Preview: Singapore Airlines’ new Airbus A380 first class suites

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Following today’s launch of Singapore Airlines’ all-new A380 first class suites, we took the chance to check out the luxe cribs – taking plenty of photos and notes along the way.

Just to set the scene: here’s the official PR photo of the suite, which combines a reclining leather armchair and a seperate bed in a private 5m² cabin.

It’s a far cry from the airline’s original superjumbo suites, which combined the seat and the bed into a single cramped cosy space.

The trade-off for being more than double the size of those old suites? There are now only half as many, with just six suites flanking a wide centre aisle – a layout pioneered by Etihad’s own A380 first class.

This overhead cutaway diagram gives you a better idea of how the suites are laid out.

Each suite has high walls to ensure privacy.

The door slides back to reveal a personal wardrobe with room for your cabin bag, shoes and jacket – there’s also a convenient mirror for that last-minute check before disembarking.

Step ‘inside’ and you’re immediately stunned by the sheer sense of space. This isn’t just a suite, it’s a room. A whole room to yourself.

Indeed, Singapore Airlines’ suite designer Jacques Pierrejean (pictured below) told Australian Business Traveller that he conceived the space as a hotel room.

“Our concept was the idea of a passenger who stays at a (luxury) hotel, he should find this type of hotel room on the flight, with a swivelling seat and different functions for day and night.”

Starting with that swivelling armchair, then…

… it’s an insanely comfortable do-I-really-have-to-get-up-now Poltrona Frau leather armchair, 21 inches wide, which swivels in an approximately 100° arc and tilts back at a 45 degree angle (that’s halfway to flat and all the way to “bring me more Champagne”).

And the chair is the centrepiece of Singapore Airlines’s five-star ‘hotel room’ above the clouds: whether you’re reading or watching TV, dining or working, everything related to that is located within arm’s reach of your swivelling seat.

The seat is of course locked into position for taxi, take-off and landing.

Passengers in the row 2 and 3 suites find themselves facing the 32-inch HD monitor, but the cabin configuration requires those in suites 1A and 1F to face the front of the aircraft – away from the bed and wall-mounted monitor – so there’s a small secondary screen located in front of them.

Want to relax with a movie? Swivel the chair to face that big-screen telly and then use the in-seat controller to electronically pivot the monitor around to face you.

Time to get down to work? A massive table pops up from the side console, and can sit in portrait-mode to provide plenty of depth plus room to get out of your seat…

… or extend all the way out to become a substantial table for spreading out your work or tucking into the airline’s extensive inflight dining.

Dining while the bed is down probably isn’t recommended (certainly not when there’s the chance to have breakfast in bed at 40,000 feet).

Speaking of work: a concealed panel under the bedside table (pause to reflect on that: a bedside table in an aircraft!) houses AC and high-power USB sockets, and a magnetic jack for the airline-supplied Bose noise-cancelling headphones

You’ll also note the NFC card reader, which can be used for credit card payments to sign up to the inflight Internet service and will also take on other roles in the future, we’re told, such as duty-free shopping.

Now back to more exciting stuff: here’s that bedside table, which holds a tablet controller for the video system (although you can also use your own smartphone ot tablet) and provides another long generous surface, including a canny recess for your cuppa.

A flip-up lid reveals space for the Lalique amenity kit and your own knick-knacks such as jewellery, with a small LED-lit mirror in above the centre compartment.

And below the table: a lined compartment for your laptop bag or a ladies’ handbag. “If you have a special bag, an Hermès bag, you don’t want to put it on the floor,” espouses designer Jacques Pierrejean.

If you’re wanting us to backtrack to those amenity kit: done. Singapore Airlines has swapped out Salvatore Ferragamo for French luxury brand Lalique, who now provide men’s and women’s first class kits…

… along with sleepwear…

… plus combed cotton sheets and hypoallergenic pillows for the bed.

This brings us to the bed, which slides up from next to the suite wall…

… and folds out in all its 76-inch (193cm) long, 27-inch (69cm) wide glory. It’s decidedly less impressive when it’s not dressed up with that lovely Lalique bedding.

By way of comparison, the fold-down bed in Etihad Airways’ A380 first class suites is slightly longer (80.5 inches, or 205cm) but a smidge narrower at 26 inches (66cm).

Many Etihad first class flyers comment that the bed feels quite skinny, and with only one extra inch in its favour the new Singapore Airlines suite bed could face a similar reception.

Singapore Airlines has made much of the fact that in some of the suites, the dividing wall can be retracted so that couples travelling together – provided they choose the correct suites – can turn that single bed…

… into a romantic imagination-sparking double bed.

Only two pairs of suites are partner-friendly: those are suites 1A/2A and 1F/2F.

Alas, the proposition is not quite as rosy as the airline’s PR photos make out.

Here are the beds of mock-up suites 1A and 2A: the dividing wall, while pushed down to the floor, turns the promise of a double bed into the reality of two single beds next to each other.

It seems that the doona cover on the PR photo is a prop and a Singapore Airlines spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller this won’t even be carried on flights, describing the photos as a ‘concept’.

That’s a disappointing bit of smoke and mirrors which takes a little of the gloss off what should be a showstopper feature of this superb first class suite.

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