About four billion airline seats go on sale every year but only about 5 per cent are Business Class or better, and of those only a tiny fraction travel up the very front in First Class.

And fewer still make it to the Suites - large capsules of luxury where you get a bed, privacy and endless service.

While other carriers are throwing the kitchen sink at Business Class and Premium Economy, Singapore Airlines still offers First and Suites on its Airbus A380s on its international network, including on flights between Auckland and Singapore.

Herald Business Traveller was invited to experience a Suite on SQ286 as part of a special mission to test Garage Project beer at 37,000 feet.

Advertisement

Here's what you get:

Location, location

You get your own separate entry into the plane and 12 suites which are on the lower deck of the A380 double decker.

Space and privacy

The suites are arranged in 1-2-1 configuration. The two in the middle can be made into a double bed. When the aircraft was first introduced in 2007 with suites on the Singapore-Sydney route there were the inevitable references to the mile high club. Without the bed made up these make excellent meeting and socialising spaces - one double suite made the ideal spot for the Garage Project research.

Individual suites cover an enormous area compared to the standard area for an economy seat, which with standard pitch and width would add up to 0.4sqm.

Flight attendant Julia Tan sets up the bed in a first-class double suite during a Singapore Airlines A380 flight from Auckland to Singapore. Photo / Dean Purcell
Flight attendant Julia Tan sets up the bed in a first-class double suite during a Singapore Airlines A380 flight from Auckland to Singapore. Photo / Dean Purcell

The suites are a bit like a rail carriage compartment, and have been designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, finished in cream and brown, and accented with leather and wood.

Each cabin features a sliding door and window blinds, which must be up for take off and landing.

There's a private closet for each suite that you access from the aisle. The seat is a huge leather armchair 35 inches (88cm) wide, made by Texan technical leather specialist eristo. That's twice the width of a standard airline seat and you can happily get lost in it.

Opposite is an Ottoman-style seat under which you can store bags.

There's a large table that transforms the suite into a dining or meeting area. This worked well for a planning meeting over a late lunch with a Herald colleague on my flight who was seated in Business.

Suite passengers can, within reason, invite passengers from elsewhere in the plane to join them for a visit.

Service

There are four crew dedicated to Suite passengers and post-Chinese New Year — and on a route where ultra-premium is a tough sell — it was almost a one to one ratio. It was fantastic, but not smothering.

Julia, the head stewardess, was chatty and very efficient. Another crew member, Vinod, was a dedicated sommelier who guided passengers through the wine list, which is extensive.

The food

This is a strong suit in the Suites.

The dining experience starts before you get on board. You can reserve your main course up to 24 hours before you fly, including creations by notable chefs from an international culinary panel from countries including China, the US, Australia, Italy and France.

Options included lobster thermidor, which I ordered, but in a first-world problem turned out to be the only thing that didn't turn up.

The lobster dish that went elsewhere in the Suites looked fantastic and there were plenty of a la carte alternatives.

Australian chef Matt Moran designed the menu on the flight. There were three suggested lunch menus and a light dinner. You could chop and change between them all.

If you were super-hungry there were snacks between the two meals: noodles, fruit and sandwiches.

All meals are served on Wedgwood bone china, specially designed for Singapore Airlines. Photo / Dean Purcell
All meals are served on Wedgwood bone china, specially designed for Singapore Airlines. Photo / Dean Purcell

It all starts with Singapore Satay, skewered slices of chicken, mutton and beef are flame-grilled and served as an appetiser with onions, cucumbers and a spicy peanut dip. All meals are served on Wedgwood bone china, specially designed for Singapore Airlines.

The drink

The purpose of the mission was to sample new Garage Project beer and the brewery has had its Hapi Daze Pacific Pale Ale on board Singapore Airlines flights out of New Zealand for a year.

Passengers are offered champagne on boarding and it's a tough choice: the 2006 Dom Perignon or the Krug 2004. Photo / Dean Purcell
Passengers are offered champagne on boarding and it's a tough choice: the 2006 Dom Perignon or the Krug 2004. Photo / Dean Purcell

It gets the full-page treatment in the elegant menu in a leather-bound folder that's presented to Suite dwellers, with a full page devoted to describing the beer and its back story.

The airline has a panel of wine connoisseurs, including the first Asian Master of Wine, Jeannie Cho Lee, to select the offerings.

Passengers are offered champagne on boarding and it's one of those tough choices - the 2006 Dom Perignon with its floral fruity tone, or the Krug 2004, a prestige cuvee blend of more than 120 wines from at least 10 different years and aged for a further six in cellars prior to release, so I learn from the menu.

Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell and craft brewer Laura Bell, of the US, sample some of the Garage Project's beers. Photo / Dean Purcell
Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell and craft brewer Laura Bell, of the US, sample some of the Garage Project's beers. Photo / Dean Purcell

Over the course of a flight the best idea is to try both. As for the rest of it, the selection is bewildering, ranging from the inevitable Singapore Sling to six blends of coffee and 10 different teas.

The bed

After all the food and drink there's nothing like a kip and again this is where a Suite stands out from First and Business classes.

Unlike other Premium class offerings the bed is not a converted seat but folds out of the wall of the cabin behind the seat.

It is 1.8m long. Julia made it up in no time, the styling is crisp yet cosy and there's a range of pillows. You get comfy pyjamas (unbranded) which come in four sizes and are a great practical souvenir.

The 1.8m-long bed folds out of the wall of the cabin behind the seat. Photo / Dean Purcell
The 1.8m-long bed folds out of the wall of the cabin behind the seat. Photo / Dean Purcell

There is no excuse for not having a few hours' sleep during the 10-and-a-half hour flight once you close the shades and put on the ''do not disturb'' light.

But if you're not sleeping there's more than 1000 entertainment options — movies, TV, music and radio shows. In the Suite you have a large 23-inch LCD screen and Bose noise-cancelling headphones. The Wifi works a treat and for Suite passengers there's 100Mb of complimentary data.

The amenity bag is a big one by Salvatore Ferragamo with a 30ml Eau de Toilette, lip balm, hand cream and a cleansing towel inside. You also get socks and slippers.

The bottom line

Travelling in a Suite is truly different to anywhere else on the plane.

The one-way Auckland to Singapore fare was just on $3700, and by international standards is at the lower end of the price for travel in this part of the plane.

For that, you're getting more food and beverage options than you can possibly deal with on the flight (a bit of research ahead of time would help), personalised service space (at least 10 times the floor area of Economy) and - most importantly - privacy.

That feeling of being alone on a plane with 450 passengers does take a bit of getting used to, but once you do the isolation is splendid and the friendly crew are chatty if you are.

And it's only going to get better for those in the ritziest parts of Singapore's A380s which are undergoing a $1.2 billion interior revamp. The Suites (with more of a hotel feel) are heading upstairs and they're getting bigger, six new ones will occupy the same space as the existing 12.

• Grant Bradley travelled courtesy of Singapore Airlines.