osudvm From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 20 posts, RR: 0 Posted (2 years 6 months 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 23063 times:
Well, fall is here, the leaves are turning and that means my busy summer season is over and it is time once again to go globetrotting in search of some great scuba diving. With my steadfast loyalty to Continental wavering as the new United plans their pullout from Cleveland, I decided it would be a great opportunity to sample some of what the rest of Star Alliance had to offer. After finding a great price on a week of diving in the Maldives, all I had to do was find the best way there. The shortest and cheapest would have been Qatar flying though Dulles and Abu Dhabi, or with Emirates through Dubai. However, what fun would the shortest way there be? Searching around I was able to combine an itinnerary with Air Canada and Singapore for nearly the same price which afforded me a long leg on a 777, a chance to fly Singapore's A380, the opportunity to try 2 different flat bed seats, and a stop over in Hong Kong. What could be better? So, without further delay, here is my trip!
Cleveland to Toronto
Air Canada AC7902
On arrival to Cleveland Hopkins, I bravely ventured far from my familiar Continental territory down to the Air Canada desks, which I discovered were in fact United. Oh great, I figured, I'm having a 3rd airline check me in for a trip on 2 separate other airlines booked on 2 tickets and on top of that am trying to get my bag checked all the way to Male. The agent at the United desk was happy to check me in and when I asked if I could get my bags checked all the way to Male so I wouldn't have to lug them around in Hong Kong, she was happy to oblige. Showing her my info from Singapore she exclaimed, "you have 2 more connections after getting to Hong Kong!" The things some of us will do for the love of flying. Anyway, despite my hesitations, she tagged everything correctly down to the priority sticker and I was on my way to the Presidents Club.
The lounge was nice, but nothing special. Bread and pastries, fruit and yogurt for breakfast, but spacious and had free WiFi so I was happy enough for a short 2 hour layover. After a pleasant layover, it was now on to the marathon leg of the trip.
Toronto to Hong Kong
Air Canada AC15
Boarding was orderly with propper order enforced and soon enough I was on the plane. Initial impressions were quite good and I was confident this would be a quite comfortable place to spend the next 15 hours.
Champagne and nuts were quickly forthcoming, and then I was asked for my order. Apparently orders are taken front to rear left to right on Air Canada and by the time they got to my order, my choice was: pork or fish. Not the best way to start off the flight, but ok, on with lunch.
I chose the pork, nothing special, but it was ok. Now by the time my entree had arrived, they were just getting around to a first refill of champagne and didn't even give me a chance to switch to a red until I was nearly finished with the meal. Fruit and cheese were next and not even an offer of port with it.
Arrival in Hong Kong was very smooth. As my bags were already checked straight through, all I needed to do was make my way over to Singapore's transfer counter and check in. This was quickly accomplished and I was on my way to the Silver Kris lounge. The airport was warm and very humid, and I was dead on my feet and feeling funky fresh after nearly 20 hours of travel, so all I really wanted was a shower. I was soon to be disappointed as the lounge in Hong Kong has no showers, in fact, it doesn't even have restrooms! To make up for it, they did have a very nice selection of Dim Sum. I got bored with the lounge quickly, but fortunately I only had a 2 hour layover, so soon it was time to go get a look at the whale before my first A380 flight!
Hong Kong to Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ861
I was amazed at how quickly the aircraft boarded for as many people as there was that needed to get on. I have to say boarding my first Singapore flight was something special. It was immediately apparent to me why Singapore is about as good as it gets for flying. The crew was attentive to a fault and everything was done precisely and perfectly. The seat is HUGE!. Who needs first class when you have a seat like this. I couldn't wait for lunch to be over so I could finally get some sleep on the enormous flat bed.
I then proceeded to pass out until we started our descent into Singapore.
Singapore was kind of a blurr as at this point I'd had about 2.5 hours of sleep in the last 26-28 hours. I did manage to drag myself over to T2 and found that the flight to Male was delayed by 30 minutes. That was fine with me as it gave me time for a much needed shower at the lounge. From there I staggered down to the gate for the flight to Male.
Singapore to Male
Singapore Airlines SQ452
Depart: scheduled 8:40PM actual 9:10PM
Arrive: scheduled 10:10 PM actual 10:40PM
All I could think about on this leg was more food and more sleep. The business cabin was nearly empty until a family with 2 young and noisy children showed up and sat down in the first row. All I could think of is: AAAAH!!!! I had booked business class for peace and quiet so I could sleep and here were 2 little ones running up and down the isles. I shouldn't have worried though. The crew jumped into action immediately, getting the little ones juice and generally keeping them entertained. Once the parents were settled, they and the crew got the little ones comfy and they nodded off to sleep for the rest of the flight. Kudos to the Singapore crew and to the responsible parents! Somehow in the middle of all of this temporary chaos, the crew also managed to flawlessly serve departure drinks and take orders for dinner. Outstanding!
Spent the night in Male at the Holiday Inn, which was very comfortable. Saw a few of the sights in this crowded little island city and was then off to what I was really there for: a week of diving with the Maldives Aggressor!
This is quite a massive seat. It got me wondering if I were to travel with a companion, one would have to go with the middle rows in order to sit together. Is there a proper division of seats? or is there an option of making it disappear? Either ways, looks to be an amazing seat. Almost like a lazy boy!!!
WOW. That picture got my mouther watering. It looks restaurant quality. The only thing to judge if the biryani was properly made was the lamb. Was it well done? Too chewy? or just right?
Quoting osudvm (Thread starter): The crew jumped into action immediately, getting the little ones juice and generally keeping them entertained. Once the parents were settled, they and the crew got the little ones comfy and they nodded off to sleep for the rest of the flight.
Great work by the crew. I can understand what menace little kids can be. I was in Y and I encountered a crying baby. Although I feel for the kid, it was really annoying as the baby was pretty much screaming at the top of his lungs when he was crying. The dad however did what he could to make this boy happy
Fantastic trip report and fantasic pictures Michael and I see you are wearing an Ohio State top. (PS. just noticed your user name as well. it's got osu in it as well) Go bucks! I'm an OSU Alumni, and I fly out of CLE quite often. Seems like you had an awesome trip.
Thank you for a wonderful trip report and I will be looking forward to reading your next report
globalflyer From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 806 posts, RR: 2 Reply 3, posted (2 years 6 months 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 22578 times:
That was awesome! If I EVER get my act together I have a few TR's to post (14 segements in all) including 3 A-380 flights. You are correct. SQ is awesome! I would love to see more pictures of Male. Diving looks awesome! Thanks for sharing!
Landing on every Continent almost on an annual basis!
osudvm From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 20 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (2 years 6 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 22359 times:
In my previous segment, I forgot to mention the most impressive part of the trip. On arrival to Male, I quickly cleared customs. As one of the first people there, I was standing waiting for my bags when an airport representative approached me.
Yes, that's me.
I am sorry to inform you that one of your bags did not make the flight from Singapore to Male. It will be delivered after it arrives tomorrow.
Now I was worried, as tomorrow I would be on a dive boat out at sea! Plus the bag missing had most of my dive gear on it!
The rep said not to worry. I followed him though customs and sat down to file a report. He assured me that the bag would be delivered by seaplane to the nearest point of land as soon as possible! He then proceeded to count out $100 USD in cash for the bag delay, and once again apologised. I was absolutely stunned. I have never been treated so well by an airline, especially when they misplaced one of my bags. Sure enough, 36 hours later, my bag appeared by seaplane at the resort island we were parked near, which was a good 12 hour boat ride from the airport!
And now for the return...
Male to Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ451
After spending the day at the Hulhule Island Hotel at the airport, I was once again back to flying. The airport at Male is nice enough. Sorry for no pics, but I had too much junk in tow to get any before checking in. The airport lounge that SQ uses is a complete disappointment. It was very crowded, the food options were extremely limited, and they were all empty anyway. After the short stay at the lounge, it was time for some more SQ therapy
Ah! Back in Sinapore comfort!
I was quickly approached for a predeparture drink, and asked for champagne. The steward quickly came back and apologised that since we were in a Muslim country, no alcohol could be served on the ground.
"Water then," I said.
"Certainly," he replied, "and I will have champagne for you as soon as we are airborne."
Talk about service!
True to his word, almost as soon as the crew was released from their seats, a glass of champagne appeared.
Then it was dinner time.
Chicken Tikka, very nice, extremely tender, and nicely spicy!
I was once again, quite sleepy and proceeded to lay back and sleepy all the way until our descent into Singapore.
I had planned myself a several hour layover in Singapore, partly to get the A380 back to Hong Kong and partly to give myself a little time to explore Changi. I caught the train back to T3 from T2 and walked around and over to the butterfly garden.
Really quite impressive for an airport, the butterfly garden was at least as nice as the one at the Cleveland Zoo!
Now on for a quick stay and shower at the Silver Kris Lounge. I didn't take any pictures as it was quite crowded and it has been well documented previously.
After that it was back to the A380.
And the seat big enough for 2!
On the other side of the plane and a few rows up was someone clicking away madly with a rather large camera. Made me feel good I wasn't the only one. Only later did I think that it might have been another a.nutter. Still waiting to see this flight on another trip report
Soon enough we were on our way.
I do have to say that before flying the A380, I thought that it was mostly hype about how quiet a plane it is. After flying it, I have to agree, it is startling as to how silent it is to ride on.
Next it was time again for breakfast. I'm not usually a big breakfast fan, so I'm always happy when I have Asian breakfast options instead of the usual western omlettes or French toast.
This was also very nice, mixed seafood with fried noodles, plus some nice chili sauce.
MMM... icecream for breakfast
After that, I streached out on the huge flat bed for another few hours of sleep.
Before I knew it, my Singapore experience was at an end, but I still had 2 days in Hong Kong followed by more Air Canada!
osudvm From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 20 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (2 years 6 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 22034 times:
Hong Kong was an endlessly fascinating city with the crowding, congestion, and frenetic pace of an enormous city, surrounded by the calm tranquility of large natural reserves. I only had 2 days to see Hong Kong, so I hired a guide for a walking tour, determined to make the most of my time.
Victoria Peak Tram
A rare sunny day, or so I understand
Man Mo Temple
The next day I took a ride on the Ngong Ping cable car which has an amazing view of the airport.
Also got to see the Big Buddha
After that, it was back to the airport for the last few legs home.
Walking in to the departures area, I was just amazed at how huge the airport was. It seemed just to streach on forever!
Although I generally dislike taking pictures in lounges, inadvertantly wound up doing a comparison between the United Red Carpet Club and the Thai Royal Orchid Lounge in Hong Kong. Air Canada gives you a pass for either of the two lounges and since my Continental President's Club membership gets me in to the Red Carpet Club, I decided I'd try both. First, the RCC, also used by Air New Zealand
The lounge was situated in a great location right at the Y of the main terminal so you could see most of the tarmac. It was very spacious and sparsely populated at this hour.
And what's this? Food? in a RCC?
They actually had a very nice selection of both cold and hot foods that were fresh and quickly repleantished. It was very impressive and on par with several of the Silver Kris Lounges that I visited. Why can't they do this in the US?
Next I decided to try the Royal Orchid Lounge.
This lounge was somewhat smaller and had nearly 1/3 roped off for First Class. The remainder of the lounge was packed!
The food was good, but the selection somewhat smaller than the RCC.
Finding a seat, the Royal Orchid Lounge did give me a view of the gate my plane was supposed to pull into arriving from Vancouver. Unfortunately, looking at the board, it was running about 40min late arriving. Not to bad as I was in no rush.
It finally arrived and the crew struggled to turn it around as fast as possible.
Boarding was complete chaos with only 2 lines, one for business/star elite and the other for everyone else. Unfortunately, no one paid any attention and absolutely mobbed the gate, pushing and shoving. The poor gate staff did their best shouting and pointing and did refuse people presenting non-business class tickets in that line, but it was still absolute chaos. Once I got through and on board, things improved rapidly.
Hong Kong to Vancouver
Air Canada AC8
Depart: scheduled 6:10PM, actual 7PM
Arrive: scheduled 2:30PM, actual 3:00PM
6K is one of the most private seats in an already very private layout being the last one in the front cabin before the bulkhead. You also get all the extra storage space in that corner.
Pre-departure champagne was served and we were quicly away and headed home
I decided to have a Bloody Mary and nuts, to which the FA asked me if I would prefer a Bloody Caesar instead. I replied, no, that I would like a Bloody Mary.
Well... I should have listened to the FA, as AC's Bloody Mary is just plain tomato juice and vodka, while if I had asked for the Bloody Caesar, I would have gotten the spicy Clamato juice. Oh well, live and learn!
After the Caesar disaster, I quickly switched back to white wine for dinner.
This time, I was far enough forward in the cabin that I did get the steak, unfortunately, it was dry and cooked well done
The service was quite good however. Much better than on the trip out. Drinks were refilled rapidly and it was quite easy to switch from white to red to port wines in the propper order with the propper courses.
This time the chocolate lava cake came out hot.
After a large dinner and much good wine, I put the bed back and proceeded to sleep for a good 7 hours straight!
AC's seat was quite comfortable and pleanty wide for me, and I'm not a small guy.
AC's inflight AVOD "EnRoute" was not great. The selection was accptable, but as has been previously reported, it completely unreliable and will restart several times on the trip. For this leg, my side of the plane didn't have any working screens for the first 20 min, and AirShow was completely unavailable the entire flight
Soon enough it was time for breakfast
A very uninspired omlette and sausage. Yuck!
After sleeping most of the way to Vancouver, I got off and went in search of my stopover room as I had a long layover before continuing on. First, I had to get past a very zealous Canadian customs officer who gave me a 5 minute interview about my trip, all the places stamped on my passport in the last few years, and why anyone would fly the long way around the world to go to the Maldives. Later, I found out that a few days earlier that guy disguised as an old man had come in on this very flight, so it at least made sense.
For some reason AC wouldn't let me fly home directly to Cleveland through Toronto and instead routed me through Vancouver with a long layover. At least since I was flying business class, they booked me a hotel room near the airport... or so I thought. I caught the shuttle to the Delta airport hotel and handed them the voucher Air Canada had sent me with my reservation confirmation. The hotel then proceeded to tell me that no such reservation existed and that Air Canada had probably forgotten to book the room! I then had to spend the next hour bringing up more reservation information on my computer so that the hotel could properly bill AC. The hotel manager was extremely apologetic and helpful. I got the feeling that AC had done this before. That solved I did get a shower and a few hours sleep before I was back to the airport for the red eye to Toronto.
Vancouver to Toronto
Air Canada AC156
I had originally booked this flight instead of continuing on directly to Toronto earlier as it was scheduled to be a 767-300 with the international herring bone seats. That way I could sleep comfortably all the way overnight. Unfortunately, the equipment change fairy visited about 6 weeks before the trip and changed the equipment to and A321. Oh well!
Ironically, the meal on a domestic red eye from YVR to YYZ was probably the best meal and service I had on AC.
I played it safe and went for the stuffed manacotti and it was quite good.
Desert was the best one on AC too, hot cookies and icecream.
I then dozed off all the way to Toronto.
Toronto was nothing special as I was now almost home. Got the bags, cleared US customs preclearance and went to the Maple Leaf Lounge for a quick visit. Here, I ran afoul of my first lounge dragon! I presented my boarding pass for the flight home and she replied, "you can't come in here, you are in economy!"
"I booked the trip in business class, there is no business class on a Dash-8 for the last leg of the trip."
She then proceeded to give me an evil look and started typing furiously into her computer.
Before she could brew up too much steam, I pulled out my Continental Presiden's Club membership and said, "here, this is Star Alliance Gold. This should get me in."
She then gave me another cold look an let me in.
After all that fuss, the lounge was nothing special, just juice and toast for breakfast. I was soon on my way back to my Dash-8 back to Cleveland
This was definitely an aviation enthusiast's itinnerary. I got to see a great mix of airlines and airplanes and was able to spend enough time on each of them for a great impression.
Air Canada was a fine airline. It is definitely not even close to the same league as Singapore, but it does have a very respectable product. There is little for me to argue about with their hard product, especially their herringbone flat bed seat whose only faults are a lack of storage and cheap headphones. Their service is inconsistant, sometimes great, sometimes uninspired. However, for the price, I have no complaints.
Singapore is, as most know, in another league all together. Although I haven't experience any of the others that are comparable (you can make your own list), I can't imagine any being much better. Their hard product left me wanting nothing, their catering was five star, and their service was absolutely flawless. I suppose that I can see why, after flying with them for a while, some might call this robotic. However, in my oppinion seeing that much of SQ would be a nice problem to have I can't even begin to explain how impressed I was at the way they handled misplacing my bag. Heck, they even knew it was lost before I did!
My final thoughts on the comparison between the two airlines are that I paid almost exactly the same price for my SQ ticket and my AC ticket. On AC I got 1/2 the service for twice the distance, and on SQ I got twice the service for 1/2 the distance. For the price, the two balance out pretty evenly in my book.
Hope you all like reading the report and I look forward to your comments.
kevin From Canada, joined Dec 2000, 1129 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (2 years 6 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 19364 times:
Quoting osudvm (Thread starter): They actually had a very nice selection of both cold and hot foods that were fresh and quickly repleantished. It was very impressive and on par with several of the Silver Kris Lounges that I visited. Why can't they do this in the US?
I have often wondered about the same thing. There are things airlines do in Asia, that thy don't in their home bases. I guess they do that to stay on par with the Asian carriers. As for us they know we already got used to being ripped off for substandard service... sad
loalq From Switzerland, joined Jan 2007, 196 posts, RR: 3 Reply 9, posted (2 years 6 months 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 18403 times:
Thanks for the very nice TR!
I am looking forward to my first flight with SQ, from MUC to SIN (even though I am based near Geneva, there weren't any seats left on the A388 on the day I will fly...). Hope I get the same impression as you did.
"...this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped."
osudvm From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 20 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (2 years 6 months 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 18129 times:
Thanks for all of your replies. To answer your replies, yes the SQ new business class seat is massive. Alone, it could seat 2 people, although that is not allowed. If you want to sit with someone, the middle 2 seats are relatively close together, but still permanently divided. They also have a moveable divider that offers more privacy.
AC was definitely a nice airline, just not as good as SQ, but on the other hand didn't charge nearly as much. The thing that did amaze me was on their redeye service. I suppose that this is also their transcon service, and as so, would be comparable to what I've seen on CO from CLE-LAX. The thing that struck me the most was not the catering (which was still much better YVR-YYZ than YYZ-HKG or HKG-YVR), but the service of the FA's. If I were AC, I would promote those FA's to the YYZ-HKG service immediately!
As far as UA lounges in HKG, the only thing I can figure is that their passengers were almost exclusively business/first class ther, while in the US, the people in the RCC are often frequent flyers etc. who are not paying premium fares.
Coal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 1626 posts, RR: 6 Reply 16, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 12506 times:
Great TR! Thanks for all the photos! Oh how I long to move back to Singapore so I can fly SQ regularly again and never, ever fly a Chinese airline!
I've also flown J on the A380 (and subsequently on the 77W) and the seat is indeed amazing! Unfortunately I have only had two overnight flights during which I could turn it into a bed. And it was super comfortable!
And yes, SIN indeed is a top quality airport!
I also wonder why the SQ lounge is so poor at HKG. I've used it while while in transit on SQ and UA to the USA and was also surprised by the lack of toilets. It's odd SQ sends the A380 to HKG to compete with CX yet they fail to provide a decent lounge.
Nxt Flts: QR SIN-DPS | SQ DPS-SIN | 3K SIN-SGN-SIN | SQ SIN-PEK | CA PEK-FNJ-PEK | CX PEK-HKG-CGK
Genius12 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2007, 188 posts, RR: 2 Reply 17, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 11939 times:
Very nice report, with good text and picture balance.
I really must try SQ one of these days - I read consistently good things about them.
I have not been impressed with AC internationally in the past, but have yet to fly the 'new' herringbone layout. I'm not a fan of this layout, I have to say, as it doesn't look very private or spacious. The food looked acceptable, however, although as you rightly point out is no comparison to SQ!
AJO From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 575 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 11820 times:
Wow, great trip report, thanks for sharing! "They" say that AC's J class service should rank among the best in the Star Alliance, and especially the food is highly ranked by "them". Unfortunately, you didn't get the "Full Monty" in that effect...
aluminumcity From Canada, joined Aug 2009, 49 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (2 years 4 months 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 10578 times:
I've flown AC's J class from YYC to YYZ and YYC to VRA and I have been VERY impressed with the food quality on these short routes. Disappointing to hear the situation isn't as good with their worldwide J.
"Well, if I were flying on an MD-80, I'd be taking those anti-depressants too."