I spend 22 hours in Singapore, which just gives me enough time to have a rest, get some food and have a shower. And now I’m off again. This is one of those slight detours I mentioned previously… The reason why I’m taking it, or rather, one of the reasons I’m taking it, is that I’ve been wanting to try China Airlines for some time now and it’s also been a while since I logged a new airline. As I write that, I can literally just see my friend, the wiry R. doing an exaggerated eye roll.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
In Singapore, I’m staying at the Sofitel City Centre, which is on the MRT line that goes to Changi. It’s twelve stops from the hotel to where the line branches off for the airport. The journey from the Sofitel to the airport takes me close to an hour to complete.
My first stop of course, is at the MRT service desk, where I return my travel card and have the depot refunded in cash.
China Airlines checks in at Terminal 3 in Changi and their counters are located on row 11, right in front of the escalators that bring you up to the departures hall from the station.
I’ve already checked in online, but seeing as I’ll still have to go to a counter to pick up my boarding passes, I figure I might as well drop off my carry-on suitcase so at least I won’t be carting that around with me.
LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
China Airlines is one of only four carriers to use the DNATA lounge in Terminal 3. In all honesty, it’s not a very pleasant place. That last time I visited was with the tall, blond M. and it hasn’t improved much since. It’s also very hot inside. So I leave the lounge after only spending about ten minutes there and head one floor down to the food court for a bowl of noodles.
The views downstairs are much better too, as the windows in the lounge are covered in dots. What kind of cruel soul does that…?
The flight is late arriving from Taipei, which is why boarding is delayed by about thirty minutes. In Singapore, the security check takes place at the gate. In other words, there is no centralised security checkpoint. This can be a bit of a nuisance at times, but seeing as the flight is delayed, most passengers are already in the holding area by the time I reach the gate.
Oh yes, and there are no loos in the holding area. So think twice before you enter… The first boarding call is for passengers in Business Class and passengers with children and other disabilities. There’s a separate air bridge for Business Class passengers leading to the L1 door. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.
As it happens, I’m the first to enter the aircraft, so I take the opportunity to take a few photos before the masses arrive. Initially, I’m on 1A and there’s another person sitting on 1B. But the seat pair on the other side of the aircraft is still empty, so once we’re airborne, I pack up my things and shift to seat 1K, which is also a window seat but has nobody sitting on the aisle seat. So now I can really spread out!
The Airbus A 330 is one of my favourite aircraft, because I think it’s just so elegant to look at. This example though, is clearly starting to show its age on the inside. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration and the inflight entertainment system seems almost prehistoric! The flight time is announced as four hours and ten minutes, so I think I’ll live…
There is one feature of the seat that’s quite irritating: the position of the armrest between the two seats is awkward. On the one hand, it’s uncomfortable to rest your arm on it. But also, more than once I accidentally hit one of the buttons to extend the seat into a bed or raise the footrest inadvertently.
There isn’t really very much I can say about the crew. Their English language skills appear to be much better than those of crews working for the airlines of mainland China. But other than that, interaction with the crew is limited.
The service begins on the ground with a welcome drink, served with a packet of nuts and Japanese crackers. To drink there is a choice of champagne, water or orange juice. Once that has been cleared away, the crew distribute cold, scented towels.
After take-off, thick slippers and the menus are distributed for those passengers who haven’t already ordered their food. I should perhaps explain that the China Airlines app is really good and allows you to pre-order the meals for all your flights, even if you do not have any special dietary requirements.
As I already mentioned, the flight time is just slightly more than four hours. This means that in Business Class the first service consists of a drink and three small canapés. The main meal is served about ninety minutes out of Taipei.
The canapés are: duck, crab meat with apricot and bell pepper with tomato pesto.
Exactly two hours out of Taipei, the lights in the cabin are turned on to bright again and the smell of hot food comes wafting through the cabin.
The meal consists of:
Prawns with a ginger and mango salsa and salmon with crème fraiche and capers.
Herb crusted fillet of beef in a red wine sauce with mashed potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin.
Bowl of fruit and a choice of either ice cream or a coffee and chocolate mousse cake.
I’m not really sure what exactly I was expecting from the meal service on China Airlines, but this is actually very tasty and much better than what I was expecting. The salmon and the prawns are not at all fishy, the beef is perfectly cooked for my taste and tender, and the mashed potato is divine and so creamy!
I finish the meal with another cup of black tea from the Sun Moon lake region of Taiwan and then close my eyes until it’s time to land.
Eventually, we arrive in Taipei at 18h50, with a delay of only five minutes. The last time I was in Taipei was exactly 11 years ago. Alas, the airport hasn’t really changed much during that time. It’s still an odd layout, old and gloomy and seriously unattractive. I now have nearly five hours to make my connecting flight.