The final instalment in our ‘farewell’ series covering the recent retirement of SIA Business Class and First Class seats will always be regarded as a true ‘game changer’ in the aviation industry. The airline’s first ever Suites product on the Airbus A380 undoubtedly set a new standard for superjumbo First Class cabins across the world.
The 2007 Suites product was available on the airline’s original batch of 19 older Airbus A380 jets, but was unceremoniously and quite unexpectedly retired from service in March 2020, as a result of the sudden drop in global passenger demand when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
The product was offered on a variety of routes across the airline’s network for a total of 12 years and 5 months, however Singapore Airlines has now confirmed that all 12 Airbus A380s returning to its operating fleet will be refitted with the new 2017 cabin products before re-entering service.
Singapore Airlines wanted its new Airbus A380 Suites product to be launched in April 2006, alongside the new long-haul Business Class seat. This was a significant milestone for the airline, since it was the launch customer for the superjumbo, and these were both pioneering cabin designs.
However, production delays pushed the first A380 delivery to October and then December 2006.
In the end, another 10-month holdup resulted in SIA taking its first A380 in October 2007, 18 months later than planned.
It meant a narrower version of the new Business Class seats had to be introduced on the Boeing 777-300ER instead, at a launch event in October 2006.
That product entered between Singapore and Paris in December 2006 (therefore becoming dubbed the 2006 Business Class or ‘2006 J’ seat).
SIA clearly didn’t want to let the new A380 Suites cabin out of the bag so far in advance of its entry into service, and the big reveal was held back until 15th October 2007, to coincide with the delivery of the first aircraft from Toulouse, France the following day.
500 people were invited to the launch event at the A380’s delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France, where the much-lauded 12 Suites were still a complete secret to the world (an almost impossible feat these days with the advent of smartphones).
Despite some outlandish design concepts floating around, Singapore Airlines took a relatively conservative approach for the cabin of its Airbus A380s.
“While the generous floor space of the A380 gave us many intriguing design options, we’ve developed our A380 cabin interior with the comments and feedback of our customers and frequent flyers in mind.
“Though having bars, showers and other such facilities in the aircraft sounds interesting, from our customer surveys and feedback sessions, we found that what customers really want during a flight is more personal space, comfort and privacy. We chose to give the space to customers, especially in the premium cabins, instead of locking it away in gimmicks that may only be briefly used by some customers on a flight.”Singapore Airlines
There were no bowling alleys, no gyms, not even showers or a bar, but the bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne perched on a tray in the middle of a double bed at the launch event said pretty much all Singapore Airlines needed to say about it’s ‘class beyond First’.
12 individual Suites behind closing doors to maximise privacy each sported a fully adjustable leather seat, with a separate bed and full-size mattress.
Sex was on everyone’s mind!
With the introduction of the Suites cabin on the A380, the two middle pairs allowed the opportunity for a combined suite, including a double bed, by removing the full-height partition screen between them.
A rather obvious topic, therefore, did glean a decent amount of public interest.
The most shared story on the BBC News website in the first week of November 2007 was an article about Singapore Airlines asking its Suites passengers to refrain from creating their own, err, ‘in-flight entertainment’!
Officially of course, the beds were always meant for sleeping only, but that didn’t stop an excited media speculating about passengers seeking entry into the ‘Mile High Club’!
Singapore Airlines was quick to rebuff the idea.
“We look forward to welcoming our premium-class guests for the purposes of travel and rest…
“That is all.”
Stephen Forshaw, SIA Vice President Public Affairs
The news soon died down, but not before it had generated a significant amount of free publicity for the airline and its new cabin products.
Design and manufacture
The 2007 Suites were manufactured by Japan’s JAMCO and Sicma Aero Seats of France, as a bespoke product for the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380.
JAMCO was also selected as the manufacturer for the airline’s 2013 First Class, 2013 Business Class and 2017 Business Class products, but SIA chose Zodiac Aerospace as the manufacturer for its most recent 2017 Suites cabin on the latest A380s.
Design and finish for the 2007 product was by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste.
The Singapore Airlines 2007 Suite
There was a big ‘wow factor’ when this cabin product was first revealed, given the significant privacy and space these Suites afforded each passenger.
Here’s SIA’s promotional video for the Suites product in 2007.
Emirates had beaten Singapore Airlines to the closed-door Suite concept in 2003, but this was a much more spacious version, including a separate bed and seat, not to mention offering the first “double bed” in the sky.
Pricing was “accordingly” set 20-35% higher than the airline’s existing First Class cabins.
“Developed with our most valued and distinguished customers in mind, the concept of the Singapore Airlines Suites is nothing less than ground-breaking in the luxury travel market.”Yap Kim Wah, SIA’s SVP Product and Services
For couples, friends or colleagues travelling together, a large double-suite social space was possible.
You could also dine together in any of the suites, with your guest sitting on the ottoman opposite, a popular option for couples that has unfortunately not been replicated in the airline’s current First Class and Suites cabins.
Once it was bedtime of course, that double bed was the largest the airline ever offered (though for single Suites, it came in a little shorter than the 2013 First Class version on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ERs).
Singapore Airlines also took the opportunity to provide Givenchy linens and Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits for its Suites passengers, both since replaced by Lalique.
The two restrooms at the rear of the Suites cabin were no match for today’s enormous versions on the upper deck, but they were well appointed and boasted ‘Hollywood-style’ mirror lighting.
Service standards took a notch higher too, with additional cabin crew training and two high-end Champagnes flowing – Dom Perignon and Krug.
The 2007 Suites cabin had three dedicated cabin crew for up to 12 passengers, a 1:4 ratio. An additional day of training was required for cabin crew selected to operate in the Suites cabin, with service aspects including the requirement to set up the Suite bed (gracefully, while wearing a kebaya!) within three minutes.
The latest IFE system at the time was installed, with a 23″ screen, while there were ample opportunities to keep your own gadgets charged using sockets in the credenza, between the two middle seats or at the window side for A / F suites.
With the seat folded away and the bed made up, a new set of charging sockets was exposed by your bedside table, so you could easily keep devices charged while you slept.
That was vital because the charging ports in the credenza became inaccessible once that section was retracted towards the floor allowing the bed to be in place.
Here are the key stats for the 2007 Suites seat, shown alongside its replacement – the 2017 Suites product, which also features a separate seat and bed and officially launched on 2nd November 2017, entering service on 18th December that year.
|2007 Suites||2017 Suites|
|Screen Size||23″ SD||32″ HD|
|Power Sockets||1 UNI + 2 USB||2 UNI + 2 USB|
(first 100MB free)
Which aircraft and routes?
The 2007 Suites product was exclusive to the older Airbus A380s in the Singapore Airlines fleet.
2007 Suites Deployment
|Airbus A380-800||25 Oct 2007
|27 Mar 2020
Following two charity flights on 25th October (SIN-SYD) and 26th October (SYD-SIN), regular daily service on the SQ221/220 Singapore – Sydney route commenced on 28th October 2007.
Singapore – London followed on 18th March 2008, following the delivery of two more A380 aircraft into the fleet, and on 20th May 2008 the Singapore – Tokyo route became the superjumbo’s third regular run.
In the final month of service, March 2020, the 2007 Suites were operating on selected flights between Singapore and:
- New York
Over the years these Suites were also deployed to cities including Melbourne, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Osaka and even Bangkok during Songkran season.
The 2007 Suites bowed out on 28th March 2020 on flight SQ317 from London to Singapore, operated by 9V-SKL. We don’t know how many passengers were travelling in the Suites cabin, but quite unbeknown to them, they were the very last to enjoy this pioneering product as they disembarked in Changi the following morning.
Airbus A380-800 Seat Map
What replaced it?
Before Singapore Airlines took delivery of its final five A380s from Airbus, from a total order for 24 of the jets, it returned its first five models to their leasing companies.
The new aircraft came equipped with brand new cabin products from late 2017, including a smaller Suites cabin with capacity for just six passengers, relocated to the upper deck of the aircraft.
The new Suites were manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace in the UK, with design and finish by Jaques Pierrejean.
The new Suites offer more space, the latest in-flight entertainment system and Wi-Fi connectivity, though in our opinion they fall short in many other areas.
See our comprehensive review for full details.
These seats were auctioned from $380 on the inaugural A380 flight
If you wanted to be a part of aviation history and fly in Suites on the inaugural Airbus A380 passenger flight from Singapore to Sydney in October 2017, or on the return service the following day, you could do so by bidding as little as US$380 as part of a charity auction held on eBay.
Bids started at:
- US$3.80 for Economy Class
- US$38.00 for Business Class
- US$380 for Suites Class
You wouldn’t actually get a seat with bids like those of course!
According to The New Paper, the first “suites package” including two one-way Suites class seats on the inaugural A380 flight sold for US$100,380 (S$153,000)!
In total the auction raised US$1.9 million, an average of over US$2,000 per seat across the two flights, with proceeds donated to The Community Chest of Singapore, Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and Médecins Sans Frontierès.
ExxonMobil paid for the fuel and Singapore Airlines covered the airport taxes and fees on all tickets, ensuring the money raised all went directly to the charities involved.
Window seats in Row 3 had an extra window
There wasn’t much to choose between the 2007 Suites on the A380, though solo travellers usually opted for one of the eight window options, if they were available.
Row 3 was the one to go for here, with Suites 3A and 3F enjoying three windows instead of two.
New upholstery was introduced
As you may have noticed from some of the original A380 Suites photos and more recent ones, the leather upholstery was upgraded from the lighter mid-brown shade to dark brown with diamond stitching, similar to the 2013 First Class seats.
(Photos: (L) Sam Chui, (R) MainlyMiles)
The upgrades happened progressively from 2013 to 2016.
There was no Wi-Fi at first
Singapore Airlines launched in-flight connectivity back in early 2005, so it seemed strange that with the arrival of the technologically-advanced Airbus A380 no such feature was offered when the first aircraft arrived.
The reason wasn’t really the fault of Singapore Airlines, however.
SIA had partnered with Connexion by Boeing to provide its in-flight internet services (yes, even on its Airbus aircraft!).
Unfortunately the US aircraft manufacturer’s foray into in-flight connectivity was not set to be a success story. In August 2006, over a year before SIA’s first Airbus A380 was delivered, Boeing announced it was shutting down the system.
“The company has decided to exit the high-speed broadband communications connectivity markets. Boeing will work with its customers to facilitate an orderly phase out of the Connexion by Boeing service…
“…the market for this service has not materialized as had been expected.”Boeing, 17th August 2006
The New York Times reported that only 146 aircraft globally had been equipped to offer the service, a tiny fraction of the 5,000 Boeing had originally hoped for. Boeing had been trying to sell its unprofitable Connexion division for some time.
Singapore Airlines had not yet made a decision on how to offer in-flight connectivity when the first A380s were delivered.
“We recognise that there is demand for inflight connectivity and we are keen to reintroduce connectivity to replace the now-closed Connexion By Boeing. We are exploring possible solutions and technologies currently available but there are no firm plans at the moment.”Singapore Airlines
Finally, in the first half of 2011, the airline began to roll out in-flight Wi-Fi by SITA OnAir on its Airbus A380, Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The remaining Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s, which have had the latest 2017 Suites cabins installed either from new or through the ongoing retrofit programme, are equipped with Inmarsat GX Aviation high-speed internet connectivity, with an unlimited free allowance for Suites passengers.
That’s quite the shift from 14 years ago, where Suites passengers had no connectivity option at all.
Saver awards weren’t available for five years
When Singapore Airlines launched its new cabin products in 2006 and 2007, including this Suites cabin, only “Full” redemption rates applied.
This was in the days where Full, Advantage and Saver awards were available, and as you can imagine “Full” was an eye-watering rate in this cabin (think millions!).
Thankfully in 2012 it became possible to redeem these new cabins at Saver and Advantage award rates too.
“Redemption bookings for Saver Award flights in the Singapore Airlines Suites on board the Airbus A380 are now available.
“With the launch of this latest initiative, PPS Club and KrisFlyer members will have the choice and flexibility to redeem all award types in all cabin classes across the Singapore Airlines network. “Singapore Airlines, November 2012
Suites was categorised together with the First Class rates, though of course the airline took the opportunity to hike those rates at the same time!
The seat lived on, briefly
The first five SIA Airbus A380s on operating leases were withdrawn from service and returned to their lessors in 2017 and 2018, replaced by five brand new models from Airbus arriving around the same period, with brand new cabin products installed.
The five older aircraft retained their original cabin products and one was picked up by charter operator Hi Fly (the former 9V-SKC).
Over the years the aircraft has operated for low-cost carrier Norwegian Air, while its Boeing 787s were grounded due to Rolls-Royce engine issues, and flown some other charter services, but for the most part it was sitting idle.
Unfortunately Hi Fly’s three-year lease on this A380 has not been extended and the aircraft is now stored.
The opportunity for saver Suites awards
Perhaps one of the saddest things about the premature farewell we’ve now said to the 2007 Suites product is that we’ll miss the relative ease of award seat redemption (well, since Saver awards were opened up in this cabin from 2012).
Ok it was never “easy”, but with 12 of these older suites installed on each of SIA’s Airbus A380s, we managed to pick up two saver award redemptions on the same flight over the years on popular routes including London, Delhi, Melbourne, Auckland and Hong Kong.
With the new 2017 Suites cabin featuring only six suites in total, half the previous number, it’s hard to secure one let alone two saver awards, especially on longer routes.
Among the four Business and First Class seat products prematurely retired from the Singapore Airlines fleet as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2007 Suites cabin is surely the one we’ll personally miss the most.
Indeed we were a little disappointed that the Dine on A380@Changi restaurant experience in October 2020 used a pair of aircraft with the latest Suites cabin, rather than this one, though of course we understand why SIA chose to showcase its latest products at that event.
These older Suites just worked better in our opinion, and the latest ones are a bit of a ‘miss’, all things considered.
The 2007 Suites design was a true pioneer in the industry, and no doubt influenced some of the latest competing products we see today, like Etihad’s First Class Apartment.
What will you miss about the 2007 Suites, or are you glad to see the back of them? Let us know in the comments section below.
|Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class|
|Farewell 2006 Business Class|
|Farewell 2006 First Class|
|Farewell 2009 Regional Business Class|
|Farewell 2006 Business Class|
|Farewell 2006 First Class|
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)