After 18 months without travelling, Advantage award rates weren’t going to put us off jumping on the inaugural Germany – Singapore VTL flight in early September, especially with our favourite First Class cabin on offer.
Here’s how the experience and service compares to pre-COVID times.
- Flight: SQ325 Frankfurt T1 to Singapore Changi T3
- Class: First
- Seats: 1C & 1D
- Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Aircraft Registration: 9V-SWU
- Aircraft Age: 8.3 years
- Date: September 2021
- Departure / Arrival: 22:00 / 16:25
- Flight Time: 12h 25m
- Cost: 220,000 KrisFlyer miles + S$164 per person
If you’re flying in First Class on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER, it’s not a complicated decision where to sit.
The intimate single-row cabin has only four seats in a 1-2-1 layout, with the window options 1A and 1F ideal for solo travellers, and the middle pair 1C and 1D better for couples.
Even if you are travelling alone in this cabin and only a middle option is available, privacy is still ensured with an extendable divider screen between the two 1C and 1D seats.
For this trip, we managed to secure 1C and 1D.
Our full review
In mid-2018 we concluded our round-the-world trip in First Class on SQ1 from San Francisco to Singapore via Hong Kong in the 2013 First Class cabin, and had the chance to thoroughly review it including both a long-haul and short-haul experience across the two stages of the journey.
Don’t miss that review for an in-depth look at the hard product itself, which obviously hasn’t changed since then and we won’t look at in detail in this article, which focuses more on the COVID-19 food and service differences.
Singapore Airlines normally opens its check-in desks at Frankfurt 3 hours prior to the scheduled flight departure time. We arrived early at 6.15pm, 3 hours 45 minutes before departure time, and the desks were already open.
We’re not sure if this is a new policy or just a one-off due to the inaugural VTL service.
The additional document checks meant it took around 25 minutes to complete the check-in process, including a lot of checking, double-checking and triple-checking along the way!
If you still have any questions about the VTL process, you can check out our full guide here, and also follow through our Germany – Singapore experience at the following links:
- 1: Getting a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test
- 2: The departure airport process
- 3: The Changi Airport arrival process
Singapore Airlines First Class passengers departing from Frankfurt are invited to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge at the B gates.
It’s good, but not great, so there’s no big rush to arrive early in our opinion.
During our visit the food selection was significantly restricted due to COVID-19, so luckily we were waiting until we were on board to dine in any significant way.
On the plus side – the showers were great.
Since this was the inaugural Vaccinated Travel Lane flight to Singapore, while we sipped Riesling in the lounge the media were invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with the airline’s local station manager lauding the benefits of the new VTL arrangement.
The SQ326 crew then watched on as 9V-SWU, the aircraft operating this service, arrived as SQ325 from Singapore at around 8pm.
We made the short walk from the lounge to the boarding gate at around 9.15pm. Boarding had not yet commenced, but the Frankfurt Airport social media team was keeping us updated on progress behind the scenes.
Meanwhile we had a good view of the aircraft outside as the crew prepared.
Boarding was called at 9.25pm, with a separate lane for First and Business Class passengers.
Apart from the usual passport and boarding card checks, no further document verification for VTL flight eligibility was conducted at this stage.
We’ve heard that Lufthansa repeats the entire document check (vaccination, PCR test, VTP, etc…) at the gate on its VTL flights, having already done so at the check-in desk.
This particular aircraft, 9V-SWU, was stored at Changi for nearly a year, from 30th April 2020 until 11th April 2021, but the cabin was still in perfect condition. It just goes to show if the storage is done correctly it isn’t a significant issue, even in humid environments like Singapore.
Everything seemed spotlessly clean, which is reassuring especially during COVID-19 times.
On our outbound trip from Singapore to Frankfurt the previous week in Business Class, boarding Champagne was available but was on request, rather than proactively offered.
No need to ask in First Class of course, with a glass of Champagne suggested by the crew almost the moment we stepped aboard.
A choice between Krug and Dom Pérignon vintage 2008 was available. We both opted for a glass of Krug to kick off the journey home.
The usual literature selection has been removed, so you’ll only find a safety card and airsickness bag in the pouch alongside your seat for the time being.
A ‘Care Kit’ is also provided, comprising hand sanitiser, masks and wipes. These are common between SIA and Scoot.
The Captain announced that our flight time would be around an hour longer than planned at 13 hours 20 minutes. This is a common scenario on Singapore – Europe flights at the moment due to the need to avoid Afghanistan airspace, necessitating longer routings.
We understand SIA was already deviating around Iran and Syria airspace prior to the latest troubles, adding to the route length.
We had no plans after landing into Singapore, since self-isolation is required anyway on arrival back home until the Changi Airport PCR test result clears, so an extra hour in this fantastic seat was welcome news.
The usual pair of Bang and Olufsen headphones was waiting at each seat, alongside the large 24″ in-flight entertainment screen, which was promising a much quicker flight than the Captain had predicted!
We’ve flown in the 2013 First Class seat now fitted to all of SIA’s Boeing 777-300ERs a few times over the years, and we can happily report nothing about the hard product has changed, except that the Bose headphones were swapped for these Bang & Olufsen models in late 2018.
If the seat’s features aren’t familiar to you, however, here’s a guide covering each aspect from our full 2019 review (click to expand each section).
There are no overhead lockers in this First Class cabin. This gives a nice open and airy feel to this section despite it being quite small. Luggage storage is therefore primarily under the footrest.
The storage space is an extensive area that would comfortably house even the largest carry-on bags without intruding into the remaining seat space. Excess cabin baggage can be stored by the crew in the galley should the situation arise.
That also means your bags are within easy reach throughout the flight.
Additional storage and a vanity mirror are provided next to the TV, behind a panel with integrated lighting when opened.
It's here you'll find your headphones, and there is ample space for several other personal items or devices you might need easy access to during the flight.
Alongside the seat just below the armrest furthest from the aisle there is also an additional storage compartment behind a sliding door.
Again this is illuminated when opened and is ideal for your mobile phone, passport and boarding pass etc. A USB charging socket is also located here.
Along the side of each seat is a large literature pocket. This is a great place to store your leather-bound menu (in the old days!) and any other reading materials, though we also find it handy for keeping tablets and smaller laptops within easy reach.
Beneath the TV there is a multi-standard 110V AC power socket, which supports Australian, Japanese, UK/Hong Kong/Singapore Type G, US 2/3-pin and European 2-pin plugs.
Along this side of the seat there is also a shelf for your smaller devices to rest while charging. The power socket remains accessible when the seat is in bed mode.
Table and workspace
A sturdy table extends from below the IFE screen. It is adjustable in a forwards and backwards direction and also in height, so you can find your perfect position.
The movement of the table allows you to temporarily gain access to or from your seat during a meal if required, simply by sliding it towards the IFE screen.
There is an easy to access panel of seat controls at shoulder height on the privacy lip curving in towards the seat.
This allows you to adjust the seat recline, leg rest angle and leg rest extension. There are also lighting, cabin attendant call and do not disturb functions, and a master on/off switch for the IFE screen.
We both found these controls well placed and easy to use.
Amenity kit and PJs
The crew came round with a Lalique amenity kit and asked what size pyjamas we would like.
The amenity kit contents are from Lalique’s Neroli Casablanca range:
- Scented Candle (75g). Not to be used onboard for obvious reasons.
- Lip Balm (8ml)
- Body Lotion (30ml)
- Soap (50g)
Unfortunately amenity kits no longer include the limited-time special gift, which was a small version of Lalique’s iconic crystal fish sculpture.
Singapore Airlines continues to provide other amenities including dental kits and shaving kits in the toilets.
We both opted for the small size of the Lalique pyjamas, though as our regular readers will know we don’t actually use them as we prefer to bring our own sleepwear – so look out for a giveaway soon!
Other amenities available on demand from the cabin crew include:
One thing you won’t find anymore on board a Singapore Airlines flight is a printed menu, regardless of your travel class. A new digital menu system replaced all paper menus in 2020, as part of the airline’s efforts to reduce waste.
It means that up to eight days ahead of your flight, or on board via the Wi-Fi, you can access the full selection you’ll receive.
This can also help you to decide whether to substitute your meal for a ‘Book the Cook’ option, if your departure city is eligible for the service.
We fully support SIA’s move to the digital menu solution. While having a printed menu was a nice touch, the volume and weight of paper, plus leather folders in First Class and Suites, was an unnecessary environmental impact in the age of the smartphone and tablets.
Here’s how the food menu looked for our SQ325 service in the First Class cabin.
The strange thing about SQ325 is that Supper is served after takeoff from Frankfurt, then Dinner before landing into Singapore.
It’s designed this way to try and help you adjust your body clock to your destination time zone.
Unfortunately the satay and caviar service comes along with dinner, and we didn’t really feel like doing that with Champagne after having slept through the night.
There’s no need to worry of course – this is Singapore Airlines First Class. Our request to switch the meals around and have dinner after takeoff from Frankfurt followed by Supper before landing was met with an effortless “of course!” from the crew.
Here’s how the Champagne, wine and port selection rate on our favourite comparison website Vivino.
|Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne 2008||4.6 stars|
|Krug Grande Cuvée Brut Champagne N.V.||4.6 stars|
|Gustave Lorentz Riesling Alsace Grand Cru ‘Altenberg de Bergheim’ 2016||4.0 stars|
|Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard 1.5m Chardonnay 2017||3.8 stars|
|Albert Bichot Corton Grand Cru 2016||4.0 stars|
|Château Léoville Poyferré Saint-Julien (Grand Cru Classé) 2007||4.1 stars|
|Sons of Eden Remus Old Vine Shiraz 2015||4.1 stars|
|Dow’s 20 Years Old Tawny Port N.V.
Other menu items
Aside from the Champagne and wine selection above, the full menu for this flight included a range of soft drinks, mocktails, cocktails and spirits.
There were also the usual range of coffee by illy and teas by TWG. Here’s the full 15-page menu for the flight for those interested in the entire selection:
Dinner service began with a bread selection, including the iconic SIA garlic bread, which is almost impossible to refuse.
While the full dining service in First Class has now been restored, from a simplified version previously due to COVID-19 precautions, one thing you’ll notice is that the cutlery is still provided in a resealable plastic pouch, complete with antibacterial wet wipe.
This doesn’t adversely affect the experience in our opinion.
First up was SIA’s signature Satay course, always a popular ‘pre-starter’ on long-haul flights, particularly before a lunch or dinner service.
It’s not a favourite dish of mine, which is why I don’t request too many sticks, but it was still a great rendition of an SIA classic.
While Satay is never my first choice, there are no concerns with the next course – Caviar with traditional accompaniments.
Unfortunately there was no mother of pearl spoon provided with the caviar on this flight, but hopefully that makes a comeback soon.
The melba toast mentioned on the menu had also been substituted for blinis, but that’s a plus in our personal opinion.
For the main course we selected the Grilled Beef Fillet, to compare with the ‘Book the Cook’ Business Class version on the way to Frankfurt the previous week, and the Bavarian Style Pork Belly.
First up though was a switch from Champagne following the caviar course to something that could stand up to the mains, and we both opted for the 2015 Eden Valley Shiraz – a beautiful drop.
The 2016 version retails at around S$78 in Singapore.
The Pork Belly was a delicious farewell to Germany, with flavoursome and tender meat and a firm (but not completely crunchy) crackling on top.
The traditional pairing with cabbage and apple puree was a perfect complement, while the (less traditional!) garlic bread accompaniment was good as ever.
The beef fillet was nicely presented, but as always the proof is inside!
At first glance it didn’t like like it was going to be exceptional, but boy was I wrong! Slicing my knife into the tender meat revealed a perfect medium-rare cook.
As promised, here’s how it compared to the cook on the Grilled Beef Tenderloin from the ‘Book the Cook’ menu on the way to Frankfurt in Business Class the previous week.
A picture tells a thousand words and so it probably goes without saying that the relatively average Business Class dish was far surpassed by this First Class version catered out of Frankfurt, which was exceptional.
Before COVID-19, Wi-Fi in First Class on SIA’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet was a mixed affair.
That’s because some aircraft still had the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband Wi-Fi system, which not only had slower connection speeds but a complimentary data cap of only 100MB in First Class (30MB in Business Class).
If you were on an aircraft refitted with the new GX Aviation Wi-Fi system, it was faster and boasted a completely unlimited data cap in First Class (100MB in Business Class).
Good news confirmed earlier this year, however, is that SIA will refit all Boeing 777-300ERs with the new system before returning them to service, so there’s no more risk of having the older (capped) system on your flight in First Class – the Wi-Fi will be complimentary and unlimited.
This flight was no exception and aside from the occasional connection loss, speeds we recorded were good enough to get some productive work done, though not exactly to Qatar Airways’ ‘Super Wi-Fi’ standards!
The First Class section on the 777-300ER features two toilets for a maximum of four passengers, an excellent ratio ensuring there is practically never a need to wait even when the cabin is full, like it was on our flight.
Amenities like dental kits are available in the drawer under the sink.
Generic mouthwash and Lalique toiletries are stored on a dedicated shelf to the side of the sink.
It’s good to see that even the pandemic has not led to a long-term removal of these communal amenities.
With no room for dessert, and the local time in Frankfurt now passing midnight, it was time to get some rest.
First Class on SIA’s Boeing 777-300ERs includes the largest flat bed the airline offers, with a width of 35 inches and a length of 82 inches.
Sure, you can get a bigger overall ‘double bed’ in the new A380 Suites, but that’s six inches shorter in length, plus there’s actually a firm divider between the two beds, so it’s not a true ‘double’.
The mattress in new A380 Suites is also very firm in comparison, and if you’re travelling alone there’s an eight-inch width deficit over this seat. The Boeing 777-300ER First Class bed fits the bill much better for us.
After about 8 hours solid sleep the crew offered coffee and juice, then it was time to make a decision about Supper (or was it breakfast?).
Between us we chose the Prawns followed by Massaman Moo and the Scallops followed by the German Braised Beef Cheek.
By now we were totally mixing up the dinner and supper menus, but again this is First Class – so that’s no problem!
Both the starters were excellent, particularly the interesting pairing of scallops and sausage, a triumph!
As you can see from the photos the additional sauces for the starters are served in small plastic containers due to COVID-19, for you to self serve.
By then our stomachs had been suitably lined and it was time to sample the Dom Pérignon Champagne with the main courses.
The Massaman Moo was excellent, with the curry sauce served in a separate bowl to the jasmine rice and vegetables, for a bit of ‘DIY to your own taste’ final preparation at the table.
There was really nothing to fault with this dish, with fresh flavours and a medium spiciness.
The beef cheek fell apart beautifully when cut, and was both soft and flavoursome. The rich sauce and simple vegetables were a good accompaniment, even if it perhaps wasn’t the ideal dish to tuck into after an 8-hour sleep!
One thing that hasn’t changed since COVID-19 came along is the excellent in-flight service provided by the Singapore Airlines crew.
It is worth bearing in mind the difficulty all airline crew have been through over the last 18 months; pay cuts, constant testing, job uncertainties and a distinct lack of flying to name just a few.
Of all the industries impacted by COVID, aviation and healthcare have arguably stood out as the worst affected.
Yet, in common with the Restaurant A380@Changi event in October 2020, our crew were positive, warm, friendly, helpful and full of energy, despite the need to wear a face mask and eye-shield throughout the flight.
The crew were particularly excited about the launch of this Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme, and clearly so happy to be part of the inaugural service.
Travel just isn’t as simple as it was pre-COVID, so once you get on board it’s a huge relief to be welcomed back with the usual friendly smiles and top-notch service that we know and love about our national carrier.
Even for VTL flights, mask wearing is expected any time that your are not ‘actively’ eating or drinking.
This includes sleeping. Some people my find this idea a little confronting. We believe the key to a comfortable sleep is to try not to focus on the fact that you are wearing a mask and of course chose a comfortable in flight mask.
Whilst the crew were not actively enforcing mask wearing, they were diligent in gently reminding passengers, politely, to don a mask. In all the cases that we observed, it was a simple mistake, not a deliberate event.
If you are seated in a cabin with appropriate social distancing e.g. business and first class then it most likely is not necessary to be wearing an FFP2 or N95 mask for the entire flight, especially if you are willing to accept the risk of taking off the mask to eat and drink.
Instead, opt for a lighter mask that still provides some barrier, without making you overly uncomfortable.
You’ll find SIA’s 2013 First Class cabin on selected flights operated by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the following routes to and from Singapore between now and the end of the northern winter season in late March 2022:
- Hong Kong (until 7th December)
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco (until 7th December)
Some of these options also include designated VTL flights, for a quarantine-free arrival in Singapore, like we enjoyed on this trip.
The product is also available on two of the airline’s “fifth freedom” routes:
- Frankfurt to New York
- Hong Kong to San Francisco (until 7th December)
- Tokyo to Los Angeles
Is it worth Advantage rates?
The major drawback of a redemption in Singapore Airlines First Class in the coming months is that SIA is only offering Advantage award rates on most VTL flights, or to destinations where arrivals are otherwise quarantine-free, like Paris.
We could justify parting with 220,000 miles for this trip, having accumulated such a large balance following 18 months of no travelling, but we of course can’t honestly recommend paying the 76% premium over the Saver award rate (125,000 miles) for most of our readers or as a long-term strategy for using your miles.
Hopefully as the VTL expands (or ideally is scrapped completely, in favour of a more relaxed general travel policy in future), the situation will start to normalise and Saver award availability will return.
Overall it was really hard to tell the difference between pre-pandemic and current service standards in First Class on Singapore Airlines, with this VTL flight boasting a full range of dining, amenities and great service from the crew.
Mask-wearing is of course the new norm, even on VTL flights, for both the crew and the passengers.
Otherwise we can’t really complain about the cutlery being presented in a plastic pouch, or the lack of a mother of pearl spoon with the caviar service!
Everything else about the experience was flawless as ever.
The 2013 First Class seat, now the only non-Suites First Class Singapore Airlines offers, continues to be a near-faultless product, even without the closing privacy doors its design almost begs for.
Though we used (a lot of) our own miles for the trip – thank you to Singapore Airlines and our fantastic crew for an excellent flight and service. It’s good to be back!
| 4.5 / 5
among long-haul First Class seats
Singapore Airlines First Class on the inaugural Germany – Singapore VTL flight
One of our favourite First Class experiences hasn’t lost its shine, with excellent service, great food, top-notch wine and Champagne, and a friendly crew excited to welcome us back to quarantine-free travel.
|Flew: September 2021|
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)