readers of the blog may remember that I get irrationally anxious when the weather’s bad or when there’s turbulence. One of the crewmembers came by and must have noticed I seemed anxious. I explained the story to him, and he didn’t skip a beat. The turbulence wasn’t much at this point, so the seatbelt sign was off. I had asked him something about business class, and he immediately offered to take me on a tour of the aircraft, clearly trying to help take my mind off the impending bumps.

At the end of the tour, I asked him if he’d give me any updates on expected turbulence when he got them and he assured me he would. It turns out that the first half of the flight was rather bumpy while the back half wasn’t. But when the seatbelt sign went on each time (it happened a few times in the first few hours), someone came right to me and told me how long it was expected to be on for and assured me that it wasn’t a big deal.

Was this necessary? Of course not. Was it outstanding attention to detail with an amazing effort to please? It sure was. To me that’s the best way to describe the extraordinary level of service on this flight.

Huge Singapore Suites Lav

After my wife finished dinner, we decided it was time for bed. So I went into the gloriously oversized lav while they made our bed and changed into the very comfy pajamas they handed out.

Singapore A380 Bed

When I got back, the beds were nicely made and the barrier had been removed. This was effectively a double bed. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, but I did manage to get about an hour or so before waking up. Then I was starting to get hungry so I moved over to the empty window seat and the flight attendants began the service.

Caviar Plate Singapore Suites

I started with the caviar and wasn’t planning on drinking. But the flight attendant suggested that I might like a little chilled vodka to go with the caviar. How could I say no to that? It was delicious.

Beef Sukiyaki Singapore A380

That was followed by a salad and then the beef sukiyaki. I did a little research online to find which dish to book, and there were a lot of recommendations for beef sukiyaki when departing from Tokyo. I was not disappointed.

By this point, the sun was coming up and my body didn’t know where I was. I was asked if I wanted dessert, but I couldn’t do that. The flight attendant asked if I might like a little fruit and that did sound good. I expected a little bowl with some cut fruit, but no. She brought out a huge basket of fresh fruit. I grabbed a banana. I was ready to go watch another movie back in bed at this point, and that’s when I had my “holy crap” moment of the absurdity of this whole thing.

Singapore A380 Tea in Bed

Yes, that’s me holding a nice cup of English Breakfast tea in bed while watching a movie… IN THE SKY. This was just so decadent.

It wasn’t long before they had started serving breakfast, but I was pretty full. I knew my wife would want it, but she was asleep. The flight attendants politely stalked her, walking by to see if she’d wake up in time to eat. It was completely unobtrusive from my point of view. We started getting closer to LA, and I decided to wake her up. The flight attendants swarmed. I know I keep calling them flight attendants, but a couple of them were, of course, legendary Singapore Girls. Singapore certainly knows how to pick ’em.

Singapore Girl

At this point, the crew turned our beds back into seats. My wife ate while I continued to watch movies. It wasn’t long before we were coming down the coast and descending in for a slightly bouncy landing. (My wife actually started feeling airsick, though that could have been the Krug talking….)

This was a textbook example of excellent service. The physical product was great, of course, but the service made all the difference. I was in a happy daze as we made our way through customs and immigration (thanks, Global Entry). This was the perfect end to a great trip.

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31 Responses to Suites Class on the Singapore A380 is Something Special (Trip Report)

  1. Neil S. says:

    Nice write up. Though would have been even better WITH zombies.

    • Sean says:

      Zombies on a plane! “I am sick and tired of these m************n zombies on this m************n plane!” and then Sam “CF” Jackson gets to work.

  2. iluvcruising2 says:

    Yups, legendary Singapore Airlines Suites.

  3. A says:

    I can only wonder if future generations will judge the suites class as “decadent” or as an everyday experience. I lean towards the former but hope for the latter. Looks like a better experience than I’ve had flying on a private corporate jet. My only question is how many miles does it take to get a suites class ticket across the pacific? It takes a ridiculous amount just to get a domestic F seat going to Omaha, can’t imagine for something like this.

    • CF says:

      A – There were saver level seats available using SQ miles (transferred from Amex). So it wast just under 75,000 miles per person. For what we got, that was a steal.

  4. David SF eastbay says:

    The arm rest issue was interesting since it if was on a U.S. carrier they wouldn’t have said a thing and would have acted like some how you broke it before getting on the plane.

    Hmmm, seems your wife hasn’t trained you well, you didn’t put the toilet seat down…..LOL

  5. I’ve heard so many good things about Singapore Airlines, that it’s fast becoming the next airline I want to travel on. This post simply enforces that – looks a great experience indeed!

  6. ptahcha says:

    Amazing service! Glad to hear that service was exception. It also helps that they usually have more senior/experience crew members working in the front section, as evidenced by the color of the green uniform.

    We had our own fruit moment on our last SQ flight, back when they flew SIN-LAX on the A340. My partner asked for some fruit in addition to the dessert, but the junior flight attendant didn’t hear the request and she was ready to move on. The In-Flight Manager did hear the request, and he yelled “FRUIT!” and pointed at my partner. She froze, lost her composure for a second, then went back to fembot mode and offered the fruit basket.

    We now use the FRUIT! command whenever possible.

  7. “This was a textbook example of excellent service. The physical product was great, of course, but the service made all the difference.”

    There’s a good lesson for businesses in any industry, including airports: how your people treat your customers determines how your customers perceive your product.

  8. Doug Swalen says:

    Sweet. The closest I’ve come to decadence was EVA Royal Laurel class and that’s a very obvious few rungs below what you experienced. Sadly, I think the only way I’ll ever fly a Singapore suite is to pay for it. And I’ll only throw money away like that that if I know I’ve got a terminal illness.

  9. Dan says:

    I traveled on Suites back in March, heading to Australia from JFK. I was alone, and I’m sure I would have a different opinion if I got to share the suite with a partner.

    TBH, because I do not sleep well on planes no matter what, I find fancy F to be overkill. If I’m fresh and nowhere near tired, there’s not a whole lot of difference between J and F to me. If I’m fried and am not sleeping well, the extra space STILL doesn’t do much for me, and I’m not really in a state of mind to enjoy it.

    It’s still fun to try these things out, but from a practical standpoint, J is good enough for me.

  10. JayB says:

    Your reports are wonderful, always. Thanks.

    I think I’ve mentioned it before. Price? That is, how much would the suite have cost if you had to pay for it straight up? Maybe I’d think the broken armrest was actually a pretty big deal? I pay and get a darn broken armrest…like maybe they’d be able to pay to have a French Airbus engineer fly over and fix the stupid thing?

    Of course, you gotta know about my upbringing. Dad always thought having to put a penny into a parking meter, pay to park, well, if that doesn’t take the cake, those…whatever!

    • CF says:

      jaybru – Well, if you can find an A seat in inventory (they don’t put those out there a ton), then it’s a mere $4325.30 one way. But on most flights, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $8500.

  11. AJ says:

    Thanks as always for the trip report. Singapore have always shown excellent customer service in my experience, even in economy. Living in Australia, they’re the first airline I look for when going overseas.

  12. SEAN says:

    My dad flew SQ to Germany twice & was raving about it.

  13. Oliver says:

    I must have read a dozen or two trip reports and don’t recall any mention of you having problems with turbulence.

    • CF says:

      Oliver – I’ve mentioned it a few times over the years. I think I can trace it back to one particular hairy flight over 20 years ago. It was a US 767 from LAX to Charlotte and we tried to land in the thick of a nasty line of summer storms. We went around twice before finally making it down on the third try. The pilots said we hit significant wind shear. We had the same flight attendants on the flight home, coincidentally, and I remember talking to one of them who said she’d never been more scared. Back then, weather technology was worse and procedures were different. I’ve had several pilot friends tell me that today you wouldn’t see anyone trying to land in that. I get it, it all makes sense. Yet still, I can’t shake that anxiety even after all these years. It is what it is, I guess.

  14. CVGSteve says:

    I’ve flown SQ once from MEL to HKG on a basically empty 747 in coach on a Saturday. The FAs were so nice and attentive, and they can walk down the aisles without taking your shoulder off.

    And here I am thinking I’m living large by sitting in economy discomfort from MEL to LAX on DL!

  15. Hajime Sano says:

    Thanks for the three-part report. Some day I hope to experience this. Until then, I’ll live vicariously through your report!

  16. margaretgreg says:

    Singapore Airlines is amazing about apologizing for simple issues where U.S. airlines would tell you “tough luck.” One time I was flying from Singapore to Bali on a business trip, and the screens in my section of three seats did not work. The other two seats were occupied by a newlywed couple. They certainly weren’t looking at the screens. I was talking to a colleague across the aisle and generally don’t watch TV on planes anyway.
    A flight attendant came up and made a big deal about the malfunctioning screens. I said it was not a problem, but they insisted I get two items from the duty free cart. I picked out chocolate and a bottle of whiskey — my colleagues on the trip were very happy later when I broke out the treats.

  17. Alfred says:

    This is the reason why I always go out of my way to fly SQ. I have three options whenever I travel to HKG from SFO, UA, CX and SQ and though I’m a Mileageplus member on UA I’ll never ever fly on UA to HK from SFO though it is cheaper than SQ. It’s always SQ as their attention to service is unbeatable. Before boarding at HKG, HK security will rummage through your bag to find any water bottles and will confiscate it even though it was purchased after security. I can’t understand why they do that. Though no fault of SQ, I mentioned this to one of the lead male flight attendants and during the flight he came by enough times to make sure I was hydrated. You’re not gonna get this on UA.

  18. Andrew says:

    I just flew SQ LAX-NRT-SIN-DPS-SIN-HKG-SFO. I’ve was stuck in Y but it was the best longhaul Y I ever experienced. The service was almost as good as business class on LH as was the food.

  19. FYI, link to a good story from the New Yorker Magazine, about airline seats and interiors, and especially Singapore Airlines. It is quite long…

    Title: Game of Thrones, how the airlines woo the one percent.

    Publication date: April 21, 2014

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/04/21/game-of-thrones

  20. Sean M. says:

    I flew First/Business Class from ORD to LAX to NRT to SIN to KUL back in the late 90’s. ORD to NRT was on United, NRT to KUL was on Singapore. Once on board the flight from NRT to SIN, the flight attendant told me my bags didn’t make the trip. He apologized over and over again. Then the head flight attendant came over and apologized.

    Since I had a few hours to kill in Singapore, they told me to go to baggage and they would give me supplies … which was pajamas, toiletries, and $200 Singapore dollars. When I got to KUL, I went to baggage just see if my bags made it … and they were the first 2 bags off the flight. I still laugh at that today. Love Singapore airlines.

  21. Jeff says:

    Great review, great story, very enjoyable to read.

  22. Bill from DC says:

    great write up.

    just curious, does this LAX-NRT flight continue to provide one stop to SIN? is LAX-SIN out of range for the 380 or any other aircraft?

    • CF says:

      Bill – Yes, it’s a through flight to Singapore. There used to be a nonstop when SQ operated the A340-500 but it was a dog of an airplane and it was phased out. Some day, SQ will do it again, or so they say.

  23. SingaporeFlyerJim says:

    I’m a transplant from the US that moved to Singapore three years ago. Having previously spent 20 years in United hub cities in the US, I am a 2 million miler on United and United Global Services member from the day they created the program. I was hooked on SQ the moment I set foot on the first 380. I’ve since given up Global Services, happily flying SQ metal to/from the US and everywhere else I can. Singapore Airlines service, even in economy, is so much better than any US carrier. While the physical product is better too, it is the service that really makes the difference. Over the years, I’ve flown United First Class trans-Pacific, trans-Atlantic, and Latin American more times that I care to count, but I would put any SQ crew up against the best I’ve ever experienced on United. It’s the little things, but SQ really knows how to do those little things well.

  24. dot says:

    what a nice trip i’m jealous!!!!!!!

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