The airline with the best average rating is Singapore Airlines with 8.7/10.
The average flight time is 6 hours and 22 minutes.More information
As usual when I visit my grandparents, I tack on some destinations either in China or elsewhere in Asia. Last year I went to Taipei, this time I picked Singapore as it would be a fun place to visit for the first time as well as a great excuse to try out some new products.
I originally wanted to book PVG-SIN as that was the route that featured the new suites, but I missed out when SQ released Saver availability for the dates I was willing to travel. I figured the next best thing was to try the old Suites from PEK. I could have tried HKG, but I felt that HKG is simply too short of a flight and it isn't the easiest to position to from HFE. I booked this flight for 53,000 Krisflyer Miles and waitlisted a few of the flights from PVG. The flights from PVG never cleared.
The intra-Asia F prices are often actually reasonable (as far as first class goes), but I would still never pay for it out-of-pocket.
SQ807 had a bit of an interesting schedule: from mid December to Jan. 6, SQ flew a 777-300ER on the route. Before that, it was an A380 with the old suites. Then starting on Jan. 7, it flew the old suites for three days. Starting Jan. 10, the schedule switched to new suites. I never got a notification about it, but when double checking the seat map about a month out I was surprised to find the route had switched to new suites. I quickly nabbed 1F since 1A was already taken. Then I more or less checked the route daily to see whether it would change back. I didn't really believe it until SQ802 took off the morning of my flight with the new suites configuration. After Jan. 13, it switched back to old suites. So I really lucked out here.
I positioned myself to Beijing by train and arrived at Beijing International Airport (PEK) at roughly 1:20pm. Singapore Airlines check-in counter can be found at F1-17 (though I'm not sure if this is consistent day-to-day). All the way at the end were the business class and Suites check in.
No one was in line, so I was helped out quickly and directed to use the BGS lounge by Gate E19. The agent apologized that it would be a bit of a walk to Gate E09 from there.
From check in, I took the train to Concourse E. Security and immigration is never very quick at PEK, but today wasn't bad. I estimate it took about 25 minutes total.
From there it was about a 15 minute walk to the BGS lounge. On the way I saw a few Star Alliance birds:
I was surprised that I was directed to this lounge instead of the Air China First Class Lounge. I suppose, when looking at the map, this is marginally closer to Gate E09 (which later moved to Gate E07). This lounge serves quite a few Star Alliance carriers actually, including Singapore, EVA, and Air New Zealand. It is also accessible through Priority Pass.
Like most lounges at PEK, it can be found up a set of stairs at the mezzanine level.
I was quickly checked in and directed to my left. The first class lounge is to the left and business class to the right. The lounge is one room with the same seating throughout. At the end of the room is a business setup with a single desktop computer and two massage chairs.
The food and beverage selection was not what you would expect for a first class lounge. However, given PEK, it was kind of what I expected.
There was a noodle bar though. While it wasn't staffed at first, someone noticed quickly when I was standing nearby and came to ask if I wanted anything.
I ordered the mushroom noodles - it was fine and not a big portion (which was perfect).
I'm not sure whether the business class lounge had its own set of bathrooms as I constantly saw passengers going in but not coming towards the first class area. The bathrooms were kept decently clean. There is a shower in the back and a shoe shine machine by the sinks.
Despite the lack of amenities, this wasn't a bad place to stay for a bit because of how quiet it was. I never saw more than 10 passengers in the first class area during my stay. Moreover, the staff was friendly and fairly proactive about picking up dishes and such.
However, I cannot recommend staying here for more than an hour or so because there are no outlets. I couldn't find a single one! I ended up leaving at around 3:30pm after staying here for ~1.5 hours.
Some more spotting on my way to the gate:
This flight was very exciting for me because not only would this be my first time flying Singapore Airlines, it would be my first time ever on an A380. My ride to Singapore would be on 9V-SKW, an A380-800 delivered in September 2017. Here she is:
Boarding was scheduled for 4:10pm but was delayed. The crew was stuck in traffic and only arrived at the gate at 4:08. Boarding actually started with first class at 4:27, 17 minutes behind schedule. At Gate E07, which is adjacent to the Emirates Lounge, there is an escalator that takes you up to the jet bridge to the upper deck. I think (not sure) that the Emirates Lounge guests would be able to access that level directly via the lounge. Would be nice if SQ contracted with Emirates for lounge access instead of BGS.
The anticipation was really building when I took the escalator up and saw the A380 from a different angle. Can't wait to board from the top! There was bit of a traffic jam at the door, but it cleared up quickly.
The cabin was 4/6 today. Since 2F was occupied, no chance to see the double bed in action. Here is a shot from the front - hard to find a more beautiful cabin on a plane. I haven't flown Etihad though. When you're walking down this path, it really does take your breath away.
Upon boarding, the FA at the door signaled for one of his colleagues to escort me to my suite. Benjamin took my carry-on and guided me to 1F. "Best seat in the house" he said. As for the seat, Wow! Wow! Wow!
For comparison, here is 3F, which I took a picture of on my way out. You can see that the first row is a slightly bigger suite with two screens (due to the position of the seat vis-a-vis the main IFE screen for takeoff).
After welcoming me to my suite, Benjamin took all of my bags and jacket and placed them in the closet, which is in the wall of the suite. It fits a normal carry-on just fine. He also unwrapped the slippers for me - which were comfortable and sturdy. Next he pointed out that the night mask and socks were in a holder in the closet.
Let's go on a tour of the suite shall we?
In the center is the large, well-padded chair with a nice firm pillow already in place. In front and to your left is a counter area for placing drinks and has the display holder for the menu. There is also a flower vase on the counter and a lamp directly above. In front of the seat is a small screen for take off and landing (since all seats must face forward, you cannot see the main IFE screen). Another lamp can be found to the right. Below that are literature holders. Immediately to the right along the fuselage are a series of small storage compartments as well as a vanity mirror. Below that is a much bigger storage perfect for larger items.
Seat controls are found in the armrest on the left. It was fairly intuitive. The seat can swivel just about every direction and you have full control over the exact degree. The suite also doesn't lack for power outlets (both USB and universal): they can be found along the fuselage as well as in the counter in front of the seat. Jacks for headphones can be found both on the seat's armrest and besides the bed (not pictured).
The primary IFE screen is massive and can be found facing the bed (or where it would be). It swivels out so that you can view it after rotating your seat mid-flight.
The bed setup is along the wall between 1F and 2F. You can see at each end is a holder for when the bed folds out. At the head is a compartment storing the bedding (additional pillows and such are in a closet in the front of the cabin).
The walls are a good height - you can't see over them easily in the normal course of things. Of course, if you are tall, you can peer into the suite adjacent to yours.
Getting back to the IFE - I actually didn't play around with it very much this flight. It was very crisp, with a massive selection of movies and TVs. On a longer flight I have no doubt I'll keep myself entertained. On this flight, it was more than enough just to enjoy the service and chat with Lisa. Singapore now offers free WiFi to first class passengers on certain planes, including the new A380. It was very easy to connect, you just need your seat number and last name. The connectivity was pretty good.
Singapore provides very nice Bang & Olufsen headphones. These were comfortable and had great sound quality as well as noise cancelling.
Soon after Benjamin left, Lisa came by to introduce herself and explain that she, Benjamin, and their supervisor Brian would be taking care of us today. She took the very thick and comfortable blanket from the closet and unwrapped it for me. I cannot emphasize enough how comfortable this blanket was.
The oft-noted privacy issue can be seen here when the doors are opened. I'm not sure if it was just the angle, but it seemed like 1A and 1F are slightly staggered? I'll note that the gentleman in 1A was way more into taking pictures than I was.
Here is what it looks like with the door closed. The doors are manual, but aren't very heavy and easy to open/close.
Before takeoff, here's a look down the front staircase. You can see the steps leading up to the cockpit and pilot's rest area.
Lisa offered me a PDB - champagne of course! On this flight Singapore was serving the 2009 Dom Perignon and 2007 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc. I believe the introduction of the Taittinger was (at least partially) to address shortages of Krug worldwide. Alas! I opted to start with the Dom.
Brian brought over some nuts after Lisa poured the Dom.
Brian also brought over the leatherbound menu prior to departure. We'll get to that in a minute.
Boarding completed at 4:45 - impressively fast, though I don't know what the load was in other cabins. During this time Brian and Lisa were eager to take pictures of me and the gentleman in 1A before takeoff. I always love it when the crew is enthusiastic about taking pictures. I actually asked for more pictures later because upon closer inspection, the initial set weren't very flattering of me. Lisa also noticed that I wasn't using my blanket initially and asked if the cabin temperature was okay - if I found it too hot, she can adjust it a little. What an eye for detail and thoughtful service! The cabin temperature was just fine actually, quite cool. I explained that living in the U.S. just means we're used the AC on blast all the time.
Despite tons of time between boarding and takeoff, I only managed two glasses of Dom - too busy taking pictures! Brian and Lisa were both very proactive about refills, I just wasn't drinking very fast. Lisa asked when I would like to eat, and I suggested waiting for a bit after takeoff, but to bring the satay first. I also asked to switch to the Taittinger after takeoff.
We pushed back at 4:59pm, not much behind schedule, but it would be a while before we took off. The captain came on for an announcement at 5:27 to explain that there was quite a bit of traffic but we were second for departure. Sure enough, we took off at 5:30pm. The suites rattle slightly during takeoff, but the A380 is just so remarkably quiet overall.
The seatbelt sign was switched off 10 minutes into the flight. Service began shortly afterwards, but I managed to sneak in a quick lavatory visit first. There are two first class lavatories on the A380. The larger one is on the right and it is massive! There is a sitting area like you would find in a powder room. The toliet is right behind that. The sink is right next to the entrance has a large basin with a waterfall-like faucet. There are built-in hangers to hang your clothes.
Singapore has Lalique amenities in the lavatory. There is mouthwash, lotion, facial mist, and eau du toliette. There is a drawer beneath the powder table with some amenities. There wasn't much for this 6-hour flight, but I'm sure it will be loaded for a long-haul. Linen towelettes are available.
Here is the smaller bathroom, which I visited later in the flight. Most of it is the same without the powder table. There is a large bench instead. There were some bottles of shaving cream and razors in this bathroom in the amenities drawer.
Now is time to talk about the menu. The Book the Cook selection out Beijing was okay, not the biggest. I am frankly surprised that Beijing (which is kind of notorious for bad catering) has a Book the Cook option whereas Shanghai does not. I ended up selecting the lamb from the Western menu. None of the Asian options particularly appealed to me. I would describe most of the Asian selections as good home-cooked options. I'm sure they would have tasted great though.
Here is the actual menu, along with a description of what the Shi Quan Shi Mei (食全时美) feature was.
Here is the much more impressive drinks selection. The coffee and tea selection were especially impressive. They even had Mao Feng (毛峰), which is essentially my hometown tea!
We began with a pour of the 2007 Taittinger. Lisa noted that the passengers in Row 2 remarked it was not as good as the Dom. Personally, I might give a slight edge to the Dom.
Next the satay was presented, two chicken skewers and one lamb. They were quite good.
As noted by many, when the door is open, the dining situation is a bit awkward (Lisa would keep it closed for most of the service).
I chose to watch Once Upon a Time, but didn't actually end up paying much attention to it (or watching it at all really). There's just so much else to do on this flight!
Brian set the table beautifully at about an hour into the flight.
Benjamin brought a bread basket next - I opted only to have the garlic bread, which he remarked was fresh out of the oven.
I chose the marinated lobster with a Mediterranean salad for my appetizer. It was a fairly good dish to start with.
Brian presented the Volnay next (I think that's what 1A requested), but after tasting it, I asked for something else.
Next I chose the double boiled silky hen soup with bamboo fungus and cordycep flower. It was delicious! In fact, it somewhat resembled the taste of 老母鸡汤 (old hen's soup? trying to translate it literally here), but the added ingredients gave it a bit more flavor.
Next, Brian and Lisa brought over the three available reds for me to pick. This was a nice presentation, though I didn't ask for it. Stay tuned for what I picked.
The salad was tasty, but nothing special.
I chose the 2007 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. A friend who is training to be a master sommelier later remarked I made the right choice and that the other two were the wrong choices.
Here is my main from Book the Cook: herb crusted lamb loin in thyme jus. It was delicious and definitely not overcooked. Benjamin, who was the one cooking it asked if it was okay and if I wanted it cooked further. Who am I? Atco?
After the main, Benjamin brought over the dessert on a beautiful platter with dry ice to create a fog/smoke effect. He brought both the Western and Shi Quan Shi Mei dessert for me to try. It was good, but I was stuffed at this point and only ate about half the cake and soup. I had to regretfully inform Lisa that I was going to pass on the cheese plate, even though she was quite enthusiastic about presenting it.
Stuffed as I was, I would never skip the chocolates. As she presented the options, Lisa told me don't be polite - so I took one of everything. Lisa recommended I try a cup of Feng Huang Dan Cong (凤凰单丛) just to see what it's like. I'm not actually familiar with this tea.
The tea came in a clever two-layer cup - when you're done seeping, just take the top layer off. The Feng Huang was okay, but I went back to Mao Feng after trying it - it's what I drink every day after all.
As meal service ended, I asked Lisa if one of those adorable little Singapore bears was available. She said she would check and after a few minutes brought back a bag and apologized there was only one bear left. Good enough for me! In the bag she put a pair of slippers, socks, and eye mask so that I can "feel comfortable and think about Singapore Airlines on my next flight." Will do!
I asked if I could walk around the plane for a while after the meal service to 1) stretch my legs and 2) explore the plane. Lisa offered to give me a tour the plane. I took her up on the offer, but she had to take a few pictures for 1A first. Well, 1A's photo shoot turned into a 20+ minute affair. Off we went after that.
First we checked out the massive business class cabins. These seats look quite spacious. It looked like service had more or less wrapped up and quite a few people were sleeping even though they had not turned the lights off.
Then we went downstairs from the back to look at economy and premium economy. Those cabins were completely dark, so I didn't take any pictures. At the economy cabin, Lisa leaned over with a sly grin and said there is one advantage to sitting in economy: "The flight attendants are younger and prettier."
Eventually we found ourselves at the front of the plane looking back up at the Suites cabin. Lisa explained the pilots' area up front. Then she offered to take a few pictures of me on the staircase since I just adore staircases on planes. Afterwards, we chatted about what to do in Singapore for quite some time since it would be my first visit. Before landing, she gave me a handwritten note listing must-try food.
After coming back up, Lisa made the bed for me. I felt bad for monopolizing so much of her time, but this also goes to show the wonderful spirit of service on Singapore Airlines. As for the bed itself, I found it to be quite comfortable and not so hard like folks had complained of it being. Admittedly, I was not trying this bed on a long-haul flight. Without meaning to, I managed to doze off for about an hour.
I woke up shortly before the initial descent announcement approximately 40 minutes prior to landing. The seat belt signs were turned back on not quite 20 minutes later. All of the Suites crew came by to thank me for flying Singapore and ask me whether I enjoyed the flight before landing.
During the descent, I did find it difficult to take pictures out of the windows (perhaps due to the distance between the two glasses?) - a minor inconvenience because I can still see just fine out of them.
We touched down at 11:34pm and arrived at the gate 6 minutes later.
Originally, I was going to check out the Private Room before going to my hotel, but I was dead exhausted at this point and just wanted to get to my hotel. Another time then!
Lounge: The BGS First Class Lounge is lackluster for a first class lounge. Its biggest advantage is that it is not crowded at all and a peaceful place to pass your time. Its biggest dealbreaker is the lack of outlets (and maybe the Lipton tea bags). It is more comfortable than the terminal, but not by much. The food and beverage selection was average for PEK.
Cabin & Seat: Singapore Suites is easily the most beautiful cabin I've ever flown in. I have to really emphasize just how spacious the suite actually is - the size made the flight experience really comfortable as you can get up, stretch, etc . . . all without having to leave your suite. The minor flaws that have been well-documented did not inconvenience me much and I doubt I'll change my mind for a long-haul flight. The bed was also better than I expected.
Service: Brian, Benjamin, and Lisa were all great, but Lisa especially was phenomenal. Service was so natural, it's hard to describe how smoothly everything seemed to flow. I've lucked out with some great flight attendants before, but this flight may just take the cake. More than satisfying every request, the crew went above and beyond pretty much any time I asked for anything.
Meal & Catering: The meal was better than I expected, especially coming out of PEK. The pace of the meal was also great and adjusted for each passenger. If this is what Singapore's catering is like coming out of an airport known for bad catering, I can't wait to try their catering out of SIN.
Bottom Line: The China routes are still one of the easiest ways to experience Singapore Suites and come at a fairly reasonable price points-wise. Unfortunately, this is not a full-amenity flight as there is no pajamas, amenity kit, or caviar. That said, this was easily one of my favorite flights of all time. The spectacular cabin, outstanding service, and strong catering even out of PEK made this a flight I wouldn't hesitate to take again. I can't wait to try out the Suites on a longer flight.