After four weeks of vacation – a week spent in Europe and three weeks in the U.S. – it was time for me to return to Singapore. When booking my return trip, I searched for a conveniently timed itinerary that would get me back to Singapore late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. That way I would have at least one full day to recover – mentally and physically – before I had to return to work on Monday.
In the past, I’ve generally flown from Washington DC to Singapore on United, ANA or Korean Air. These routes involve connections in either Hong Kong, Tokyo or Seoul, or more recently, California. On this trip, I was interested in trying something different, so I also considered flights that flew east through Europe and the Middle East.
After searching for itineraries on Kayak and Google Flights, I decided to book a premium economy seat on Singapore Airlines out of New York City’s JFK. The flight included a short stop in Frankfurt, Germany. It wasn’t the cheapest itinerary, or the most convenient – after all we were staying in Washington DC – but it gave me the chance to test out one of Singapore Airline’s new premium economy seats, and it was a good excuse to spend a day or two in New York City. Also, at “just” 22 hours, it’s one of the shortest itineraries from the East Coast to Singapore. I was also excited to earn 110% mileage accrual in my KrisFlyer account, or 10,487 miles.
This was my itinerary:
The premium economy seat also had one major benefit, it allowed me to upgrade to business class using points, subject to availability. Immediately after booking my seat, I logged into my KrisFlyer account and selected Manage Booking. I was in luck as there were Standard upgrade awards available for 70,000 KrisFlyer miles (the Saver award from the East Coast is 47,000 miles – but there was no availability). I didn’t hesitate in spending the 70,000 miles. The upgrade from economy, even “premium” economy, to business class is a world of difference. It not only means superior service and food, but most importantly, a fully flat bed. That makes a big difference when you’re confined to a plane for 22 hours (or 26 hours, as the case would be for me). Importantly, when upgrading on Singapore Airlines, you still earn the miles for your original itinerary. So even though I upgraded to business class, I still earned the 10,487 miles from my original premium economy ticket (which helped me to requalify for KrisFlyer Elite Silver Status).
Here was my upgrade confirmation:
And my upgraded itinerary:
Getting to the Airport
After spending the day exploring NYC, I headed to the airport from the Lower East Side at around 5:00pm (the flight wasn’t departing until 8:55pm but I didn’t know what traffic would be like). I had a lot of luggage, so I ended up taking a shockingly expensive Uber ride to JFK:
There was bad traffic (of course) but we managed to get to the airport in under an hour – not too terrible for a Friday afternoon. However, the quality of the airport, and the hassle of getting to JFK from Manhattan, will definitely make me think twice before I go out of my way to book a flight from NYC in the future (even if it’s in business class).
Check-In, Swiss Lounge, and Boarding
I arrived at the airport with over three hours to go before departure. Luckily, the check-in counter was open and there was virtually no one in line.
I checked two bags and received my boarding pass in a matter of minutes (just one boarding pass was issued, as the same plane continues on to Singapore from Frankfurt). I was instructed at the check-in counter that I could use the Swiss Lounge on the other side of security. The airline attendant also helpfully pointed out that I could either go through the TSA pre-check security line (I was newly enrolled) or I could use the Business / First class security line, which is subject to the normal security indignities (i.e. shoes off and laptops out).
The Business / First class security line was shorter, so I chose that line. It only took about 10 minutes to get through security, which I consider pretty good for a New York City airport.
After security, I headed to the Swiss Lounge, which I found disappointing. The drink options were okay, but the food selection was limited.
This was the entirety of the hot food selection:
Annoyingly, there were almost no power outlets in the lounge, except in one designated high-top bar area. It seems hard to believe that a modern business class lounge wouldn’t have power outlets at every seat.
After enjoying a gin and tonic and some food at the lounge, I decided to walk around the terminal a bit before boarding. After about thirty minutes, I headed to gate A7 for boarding.
Boarding and Business Class
There are separate lines for Singapore Suites (First Class), Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy.
By the time I reached the gate, boarding was well under way, so I simply approached the Business Class line and, after a quick scan of my ticket, headed onto the plane. There was a separate jet bridge for Business Class passengers that went directly to the second level of the plane.
The Singapore Airlines A380-800 business class takes up the whole second floor of the jumbo jet (the largest passenger plane in the skies). The business class seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, so each seat has direct aisle access. I had selected seat 24K, a window (and aisle) seat on the right side of the plane. A lot of travelers prefer the bulkhead seats on Singapore Airlines business class, as those seats offer a bit more leg room and a full bench for you to rest your feet on during the flight (as opposed to a more narrow foot rest in the standard business class seat). However, when I was selecting my seat, the only available bulkhead seat was in the very back of the plane. As I prefer not to be in the back of the plane, I decided to stick with a normal business class seat closer to the front. I was not disappointed, as I found the foot rest and seat to be more than adequate (even for someone who is slightly over 6 feet tall).
Here is the view of the business class cabin upon boarding.
They had a weird, orange mood light going on as boarding continued.
When I arrived at my seat, there was a large pillow waiting for me, and a pair of noise cancelling headphones. As you can see, the seats are very wide.
The seats were nice but maybe a bit dated. The entertainment system was definitely on the older side, although perfectly functional. On the left armrest were basic seat controls and a remote for the TV.
Helpfully, the remote control also showed the expected time to the next destination. I used this function several times throughout the flight to check on our flight status.
There were lots of new release movies and popular Hollywood films loaded into the entertainment system. There were also several TV shows that had full seasons available (e.g. Big Little Lies, Friends, and Game of Thrones – just to name a few).
One thing I found interesting about the Singapore Airlines’ business class seat is just how much storage space there is. There are two huge compartments between the seat and the window, and then plenty of storage space under the seat in front, and even a small storage compartment beside the television.
There is also a charging bay to the right of the entertainment monitor.
It’s worth pointing out that there is a slight design flaw in the window business class seat, as a narrow gap exists between the seat and the side storage compartment. This gap is just big enough to lose a phone or magazine in, but not big enough to reach one’s hand into. Also, the seat runs all the way to the ground, so there’s no way to access the gap from under the seat. I realized just how inconvenient this was when I accidentally knocked my phone into the gap. After almost 20 minutes of futilely trying to retrieve it, I finally gave up and asked a flight attendant to help. Losing stuff between the seat and the window must be a common occurrence, because the flight attendant didn’t hesitate, he immediately grabbed a long metal pole (it’s possible it’s kept onboard just for this purpose) and came to my seat to help. After about 5 minutes of fishing between the seat and the window with the metal pole, he was able to retrieve the phone.
About 20 minutes after boarding, we pushed back from the gate. The captain then came on the PA to let us know that there were quite a few planes ahead of us, so we would be delayed by about a half hour.
There was a pre-wrapped blanket waiting in the storage space behind the seat. This was a good quality blanket that kept me warm throughout the flight. Upon boarding, I found the plane to be extremely cold, so I immediately unwrapped my blanket and settled in.
As we taxied, it became apparent that we were going nowhere fast. I made it through almost three-quarters of a movie before the captain came back on to announce that there were “50 to 70 planes ahead of us” and that we had burned through quite a bit of fuel taxing. He said we needed to return to the gate to refuel, but due to congestion on the taxiway, it would take some time to turn around.
Our 8:55pm departure eventually became a 1:05am departure. Luckily, I managed to fall asleep while we were refueling at the gate, and I didn’t wake up until we were in the air over Canada.
I woke up just as the flight attendants were walking through the cabin with dessert. I had missed my pre-ordered shrimp and scallop dinner, and I no longer really felt like eating it. Instead, I had a scoop of Sticky Fig & Honeycomb Ice Cream with Cinnamon Peanuts.
It was a bit too sweet for me, at least in my just-having-waken state. After eating my ice cream, I checked out the bathroom which was stocked with a few amenities (note that Singapore Airlines does not give out amenity kits in business class).
There were also toothbrushes and shaving kits.
The sink was operated with a modern sensor, which I find much nicer than the old push button sink faucets.
I ended up watching a few episodes of Game of Thrones (they had the entire sixth season) and after a small continental breakfast, it was time to prepare for landing.
We touched down smoothly in Frankfurt at 2:46pm (a little over four hours late) and everyone disembarked. Business class passengers continuing on to Singapore were invited to use the Lufthansa business lounge near the gate. I was a bit disoriented when I got off the plane, and in my effort to find the business class lounge, I ended up walking to the complete opposite side of the terminal, before realizing my mistake and turning around.
I ultimately found the lounge, which was spacious but with limited food options. I ended up eating a banana and some soup. As we were in Germany, there were also sausage and beer choices:
After spending a bit of time in the lounge, it was time to re-board for the “long” portion of the flight. After already spending 12 hours on the plane due to the initial delay, I was not really looking forward to another 13 hours of flying, but at least I was in business class. . .
As we boarded the plane, we were given a fancy Singapore Airlines luggage tag and a note apologizing for the delay in New York.
I found the crew on the second leg of the flight to be more attentive than the original crew. As I took my seat on the second leg of the trip, I was immediately offered a welcome drink – something that the New York City crew never offered. I asked for a glass of champagne and a water. The champagne was a Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, and tasted pretty good to me.
We had a great view of the plane’s reflection as we taxied in Frankfurt.
It also served as a good reminder that there was another floor of passengers below us (something you forget when you’re actually on the flight).
Taxing was fast in Frankfurt, and after a long take-off roll, we were on our way.
After takeoff – the meal service began. I had pre-ordered the suckling pig, which I found okay, although I really enjoyed the green vegetables that came with the meal.
After eating, I made my seat into a bed (a short video plays in business class after boarding – which shows you how to turn the seat into a bed, or you can ask a flight attendant for assistance). The bed is made by pulling down the seat back – similar to the backseat of a station wagon.
The bed includes a built-in mattress that I found quite comfortable. The one bad thing about the Singapore Airlines business class seat is that you can’t easily go from bed mode to seat mode. Doing so requires you to stand up and clear everything from the seat before changing its position. Unlike new business class products, you can’t simply push one button and move from seat mode to bed mode.
The place for your head is not huge, but with the pillows I found it okay.
I ended up spending most of the second flight in bed mode. You can also eat from the bed position, although it’s a bit tricky.
On the second flight, I watched Drive with Ryan Gosling. A movie I’ve seen before but still really enjoy. I then watched several more episodes of Game of Thrones and, in between, got a bit of sleep.
For breakfast, I had pre-ordered a wanton noodle soup. I’m not sure if I was just really hungry or what, but this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had on a plane.
The noodles and wantons were delicious and the broth was piping hot and well flavored. It got me excited to be back in Singapore! Shortly after finishing breakfast, it was time to prepare for landing. We finally touched down in Singapore at 10:46am (about four hours late).
Even in business class, this was a long and tiring trip. I feel sorry for anyone who had to suffer through in economy – although I’ve been there before. Overall, the food and service were good, the seat (and bed) was comfortable and there were plenty of entertainment options. It was definitely 70,000 KrisFlyer miles well spent.