10 things about Singapore Airlines A380 at SFO (Photos)


Here’s a slideshow of the TravelSkills’s private tour of a Singapore Airlines A380 parked at SFO. Enjoy!

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While the double-decker Airbus A380 has been plying the skies around the world for five years now, it’s still a sight to see it take off or land at SFO. While you may have seen one of these big birds from the outside…only a few have been able to see what they look like on the inside.

Last week, lucky BAT contest winner David Zippin got one of those prized close-up looks when he took a private tour of a Singapore Airlines’ A380 parked at SFO. TravelSkills chose Zippin randomly from the hundreds of readers who helped us attract nearly 300 new subscribers in a word-of-mouth contest late last year.

BAT contest winner David Zippin on a private tour of Singapore Airlines' A380

BAT contest winner David Zippin on a private tour of Singapore Airlines’ A380

Thanks to all of you who helped turn your friends and colleagues on to TravelSkills! As a result, we are growing like gangbusters! And thanks to Singapore Air and other BAT sponsors– their support keeps TravelSkills free (and in this case, very interesting) for readers.

Now, back to that tour… BAT editor Chris McGinnis accompanied Singapore Airlines VP Paul Ng along with Zippin and three of his friends to see the plane. Here are nine interesting things we learned about Singapore’s A380 service at SFO along the way:

1-SEXY: Singapore Airlines (SIA) has a super-sexy flight number on its SFO>HKG>SIN run: SQ1, which departs SFO at 10:50 pm for Hong Kong and Singapore. SQ2 arrives back in SFO at around 8:30 pm. Ng told us that the SFO flights bear those numbers because San Francisco was Singapore Air’s first US destination 33 years ago.

2-BEST BUSINESS CLASS: There are 60 business class seats on the A380—and they are so wide (34 inches) that SIA has added a pillow and a cushion to cozy the expanse up a bit. Upstairs window seats have special storage bins. (See slideshow above.) The business class cabin in split into two sections– the section closest to the front is smaller, more intimate and likely more quiet. Business class fares on Singapore for mid-March flights run from $4,000 to $6,000.

3-BEST COACH SEATS: There are 88 coach seats at the rear of the upper deck (which are considered the best coach seats—windows in this section have the same special seat-side bins as in business class.) Upstairs, coach is configured 2-4-2 vs 3-4-3 on main deck. Due to the curvature of the fuselage, coach seats downstairs on the main deck don’t have the bins. Round trip coach fares on Singapore Air currently run around $1,200.

4-FIRST CLASS SUITES: Downstairs, there are 12 “Suites” in the first class section at the front, and then 311 coach seats in the back.  Each plush, rich leather, first class seat is enclosed in a private shell, with a sliding door to the aisle. Sleeping mattresses are 4″ thick. A seat in a first class suite to Hong Kong or Singapore runs about $12,000-$14,000 round trip. Ng said that the two pairs of adjoining suites (non-window) with collapsible walls between them are usually the first seats to sell out. (Think about that, all you Valentines Day romantics!)

5-MURPHY BEDS. Unlike other airlines, Singapore seats in both business and first class fold over, and then down, so you sleep on a separate mattress thick mattress, a different surface that what you sit on. See the slide show above for a demonstration. (On most other airlines, first and business seats recline to a flat bed-like surface for sleeping.)

6-THREE LEVELS. There’s a basement on this bird! Behind a combination-locked door in the middle of the main deck, there’s a steep staircase down to a crew rest area. The space consists of 12 bunks—with entertainment systems, mirrors and noise deadening privacy curtains. It’s a bit claustrophobic down there, but those nice flat beds look cozier than the first class suites upstairs. (Several shots of this in the slideshow above)

7-BIG BIRD.  The top of the tail of the A380 stands eight stories off the ground. According to Ng, one wing could keep a group of 2,000 people dry in the rain. We were skeptical about that claim until we peered out the window at the massive wing.

8-TWO VERSIONS: Singapore Airlines flies two different configurations of the A380. Version 1 is configured with both business and coach seats on the upper deck. Version 2 is all-business-all-the-time (86 seats) upstairs; first and coach are on the main deck.  Both versions have a grand wide staircase in the front, and a smaller curves staircase in the back.

9-SINGAPORE GIRLS. A small army of 22 flight attendants (Singapore girls and boys) staffs the flight, which takes about 13 hours to reach Hong Kong… then 3-4 hours more to Singapore. The flight departs SFO at 10:50 pm, crosses the International Date Line and then arrives in Singapore at noon—two days later. (So if you leave on a Sunday night, you get there in time for lunch on Tuesday.)

10-SAD TO SEE IT GO. Singapore Airlines’ A380 is currently scheduled for what the carrier is calling “popup” service at SFO—it started on Dec 28 and will revert back to a Boeing 777 service on March 24. But there’s hope: Ng says that the airline is always evaluating where to deploy its fleet of A380s, and it could come back.


  • http://thatadamguy.com/ Adam

    Hi there,

    As someone who has flown UA in business class and Singapore recently in suites and business class (see photos :), I definitely have some strong opinions regarding the comments above :D

    - UA business class is… well, definitely better than their economy class. Food is decent, service is generally acceptable. But man, it’s NOWHERE close to Singapore Airlines quality in any dimension!!! I’m not a big guy (5’7″, 155 pounds), but when I sleep on my side in UA business, I feel cramped and uncomfortable, and furthermore, it really feels like I’m, well, sleeping on a seat. In contrast, the Singapore business bed feels much more like a real bed and seems like almost twice the width of the UA seat/bed!

    - re: accessibility of Singapore suites — I have no idea whether they upgrade their KrisFlyers or not, but I was surprised to be able to grab a suite using Krisflyer miles a week in advance on the SFO-SIN route (yes, SQ1 :), which I’d think’d be super-popular!

    - I didn’t find the suite claustrophobic at all, and I did enjoy the privacy (and the even-more-attentive-and-awesome service than in business class!)… but in the future, I’d be 100% fine with the business class product and probably won’t spend the extra miles on suite class again (as if I’d ever have that many miles again in my life :p)

    - With all that said… JK, you do raise a good point that having a separate bed vs. seat is indeed a tad inconvenient. But given the greater comfort of the bed, it’s well worth it IMHO, and the Singapore girls are more than happy to assist in changing the bed to a seat and vice versa at a moment’s notice! :)

    - Lastly, in case anyone is curious how I — someone who had only flown Singapore Air once before — could get enough miles to fly suites to Singapore and business class back: two credit cards did it for me ;). 100K signing bonus for the Amex Platinum and 75K signing bonus for the Amex Business Gold. Though I knew that the fuel surcharges’d be steep, I nonetheless was happy to transfer all my Amex points to the Krisflyer program in order to enjoy Singapore premium cabins for one special trip :-).

  • Rosemary

    Hey Chris,

    When are Walker Lee and I going?

  • chris

    Thanks for your comment, JK. Round the world on SIA sounds nice. I bet you can’t do it for $3000 anymore, but they do have the option available. http://www.singaporeair.com/jsp/cms/en_UK/promotions/round-the-world.jsp.

    You can also do this on all Star Alliance carriers– and for dreamers out there, it offers a cool tool to build (and price) a dream RTW trip– check it out here: http://www.staralliance.com/en/fares/round-the-world-fare/
    – chris

  • JK

    Ok, now I’m really jealous. Chris, please see if Singapore Airlines will let you hold another contest to tour the plane! I’ve been a big Singapore fan for decades now. It started back in 1986, when I was able to purchase one of those special round-the-world fares in business class for just $2000! Good for one year, fly anywhere you want as long as you keep heading the same direction – I flew west from NYC and back (at that time, TWA was the partner on the segments Singapore didn’t fly.) I flew around the world again with Singapore in 1989, this time in First Class for just $3000!!! Ever since then, Singapore Airlines has been the gold standard to which I’ve judged all other airlines. (Chris, do you know if Singapore or other airlines still offer those special one-way, round-the-world over a year tickets?)

    One comment about Singapore’s comfy-looking business class seats, which I have not yet had a chance to try. While those Murphy bed-like seats look unbeatable for sleeping, I tend to be a light sleeper on airplanes, and often awake mid-flight and adjust my seat back up for reading/working/having a snack. Seems like it could be pretty complicated to put the seat back together, while flat bed seats on other airlines rise back up at the touch of a button. Of all the international biz class seats I’ve tried, I still seem to like United’s the best – particularly those located on the upper deck of a 747.

  • chris

    Thanks for your comment, Brady! I’d love to fly in one of those suites, too. But SIA is super strict about who sits up front– unlike other airlines, they do not upgrade passengers to suites. You can’t use your Mileage Plus or Star Alliance points to get in there, either. SIA is considering bringing the A380 back to SFO after this “popup” run, but for now, the B777 will be back on the route in March. — chris

  • Brady

    Interesting read. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to fly in one of their suites! Is there any talk about keeping the a380 permanently on this route?

  • John

    Great plane. Very quiet as I have witnessed the Lufthansa flight lift off from SFO. Massive wings, very cool. Stubby fuselage, not as graceful looking as the 747 in flight, but a great aircraft never-the-less. Not certain about the enclosed seating areas. Business Class has always looked more comfortable than these new enclosed features for First Class. Who needs first class anyway. Just call it Business First, then cattle car class for those with a good sense of humor…HA !

  • Mara

    Fascinating differences. I flew the A380 twice in 2011: SFO-CDG Air France and ICN-NRT (?!) on Korean Air. Both Biz Class. A Murphy bed sounds really comfy compared to sleeping in the chair…although both flights were super quiet with very cushiony seats. (Too bad DL’s hard lie-flat seats are pretty miserable in comparison)

    I think everyone would be happy with crew quarters for an entire flight! Make part of the aircraft a cafeteria to pick up meals, then stay cocooned for the rest of the (very long) flight.

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