Singapore Suites and the Etihad Apartment are typically ranked in the top two or three first class experiences available in the sky. I recently flew on both of these extravagant cabins as part of a round the world trip, where I got to freshin’ up in a shower on Etihad and down a little Dom Pérignon before getting some shut-eye on Singapore’s renown double bed. But how did these experiences compare to each other? Is it possible for one to outdo the other? Here’s a head to head comparison of my first class experiences with Singapore Suites vs. the Etihad Apartment.
The first class cabins
Both cabins have their own unique appeal.
The Singapore Suites cabin is a bit more traditional, but very charming with its wood-grain panels, interior window shades, and sliding doors that all have a bit of a cozy train cabin feel to them.
Some people think Singapore Suites look a little outdated since they have been around a while (since 2008), but I still think they’ve got a lot going on. There’s something about the design and the coloring of the cabin that just made me feel good when walking through it. It’s really a work of art.
The Etihad Apartment cabin comes with a bit more mystique. The apartments — lining just a single aisle — are more concealed, and the mystical boarding music playing as you enter along with the mosaic lighting and decor almost put you into a spell as you marvel at the over-the-top luxuriousness of the cabin.
Excluding the Residence, there are only 9 first class suites on board the Etihad A380, while there are 12 suites on board Singapore. When I flew them, our Etihad cabin was full (minus the Residence) and there were only 2 others on board our first class cabin but both experiences felt almost the same in terms of quietness and traffic (although I did have to wait on the lavatory with Etihad more).
In the end, I’d pick Etihad’s cabin over Singapore’s just because I felt the Etihad cabin felt a bit more high-class and intriguing.
In terms of appearance, both of the seats and seating areas of the suites are superb, boasting high-quality full grain leather seats, which are as comfy as they are nice to look at. The color scheme and arrangement of the seats are also pleasing to the eyes, and the tray tables on each are huge and easily accessible and stored (once you get the hang of it). I do somewhat prefer Singapore’s table that comes out of the desk versus the table that folds out of the arm rest on Etihad, as the former is a little easier to deal with.
And of course, there’s plenty of leg room to be found on both.
While both seats are top of the line luxurious, there are some key differences.
The Etihad Apartment seat has more of a “throne” feeling to it. I think it’s just as comfortable to sit in as the Singapore seat but the “grander” nature of the seat along with the bench or mini-sofa for a foot rest, puts more of a presidential stamp on the flying experience. In addition, the ultra-spacious set up just feels unlike anything else in existence right now, while the Singapore Suites still feel like you’re in a cabin… a really nice cabin, but still just a cabin.
With that said, if you’re flying with your partner and you really like to sit next to each other then Singapore Suites offer you more of what you’re looking for, as you’ll be able to talk directly to each other at all times without getting up out of your seat.
When you’re sitting in the Apartment, even with the doors open and partition down, you have no direct view of anyone else. The walls and doors themselves don’t seclude you as much as the deep inlet that your seat sits in does. This is great if you’re looking for the ultimate level of privacy to keep those nosy passengers at bay but it also means that you won’t be spending time next to your partner.
To me, the lack of direct access to your partner isn’t a very big deal. If it’s your romantic partner you’re flying with, you’ll be seeing them every second of every day probably while on your trip so what’s a few hours “away” from each other? Plus, you can still eat and sleep right next to each other while on the Apartment, so it’s not a deal breaker by any means.
So I’d say the Etihad Apartment boasts the better seat, but if I had to choose a winner for best seating arrangements for couples, I’d give it to Singapore.
Suite design and layout
The layout to the Singapore Suites is pretty simple and there’s nothing game-changing different about it (these days) other than the fact that it’s extremely spacious and beautifully designed. However, the simplicity of it is kind of what I like about it; it’s not over the top gaudy but more classic and cozy.
On the other hand, the layout to the Apartment is unlike any suite because it offers you your own mini-sofa along with a “vanity unit” so that your suite really does begin to feel like an apartment. In addition, you have the mini-bar, powered window shades, drawers, touch screens, and closet rack, all coming together in a highly fashionable and elegant way.
Personally, I prefer the Etihad Apartment design and layout over the Singapore Suites.
As stated before, the Etihad Apartment is simply unlike anything else and being in that suite just fills you with a certain kind of zen. The Singapore Suites are phenomenal as well, but they still retain a traditional cabin feel to them that, while ultra-luxurious and comfy, just doesn’t provide you with the same “I can’t believe I’m sitting here right now” feeling the Apartment does.
As far the as the functions and entertainment go, I’d probably give the edge to Etihad again.
The tv’s are reportedly about the same size but Etihad’s felt much larger (maybe I just didn’t realize how much closer I was). Also, the swivel feature of the tv when you’re lying down on Etihad is brilliant. In terms of content, both offered all of the movies and tv shows you’d probably be interested in or expect to see but Etihad has the added bonus of having live tv (that worked very well), split-screen feature (don’t think Singapore has that), and also multiple cameras to view your A380 from the outside and see what’s in front and below you. So for entertainment/tv set-up, I’d go with Etihad.
I feel like I’m really splitting hairs with this comparison since the service we received on both airlines was the best I’ve ever received… anywhere… doing pretty much anything.
However, because this is a comparison and I have to choose one, I’d give the nod to Singapore. I think it’s a little unfair to compare since the staff only had to tend to 4 people on my Singapore Airlines flight but Etihad was maxed out at 9. (Plus, I gave Singapore a heads up that I was doing a review and they seemed to have taken notice.)
But with that said, the service from the Singapore crew just felt a little more dedicated and seasoned. I really got the feeling what they wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it was going to take to make the flight memorable for me. Even on our business class flights, the service was exceptional and beyond expectations. Singapore Airlines is known for their outstanding customer service and after a few flights on both business and first class, I have to agree with the general consensus: they are the best in service.
This comparison is a bit skewed toward Singapore since I had stuffed myself at the Etihad First Class Lounge before our flight and never really developed a full appetite to take on a full 3 or 4 course meal in-flight. With that in mind, I still think I enjoyed the food and beverages more on Singapore Airlines.
Between the caviar and Dom Pérignon, I had one of the most luxurious meals I’ve ever had on Singapore. Then throw an amazing chicken dish with a beautiful and tasty dessert in and it’s easy to see why Singapore won me over.
Etihad’s dining experience was still rock solid and they offered quality champagne and wines, too. One thing that I really love about Etihad is that the chef greets you personally and strikes up conversation with you, allowing you to inquire about different meals and dishes that you might prefer. While the individual attention was appreciated, I still think the quality on board Singapore was just a level above Etihad in both presentation and taste.
It’s always nice to receive free stuff, but I have to confess that I rarely ever actually use anything in an amenity kit. For Singapore we received: cologne, lip balm, after shave and in the bathroom there were toothbrushes with tooth paste, razors, and a few other things. On Etihad, we got razors, a toothbrush and tooth paste, and some lotions and oils. Both also offered sleep masks and slippers. I think I got more from the Singapore amenities kit as the fragrance by Ferragamo was amazing and we actually kept it and intend on using it.
Both offer designer pajamas and both are very soft and comfortable. I think I preferred Etihad’s a little bit because they were a bit lighter and made it more comfortable for me to sleep, while Singapore’s baggy garments were pretty heavy and a bit warm for my liking.
Amenity kits and pajamas are great, but we all know what really matters when it comes to sleeping is the bed.
Singapore Airlines is one of the only major commercial airlines that offers the option of sleeping on a full-sized double bed. This in itself is a pretty marvelous feat and one that makes Singapore Suites feel special and unique once the bed is made.
For traveling duos on the Etihad Apartment, you’re able to lower the partition and “connect” half of your beds, so you feel like you’re sharing a bed, just not quite all the way. This arrangement is more comfortable and practical than it looks, as I felt like I had plenty of room on the bed, despite the beds appearing pretty narrow. The plus with Etihad is that if you want to get up from lying down and just sit in your seat and relax a bit, no problem.
I felt like the Singapore bed was more comfortable than Etihad’s but not by a long shot. I’m not sure if it was the mattress pad or the blankets, but I just felt more relaxed. It also helped that Singapore offered 3 pillows (versus the two offered by Etihad), since I’m somewhat of a pillow freak who likes to be surrounded by them when I sleep.
One thing I liked with Etihad was that the cabin was not nearly as warm as Singapore’s. The warmness made it a bit uncomfortable on board the Singapore A380, while the coolness of the Etihad cabin made it just perfect. This was honestly one of the only major knocks against Singapore during my flight.
Despite the temperature issue, in the end, sleeping on a double bed on a plane (with no partition) is a novelty that Singapore executes with near perfection, so I give the edge to them.
Shower and lounge facilities
This one’s pretty easy, since Singapore has neither a shower nor a lounge.
While the “The Lobby” lounge on Etihad is a nice feature, it’s not a bar area like Emirates or Qatar, so it’s kind of “just there.” It’s cool to check out and maybe hang around in for a little while but that’s about it. Maybe one day they’ll convert it into a shisha bar and make it worth our while. 😉
However, the shower is brilliant and is what puts the entire Apartment experience over the top, in my opinion. Taking a shower on a plane is really one of the coolest feelings I’ve experienced while traveling. It’s not only the fact of taking a shower on a plane that’s nice but the ability to freshen up just before landing just makes you feel so much better when you arrive to your destination, especially if you’re on a true long-haul flight.
Finally, when it comes to the lavatories (minus the shower), Etihad still wins with its more spacious and more ornately designed bathroom.
Right now, the Etihad Apartment is in a class of its own. Its product is just unique and everything from the cabins to the decor is over-the-top gorgeous and the epitome of class. Singapore Suites is still a fantastic option, however. It offers you exceptional service and world-class dining to go along with beautifully designed suites and the opportunity to sleep on a double bed in the sky. You can’t go wrong with either but if I had to choose one, it would have to be the Etihad Apartment.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.