Our most recent three visits to Singapore Airlines’ most prestigious lounge, The Private Room at Changi airport, saw us experience breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a good opportunity for us to finally get round to writing a review.
Have standards slipped and how does this flagship facility, exclusively reserved for the airline’s own First Class and Suites passengers, stand up against some of the others we’ve visited around the world?
Opening Times: 5.30am to 2.30am
Multi-standard Power Sockets: Yes
USB Charging Sockets: No
To access The Private Room you must be flying First Class or Suites Class on a departing Singapore Airlines flight, or arriving on a Singapore Airlines flight the same day in possession of your First Class or Suites Class boarding card. No guests are allowed.
If you are transiting Singapore between flights you are entitled to access The Private Room provided you have either arrived on a Singapore Airlines flight in First Class / Suites, or are departing on a Singapore Airlines flight in First Class or Suites, or both.
If you wish to use The Private Room after arriving in First Class or Suites (tip: Jakarta to Singapore in First for 27,500 KrisFlyer miles is among the cheapest ways to do this), you will want to be travelling with hand luggage only.
That’s not essential if you have an onward flight the same day however, even with another airline. Simply collect your luggage, check in for your onward flight, then proceed through immigration into The Private Room, using your inbound boarding pass.
The Private Room is located inside the main Singapore Airlines lounge complex in Terminal 3 on level 3, one level above the main departure concourse.
First Class check-in
Most passengers starting their journey at Changi who have access to The Private Room will be using Terminal 3’s dedicated First Class check in area.
There is a separate driveway and drop off point, with porters to assist with your luggage, and a personalised check in experience.
This is quite an impressive extension to the main terminal, almost too large as we hardly ever witness more than a handful of other passengers using it at the same time. Indeed we’ve seen some smaller airport terminals in certain parts of the world!
The First Class check-in has an airport lounge feeling and includes a large seating area. Chilled bottles of water and cold towels are offered as you arrive. Porters are also on hand to assist with your luggage.
There is a chair next to each check-in desk, however if two of you are checking in it means one of you ends up standing which is a little odd.
After the check in process a private immigration channel just a short walk away takes passengers through to the transit area.
You emerge from private immigration close to the bottom of the escalator leading to the SilverKris lounges and The Private Room.
Pro tip: Singapore Airlines doesn’t have an equivalent to The Private Room in Terminal 2, but they do operate flights with First Class / Suites from there. Since the T1/T2/T3 airside (transit) area is fully connected, we recommend checking in at the T3 First Class check in, taking advantage of the First Class immigration channel then spending time in The Private Room before your T2 flight.
Simply allow some more time for the SkyTrain ride to T2 prior to your departure.
At check in, those entitled to access The Private Room are handed a personal invitation along with their regular First Class or Suites boarding pass.
When you reach the SilverKris lounge reception area on level 3 this is quickly spotted by the staff, and you are then personally escorted through the First Class lounge, which you are also welcome to use, towards The Private Room which has its own entrance at back (the ‘lounge within a lounge’).
Incidentally, the SilverKris First Class lounge is as far as you’ll be able to go as a Star Alliance passenger flying First Class, for example on Lufthansa or Swiss, or as a Solitaire PPS member. The Private Room is only for passengers flying Singapore Airlines First Class or Suites.
Once past the entrance podium, a long corridor leads to the concierge desk, and you are finally inside.
The lounge is broadly a long L-shape with a long tall window flanking one side. The ceiling is double height throughout the lounge.
Dark wood panelling and marble lines the walls which means that despite the double height ceiling, it feels quite cosy. Possibly even a little oppressive.
The “disco” carpet (a common theme throughout Changi Airport) isn’t really in keeping with the rest of the decor but it certainly helps deaden what little noise there is.
The windows running the length of the Private Room and overlooking many aircraft gates and one of Changi’s runways provide a great view. Well they would do, if they were unobstructed.
In fact tiny dots on the windows, probably designed to reduce direct sunlight and help keep the lounge cool, plus large flap-like structures, somewhat obscure things.
There are two TV areas, one mid-lounge and the other towards the far end. Generally the news is shown, with no volume unless requested by passengers. The lounge staff will happily find the channel you require, for example if you want to watch a sporting event.
At it’s busiest, it’s still whisper quiet. Slightly odd if you are travelling with a companion and want to have a conversation.
A concierge desk it just to the right of the entrance hallway where you can find out your latest flight information. In our experience though, because the lounge has so few guests, if there is any kind of delay they will come and find you in the lounge (as was the case for our most recent flight to Delhi where boarding was postponed by 20 minutes).
The lounge layout seems better suited to solo travellers with generous spacing between individual seats. There are a few lower down sofa areas that offer more dense seating if you are travelling with companions.
We arrived at around 8pm for dinner and the host asked if we would like to go straight through to the restaurant, but we decided to relax with some pre dinner drinks in the main lounge area first.
We certainly weren’t in a hurry, having checked in for our flight to Hong Kong at 4pm that afternoon and then checked straight in to the Aerotel T1 (airside, in the transit area) so that we could review it for an overnight stay. See that review here.
That meant we had unfettered access to The Private Room all the way through until our departure at 10am the following morning, so a leisurely dinner in the lounge, overnight stay in the hotel, followed by breakfast in the lounge again was the plan.
Remember you can check in for a Singapore Airlines flight and have your boarding pass issued up to 48 hours prior to departure.
In addition to this we visited the lounge at lunchtime prior to a Suites flight to Delhi in March this year. Since this review is a culmination of all three experiences, you’ll notice that some of our photos are taken during the day and others at night.
Back to our pre dinner drinks though, the server came over with menus for us, which also gave us chance to look over the dinner options. Eddie opted for an espresso martini but the vintage 2004 Dom Perignon caught my eye and I felt the need to kick off our round the world trip with a glass of fizz.
One of the first things that strikes you when you enter The Private Room is that the seating density is much lower than most lounges. Alongside the floor to ceiling windows are individual high back armchairs with high partitions and significant space around each one.
These almost mimic the privacy and space found on board in Singapore Airlines’ Suites and First Class cabins.
Other seating options in the lounge cater better for couples or small groups, with more armchairs and Chesterfield style fabric chairs and sofas.
As you would expect from a lounge like this, extensive reading materials are provided close to the lounge entrance, including a variety of international daily newspapers and magazines.
Singapore Airlines also offers access to a variety of digital magazines and newspapers through its SingaporeAir app. This allows you to download the content to your mobile device from 48 hours before up to 24 hours after your flight.
The centrepiece of The Private Room is undoubtedly the dining room, an à la carte service restaurant. It’s partly screened from the main area of the lounge by a series of imposing marble effect pillars.
The high ceilings continue into this space.
Once inside you can’t help but be impressed with the high-end decor and finish. Large leather cocoa brown seats against the wall have classic deep buttoned artistry in Chesterfield sofa style.
They stand in beautiful contrast to the dark brown taupe leather cladding on the walls themselves, and the polished tan parquet wood flooring. Crisp white tableware, beige chairs and artistic lamps finish the setting perfectly.
In total there are around a dozen tables, mostly accommodating up to two diners though options are available for larger groups.
While we wouldn’t choose this decorative concept for our own house, you can’t deny it looks the part.
Tables are well spaced apart for privacy and you can have your own conversations without too much concern.
With the dining room being the main feature of The Private Room, it’s where most guests head straight away for a restaurant-style à la carte meal.
Our first visit for this review was at dinner time, with the dinner menu itself served from 6.30pm until closing.
|Dinner Menu p1
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|Dinner Menu p2
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|Vegetarian & Dessert Menu
(click to enlarge)
As a starter I chose the Thai Mango Salad while Eddie went for the Duck Leg Confit.
The Thai salad was an excellent dish, crisp, zingy and refreshing.
The duck confit was excellent but the associated egg noodles were a little bland.
For the main course, I selected the U.S. Prime Beef Burger, and Eddie chose the Poached Boston Lobster.
Competition in the “Lounge burger” stakes is high. Notably, Cathay Pacific and United do excellent signature burgers in their lounges, and we recently tried both. This offering fell a little short of the mark and was forgettable. It also seems to have shrunk slightly over the years.
The lobster was pleasant and Eddie was grateful that it wasn’t breaded or covered in Thermidor sauce, but he didn’t believe it was fresh. He enjoyed it nonetheless.
As you can see from the menu above, dessert is limited to ice cream or some smaller local dishes. There were a few self-serve items from the small buffet area in the corner of the dining room, so we finished with a few chocolates and another glass of Champagne.
Overall we were impressed with dinner. While not every dish was outstanding none of them were bad, service was excellent and the Champagne continued to flow.
As other passengers left the lounge towards the end of the night to join the evening rush to Europe, the USA and Australia, it was great not to have the deadline of a boarding time to work to. We had a glass of red wine on one of the sofas then headed back to the hotel.
After a good night’s sleep over at the Aerotel, we returned to The Private Room just before 8am for breakfast. It’s served from lounge opening time at 5.30am through to 10.30am.
The breakfast menu itself is a good mix of western and local / regional dishes. I opted for the Eggs Benedict and Eddie had the Roti Prata with vegetable dal.
The eggs were nicely poached and still soft inside. The dal is one of Eddie’s favourites and packs a decent spice and flavour punch. The prata wasn’t very flaky but still very satisfying.
We knew we’d be eating again just hours later in the new A380 Suites (review here), however, both of these dishes hit the spot with a good cappuccino (espresso in Eddie’s case) to perk us up for the trip.
During our most recent visit to The Private Room in March 2019 it was the lunch menu on offer, which you’ll find served in this lounge from 10.30am to 6.30pm.
Don’t be too fooled by the name though, which is more likely chosen to make you feel as though a different series of dishes are being curated throughout the day. They are not and effectively the ‘Lunch’ menu is the same selection as the Dinner menu.
I went for the Navarin of Lamb, presentation wise it wasn’t great and the flavour was a little disappointing.
Eddie went for the burger this time and there had been no significant change since our 2018 experience.
A new addition to the dining room menu since our earlier visits is the ‘Quick Bites’ menu. We’re not sure when it was introduced, but we only saw it on our latest visit in March 2019.
It’s a limited selection offering four smaller plates, though we didn’t try any.
As we mentioned above, there is a small buffet area in the corner of the dining room closest to the kitchen.
During dinner there was a small selection of dips, some sandwiches, cheese and dessert items.
On the whole these items would be regarded more as ‘nibbles’, as we didn’t see many passengers take advantage. The cheese was a nice touch though, with five different varieties to choose from plus two more on request.
During our visit at breakfast the buffet featured fruit, cold cuts, cereal, juices, breads and a toaster.
Wine and Champagne
Compared with other First Class lounges around the world, there is a surprisingly limited selection of wine and Champagne in The Private Room.
It’s available of course in the dining room, or on demand from one of the attentive waiters throughout the lounge.
As always, we check on the Vivino rating (out of 5 stars) for the Champagne and wines on offer.
All the wines get very good scores here, as of course does the Dom Pérignon 2009. Overall the ratings sit slightly above the average levels we saw in Cathay’s ‘The Pier’ / ‘The Wing’ First Class lounges, and BA’s The Concorde Room, though a special mention is deserved for the excellent LPGS Champagne BA is serving which rates just as highly as the Dom 2009, no surprise in our opinion.
We come back to the limited selection however. Two red wines, two white wines and one Champagne falls far short of expectations in a First Class lounge, and SIA already has one of those next door with The Private Room supposed to be a ‘step above’.
If we hadn’t been in a First Class lounge before we would probably not have noticed and been quite impressed. The problem is we’ve been in several over the last year or so, and the Champagne and wine selection has been far more extensive in each case.
- Cathay The Pier – 3 Champagnes, 4 whites, 4 reds, 1 dessert wine, 1 port
- BA The Concorde Room – 2 Champagnes, 4 whites, 4 reds, 1 dessert wine, 1 port
- Qantas First SYD – 3 Champagnes, 4 whites, 1 rosé, 5 reds, 1 dessert wine
Even our new favourite Business Class lounge has a more extensive selection:
- United Polaris SFO – 1 Champagne, 1 sparking, 4 whites, 1 rosé, 7 reds
The Private Room, which has an identical selection to the First Class lounge next door, pales into insignificance here. It’s also slightly surprising to not feature a new world red wine option, given the number of Singapore Airlines flights with First Class and Suites cabins flying to and from Australia and New Zealand each day.
This aspect of the lounge could be significantly improved.
While there is full bar service in The Private Room, it lacks a tended bar of its own. These are usually a mainstay of a First Class lounge, but Singapore Airlines has chosen not to have one here.
Instead customers have to go next door for this experience if they wish, to the bar in the adjoining First Class lounge.
We think a small, intimate cocktail bar (like at Cathay’s The Pier) or Champagne bar (like at BA’s The Concorde Room) would we a fantastic addition to The Private Room. For one thing, it would give you something else to do before or after dinner.
The drinks list includes beer and a wide range of spirits and liqueurs. The staff will mix a cocktail for you (we understand this is actually prepared next door at the First Class lounge bar then delivered to you).
Standout choices at the premium end include Belvedere vodka, Johnny Walker Blue Label and Chivas Royal Salute 21 years.
There is also a selection of soft drinks, juices and coffee.
Tea has not been forgotten with a dedicated menu encompassing no fewer than 12 options.
Separate shower rooms are available inside the restroom area. In this quiet lounge you are almost guaranteed no waiting time, unlike peak periods in the SilverKris lounges.
The shower rooms are spacious, well appointed and stocked with Singapore’s own Spa Esprit ‘Plantation’ shower gels.
One difference we did notice between our July 2018 and March 2019 visits is that the former nondescript in-built Shampoo/Conditioner and Shower Gel dispensers have been replaced with these new Spa Esprit bottles, a definite upgrade as the former arrangement looked a bit ‘budget’.
There are also amenities including razors, shaving foam and dental kits. A hairdryer is available and of course towels are provided.
One strange omission in these shower rooms however is a toilet, guests must instead use the toilets in the main restroom itself. We can’t think of a First Class lounge shower we’ve ever used that doesn’t also have a toilet, indeed most Business Class lounge showers tend to include this basic feature.
This is something Singapore Airlines should address across its Changi lounges in our opinion, when they are redeveloped over the next few years. For The Private Room at least, it’s simply essential.
Elsewhere the restrooms are well kept with a full time attendant ensuring the facilities remain pristine and well stocked.
One feature we do like is the shoe shine machine near the entrance.
At the far end of The Private Room you’ll find a desk area behind a high partition with a public computer.
Some lounge guests may find this a more comfortable space to get some work done, though unlike the similar options in the Business Class lounge we’ve never seen it used here and we suspect it rarely is.
Family / nursing room
Towards the back of the lounge is a family / nursing room. This is a fairly spacious room designed for younger families with a baby changing table, two armchairs and a kid’s table.
Next to the family room there are two ‘phone rooms’ where you can take a call in privacy. Each has a chair and ottoman so these are also suitable if you want to take a nap or rest away from the main lounge.
Power sockets are available here, in case you need to charge your devices.
Wi-Fi and power outlets
Wi-Fi is available in The Private Room, as you would of course expect. We recorded good upload and download speeds here, more than double those we usually get in the T3 SilverKris Business Class lounge.
10Mbps is a very useable speed for most tasks, however it does still fall well short of what the latest lounges elsewhere in the world are now offering.
We got closer to 30Mbps in the Cathay First Class lounges in Hong Kong, over 40 Mbps in the (busy) Qantas First Lounge in Sydney and a blistering 266 Mbps in the United Polaris Business lounge in San Francisco.
Again this is likely to be an area marked for improvement as SIA blueprint their new Changi lounge concept for the coming years.
In terms of power outlets, The Private Room features multi-standard power sockets almost throughout the lounge, though we did spot a few locations with only Type G 3-pin (Singapore / Hong Kong / UK) outlets, such as the phone rooms.
For the most part this means you’ll be able to charge your devices with ease, however USB charging is not available.
We are always impressed by the decor and finishes in the dining room, but it has to be said the rest of this lounge is starting to look a bit tired.
Envisaged as a sort of private gentleman’s club, it unfortunately also has the air of an old people’s home.
That’s especially true in 2019 when you compare with some of the design statements seen in lounges like Cathay’s The Wing in Hong Kong.
One thing common across all our visits to The Private Room (we’re up to five in total I think), is the consistently excellent service from the staff.
This starts of course at the First Class check-in and the SilverKris lounge reception, where you are escorted personally to The Private Room. The staff will even take your luggage if you wish.
Once inside though you are by no means abandoned. All the service staff both in the dining room and around the lounge are polite, friendly and attentive. Empty plates and glassware is regularly cleared and the lounge is back to looking immaculate within minutes.
You won’t go long after finishing your glass of Dom Pérignon in this lounge before a refill is offered.
Buggy transfer to the aircraft
Though this is an almost ‘secret’ benefit, or at best a poorly advertised one, you have the option to request a buggy from the lounge to take you to your boarding gate. This service is available to all Singapore Airlines First Class passengers, even if you choose not to use The Private Room.
Simply ask the lounge concierge who can arrange this for you.
We didn’t take advantage on any of our visits, preferring to walk to the gate (oh ok, we admit it, we’re just too embarrassed to ask at our age!).
The Private Room has held onto its status as the best airline lounge at Changi Airport, in the opinion of most at least, for the last decade.
There’s a new opening this year though, which looks set to up-seat it. Oneworld rival Qantas will open its Singapore First Class lounge in Terminal 1 towards the end of 2019, and it looks set to impress with a live open kitchen, à la carte dining and a manned cocktail bar.
Singapore Airlines will no doubt be keeping a close eye on this one as it works towards a forthcoming revamp of its own T3 lounge facilities in the coming years.
The Private Room is Singapore Airlines’ most prestigious lounge worldwide. Now approaching 11 years old, it’s showing its age and there’s no doubt with fierce competition in the premium airline lounge domain worldwide that this one has fallen behind the competition.
11 years is a long time. Like direct aisle access seats in Business Class, almost unheard of a decade ago, various aspects of premium air travel are no longer just the norm but an expectation.
The same applies in the latest premium airline lounges, with a Spa for example just about the minimum expectation for a First Class lounge these days.
While our primary visit here for the purposes of this review was at the start of our round the world First Class trip, we deliberately wrote this one last. That’s because along the way we would also experience some other flagship lounges, including:
- Cathay Pacific The Wing Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific The Pier Hong Kong
- British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
- United Polaris San Francisco (a Business Class lounge, but just see it to believe it)
Bearing in mind we already reviewed the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney International earlier in the year, with the ‘red roo’ giving SIA and Star Alliance a run for its money with a Singapore Qantas First Lounge coming to Changi Terminal 1 in late 2019.
The Private Room falls short of the competition and has done for some time. The food is now unremarkable and has gone downhill over the past 5 years. Whether this is due to the transformation team’s cost-cutting or simple complacency, we expect better in a flagship lounge. Food quality and diversity is quintessential in Singapore – so if nothing else – the culinary experience should be top notch.
Other than the dining room, this lounge is quite simply a little boring. It seems to be missing a key feature, whether it’s the British Airways Concorde Room Champagne Bar, Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Cabanas or The Pier’s Spa and daybeds – there needs to be something that helps it stand out from the crowd.
We preferred our time in the BA Concorde Room at Heathrow, not because it was a lot nicer just because there was more to do. Once you’ve eaten, there’s really nothing else to do in The Private Room. No spa treatment to enjoy, no cabanas to relax in, no cocktail bar for a pre-flight martini.
The Private Room is probably nicer, and is certainly quieter, but there is just more to do in The Concorde Room, including a Spa, seating options on the terrace and the Cabanas. From a food aspect, both lounges have similar standards in our view, and we quite like the Concorde Dining section though its decor and layout is quite different to The Private Room.
Don’t get us wrong. In our five visits to The Private Room over the years, the last three of which were used to write this review, we’ve appreciated our time there. There’s a great anticipation and a feeling of real luxury and exclusivity associated with any visit to this lounge.
The concept unfortunately now just feels very stale and outdated.
Compared to the other First Class lounges we’ve visited over the last year, The Private Room simply falls well behind. Despite always enjoying our stays, we always leave this lounge with the same opinion. It’s about time for a rethink.
|Review:||The Private Room by Singapore Airlines|
|Summary:||‘The Private Room’ already falls well behind what Singapore Airlines’ competitors offer in their First Class lounges. It’s high time to change the concept.|
|Visited:||July 2018 & March 2019|
|Among airline-operated First Class lounges:|
3.5 out of 5
|Cathay Pacific ‘The Pier’ First Class Lounge – HKG|
|Cathay Pacific ‘The Wing’ First Class Lounge – HKG|
|British Airways Concorde Room – LHR|
|Qantas First Lounge – SYD|
Plus the wildcard:
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)