allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1675 posts, RR: 4 Posted (8 months 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 8183 times:
Welcome to my 36th (assuming that search works, and it doesn’t) trip report. This time it’s across Asia and with family.
Look at the route map of your typical Asian low cost carrier. Isn’t it amazing how many destinations you can fly? There are more added all the time. And some of those prices - get in at the right time and they can be so cheap!
That’s what I was thinking when I began planning this trip. The first segment booked was Taipei to Narita, taking advantage of the sale surrounding Scoot’s announcement of these destinations. Yes, Scoot. After my first two experiences with Scoot I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the airline, but the fares were cheap and I wanted to lock in that we were off to Japan.
Vietnam was strongly considered and dropped (when will Jetstar Pacific be let out of the country?) and other destinations sorted through many nights of research and a spreadsheet of times and prices. We ended up with:
So join me, my wife B and 4 year old frequent flying son Alex on our 3 week trip around Asia.
I had no wish to book Scoot. My first trip with them had been highly uncomfortable. Even my wife agreed that we shouldn’t fly back to Australia at the awful time of 2 am out of Singapore. But the fact was that they were by far the cheapest and we were trying to spend as little as possible. Would they be as bad as last time? Let’s find out.
No rush in the morning. We were catching a taxi with the mother-in-law and her friend who were headed to Kuala Lumpur on the earlier AirAsia flight. The taxi driver was relatively new. Sydney's roads were typically choked and we crawled along the M5. I agreed with the taxi driver's desire to take the southern scenic route instead, but we weren't the ones paying and trying to check in early.
The oldies returned to us after checking in, having scored an upgrade to a lie flat seat, a feature not even available on Scoot.
Sydney Airport. It gets a pretty bad rap, but I actually like it. Eight years ago I caught my first international flight, also to Singapore, from this terminal and despite the many renovations since the check in area still has that dark low-ceiling feel about it. And because we are going to places new it does feel like the beginning of an adventure once more.
Mother-in-law is hungry, so we take her to court. The food court, that is. Her court orders are noodles of course. Well, it's either that or rice. Let's be fair, she was hoping for hotcakes from Maccas, but that's on the other side of security.
From the food court you can peer outwards through big glass windows at aircrew and passengers walking to the southern gates, then beyond at the aircraft parked in the inner bays. For some reason it evokes a distant memory of a 1970's Tullamarine airport, when I was very young. My earliest memories are of sitting in an aircraft to Adelaide when I was two years old. After the return I didn't fly again for another fourteen or so years. This is Alex's 43rd flight and he's only four, proof if anything of a different world.
After saying goodbye to MiL and friend we took the elevator up to the observation deck, if only to let Alex ride an elevator at the airport (and I'm not permitted by him to refer to them as lifts). Of course, I am lying and the real reason was to let me photograph aircraft with our new camera. But the elevator and a run around the wooden deck were happy consequences.
A loving relationship (and Garuda)
We waited for Scoot's check in counter to open. Alex was busy playing with a touchscreen game at a small kids area near the counters. B walked off thread some magazines at the newsagent but was forced to return when the solid metal strap attachment on her supposedly thief proof Pacsafe bag snapped. I stuffed her bag into my daypack.
Check in soon opened. We queued behind an Indian couple with far too many giant suitcases. I hate to think of their excess baggage fees as Scoot ain't cheap, especially if you don't prebook.
We had two relatively small and light bags to check in. The backpack has actually travelled as cabin baggage before. The lighter the better, especially when catching public transport, as we usually do.
A replacement bag cost $80, but B ingeniously found a carabiner at the Lonely Planet shop to replace the hook.
Alex was so excited about seeing x-ray machines again that he couldn't wait to pass through immigration and on to security. My bag if electronics and a trainee operator slowed us down, then B was picked for a patdown and bomb residue swipe.
"No thanks, I've done one before," doesn't work.
It was our turn to go to McDonald's. Not for the food, but for the children's playground. Anything to burn off energy. We had a mostly free meal of Monopoly voucher food while he played, then he joined us, hungry.
The others' AirAsiaX flight backed out of the gate. Alex waved to his Poh Poh.
What I would like to have been flying on!
We intended to eat lunch at one the cafes and restaurants further along, but a glance at their prices drove us back to the Golden Arches. $27 for pasta, $17 for ramen? You must be joking!
Our yellow Scoot aircraft landed, 15 minutes late. Time for us to go too.
Alex and I take photos of the aircraft, a Boeing 777-200. It's his first flight on a 777. This one looks a little stumpy compared with the longer and later models. The much derided livery reminds me of bananas and yoghurt.
There was a long queue at gate 24 for our Scoot flight to Singapore. Alex suggested that we could easily go around the edges of the queue rather than waiting, but instead we sat down till our boarding zone was called. Boarding was done by zones of seat rows and families were not requested to board first. We were in zone 3, the last to be called.
I was happy. A prebooked window seat forward of the wing in the first row of the standard blue seats. Ahead of us was one row of yellow stretch seats.
I found the seats hard with uncomfortable back and head support. B didn't mind. Perhaps they suit their local Asian market better than Anglos like me.
Legroom at the window seat was still an issue for me, but with a little one in the middle of three seats it wasn't a big one.
Alex soon fell asleep as we taxied out towards the south of the main runway. So here we were, off on another adventure. I was feeling the buzz as the jets roared into life, pushing me back hard into the seat. We took off early, before reaching the terminal apron.
There is always a the thrill of seeing a familiar city from above, that different perspective on a landscape usually viewed from ground level. Unlike a satellite map, so readily available online, this is alive. Trains racing beneath like model railways, heavy traffic you have now escaped from. It's a reminder of how much is changing now you are away, a little feeling of superiority over those below still stuck in the daily grind.
The view lasts until we enter the cloud above the old Olympic venue at Homebush. It returns in patches over the folded dark green landscape the Hawkesbury-Nepean region northwest of Sydney. The sandstone ridges are like great walls, barriers to those leaving the city. But not to us in the air, and we are soon across the bright green farmlands. The plentiful recent rains has banished the dusty yellows of a normal summer.
This is a journey of colours and textures, each step of the flight revealing a different palette. According to the captain's muffled announcement we are heading up towards Darwin. I miss a flight map to show us our path. Unfortunately there is no inflight entertainment. No seat back screens, no overhead monitors, not even audio. You can hire a tablet or use wifi to stream content to your own device, but the selection isn't good. That's why I spent so much time getting my own content on our devices.
Alex has now awoken after a surprisingly short sleep. I sit him on my lap and point out a few things outside the window. We make a story about a cloud boy who rides a dragon across a cloud kingdom in the sky.
The land has become flatter and drier. Squares of unplanted red-brown soil break up those with crops. Then the landscape takes on a distinctly khaki tinge, greyer and more uniform in complexion.
I had preordered one meal, soya chicken, for B. It is served with a small tub of Pringles chips and a coke. The hot dish smells authentic and looks an awful brown, which is quite normal presentation for this southern Chinese cuisine. The problem is that it's too early to be fed this hot meal, only a couple of hours after lunch.
In the end only half of the meal was eaten.
Alex was playing around the seat. He wants to use the toilet, of course. That loud slurping sound of the vacuum sucking the ablutions into a tank both scares and excites him.
Outside the land has turned dry and red, cracked with paler soils from dry river courses. They remind me of the fractal landscape of the chaotic bifurcation diagrams I used to generate on the computer. Such a simple equation creating such complexity.
From now until we reach the coast we are crossing a landscape of mostly dry river channels. At one point there is water running down through them. Will it make it to Lake Eyre, the sometimes inland sea fed by many of these waterways? Probably not.
Alex spends surprisingly little time playing games on the iPad or watching videos. Some cardboard Angry Birds cutouts provide entertainment with our own physical version of the game. B spends as much of the flight as possible reading her novel.
Somewhere over the Northern Territory the landscape becomes dark green again and the waterways shiny networks of fine capillaries. Clouds return, a couple of storm bands, but break for a last look at Australia as we cross the coast over Darwin. Last time Alex flew to Singapore we stopped over here for a couple of hours.
For most of the rest of the flight the view outside is of cloud over a flat shimmering sea. It is beautiful, as the day fades the shadowed clouds become more define, taking on a pink and orange tinge. This is flying for me, so serene above the clouds. While Alex is busy I type the blog on my phone, listen to music.
We hit high cloud, storm cells. As we skim the tops, bumping along, the cloudscape becomes fuzzy, indistinct.Alex has started asking "how long" and I share a little of the feeling. That's the difference between a great airline and the rest.
B is trying to save her stomach for Singapore food, but it's past dinnertime in Australia. I order some pot noodles for Alex, asking the flight attendant to drain the liquid. She returns to find Alex asleep on B's lap. Finally I observe some Scootitude from the Scootie, as she offers to warm it up later. The crew are improved from my previous Scoot flight, though they still ignore the too-easy-to-trigger call lights.
With nothing to see outside and no duties inside I watch comedies on my tablet.
Eventually, nearing Singapore, we emerge into the gorgeous evening light. As we descend I wish that there was music to listen to, but it's electronics off. Alex is awake and eats his cold noodles, with the turbulence and descent there is no response to our call button.
Our path takes us over islands, probably Indonesia, scarred by development, open wounds of brown where the forest has been scraped off. The true sign of approaching Singapore is the vast array of ships lined up off the coast. Compared with the quiet waters of Australia this is simply astonishing.
We land in the dusk after a beautiful tropical sunset. It is a very long taxi to the gate. The terminal looks a little rundown with too much brown, but our path through immigration is quick, though luggage collection a little slow.
I grab a SIM card and, after just missing the shuttle bus, we catch a taxi to our hotel, the Parkroyal on Beach, instead. It works out cheaper than the shuttle anyway.
WROORD From United States of America, joined Mar 2009, 886 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (8 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 8086 times:
Nice report. It seems as though AirAsiaX is a better deal. The Scoot seems to be very basic? I really love Singapore and the Sands is my favorite building. I am amazed how nice and clean everything is there.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1675 posts, RR: 4 Reply 4, posted (8 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 8054 times:
Quoting WROORD (Reply 3): It seems as though AirAsiaX is a better deal. The Scoot seems to be very basic?
You can pay more to get more legroom on Scoot, but their business class is more of a premium economy than AirAsiaX's lie flat, not that I've experienced it myself. You are right, Scoot does feel very basic.
Having flown quite recently out of SYD airport, I have to say I enjoyed their international terminal but I am on you with this one. The overpriced foods..
Quoting allrite (Thread starter): We intended to eat lunch at one the cafes and restaurants further along, but a glance at their prices drove us back to the Golden Arches. $27 for pasta, $17 for ramen? You must be joking!
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1675 posts, RR: 4 Reply 6, posted (8 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 7964 times:
Quoting dirktraveller (Reply 5): From your report Scoot seems pretty basic LCC, even maybe compared to Jetstar on their A330s?
The final part of this series will feature a Jetstar A330, but I can reveal now that I still think that the Jetstar comfort levels exceed that of Scoot. Add on some other features available on Jetstar and AirAsia and you realise how basic Scoot is. I'll hopefully go into more details at the end of this series.
Quoting dirktraveller (Reply 5): I hope you have enjoyed Singapore, and your trip around Asia with your family.
Absolutely! After I took B to some of the food centres I discovered on previous trips and by doing research I think she now appreciates the convenience of good food in Singapore compared with Malaysia. We had a great time there, the only disappointment was going to a waterpark at Jurong East only to discover it was closed due to the potential for lightning strikes.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1675 posts, RR: 4 Reply 8, posted (8 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 7117 times:
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 7): You say the legroom was cramped, but how cramped? Judging the cabin pics you had quite a bit of room.
Maybe this is true of all 777s (I've only flown two examples of 777s, both 772s), but I found that the left chair support of the seat in front of me interfered with the placement of my left foot in such a way as to make the placement of said foot uncomfortable. Then there is the entertainment box for others. So the cramping wasn't really seat pitch but width related.
All I can really say is that I haven't been inconvenienced in such a way on any other aircraft I've flown in recent times bar the Q400, and that's a turboprop.
And I usually store a backpack under my seat too on most flights.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1675 posts, RR: 4 Reply 10, posted (8 months 4 hours ago) and read 5851 times:
Quoting debonair (Reply 9): Don't you think, that maybe something have been changed for the better after Virgin's take-over? Like on-time performance, customer service?
Considering that Tiger Airways has probably the most basic offerings of any of the airlines and our own light requirements I struggle to see how they could offer a better experience than any of the other flights. Also, the Asian arm isn't involved with the Virgin takeover. One day I might fly them in Australia, although not for business.
Quoting debonair (Reply 9): Strange to see, that such an airline with SIA roots and DNA, great B777's is behind Jetstar...
Considering that they had both AirAsiaX and Jetstar precede them as regional long-haul LCCs I'm surprised that their offerings are so poor from the start. I suspect they used Tiger as the model, which in turn seems inspired by Ryanair. Not having flown either I can't comment, but I always get the sense that I have to pay for everything, including smiles. But I'm sure they will improve. I'll write more comparison at the end of the series.
Kent350787 From Australia, joined May 2008, 942 posts, RR: 0 Reply 11, posted (6 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 3029 times:
Thanks for this - I missed these reports of your trip somewhere along the line. But with A trip to Singapore and Malaysia later in the year, it's really whetting my appetite. We're still planning what to do in Singapore, so your pics here really help.
We good got a good deal on QF, so I'm glad not to be Scooting after this, but we'll be having our first Firefly and AirAsia experiences along the peninsula.
Good to see Alex is now a wholly seasoned traveller!