Jo is keen to press me on the menu. When would I like dinner? And why not have both lobster and caviar to start?
Dessert? Have the Chocolate Delice and the Walnut Dacquoise with Praline Mousse. After all, Matt Moran recommends both.
If this is how the other half lives, I can see why they wear that self-satisfied smirk. It really is another world.
I had wafted past the usual queues at customs and, after a brief pause for duck pancakes and Veuve at the first class lounge (the laksa is a speciality I heartily recommend), I walked through a totally empty gate to my pod at the pointy end of flight SQ232 from Sydney to Singapore.
My seat had all the hallmarks of being something special. Seat A1 has to be almost on top of the pilot, right? And indeed, it is the first seat in First Class. Truly the pointy end – if there is such a thing in today’s modern aviation.
Cabin steward Ronnie is first on the scene with a very important question: Krug or Dom?
Like Jo, he has a simple solution to any sign of hesitation. “Try both,” he smiles.
I opt for Dom. Both champagnes seems, well, a little gauche.
And while we don’t mind trying two starters – especially caviar and lobster – two deserts seems just too indulgent.
I opt for Marinated Lobster with Mint Pea and Lemon Powder to start.
I am beginning to feel like the Sultan of Brunei. There are 10 first class seats on this Boeing 777 400 and I am the only passenger. No wonder Jo is keen for me to try everythuing.
SIA is putting some serious marketing behind its first class offering, believing that well-heeled passengers have had enough of budget airlines. Cruise passengers are prime targets. A fair percentage that travel to Europe upgrade. And that makes them fair game for First or even Suite Class.
And I must say it’s wonderful to be looking at a screen almost the size of my Samsung at home while Jo fusses over my magazines and tosses my Boston Lobster, ordered online through the superbly efficient “book the cook” program, which offers pre-ordered 10 dishes.
I’ve already been given socks, slippers pyjamas and warm nuts. My goodie bag is Ferrgamo Acqua Essenziale – an eau de toilette that combines airy and Mediterranean notes and woody accords for a fresh and contemporary fragrance. I get after-shave balm and lip salve in a neat grey bag.
Sadly, we are aboard a Boeing 777-300. No suites and no upper deck.
But I do get a seat 10 inches wider than business class and with a pitch twice that of economy. The important question: is it worth it?
First class from Sydney to Singapore starts from $4023 on Singapore Airlines’ website, and business is $1281 cheaper at $2742 while Premium Economy – a strong contender for cruisers with a bigger, better seat and more leg room at $1739.
I opt for an early dinner as the thought of a flat bed and sleep is looking better than moves like Hail, Caesar! and Eddie the Eagle.
Matt Moran is one of SIA’s panel of chefs. His starter is sensational. The lobster slices with pea and lemon are perfect.
The thermidor is good, too. Full marks to the seafood. Sadly, the rice and slightly soggy asparagus are a bit of a let down. I have to wield the pepper mill vigorously!
And those desserts. Well, sorry, Jo. I did have both. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred the choc tops down the back. The chocolate was certainly sticky, but the ice cream was of indeterminate taste, and the cake wouldn’t come off the spoon.
Not to worry. That flat bed is looking inviting and we have another five hours to go.
Jo makes up a flat bed on another seat and offers pyjamas. My Bose noise cancelling headphones are looking tempting. And this is where the value lies, so to speak.
Flat beds are not new. But they do make a big different. I sleep soundly, only woken by Jo for coffee and a light snack before we land.
Normally, Melatonin and a stiff Scotch sends me off to sleep with the noise-cancelling headphones strapped to my ears, a mask over my eyes and a blanket over my head. It cuts out the noise of those merry youngsters found on almost every flight these days.
But this time, bliss – I just slept. And slept.
As flights go, this was a smooth operation with lots of luxe. But then, I’ve been flying Singapore Airlines for three decades, and it is almost always a smooth, efficient experience.
Of course, the service was way more attentive; the food was good, the champagne lovely, the seat was spacious and the entertainment system worked well.
But Singapore’s First Class is up against its own excellent service in all parts of the plane. Business Class is an excellent experience on Singapore Airlines – particularly the Upper Deck of an A380, my all time favourite place in the air.
Many airlines like Emirates – and, on some routes, Singapore too – are considering scrapping first class for more business and premium economy seating.
With many river cruise companies out of Australia pushing business class as an option, it isn’t hard to see why.
So was it worth it? To be crass – because, let’s face it, flying First is a class thing – was it worth an extra $1281?
If money is no object, then sleeping on a fully flat bed in your own pyjamas after a dinner of Matt Moran lobster is certainly special. And having Jo and Ronnie attend to my every whim was nice.
But you know what they say: if you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.
I returned in my habitual location – aisle seat in economy – for the return to Sydney. My lobster was replaced with braised chicken and Chinese herbs and fish filet with Thai yellow sauce. As usual, it was fine. Singapore Airlines is one of the few I trust with a fish dish, and they invariably get it just right.
Admittedly, the entertainment screen had shrunk to the size of an Apple watch, and legroom was a tight 32 inches (81 cms).
But the price difference is $3061. Never has the time-honoured phrase been more apposite: You pay your money and take your choice.