How Suite it is, Part II: in the air

8
Jan
2015

So as you probably remember from part one, I was clutching my purse in the recesses of the first class lounge, waiting for my suites class flight to begin. At the appointed time, I made my way to the gate, where they guided me to a special entrance to the plane that was only for the suites passengers. I got to my cabin (it was a little like a mini train cabin or berth) and was a little surprised to discover that there was no great place to put my bags. The under-seat storage was too small, so I wedged it in an area next to my seat that would need to be vacated if I wanted to recline my seat. I didn’t worry overmuch about it though, as each of the staff came up to introduce themselves, addressing me by name and asking if there was anything I needed, anything at all, they would be happy to oblige.

“Anything?”

I was at this point about to ask for perhaps a hand-job by a Brazilian male model or some cocaine, but they were already pouring me a glass of Dom Pérignon, so I made do with that. At first glance the individual cabins were quite impressive, with very comfortable leather seating with a facing seat with its own seatbelt, which I thought a little odd, especially because there was a sign over it saying it was not to be used during takeoff and landing. I guess that seat is just for when you have other well-heeled visitors (they would never allow the commoners in here) coming to chat with you about yachting or trust funds during the flight.

Then the cabin steward came up to inform me of some very upsetting news: Our flight would only be taking 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach Mumbai. I thought I would at least be getting 30 or 45 more minutes of luxury than that, and I have to admit to being a little disappointed. Much of what makes this class of service so special is the privacy and comfort of the cabin while sleeping, but I clearly wasn’t going to make them setup the whole bed thing for a 20 minute nap, even though the harridan in the berth behind me made them do exactly that. The length of the flight set the tone for a number of disappointments actually. It isn’t really worth setting up the bed, as I said, for one. And flights under 7 hours don’t get the super swank toiletries bag with the nice cologne in it. (I had received one on my previous flight, so really what was I going to do with two of them, but still I was crestfallen).

And even though I hadn’t paid full price for this, I imagined what I would be feeling if I had, and I started noticing everything that was wrong with the suite as my native OCD went into overdrive. There was no good place for my bag storage. The suite had a lot of dings and scratches all around, and some parts that didn’t close properly. The media system and control is positively antiquated. You can’t even connect your ipod/iphone to it to play your own music. The user interface is badly designed and clunky, the screen not very high rez. The usb charger stopped charging my phone about 10 times necessitating unplugging and replugging. The curvature and design of the walls of the suite was kinda clumsy (compare to ANA for example which was clean and elegant), and the veneers showing.

The people and the service was something else though. There is absolutely nothing to reproach, they were without fail wonderful, helpful, and kind. I have rarely experienced service this good anywhere. I have absolutely no reservations about the quality of the service I received from the staff on board.

So to sum up everything:

1. I would not bother with this class of service unless you were going to get a full night’s sleep. It is just not worth it for anything under 8 hours. (Then again, if I had more money than god and a strong desire to waste it, as many of the other passengers must, what the hell.)

2. The suite itself is pretty cool but could use a redesign in the areas of media control, luggage storage, and maintenance/upkeep.

3. People service is impeccable with Singapore Air, but is almost as good in plain old cheapskate first class.

Here are a few pics of the entire experience:

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How Suite it is, Part I: on the ground

7
Jan
2015

Because of an incredible stroke of luck (and knowing the right people, and taking the opportunity when I could), I was able to get an amazing deal on my round-the-world ticket. And the best flight of the bunch is about to happen in a couple of hours. It is something called “Suites Class“, and I am taking it from Singapore to Mumbai. I think it is safe to say that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience (at least for me).

Since I had to get some work done today anyway, I thought I would avail myself of the first class lounge at the Singapore airport and spend the day being productive while luxuriating in a lounge I will probably never see the inside of again in my life. I arrived at the airport and they whisked me through to a special check-in area, then through a much speeded-up immigration process, and then into the first class lounge. When the woman guiding me through saw how much time I had, she suggested I head over to Terminal 3 (I am leaving from Terminal 2) where she said I could avail myself of a private room. By that I thought she meant an office space with a closing door so I could work undisturbed. But what she was referring to instead was something they call “The Private Room”, only for Suites customers. The use of feudal terms seems appropriate here: I arrived at the outer part of the lounge after passing the peasants wandering the airport and was greeted by name, then led down a long corridor of twists and turns, first past the vassals of business class and their sad area, and then beyond even the nobles of first class in their slightly more plush digs, and finally to the nicest room of all, the aforementioned Private Room, fit for you guessed it, the king.

Once inside, I set myself up at a table in the dining room, where I was brought pretty much anything I wanted. They had a fantastic menu, and I especially recommend the assorted satay plate, it was super delicious. I have to say, I was pretty productive while being plied with coffee, fresh juices, a foie-gras and egg topped burger, more coffee, water, and all around excellent service. Oh, did I mention the delicious petit-fours?

I made a few forays out of my castle to the general airport and duty free areas to pick up a couple of gifts for my hosts, mixing as best I could with the hoi polloi, not knowing what could we possibly have to say to each other, and trying my best not to look any of them directly in the eye. With most of the day past and my flight leaving in a couple of hours, I decided to head back over to Terminal 2 and the lowly first class lounge to await my flight. As I left The Private Room, the woman at the desk gave me a look of pity and asked if I wouldn’t be more comfortable staying there until my flight, but I put on a brave face and told her with the adventurer’s wink that is my trademark that I was curious to wander over and see the other side.

I am now at a work desk in the decidedly downscale first class lounge area in Terminal 2, writing this blog post and trying to stay strong while I await my flight in utter privation. How do people live like this?

Stopover in Singapore

5
Jan
2015

For various reasons (including a chance to travel on Singapore Airlines suites class tomorrow), I decided to make a quick stopover in Singapore on my way to Mumbai tomorrow. My lovely friend Fauzi from KL came down with his partner Najeeb to come meet me and hang out, and we had an amazing time yesterday wandering the hot and very humid contours of Singapore. In particular, we made our way to a very impressive newly developed part of Singapore that includes walkways, bridges, housing, shopping (of course), casino, and public park. The park in particular (called Gardens by the Bay) was quite spectacular. Inside are a variety of spaces and gardens representing different cultures, and an incredible greenhouse called the Flower Dome that must have cost an insane amount of money. They brought together mature trees and plants from all over the world, and somehow manage to keep them all alive in a giant air-conditioned space.

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