Obviously didn't research the pyjamas thoroughly.It's not often we get to cry “Stop the presses!’’ from the luxury travel desk’s outer reach of the newsroom, so a shout-out this month to Singapore Airlines for sharing the ultimate first-world problem.
Figures show their first-class passengers are, on average, drinking 20 per cent more champagne. But the ability of the award-winning national carrier to keep pace with the extreme pointy end of its planes hangs in the balance due to a limited worldwide supply of the rare prestige cuvees it serves, such as Dom Perignon’s second Plenitude (P2), which retails for about $550 a bottle.
The problem is even more impressive when you consider that in the past few years, SIA has reduced the seating capacity in its first-class cabins by 40 per cent to make way for those roomy first-class suites with sliding privacy screens.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the amount of champagne being consumed on board in suites, first and business class,’’ says Singapore Airlines’ director of food and beverage, Antony McNeil.
“Our main challenge here is supply, as we need so much of it that many champagne houses cannot allocate that much stock to one company.’’
To demonstrate how seriously they’re taking this conundrum of guzzling passengers versus supply bottleneck, SIA rang a few weeks back to request that Sophisticated Traveller immediately fly first class to France’s Champagne region to test-drive alternatives the airline has put on hold as backup, should the Dom P2 levels drop dangerously low.
Who were we to refuse?
But as I strode towards the newsdesk, it occurred to me that asking if I could drop everything to spend the week quaffing vintage Dom Perignon, Krug and Moet champagne could (would) result in immediate dismissal. The news editors are well-versed in my luxury travel antics in the name of reader research, but even I wasn’t brazen enough to test their patience to this extreme.
So I returned to my desk, wondering mischievously if I could get my esteemed Melbourne colleague Kylie McLaughlin to risk her neck instead.
Don’t worry, she had the last laugh. Within 48 hours, Kylie was nestled in the clouds, relaxing in Singapore Airlines’ trademark soft fluffy Givenchy pyjamas, enjoying a box set on her fully flat bed (separate to the leather reclining chair), working through the champagne and wine list.
To be fair, she did send a midflight update: “Affirmative – champagne supply in pointy end in jeopardy. STOP. Much more research required on my part. STOP. Answers needed or other airlines sure to be affected. STOP. Expect full report at some stage. STOP.’’
Realising my error, I hit the phones to seek immediate uplift so I could gather important additions for her story. No such luck, but the statistics sent through by specialist airline sommeliers were fruity enough.
Let’s start with Qantas, whose customers drink their way through a staggering 5 million bottles of wine and champagne every year. The bulk of champagne (about two glasses a passenger) tends to be consumed pre-flight in the lounges, reports their creative director of food, beverage and service, Neil Perry. Once on board, shiraz and sauvignon blanc are the two most popular alcoholic choices at the pointy end, along with pinot noir. Overall, Qantas serves more red than white.
Just under 1 million glasses of champagne are poured in first and business cabins every year, mainly Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2006, according to Perry.
Over at Emirates, wine remains customers’ favourite tipple (especially the red bordeaux), but other categories are gaining ground – mainly gin, including a gin-based negroni cocktail.
Emirates also pours Dom Perignon P2 Plenitude, among other hard-to-get varieties.
To round out my findings, let’s conclude with some related statistics: eight out of 10 travellers aged over 18 will down at least one alcoholic drink in the airport before departure, and 90 per cent partake once in the air, according to Fractl market research. Which is an awful lot of strangers getting tipsy in confined spaces.
As for our intrepid reporter, Kylie was last seen with Singapore Airlines’ catering team, deep among the vines of rural northern France.
After confirming her safety, if not quite her sobriety, SIA’s McNeil offered a further insight into the problem: “We’re keeping our eye on up-and-coming champagnes with the quality to match the champagnes we are currently serving.’’
He added that a good solution could be “instead of serving the same champagne for an entire year, we may limit it to only three to four months so that we can work with smaller family champagne houses or showcase some unique blanc de blancs’’.
Rest assured, Kylie really took one for the team.
Kylie McLaughlin's review of the ‘‘Triple Crown’’ of champagne houses will be published in the next issue of Sophisticated Traveller on Friday, August 2.
Just a random thought for my first upcoming SQ F flight
I have a 3 day stopover in Singapore, and my next flight is early,
my partner is flying the virtually the same time out of SING but on a LCC
so since i have to get to the airport at like 5am, and she wont be able to get into the TPR, it looks like I wont be able to even take step into TPR
I havent called the customer service centre, but I read that there are no guests allowed in TPRCan't she go with you into the F lounge (which is conveniently a few steps before the TPR where you will go to check it out and not come back for a while). The F lounge will open earlier than the TPR too.
I think it unlikely. I was travelling with a friend recently. I was in SQ F and she was with another airline in J. They wouldn't even let her accompany me through the priority emigration process, let alone to the lounge.
interesting, Just spoke to SingairI think it unlikely. I was travelling with a friend recently. I was in SQ F and she was with another airline in J. They wouldn't even let her accompany me through the priority emigration process, let alone to the lounge.
100% no guests permitted in TPR - to access TPR you must hold a GOLD R BP dep or arr or a MAROON F BP dep or arr - holders of either can invite 1 guest into F Lounge for dep only - not arr. TBH I am not sure what dep BP guest must hold - ie *A or any - I have never tried to guest non *A BP holder so not sure.
ummm, whats the difference in colours of BP?100% no guests permitted in TPR - to access TPR you must hold a GOLD R BP dep or arr or a MAROON F BP dep or arr - holders of either can invite 1 guest into F Lounge for dep only - not arr. TBH I am not sure what dep BP guest must hold - ie *A or any - I have never tried to guest non *A BP holder so not sure.