Docpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1954 posts, RR: 3 Posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 11005 times:
We spent a great eight days in Beijing visiting The Great Wall, The Summer Palace etc. My mum’s business associates took very good care of my friends and I and I must say they are one of the most hospitable, kindest, warmest people I have met in my life.
Sharapova at the China Open!!
Of course, all good things must come to an end we headed off to Beijing’s Capital airport at 1.30pm to catch our 4pm flight SQ801 back to Singapore
The checkin area of Beijing’s airport is in a restricted area. Only passengers holding tickets are able to enter. The only other places I have seen this in play are CDG Terminal 2B (I have no idea why ONLY 2B has this!) and New Delhi. I have a feeling this is the case as people from India and China tend to invite their entire clan along when they go overseas, which would result in an uncontrollable crowd.
We headed to the economy section of SIA’s checkin counters for checkin and joined the queue.
A staff of SQ’s Ground Handler in Beijing was walking along the Y Class pax to stick an SQ sticker on them. Why this is done remains unclear, though I suspect it’s to identify any pax who might still be at the duty free shops 5 mins prior to departure, or just pax who might be wandering in a daze at the airport minutes before departure.
Two local men decided to cut the queue in front of us. This seems to be a rather unfortunate occurrence in China. We then informed them (in Chinese) that we were there first. They then tried to cut the queue of a Singaporean couple and we told the Singaporean couple that someone was trying to cut their queue.
While we were nearing our turn (we were second in line) another two Chinese nationals tried to come in front of us. We then told them politely to go away. They didn’t go to the end of the line and tried to cut into every space they saw. The SQ Ground Agent saw what was going on and walked up to them, saying “Could you please queue up? Thank you.”
The two Chinese nationals then straddled to the end of the Y line, decided it was too long, and headed to the First Class queue. The same SQ ground agent saw them and said “Gentlemen could you please queue up at the economy line? This line for First Class passengers”
That aside, it was soon our turn and the checkin agent greeted us. We noticed that many pax had through-checked to SQ237 to Melbourne, the new departure from SIN at midnight. It was not surprising that the three of us were among the minority of pax joining SQ801 who were not ending our journey in SIN.
We spoke to the checkin agent in Chinese and asked him for three seats together. He said the only place in the plane where there were 3 seats together was at the very last row of the aircraft. We were a bit disappointed at that, but agreed.
On leaving, my Canadian friend insisted that the checkin agent gave us the last 3 rows because ‘we were young’ but I dismissed that of course. I mean, the flight was really full!
Immigration had really long queues but we cleared it 10 mins. Just past the security checkpoint the officer asked to smell my bottle of lemon tea. I found that rather strange because in no other airport (including the US) has any security officer asked to smell my drink.
Soon after, the Singapore girls (and boys) in their kebayas glided past us towards SQ801. This set of crew looked very ordinary and one leading stewardess was pushing the limit on her size. I swear she was quite unshapely and it was rather unflattering towards the legendary kebaya. (I exaggerate for effect….)
Duty Free shops were aplenty but rather pricey (Singapore was cheaper for perfumes and alcohol) and we had some afternoon tea which was horrendously expensive for China. 65 Yuan for a bowl of noodles. That’s US$8. It was ironic when we heard the service staff at the restaurant comparing their salaries, which were around 500 Yuan a month. That will buy them less than 10 bowls of noodles in the airport restaurant!
Took some pictures of planes, including a UA 772 bound for Chicago, our own SQ flight, and an Air Canada plane that just landed from Vancouver that totally excited my French Canadian friend.
THE FLIGHT ITSELF
SQ801 operated by 9V-SQB, the second oldest 777 in SIA’s fleet delivered in May 1997.
At 3.55, we decided to leave our horrendous afternoon tea for SQ801. Needless to say, we were the last passengers to board the aircraft. An Indian Singaporean Steward welcomed us aboard with a smile saying “Hi guys we were all waiting for you!” and directed us to our seat.
We made our way to seats 57D, F and G, the middle section of the very last row of the 777-200.
This plane looked spanking new. Better than 9V-SQA, the one we took to PEK. There were substantially more Chinese nationals on this flight than our outbound flight.
An Aussie Captain welcomed us aboard and told us our flight time would be 5h35mins.
Got a copy of The Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper (Oh it is really such a crap paper but hey, it just gives me that feeling I’m close to home!)
Announcements on this flight were made first by a Singaporean in English, then by a Chinese national “Singapore girl” in Mandarin.
The safety video was screened (I have a shot of the first 30 seconds of the new SIA safety video. If any of you want it just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you. It’s 7 MB I think so do make sure your inbox can handle it)
PEK was really crowded at that time of the day and we were like, 10th in sequence for takeoff or something, so it took a really long time before it got to our turn. The Captain came on to tell us that all we could do was “wait as there was nothing much we could do at this point”
We soon took off and the weather was turbulent for the first 15 mins of the flight. The Captain then came on to ask us to expect turbulent weather till until we passed Hong Kong, which would be about 2.5 hours later.
Just after takeoff
Soon after the seatbelt sign was switched off, the crew distributed the menus and commenced with a full bar service and gave us packets of nuts. Being seated at the last row, we obviously we were the last to be served!
After the bar service, the crew came round with duty free sales, after which it was coming to 6pm local time and I was feeling quite famished. Being seated just next to the galley, I went to ask if they had instant noodles or anything to nibble on. The Singapore Girl told me that Dinner would be served in 5 minutes.
And it was. Except that being in the last row it got to me about 40 minutes later. In the meantime, the flight path showed we were getting very close to HKG airspace to our left, so I wondered if we would be able to make out the territory from 37 000 feet.
We did! It was a clear day over HKG and we could make out Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui) and Hong Kong Island clearly, with a faint outline of the spectacular Hong Kong skyline (which of course wasn’t that impressive at 37 000 feet….)
At which point it was dinner time.
I didn't take photos of my meals as my memory card was full. However, I have tried to do the next best thing: Take photos of the menus! Haha.
So as you can see there was an international selection and an oriental selection with two different choices of appetisers, maincourse and savoury snack (cheese/chinese snack)
My Singaporean friend and I chose the Oriental selection (made exclusively by Mr Yeung Koon Yat of Forum Restaurant, Hong Kong) and it wasn’t too bad, though mass cooking does destroy anything that any famous chef tries to make.
My Canadian friend found the beef goulash tasty and wanted more.
However Nestle Ice Cream Cones were served for dessert (they are HUGE) and he ended up each asking for another helping.
By the time dinner was cleared, there was a little under 2 hours less for the flight. Cabin crew came round periodically with water and juice, while we decided to ask for more ice cream.
The cabin crew were a notch better than the flight to PEK. They spoke more eloquently, had more smiles, were much warmer and weren’t so “to the book”. Eg when it got to our turn for meals, they knew we were young people in our early twenties and spoke to us in a more casual way (that didn’t diminish their service level at all) and could make conversation with us in the galley.
Went to the galley and asked the crew in very Singaporean English “eh can we be very cheapskate and ask for more ice cream har?” The Singapore girls smiled and offered each of us an additional ice cream each. They even told my Canadian friend she would charge him for it, in zest of course.
Not Robotic at all!
And I must emphasise that in all my years of traveling SQ, I have never ever felt they treat whites better than Asians. I have never felt they treated darker skinned people worse too. Being part Indian and part Chinese myself, I obviously am somewhat darker skinned and I’ve always gotten very good service from them. SQ crew are always happy to engage in conversations with pax of all nationalities!
Being the second-oldest 777 in SIA’s fleet, we had the standard Krisworld IFE with no AVOD. Just 22 channels. I dreaded it being the same selection as what we got on the way up but as it was nearing the end of September, we had October’s selection instead! They had Spiderman 2, Mean Girls, The Terminal and many other great movies. I caught The Terminal and part of a horrible French movie.
Before arrival in SIN, an arrival video was shown. Oh this video always depresses me for it reminds me that my holiday is ending. Even if you don’t wanna watch it it’s screened on the big screen as well so images of Singapore are everywhere and I can’t escape them!!
Our Flight Path took us from Beijing straight down to Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Ho Chi Minh City, the Gulf of Thailand, over Singapore then a sharp 180 degree turn towards runway 02R (the one where you have a great view of the city, flying over the East Coast Parkway, Tanah Merah Country Club, Safra Sea Sports Centre, then the runway with that nice long road parallel towards it!
I do apologise for the poor quality of photos. I just couldn't get my camera to focus on the screen.
We disembarked at E24 and had a huge long walk to the immigration area. Changi’s Terminal 2 was really crowded at that time, with all the European flights about to leave. Walked past all the gates of people going to places like Istanbul, SYD, MEL etc and felt rather jealous!
As most pax in SIN are connecting pax, there was hardly a queue at immigration and the first bag on the belt was already there when we arrived. How Changi manages to offload bags and have them on the belt in just over 10 minutes still never amazes me.
I doubt there were even 100 people waiting for their bags at our belt. Out of an aircraft of 298 passengers.
Cleared customs with tonnes of fake DVDs. (SIN customs never stops you and never cares…..) out to the arrivals hall where we were ferried home by our respective family members.
Another great flight on SQ. Service was slightly better than the flight to PEK which was good to begin with. IFE was great. Food was great. Ice Cream was just wonderful!
Where did they go wrong? Well I notice a bit of cuts in catering here and there. I bet only geeks like us notice it but when the general flying public feels it then SQ will feel the pinch.
Nevertheless I was never hungry throughout my flights ever. At least they have decent snacks like sandwiches, instant noodles and so on.
My next report could either be QF SIN-CDG-SIN, SQ CDG-SIN, TunisAir Paris-Tunis-Paris, United Airlines CDG-ORD-CDG, SQ SIN-ADL/BNE-SIN, SQ SIN-BKK or QF ADL-BNE. I’m inclined towards QF SIN-CDG-SIN. Of course if I have bored all of you to death do inform. And I’ll stop right away! Thanks for getting to this point!
Carmy From Singapore, joined Oct 2001, 627 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 10763 times:
Absolutely stunning report with fantastic pictures of both the city and the aircraft cabin. Makes me want to hop onto the next plane back to Beijing!
Anyway, since I happen to be that Singaporean friend that Docpepz was writing about, the three of us were actually debating for a while whether to fly Air China for S$510 or SQ for S$598. In the end, we decided not to be overly adventurous and stick with SQ instead. After hearing about how Jubilee777 still has nightmares following his trip to PEK on CA, I guess Docpepz was quite right in forcing us to fork out the extra S$80 or so.
I suppose the thing about flying SQ for Singaporeans is that it's clear that you're going home when you hear the quintessential lahs and lors when you approach the SQ check-in counter. And no matter how great the country has been, it's always good to be in familiar territory again with the familiar accent!
On another note, I'll just relate an incident I witnessed that seems to re-inforce Docpepz's point about how all passengers are treated equally. Sitting in front of us on the flight were three Arab-looking men. Not surprisingly, they requested for the Halal selection instead of what was offered in the menu, since one of the two options contained pork, and it wasn't clear if the other option had any meat that might be haram.
SQ's policy for halal or other special-request meals has always been that passengers are required to make their meal choices when purchasing tickets, and the F/A attending to them explained to them as such. However, instead of leaving them famished throughout the flight, a leading F/A came around about 10 minutes later, apologised for the inconvenience, and asked if they would take the vegetarian selection instead. The three men accepted the offer and were promptly served their meals. Throughout the flight a number of F/As came around to offer them little extras like ice-cream and crackers, which was done clearly to appease the three of them although it was obviously not the cabin crew's fault, and the flight was completely full. Like a thread on the main civil aviation board is now saying, what makes SQ an exceptional airline is not the service, but the recovery when things go wrong, and this particular incident, however small seems to reinforce that point.
Docpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1954 posts, RR: 3 Reply 6, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 9624 times:
Well pearson, "unusual aircraft or airline" is very subjective.... since we hail from different regions.
The IranAir 747-200 I saw on arrival into PEK was unusual! There are heaps of Air China planes at PEK too.
The Air Canada plane I saw was highly unusual from my perspective since they don't fly to Singapore!
There were quite a few smaller chinese airlines I saw but we get to see them in SIN as well. If I am not wrong, more chinese airlines fly to Singapore than Hong Kong these days (thought there are still undoubtedly more seats from HK to China)
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 7, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 9355 times:
Only passengers holding tickets are able to enter. The only other places I have seen this in play are CDG Terminal 2B and New Delhi.
Add Cengakreng in Jakarta to this list!
The SQ Ground Agent saw what was going on and walked up to them, saying “Could you please queue up? Thank you.”
Same experience I have had in Cengkareng... It is truly annoying! These people deserved to be thrown into boot camp for a lesson in civil behaviour. Were they like the migrant types or the novueau-rich?
I didn't take photos of my meals as my memory card was full.
What is the memory size of the card??
...savoury snack (cheese/chinese snack)
What did they serve for "chinese snack"?
The Air Canada plane I saw was highly unusual from my perspective since they don't fly to Singapore!
I remember those days when AC flew to Singapore with their Tristars 500s!
Anyway, it was a great report! I wish you had taken oppictures of the meals though, that would have kinda "completed" the report. Glad to hear that the crew as ok. Actually, as much as I bitch about them, I have experienced a recent improvement in their quality of service in-flight.
Please continue writing the rest of your reports! You know why, because i wll read them! Although I won't have much time after 20 Oct...
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Singaporegirl From Singapore, joined Oct 2000, 302 posts, RR: 9 Reply 8, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 9147 times:
hi there, glad to learn that you had a good flight with us. and thank you for the kind words regarding the cabin crew. it is very refreshing and deeply appreciated, as usually fellow singaporeans are our harshest critics for some reasons. thank you again.
Ladies & Gentlemen, we will now demonstrate the use of the safety equipment on this aircraft...
Docpepz From Singapore, joined May 2001, 1954 posts, RR: 3 Reply 9, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 8933 times:
No problems singaporegirl.
Why some singaporeans would think that SQ crew snob singaporeans and suck up to whites.... I have this explanation froom observing my many flights on SQ.
Many white people, especially aussies and kiwis love to make conversation with people they meet, be it cashiers, cleaners, service staff etc.... Cabin crew are no exception and many tend to start conversing with with them. They're better at showing appreciation too.
Singaporeans are more reserved, less likely to start conversations with strangers (crew are no exception, once again!) and while many are not unusually demanding on flights, they are less likely to show appreciation openly.
Now imagine you're a cabin crew. One group of pax (aussies) starts smiling and making small talk with you and showing lots of appreciation. Naturally you would smile more and make conversation with them too. I mean, that will be anyone's natural reaction.
The Singaporeans sitting behind, who never made conversation with you in the first place, will then start bitching that you didn't make conversation with them and write you off as sucking up to white pax.
SQ crew have always been nice to me and I am a true blue part indian/part chinese Singaporean. I try my best to show appreciation and speak in casual singlish with them and of course if you're nice to anyone, it's likely that person will be nice to you, be it a flight attendant, your collegue or your friend!
Oh singaporegirl, do tell your collegues when you fly with them to say "switch on" or "switch off" the light when speaking to your pax (especially non singaporean ones!) I notice many crew would say "On the light" or "Off the light" and the non singaporean pax usually respond with blank stares!!
Besides that, keep up the good work and the great service, despite your less than enlightened management! Hey didn't dear MM Lee say that he'll review Chew's performance "in 6 months", in March, over that televised thing with the unions on TV? It's more than 6 months now.
I found it shocking when Chew (SIA's CEO) said that SIA needs a profit of at least S$1.6 billion (That's about US$1 billion) a year to "justify its existence"
I bet the UA, DL, US, and European airline CEOs would have read that and either:
2) rolled on the floor laughing.
If in their most difficult year last year, SIA managed to reap in a full year profit of nearly S$900 million, or US$550 million, WHAT THE HELL DO THEY WANT TO DO WITH ALL THAT MONEY?!?!?!?!?!?!
At least they have a generous profit-sharing scheme with staff to make up for the meagre salary.
9V-SVC From Singapore, joined Oct 2001, 1791 posts, RR: 11 Reply 10, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 8917 times:
Great trip report, I flew a number of airlines, SQ's inflight service is one of the top airlines, I have no problems with the so call cabin crews treating the whites better then other races. The only airline I had this problem was with United Airlines, that was the worst international service I had.
Anyway, was in Beijing last year, she is absolutely beautiful especially the great wall of China. Walking up is not much of a problem but walking down was scary for me especially the steep slope ! Phew, luckily i made it down but I have no hestiation to back to Beijing.
KrisworldB777 From Australia, joined Nov 2000, 570 posts, RR: 3 Reply 12, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 8663 times:
As His Excellency The Honourable King of Procrastination, I shall belatedly congratulate you on what is a very fine trip report that is superlative in every respect.
The photos are indeed very impressive – I really do love that Tiananmen Square photo.
I won’t comment on the flight because it would appear that it is in-line with SIA’s usual high level of service that we all dearly love (but most won’t admit to!) but we’re all waiting for your rave reviews of your Qantas flight that impressed you so very much.
Jubilee777 From Singapore, joined May 1999, 528 posts, RR: 1 Reply 13, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 8623 times:
Ohhh...did i see me being mentioned??
Well, the trip on Air China wasn't really a "nightmare", but it sure left me feeling hungry for the morning at Beijing. And CA's service is nothing to sing about, the stewardess don't even bother to look at you, let alone giving you a *fake* smile.
Besides that, Beijing is a wonderful place and the morning snow at TianAnmen on my last day is sure the icing on the cake.