I have not idea what it was like for others of course, but many moons ago, for me as a student studying linguistics, I often wondered if I’d made the right choice. I used to worry I wouldn’t be able to find a job once I graduated or that I’d end up doing something I didn’t really enjoy for a loss of anything better to do.
Fortunately, with a lot of luck and a bit of help, things worked out. But little did I imagine back in those days what my life would be after I graduated. Today I consider myself very fortunate in that my work is something I really enjoy. My work has also allowed me to travel the world and meet so many fascinating people.
Looking back, there are a few moments that have stuck in my memory. Mainly, because I recall thinking to myself at the time: ‘How on earth to you end up here…?’. For example, the first time I gave a speech in the great assembly hall at ICAO HQ in Montreal. I wasn’t too phased by the audience of about 300 delegates watching. But I must confess, as a life long aviation geek it just gave me such a thrill knowing that the front of the podium I was standing behind was embalzoned with the ICAO logo.
Another such ‘how on earth’ moment was the trip I made in 2013 to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei to attend a conference on the implementation of the ICAO language proficiency requirements. My colleague the flying Dutchman eventually ended up on the evening news and I made into the daily papers. In particular, I remember sitting next to an Indonesian captain at lunch, who was capable of flawlessly saying ‘Ja, ich han gärn Rösti’ – a phrase he picked up during his training at Swissair for his type rating on the MD-11. The phrase means ‘yes, I like Rösti’. He also had a few swear words and obscentities he could do in Swiss German, which certainly kept me entertained through lunch. But let’s not go there.
Another thing I remember about Brunei is that apart from being vey friendly, most of the locals I met were, in some form or other, related to the Sultan. Whereever I went, I was introduced to people who would mention, by way of greeting, that ‘yeah, he is my cousin…’.
And so it goes without saying that the Sultan even features in my departure from Bunei on my way back home to Switzerland via Singapore.
At the Airport
My flight to Singapore is scheduled to depart in the late afternoon, to connect to the night time service to Zürich. Brunei airport is a decently sized facility. It’s also very quiet.
The Business Class lounge is located on the first floor of an odd structure that looks as though it had been haphazardly plonked in the middle of the airside lounge area as an afterthought. For all I know, quite possibly that’s actually true.
The facilities at the lounge are fairly basic, but it has a good internet connection and the seating options are comfortable enough. Generally speaking, my one complaint about the whole terminal building is that views of the outside are very difficult and generally obstructed in one form or other.
Eventually, I see my aircraft from Singapore gliding down to land between the shutters. The aircraft slows to taxi speed, turns right off the runway and onto the taxiway – and then stops. The engines are turned off and a set of stairs is brought to the L1 door of the aircraft. Next, a red carpet is rolled out from the bottom step. Around the same time, a long line of about twelve black limousines line up, parallel to the aircraft.
One or two persons at a time emerge from the aircraft, walk down the stairs and into the first waiting limousine. The car drives off, and another two persons emerge and do the same thing. Until eventually, the last car leaves. The stairs are removed with the red carpet, the aircraft is hooked to a tug and subsequently towed to the gate. By this time the return flight’s departure time is just coming up.
Eventually, boarding starts with quite a delay. I have a long layover in Singapore, so I’m not all that bothered. But some of the other passengers are looking decidely concerned about their connection in Singapore.
The crew are in a mad rush to get passengers settled as quickly as possible. But that is no reason for the fabulous Singapore girls to forget their manners. Once boarding is completed, the lead flight attendant in the red Kebaya comes through the cabin to welcome every passenger on board individually and apologize for the delay. When she reaches my seat, I ask her what the black limousines were all about. She explains to me that apparently, his royal highness was on a state visit with his entourage but his aircraft went tech. As a result, the poor man had no other option but to suffer the inconvenience of booking the whole of the First and Business Class section for his return trip on a ‘commercial’ airline. I find that kind of ironic though, because the Sultan has a current type rating for the B747, an A 340 and a Gulfstream that he owns…
Once we’re airborne, the service begins with welcome drinks. I have a glass of apple juice, which is served with a packet of mixed nuts.
The First Course
For the first course, there is a small bowl of salmon sashimi served with a bit of salad and pickles.
The Main Course
For the main course, I have the Nasi Uduk with fish. It’s basically a plate of steamed coconut rice that is served with pieces of fried fish, a boiled egg and some dried fish and peanuts for condiments. It’s very tasty. And the size of the portion is decent too!
For dessert I have a chocolate brownie with vanilla sauce, which makes a change from those dreadful creams many other airlines offer and that are so generic and usually not very tasty either…
Eventually we land in Singapore with quite a delay. Which suits me well, because it shortens the time of my layover in Singapore.
I’m staying at the Changi Crowne Plaza Hotel, which has direct access to
Terminal 3. I spend a blissfully lazy Saturday by the pool. I mean, what else
could you possibly ask for? I have a room that opens directly onto the pool,
it’s warm outside and all I have to do to watch the aeroplanes taking off is to
look up from my Kindle whenever I hear one thundering by.
Getting to the Airport
To get from
the hotel to Terminal 1, I exit the hotel on the second floor level and do two right
turns, which brings me to the Skytrain station for the short trip across to
France check-in counters are on the very first row of counters when you enter
Terminal 1 coming from the direction of the Skytrain. You really can’t miss
check-in is available, but it is not possible to save the boarding pass to
Passbook or to have it printed. Still, it makes no difference to me, seeing as
I’ll be checking in a suitcase anyway. There is one counter for La Première,
four for SkyPriority and two baggage drop-off counters for Economy Class
bit of a hold up checking in. I’m not sure what’s going on, but the agents are
taking their sweet time processing the passengers. Although admittedly, it
probably doesn’t help that there’s one woman travelling on her own with, and I
kid you not, five large Rimowa suitcases, four rucksacks, two laptop bags and
one handbag. When the check-in agent breaks the news to her that, surprisingly,
she’s exceeded her baggage allowance, she looks totally surprised…
uses the DNATA lounge in Terminal 1, which is fairly big but also very busy
when I arrive. There’s hardly anywhere left to sit. The lounge has a good
selection of hot and hold dishes and a wide selection of drinks. Other than
that, it’s not a particularly memorable lounge.
will be departing from gate D34, and on the boarding pass it says that boarding
will commence at 22h30 for the 23h10 departure. I figure 22h30 indicates the
time to report at the gate for the security check. Luckily, there is a separate
and much shorter queue for SkyPriority passengers. Just as I’m packing away my
things, boarding for the flight starts, with an invitation for SkyPriority
passengers to board first.
Boeing B 777-300ER Air France has a reverse herringbone configuration, with the
window seats facing towards the windows for more privacy. The seat is fully
lie-flat and has more than enough storage space. USB and electricity plugs are also
available. The seat is quite wide, so that when in the fully flat position,
there’s still enough space to toss and turn in your sleep.
two Business Class cabins, one forward of the L2 door and the other aft of it.
I am sitting in the forward cabin on 4A, which is the second row in the forward
cabin with four rows of seats.
and seat are kept in Air France’s colours – white, red and blue – and look very
attractive and fresh. When I arrive at my seat, a pillow, blanket and slippers
have already been placed at my seat.
The crew on
this flight are excellent. They’re quite senior and they do an outstanding job.
Throughout the flight they’re checking that the snack bar is replenished and
the toilets are regularly checked, kept stocked and clean.
boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the welcome drinks.
There is a choice of champagne or fruit juice on the tray, but other drinks are
also available on request. After that, scented hot towels are handed out.
time is announced at thirteen hours and twenty minutes.
airborne, the crew distribute the menus and pass through the cabin with a tray
offering more champagne.
the plan was that I’d eat in the lounge and just go straight off to sleep once
we’re airborne. Which is why I nearly overdosed on the creamy mashed potatoes
they had in the lounge. That and the fact that I’m just a sucker for a good
plate of mash… In any case, I make the mistake of looking at the menu and
decide that it does all sound rather interesting. And I’m not really tired yet anyway,
so… bugger it. I’m in!
tray arrives with the first course, the salad and the cheese already on it.
tuna in a black pepper crust, served on quinoa salad and poached shrimp on a
citrus salad with cucumber and a yuzu vinaigrette.
This is a
tasty dish and the presentation works well. It’s also properly seasoned (which
is something Singapore Airlines didn’t manage quite so well…).
comes with a small bottle of balsamico mixed with olive oil. It’s mostly leaves
but it’s still a fairly large salad. With that the crew offer a selection of
Penne with a
mushroom ragout, roast tomatoes and garlic oil.
There is a
choice of four different dishes for the main course. The pasta is good and has
managed not to go all hard and rubbery as it sometimes tends to do on a plane.
The ragout is flavourful and creamy.
it doesn’t say anywhere what the cheeses are, but they’re very good!
praline éclair, violet mousse, yuzu meringue tart and strawberry sorbet.
there is a choice of either ice cream (banana, vanilla or strawberry sorbet) or
three small pastries. I initially go for the pastries, but then the flight
attendant tells me that the strawberry sorbet out of Singapore is usually
rather nice too. Just in case I’m interested. Oh very well then, bring it on.
Je souffre en silence…
meal, the crew set up a fairly substantial buffet in the galley with a good
selection of some delectable French sweets by Fauchon, sandwiches, noodle soups
And I go off
to the land of nod for a solid seven hours. Incidentally, the blankets Air
France provides in Business Class are lovely. They’re cosy and warm and fluffy.
kit is some special edition to commemorate Air France’s 85th
jubilee. It may not necessarily look like much, but at least it contains some
useful items, including eye shades, ear plugs, a toothbrush and Signal
toothpaste, a comb, and a pen.
The Second Service
service begins ninety minutes out of Paris. The lights come on and passengers
are given a scented hot towel to revive.
The tray arrives with the hot meal and all the other items already on it. There are three choices for the hot meal. My meal consists of:
crêpes in a vanilla sauce with a passion fruit and mango salsa
breakfast is quite substantial and the hot meal is simply divine. This is total
comfort food. The vanilla cream is rich and not overly sweet and the pancakes
are light and thin.
forty minutes out of Paris, we start our initial descent into Paris. The
captain comes on to inform us that we’ll be doing an automatic landing in Pairs
because visibility on the ground is very bad.
We touch down, the mighty triple seven gives us one last impressive roar as the reversers open to slow us down, and then it’s done. We’ve landed and I’m back in Europe. By the time we arrive at our gate in Terminal 2E it’s already 06h10. I now have just slightly over an hour to make my connection back to Zürich from Terminal 2F.
I was going to start by saying that I’m on my way home. But given that I’ll only be home for something like 24 hours, let’s just say that, sadly, it’s time for me to leave Sydney and head back to Europe. I’ve enjoyed being here! Fortunately, I know I’ll be back next year and then I’ll be able to spend a bit more time here. Otherwise, I think I’d be seriously depressed at the prospect of returning to the cold, snowy weather!
Getting to the Airport
One last time, I make the journey on the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. And what a lovely day it’s turned out to be for it. At Circular Quay I change to the train, which pulls into the station just as I reach the platform. The only difference is that today I will be going one stop further, to the international terminal.
Singapore Airlines checks in on row K, which is the last row of check-in counters, farthest away from the escalators that bring you up to the departures concourse. There is a separate line with two counters for Suites passengers. When I arrive, both counters are already occupied, so I’m swiftly ushered to one of the Business Class counters instead.
From check-in, you have to make the schlepp all the way back to row C, which is where the entrance to the fast track is located. Although in this case, I might as well not have bothered, because the e-gate reader cannot read my biometric passport. As a result, I have to walk all the way back in the direction from where I came, because that’s where the staffed immigration counters are located. And then once I’m through immigration, I’m ushered all the way back again in the direction of the e-gates, because that’s where they’ve just opened a new queue for security that the queue manager wants to me to join.
With that done,
I’m finally airside and head straight for the Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge
near gate 61, from where my flight will be leaving. And that’s quite a schlepp
The Silver Kris Lounge
Airlines operates its own lounges here in Sydney, and there is a dedicated First
Class lounge. It’s a fairly big lounge, and I even manage to grab a seat by the
windows overlooking the apron. Cool!
seated, the waiter brings me a refreshing hot towel and the à la carte menu.
There’s also a buffet with warm dishes to choose from.
The lavatories seem to be a bit of a problem at Sydney airport, in that they’re not exactly the cleanest. And those in the lounge are no different…
starts at 11h45. Suite passengers queue with the Business Class passengers for
the upper deck.
All in all, I
find the Singapore Airlines Suites experience on the ground somewhat
underwhelming, especially if you compare it to Air France (sorry, I can’t help
it…). In fact, it feels a lot more like Business Class than First Class, but
maybe that’s just me.
Currently, SQ 232 is the flight out of Sydney that is operates in the new First Class configuration. The key feature of the Suite is that there is a separate bed, in addition to the seat.
At a glance, the Suite looks very nice. There is a lot of storage space and the video screen is enormous. There are a few things which seem a bit strange though, such as the fake orchids in every Suite. I think either they should go for real orchids or nothing at all.
Another thing that strikes me, is that during the meal service, when the seat is turned towards the table, you’re facing the aisle, which means that during the whole meal service you and the person sitting in the Suite opposite are looking at each other. I suppose you could keep the door to your suite closed while you eat, but that just seems strange. You also can’t recline your seat when it’s in the forward facing position.
And finally, it should also be noted that the Suite is not really that private, because the dividers don’t reach that far up. I’m 184 cm tall, and could look over the top.
The Singapore Airlines Suite reminds me of what Etihad has installed on its A 380s. But I prefer Singapore Airlines’ solution, because despite the things I mentioned above, this still is a very nice product. What’s more, with all the available space it feels more like an actual room than a seat.
Oh yes, and the loos are huge…!
B&O earphones, the amenity kit and the menu are already at my seat when I arrive. There are also socks and slippers, which are stored in the large closet of each Suite. Once I’m seated, the crew come to welcome me on board and bring me, in short sequence, a glass of Perrier with lemon, a refreshing towel and the pyjamas. The lead flight attendant in the red kebaya introduces herself to me and explains how everything in the Suite works.
The crew seem friendly enough. They’re chatty and engage easily with the passengers. There’s not a hint of the robotic behaviour the Singapore Airlines crews are sometimes criticised for. I think what it is, is that the whole service comes across like a highly optimised process. As a result, it doesn’t exactly feel very exclusive.
As I already
mentioned, while we’re still on the ground the crew offer refreshments and I ask
for a glass of sparkling water with lemon.
airborne, another crew member comes to take my order for lunch and asks me at
what phase of the flight I’d like to eat. Given that it’s already gone lunch time,
I tell her I’d prefer to eat straight away.
while later, she returns with the Singapore Sling I ordered (I mean, what
else…?) and a small bowl of warm nuts.
The meal service on this flight is efficient and timed at a pleasant pace. Clearly, the crew want to make sure passengers have enough time to rest. About one hour after our departure from Sydney, the table is set for the meal. There is no amuse bouche to start, but there are so many courses that it’s probably better this way.
The First Course
Seared Salmon with pickled kohlrabi and an edamame and wasabi purée. The salmon is good, but the rest of the dish is a bit bland. I think maybe the food is still too cold, because I can hardly make out any of the other tastes.
Sweetcorn and shellfish soup with herb oil. Now this is a very flavourful soup with a hint of saffron. It tastes like summer on the Mediterranean.
Honey roasted beet salad with feta cheese. The salad is also very good, with the feta complementing the beets nicely.
The Main Course
Pan roasted grouper with salsa verde. I chose this dish despite the fact that it’s served with fennel, which I can’t stand. I just don’t much feel like meat. The taste is good, it’s a nice piece of fish and they’ve managed to keep it moist. But again, I can’t really make out the taste of the salsa verde.
Chocolate marquise with caramelised pecans. The dessert is okay. It’s your standard creamy chocolate airplane dessert.
Shadow of Blue, Mafra cloth bound Cheddar, Woombye triple Brie, Savourine goat’s cheese. The cheese is served with fruit bread and crackers. It’s a good cheese selection and I particularly like the Shadow of blue.
To drink I stick with the Perrier. I also have a glass of the 2004 Krug.
After the meal, I request for the bed to be made up for me and then I lie down to read.
The amenity kit is by Lalique and looks rather nice. The only thing though, is that its content is utterly and completely useless. There is a small bar of soap, lip balm, body lotion… and a scented candle?
Things like tooth brushes or shaving kits are available in the toilets. Earplugs and eye shades are on request to the crew.
and pyjama that are provided are also by Lalique. I am given an XL for both the
slippers and the pjs, which are just a bit too big for me but still
The Second Service
For the second service, there is a choice of either an Angus beef burger or a selection of dim sum. Seeing as I’m not much of a carnivore anyway, I decide to go with the dim sum. The dish is served with a small bowl of a suitably spicy red sauce and something which I think the flight attendant said was a sort of mashed celery cake. Whatever it is, I like it.
After a flight time of seven hours and twenty minutes the flight draws to an end. I must admit, even though I still think the A 380 is ugly as sin, it’s always an experience.
land, we slowly trundle along until eventually we arrive on our parking stand
at Changi’s Terminal 3.
In the sum of all things, I enjoyed the flight. But I think a lot of that also has to do with the A 380. As for Singapore Airlines, I like the new First Class cabin because it’s spacious and roomy, although perhaps not very private. The service was okay, I guess, but nothing more. And the food was rather bland.
Singapore Airlines has a few fifth freedom flights it routes through Europe. There is the Singapore-Barcelona-Sao Paolo (apparently the leg to Sao Paolo will be discontinued soon), the Singapore-Frankfurt-New York and finally, the Singapore-Moskow-Houston, which will soon be routing through Manchester instead of Moskow. I have already sampled the flight form Barcelona last year, so I figured this would be a good time to try the Frankfurt to New York service.
Getting to the Airport
It is just gone 07h00 in the morning as I exit the Hilton Garden Inn to make my way across to Terminal 1. The hotel is connected to the terminal via the railway station for the long distance and high-speed trains.
Location: Terminal 1, Hall C. Facilities: Web check-in and App check-in are available, but you will still need to go to the check-in counter to collect your boarding pass and have your passport scanned. Counters: 713 to 720. There are three Economy Class counters, two baggage drop counters, one Business Class counter and one First Class counter.
The check-in staff are friendly and welcoming. The young man hands me my boarding pass, gives me directions to the lounge and then sends me on my way wishing me a nice flight.
The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge
Location: Near B44. Type of Lounge: Lufthansa Business Class lounge. Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There are no computers, but there are workstations with power plugs for European style chargers. Catering: There is a selection of cold dishes: fruit, yoghurt, Bircher Müsli, cheese, jam and bread. There is also a dish with scrambled eggs. Internet: No information.
There is something slightly off about this lounge and I cannot really put my finger on it. First of all, the tables and chairs do not seem to fit with the Lufthansa brand as a whole. Secondly, for some reasons the whole place looks rather worn and tired, even though it is well kept.
The food selection is okay, but nothing special. Unfortunately, when I try taking pictures of the buffet, one of the waitresses in the lounge tells me that I am not allowed to take pictures and it is certainly too early in the morning for me to argue the point.
There is a separate queue for First and Business Class passengers.
My flight is boarding from gate B46, which is right around the corner from the lounge. The queue for Economy Class is fairly long, but there is nobody in line for Business Class. I walk up to the counter, the agent checks my passport and scans my boarding pass and then addresses me by name as he wishes me a pleasant flight with Singapore Airlines. As I board the aircraft there are two flight attendants waiting at the door. Both of them welcome me on board and then the young lady shows me to my seat.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1 Seat: Fully lie flat with 180 degree recline. Singapore Airlines operates the A 380 in four different configurations. Basically there are some aircraft that feature SQ’s new Premium Economy seat and other which do not or not yet have that cabin installed. Add to that that capacity and layout in the different cabins may vary. Pitch: 55 inches. Width: 30 inches. Facilities:
AC power outlet.
Wifi hotspot by OnAir. There are different price plans, depending on how much date you want to download.
Audio and Video:
4 inch LCD monitor.
Phitek noise cancelling earphones.
700 audio CDs.
22 on demand radio programmes.
180 television programmes on demand.
100 films on demand.
Games are also available.
The seat has a lot of storage space and the designers of the seat have obviously put a lot of thought into the usability of the seat. For example, there is a small compartment for spectacles to the left of the personal video screens that is lined with some velvety material so as not to scratch the glass.
From what I understand, Singapore Airlines is currently in the process of upgrading its Business Class product, which is a good thing. Because although the airline obviously takes very good care of its planes, the seat and cabin are starting to look a bit dates and worn around the edges.
In the sum of all things, I am not much of a fan of the Singapore Airlines Business Class seat. First of all, it is not really that comfortable to lounge in, mainly because you have to lie at an angle to stretch out, which then means that the video screen is not centred any more. And secondly, if you start to feel sleepy, you cannot simply extend the seat into a bed. Instead you need to stand up to convert the seat. And thirdly, admittedly the seat is very wide. But at the end of the day this is mostly wasted space, because people expand in length and not in width during the flight. So all in all, I still think the Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways seat is better and more comfortable.
The Singapore Airlines Singapore girl is known around the world. Even people who have never flown with Singapore Airlines know about their cabin crew. And indeed, the crew all seem friendly enough. As soon as I take my seat, one of the crew greets me with a cheery ‘hello’ and a tray of juices and water.
Pillows, earphones and the menu have already been places at the seats. After take-off, the crew distribute slippers, eye-shades and socks. In Business Class Singapore Airlines does not provide a vanity kit. However, dental kits, combs, shavers and earplugs are available in the toilets.
Once we are airborne, the service begins with a glass of fresh orange juice.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice. Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel. Pre-meal drink: Fresh orange juice. Choice: There are three choices for the main course. Delivery: Individual à la carte service. Type of meal: Brunch.
Selection of fresh fruit.
Bircher Müsli – made with rolled oat soaked in milk, natural yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts.
Thai Beef Kway Teow Soup – made with rice noodles in beef broth with sliced beef filet and leafy greens.
Cherry cheesecake with Morello cherry compote.
Assorted bread rolls and croissants with butter and fruit preserves.
Tea of coffee.
The meal service is swift and efficient, but without feeling rushed. The quality of the food is very good, especially the soup is hot and spicy. The meal concludes with another hot scented towel.
The Second Service
Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towel. Pre-meal drink: Orange juice with roasted nuts. Choice: There are three choices for the main course. Delivery: À la carte service. Type of meal: Lunch.
Smoked salmon and green asparagus with a cherry tomato confit, mixed salad and olive oil.
Pan-friend filet of red snapper in a cilantro and parsley sauce, with green beans, baby carrots and buttered linguine.
Cappuccino with mango compote.
Tea or coffee.
The red snapper is a bit on the dry side, but the sauce is still tasty and the pasta is nice and chewy. The dessert I like a lot, although it takes a moment for the ice cream to thaw to the point that I can actually stick a spoon in it.
We arrive in New York just at it is coming up 11 o’clock in the morning. The Etihad and Emirates A 380 are already there and as we taxi in I see Korean Air arriving with their Big Bird. I really to think the Airbus A 380 is ugly as sin to look at. Even so, I have to say that you did get a sense of making a grand entrance when you arrive and an airport in one of these babies.
So what about Singapore Airlines? As far as the hardware is concerned, I thought the seat was rather uncomfortable and inconvenient. The Cathay Pacific seat for example may not be so spacious, but it is certainly more comfortable. As for the service, I really must say that here too, Singapore Airlines comes in third behind Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. The latter also beats Singapore Airlines as far as the presentation, quality and taste of the food is concerned.
Please do not get me wrong. I think Singapore Airlines is certainly one of the leading airlines out there and I would say that if you are travelling from Europe to New York they are probably your best option.
Transport: Hotel limo. Journey time: Roughly one hour from the Morumbi area.
In Sao Paolo I am staying at the Hilton Morumbi. I chose this hotel because it is conveniently located near the site of the training course at the domestic airport in Congonhas. Other than that though, it is somewhat removed from the city centre and quite a long way away from Guarulhos airport. It does not really help either that the traffic in Sao Paolo is notoriously bad.
Location: Terminal 3, first floor, check-in counters on row H. Facilities: Airport check-in and web check-in. Counters: There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and one counter for passengers with special needs.
I arrive at Guarulhos airport at 16h20 after a horrible trip from the city. My driver is so busy WhatsApping while driving that he misses the turn off the motorway for the airport. As if that were not already bad enough, rather than continuing and taking the next exit, he decides to pull on to the emergency strip and then reverse all the way back to the turn off he missed…
Check-in is fairly swift. There are no passengers in line ahead of me. Strangely enough, there do not appear to be any dedicated Economy Class counters and I am left wondering if perhaps a) the flight is not really that full or b), check-in for Economy Class only starts later.
There is no dedicated queue for security for Business Class and First Class passengers. Accordingly, there the line is huge. But fortunately, it is moving quickly.
Immediately behind security is immigration. A friendly officer stamps my passport, confesses that he has never before met a guy from Malta and wishes me a pleasant journey.
The Star Alliance Lounge
Location: Behind passport control turn left. Eventually you will see an escalator and lifts going up one floor, off to the left. This is where all the airline lounges are located. Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, workstations and rest area. Catering: The lounge has quite an extensive buffet of cold items. There is a huge bowl of salad with a variety of garnishes, in addition to small dishes, like individual raviolis in a tomato salsa or stick crudités in a yoghurt dip. There is also a limited selection of warm dishes, with a choice of pasta, tomato soup or a selection of warm local pastries. Internet: Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, the password is given to you upon entering the lounge.
Much to my surprise, I rather like the décor of this lounge. I am not quite sure what I was expecting – probably another one of those awful Lufthansa branded lounges – but this is really nice. The lounge is fairly busy when I arrive. Even so, it is quite large so it does not feel crowded. The lounge offers a wide range of different seating option. Furthermore, it is on the same level as the huge windows commanding excellent views of the apron and departing aircraft.
Two airbridges are connected to the aircraft. First and Business Class passengers board via the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers board via the L2. When I arrive at the gate at 18h10, boarding has already started.
I am greeted at the door by a gentleman and a young lady wearing the elegant Singapore Airlines Kebaya. As she escorts me to my seat I inquire about the load and she tells me there are 19 passengers in Business Class this evening and only 90 in Economy Class.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1 Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel. Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material.
The seat provides a lot of storage space. To the left of the screen there is a specific compartment to store spectacles and the compartment housing the earphones is large enough to place an iPhone 6+ and an Apple charger in it. Pitch: 50 inches. Width: 30 inches. Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet. Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.
As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a newspaper or magazine. There is a selection of Brazilian, Spanish and English papers. I am also brought a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a hot towel.
Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class. However, they do distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Earplugs are available on request.
Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available. Towel before the meal: Warm, lightly scented towel. Pre-meal drink: Coke Zero. Choice: There are four choices for the main course and two choices for dessert. Delivery: Individual service. Type of meal: Dinner.
The meal is very tasty. You can never really go wrong with the satay. My only grippe with that though, is that it is impossible to mop up the leftover sauce as the satay are served without cutlery. Such a waste…!
For the main course I choose the vegetarian noodles from the selection of inflight snacks. It is at moments like this that the professionalism of the Singapore Airlines crews shows. When the flight attendant comes to take my order, she does not bat an eyelid when I tell her I would prefer the noodles from the snack menu rather than something from the selection of main courses.
Chicken and mutton satay with cucumber, onion and spicy satay sauce.
The First Course
Marinated prawns Niçoise salad with tomato, green beans, boiled egg, olives and balsamic vinaigrette.
The Main Course
Vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce.
Macadamia ice cream with a mango coulis.
Tallegio, Gorgonzola and Camembert with crackers and garnish (I am too stuffed to actually try this one…).
After the meal I watch ‘The man from U.N.C.L.E’, which is quite entertaining and a nice homage to the original series. And then I decide to have a nap. One of the flight attendants comes to make up my bed while I change into my shorts in the bathroom.
As soon as I hit the pillow I drop off to sleep and do not awake until two hours before the landing in Barcelona, when the crew come to wake me up for breakfast as I had requested them to do.
The Second Service
Hot towel before the meal: Hot, lightly scented. Pre-meal drink: Apple juice. Choice: There are three choices for the main course. Delivery: Individual service. Type of meal: Breakfast.
Selection of sliced fruit – strawberries, mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, orange and grapefruit.
Griddled buttermilk pancakes with berries compote, orange mascarpone and honey.
Selection from the breadbasket.
Coffee or Tea.
Oh my God, those pancakes! Who ever dreams up stuff like this? The dish arrives with the sticky honey dripping down the sides of the stack of pancakes. The meal is as tasty as it looks. It is sinfully sweet but oh so good!
Outside a new day is quickly dawning. One of the pilots comes on the loudspeaker to announce that we will be starting our decent into Barcelona shortly. And what a spectacular decent it is. We approach the city from the south, flying over the sea with the coast visible far off to the left. We fly past the airport and then execute a series of gentle left turns to line us up for an arrival in a southerly direction. By this time we are below the clouds. Even so, the rising sun can still be seen, glistening on surface of the Mediterranean.
If, like me, you are connecting to another flight in Barcelona, follow the signs marked ‘transfer’, which will bring you to the security check. Once you have cleared security, you can either take the escalators one floor up if you are connecting to a non-Schengen flight. Otherwise, turn right to go through immigration and enter the Schengen area. From there take the escalators one floor down to the main airside area.
There are only few airlines that enjoy a reputation like that of Singapore Airlines. Even people who have never actually done a flight with them know what excellent service the passenger can expect from Singapore Airlines. To be honest, as far as the hardware and food is concerned, I do think there probably are quite a few airlines out there that can match and possibly even outshine Singapore Airlines – like Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways. However, the one thing none of those other carriers can rival, in my view, is the cabin crew. The professionalism and attention to detail that the crew on both the out- and inbound flights showed, is quite amazing. And that is probably what makes Singapore Airlines’ reputation so good. No matter where you are going, you always know what to expect.
I am on my way to Sao Paolo in Brazil to give a course. In fact, this will be the last training course for this year. Brazil is a country I have not visited before and quite frankly, what little I know of the place covers the full spectrum of stereotypes, from scantily clad carnival dancers, excellent steaks to an obscenely high crime rate.
Of course there are many different ways to fly from Europe to Sao Paolo. Without a doubt though, I think I can safely say I have chosen the most elegant way to do it, with an airline that hardly needs an introduction.
Location: Terminal 1, second floor, check-in counters 551 to 558. Facilities: Airport check-in only. Counters: Check-in is handled by Swissport. There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and five Economy Class check-in counters.
I have the Singapore Airlines app on my iPhone. However, as I am not a member of their frequent flyer programme, I was unable to check-in online.
The airline is quiet when I arrive. After all, this is Saturday morning. The security check is a swift but thorough affair. Just a quick word of caution for all the shopaholics out there: if you are departing from Barcelona from the non-Schengen area, I suggest you have yourself an extravaganza before you go through passport control. All there is at the D gates is a McDonalds and a fairly small duty free.
Location: Behind passport control keep on walking straight ahead towards the McDonalds until you reach the lifts. Take the lift or escalator one floor down to access the lounge. Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Premium Air Lounges. Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge and in good, clean condition; workstations, a good selection of hot and cold beverages and a good selection of breakfast foods – such as yoghurts, bread, cereals. Internet: Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, but you need to register.
The lounge is rather nice and fairly quiet this morning. It is still rather early, and the few people in the lounge that are travelling together are talking in a subdued hush. With the warm light, wood floors and leather sofas there is something very cosy about the lounge.
I help myself to some breakfast and then decide to give my mum a call before I set out on my next journey.
I reach the gate just after 08h30, the boarding time indicated on my boarding pass, just as an announcement is made informing us that due to the very strong winds on the ground in Barcelona, loading the aircraft is taking longer than anticipated. As a result, our departure is delayed by about 45 minutes.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1 Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel. Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. Even so, I cannot really say that I like this seat. First of all, it is not possible to convert the seat into a bed while sitting in it. This is because the back of the seat needs to be folded forward to turn it into a bed. Furthermore, to be able to fully stretch, you need to lie in the seat at an angle. Obviously this should not really matter, but I think many people will have a tendency, when lying, to want to align themselves with the aisle or the cabin wall of the aircraft. I flew Singapore Airlines from Zürich to Brunei and back about two years ago and to be honest, on both of the long-haul flights I ended up with a back ache.
The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material intended to look and feel like leather, which inevitably makes you sweat after a while. Admittedly though, the seat and cabin do look rather nice. Pitch: 50 inches. Width: 30 inches. Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet. Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.
The service is excellent. The crew are friendly and very attentive. The Singapore Girl has often been accused of being slightly robotic in her behaviour, but is hardly the case with this crew.
As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a English or Spanish speaking newspaper.
Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class, which does not bother me seeing as I usually end up leaving them on the plane anyway. However, they will distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Ear plugs are available on request.
The First Service
Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available. Towel before the meal: Cold, lightly scented towel. Pre-meal drink: Orange juice Choice: There are three choices for the main course. Delivery: Individual service. Type of meal: Brunch.
Selection of sliced fresh fruit.
Bircher Müsli with rolled oats soaked in milk, natural yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts.
Cheese Frittata with pan fried veal sausage, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes.
Selection from the breadbasket with preserves or olive oil.
Coffee and tea.
The meal hits the spot nicely. Even though I did have something to eat in the lounge, I was starting to feel hungry. I think I like the Bircher Müsli most, it has a nice, rich, creamy texture and is full of flavour.
Once the service is completed, the crew pass through the cabin regularly, asking passengers if there is anything they need. I barely last one hour after the brunch service is over, before I start to feel peckish again and order a bowl of vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce. Outside, the vastness of Africa spreads out beneath us.
An apple, four packets of nuts and three packets of speculatius biscuits later and it is time for the second service to begin. By this time we are just two hours and thirty minutes out of Sao Paolo.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, lightly scented. Pre-meal drink: Coke Zero. Choice: There are four choices for the main course – beef, chicken, fish or lamb. Delivery: Individual service. Type of meal: Late lunch.
Much to my surprise and delight, the second service is another full meal. To be honest I do not particularly like the starter, there is just a bit too much meat on it for my liking. But apart from that, all the dishes taste very good and especially the mashed potato is creamy and has a very strong taste of garlic.
Lamb and chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce, cucumber and onion.
The First Course
A platter of Iberico ham, cured pork loin, chorizo sausage, mixed salad and balsamic dressing.
The Main Course
Seared Tournedos of beef with baby zucchini, crushed potato with garlic, vine cherry and thyme jus.
Panna Cotta Lemon.
Selection of cheese with garnishes – cured sheep cheeses, Viejo Maestro, Valdeon.
Eventually we land just a few minutes ahead of schedule, despite our delay departing from Barcelona. The nice thing about the Singapore Airlines flight is that it arrives long after most of the other European flights. We taxi in right behind the Springbok from Johannesburg, but even so, immigration is fairly quick.
I’ve just arrived at Changi’s Terminal 3 on a Singapore Airlines A 380 flight from Zürich. It’s 05h45 in the morning and my onward connection to Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan is not until 13h50. Eight hours to go.
Transfer in Singapore Changi
My onward flight will be leaving from T2. The transfer between T3 and T2 could not be easier. There is a dedicated train which takes less than five minutes to make the journey. As I take a step from the air-conditioned terminal into the air-conditioned train, for just the briefest of moments I get a sensation of the temperature outside. It’s only just gone six but it’s already very hot and humid.
Date: 20 May 2013 From: Singapore To: Bandar Seri Begawan Aircraft: B 777-200 Airline: Singapore Airlines Cabin: Business Class Seat: 11A, window, left Departure: 13h50 Arrival: 15h50
The Silver Kris Lounge
All I want to do right now is have a shower. It’s too early and too dark outside anyway to properly make out any of the planes outside. The lounge situation in Changi is a bit confusing. There is a SilverKris Gold Lounge for members travelling in Singapore Airlines’ economy class. And then there is also the SilverKris Lounge for First and Business Class passengers, which, apparently, is the one I am entitled to use today.
When I arrive, the lounge is already quite full. But I’m lucky and don’t have to wait to avail myself of one of the showers. The shower room itself is quite small. I only barely have enough space to open my carry-on to take out a new set of clothes. Shower gel and shampoo are provided, together with a shaving kit, tooth brush and tooth paste.
I’m starting to feel human again. I’m still tired though. For a loss of anything better to do, I find myself a quiet corner and figure I might as well upload my trip report of the previous flight from Zürich. As I write the lounge slowly empties, until eventually there is only a handful of people left.
The food and drink offerings in the lounge are good, with an interesting selection of Western and Asian dishes, both hot and cold. Even so, I can’t really say I like the lounge. First of all, the lack of any natural light makes the place feel rather gloomy. Secondly, the seating options are okay if you’re only in the lounge for a short while. But if, like me, you’re connecting from a long-haul flight, it would be nice to have more comfortable loungers to choose from.
About 90 minutes before departure I have to pack up my things and leave. I’m so exhausted I’m literally having trouble keeping my eyes open. Perhaps if I go for a walk I might wake up again.
So I mosey over to gate F34 from where my flight will be leaving. Changi uses a closed gate concept, with the security check taking place just before you enter the holding pen of the gate area. The gate has just opened. I walk up and down the length of the F pier but eventually decide to call it a day and head through security and into the gate. I take a seat by the window, from where I have excellent views of the ramp and the departing aircraft.
Oops, how embarrassing…I briefly wake up, startled by the sound of my own snoring. I wasn’t actually aware of the fact that you could do that sitting upright. In fact, I wouldn’t have though I’d be able to fall asleep sitting upright in a public place. Just goes to sh…off again. Snoring. The next thing I know I am rudely awakened by the gate agent making an announcement inviting First and Business Class passengers to board the flight. Finally! I make a mental note to book a hotel for my twelve hours layover on the way back. Either that or take a tour of the city.
The cabin on this bird is still in the old configuration. I recognise the First Class seat from five years ago. There are two rows of First Class. The Business Class section is divided in two cabins. I am sitting in seat 11A, which is the first row of the forward cabin. This section has three rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. From what I can tell the second section, on the other side of the galley, also has three rows.
The seat itself is pretty old school, with old-fashioned seat controls that hark back to the late ‘90s. Even so, the seat is very comfortable and although the recline is not fully flat, it still allows for some decent rest – which I’m very much in need of right now.
A few images of the view outside:
One of the crew spots the Air Malta sticker I have on my carry-on. So she follows me to my seat. As she helps me stow my luggage, curiosity gets the better of her and she asks me what Air Malta is. I try to explain to her that it’s the national airline of Malta but draw a blank. We look Malta up in the inflight magazine to find that it isn’t there. So I give up and simply tell her it’s a very small country in the Mediterranean. Later on during the flight, when I’d already forgotten about it, the same flight attendant returns and tells me that the captain actually flew to Malta many years ago, when Singapore Airlines still used to operate to Malta with the B 747-200 in the ‘80s. Blimey, shouldn’t he already be retired by now?
As soon as I am comfortably seated, a male flight attendant arrives with a tray of drinks. I have a glass of orange juice.
Next a female flight attendant brings me the earphones and menu for today’s flight. And then, of course, it’s time for the first hot towel. I’m quite impressed, especially given that the flight time to Brunei is only one hour and 45 minutes.
Eventually the doors close and we push back. It’s a light load today, with only four of the 21 seats in the forward Business Class section occupied.
Taxiing to the active runway:
Once we’re airborne, it takes a while for the fasten seatbelt sign to be turned off. I have a vague recollection of us flying through some turbulence, but I may have been dreaming. But the sound of the food service starting quickly wakes me up again.
The tray arrives with the starter and dessert on it.
The First Course
The starter is marinated shrimps with feta cheese, slices of bell pepper and greens.
The starter is not really very good. First of all the shrimps have a very strong and off-putting smell. The few pieces of feta cheese are okay but the bell peppers are still half frozen.
I choose a slice of garlic bread from the breadbasket, but only remember to take a picture after I’ve already had a bite. Sorry about that.
The Main Course
Eventually the flight attendant arrives with my hot meal. She removes the starter and wishes me a good meal. She also reassures me that if the meal is too spicy I should let her know, they still have something harmless available which I can have if I can’t take the spicy food.
For the main I have the Nasi Uduk. It’s an interesting dish that contains pieces of chicken in some spicy marinade, a fish cake and fried egg with rice cooked in coconut milk. There is also a small tinfoil container with some sort of spicy curry gravy.
The meal is served with a side dish of pickled vegetables.
The meal is quite spicy. During the meal three different flight attendants come to check if I’m alright or if I need some more water, which is of course very considerate of them, although the meal isn’t that hot.
Dessert today is something described in the menu as ice jelly with fresh fruit. It comes with the smallest lime I have ever seen. The idea is that you squeeze the lime over the jelly. The ice jelly is rather bland. I only have a spoon full to taste and leave the rest. The tray is removed before the coffee service. As on the previous flight, I am quite amazed by how well timed the service is. It’s not at all rushed, but there is no wait either to remove the tray.
I finish the meal with a cup of coffee, which is much better than the one I had on the last flight.
The meal seems to have done wonders to revive me. I’m feeling quite awake again. I suppose it’s also the excitement of visiting a new country. Most of the flight is over the sea. On our way we pass some beautiful looking islands before eventually we reach the Brunei coast.
Brunei itself is very green and lush. From above it doesn’t look very densely populated.
We land and the engines of the mighty triple seven treat us to one last, powerful roar as the reversers open and we slow down on the airport’s single runway.
There’s quite a queue for immigration, but it moves quickly. My suitcase takes a while longer to arrive and for one horrible moment I’m afraid it may not have made it. Eventually though, I finally see it coming round the corner on the conveyor belt. Initially I wonder how on earth I’m supposed to get a hold of it. There are people standing all around the belt, three rows deep. But I needn’t have worried as I get a first impression of the friendliness of the people of Brunei: as my suitcase approaches I try to move to the front to pick it up, but it is to no avail. Fortunately some gentleman up front notices me, picks up the suitcase for me and passes it on to the guy standing right behind him, who then passes it on to me. Thank you very much!
I finally made it. I am in Brunei. Apart from the friendliness and politeness of the people, I am simply amazed by just how clean everything is. I leave you with a few images of Bandar Seri Begawan.
It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been doing quite a bit of flying, mostly on airlines that have already been covered extensively in some of my other trip reports.
But this one ought to be interesting. Today I’m on my way to Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Negara Brunei Darussalam. Brunei is actually not that easy to get to, particularly from Switzerland. Of course my first choice would have been to fly Royal Air Brunei. They have a direct service from Heathrow. But alas, that flight stops in Dubai in the middle of the night on both the outbound and the inbound flight, which is inconvenient for two reasons: first of all, the interruption of the flight in Dubai means that you don’t really get a full night’s sleep. Secondly, the sector length for both the LHR to DXB and the subsequent DXB to BWN is about six hours each, which isn’t really enough for sleep either. I’m travelling on business, so I decide against this option. I don’t want to arrive feeling like a vegetable. So instead I shall be travelling with Singapore Airlines from Zürich via Singapore. This report covers the outbound leg from Zürich to Singapore.
On the outbound I have a connecting time in Singapore of eight hours. The return is worse still, with a whopping twelve hours layover in Singapore. But still, there are certainly worse airports to have to do a stopover in than Singapore.
On a positive note, the flights between Zürich and Singapore are operated by the A380. She may be ugly as sin, but she’s still quite an amazing bird.
The last time I flew Singapore Airlines was back in 2008. Back then I flew in First Class on the B777-300 from Zürich to Singapore and then onwards in regional First Class, I think it was on a B777-200, to Taipei. I was on a round the world itinerary which eventually also saw me take the Singapore Airlines B747-400 from JFK to Frankfurt, also in First. So I’m rather curious to see how time has treated one of the world’s most prestigious airlines in the intervening years.
Getting to the Airport
My first stop after I leave my flat is the Confiserie Bachmann on the square outside the station. They make the best pain au chocolat ever, with nice big chunky pieces of chocolate oozing out of everywhere. I think I may have already mentioned the fact in a previous post and so, simply for the sake of completeness, I am including in this post a picture of the delectable item.
And then from there I head across the square, into the station and down to platform seven, from where my train will be leaving. Being a Sunday morning, the train that normally runs on this route has been substituted by what is in fact a short regional train. And to be fair, the load is pretty light.
My only grippe is that the seat is rather hard. By the time we pull into Zürich Airport station 80 minutes later, my backside is feeling seriously worse for ware.
To look outside you’d hardly think we’re already approaching the end of May. We’ve had a few scattered days of sunshine here and there but other than that it’s been quite miserable. At least the low-hanging clouds do look kind of poetic, I guess.
Date: 19. May 2013 From: Zürich To: Singapore Aircraft: A 380 Airline: Singapore Airlines Cabin: Business Class Seat: 18K, later on moved forward to 17K Departure: 11:45 Arrival: 05:45, the next day
The airport is surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning when I arrive, with a mix of travellers and Sunday shoppers wandering, seemingly aimlessly, through the terminal.
The Singapore Airlines check-in counters are currently located on the mezzanine level between arrivals and departures of what used to be Terminal B and is now, if I’m not mistaken, Check-in 2. This is only a temporary location for Singapore Airlines while the check-in area one floor up is redesigned and renovated.
I am greeted at the check-in counter by one of my former students, who happens to be working for Swissport until he starts a new job in engineering in a few weeks. While he checks me in we have a little natter and I inquire about how he’s been and what he’s been up to. I figure I must have done a few things right in my job, because the next thing I notice is that he’s actually tagged my check-in luggage with a Suite First Class tag. Thanks for that!
We bid each other farewell and I make my way to security. After that it’s the passport control and then the underground shuttle that runs underneath the apron and runway 28 to the E dock.
I decide to give the Swiss Senator lounge a miss and try out the Panorama lounge at the E dock instead. This is a common purpose lounge which appears to be used by all airlines operating out of the E dock, with the exception of Emirates, who have their own lounge. Subsequently, the place is rather full when I arrive. Figuring it might be a while until I finally get some food on the plane, I help myself to a small plate of pasta and shortly after that it’s already time to head downstairs to the gate where boarding is about to begin.
By now you’re probably wondering why there aren’t any pictures of my ride to Singapore. So here we go (taken from different locations, including the lounge).
The boarding process is a very well organised affair, which is a good thing, seeing as Singapore Airlines recently stopped using the only gate at Zürich equipped with three airbridges.
This means that all Business Class passengers on the upper deck will have to board through the front door on ‘ground level’ and then from there take the stairs one floor up.
One of the male attendants sees me trying to take a picture of the stairs and offers to strike a pose. But before I can actually take the picture, he thinks better of it. Pity.
To be honest, my first impression of the cabin is somewhat underwhelming. It looks slightly worn around the edges. Other than that though, the seat certainly offers a lot of personal space, it’s very wide.
In Business Class there are only overhead bin over the central aisle. The window seats however, have some additional storage space as there are storage bins located by the side of the seat facing the window.
Every seat back is equipped with a set of USB ports as well as a universal electric plug socket that can take the British style plugs as well as the standard Swiss and European ones. Located immediately above that is a small compartment where you can place your glasses.
The general impression of the seat is that obviously a lot of thought was put into the design, it’s more functional than it is elegant. For example: the compartment where you place your glasses is lined with some velvety material to prevent the lenses from scratching.
Other than that, there are two cushions at every seat. I think I’d feel quite lost without them!
The Singapore Airlines crews hardly need an introduction and this flight is no exception. The crew is made up of a racial mix of young men and women, all of them eager to please. It has often been said of the Singapore Airlines crews that they lack warmth or personality. Some have even called them robotic in their mannerisms. On this flight however, this could hardly be farther from the truth. The entire crew are very attentive, service-oriented and very approachable, without however being intrusive. And that kebaya simply complements the female form beautifully…!
Service begins on the ground with a welcome drink. I have something that is apparently a mix of bitter lemon and seven up, and very refreshing it is too. And then after that I receive the first in a whole series of nicely scented, warm refreshing towels.
Push back is on time. With all the rain everything is looking lush and green outside.
Departure is to the south from runway 16, the usual. As we do a final left turn to line up with the runway, I spot this here. It’s used for fire training nowadays.
Seriously, they really don’t build them like they used to in the good old days. I know, perhaps I’m a bit weird that way. Probably if I weren’t I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But: for me an airplane has to have the sound and feel of an airplane. And that’s where the A 380 is a bit of a let down. First of all, it is really quite amazing just how quiet the cabin is. Even when we power up and go hurtling down the runway for take off, the noise in the cabin is at a pleasant level. And there’s not much of a sensation of acceleration either.
Quite surprisingly, Singapore Airlines no longer provide vanity kits on board. Instead, after take-off the crew distribute a pair of eye-shades and slippers. Everything else is available in the toilets, ear plugs need to be requested separately.
The meal service starts with the traditional chicken and beef satay, which really are tasty, even though I think I end up overdosing on the raw onion.
To drink with that I have one of Singapore Airlines’ signature non-alcoholic cocktails, ‘Awaiting the dawn’ I think it’s called. It’s a somewhat unusual combination of tomato juice and pineapple that works surprisingly well.
For the rest of the meal I stick with sparkling water.
The satay are quite tasty, but without a fork or a spoon it’s quite impossible to lop up all of the lovely peanut sauce. After the satay there is a short break while the crew prepare the main service. In the meantime, I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy the view.
The First Course
First the table is set. Every seat is done individually. The starter today is dried beef with pasta salad, lettuce and antipasti, more specifically a spicy pepper filled with cream cheese and an olive filled with an almond.
With that I have a few slices of garlic bread and a Silserli, a typical Swiss type of bread that gets its name from the town of Sils.
The Main Course
The service is well-timed and efficient, without however being hurried or rushed. For the main dish I’m having the Indian spicy chicken with vegetable curry and pilaf rice. It’s quite a spicy dish, with plenty of flavour.
After the meal there is a choice of either vanilla ice cream with a fruit sauce or a passion fruit cheesecake, which I have. The dessert is nothing special really, its only saving grace being that it is made with Agar Agar and not gelatine.
The meal concludes with a selection of cheese, served with crackers, walnuts, dried apricots and grapes. With that I have a glass of port.
Once the meal is over, the crew come to take orders for tea or coffee. I have a peppermint tea, which the flight attendant brings me with a praline. In the meantime I look out the window some more. I never seem to tire of this view!
After the meal I try out the wifi connection. For USD10 you can download up to 10MB of data. You can select for the connection to stop once you have reached you allowance or to just continue billing you in 10 cent steps per 100KB. So I do a bit of surfing, answer some e-mails and What’s App my mum before eventually I decide to take a nap.
A few hours later I awake. It’s still about four hours to go to Singapore, so I switch on the inflight entertainment system. Singapore Airlines has quite an extensive selection of films. I start to watch Skyfall – again. Not so much because I thought the film was that good – twice is enough – but because I just love the opening titles with that song by Adele. I then switch to watching ‘Hotel Transylvania’, which is okay but seriously lacks a decent story line.
The Second Service
By the time that’s over, it’s already time for the second meal service, which begins of course, with the distribution of yet another hot towel, followed by a glass of fresh orange juice.
The meal consists of:
a plate of fresh fruit
a selection from the breadbasket
a selection of hot dishes: I go for the omelette with veal sausages and potatoes
Like Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines will automatically give you a glass of still water to drink with the main dish. In addition, there is more orange juice and a cup of the most god awful coffee I have ever had the misfortune to taste.
Again the service is unhurried and pleasant. Throughout the meal service the mood lighting is set to what I presume to be dawn.
Once the meal service is over and yet another hot towel has been distributed and collected, the lights go out again. It’s now just 68 minutes to arrival in Changi at 05h45 am.
Our arrival into Changi is very atmospheric, really nice. With the engines in idle to slow us down, it’s gone quiet in the cabin. The passengers aren’t saying much either. The dark cabin adds to the mood. Eventually we touch down and within seconds the outer window pane starts to fog up with the humidity.
We arrive at one of the B gates at T3 which is equipped with three airbridges. I thank the crew, bid them farewell and disembark. From here I make my way to T2, from where my connection to Brunei will be leaving.
So what’s the verdict? It’s hard to put into words. Singapore Airlines is certainly up there in the top league of international airlines. Their Business Class cabin is very innovative and comfortable. Combined with the outstanding level of service provided by the cabin crew, the entire experience really is more like what many other airlines offer in First Class nowadays. However, from my recent experiences the same could also be said for Cathay Pacific and ANA – All Nippon Airways. Perhaps it’s just me and all the flying I do has made me blazé. Either that or Singapore Airlines have created an image that in actual fact even they themselves are unable to live up to.