The written opinions expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of Singapore Airlines Limited – a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines Group – A Member of Star Alliance. The written opinions expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of Vietnam Airlines Corporation. This trip report is relatively long so I recommend a spread-out viewing. In addition, any times mentioned are times from the origin destination (London GMT, Singapore GMT +8, and Vietnam GMT 7). Names of people (e.g.: flight attendants) have been initialised for security purposes. The aim of this trip was to conduct a more-or-less full evaluation of points I thought were important and hence, the length of this trip report is in my view, probably not able to be shorter. I do apologise!
I bought 3 Singapore Airlines Limited tickets in early February so that my family could fly Singapore Airlines from London Heathrow to Saigon, Vietnam via Singapore. The total cost of the tickets was £2295. The visas cost £120.
The tickets arrived in mid-March 2002. Unfortunately, they did not have any Singapore Airlines logos and the only attractive feature was the Singapore Airlines name printed in the “Issued By” box and the “SQ” flight prefixes.
Months passed and on 10 December 2002, I reconfirmed the Singapore Airlines flights. Reconfirmation is not necessary with Singapore Airlines, however, my parents wanted me to do it anyway for peace of mind, and it was a good excuse to test out the Singapore Airlines United Kingdom and Ireland London Reservations Office.
The telephone system’s sound quality is relatively poor however; the hold music is quite good. Pressing a few numbers, I was put in a queue for four minutes. I found this amount of time relatively fair considering the time was 1610.
The travel agent in London booked my parents on the same booking as they were in Q class for the LHR / EGLL), United Kingdom">LHR – SIN / WSSS), Singapore">SIN vv. sectors, and myself in Y class all the way. Q class is Singapore Airline’s class code for Economy Class – Discounted. Y Class enables KrisFlyer miles redemption.
Reconfirmation of the SQ319 flights for my parents went well. However, the pleasant reservations agent did not recall my name travelling with them. I then gave my name and I was booked on SQ317. This was most surprising and shocking. I told her that I was on SQ319. She said that the agent double-booked me on SQ317 and SQ319 and Singapore Airlines’ reservations computer deleted the SQ319. I was unimpressed however the prospect of 6 hours in Singapore was intriguing.
This was unacceptable though. The family must travel together. I told her reconfirm that we were on SQ174 from Singapore to Saigon. The news was even worse. SQ319 was retimed so that it would arrive in Singapore at 1515. However, SQ174 also was retimed to leave at 1445. I was totally unimpressed by this news. It was quite shocking and it took some seconds to sink in. I said I would phone her back.
By now, my mother had heard the news which was quite inconvenient as she gets anxious when things go wrong. I told her to leave it in my hands and she sat on the staircase. I phoned the travel agent in London and accused him of ruining the reservations. He said that it was Singapore Airlines’ fault for not informing me of the retiming and that they should sort it all out for me. He said that he would call the General Manager of Singapore Airlines United Kingdom and Ireland in London. With that, I hung up and redialled Singapore Airlines London and waited in a queue for two minutes.
After re-explaining the situation to another woman – probably in her mid 20s – she informed me that the fault is the travel agent’s. Singapore Airlines informed the travel agents in the UK of scheduling changes on 4 July 2002. Obviously, this information was not transferred from the travel agent to myself, hence the shock. On asking why Singapore Airlines doesn’t tell its passengers of schedule changes, she said that the Contract is between myself and the travel agent and not between myself and Singapore Airlines Limited. They apparently don’t even know my telephone number. I then asked her to transfer my parents to SQ317 and she said that it was full and that she could not do anything unfortunately. Her advice was to get back to the travel agent. Disenchanted, I hung up and redialled the travel agent. Again, he was still blaming Singapore Airlines and was still to call the General Manager.
By now, it was 1640 and it was time to take things into my own hands. I decided to phone Singapore Airlines London Administration – a number that I have memorised since 1999 and asked to speak to the General Manager myself. I got through to his Secretary as he was in a meeting and asked if anyone from ******** Travel had phoned to speak to him. I was unsurprised to hear not. I therefore explained to her the situation and she politely sympathised and passed me through to the head of Sales at the London office.
The Sales Executive – RL - then heard about the circumstances of the fiasco. He saw that there have been miscommunications and again told me that the travel agent was told on 4 July 2002 that schedule changes had been made and that passengers should have been informed. He realised that we wanted to be in Vietnam for Christmas and said that “it isn’t impossible” to get us on SQ317. I also asked about the times for SQ173 and SQ322. The departure time for SQ173 was changed from 1715 to 1650 and the arrival time for SQ322 was amended from 0550 to 0530. He asked for 30 minutes, in which time he would call me back with the results.
20 minute after hanging up on the Sales Executive, the travel agent called back to say that he had sorted things out. I was unimpressed and was preparing in my mind bad words to say to him when we had finished out trip. Obviously I didn’t want to shout at him now as he could cancel my reservation which is unwanted.
Shortly after, the Sales Executive phoned back and confirmed that my parents were on SQ317. It was a great relief to know the saga had ended! The reason? Travel agents had held on to seats on SQ317 since May 2002 and still had not sold them. Hence, he took the seats back and my parents on them. I asked what his name was and then thanked him for his cooperation and hung up.
He will be praised in my report to Singapore Airlines Limited (worldwide).
After having a short dinner, I phoned Singapore Airlines London again to reconfirm the flights. The result was satisfactory with all of us on SQ317 and a great 7 hour stop in the fantastic nation of Singapore! I asked for the booking to be locked from the travel agent for the reason “I wouldn’t trust them with a bargepole.” The male was bemused but told me that as the Contract of booking was between myself and the travel agent and that the travel agent can amend the booking at any time. I told him that such a policy is unacceptable by Singapore Airlines and that it is the passenger who is flying the Airline – not the travel agent. I told him that I will complain when I get back. He was polite in addressing my fake anger and the conversation ended.
Everyday since then up to the 14 December 2002 – I reconfirmed our flights with Singapore Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic Airways: VS7317
Singapore Airlines: VS7317
Photo © AirNikon
London Heathrow T3 – Singapore Changi T2
At 0610, we arrived at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 Pick Up Point (or in my case, drop-off). It was very cold. I was unenthused at the cold and unimpressed. With 3 heavy baggage trolleys – you’ll see why soon – we proceeded to check-in area E to be checked in at the Singapore Airlines check-in desk. As there was only us in the queue, we were asked by a delightful young woman to come and check-in at the Raffles Class desk. Incidentally, the First Class check-in was unattended. The Raffles and First Class carpets were clean and were nicely groomed. This I thought was acceptable and satisfactory.
T greeted us. She was wearing an Aviance uniform and was most warm and kind. However, I was more than unimpressed at the fact that she was using a Cathay Pacific pen to write with. This unsettled me. Nevertheless, we checked in 2 suitcases at 25kg and 1 suitcase at 21kg – an official 11kg over the allowed weight although 4kg below the unofficial allowance. Also, thankfully, she didn’t weigh our more-than-1-per-person hand luggage. 3 of which were 8 to 9 kg and two were between 3 and 4kg. She was very amicable and I thought it was appropriate to ask her for spare Economy, Raffles and First Class boarding passes. After thanking her for the excess baggage – I decided to give her my black pen. “Sorry, I think it’s more appropriate for you to use a neutral pen like this.” She smiled and thanked me as I rejoined my parents.
Terminal 3 is dark with little exterior lighting from the Sun. The non-duty-free shops are very well-known and are of high quality, although I did not waste energy by seeing what prices they charge. Walking straight to departures via a lift (elevator), took about 5 minutes. We then got a taste of Heathrow security. The wait was quite long – about 15 minutes – all the time with a woman saying in a loud voice, “Put your mobile phohhhnes in your bags please.” It got irritating after a while. While waiting, I noticed that some people got special attention and had to have their bags opened. An 11 September 2001 security measure I presume. People of all races were having the ‘special treatment’ and I thought it was quite embarrassing for them. I also didn’t see what the point was as the chances of spotting a terrorist is very small, but oh well, it looks like airports round the world are doing something.
There is a Travelex bureau de change. I exchanged about £9.75 for S$20. The S$20 would come in handy when we get to the beautiful country of Singapore. My parents then went off to World Duty Free to buy a bottle of V.S.O.P Champagne or something or other for a friend in Vietnam. Being one of the larger shops, World Duty Free and it’s smaller World News store (which stocks newspapers, magazines and some drinks) has about all the duty-free that you need with a very wide range of cigarettes (Cigarettes are bad for your health and should be banned and replaced with nicotine patches in my opinion), and alcohol. The World News also had a wide range of magazines and newspapers from around the world and includes Airliner World and Flight International for people like us. However, a bottle of water (about 750ml?) costs £0.99. I was unamused and asked the cashier,
“Is this the cheapest place to buy drinks?”
“Yes, much more cheaper than if you go into the restaurants.”
“I am unimpressed.”
I left World News and found my parents sitting in the sitting area. I can’t really call it a waiting lounge because it isn’t a lounge and it’s cramped and quite poor. The seats are uncomfortable and there is little cushioning. However, there are enough flight information screens around the area and they are updated regularly. There was still about 3 hours until the flight which was due to depart at 1100. So, I decided to explore.
Incidentally, there was quite a lot of building work going on in the Terminal. Walking down towards an even darker area of the terminal, one would pass many duty-free shops as you would expect – all of them busy with customers. I walked to the transfer counters. A whole row is dominated by American Airlines and on the left are a few others including Singapore Airlines. The Singapore Airlines transfer counter is next to the Cathay Pacific transfer counter. I found this quite strange considering the nature of the relationship between Singapore Airlines and the other airline. I approached the lady from Aviance and asked what gate SQ317 would be at as I wanted to get to the gate first. She didn’t know and said that any information would be displayed on the boards.
I walked into some high-fashion Italian shop with the most ridiculous prices for clothes with no intention of buying. In one, there was a very kind sales assistant who asked if I needed anything. I said no thank you and immediately stomped out. Dixons Duty-Free is also an interesting place and the prices are significantly cheaper than on the UK High Street; a good thing too being a duty-free shop. We were sitting very close to the store anyway but there was a problem with the shop alarm system which kept sounding off quite loudly every five minutes or so.
By 1020, I was most bored and arrived at the conclusion that the flight was to be delayed. About 5 minutes later, I headed up to the Singapore Airlines counter where there was a two-person queue. I asked the lady in front whether she actually knew the gate. She said she was also there to ask. However, at 1035 Gate 6 was announced as the gate for my MEGATOP. On returning briskly, it became apparent that there was a rush to the gate as families and baggage trolleys alike sped to the departure area where the gates are located. However, we didn’t get far. In front of us was a queue of 100+ people. This was certainly not the arrival I wanted and set a bad impression.
In all, it took about 15 minutes for us to actually get to the front door of the gate where two Aviance staff members were checking boarding passes. They were relatively efficient but they didn’t smile which was a shame. I was less than impressed.
There, we proceeded to the front of the gate as there was little seating space. I looked around and in front of me in the corner was the Unaccompanied Minors area and there were four privileged children. Everywhere else, there were disillusioned passengers looking quite drab and dreary, unhappy about the gate. Because of this, I think at 1057, the Customer Services Manger – GW – announced that he is sorry that we are being delayed. The reason was because the aircraft was late in pushing back from parking – evidently, London Heathrow was a busy place at this time and he made reference to that twice. In addition, he pointed out that we have got the smallest gate in the Terminal and hence he apologised for any discomfort we may have. His estimate was for boarding to commence in ten minutes.
To try and make people happy, I kept looking around and smiled at people in the hope that they would be happier seeing me smile. I was relatively successful and I made eye contact with some people who smiled back. Whilst waiting, I heard some UMs talking to each other. One teenage girl asked a slightly younger teenage boy why he was flying Singapore Airlines. His reply was something like, “Well they always take care of me and the movies are free.” My immediate thought was this boy was going places. I was impressed however, did not brave a reply like, “Good for you.”. Around 30 minutes passed before the delightful – A – who was announcing the boarding procedures advised passenger from rows 66 to 63 to board. She was medium in height, had brown hair, wore glasses, nice legs, attractive as a whole and would make a good wife. She also announced, “If there are any First and Raffles Class passengers in the lounge, you are invited to board at your leisure”. She then said, “
The announcements continued every 3 rows until rows 35 to 37 were announced. The number of times that she said the First and Raffles Class notices were most irritating though and she said it in the same tone every time. When it was our turn, there was hardly anyone left and we proceeded quickly down the one-door gate to the MEGATOP.
There, we were greeted by the Chief Stewardess (Red uniform). I stepped onto the MEGATOP. A feeling of pride and warmth filled my body as I awoke and went down to row 35. As I reached my seat, I took the hand luggage and stowed it above in the spacious overhead compartments and took my seat. The immediate feeling was that the seating was comfortable however, the legroom was tolerable. After a minute, one of the leading stewardesses politely asked me to show her my boarding pass which I had put in my shirt pocket. She examined it and said, “You’re in the wrong seat Sir, it’s the seat on your left.” This was quite shocking as my parents were in JK while I would be moved to E – I was in 35F. I said, “Oh sorry, most unfortunate,” and moved myself and let the couple sit. All seats in the cabin are nicely presented with blanket and cushion set to one side of the seat. However, this can be annoying as the blanket takes up unnecessary space but there’s really no-where else to put it really.
We were very delayed by now and I was feeling a little unhappy for all the other passengers. When all the passengers were settled in – the safety video was shown. Now this was poor. The safety video hasn’t changed really in about 4 years if I can remember, maybe even more. A MEGATOP flies in the air and a ‘traditional-looking’ Singapore Girl with an interesting Singaporean-English accent with intriguing dictation takes passengers through the safety features of the aircraft. “Welcome onboar Singapore Airlines,” (spelling omission intended). The safety video’s video quality is relatively deficient and is quite unimpressive. I think a new video is needed. In addition, the position of the emergency exits on the “Boeing 747-400 MEGATOP” is quite hard to point out if you are not familiar with the revolutionary workhorse of the Singapore Airlines fleet. At the end, the stewardess says, “Thank you for flying Singapore Airlines”. She is joined by a stewardess of similar height and they both say, “H.” “Have a” “pl” “plea” “s” “sant” “flight”. This is something that should also be resolved. The two stewardesses should re-coordinate their efforts in saying the last sentence in the safety video. Better, the whole thing should be replaced.
Taxiing to the runway took some time and gave me a chance to investigate my lush surroundings. In my seat pocket were the following in good condition: The Singapore Airlines SilverKris December 2002 inflight magazine, the KrisShop Inflight Shopping magazine, the KrisFone user guide, the KrisWorld Inflight Entertainment Magazine, the MEGATOP safety card and a sickbag which had been unopened.
The seat pitch is 32” on board in Economy Class. The seat comfort as I said is quite good and there is a height-adjustable headrest which is easy to move while facing forward in the sitting position. In addition, I also adjusted my headrest ‘wings’ with ease. I reclined my seat twice and the seat performed this test well. The footrest has blue pads and is connected to the back of the seat in front. This is stowed in the up position. Contrary to some reports, I do not find that it takes up that much room however, all space is precious in Economy Class and the extra-tall might find something hard pressing against their leg which could provide some discomfort.
I was sitting next to an Irishman I believe, in his 50s. I started the conversation by asking him if he has flown Singapore Airlines before. Much to me pleasure, he indeed had, 22 full-routes (as in LHR / EGLL), United Kingdom">LHR – NRT / RJAA), Japan">NRT is a route via SIN / WSSS), Singapore">SIN). He asked for a copy of the Economist. He informed me that Singapore Airlines’ copies are probably a week old as they come from Singapore where they are printed. Incidentally, the classified sections are cut out to save weight and hence fuel according to the 2001 / 2002 Environmental Report. As a member of the cabin crew passed by, flight stewardess DPK – he stopped her and she smiled as he asked her for the aforementioned magazine. After about a minute, she returned with last week’s edition! Not a surprise considering that they would be printed the next day.
We finally reached the runway and the MEGATOP finally started taking off at 12:16:09 (my watch was set to GMT via BBC Ceefax) and rotation occurred at 12:16:52 – a 43 second takeoff. The MEGATOP proudly rose up amongst the LHR / EGLL), United Kingdom">LHR crowd on its way to its home – Singapore. Soon after, a strong smell of lovely food entered the cabin. Maybe the crew were heating food while we all wait for the seatbelt signs to go off.
During takeoff I had a chance to get myself acquainted with WISEMEN, the Audio and Video On Demand inflight entertainment system supplied by Matsushita Avionics Corporation of Japan. A section on WISEMEN will be written at the end of the report.
As soon as the seatbelt sign was off, the crew walked speedily to the galleys from their crew seats. Amenity kits were given out to all passengers. DPK performed this operation well with a nice smile and graciously gave out the packs. Unfortunately, the kits did not live up to her standard. I remember these packs from ages ago. The red plastic pouches with pressable closable thingies are still here. Also, the socks are practically the same and are not even purple – the colour of Economy Class it seems. In addition, they are long but a test on board concluded that they do warm the person. In addition, the toothbrush and toothpaste set is quite poor. The toothbrush has no higher and lower bristles for better cleaning. Also, it’s grey in colour and in addition, the design has not changed. I tried the taste of the toothpaste and the flavour has not been altered. There is an absence of a night-mask too. In essence, unimpressive, old-style and lack of 21st Century features.
I was also expecting Dolby Surround Sound headphones. As by the sentence, it is now obvious that I didn’t receive any. However, these little blue earphones were handed out from a black bag with the Singapore Airlines bird on it. Again, the lovely DPK handed them out to us saying, “Would you like some earphones?” and smiling along the way. They come in a little plastic pack and you have to put the cleaned soft things on it. The wires were a little tangled though.
Everyone got into the IFE system quite quickly. As every passenger accesses KrisWorld, they are shown a comprehensive instruction video about how to use the system and the handset which is very helpful. Even so, passengers were still bemused by the operations of the system. I also noticed people playing games with the handset vertical, unlike the horizontal position required as mentioned in the video. Whether Singapore Airlines needs to make this clearer, or some passengers were just ignorant is debatable.
The famous Singapore Airlines hot towels were then served. Each hot towel is like a flannel (you wash your face with it) and has the Singapore Airlines logo on it. It is my guess that boiling water is poured all over them and they are dried slightly somehow. However, there is a very strong smell of metal as they are handed out and also when you smell the towel. I now associate that smell with Singapore Airlines. Menus were handed out soon after and the impression that I could see were that the passengers I presume who are first-time passengers were impressed that there was a professionally created menu.
Refreshments were served by DPK for my side of the aisle and by G’O for the other side. The way that G’O accentuates words with her mouth is quite amusing and nice and her diction is very good. She is also attractive and would make a good wife – as would DPK. I chose the normal Coca Cola and was served in an Economy Class-branded plastic cup. She placed ice and the drink in the cup however, as I expected, did not give me the whole can. Rumour has it that it is Singapore Airlines’ policy not to give the passenger the whole can unless requested, but the crew wish differently.
I played the ‘SIA Inflight Challenge’ – a series of 20 questions in which you can play with over 200 other passengers – thanks to KrisWorld. Yes, you can play with other people on board the flight. Unfortunately, not many people played. For the first 3 rounds, I was the lone ranger in the KrisWorld (world of Krisworld – get it? ). Special meals and baby food were served at 1328 while on the way, DPK requested politely that seats be upright.
Lunch was given to me at 1335. The menu is as follows:
Smoked turkey with potato salad
Fillet of salmon with wilted lettuce with tomato-butter sauce and boiled potatoes (created by International Culinary Panel member – Gordon Ramsey)
Stir fried chicken with cashew nuts, selected vegetables and steamed rice
Cheese and crackers
From the bakery:
Roll and butter
Coffee – Tea
There were also a wide varieties of aperitifs, spirits, liqueurs, beer, fruit juices, a Fruit Spritzer (non-alcoholic cocktail), soft drinks, one French white wine and two French red wines.
I chose the chicken as I hate fish. DPK gave a big smile and handed me the tray gently after pouring me some Coca Cola with ice. Warmth radiated from this Singapore Girl. I also watched G’O serving the meals and she gave an equally stunning performance. I was satisfied that the service standards were at their highest. The tray covers 90% of the table surface. The stir fried chicken was very good and extremely delicious. The sauce was exceptional. The rice was also well-cooked and not too dry nor too watery. And the vegetable selection was very generous. All served in a porcelain casserole bowl with a plastic mini-try underneath. However, this casserole bowl is too small to eat comfortably at first as it is a little tricky to keep the food inside and not spilling over. In addition, the use of plastic cutlery makes the situation even worse and is dreadful with the vegetables. I next ate the crackers and cheese. There were two crackers and the cheese was Belgian I think. The crackers were normal as you would find anywhere (comparable to the UK’s Jacob’s Cream Crackers) however the cheese was divine…with a devilish twist – 40% ‘matière grasse’ (40% fat). Hmm. Too fattening I say but the taste more than makes up for it. The cheese was so good; I didn’t have the butter with the crackers but ate it with the bread. The bread comes from a plastic bag, full of them and they are very good although a little dry. The spreadable butter was mild in taste and was OK. The potato salad consisted of 4 medium-sliced turkey pieces which was plentiful, 1 cherry tomato and one piece of lettuce mixed with potato salad (potatoes and some potato salad sauce). Again, the taste was wonderful and is a good way to start the meal (although I had it near the end). There was then nothing left except for mineral water which was normal and chilled and a bit of pasteurised milk which again, tasted like ordinary milk that I would find in my supermarket in the UK.
As I ate, I probably watched some short TV feature on KrisWorld. Probably news or one of these TV hits. At 1448 – one hour and 13 minutes after the food was given to me, they were collected which was ample time for us all to eat while being distracted by the KrisWorld.
Seven minutes later, I made my way to the toilet for an inspection. What greeted me is similar to what I saw with previous SIA flights. In the toilet, I only produced watery excrement and hence on this flight, there was no solid excrement test to be had. However, the amenities were very interesting. There are SIA cups which are shades of blue with the SIA logo above the toilet, along with two types of tissues. In addition, there are sanitary towels. On opening, I was to be disappointed. Teahan remarked “I will never forget his posts about how he took “above average” sanitary towels from the toilets on one of his flights, you don't easily forget comments like that.” (http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/28329/ reply 40) Not anymore. The SIA sanitary towels have not changed. For Shame! The sanitary towels are provided by Cin – Can? They smell intriguingly and have wings. However, these wings are not flexible unlike Vietnam Airlines’ (see below). An absorbency test would be carried out on both Singapore Airlines’ and Vietnam Airlines’ sanitary towels/napkins when I get home to England.
At 1522, duty free was… ‘served’. The idea was that the duty-free cart was taken through the cabin by a flight stewardess and a leading stewardess. This was hastily done. The two sped relatively quickly for Singapore Girls through the cabin announcing, “Would you like duty free? Duty free anyone?” This was certainly quite low and is now a major concern of mine. Such actions are not recommended and do not give a good impression. The same was repeated for the other aisle of the cabin. The idea of this being common practice disturbs me.
Hearing of how fantastic the noodles on board SIA are, I and my Irish diplomat decided to have a taste-test. Unfortunately, we were instead given a small sandwich snack called a Chicken Caesar Roll made by the Lintum Snack Company. It was a relatively compact submarine roll and it was noted that the bread was soft. There was one piece of lettuce – this needs to be improved by doubling the lettuce capacity of the roll. However, the chicken was very nice but the whole sandwich was not fresh.
At 1817, a snack service commenced by a male flight steward. In the basket were: the Chicken Caesar submarine rolls, a cheese submarine roll, chive and onion savouries, apples and Twix bars. I chose the chive and onion savouries and they were most fulfilling that I asked for another one and the male steward kindly obliged.
There were many water services. At first, I thought that this was a generous idea. However, it became clear that this was an anti-DVT), USA - Arizona">DVT measure than any generosity in hydrogen and water molecules on the part of Singapore Airlines.
Lights awakened the passengers as the lovely smell of cooked breakfast filled the cabin air. Hot towels were handed out at 2125 by DPK and were collected but this time she failed to say thank you to every passenger.
Then, disaster struck. While seeing what variety of games KrisWorld had to offer, I exited KrisWorld Games to the main menu. Only, the system crashed. I was very happy and this was a test that I did not foresee. I called for service and was greeted by DPK whose cheeks were smooth and looked nice. I asked her what was wrong and she asked for the controller. She kept pressing the Mode button to no avail obviously and she said that she would ask for the system to be reset, smiled, looked up for the row number and departed swiftly.
Breakfast was served and the options were as follows:
Fried rice noodles with sliced chicken, leafy greens and black mushrooms
Plain omelette with baked beans, grilled tomato and potatoes.
‘From the bakery’
Coffee – Tea
Once again, the breakfast was excellent. The cereal was by Rustlers (£0.99 in a supermarket in the UK). It was normal, nothing special though. The milk was semi-skimmed and the cereal was cornflake style. For my wholesome beginning, I chose the fried noodles. The noodles were lovely, soft and hot and the sauce in which they are cooked in was not too heavy. There was a selection of ‘leafy greens’ and this was more than sufficient, however, once again, the plastic forks failed to poke into them. The black mushrooms were soft and tasted just like home. The bread roll was just like before and was soft. The butter was again normal and hardly had any taste. The fruit preserve – a posh name for strawberry jam it seems – was nice but again, nothing special.
I sat watching FlightPath on the main movie screen as my IFE had still not been reset. This would be an interesting test as to how long it would take for them to start it up again.
I munched away when as the lovely DPK was collecting the trays in, the system came back online. Joy(!).
Nothing much really happened next as I just skipped through the TV selections watching Farscape and something else.
Descent was at 0019. Once we were below the clouds, I could see glimpses of the fantastic Singapore skyline – a proud country and rightly so – showing off the fruitfulness of economic and social prosperity. Landing was very smooth and was hardly noticeable. We landed at 0040 (0740 Singapore Time) on the Terminal 2 runway and it seemed just like Flight Simulator 2002! We taxied to the gate passing a myriad of Singapore Airlines and SilkAir planes. I had finally returned to the homeland of Singapore Airlines and it felt marvellous to be surrounded by objects and people that exude the spirit of Singapore Airlines across the world.
Disembarkation was slow as one can imagine for a full flight and we all plodded slowly along. You could go through the Raffles Class door or the First Class door and obviously I chose the latter. The walk wasn’t too long and at the gate were numerous hand luggage trolleys.
Singapore Changi Airport. – 0745 Singapore Time
Spaciousness first entered my mind. A fantastic airport! We walked through the airport to the information desk where I asked the lady where I could find the Free Singapore Tour desk. We walked straight over to find that it would close and would open again at 0830. So my parents decided to freshen up in the toilets.
Even the toilets have ambience! Something you would never find at LHR / EGLL), United Kingdom">LHR. Marble-effect sinks and hi-tech flushing toilets. Marvellous! We brushed our teeth and headed off for somewhere to sit and relax.
For some reason we took an age. Probably because we did a whole freshen up session in there. By the time we returned to the Free Singapore Tour desk (run by WTS Tours of Singapore), there was a 10 or 15 person queue. Great(!). Anyway, it was only 0820 so we waited 10 minutes for a delightful middle-aged woman to come and ask us what times we wanted. Seats for these tours are quite limited. Anyway, she organised people into specific slots (as in, if people wanted to go on the 0930 one – the earliest trip – but had a late flight like at 1500, then they would go on the later trip). So, fortunately, we had the 0930 trip to Sentosa.
There was not much for the parents to do so I explored the airport. We proceeded to the left-baggage area where we paid S$7 for some lockers to put our heavy bags in. Again, the person at the desk was most polite and also didn’t charge us for the third locker. Changi is a different world compared to the likes of Heathrow which frankly is digusting (see why below – SQ322 (Arrival)). There’s a fantastic orchid garden and further on, a TV centre with very comfortable relaxer chairs. Each ‘station’ comprises of a thin very large widescreen TV with crystal clear pictures of channels like CNN, ESPN, BBC WORLD, CNBC Singapore and some others I fail to remember.
All around the airport – Singapore Girls – walked graciously about with smiles on their faces and black small pull up handle thingy suitcases carried behind them. One noticeable aspect was that the sarong kebaya creases around the hip/back area. Everything is so clean! I just walked about just to get the ‘feeling’. Returning to my parents, I was asked to get some water. So, I asked the information counter where I could get cheap bottled mineral water and she pointed me in the direction of the 7 Eleven 24 hour mini-supermarket. Very good.
At 0935, the tour guide came and we were given stickers and set off for immigration. This process was quick as there was no one else using immigration at this time. We walked quite a length to the outside door. The heat! It does hit you! And it was only 0940! It was like a wave of heat just slammed into you. I was unimpressed. Singapore should change the weather . The minute walk to the bus was so humid and hot. Most uncomfortable. I think we were all just happy that the bus was to be air-conditioned.
The guide was knowledgeable and we set off down the East Coast Road? Anyway, it was lovely and smooth with flowers down the middle. Even though my sight of Singapore were only glimpses, it was good to be back. Extremely stylish apartment buildings all around on my right and on the left the water . As we drove along, we passed some bridge and we could see Singapore’s financial centre. I think there was a HSBC building most visible. However, I saw the proud and tall blue Singapore Airlines building! That was a moment to savour. The building stands tall against the Singapore backdrop – the pinnacle of Singapore! So we went across a bridge and onto Sentosa Island. Didn’t see much, it was mostly covered with trees but we had a 15 minute stop on Siloso beach. The temperature had cooled down by now and there was loud music booming from some sort of volleyball competition. Took a few pictures and then went back on the bus where I noticed some women were asleep and didn’t actually set foot on Sentosa. Hmm. The return journey was just the same but I too fell asleep and only awakened when we returned into the Changi complex. Maybe it was a sign to wake me up.
We entered the check in area and saw the Singapore Airlines check-in desks. They haven’t changed really. Immigration was swift again, and we went to collect our hand luggage. Now I was really tired and decided to go to the gate with my parents – Gate E4. As we proceeded down the now busier concourse, I saw a plane. 9V-SVI! I was most pleased and I knew that this was the plane to SGN. 9V-SVI as some of you remember had a 10-flight-old engine failure at Copenhagen.
We sat outside E4 where some other Vietnamese people had already gathered. Outside, it was pouring down and one could see the water being blown back as the engines of incoming Singapore Airlines Group aircraft come into the gates. Because on SQ317, we sat apart, I wanted to get the tickets to link with each other so that we could sit with each other on the return legs of our journeys. So therefore, I proceeded to the Transfer Area E. And this is a horrible place. People are served by delicatessen-style tickets and the staff are horrible, rude and probably fatigued. I approached the Raffles Class counter (with no number – I didn’t know you had to get to take a number to get served), and the stupid woman rudely said, “this isn’t the ticketing desk, you have to go outside,” I replied, “For a SATS person, you are most rude.” What a bitch. So I went through immigration but I couldn’t find the departures area which was obviously upstairs! I asked another kind Changi information desk person where to go and the escalator was right behind me. Ran up the escalators to the Customer Services desk and the smiling woman told me to go to Ticketing! So I had to take a trip to ticketing.
There were two people sitting at the desk – a man and a woman. The man was reading a book so I went to the woman. She was relatively kind but didn’t smile. She said she would link the two (my parent’s and mine) tickets together so that next time we would sit together. With that, it was another long trip back to gate E4 through immigration. For a major hub, Singapore doesn’t get very busy. Maybe it was just the time and day.
So tired, I couldn’t be bothered to do much so just sat at the gate and waited.
Singapore Airlines SQ174
Singapore Changi T2 – Saigon Tan Son Nhat International Terminal
Photo © Europix
It was around 1400 and a crowd was gathering. One thing has to be said though, there aren’t many seats outside the gates at Changi, leaving people to either sit on the floor or on the moving walkway’s edge-thing (I think most will know what I mean). The gate finally opened and a queue was suddenly formed. SATS Security were fairly swift and there was a sense of very tight security at the gate. There were probably four members of security for this, with one having one of those things that scan for metal and they move it around you. The gate is large and seating is above standard but not revolutionary. There’s a single TV in the room where a MediaCorp channel was playing. I also took five Vietnamese landing/departure forms. My parents took the time to fill those in at the gate instead of on the plane. Though not particularly relevant, the forms haven’t changed since I first went to Vietnam in 1994. They still need such silly information and really is a waste of time. Compared to a UK landing card, it’s hell.
Boarding commenced at around 1435, again starting with Raffles Class passengers and then Economy Class from the back forward. This would be my first flight on a Boeing 777 so it was getting very exciting. Greeted at the door by a Chief Stewardess, we carried the bulky hand luggage onto the Jubilee ER and it’s a wonderful plane! The SpaceBeds were installed and the galleys seem very large. We sat in our seats – 45HJK. There waiting in the aisle was Flight Steward – OK – who helped me with all our hand luggage. His diction in English was certainly very good and I think he was Indonesian or something – but that’s just a wild guess.
Instantly noticeable was the 6.5” TV screen with two side pockets – just like the pictures on Airliners.net. In addition, there was another design of footrest and the fact that the seat pitch had increased 1” compared with the Megatop. This does make a noticeable difference even though it is only one inch and getting in and out of seats is definitely easier.
Again, this aircraft had KrisWorld with WISEMEN and it was switched on about a minute after I boarded. Well, I had watched everything I would’ve wanted to watch and listened to the choices I liked so there was not much point in watching the stuff all over again. So I just switched on to FlightPath. At about 1445, I looked out the window. We hadn’t moved. Shame, pity! I’ve always been delayed on SQ174. Firstly in 1994 it was because of a broken nosewheel on an A310, and then it was just a normal delay.
The captain then announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ174 to Ho Chi Minh City. As you are probably aware, we are having a delay at the moment. This is because of a problem with the Traffic Collision Avoidance System and our engineers are trying to replace this facility. The Traffic Collision Avoidance System is to make sure that other aircraft do not collide with us and because SIA’s first priority is safety, we are having a delay for this facility to be replaced. We hope you have a nice flight and we apologise for the inconvenience caused, thank you.”
It was only at 1528 that we pushed back from the gate and then that safety video was switched on. Oh it’s so horrible. And the computer animation of the emergency exits on the 772? Hmm. Unimpressive. Takeoff was quite short but from here on, I can’t remember how long it took as I’ve lost my notes. On the right though, as the elegant Jubilee ER took off, I saw the immense area of reclaimed land that Terminal 3 will occupy. I shall one day return to Singapore to the ultra-modern terminal, packed with Gigatops!... or I’ll just come back on 13 January.
Shortly after, - OK – gave out the earphones. He was very good and was always cheery and smiling. Once again, I plugged in and just watched FlightPath. I browsed through KrisShop as well even though duty-free was not available.
This flight was going to be short, so the drinks came round pretty quickly. A very smiley flight stewardess who spoke delightfully offered the passengers some drinks, while – OK – served the food. The choices were chicken or fish and I of course chose the chicken, I hate fish…except for cod maybe. It tasted very nice, and the portion was the same as the SQ317 flight.
The seat itself is very comfortable. 33” pitch and the footrest, if used is Ok. I don’t see the point of the lumbar support, but it does work whatever it is. The adjustable seat height… again, what’s the point but I’m sure for the last two items, there is an ergonomic point in there somewhere.
A stewardess then collected the meals in but it was to be hard. Toilet time arrived and there was a surge in demand! Many passengers tried to squeeze through to the annoyance of the Singapore Girl, and for once I don’t blame (them) her. When I finally got to the spacious area around the toilets, there was a lengthy queue. Silence filled the area though, conversation was probably not apt.
When I finally did enter the toilet, it was quite nice. The sink is surrounded by a marble effect covering. The toilets are larger than the Megatops but the toilet itself is vacuum-flush which is always good to see. The amenities drawers slid in and out smoothly and there were the same amenities as seen on the Megatop.
We descended in to Vietnam over the Mekong Delta where one can see where the blue South China Sea meets the brown polluted waters of Vietnam (or so I assume). The descent in to SGN was quite bumpy and there were loads of clouds. We were quite low of SGN itself and it was slightly unnerving, especially when the Jubilee ER went up and down many times and swerving sideways. I think we were so low that we probably were in horizontal flight instead of constant descent for part of the approach. Needless to say, SGN is not a glamorous city and the view from above is hardly alluring.
We landed heavily on 25R (I think) and it was quite a bump! SGN was getting busy and I saw a glimpse of the terminal! Gates! We taxied to gate 3 I think and got off quickly. We were again sent on our way by the attractive Chief Stewardess.
Saigon Tan Son Nhat International Terminal – 1625 Vietnam time.
As I just mentioned, SGN now has gates! The last time I came we had to go by bus from a parking stand. The airport is now impressive and the flooring is decent. A short walk took us to the dreaded immigration counters. There, a row of non-smiling, moody Communist faces ‘greeted’ us, and other passengers. For a first taste of Vietnam for foreigners this was hardly a warm welcome. Because my mum was carrying US$6500 on her, we were worried for her really as my dad and I carried the allowed non-declarable US$3000. On the advice of relatives in the UK in the know, we talked to a Dutch couple who had travelled Singapore Airlines from Amsterdam for a cycling tour of South Vietnam. This was so that the immigration officers wouldn’t ‘bully’ us so much so that they would not make a scene in front of the non-Vietnamese / non-Asian tourists. Unfortunately, we were made to change to a shorter queue by a cold, heartless Communist man. We also had to go individually to the counter and each person gave the officer US$5 so that he could shut up and just let us pass.
We eventually did… after spending one hour in immigration! For shame I say. The baggage reclaim areas have also been improved, however, the way that the airport workers visibly throw luggage onto the belt is annoying and I gave them a nasty stare. X-rays followed and once again, there was another queue before we got to the main arrivals hall... which is actually outside. About a thousand people were shouting and screaming outside. Obviously, this was one area where there was no such improvement, says something about the way they feel about the citizens I say.
[Edited 2003-02-19 13:41:33]