Internet was just fixed up…so here’s a report from a month back.
Manila Ninoy Aquino to Singapore Changi
12 December 2003
ETD/ETA – 1800/2125 (GMT +8)
Actual Times – 1803/2124 (GMT +8)
Departure/Arrival Gate – 6/E24
Boeing 777-212/ER 9V-SQG
After a long tenure in Philippines, my father decided it was time to go back home and managed to get a transfer back to the Fine City. By the time our vacation in Australia ended back in July, it was already decided we would return to Singapore by the end of the year. So this is a one-way report.
The driver picked us up after school and we traveled the short distance to our ex-home, where my father was waiting with a van and a driver, which he had borrowed from his company. The maid that my mother had contracted to work with us in Singapore was also there, with her husband and young son. The elderly, rather picky landlady was also present as was the outgoing maid and driver. I quickly changed as my father settled final issues with the landlady, and handed over the keys. The house looked rather different being completely empty.
After settling last few final issues, we were good to go.
Soon, my mother’s friend came with their driver, who would drive us to the airport. My father got in the van with the company driver as we entered our car. Instructions were given to directly drive both vehicles back to the company building after the trip. The trip was rather uneventful, besides that the driver was asking my mother to help him find a job through emailing friends, as his employer would also be going back to Singapore soon. He even presented several personal business cards - business cards, for a chauffeur or a security guard?.
The same aircraft, a FedEx MD11F and Korean Air 744F, were at the Cargo Terminal as six months earlier, when we had arrived for the same flight. We needed a total of 5(!) trolleys to carry all our bags, but porters were available to help and the last few pesos we had were given to them. Passports and tickets were checked as we proceeded to the security queue.
We passed through it without any problems, but then a Security officer saw our boxes that were once used to store computers and thought there were TVs and computers in them. My father said no they were books and stuff and we were allowed to proceed to the Singapore Airlines check-in, where there were no lines.
There were plenty of counters open for the flight, about seven. All the economy counters were full, but the agent at the Star Gold counter waved at us. All our baggages were weighed – all 15(!) of them, filled with kitchenware, clothes, and the basic necessities required before our container arrived around Christmastime.
The baggage were heavily overweight – by some 20kg thus we had to pay a fine of about US$60, which were paid with the last few pesos bills in my father’s wallet. Finally, everything was checked in. We got seats back at the 55th row, three seats on the window section and three in the middle. As we finally left, a couple came to the counter – I noted an address in Spain on their baggage – must be connecting to SQ334 to Madrid via Paris – what a long flight ahead of them.
Airport tax of P550 apiece was promptly paid as we proceeded to the nearly empty immigration. Most of the flights had already departed by then – only the Kuwait Airways plane still sat in the Terminal. Immigration was quite quick for Manila.
We went to the upstairs restaurant and ordered a few sandwiches and rather expensive Lemonade and Coke. Our plane today was Quebec Golf, which I had flown two years earlier. Damn lucky brother when he went back to SIN a month earlier for tests got SQI and SQC. Anyway, the Kuwaiti A340 today was 9K-ANC, the same plane we saw in July.
The last few bits of pesos still hogging my father’s wallet were used to pay the bill, and I nabbed a rare P5 bill when the change came back. A souvenir, I suppose.
Soon we went down the stairs and down the escalator to Gate 6, where the Triple Seven was patiently waiting. Next to it was a Cathay 773 – I could not catch the registration because as it was winter, it was already turning dark. The flight was about 80% full today, mostly filled with Western businessmen connecting to the bank of late-night departures to Europe, Singaporean businessmen returning home after dealing with the staff of Lucio Tan, Jaime Zobel, John Gokongwei and the like, and the occasional tourist or two.
I was trying to get a glimpse of the Swiss A343 that was scheduled to arrive that day from Zurich via Hong Kong, but when it was time for it to arrive, it was nowhere in sight.
Boarding soon started – priority again given to the usual suspects – Star Gold, PPS Club, those disabled or with children etc. We were one of the first to board and I found my seat, 55A. I tried to take a picture of the airport with its light on, as it was now the later stages of dusk. However, the flash from the digital camera was reflected on the windows, producing a white image. I did not know how to disable the flash, so no picture taking for this flight.
The flight crew today were all Singaporeans of Chinese descent, the pilot was rather young himself. The safety video was played as we push-backed, something like Number 4 for take off behind Philippines Airlines and Air Philippines 737s plus a Cebu Pacific DC9. Hot towels were distributed, but they were rather cold.
Taxi was slow although rather short to Runway 6 as we past the Cargo terminal, now occupied by a Northwest 742F in the bare metal scheme. Several private planes landed as we turned into position for take-off, with an Asiana Cargo 763F taxiing to the runway.
The Rolls-Royce Trent 884 engines roared to life – noisy boilers they are, as the Everett, Seattle-born jet lurched down the runway. Terminal 1 was now only occupied by the Kuwait A343, the Cathay Triple Seven having departed earlier and the Toulouse-born Swiss plane still not to be seen, while Lufthansa, KLM, Emirates, China Southern, and Qatar would be coming in later. We lifted off Filipino soil as we spotted the Lufthansa Technik Hanger and the Philippines Airlines Maintenance Base, which had several 737s in the hanger and a single A340 out in the open with stairs attached. We spotted the Makati Central Business District and Manila City proper, and our old village. We saw the dark Fort Bonifacio Global City, but ISM was in the darkness, its lights not turned on. The city of Manila was beautiful at night, but…no camera to record the moment.
We soon climbed and settled at an altitude of about 34,000 feet above the South China Sea at a speed of about 890kph – outside was pitch black except for the navigation light blinking. We took a more southern and zigzagged route than usual – other times it was usually a straight line – now it was a wavy line on the Map on the PTV. I busied myself in the Straits Times, then Newsweek, then Time – all three publications I had not read in a long time.
The tray came around with a smiling attendant, offering Water, Orange Juice, or Beer (or was it wine?). Took the OJ. A little while later, the mixed nut packets were handed out. KrisWorld then started. Tuned in to SWAT, which was pretty much the only good movie offered.
Soon the menu was distributed. I took a look at it – Chicken or Fish yet again – seems to be the standard for Manila Catering. Chucked it into the seat pocket as I returned to the movie.
Heavy turbulence struck a lot of the flight, with some minor drops and shakings. The Seatbelt sign came on some three times during the flight – plenty for a 3.5-hour shorthauler.
The Singapore Girls then came around with the dinner cart. Children were served first as usual and myself and my brother were among the first to be served. Chose Chicken as usual with a cup of Coke. The chicken was rather bland, with sauce and the usual array of Western vegetables with a few bits of Macaroni. The salad was left untouched as previous flights – I despise most of them. Bread was dry although edible, while the mango pudding that was desert was rather tasteless.
The service was quite good on the flight compared to my four flights in July and August. The flight attendants never disappeared after the meal service – they came around frequently every few minutes. The cart was also brought past plenty of times, and I was able to get something like five refills of softdrinks and juice without having to wait for the attendant to go back to the gallery as the cart was already there on the aisle. A Leading Stewardess also did some rounds in the Y cabin, while I noticed the Chief Stewardess drop by at least once.
An announcement then came on stating that the Duty-Free cart would be making its rounds, but few passengers cared. I continued finishing off SWAT, which was horribly boring at first, but then the climax and end were quite good.
I reclined my seat slightly – so not to disturb the passenger behind me – and noticed the bottom of the seat tilted up slightly and slowly as the back reclined – something, which I had not noticed back in July. It is rather a pity though if SQ reinstalled or refurbished these seats without fitting AVOD on them – it would have been highly convenient to do so.
Soon we were descending into Singapore, and the pilot made a slight turn left pointing the plane towards the islands of Indonesia south of Singapore, probably to avoid heavy turbulence, which had struck yet again. It was still pitch dark outside, but we could already spot a few Indonesian islands dimly lit.
A little while later, the airshow still on, the cockpit crew executed a right as Quebec Golf’s right wing dropped, pointing the plane towards Singapore. We descended quickly as I watched the numbers on the airshow fall steadily while the temperature steadily rose until it was above freezing level.
Soon we left Indonesian airspace and crossed over to Singapore’s where as usual, container ships and other vessels littered port waters. The CBD and the Orchard Road section were very brightly lit as usual – it was even more beautiful than the sight of Manila. Damn camera! Singapore was very bright compared to Malaysia up north.
The landing gear soon came down with a bump and the usual sound of the machinery. Soon we were over the island by just a few hundred feet where the ECP and other roads were spotted. The boring old HDB flats at Tampines and Pasir Ris were seen, and the plentiful amounts of grass, trees, and greenery. Soon we spotted several SIA buildings as one of SQ’s 50+ 777s bumped down on Runway 2L with the typical 777 touchdown – dual bumps. Reversers and spoilers were engaged.
We used barely half the runway and quickly the pilot exited as we on the left side spotted the famous Control Tower and a Qantas 744 parked at Terminal 1. The taxi took us north to the end of Terminal 1, where an array of five aircraft was parked for the night.
First to be sighted was a Cathay Pacific A333, whose registration I didn’t catch, waiting for its 8 something timeslot in the morning to return home. Next was Singapore Airlines B772 9V-SQI, with stairs attached. It was followed by Singapore Airlines B744 9V-SPG, Air France B772 F-GSPM, sitting there because it wasn’t due to Jakarta today, and finally, one of those early SQ 744s going to be sent to the desert, its registration already wiped off by the engineering folks. Looked pretty sad sitting there.
Soon we rounded Terminal 1 and I could not spot any more aircraft sadly, because all of them were at the right side of the plane. We taxied near the SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPORT tiles on Terminal 2 and as we were turning into position into E24 I spotted 9V-SMP and 9V-SYF, tracing them through the connections information given by the PTV. Mike Papa was bound for Paris and Madrid while Yankee Foxtrot would take off to Sydney.
We got off the plane but were met with not-so-good surprise – an additional security check. What a waste of time. Does Changi Airport not trust the security of the departure airport? We cleared security after some 15 minutes and began trekking to the Immigration Hall. The screen at E24 showed that it would be used for the flight to Nagoya at 1am, but SQG will probably park for the night, as the SRX series are the ones that go to NGO.
As we descended down the escalator, we passed the row of SARS screening machines that had been set up. Went directly to the Singaporean Counter and quickly passed. Our pieces of check-in baggage needed a total of 6(!) of Changi’s small carts.
My father, sister and brother went with the maid to the taxi line while some baggage while I sat with my mother waiting for my father to bring the car. I was quite bored so I just stared at the TV showing arrivals. There were plenty of Singapore Girls leaving, several Malaysian flight and cabin crew, and a batch of Middle Eastern crew that I could not identify the airline of. Could it be Emirates? Or Qatar? Or Gulf Air?
The car arrived some twenty minutes later and most of the luggage was loaded in the car. However, there was not enough space for a few more pieces so my mother had to stay behind. I got into the car for a short drive to my home.
Soon we reached the house, and my father took off again for the airport. It was by then about 11:15pm. The house had some basic furnishings – single beds, mattresses, a small sofa set, a small dining table – but no bells and whistles. Phew. Well, this is Singapore. The Fine City. An old journey has ended. A new journey has begun.
But isn’t the life of an expatriate better?