Julian Hayward, 39, a retired British entrepreneur from the dot com era and now living in Sydney, contributed this report. His bid of US$100,380 for SIA’s Charity Auction Flight bagged him Suite 1-A in the First Class section and the ride of a lifetime.
After my recent experience as Passenger No. 1 on Singapore Airlines’ inaugural commercial flight of the Airbus A380 on October 25,?future journeys will pale in comparison.?The party started even before we took off: cameras flashing as we pulled up into the terminal, ribbon covered check-in desks, and the string quartet and buffet breakfast at boarding gate F31. Those of us occupying the Singapore Suites were first to be ushered into the spanking new cabin. We were immediately offered Dom Pérignon Rosé 1996.
The suites were spacious, and not claustrophobic at all, with a door and two windows opening to the aisle. When shut and the bed made up, one feels a distinct sense of privacy. (Editor’s note: to make up the bed, the flight attendant presses a button under the window side table – a “credenza” – which brings it down, thus creating more space in the suite, after which the sky bed is pulled down from the wall and stretched out to form a nearly two-metre fully flat bed.)
We were handed bulging Mandarina Duck pouches, stuffed with goodies from the sponsors (including Bose headphones to keep), a certificate signed by chief pilot Captain Robert Ting and SIA CEO Chew Choon Seng, and for me, another certificate as the A380 First Flight Customer. Then, there were the usual Givenchy pyjamas and a slightly upgraded Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit with the new scent F. These all fitted easily into the suite wardrobes.
Takeoff was remarkably quiet – you could talk at normal volume. Once we had reached cruising altitude, two chefs from SIA’s Culinary Panel – Sam Leong of Singapore’s Tung Lok Group and Matthew Moran of Sydney’s Aria Restaurant – paid each one of us a visit, offering us their choice of seven-course lunch. One dessert was served on a bed of dry ice, which created the unusual scene of clouds wafting from other suites. Remarkable wines were served. For reds, there were Grange 1990, Cos d’Estournel 1982 and Château Pichon 1982. I “visited” my friend’s suite for a bout of indulgent wine tasting. There was really enough room for two to dine in. Given the celebratory mood, it was difficult to say how quiet it would be on a normal day. Every so often, a camera crew or curious co-passengers would come by to explore our part of the plane. But it gave me a chance to promote Mapendo (www.mapendo.org), which aids forgotten refugees, by wearing a T-shirt with its logo.
The flight passed all too quickly, and we wanted to go on another round again. I’m sure we all will, but it won’t be quite as much fun as that first time.
At press time, the internet return rate for a Singapore Suite departing January 15 and returning January 18 costs US$7,458. www.singaporeair.com