- Eric Rosen
- Singapore Airlines’ new suites are more like hotel rooms in the sky than airplane seats.
- Luxurious leather armchairs, separate beds dressed in Lalique linens, and gourmet meal service on Wedgwood china are just a few of the treats in store for passengers.
- Booking with cash could cost you more than $12,500, but luckily you have lots of options for redeeming with credit card rewards. Easily top up your Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account with points from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Rewards.
- I ended up transferring Citi points to Singapore to book my flight, but I could have also booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- Availability is scarce, since there are only 36 of the new Singapore suites in the world, so you’ll want to plan ahead and waitlist for flights.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
Singapore Airlines has set the standard for luxury in commercial aviation since it pioneered the concept of a first-class suite way back in 2007. Ten years later, the airline outdid itself once again by unveiling the design for an all-new type of suite. One that immediately set the airline industry abuzz and created another bragging-rights-worthy experience for aviation enthusiasts to strive for. The major downside is that flights in Singapore suites can cost between $2,200 and $12,500 depending on the dates and routes, so for most of us, using miles is the only choice for booking a flight. That’s what I did to book a flight in Singapore Suites from Singapore to Shanghai, transferring 50,000 Citi points to the Singapore KrisFlyer program and paying just $30 in taxes.
Onboard opulence: Why I needed to fly Singapore’s new suites
What’s so special about Singapore’s newer first-class suites? Designed by Parisian firm Pierrejean Design Studio, they are among the most spacious passenger accommodations in the skies. Each has a closing door for in-flight privacy, creating something more like an individual mini-cabin than a seat. Each A380 has six of them at the front of its upper deck, laid out in three rows with one seat on either side of the aisle.
Inside each is a Poltrona Frau leather armchair that can rotate up to 270 degrees and recline up to 45 degrees for relaxation. However, every suite also contains a separate bed that pulls out from the wall. Flight attendants are on hand to dress them with sheets, a fluffy duvet, and a full-size pillow. Passengers are also treated to Lalique pajamas so they can hang their day clothes in the suite’s individual closet.
- Eric Rosen
The suite’s dining table pulls out from one of its side consoles and can double as a work desk. You’ll probably just want to linger over a multi-course meal of dishes created by the airline’s International Culinary Panel of celebrity chefs, though, served on Wedgwood china. The airline is in the process of expanding and updating its award-winning wine cellar, so expect to see labels like Domaine D’Ardhuy Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru and Albert Bichot Corton Grand Cru from Burgundy appearing soon, along with the Dom Pérignon and Krug champagnes that the airline has been serving for over two decades, of course.
- Singapore Airlines
The in-flight entertainment system attached to the wall along the aisle holds a 32-inch high-definition screen. A separate touchscreen tablet controls it as well the suite’s lighting, and can be used to summon crew should you require anything. There’s also a lighted vanity mirror for freshening up with items from the Lalique amenity kit. The first two suites in each row, including their beds, can even be combined into double suites for passengers traveling with a companion. First class has two enormous, dedicated, spa-style lavatories. No showers, but one of them has a sit-down vanity counter stocked with still more Lalique skincare products like citrus-scented facial mist and body lotion. Adding exclusivity to extravagance, the new suites can only be found aboard six of the airline’s A380s operating a handful of medium- and long-haul routes, including from Singapore to Hong Kong, London, Mumbai (which just started in October), Shanghai, Sydney and Zurich. That means there are just 36 of them total in all the world. Their scarcity and popularity make Singapore Suites among the most difficult airline seats in the world to book using frequent-flyer miles. Difficult, but not impossible. I was actually able to experience the suites for myself aboard a flight from Singapore to Shanghai late last year. Here’s how I did it.
You’ll need to join the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program
First things first: If you want to book an award in Singapore Suites (or business class, for that matter), you’ll need to redeem Singapore Airlines’ own KrisFlyer miles. The airline releases premium award space to members of its own mileage program, but rarely, if ever, to those of its partner airlines, like United or Air Canada. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up for a KrisFlyer account here for free, and it only takes a minute.
How to earn the points
The Singapore KrisFlyer program partners with several major credit card points programs.
If you earn American Express Membership Rewards points with an Amex card like the Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card, Chase Ultimate Rewards points with Chase cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or Citi ThankYou points on a card like the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier℠ Card, you can transfer them to Singapore KrisFlyer for free at a ratio of 1:1. Most recently, KrisFlyer partnered with Capital One Rewards – miles transfer to Singapore at a ratio of 2:1. So even if you don’t have any KrisFlyer miles to begin with and do not plan to fly Singapore or its Star Alliance partners, you can top up your KrisFlyer account quickly and cheaply.
Just beware that transfers can take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to complete, so if you do find an award you want to book, transfer your points immediately.
Focus on flights
A380s with the new Singapore suites only operate on six routes – one for each of the aircraft currently configured with them. The airline deploys other types of aircraft on several of these routes as well as A380s with older Singapore suites aboard. That can make it difficult to narrow down your award searches or parse out which flights to look for in the results. To help you, here’s a quick rundown of the specific flight numbers on each route that feature the new suites and how many miles you’ll need each way at the Saver and Advantage levels from Singapore Airlines’ award chart. Singapore to Hong Kong: Flight SQ 856 departs 9:55am, arrives 1:55pm Hong Kong to Singapore: Flight SQ 861 departs 3:40pm, arrives 7:35pm Mileage required each way: 40,500 Saver, 73,000 Advantage Singapore to London: Flight SQ 322 departs 11:30pm, arrives 5:55am next day London to Singapore: Flight SQ 317 departs 11:25am, arrives 7:30am next day Mileage required each way: 125,000 Saver, 220,000 Advantage Singapore to Mumbai: Flight SQ 424 departs 7:00pm, arrives 10:10pm Mumbai to Singapore: Flight SQ 423 departs 11:40pm, arrives 7:40am next day Mileage required each way: 53,000 Saver, 98,000 Advantage Singapore to Shanghai: Flight SQ 830 departs 9:45am, arrives 3:05pm Shanghai to Singapore: Flight SQ 833 departs 4:50pm, arrives 10:20pm Mileage required each way: 53,000 Saver, 98,000 Advantage Singapore to Sydney: Flight SQ 221 departs 8:20pm, arrives 6:55am next day Sydney to Singapore: Flight SQ 232 departs 12:00pm, arrives 5:30pm Mileage required each way: 85,000 Saver, 155,000 Advantage Singapore to Zurich: Flight SQ 346 departs 1:25am, arrives 8:15am Zurich to Singapore: Flight SQ 345 departs 11:45am, arrives 5:55am next day Mileage required each way: 125,000 Saver, 220,000 Advantage No matter which route you choose, taxes and fees are low, ranging from about $30 to $80 each way. Just remember that flight numbers and times are subject to change, and you might find A380s with older seats taking over some of these flights, so always double-check your specific itinerary to make sure you’re getting the new suites. Before you get your hopes up, let me just say that the long-haul flights between Singapore to London never show up on award searches. It’s like they don’t even exist as far as the KrisFlyer search engine is concerned. Likewise, the specific Sydney flights with new suites do not populate in search results on most days, so you might be out of luck there. On the plus side, there are waitlist-able saver-level awards between Singapore and Zurich, and even some days with open award availability at the higher Advantage level if you have the miles to spend. On any route you hope to book, you will likely have to waitlist an award and then cross your fingers that space will open up, so we will get into that strategy below. In the meantime, your best bets will be the flights between Singapore and Hong Kong, Mumbai or Shanghai, some of which are even bookable without waitlisting. If you have a choice, go for the Mumbai or Shanghai flights since they are longer – more time to enjoy! If you have an ExpertFlyer account, you can check on seat availability to see how many open seats there are on your flights and take an educated guess as to whether any of these options might open up for award ticketing.
Searching for Singapore Airlines awards
Searching for awards on Singapore Airlines’ own flights is straightforward.
Navigate to the Singapore Airlines homepage and log in to your KrisFlyer account. Once logged in, click on the “Book Trip” tab and the “Redeem flights” button. Enter the airports you wish to travel between and check the “one-way” box when choosing dates. This will make it easier to home in on days that have award seats, or at least seats available for waitlisting. You will also narrow your search results by selecting the class of service – first class, in this case. If the first date you enter does not have any award availability at either the lower Saver level or the higher Advantage level, you might get results for business class instead. Just select another date and do another search. If there is either open or waitlisted award availability on the date you search, you can look through your options, or look on the surrounding days by clicking the links to “Previous day” or “Next day” down at the bottom of the page. In my experience, you will hardly, if ever, find any outright saver award availability on flights that feature the new suites. However, you will find flights available for waitlisting. This is one of the unique features of the KrisFlyer program, and one worth knowing about.
Win by waitlisting
Even if there are no seats that are immediately bookable when you search for awards, you might still be able to waitlist a ticket. As the name suggests, you are basically putting yourself on the list as willing to reserve a ticket if and when one becomes available. This can be an especially useful feature of KrisFlyer since you can waitlist as many awards as you want, giving yourself a better chance of snagging a seat when one does open up. There are a few caveats, though. First, and most important, you must have enough miles in your account to book the award you’re looking at in order to even waitlist it. This can be a real drawback if you plan to transfer points from your credit card account as it means you’ve potentially got to park tens of thousands of points with KrisFlyer before you know whether or not you’ll even be able to use them to book your award. However, if you’re sitting on a hoard of points or plan to fly Singapore again in the future, this could still be worth it. Plus, since you can waitlist pretty much unlimited numbers of awards, you can take advantage of having the miles in your account to put dozens of possible awards on hold over a long period of time. Speaking of which, Singapore Airlines recently changed its rules so that you can only waitlist awards 21 days or more in advance of a flight. Then you have a chance of it clearing up until 14 days before travel. If it does not clear before then, your waitlist request will be canceled. If your waitlisted award becomes available for booking, you typically have 24 to 72 hours to decide whether you want to fly, so don’t let the deadline lapse! If the miles are in your account and an award opens up, you might just want to book it anyway. Singapore Airlines only charges reasonable fees of $25 to $75 to change or cancel your ticket. That’s a far cry from the fee structure of US airlines, which can range up to $150. Reserving an award won’t cancel out your other waitlisted options, either. If another one that you prefer opens up later, you can just change your ticket at that point.
If mastering the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program feels like too much of an effort, there is one other strategy worth considering. Cardholders can redeem Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Rewards for flights at fixed rates that depend on the specific program and card.
This could be worth it if you find an airfare on one of these Singapore Airlines routes that is not too expensive. For example, one-ways from Singapore to Hong Kong and from Shanghai to Singapore price out at around $2,230 in first class. Those from Mumbai to Singapore are even more of a bargain, at around $1,740. For most cards that earn Amex points, cardholders can redeem points at a rate of 1 cent apiece toward flights booked through Amex Travel, so that Mumbai flight would require 174,000 points. Not cheap, but remember that booking flights this way is like booking a regular paid ticket, so you won’t have to rely on award availability or waitlisting. If you have the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, you’d get a 35% refund on your points, so you would only be out 113,100 in the end. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card earn points that are redeemable for 1.25 cents each toward travel, so the same Mumbai itinerary would require 139,200 points. However, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each, so you could redeem just 116,000 points for your trip. Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Rewards are less of a deal, with points worth just 1 cent each. While this redemption method requires more points than you’d spend through KrisFlyer, the ability to book travel on your specific dates for a slight premium might well be worth it for you.
Strategies for success
Because of the complexities of booking Singapore Suites awards, you can do yourself a favor by adhering to a few simple strategies. If you know for sure you want to book a KrisFlyer award, transfer credit card points to your KrisFlyer account ahead of time. Having that balance will allow you to waitlist multiple tickets that might appeal to you. Be flexible in terms of timing and routing so you can maximize your chance of snagging a seat when it opens up. Don’t be afraid to book a ticket, even if you think you might have to change it later since the change fees are minimal.
If you do get a seat, don’t overthink it. Singapore Suites is one of the most excellent, over-the-top travel experiences in the world, and the airline’s staff on the ground and in the air will make sure you enjoy it to the utmost. So the more relaxed you are, the more there will be to savor, trust me. That’s precisely what I did.
It was completely worth it
- Eric Rosen
Having surveyed award availability out of Singapore on all these routes around the dates I knew I’d be traveling there, I settled on waitlisting awards on multiple days to Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Zurich. Awards to Shanghai opened up on several days, as did one to Zurich.
Because of a few timing issues, I settled on flying to China and connecting back to the US from there. All told, I was out 50,000 KrisFlyer miles (at the time) and about $30 in taxes and fees instead of nearly $4,000. As for my flight, I took full advantage of the five-and-a-half hours from Singapore to Shanghai. I boarded early so I could enjoy a glass of pre-departure Dom Pérignon and get to know the first-class crew, four of whom helped me throughout the flight.
- Eric Rosen
After playing around with the suite’s many features and amenities during takeoff and ascent, I ate my way through six courses, including a smoked salmon appetizer and grilled king prawns with lemon garlic sauce over couscous.
- Eric Rosen
Next came a personal tour of the entire plane to see the other cabins, including Singapore’s newest business-class seats. I came back to find my bed made up and waiting for me. I snoozed for just over an hour, waking up in time for a cappuccino and a final farewell from my personal crew before landing in Shanghai. Now my only question is, when will I get the chance to fly Singapore Suites again?