16 June 2003
Sydney – Singapore
British Airways BA
016 / QF
1545H – 2200H
Duration: 8hrs 15min
After a wonderful, fun filled, value for money vacation, it was time to head home very reluctantly. This time round, I finally gathered my courage and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was an extremely astoundingly exhilarating experience. Absolutely an activity that should be included in everyone’s itinerary when they visit.
3 days in Sydney was filled with eating and eating and eating. There was nothing much to shop for because it was winter. Whatever that was offered was nothing that couldn’t be found back home. Hanging out in Oxford Street, Newtown (the emerging gay area) and The Rocks. Ferry ride to Manly is also a must because the view of the harbour during the ride is worth it.
Four Points Hotel, by Sheraton
This is what used to be Hotel Nikko. Situated right smack next to Cocklebay Wharf in Darling Harbour on Sussex Street, it is right in the middle of the city so it is a stone’s throw from almost everywhere. Chinatown, Paddy’s Market, Queen Victoria Building (QVB), Centerpoint AMP Tower, Hyde Park etc are all within walking distance. It is also touted to be Sydney’s largest hotel because it occupies one entire city block. Deco wise, you cannot go wrong when you have taken over a hotel formerly owned by JAL. Lots of marble and modern art pieces adorn the insides.
Sydney – Blue Mountains – Jelonan Caves (Mecure Resort, Leura)
After 3 days in Sydney, I drove along the Great Western Highway and made my way up the Blue Mountains to Leura. After checking into Mecure Resort, we continued on the Jelonan Caves about another 2hrs west. Views from way up in the mountains are fantastic and you can see Sydney hundreds of miles away on a clear day. Freezing weather accompanied us throughout the stay in Leura.
I drove directly to Sydney airport from Leura, which was about 3hrs. However, not before gorging one last time on fresh seafood in La Perouse that was situated close to the airport.
Dropped off the rental car and together with my partner, we lugged out baggage to the departure level of the international terminal. The renovation of Sydney Airport has completed since my last visit in 2000. I must say the insides looks pretty modern and pleasing to the eye.
Walking towards row E, check in for 2 British Airways flights were in full swing so that resulted in a long queue. Other than BA
010 bound for Bangkok and London were in progress as well. The queue didn’t seem to be moving and there were obviously a few passengers still in the queue for BA
010, because the manager was shouting “Anyone from BA
-ten please come forward!”
To get things going, Club World counters in row F were opened to World Travellers passengers and I walked over to the other side to check in. Sharon attended to us and we were asked the standard security question. She manages to secure 3 seats on row 48 for us by the window and promised that the middle seat would be empty. I requested for row 40 but that was taken already.
Boarding passes were issued soon after and off we went to the viewing gallery. A café has been built together with the gallery and the whole environment looks simply out of this world. All open air, the viewing gallery gives an unobstructed view of runway 16R’s threshold and it’s immediate surroundings.
744s were seen parked side by side, G-CIVX to Bangkok and London at Gate 8, and G-CIVO to Singapore and London at Gate 9. Other than that, a SIA and United 744s were visible on the other side of the terminal building. Not very busy for that time of the day, rather unusual. Domestic side had the usual QF
734s but the A330s were sadly absent.
Final calls for BA
016 came over the PA at 1500H, which I thought was too early. Thus, we trooped over to immigration and cleared it in no time to be greeted by an extremely bright and modern duty free shopping area. Wow! I remember this place as a dump not too long ago! I have to commend on the great job the authorities have done on refurbishing the airport.
2 layers of security checks (x-rays and manual check) greeted us before we reached Gate 9. Everyone had to be searched and “random” was not the keyword that afternoon. No wonder they announced the flight so early so that all could have the security formalities completed.
Sydney boards using only 1 aerobridge. Thus, we entered the aircraft through Door 1L. A male and female FA
beamed their pearly whites and an audible “Hello there… Can I see you boarding pass, please”.
Walking down the aisle towards the end, we passed Club World and World Traveller Plus. Along the way, friendly FAs, both male and female, were very generous with their smile and whenever there was a jam, they would make small talk with the passengers standing in their vicinity.
Squeezing into my seat, 48 ABC was allocated to my partner and I. I found the pitch bearable as long as the person in front did not recline his seat. For some reason, BA
’s World Traveller’s seats have very generous recline!
I managed to find out that Maria, Marge and Nick were in charge of my aisle today. They were all very jovial and chatty. Especially Maria, who made sure that my partner, indeed ordered a “Mos-lem” meal.
One female Asian crew was in charge of Mandarin announcements today and boy was she trying so hard to pronounce the words! It sounded more like an American trying to speak Chinese! Announcements followed in Spanish and French, but they were strangely absent during the descent into Singapore.
Nevertheless, the safety demo came on while the crew stood at their stations. Captain McDonnell came on after pushback and briefed us on our climb out route: Botany Bay – Katoomba – Alice Springs. Rather nasal sounding, I felt like I had Alan Partridge flying the plane.
Off we taxied for departure past the cargo terminal, where a Polar 744, Fedex MD11 and a CX
742 stood. We thundered down runway 16R and rotated at 1607H speeding out into Botany Bay. La Perouse, where I had my lunch earlier slipped by pass my window and disappeared behind the plane. A sharp right turn over the bay brought us on a west-northwesterly heading towards Blue Mountains.
Route: Sydney – Katoomba – Orange – Alice Springs – Derby – Bali – Singapore
Drinks were served 30mins into the flight and along came Maria with her award-winning smile.
“Hi there, what would you like to drink?”
“Apple juice, no ice”
“Of course, and what about you, Sir?” and smiles at my partner by the window…
Just as the bar service was continuing, several severe bumps were felt but the crew balanced themselves well. When I got my drinks, I enquired about the special meal with Maria. Even though she was busy with the bar service, she ran to the galley and came back and said, “No worries Mr Soh, we do have the special meal.” She then smiled and gave me the “thumbs up”. And she referred to me by my name! Impressive.
Almost immediately after the bar service, Maria appeared beside me again with the meal tray. “Here you go Mr Soh.”
I said “No no… its for my friend next to me”
“Ah, sorry about that. Enjoy your meal, Sir.”
The Muslim meal consist of:
Creamed fish with peas and carrots, served with rice
Cheese and crackers
The rest of the cabin soon received their meals from the rear and the choices for today were fish or chicken, just like my outbound flight. Once again, I chose chicken and this was what my meal consist of:
Salad with tomato vinaigrette
Honey and coriander chicken
Blueberry cake with custard sauce
Oops... I almost finished the meal before I realised I have not taken a pic...
Maria asked me if everything was all right because my partner was sleeping and hardly touched his food. I said he was just tired from the journey because we drove straight from the mountains to the airport. And she told me to let her know if I needed anything else. What a helpful girl!
After the trays were collected, the lights were dimmed in the cabin. As we continued jetting across the continent, the sun also slipped below the horizon so it was rather conducive for napping. I took the opportunity to watch The Booth (excellent) and Kangaroo Jack (yes, the selection was that pathetic). As I finished those movies, we were over Indonesia, getting closer and closer to home with each passing minute.
Somewhere past Bali, the lights came on and there was Maria again, with the tray of special meal for my partner, who was awake by then. “Did you rest well?” she inquired with a smile as she placed the tray on his table.
The meal for the rest of the cabin followed and it was a ham & cheese sandwich with a fruit bowl. A Cadbury Timeout was placed on the tray as well. Coffee and tea followed with the drink service after the trays were handed out.
Descend followed almost immediately after the meal trays were collected at 2120H. Announcements of arrival soon came on over the PA and the horrid Mandarin announcement followed.
Lights were turned off at 2151H as we continued past Bintan up north towards the Malaysian state of Johor. A turn to the left aligned us with runway 20R and the gears were lowered as soon as we locked onto the localiser.
Silent reverse thrusts slowed the aircraft down and we were welcomed to Singapore, and for the residents, a warm welcome home. We were docked at gate C25 some six minutes later.
Departure: 7/10… (Sharon, the check in agent was cheerful and full of smiles, very polite.)
Boarding: 7/10… (The extra security was a welcome sight and despite that, the flight left on time.)
In-flight service: 9/10… (BA
has won me over with these 2 flights I took with them. Maria and team were constantly on their feet and smiling)
Catering: 6/10… (Rather mediocre, quite tasteless)
Arrival: 8/10… (Immigration was painless because it is Singapore, after all. But C25 is located yonks away…)
Overall: This flight with BA
scored 74%. An excellent flight and I must say I have been very impressed with their service standards. My impression of BA
as a snooty and stodgy airline has been thrown out of the window forever. Virgin could be better? Who knows?
One thing I know, while their IFE and seat comforts lag behind my favourite carrier MAS, BA
’s service standard is a force to be reckoned with. Singapore Airlines, watch it because you will not be up there for long with your I-can-do-no-wrong attitude. Especially with your ditsy “Yeo Siew Lings” and “Coco Ngs”, all the BA
’s “Marias” and “Rhonnas” are there to beat you hands down. They might not have the style, but at least they have the brains.
I can just hear Maria and team shouting, “We’re proud, we’re British!”
You go, girl!
Footnote: One more thing, I think it is high time BA
change the uniforms. They actually do look like curtains and the A-line skirts that end below their knees make the FAs look so out dated!