Singapore to Tokyo Narita
Business Class, Seat 06B
Flying Time 5 hours 52 minutes
I had an eventful three weeks in SIN catching up with family and friends and eating. I also had the opportunity to meet Ryanair!!! and SQ772.
Arrived at Singapore Changi Terminal 1 at 0615, and proceeded to Row 2 for check-in. UA has two departures from SIN in the early morning and they had two whole rows of check-in desks. The First and Business Class desks had no queues, but there were quite a few people at the Economy Class desks at check-in Row 1. My bags were x-rayed, and after that I was asked some security questions before being allowed to proceed to the counter. A SATS (Singapore Airport Terminal Services) agent checked me in quickly and efficiently. I then cleared through immigration (yet another glum SIN immigration officer!) and I proceeded to the SATS Lounge for a much-needed cup of coffee. The lounge was basic and it looked a bit worn. They had a small selection of food, which I didn’t bother with.
After 20 minutes in the lounge, boarding was called, and I proceeded to Gate C22. There was a long queue at the gate, and it took me about 10 minutes to get through. The gate agent ushered me straight through to board. At Door 1L, I saw two of the same crew on my NRT-SIN flight three weeks ago.
Settled into Seat 06B. I was delighted to see that there wasn’t anyone assigned to 06A, but my joy was short-lived – a couple with a toddler and an infant seated themselves across the aisle. A F/A came by then, and I asked for my second cup of coffee for the day. Once everyone was boarded, we pushed back on time, and taxied for takeoff. It was pissing with rain by then. Two gates to our left was a QF 744 bound for LHR (I think), and next to that was a whitetail 744 with what looked like PW engines (anyone know who that was?). To our right were an Air China 767 and a China Southern 757.
Takeoff was from 02L. Along the way, we taxied past an SQ 343 (9VSJN) and two 744s (9VSMA and 9VSPE), and the ill-fated Fine Air/Arrow Air DC-8 (sans nosewheel, otherwise it looked pretty much intact). At the SASCO hangar there was a FedEx MD11 and a JAL 747 in Resocha colors. As the takeoff roll commenced I watched the raindrops change their direction of flow (yes, I know – why did I concentrate on that....?!).
Immediately after takeoff, I moved over to 06A and told the couple with the two children across the aisle that they could have 06B if they needed it. Fortunately, my fears about noise turned out to be unfounded – the toddler remained quiet throughout the flight, and the infant fell asleep on the floor. Even when she was awake she was placid, and she smiled at everyone. What a charmer!
Menus were distributed before takeoff, and drinks were serviced after takeoff. I had an orange juice this time. For breakfast, we had a choice of poached eggs and corned beef, Singapore-style seafood fried noodles and continental breakfast. An F/A came round and took my order after takeoff – I chose the noodles. Meal service began about 45 minutes after takeoff, and for starters we had fruit and bread. The noodles came after that, and they were a disappointment – it wasn’t spicy at all, and it was in fact quite bland and tasteless. If only other airlines had something akin to SQ’s KrisChilli!
During the meal, the inflight entertainment commenced, and I started watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Warning – do not watch this film while eating! I laughed so much I nearly choked on my food twice. After this movie cycle, I changed channels and watched “Almost Famous”. During the course of the flight, F/As came by every half-hour or so with water. The F/As on this sector were apparently all NRT-based, so I was a bit surprised to see an African-American F/A in First and what looked like two Indian F/As in Economy.
About two hours before arrival the drinks cart came by, followed by a second meal. Our choices this time were spaghetti bolognese and chicken salad. I opted for the chicken salad, and it was good. The salad had bell peppers, artichokes and olives – excellent! We also had dessert with this meal, and this time it was coffee cake.
About 45 minutes before arrival we started preparing for arrival. I had a great view on Mount Fuji as we approached. Our landing at NRT was smooth, and disembarkation was swift. While taxiing, I saw the usual assortment of aircraft at Terminal 1 – KE, CX, UA, NW – and VS’ 346, which was a great looking aircraft.
At NRT, I cleared through security and then proceeded to the new lounge near Gate 31. When I transited at NRT several weeks earlier I used the old lounge near Gate 22. This new lounge is much bigger, and a little more comfortable. I was, again, disappointed by the selection of food, as there was only peanuts and other light snacks. I got myself a beer from one of those wonderful dispensing machines and settled in for my four-hour wait. I watched the sunset, and I also saw more aircraft takeoff and land, including two AC A340s, a CO B777, three AA B777s, CI 744, two SQ 744s, and a TG 744. During the time I was in the lounge, the prevailing wind must have changed direction, because aircraft started landing and taking off in the opposite direction.
Tokyo Narita to Honolulu
Business Class, Seat 12B
Flying Time 5 hours 40 minutes
Boarding was called at the Red Carpet Lounge about an hour before departure. Proceeded to Gate 22, where there was a large crowd waiting to board, but the gate agents were calling for First/Business Class passengers to go through. Boarded the aircraft, and went to my seat on the upper deck. There were two female flight attendants there - an American and a Japanese. Right after I was seated, the American F/A came by with the usual welcome drinks. I opted for orange juice. The other flight attendant then came round with headphones, amenity kits and menus. I had an empty seat next to me again. This time, Business Class was about 60% full on the upper deck. The Captain then came on to tell us that our flight time was only 5 hours 40 mins (it was 8 hours 36 mins on this sector on my way out!) and that we would be on the ground in HNL early.
Takeoff was smooth, and after we were airborne drinks were served along with mixed nuts that hadn’t been warmed up. Dinner service began after that. We had a choice between filet mignon, chicken and rice and a bento meal. I opted for the bento, and that turned out to be an excellent choice. There was a selection of small starters and cold noodles, and main course was salmon, with side dishes of seaweed and cold chicken. This meal was served with green tea and sake was supposed to be served as well, but the F/As didn’t offer any and I didn’t ask for it either. Dessert followed – a selection of cheeses (I declined) and a slice of chocolate cake, which I opted for.
Once dinner was over, the F/As brought bottled water, and I settled in to watch “The Bourne Identity”, and then tried to get some sleep. Unlike my earlier HNL-NRT flight, this time I did see the F/As walk down the aisle at regular intervals. On this flight, whenever one of the cockpit crew went to the restroom, an F/A would stand guard and stop anyone from using them until the cockpit crew returned. I didn’t see this on my earlier flights, but then again I wasn’t seated anywhere close to the cockpit on those flights either.
Continental breakfast was served 90 mins before arrival. It consisted of fruit, yogurt, and a croissant. After this meal, preparations were made for arrival, and we landed smoothly, well ahead of schedule. Upon arrival, we had to take the “wiki-wiki” shuttle bus to the international arrivals terminal, and I had to wait a while to get through immigration. This time round, though, I had a friendly immigration officer. After clearing through, I went to pick up my bags which were, for once, already on the carousel, and from there I went to the agricultural inspector before going to the terminal pick-up area.
Overall, I had two pleasant flights with UA. UA’s product lacks the sophistication the Asian carriers, but at least their service isn’t based on a “formula”. I’m also impressed by UA’s professionalism. Their staff must have been feeling a great deal of anxiety over the future, but it didn’t show, and they kept up their usual standard of service.