If you’ve ever hopped on board SQ21 – one of the world’s longest non-stop flights from Newark to Singapore – you’re probably familiar with the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at the New Jersey airport, where the pre-departure experience begins for those in Business Class or for passengers holding lounge-worthy frequent flyer status.
Singapore Airlines has now announced that this arrangement has changed, with a different facility at Newark now taking care of customers prior to the epic 19 hour 5 minute journey.
SIA passengers now use the British Airways lounge
Singapore Airlines is now directing its Business Class passengers, and those in Premium Economy who are PPS Club or KrisFlyer Elite Gold members, to the British Airways Galleries lounge at Newark Airport.
As far as we know, this is the only British Airways lounge Singapore Airlines uses globally, and one of only two Oneworld lounges the airline contracts for its passengers, the other being the JAL Sakura Lounge in Osaka.
At the vast majority of airports where SIA does not have its own lounge, the carrier relies on Star Alliance partners or other third-party providers to offer access for eligible passengers, rather than those of a competing alliance.
Star Alliance carriers Lufthansa and SAS do both have their own lounges in Terminal B at Newark, but these are closed in the morning and so do not help SIA solve its SQ21 issue – given the 9am departure time.
About the British Airways lounge
Should Singapore Airlines passengers be excited about a shift to the British Airways lounge in Newark? Probably not, with One Mile at a Time concluding in his recent review of the facility that it was better than expected, but “don’t get too excited”.
One major benefit of the BA lounge is its fantastic runway views, a stark contrast to the windowless Virgin Clubhouse, which has no natural light.
The lounge is located adjacent to the Virgin Clubhouse SIA was previously using, at Newarks’ Terminal B after security, near gate 51.
Opening hours are from 5am to 8am each morning, supporting BA’s own morning departure to London Heathrow at 7.55am each day, but presumably SIA passengers departing at 9am on SQ21 won’t be kicked out until it’s time to board.
The lounge is also open from 3pm to 10.45pm each day for afternoon and evening BA flights to London, though this does not coincide with any SIA departures from Newark.
- Snacks and Hot Food
- Specialty Coffee
- Waiter Service
- Alcoholic Beverages, including Champagne
- Restrooms and Showers with Elemis toiletries
- Free Wi-Fi
- Reading Materials
- Business Centre
- Runway views
British Airways still has an ordering system in its lounges, which seems a bit pointless in the post-COVID era, but it does mean you can simply find a seat, scan the QR code then order food and drinks to be brought across to you by the waiter.
Champagne in the lounge is Duval Leroy, which scores similarly to the Nicolas Feuillatte poured over at the Virgin Clubhouse.
There is also a buffet available if you prefer to self-serve.
À la carte dining is also offered in the First Dining section, but this is only available to those departing in First Class on a British Airways flight, with no access for SIA passengers.
It’s a shame the airline didn’t do a deal for PPS Club members or Solitaires to benefit here, since the wine list also goes ‘up a notch’ in the First Dining section, including the very decent Vollereaux Champagne JAL was pouring last time I took a Business Class flight with them.
The BA lounge at Newark was recently allowing Priority Pass members to access in between BA flight departures from 8am to 2pm, with a slimmed-down F&B offering, but the lounge left the programme on 1st June 2023.
What is it replacing?
As mentioned above, prior to this change eligible passengers travelling on SQ21 from Newark non-stop to Singapore were invited to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at the airport, which is next door to the BA lounge.
The main drawback mentioned by most of our readers who had visited this one was its lack of natural light, and that at least is now resolved with a move to the BA facility.
What about the United Polaris lounge?
If you’re flying in Business Class on SQ21, you can also access the much-superior United Polaris lounge at Newark, but there’s a big downside.
That facility is in Terminal C, which means quite a convoluted (but not impossible) process to use the lounge before your SIA flight, which departs from the Terminal B ‘B2’ pier.
After checking in, you’ll need to take the AirTrain from Terminal B to Terminal C and clear security there to access the Polaris lounge.
After using the lounge, you’ll then have to exit the Terminal C airside area, return to Terminal B on the AirTrain and clear security again there at the B2 section, before proceeding to the departure gate (via a stop at the BA lounge, if you still have time).
That somewhat limits how long you can spend over at the Polaris lounge, which opens at 5am, but remember SIA’s check-in for SQ21 only opens at 6am (three hours before departure).
Realistically, I’d be wanting to leave the Polaris lounge by 7.30am to allow time for the process of getting to the gate, but with an à la carte breakfast served in the Dining Room and Piper Heidsieck Champagne it may be worth it.
The Polaris lounge is also said to be quiet in the mornings.
Here’s a review, including the Dining Room breakfast, to help you decide whether to detour or not.
KrisFlyer Elite Gold and PPS Club members flying in Premium Economy on this route don’t need to worry about attempting this – the United Polaris lounge does not offer access unless you are actually travelling in First Class or Business Class with United Airlines or a Star Alliance carrier.
What about JFK?
Singapore Airlines currently uses three lounges at New York JFK airport:
- Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
For First Class and Solitaire PPS Club members
- Air India Maharaja Lounge & Prime Class Lounge
For Business Class, PPS Club and KrisFlyer Elite Gold members
Unfortunately for those in Business Class prior to the evening SQ23 or SQ25 departures from JFK, that means no pre-flight shower option is available, since only the Virgin Clubhouse has these.
If you’re in this boat, consider picking the non-stop from Newark rather than JFK, where showers await in the BA lounge or the United Polaris lounge.
Singapore Airlines is now using the British Airways lounge at Newark Airport, a rare contract with a Oneworld facility for its eligible passengers prior to its longest non-stop flight each morning.
This one at least benefits from oodles of natural light, a stark contrast to the windowless Virgin Clubhouse it is replacing, though as a recent review mentioned it’s still nothing to get too excited about.
There’s also the option for SIA’s Business Class passengers on SQ21 to head across to the United Polaris lounge in Terminal C after check-in, for a far superior lounge experience there including à la carte dining.
Unfortunately that’s a slightly convoluted process to get back to the correct departure terminal in good time for boarding, which sadly limits the benefit.
(Cover Photo: British Airways)