I’m sure that regular readers will have noticed that I’ve not updated the Ginger Travel Guru for a while. A *long* while.
That’s my bad. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. I’ve joined the cult of CrossFit, yada, yada yada.
However I’ve been to a few interesting places recently, flown some fantastic products, so felt that it was worth updating the blog with a few articles over the coming days.
Back at the end of 2018 I visited Australia over the peak Christmas and New Year period, having a pretty bloody brilliant time in Sydney for New Year’s Eve. So I figured that I’d do it again at the end of last year.
Lufthansa have an exceptional fare out of France (valid from both Paris and Lyon), for travel to Sydney and Melbourne. It’s roughly £4,000 rtn in First Class and is pretty flexible. Whislt that’s still a very large chunk of money, for getting across the planet in considerable comfort, it’s very good indeed. You can travel via a number of places in Asia; my choice was via Singapore both ways. For the fare geeks, the fare basis is ARCZ00FR.
Additionally, for the Asia to Australia segment, there’s a wide variety of choice available. For the outbound I picked Singapore Airlines in their new A380 Suites, and for the return from Melbourne, I picked Qantas in First, but booked under the British Airways code as I would earn more miles.
I’m not going to review the first part of my journey as I’ve written quite a few posts about Lufthansa First Class. Suffice to say, it was up to its regular very high standards.
Arriving into Changi, as I had almost four hours for my connecting Singapore Airlines flight I decided to walk from the Lufthansa gate in terminal two, through to terminal one, and all the way around to terminal three, where the main lounge complex was, and where my flight was departing. Thirty minutes and 2.5km later, I was in the lounge.
I’ve also written about the Singapore Airlines Private Room, so won’t say any more about it, other than it was a very similar experience to before. Lovely service in the lounge, but nothing in the way of an escort of assistance outside of it. Given the lengths that Lufthansa go, this is a surprising omission.
Changi does security at the gate, and again, there was no kind of priority queue for any passenger, so around fifteen minutes after I go to the gate, I was through and awaited the announcement to board.
However it wasn’t too long before boarding was called and I walked through the glass doors at the gate area, following the signage for Suites and Business class.
I was warmly greeted at the door and lead by a member of the cabin crew to Suite 3A.
That’s when the experience changed.
Over the years, I’ve flown a fair bit and it takes a lot to shock me on an aeroplane, however shocked I was.
The sheer amount of space in the suite was incredible. It was an entire private room on an aeroplane. There was a huge seat and a bunk which was folded away. Plus a massive 40” TV, on a motorised arm. Along with everything else you’d expect in First Class including high end headphones and huge amounts of storage space.
However. There were clearly some compromises in the layout.
Firstly the seat had three main positions; take off and landing, which was facing towards the nose of the aircraft; there was the dining and watching TV position which faced towards the aisle; finally one facing the windows. The controls on the arm-rest moved the seat between these three main presets.
Whilst lovely, it just seems overly complex. I’m a sucker for elegance and simplicity and this just seemed a little bit over kill.
The dining position was a case in point. There was a small shelf at the side of the suite where the table slid out from. The dining table was huge but you’re facing the aisle and the other suite. They’re in turn facing you, so if the doors are open it’s a little awkward. You do have the massive TV to watch as well, but then looking 45 degrees to the left is the grey partition between my suite and the next. It’s a little like looking at an office cubicle wall.
It would have been nice had they been able to jig things around so you are able to dine looking out of the window.
Also, I’m not sure how it would work if you’re travelling with someone and wanted to dine together; it doesn’t seem to be possible. However Suites 1A and 2A, as well as 1F and 2F, allow the partition to come down, enabling the single bed to be turned into a double bed. That’s pretty special.
The storage was all contained in the door to the suite – there was hanging space and room for a standard sized rollaboard bag. My duffel which was less regularly sized was a bit of a squish to get in, but I’m sure the staff could have stored something larger elsewhere. There were no overhead or side lockers.
Leaving aside the ergonomics of the suite, I guess I’d better move onto the service. I’ve never experienced anything quite as seamless on an aeroplane before. Things just seemed to happen around me without asking. Champagne appeared and for the thirty odd minutes on the ground my glass was never went less than half full. In terms of the Champagne itself, it was the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, 100% chardonnay blancs de blancs. It was rather good.
A gin and tonic arrived moments after wheels up. The meal service was perfectly timed selection of food and wine pairings that was as well paced as in any Michelin starred restaurant.
“Mr Cohen, would you like the Caviar service Russian style?”
Why not? So a shot glass with perfectly chilled vodka materialised too.
The meal essentially continued in the same vein with various wines, ports, and cognacs being proffered along with some of the best food I’ve had on an aeroplane.
After I’d finished with the meal service, I wandered to the lavatory at the front to get changed into the Lalique pyjamas that they had given out at the beginning of the flight. I returned to the suite and the bed had been made up automatically.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen something approaching a real bed on an aeroplane before with quite as many pillows and duvets. As a side note, I’d read some reviews of the product that mentioned people thought the bed was overly firm. For what it’s worth I didn’t think so and it was very comfortable indeed.
Unfortunately I’d slept quite a lot on the previous sector so wasn’t that tired. I napped for a few hours getting a little rest, and then woke up absolutely baking hot. The rest of the time I rested on top of the duvet as it was simply too warm underneath.
Breakfast came around which rather surprisingly was just a continental offering. Yes I was still pretty stuffed from dinner, but had I chosen to go straight to sleep, I perhaps would have expected something more substantial for breakfast, after all this is first class.
Breakfast was cleared away, and my seat was returned to the forward facing position, staring at the cubicle wall until landing. I was quickly off the aeroplane, immigration was very straightforward via the automatic gates and within five minutes my bags were on the carousel. Customs was equally speedy and within thirty minutes of landing I was on the platform getting a train into Sydney.
Singapore Suites are quite spectacular. I’ve never seen so much space devoted to a passenger on an aircraft before. That said, the layout just doesn’t quite seem logical to me. Despite all that space, there have been some compromises made in the design that just don’t seem that well thought out to me.
However it’s still the best first class that I’ve ever flown. A remarkable experience in so many ways.