Tuesday 17 Sep
Departure time: 8.20am
Departure gate: 58
Sector: SYD SIN
I awoke at some unforgivable hour as I wanted to get to SYD to ensure I was one of the first to check in and get the best possible seat as I knew this flight would be full. I showered, dressed, had a coffee and ordered a cab. Being so early in the morning the cab arrived promptly and deposited me outside the International Terminal just after 5.15am. Singapore Airlines check in area at Sydney is zone K and already there were approximately 5 people lined up to check in. From the flurry of activity the agents were just preparing to open the counters. Incidentally, Qantas are the handling agents for SQ at Sydney. The counters were opened and I was greeted by a very chipper female agent, Maryanne. Gosh, she was bubbly for that time of the morning. She entered in my details and I asked whether I could have seat 62K which I had previously been told was one of the best seats in Y on SQ. Her response was “Well, of course you can have it if it’s available’ I could see her scanning the screen and she then announces ‘Oh it’s your lucky day, its free and its all yours’. She then printed out two boarding passes: one to Sin and then one for the SIN FRA sector and informed me I could collect the FRA LHR sector boarding pass in FRA. She then wished me a great trip…..yippee!!!!!! That was simple. I then hoffed across to Maccas for a bacon and egg McMuffin and the dreaded Coffee. Due to it still being relatively dark combined with low cloud cover there was not much to see in the spotting department. After Maccas checked out W H Smiths for some reading matter then proceeded through Immigration and security which was a breeze.
Duty Free shopping then just strolled around the South Terminal. I much prefer this Terminal to the North Terminal which is used primarily by Qantas. It has more of a sense of space and it is far superior for spotting that North Terminal. It also has some very stylish shops which are impossibly expensive.
The gates were occupied by the usual collection for that time of the mornin of TG, NZ, SQ and MH. Noticed that BA and NZ 744s were parked at the remote stands. Normally by this time of the morning it would have been fairly light in order to take photos but it was drizzly and overcast. Besides the South Pier isn’t always particularly good for photographing at the time of the morning due to the sun facing directly into the Terminal. I did try of taking a photo of my aircraft at gate 58 but it was virtually impossible.
I must admit here that this is my first experience on Singapore Airlines and was curious to see whether they lived up to their reputation. I was not to be disappointed.
Boarding commenced at 7.50am with the usual First and Raffles followed by people with young children. Soon after, the general boarding call by rows is made and the two smiling Qantas agents slip our passes thru the computer and I’m off down the departures ramp, turning left to enter the aerobridge sloping down to the aircraft door. Greeted by two smiling Senior Female FA and turned right and headed down the aisle to the back of the plane to 64K and constantly greeted by smiling Flight Attendants.
I find my seat and made myself comfortable. It looks as if the flight is 90%full with only the odd middle section seats vacant There is only a minor delay in pushback and soon the safety demonstration is being played. Ahead of us is a UA744 bound for Melbourne and I notice 2 Air New Zealand 733 that have just arrived from, I presume, Wellington and Christchurch. We then turn to the right and begin the long taxi to the end of runway that protrudes onto Botany Bay past General Holmes Drive and the busy peak hour traffic heading towards the City. We eventually turn and the Pilot gives full throttle for a very long and heavy take off towards the West.
It is an extremely bumpy and heavy climb out of Sydney and the 744 is using every bit of power to traverse those clouds and heavy winds. The seat belt sign was not extinguished until half an hour after leaving Sydney and even then, for the following three hours, the sign was turned on and off due to the severe turbulence.
I enjoyed figuring out how to operate the PTV. Being the technical cripple that I am, it seemed to take forever. My seat mate gave me a quick lesson and it soon fell into place. Though, unfortunately, there was not one movie out of a selection of 12 that I had any desire to see. I just could not stomach another Hugh Grant…sorry!!!!!!
Eventually, through no fault of the crew, headsets and menus were distributed. Isn’t it nice to see Menus in economy!!!!I thought they had become an extent species. Breakfast was served and thankfully we were spared the vile Omelette. Breakfast was enjoyable but whether that was due to the severe hanger pangs that were rapidly overcoming me or that it was actually nice I don’t know. I did, however, notice the breakfast is almost an replica that Air New Zealand serves on its early morning SYD –AKL flight. An interesting situation occurred during the breakfast service in that the FA forget to serve myself and the person sat next to me. It was not until she was half way up the aisle that I left my seat and tapped her on the shoulder and reminded her. She was very embarrassed and most apologetic. In fact she must have apologised three times in the next hour. I felt bad for her when she later told me this was only her second flight and pointed to the trainee pin on her uniform.
We flew across drought stricken NSW and the top of South Australia before veering north and across the desert to Singapore via Indonesia. This most have been one of the most turbulent flight I have ever experienced leaving Sydney. The plane lurched, shook and rocked for almost 5 of the 7.30 hours of the flight.
After 7.20 hours we flew into a very hazy Changi Airport. Disembarkation was smooth and before I knew it I was in the hub of Terminal 2. Changi Airport really is the ‘Saxs Fifth Avenue’ of Airports. It is everything an Airport should be but rarely are. It’s no wonder it has repeatedly won so many awards. The tranquillity of it all!!!!! Every last detail was thought of. Since I had 10 hours to kill before my next leg. Decided to skip the free two tour of Singapore. I shot off some e-mails. Wrote some cards then went to the outdoor area on Level 3 for some spotting and photo taking. Steeping outside was akin to walking into a bathroom after someone has just stepped out of the shower. The humidity was incredible. It made Sydney’s weather feel as if I had just left Anchorage. However, due to the high level of haze it wasn’t very good conditions for photographing. After a couple of hours of that I went to the really snazzy bar and had a couple of drinks, watched a concert recital, read my book and then eventually headed to the gate for my next leg.
In conclusion,, I would highly recommend Singapore Airlines to anyone. It was better than I had anticipated. The legendary SQ Flight Attendants are just gems. Nothing was too much trouble and I found them both friendly and personable. It is not difficult to see why they have been repeatedly voted the Worlds Best Airline. The deserve it. Still I have a confession to make folks!! Air New Zealand still remains my favourite airlines. You go, Air New Zealand.
Tuesday 17 September
Departure time: 11.05PM
Sector: SIN FRA
Headed to the gate to for the late departure by which time I was feeling very tired especially as it was now almost 1am Sydney time and I had been awake since 4am. So forgive me if this sector it not as detailed as the previous SYD- SIN report.
Boarding went relatively smoothly and I could see this was going to be a full flight. The gate agent pulled me aside to produce a boarding pass for the Frankfurt to Heathrow sector. The usual trek down the jetway and left turn onto the aerobridge. Greeted by two non-smiling FAs and directed down to seat 54B which is the window seat in the first row of the 2 x 5 x 2 configuration. I didn’t think the interior of the Lufthansa was as bright as SQ but on the other hand I liked the yellow headrests. Overall though the cabin look decidedly dull and rather frayed at the edges. I barely recall take off as I was busy reading . Firstly the very dull inflight magazine to check out the entertainment which looked even more boring than the magazine. I soon abandoned that just continued reading my book. Soon after take off the seat belt signs were turned off the Chief Purser announced that Cocktails were to be served in economy followed by dinner. Cocktails, that was a joke!!!!! I can just imagine asking for a dry martini. Anyway the charming ‘Helga Goebells- Hitler’, all smiles and charm (not) asked if I wanted a drink . ‘Yes I will have 2 Gin and Tonics’. She gave me a look of thunder as I expected ‘You vant two drinks. Von is sufficient, no’. ‘No’ I replied “I will have two’. The bloody bitch. I got them though. Cocktail hour was followed by dinner. Mind you it was creeping onto 3am Sydney time. No menus, naturally. Dinner was some Chicken disaster that I can barely remember. I past off into sleeytime land soon after and slept on and off for the next 8 hours or so.
Well firstly let me say that the Flight Attendants on Lufthansa are nothing to write home about…at least on this sector they weren’t. They rather reminded me of some of the Prison Matrons you see on United Airlines though not in age but in attitude. These girls would have had their employment terminated on Air New Zealand years ago and as for Singapore Airlines…..Well I could hardly describe this motley collection of Helgas as ’Lufthansa Girls’ more like “Lufthansa Stormtroopers’. The Helga in my zone had an interesting hairstyle. It was multi hued and it looked as if she had just hopped out of bed. In other words, a real birds nest if ever there was one and lets not even talk about her make up. I could do make up better than that and I am a male. As for a smile….the only times she smiled was when the passengers got off and even that was a struggle for her. Back to charm school for that one, though I doubt she had been the first time.
After an erratic sleep awoke to the delightful aroma of breakfast being cooked in the galley and before you could say wunderbar!!!!. The ever lovely Helga was trundling that breaky cart down the aisle. “What has she being cooking for Brent these last few hours’. I thought to myself. I opened the dreaded foil to see the even more dreaded Omelette that resembled a UFO a la Lost in Space . She had excelled herself!! The nicest part was the fruit platter thing was mildly tasty. Once breakfast was cleared we shortly began our descent into Frankfurt. At 5.15am it was, as you would expect, pitch black. Smooth landing and a relatively short taxi to our gate.
I really don’t think I need to write a conclusion as the above comments pretty much summed up my feelings. I think this must rate this as one of the worst long haul flights I have done in a long while. Would I fly them again? Not if I had a choice but I didn’t, but on the plus side this was only a short sector to London Heathrow. Fortunately Lufthansa were able to redeem themselves somewhat on this next sector.
Departure time: 8.10AM
Departure gate: B42
Sector: FRA LHR
Given the amount of time I had been travelling I did not feel particularly tired…….more washed out than anything else. Since I had time to kill I headed to the central area of the terminal, purchased some UK newspapers, a couple of postcards and bought a decent cup of coffee. I could not but help notice some people enjoying a hearty beer. Bit early to be imbibing, even by my books.
FRA is a veritable maze and not particularly well designed IMHO. I had to get to Area A for my connection to LHR and I seemed to walk miles and to clambering up stairs as queues for lifts were impossibly long. Area A was particularly crowded at that time of the morning though the area itself was most impressive. I understand that has only recently renovated and they have done an excellent job. Went to the gate and handed the agent my boarding pass through the computer and I was allowed into the gate area. Impressed by the array of both German and English newspapers that were available (‘USA Today’, ‘Financial Times’ & ‘Herald Tribune’ . Boarding commenced at 7.50am and was pretty much a free for all but it did not seem chaotic. It certainly helped by having two jetways: one for biz and one for economy.
I immediately fell in love with the interior of the A321 and those gray leather seats. I had seat 35A, the very last seat. We had the most gorgeous blonde FA who was just charming personified …as opposed to those Nazi storm troopers from Singapore. The other FAs seemed equally pleasant. Perhaps they roster the nice ones to London and the ‘nasties’ to Singapore as some sort of retribution for past crimes.
We departed precisely on time but had an extremely lengthy taxi to the end of the runway. What I loved was seeing an incredible plethora of Lufthansa aircraft during the taxiying. I must have seen every type they have, three times over. However, I didn’t seem to notice the diversity of airlines you see at, say LHR, SYD or SIN. Though I did see Qantas, SAA , Thai and Air Canada.
Take off was relatively smooth and we burst into the clouds above Germany and in fact, it remained cloudy for the duration of the flight. Breakfast was soon served and it was a choice of a deli bag with either a cheese or bacon roll. I opted for the cheese which was very tasty. I was most surprised to see Wine on the trolley for such an early morning flight (yes as a matter of fact I did have one, for those of you who are curious ). The blonde FA impressed me again by thanking a male passenger who had voluntarily moved to accommodate a family group by presenting him with a bottle of wine as a thank you. Well done!!!! After 1.15 hours I figured we were somewhere over Southern England when the Captain announced that due to severe ATC congestion we would have to circle Southern England until we received clearance to land. I enjoyed looking out the window and seeing other aircraft either below or above us. What has intrigued me for sometime is that in Australia we do not get the cloud trail for aircraft that you see in Europe. Does anyone know why this is??. Anyway I am digressing. So after circling for approximately 45 mins the Captain announced they we had been cleared for landing . We broke through the cloud and began our descent, passing over Windsor Castle (‘Hello Queenie, are you home?” and further along the very early stages of construction of Terminal 5. Pulled up at Terminal 3 opposite an Alitalia A321 which had just arrived from Rome. We disembarked and the security changes post Sep 11 were very much in evidence. Immigration took over an hour which did not bother me in the least as I was in particular hurry. What did disturb were the signage in the Immigration Hall effectively saying that the Home Office would not tolerant staff being assaulted in the course of their duties. I subsequently learnt this was as a direct result of asylum seekers assaulting immigration officers.
Overall I thoroughly impressed with Lufthansa on this sector. Admittedly you cannot judge an airline by two sectors so I was forgiving enough to defer my final decision until I had completed the next two sectors.
Aircraft: A300- 600
Departure time: 6.10
Sector: LHR FRA
This was going to be an extremely long day, I thought to myself when I woke up. Laid in bed and watched Breakfast time BBC. I had enjoyed my 10 day visit to the UK. Amazingly, the sun had shone each day without a skerreck of rain. Miracles do happen don’t they?.
After a bath, breakfast, some last minute packing and a long chat with my friend Jeff I caught a cab to Brighton Bus Depot (Poole Valley). I had originally intended getting the train from Brighton to Victoria, Tube to Paddington then the ‘Heathrow Express’ to LHR. However the UK being the UK the Underground was on strike. I did not even contemplate getting a taxi from Victoria to Paddington…the cost alone was enough to induce an anxiety attack.. I would surely miss the plane. So it was the coach for this one. Its not a bad coach trip…as coaches go but not cheap at GBP18 one way. A 2 hour trip via Gatwick.
Arrived just on 4pm and checked in at Terminal 2 at the Lufthansa check in desk. The check in was not looking in a good mood but I managed to charm the whiskers off her. Got a window seat 45A on the A300 to FRA and 45K on the FRA -SIN sector. Boarding Passes in hand, dashed off to send an urgent e-mail to a friend in Australia then went upstairs to the that horrible Bar/Restaurant on the second floor for a drink. I think the chain is called Wetherspoons. It must have the most disgusting food/decor/staff in the UK. Still I was thirsty and sat at the only seat available opposite this extremely good looking guy off to France. Mmmh he was yummy and I wish I could have lingered and had a second drink with him but time waits for no man and I had to dash.
Joined the lengthy queue at Immigration and security. Gave Duty Free a miss, took a couple of photos then hoofed off to the gate. Boarding commenced pretty much the moment I got there. Had my BP slipped into the computer & walked across the gate to the aerobridge and noticed the Newspaper rack both there was nothing that took my interest. Off down the departure ramp, a left turn and onto the aerobridge and then through the door of the Airbus A300. As with the A321, it looked pristine and again, loved those leather seats. Nice smiles and hellos from the 2 FAs at the front door and made by way to the very last row at the back. After settling in, it appeared that this flight would only be 60% full and the seat next to me would be free –the only time on all the flights I went on. The Captain came on the PA and announced that we would be delayed at the gate for another half an hour due to congestion at Heathrow ( oh hum, oh hum). At 6.40 pushback commenced and the engines really came to life. And we started a protracted taxi, More in terms of time rather than distance.. There was in an interesting array of European carriers: SAS, Iberia, Alitalia plus the Brit Carriers: Virgin Atlantic, BA and Brit Midland. the latter a A320 was obviously running cery behind schedule, overtook us and made a very hasty takeoff. Saw an SAA 744 being towed to T3 from its remote stand and the new A340-600 Virgin Atlantic behind us awaiting for take off too, I presume, Tokyo. We had a 10 minute hold at the edge of the runway before I could hear the surge as the Pilot put the engines into overdrive and we were racing down the runway heading south and into the darkened skies of Heathrow and Australia bound…eventually
Once the seat belt signs were turned off, I could hear the very exuberant and friendly FA in my zone laughing and carrying on with her colleagues as they prepared the carts for the snack service. I’m beginning to think my theory that the nicer FAs are assigned to the London sectors is true!!!! Eventually she got to me and I asked if I could have two deli bags, one of each. She said “Of course you can”. There are no other passengers to serve’. They were okay but the bread was rather dry. Sorry cannot remember the fillings. Half way through the flight the Captain announced that there was also be delays arriving at Frankfurt due to congestion. We circled Frankfurt twice and eventually landed. I was secretly hoping the plane was going to be so badly delayed that they I would miss the LFH flight to SIN and be booked on the SQ flight at midnight. Alas that was not to be!!!!
Arrived at the gate and were told to go our gates immediately. “Passengers vith onvard connections to Singapore and Bangkok are to proceed to their gates. Ve vil not hold the plane under any circumstances’’ crowed some fat old cow over the PA as if she ordering us to board a troop train bound for the Russian front in 1943. Bugger the bitch. so I was ambled along at my normal pace. Took the skytrain thing to the central concourse area and proceeded to B42. As it was the flight appeared to be running late anyway . The gates were swarming with people. Were these gates designed in the days of DC3s or what?????. They just don’t hold enough people and the central area where the bar is really the pits. In all fairness Heathrow is equally chaotic, congested and IMHO 10 times more stressful.
End of Part 1…Part 2 to follow shortly