My wife and I had the opportunity to fly Singapore Airlines’ “new” first class product from LAX to Tokyo Narita in April 2017. This was actually a trip that was almost a year in the making, as I originally booked this flight way back in April 2016!
Singapore Airlines is one of the world’s best regarded airlines (if not THE best), so to be able to fly them in first class using points was on my aviation bucket list. On top of that, this was going to be my wife’s very first trip in international first class.
Originally, we were booked on the legendary Singapore Airlines Suite Class on their Airbus A380 as that was the aircraft that they were flying between LAX-NRT at the time. However, they downgauged the route from the A380 to a B777-300ER as of fall 2016, forcing us to switch from Suite Class to First Class. (#firstworldproblems)
The departure time of our flight also changed from 3:45pm to 10am, which was a significant change. It’s a good thing I hadn’t purchased our positioning flight from CMH to LAX yet when this all happened!
I was really disappointed by the change in aircraft, but the 777 that replaced the A380 happened to have Singapore Airline’s newly refreshed, 4-seats only first class cabin which is referred to as their “New First Class”, so that was our consolation prize.
How I Booked the Flight
Back when I originally booked this flight, 1-way tickets in Suites/First Class on this route could be had for 74,375 KrisFlyer Miles + $23.40 in fees per person. These seats typically go for ~$7000/person, so not a bad deal at all! I was able to transfer 149,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred account to KrisFlyer to book both our tickets. Unlike Korean Airlines where your Chase points transfers immediately, there’s a 12~24 hour lag time for points to transfer from Chase to your KrisFlyer account. My transfer took about 20 hours if I recall correctly. It was pretty nerve-wracking, transferring that many points and basically praying that the award space doesn’t disappear on you. It ended up working out perfectly for us, obviously, since I’m writing this review.
Singapore Airlines did however increase their award ticket pricing effective 3/23/17. This exact same flight would now cost you 95,000 KrisFlyer Miles per person, which is a 27.7% increase. 🙁
So why did I book this flight almost an year in advance? Because Singapore Airlines seems to only release saver level award tickets close to a year in advance. You’re allowed to place your ticket in wait list if no saver level ticket is available for your date of travel… but there doesn’t seem to be any reliable measure of whether your waitlisted ticket will actually clear or not. They also apparently release some last-minute award seats, but due to my work schedule that’s not really an option.
Do keep in mind, that when I booked this flight, we were supposed to be in an A380 with 12 first/suite class seats. The 777 they use now only has 4 first class seats. So what was already a hard award ticket to book likely became even more difficult with this aircraft change.
The Ground Experience at LAX
Singapore Airlines flies out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX. As there are only 4 seats in first class, I figured that we would have no wait at the check-in counter since they have a dedicated first class check-in counter. I was right. We checked in and were issued our boarding pass with virtually no wait.
Although there doesn’t appear to be a premium passenger security line at TBIT and Singapore Airlines doesn’t participate in TSA Precheck, we were still able to get through security within 10 minutes as well. Perhaps this was a function of our flight being relatively early in the morning.
Singapore Airlines utilizes the Star Alliance lounge at LAX, which has completely separate facilities for business class and first class passengers. Their website states that these lounges don’t open until 9:15am, and our 10am flight was going to start boarding at 9:30am… so I figured we won’t be able to experience the lounge at all. I was happy to learn at check-in, however, that the Star Alliance lounge is indeed open earlier. I believe we arrived around 8am and had no problems getting accommodated. I’m guessing they adjusted the lounge’s operating hours when our flight got reschedule from 3:45pm to 10am but haven’t updated their website yet.
We entered the lounge to find a small but luxurious lounge complete with a dining area. We had eaten breakfast at our hotel figuring we wouldn’t have access to this lounge, and really regretted that decision as we were handed a made-to-order menu with a bunch of delicious-sounding food options. My wife had never been in an airport lounge before where there was a dine on demand option… so we ordered a caesar salad and a bowl of ice cream just so we can have the “experience.”
While the food was getting prepped, I walked around the lounge and took a few photos. The two of us were literally the only ones in the lounge for the first 30 minutes or so. Eventually, another couple (who turned out to be the other 2 passengers in first class on our flight) joined us in the lounge.
While exploring the alcohol selection, I noticed a fancy looking bottle of champagne, which turned out to be a bottle of Beau Joie brut rose. Faced with a $120 bottle of champagne sitting right there, I couldn’t resist having a glass. It was pretty good. I knew there were even better champagne coming up on the flight though… so I held off from having more.
The salad and ice cream were then served, and turned out to be waaaay bigger than we expected. We hate wasting food, so we tried but could only finish 3/4 of both. Let’s just say they don’t skimp on food in this lounge.
And before we knew it, it was time to head on over to the gate to board our flight!
Boarding the Flight
Singapore Airlines operates a fleet of Boeing 777-300ER, where some of them have 8 first class seats in a 1/2/1 distribution across 2 rows, whereas other aircrafts have just 1 row of these seats. Our aircraft was the latter variety, with only 4 seats in first class.
Our first impression of our seats was that they are HUGE. These seats, clad in beautiful brown leather, are a whopping 35 inches wide. It’s basically wide enough for 2 people to sit together. (and indeed, my wife and I did do that at one point in the flight!) These are actually basically the same seats that are on the A380 in Suites Class, we just don’t have the privacy walls on the 777.
Directly in front of the seat was an ottoman and a 24″ LCD entertainment screen. The pitch (leg room) for these seats is a whopping 85″, which is more than 2.5 times the legroom you find in economy class. A Bose noise cancelling headphone was provided for each seat as well.
Very soon after we had sat down, one of the flight attendants came over to offer us a welcome on board beverage. We requested champagne, and flight attendant inquired if we would be alright with Dom Perignon. Yes, I think we will be quite alright with Dom, thank you very much.
We were then presented with pajamas and our Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits.
They offer gender-specific amenity kits, because each amenity kit comes with a regular sized bottle of Ferragamo cologne or perfume. Although most airlines pack the amenity kit full of items like a comb and toothbrush, the large amenity kit that Singapore Airlines provides you only comes with the cologne/perfume, cleansing towel, and an aftershave/face cream. Everything else that you might want for your amenity kit is stocked in the lavatory, so you can basically custom make your own amenity kit.
The first class cabin has 2 lavatories… for 4 passengers. So we all managed to change into our pajamas and were sipping our second glass of Dom by the time the boarding doors were closed.
We departed LAX on time, and upon reaching cruising altitude we were handed menus for the in-flight drink/meal service. Trans-Pacific flights in my experience usually starts with a “dinner” service followed by a “breakfast” service prior to arrival, but as this flight was departing at 10am, they flipped things around and started with “brunch” right after take-off and “dinner” closer to arrival.
Meanwhile, their drinks menu looked like this. Singapore Airlines is the only airline in the world that serves BOTH Dom Perignon AND Krug in first class. This flight did teach my wife and I that I prefer Krug while she prefers Dom.
Singapore Airlines offers their amazing “Book the Cook” service for their premium cabins, so I had pre-selected the Boston lobster thermidor and veal chop for my 2 meals. This resulted in me getting lobster as my “brunch.” The lobster thermidor was really fantastic and I do not regret my decision at all.
The brunch service started with a glass of Krug.
The table was then set with white tablecloth.
My wife was offered orange juice, so she got a glass of that while I kept going with the Krug.
The first plate out was a fruit plate, which was probably the most beautifully plated fruit plate I’ve ever had on an airplane.
Next came the bread basket, and I requested a croissant with strawberry jam. The croissant had a surprisingly buttery, flakey, and crispy crust… I’m not sure how they managed to serve such a good croissant on an aircraft!
Next up was the much-anticipated lobster thermidor. It’s served with half a lobster tail as a tray to contain all the meat… but as they chop up the lobster meat and stuff it back into the shell, there was likely the equivalent of an entire lobster tail stuffed into half a shell. There was a surprising amount of lobster to be had.
Meanwhile, my wife doesn’t like to eat seafood or baby animals (so no veal or lamb). So I had ordered her the kow pow chicken through the Book the Cook service. This wasn’t nearly as good… but then, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are as good as lobster thermidor, right?
The main dishes were followed up with desserts. I selected the opera cake while my wife got some donuts. We also ordered some Illy cafe lattes as well.
I want to point out that the service was just impeccable. Other reviewers of Singapore Airlines have mentioned that flight attendants seem to come check on you every 5 minutes throughout the flight. They are not kidding. My glass of water and Krug were never empty. Plates were cleared within a minute me of finishing it, with the next course brought out also within minutes. And every interaction starts by the flight attendants addressing you by name and title. Like “Dr Travel, how was your meal? Would you like another glass of Krug?” (My answers were “Yes” and “Yes” by the way.)
I suppose such amazing service is possible when there are 3 flight attendants assigned to 4 first class passengers. Either way, bravo!
With the meal service all wrapped up, we requested that our beds be set up so that we can lie down and nap and/or watch some movies. The bed is very comfortable… better than JAL’s and KAL’s but probably not quite as good as ANA’s.
I had forgotten to take a photo of Singapore’s entertainment controller, but it operated basically just like a smart phone and was super easy to use. You’ll see my wife holding the controller in the photo above. In addition, the movies selection on Singapore was outstanding. Multitudes of newly released movies to watch.
As I lounged in the bed and watched La La Land, I requested a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label and received… a huge pour of Blue Label. I tried to finish it, but I must admit I fell asleep about halfway through the glass. Most of you might say that I fell asleep because of all the booze, but I’m going to blame La La Land. I found it rather boring…
I slept for about 90 minutes, but woke up when my wife started messing with the divider wall between our seats. The motor for the wall is surprisingly loud. (If you’re traveling alone and want to make sure to avoid this issue, grab a window seat!)
My half-finished glass of Blue Label had been taken away (probably for my benefit) while I was asleep, so I just drank some water and started watching Star Wars Rogue One.
About an hour later, one of the flight attendants inquired whether I would like a cheese plate as a snack. I figured why not, so I got a cheese plate with a glass of Dom. (After going from Dom to Krug and then back to Dom again, I can confirm that yes, I like Krug better.)
Afterwards, I laid back down and finished Rogue One. I tried to sleep for a bit more, but found that I was wide awake. So laid back and started watching Marvel’s Dr Strange. My wife was also awake again at this point, and she tried ordering a Singapore Sling. We’d never had a Singapore Sling before, so we’re not sure if it was made correctly or not… but it did seem really really strong. Probably stronger than it was supposed to be.
And before we knew it, we were about 2.5 hours out of Tokyo Narita. The flight attendants came back around to let us know that they’ll be starting their dinner service soon. I requested that my bed be turned back to a seat and got ready for our next meal service. The table was set beautifully again.
I ordered their malossol caviar service with a side of garlic bread and sourdough bread. And a new glass of Krug. When in Rome, right?
The caviar portion was quite generous and the breads came with a bottle of truffled olive oil that was ridiculously good. I only used half the bottle, and on hindsight, I wish I had held onto it. It was that good.
My wife was still feeling full from her brunch, so she ordered a more abbreviated meal of breakfast burrito, salad, potato chips, and a glass of Bordeaux red wine.
My caviar service was then followed with a bowl of white bean soup and a spinach & arugula salad w/ tomato herb vinaigrette dressing.
Up next for me was the grilled veal chop which I had also ordered via the Book the Cook service. This was also excellent. If you are flying Singapore First/Suites, you absolutely have to try the Book the Cook! I also wanted to try the Bordeaux wine that my wife was having, so I switched from the Krug to red wine for the veal chop.
The standard dessert option for this meal was the warm cherry streusel with cherry ice cream… but I don’t like cherries. Oddly, it’s one of the few foods that I don’t like. So I asked if I could substitute a different dessert from one of the other meal options. The flight attendant offered a green tea cake instead, so that’s what I had. With a side of Illy cappuccino.
Aaaaand after basically 13 hours of gorging myself on amazing food and drinks at the LAX lounge and on board, we arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport a few minutes ahead of schedule.
This was a phenomenal flight, and was well-worth the 1-year wait. The lounge experience, the seats, the flight attendants, the drinks, and the food items were all absolutely top-notch. Singapore Airline’s stellar reputation is well-earned.
The recent increase in mileage costs for award redemption is unfortunate, but given how amazing the experience is, I would not hesitate to spend the additional miles to fly them again.
My only complaint is how rare their award space availability seems to be.
Mr & Mrs Moto will be flying Singapore Airlines this fall in their Suites Class. I can only imagine how amazing their experience will be!