Lufthansa A330 Old First Class DFW-FRA
Driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Oslo to celebrate Chris Guillebeau
Singapore A380 Suites Class FRA-SIN
Singapore Airlines Private Room and Singapore 777-300ER First Class SIN-HKG
Hong Kong and the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge and 747 First Class HKG-SFO
I was excited to land at Singapore’s famous Changi Airport, rated the #1 airport in the world for like the last 278 years by whoever it is that ranks airports. Inside the airport there are lots of incredible amenities: terminals, jet bridges, moving walkways, and check-in desks. More astute and experienced readers will note you can also go to the indoor butterfly garden, visit the movie cinema in the airport, go on a free tour of Singapore, become President of a small island nation (by-the-hour pricing), visit a gladiatorial arena, and try your hand at potato farming, all within the airport! Pretty incredible place.
The problem I faced, coming off a flight in Singapore Suites, was that I a) didn’t want to leave the airplane and b) see a. Another problem was that I landed in Singapore at the lovely hour of 6am. I was well-rested, but 6am isn’t really the best time to go touristing, especially since my next flight left at 1pm, and I wasn’t sure if that gave me enough time to go into Singapore and do anything besides Watch People Go To Work. So, I made the (probably dumb) decision to just hang around the airport until my flight, saving Singapore itself for another trip.
I’d be traveling on Singapore Airlines First Class to Hong Kong later that day, which gave me access to The Private Room lounge. Have you ever seen the beginning of Get Smart? The part where the guy walks through like 20 different doors to get to the ultra-secret office in which he works? That’s what it feels like getting to the Private Room. You show up at the SilverKris lounge and present your boarding pass, and you’re urgently walked through the business class area of the lounge, until you meet: the person checking your boarding pass to give you access to the First Class area of the lounge. You then proceed through the First Class section of the lounge until you meet YET ANOTHER person checking your boarding pass. Finally, after about a mile walk (it’s a huge lounge complex) and having your documents inspected by 8000 people, you arrive at The Private Room.
I’ve long read myths and legends about the Private Room. Depending on who you ask, there are 4-6 Bucket List Lounges today: Emirates First Class lounge in their A380 terminal in Dubai, Singapore’s Private Room in Singapore, Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, Cathay Pacific’s The Wing in Hong Kong, Thai’s Royal Orchid Lounge/Spa in Bangkok, and Qantas’s First Class Lounge in Sydney.
(Many of you right now are already looking for the comments button to tell me how I left off Etihad’s lounge in Abu Dhabi, Qantas lounge in Melbourne, Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge in Munich, and Turkish’s business class lounge, but it’s my list, and that’s what I wanted on it.)
Anyway, I’d been looking forward to knocking out quite a few of the BLLs on this trip, particularly the Private Room. The idea of it just seems really exclusive and nice. And believe me, they call it the Private Room for a reason: there were maybe 4-5 guests that came and went and at least 12 staff members there, so you were doted on from the minute you arrive until the minute you leave.
The lounge has a narrow but lengthy general seating area and a nice, spacious dining area, and that’s about it. Everything was nice and luxurious, but I wasn’t incredibly overwhelmed like I was at the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. I guess I was just: whelmed.
I think part of it is that I was there for way too long. I should’ve gone into Singapore or taken advantage of the free tour. Or gone to the butterfly garden. Or one of 1000 other things before I got to the lounge. The Private Room’s a great place to spend a few hours, but any amount of time longer than that and you’ll go completely insane. Another part of it is that they had a large selection of high-backed chairs, which just aren’t that comfortable, in my opinion. Their shower facilities were on par with American’s Admiral’s Club in Terminal D at DFW, perfectly functional but nothing to write home about.
When it comes to dining, you can sit in the dining area, or just order anything that looks good directly from your seat, which is what I chose. The food was excellent, on par with the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.
I showered, relaxed for a bit, surfed the internet, reviewed some of the pictures I’d taken so far, then eventually got hungry and had an early lunch.
I dunno, maybe I was just tired from traveling, but I enjoyed the First Class Terminal way more than the Private Room. I had a perfectly enjoyable time, the service was fine, and the food was tasty. But there wasn’t anything distinguishing that put it on par with the other Bucket List Lounges, at least for me. Others have had wonderful experiences there. They’re all wrong.
After about a year and a half in the Private Room, I walked around Changi for a little while until it was time for my flight to Hong Kong. It really is a nice airport, everything is well organized, and next time I pass through I want to experience more of the airport and less of the lounges.
I made my way over to the gate and caught my first glimpse of the Boeing 777 that would be taking me to Hong Kong. I’d heard various things about First Class on Singapore, some bad and some good. The number one thing I’d read: it’s not that much nicer than Business Class (which is absolutely wonderful).
After a brief delay, we boarded the flight and turned into the very nicely-appointed First Class cabin. There were only 2/8 seats occupied today, a very light load for a very popular route (business and economy were very crowded). My flight attendant greeted me very skeptically, again I think because I wasn’t dressed like a businessman (a reoccurring theme, I’ve noticed), but was nice enough. I had a few glasses of champagne and sat back in the…wait. There’s no way this seat can be this uncomfortable. I went and tried the seat next to me: same result. You have to be kidding me. The seat was leather, but didn’t feel supple or supporting like it did in Suites Class. It was ramrod straight with a long bottom cushion where I could never quite get comfortable in the sitting position.
Once the flight took off I was able to get into a position that was a bit more comfortable. The service was as professional at the Suites Class but didn’t feel quite as warm, a little more what I was expecting originally (do please keep in mind that this service absolutely still blows away about 90% of the in-flight service in the world, not complaining at all, just comparing). We had a very quick meal service for the short flight to Hong Kong.
The beef fillet was one of the best cuts of meat I’ve ever had. Medium rare (hard to find on an airplane), moist, and flavorful.
I was going to spend some time taking more pictures of the cabin and everything else, but I was exhausted. I had the flight attendant convert my seat into a bed and slept hard until it was time to land at Hong Kong.
I loved my experience with Singapore Airlines. The service was consistent, with varying degrees of warmth, and I never had a service request that went unfulfilled. It still feels surreal, that a 30 year old software consultant from Texas got to fly with such rarified service and on such rarified seats, all because I’ve learned to hack travel and credit card points. For those of you who think I was overly critical of the Private Room, it was simply my experience, others probably think more highly of it and there’s nothing wrong with that. Suites Class was everything I thought it’d be, and First Class on the 777 made me agree with all of those who said to save your miles and fly Business Class instead of First. Not that First was bad, by any means, that’s just how good their Business Class seats are on the 777.
The Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui, then Cathay Pacific First Class on the 747.