I’ve just had my first ‘Platinum’ experience with Singapore Airlines at Changi Airport, and it was atrocious.
I’m back in living hell, sitting on an A380 in 46D with an elderly gentleman’s jacket hanging over the central armrest pushed against the back of my seat, causing my spine to contort like a Cirque du Soleil performer. We haven’t even taken off, and he’s ignoring me, pretending to sleep while I try and push his jacket away.
But let me tell you about the morning I’ve had. It started at the Singapore Airlines Economy Check In counter where I was disturbed to find no priority line. I asked where it was and was redirected to another counter a hundred or so meters away, not before being asked if I had the appropriate credentials to use it. Upon arriving, I swiftly presented my Virgin Velocity Platinum Card. Now one would assume a smile or some consideration of special treatment being a Platinum member of an airline Singapore Airlines owns 23.11 percent of, I, however, wasn’t so fortunate.
My ticket was purchased for me, by a client, through a travel agent and couldn’t be upgraded, no matter how many points I was willing to throw at the problem. I ask if I can have an Aisle seat as close to the front of Economy as possible. The male clerk says I already have one, despite the fact I didn’t manage my booking at any stage. Surprised, I then ask him if he can assign me an aisle seat with a spare next to it, anywhere in the cabin, and he dismisses my question quicker than I’ve asked it.
He turns to my bag and rips last weeks Priority First Class Baggage tag off like it means nothing – it does mean nothing. Last week I was a Pharaoh, quaffing wine and eating figs with two attendants at my beck and call. This week I’m one of 10,000 Egyptian labourers, sliding 100kg suitcases like stones into the baggage hold with the rest of the Economy cabin.
My altercation then began.
“Which lounge am I entitled to use,” I ask the clerk.
“You’re not,” he replies.
“I’m sorry Boss I think you’re mistaken, this here is a Platinum Virgin Velocity Card.”
“But it’s not Gold,” he retorts.
“No, it’s not, it’s Platinum, which is above Gold.”
He continues to oppose me.
Now I’m getting shitty. Surely he has seen this card? Surely the staff are well-versed on partner airlines? Maybe I’m wrong?
I’m not wrong.
Get on your computer mate and find out what lounge I get to use because I’m nursing a two-day hangover from a Saturday session that began with a bucket of Bintangs on an Indonesian Golf Course at 8 am and finished 16 hours later with two bottles of Dom Perignon at Singapore’s favourite Expat dive Employees Only. He does, and without an apology, hands me a new boarding pass with the words, ‘Partner Priority’ now credited.
I amble over to the lounges and present my boarding pass at the SilverKris Lounge which I’d visited before boarding my various First Class trips in the past. Then I hear those three little words no one ever wants to hear waft from the mouth of the lounge lady, “I’m sorry sir.”
“You can only use the SilverKris lounge if you are holding a Business or First Class ticket,” she intones. She directs me around the corner to the Singapore KrisFlyer Gold Lounge where I present my pass for the second time, and enter.
Don’t let the name fool you folks, for the KrisFlyer Gold Lounge is anything but.
What welcomes me is a scene straight out of Hacksaw Ridge. The trenches are over following, bodies strewn across anything that will accommodate them. There’s debris everywhere, scattered plates, used glasses, food remains, rubbish, luggage, laptop cases, adapters and wires protruding from every power point in sight. There’s a melee of people jostling for food in the mess hall and others trying to find a seat that isn’t located in the centre of a stranger’s personal space. I’m speechless. I return to the desk and query my situation. “Are you sure this is where Virgin Velocity Platinum members are meant to relax pre-flight?” Yes, sir.
So I proceed to take some photos, and I apologise they aren’t great, I couldn’t justify getting the DSLR out to take them. I find a spot next to a fellow, navigate the soup kitchen on the table next to me to find a space for my laptop, and politely ask him how often he’s here and if it’s always like this. He says a couple of times a fortnight, and yes it is. He’s an Elite Gold KrisFlyer, and he has to put up with this one a week. “Oh well, that’s Singapore Airlines for you,” he remarks. God help us.
I’m in the lounge for a total of 13 minutes. A milky cappuccino from a derelict machine, a few bites of a stodgy Chicken sandwich from the trestle table and I’m out. I may as well go to Rolex and have a squizz or take a look at the Duty-Free Whisky selection. On my way out I pass by the SilverKris Lounge for the second time and ask to speak to the person in charge. I ask her how many people complain about the lounge I’ve just been in. She deflects. I ask again. A lot, she says. I ask to come into the SilverKris Lounge; she refuses me.
Had I not found a 1-litre bottle of Caol Ila for $63 AUD on the way to the gate I probably would have been more perturbed by the experience than I currently am. I’m on the plane, and I’ve just had a chat with the Cabin Manager about why my request to have a seat next to me, wasn’t granted when there’s clearly 30 odd spare middle seats free, and I’ve got a bloke’s elbow in my ribs. He says he’ll find me one but returns with the same three words I’ve become accustomed to hearing, “I’m sorry sir.”
What does being a Virgin Platinum Frequent Flyer get you when flying Economy on Singapore Airlines from Singapore? Not much is the answer. No relaxing lounge for a pre-flight bubbly, no special treatment at Check In or On Board. Sure you get Priority Check-in and boarding, but these perks don’t impact your experience as much as a neighbouring spare seat, or a pleasant lounge experience, or a personal welcome. Last year on an Economy Etihad flight from Paris I was greeted by name by the head stewardess and asked if I would like to move up to the reserved area for Priority guests. Singapore, you’re lucky if they recognise your Platinum Velocity card, let alone address you by name.
The Singapore KrisFlyer Gold Lounge is an abomination. It’s an embarrassment to the brand and an insult to the loyal customers. I can’t believe my friends based in Singapore choose to sit in this lounge when travelling for business. Maybe they don’t have a choice. Maybe that’s the problem.
If I had chosen to pledge my loyalty to Qantas, I’d be sitting in their Singapore lounge in a cordoned off ‘Platinum Only’ area getting my shoes shined. Or if I was leaving Hong Kong, I’d be trying to decide whether to visit Cathay Pacific’s The Wing, or The Pier, or Qantas’ lounge – three incredible lounges. But I’m not Platinum Qantas; I’m Platinum Virgin, and at Changi Airport, the hub of Singapore Airlines, I’ve chosen to read my Kindle at the boarding gate instead of sitting in the lounge because it was that shit. If I was in transit to Europe, after an 8-hour flight from Sydney, without the ability to shower (because there aren’t any on offer) my blood would be boiling.
It’s pretty clear I’m not impressed, nor are the folks who’ve reviewed the lounge on TripAdvisor.
I was pretty vocal about the Singapore Lounge in Sydney in a recent Business Class article I wrote. I also thought the Singapore Lounge in Hong Kong last week was tired and unimpressive. Perhaps Singapore is resting on its laurels, feeding off a reputation it earned a decade ago. All I know is, it’s time for a shake up, a refit, a reassess, because the Platinum experience I had at their hub was a sick joke, perhaps not as sick as the price of Dom Perignon at Employees Only, but hey, at least you could buy yourself one with the savings if you chose to fly Scoot instead.