Hi friends! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted – life intervenes! – and I have so many things to share with you. In addition to our spring 2019 trip to Costa Rica, Husband and I recently returned from Germany and France, achieving a lifelong goal of attending Oktoberfest! I’ve also spent time with Oldest in Chicago and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and with family and friends at our new home in nearby Lewes. Delaware. We managed to squeezed in a work-related extended trip to San Diego as well.
In the interest of getting back into the writing habit as quickly as possible, I’m going to start with our most recent trip to Europe first, before sharing highlights from prior trips such as Costa Rica (she says hopefully).
This post will detail our departure experience on Singapore Airlines flight # SQ25 from JFK to Frankfurt, Germany in Business Class.
Although JFK is not our most convenient airport, often the best value-for-points flights to Europe originate there. As I’ve noted previously, I really REALLY prefer a lie-flat seat on an overnight flight. For me, actual sleep is important, and I’m saving a whole day of vacation by landing with at least some semblance of my consciousness intact on that first morning. So, we bit the bullet, paid the $100+ Uber fare, and headed across Manhattan at rush hour to catch the 8:55pm flight. By the way, the late time of this flight is what I usually look for when traveling to Europe – the later the flight, the more chance I’ll be tired enough to sleep shortly after takeoff.
It may seem odd to have a flight on Singapore Airlines that has neither an origin nor destination anywhere near Singapore. It turns out, this is a rather unique itinerary known as a “Fifth Freedom” route, allowing Singapore to pick up and drop off passengers on what is essentially a stopover in JFK. You can read more about Fifth Freedom flights here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffwhitmore/2018/05/30/what-you-need-to-know-about-fifth-freedom-flights/#2270a7b63c85
I booked the flight using Chase Sapphire Reserve points, transferred to Singapore’s KrisFlyer program. Singapore has a vaunted reputation for service, and it’s easy to get excited about their beautiful suites when you click around on their website. So much space! So comfortable! See, here’s the thing – the suites are only available for First Class, not Business Class. They would have cost a sizeable amount of additional points. So, nice, but no. More trips > one trip , amirite?
So what DO you get in Business Class? Pre-flight lounge access. A short but wide, angled flatbed capable seat. Free alcoholic drinks. Professional, courteous service. Dinner, and/or breakfast, and/or the right to be left alone and skip dining in favor of sleep (I chose the latter, Husband chose dinner only).
We arrived well before the flight, and our tickets granted access to the King David lounge at JFK. I was surprised, because my research told me that the typical lounge for this flight is Swiss Airlines’ lounge, as part of the Global Alliance. However, the Swiss Lounge was under construction. The King David Lounge, sponsored by El Al, appears to seat about 85-100 people, and every seat was taken. People were sitting on the floor and window ledge. The majority of the passengers were headed to Israel, so when that earlier flight boarded, the lounge felt much less crowded. I’m fairly certain that the food was Kosher, although I didn’t actually see any signage to this effect. The well-stocked buffet included mostly cold foods, such as lox and bagels, tuna and egg salads, and a Greek-style salad. The wine was a very tasty red blend from Israel. We were lucky to find an outlet to charge our devices – I would estimate there was one for every 10 or so passengers in the lounge. I didn’t take photos in the lounge. Lounge grade: B-, due to being overcrowded initially with little hot food available.
Now let’s get to the plane. Singapore flies a two-decker A 380 on this route. The Business Class seats are all on the upper deck; unlike the 747s of old, you don’t climb stairs on the plane, you simply embark on the upper level. The boxy style of the seats reminded me of the Commodore 64 computers that adorned my college computer lab.
As to the seat itself: I don’t claim to be the world’s most experienced overseas flatbed seat traveler, but I’ve been on Aer Lingus, United, Virgin, and Lufthansa. Singapore’s bed was easily the worst. Husband and I were in middle seats (both aisles, the configuration is 1 – 2 – 1) so we could be next to each other; seats next to the windows were singles. They appeared to have the same dimensions as our center seats. The seats are wide, but the space available to lie flat is made for people 5’6” or less.
It’s not every day that my vertical challenges are an advantage, but today was that day. The seats are in a pod style format , with a footwell in the seat in front – but angled toward the middle of the plane. The “bed” is created by folding down the back of the seat toward the footwell – you have to get out of the seat for it to become a bed. I prefer the seats that simply recline all the way to a flat position – it’s just easier. A flight attendant is ready to assist, but I didn’t want to wait for that – I had taken my sleep aid and was ready to go down as soon as the plane was in the air – so I struggled a bit but eventually figured it out by watching like-minded passengers set up their beds.
The bigger issue was the length of the bed. I am almost 5’3 and I just barely fit. Taller people, including Husband, had really no choice but to lay in a fetal position – and due to the angled footwell, they had to stay on one side. I don’t know about you, but I usually move at least once or twice in a 6 hour period – middle age creeping in, after all. I knew what to expect from reading other reviews, but I was still surprised by the discomfort. In addition, when upright (even when somewhat reclined) , my short legs barely reached the footwell – because the seat doesn’t shift forward, there’s nothing supporting your legs if your feet don’t reach.
Husband reports that his filet mignon dinner was tasty enough, and he enjoyed a few cocktails as well. He doesn’t need as much sleep as I do, luckily, because he didn’t get much.
Also, the bed was very hard. And it would have been nice had the center console lifted up – we both would have benefited from more space that way and could have better utilized the angles. Plus, a little snuggly time. Overall seat grade: C+. Only because flat was technically possible.
The flight and service were timely, well-coordinated, and smooth, we actually arrived in Frankfurt a full hour ahead of schedule – a mixed blessing when jet lag looms. Flight grade was an A.
Overall: lest I sound like a whiner or unappreciative, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Singapore Business Class experience. It was good. I’ve certainly suffered through more uncomfortable flights (and more uncomfortable situations, but that’s a story for another day….). We arrived, early, in one piece and with a little sleep to boot. Germany, here we come!