What It’s Like As A Business Class Connecting Passenger In Singapore Right Now

Reader Carol N was flying to the U.S. from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Singapore and its subsidiaries no longer serve the city, and she was looking to redeem her KrisFlyer miles. Thai Airways isn’t even operating to Bangkok with its own planes right now, so she bought a Thai VietJet flight to Bangkok to start her Singapore Airlines business class award to Los Angeles.

Interesting tidbit about the Thai VietJet flight. Not only wasn’t the low cost carrier serving meals on the 370 mile, one hour and fifteen minute flight, but passengers “we were barred from bringing food or water aboard” themselves – “snacks were confiscated” and “bringing on your own bottled water forbidden.” Oddly “the flight crew, however, happily cooked and ate their meals and drank their bottled water at the back of the aircraft.”

For the two and a half hour, thousand mile trip from Bangkok to Singapore in business class, she reports four passengers in the cabin and single tray hot meal service.

Where the trip entered the post-apocalyptic pandemic zone was for the connection in Singapore,

Arrival in [Singapore Changi airport]: escorted to “premium class waiting area” by hazmat-suited staff and given I.D. wristbands – (KrisFlyer Lounge is closed to all except Singapore departure passengers).

We were forbidden to enter Duty Free shops – or any shops at all. Arrived at the waiting area where we are treated to instant coffee (styrofoam cups), Cokes, bottled water and … Oreos.

We can order food with a QR code – a special menu choice of microwaved Mac & Cheese, Rigatoni Bolognaise or Green curry rice.

The premium class waiting area for connecting passengers has so restroom here and we are not allowed to leave. Our connection to LAX is in 8 hours.

Singapore Airlines does a phenomenal job under difficult circumstances. I’d be happy flying them from Asia to North America right now, compared to alternatives. Plus it would mean I’d been allowed in Asia! But flying right now isn’t like flying in the Before Times, at least to and from places that have largely contained Covid-19.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The Thai government has mandated a ban on the consumption of all food and drink on domestic flights within Thailand. This policy ran for a few months in the second half of last year and then was re-introduced in January this year. This was mainly to enforce 100% mask compliance. Some passengers were ensuring they had something to nibble on or drink the entire flight so they didn’t have to wear a mask.

    Onboard airline magazines are also banned although passengers are allowed to bring their own reading material on.

  2. @Gary – is there a reference somewhere that lists permissible connecting airports in Asia? I didn’t even know that you could transit SIN and I have a trip to Bali planned for October that I may need to revise.

  3. Even before COVID, many Asian LCCs prohibit the consumption of your own food/drink on board, including water. At least this applies to AirAsia, Scoot, and HK Express. I don’t think it was always strictly enforced though.

  4. I love it–what you call the “Before Times”, aka BT.

    Thanks for the update, because I am planning a Fall trip NOW but trying to figure out what will be an open (meaning, cafes, restaurants, services) environment THEN. My hopes are going maskless are practically nil, even in the US, until the anit-vaxxers give in and start getting vaxxed up to the 60% range.

    Anyway, I’m really appreciating the scattered feedback here and there, it’s like getting Morse code signals from Mars–occasional glimpses of what is going on in other parts of the universe.

    I’m watching carefully the vax rates in Europe, seems some countries are moving at a faster pace than others: Example: Lithuania is moving much faster than neighboring Latvia, and doesn’t require quarantine with proof of vaccination.

    For those interested, there is a great site that can predict, at current rates, when 179 different countries will achieve another 10% vax rate with current vax supply. Of course, this will all speed up when Pfizer/BNT, Curevac, and Novavax all start adding supply to the European pipeline within the next few months. Hence, my bets on a relatively decent trip to Europe in early Q4 2021.


  5. Thks for posting Gary.

    1. I assume the tickets here are separate and it is not 1 thru-ticket?
    2. If they are separate tickets, it looks like she can stay air-side in the quarantine area still? In pre-pandemic, Changi allows transit pax to stay airside with separate tickets, but only on non-LCC carriers (eg SQ inbound GA outbound, but not SQ inbound AK outbound).

  6. You can’t transit Changi unless you are on SQ-SQ or a small number of other airlines (LH or LX I believe) on one ticket . No self connecting.

    You CAN go to the transit hotel on a long connection

    If you are originating in a “low risk” country – Aus, NZ, Taiwan, Brunei, China I think are all of them then you are also free to use the shops & Silverkris lounge with Singapore originating passengers

    Note that there have been several incidents in the last few days of Changi staff testing positive for COVID-19 so this could all be subject to change at short notice

  7. At least Singapore has a working lounge, even with limited service. Flew Business Class on Star Alliance airline recently and the lounge was not operating.

  8. The grandeur of SQ and other premium-focused airlines will end until they realize that covid is not going away; it will be endemic just like the flu.
    Depending on the direction passengers are going, other airlines will benefit for those passengers that are willing to travel.

  9. there’s nothing to CONTAIN. Lockdowns, masks working…all an illusion. Just HEALTH and weather. See Texas and Iowa for US State level examples. Where’s the spike after re-open.

    Oh…SE Asia had it “contained” sure…look at them now (Which is due to vax rollout btw).

    Uruguay had it “contained” sure…

    Seychelles #1 (or #2) vax place…look at them now. Shutting down.

    See Twitter feed – Miss Conceptions

  10. I’m currently in Thailand. Been here a month after 7 day Q.
    Unbelievable time to travel here. No one here traveling! Hotels at or near 0% occupancy. I was at the Conrad Hilton Koh Samui the other day and was the only customer!
    Currently in Koh Sok National Park. Empty! Will never experience this again. Getting fantastic upgrades using points at great hotels like Cape Fahn, Conrad, Renaissance, Intercontinental, and Sheraton Pranburi villas in Hua Hin on the drive south.
    Flight over had 40 on the flight. Regret spending business class miles when I could have had a whole row in coach.
    Thailand is freaking over 2,000 cases (equivalent of 10,000 in USA based on population). Requiring Covid checks when leaving Red Zone provinces for non-vaccinated. That’s keeping locals home. Few tourists due to the Q.
    Great time to be a vaccinated tourist.

  11. Why not just vaccinate the airport staff? How complicated is that? Certainly a wealthy country like Singapore could afford to procure some Pfizer & Moderna.

    Me thinks many governments prefer the new normal = permanent lockdown and control of individual citizens, rather than common sense solutions that would end the lockdown.

  12. Recent experience: the lounges in Doha are fully operational. The Star Alliance lounge at GRU is open with limited food and drink options. The AC domestic lounge in YYZ is open with limited service; the international and signature lounges were closed. UA lounges in ORD were open last time i passed thru. Lounges at YUL are closed. I’m taking QR from CGK to GRU in two weeks. I’m keen to see whether CGK has lounges open.

  13. Hey Boraxo, the airport staff in Singapore ARE already vaccinated and are also tested regularly (every 2 weeks or month).
    Make of that what you will, they’ve tested positive even after vaccinations. Singapore has tightened restrictions in the past week due to a fairly significant rise in cases (statistically significant, not in absolute numbers).
    But of those cases, ~25% were already vaccinated.

  14. Many would have considered Changi number one in the world for passenger experience in before times. Now I wonder if it’s in the top 1,000. These countries that have been relatively successful in controlling COVID all seem also to be very slow to get their people vaccinated, thus leaving themselves wide open to the horrific spikes other places have seen. We will defeat COVID when a good majority of the people are vaccinated, as Israel and the U.K. are showing now.

  15. @whocares

    Please move to India or Brazil; they’re the places who walk your talk. As for the rest of us, we like to have working health care and not dying by the thousands everyday.

  16. @DaveS if you send 8 million doses of Pfizer and/or Moderna vaccine to Singapore, I can guarantee you they will have the world’s highest vaccination rate within a couple of months.

    But you can’t because the US government would jail you. Hence the issue.

  17. Re: Boraxo, DaveS…,

    Do keep up with current news and stop spreading ignorant comments.

    Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate all airport staff, followed back to back with the hospital, hospitality and education sectors. The fact that despite some still testing positive after vaccinations are currently under a global study of how possibly virulent variants, especially from India, are immune to the current vaccine regiment.

    Although a small silver lining is emerging that infected post vaccinated persons display no or much milder symptoms, we must still practice social distancing and personal hygienic measures to ensure that all best efforts to
    contain & manage this virus are not hijacked prematurely with complacency.

  18. @loungeabuser there are bathrooms in the “holding” areas as well.

    @Boraxo they have vaccinated many (all?) of their airport staff, SQ crew etc. There have still been some infections of cleaners and other staff (particularly with the “Indian” strain) and Singapore is making reasonably good progress with general vaccinations and is offering a “exception” progress for residents who need to travel to get theirs

  19. The way the vaccines work, it would be entirely possible for workers to test positive after vaccination when under a frequent-testing regime. The primary goal of the vaccine is to prevent death and severe disease. It is entirely possible, as with the flu vaccine, that you could become infected for a short period after exposure, and that viral counts could be high enough for detection in a routine screening. This is all to say that while the Singapore government may be going nuts over an 88-year old airport cleaner testing positive, the fact that none of the affected workers have needed hospital care demonstrates that the vaccines are working as intended. What this also goes to show is that, ironically, the countries that have done the best job at containment/control of the virus will have the most difficulty opening up, since every new infection is national news.

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