Here goes a long trip report on SQ
. Its been a while, so kindly excuse any ommissions. Please post your comments and feel free to ask any questions!
SINGAPORE – BANGALORE/August 28th 2003
SQ 430/AI 6430
Scheduled Departure: 20:50
Actual Depature: 21:05
Scheduled Arrival: 10:30 Indian Time
Actual Arrival: 10:30 Indian Time
After finishing up the business at Singapore for which I had come from San Francisco (on SQ1), I spent couple of days visiting relatives and my brother at Singapore. I stayed at Le Meridien in Orchard Road (highly recommended). I was already feeling bored at Singapore – I mean how many times one can go to Night safari, Sentosa and all those malls. So now it was time to head to Bangalore - on inaugural SQ
flight to the hi-tech capital of India. During booking when the agent told it will be the first SQ
flight to Bangalore, I was curious how different inaugural flight will be from regular flights. We will soon know. [Quick note on SQ1: Nothing uneventful - excellent service, good to be on 747 Megatop, except that the flight was only 60% full. Many of the mid seats were empty in the Economy class and Raffles Class was not even one fourth full and only in Hong Kong someone was my neighbor!]
During my previous trips I have flown Air India (2x in 1999, 3x in 2000, AI443 in 2001 –with a routing of Jakarta – Singapore – Bangalore – Bombay), Indian Airlines (A320) from Singapore to Bangalore. And every one of them had their own share of problems – flight delayed, stinking flight (AI443) – later it turned out there were 3 human bodies being transported in the cargo from Jakarta to Bombay – I know cargo smell can’t come to cabin but whole plane stinked of the preserving chemical. I remember admiring the FAs who handled irate passengers complaining about the bad odor. I don’t think AI
operates anymore from Singapore to Bangalore.
Ride to Changi airport was quick from Orchard Road, on the way saw lot of construction and also the imported laborers from India, Bangladesh being transported at the back of a truck shepherded like sheep. It was an irony to watch such a hi-tech country with reputation for strict laws, blind to the plight of these workers literally being transported like cows at the back of the truck with no cover whatsoever from sun or rain. Brother dropped me at Terminal 2 departures around 7:15PM
. My first job was to go get the bags I had stored when I arrived from SFO
. Even though the signs are clear for “Left Luggage” I managed to get lost and wandered around looking for the area where I left it. Found it finally and carried both these heavy bags to check-in area.
Check-in counter was on Row 7 and I headed there. Monitors were flashing Singapore Airlines and Air India sign alternatively for Bangalore flight. As always the bags were scanned by a handheld device and a tag attached at the entrance to the counter itself. Four counters were open and I did not see any queue. No queue meant that most of the passengers have have checked-in already at their origin and that meant I am all set for a middle seat somewhere. Anyway I was ushered into the counter and I presented my tickets and asked if there are any window seats available. The check-in agent confirmed there is one window seat available and also said “Sir I see you have requested special meal – but we can not guarantee that you will get it. Please check with the FA
once you are inside the plane”. I thought that was weird. Bags were tagged and he also put a “Heavy” tag on the bag which weighed 29KGs. He printed the boarding pass and after a quick dash to toilet (where they still have old world style toilet – holes in the ground – I have wondered before how come they built these toilets in such a top notch airport like Changi?) I went to Starbucks and loaded up Grande Latte (how come no Chai yet in Asian Starbucks?) and headed to the immigration. There was no queue in immigration area and I passed the immigration - the officer laboriously went through all the Singapore entry exit stamps – and I have at least couple of dozens – to find out the exact entry stamp on which I have arrived.
Since it was almost 8PM I went straight to the gate, I was already sick of the mall culture of Singapore – even brandname stores are so identical everywhere. At the entrance to the gate I was searched by the security. Even though there was beep around shoe, belt and pen I was not asked to remove them. Once past the security boarding pass was checked and there were three ladies giving a present to all the passengers saying “This is our first flight to Bangalore. Please accept our gift”. Nice gesture indeed. Inside the box is a nice carved wooden treasure box with engraved metal label saying “Singapore Airlines Singapore – Bangalore Inaugural flight August 28, 2003”. I have a digital picture of this - will upload once I find a server. Email me if you want to this jpg file (300K)
Boarding area was already packed and from the profile of passengers, it appeared most of them were transiting in Singapore and originated either at USA or Australia. I could see some confusion with those with the earlier SIN
-BLR tickets on SQ
. For those who don’t know - SQ
’s Bangalore operations were postponed twice – because of SARS etc. So I guess tickets were issued and reissued for those who had booked on those flights. Australia has become a favored destination for Indian students seeking higher education (at the expense of US Universities due to tough US visa laws) and there were many young guys and girls having fun with their student like antics – probably returning home for vacation. Bangalore seems to be attracting lot of spiritual tourists of late. So there were many who appeared to be heading to “Art of Living” or Sai campus at Whitefield near Bangalore. There was also a group from Japan and many Chinese in the boarding area. I watched the 777-200 Jubilee plane being checked and bags being loaded from this area, though I could not get the registration number of the plane. Next to our gate was SQ
flight to Bombay.
Around 8:15 PM
cockpit and cabin crew arrived and entered the plane. It was funny to see at least three of the cabin crew switching off their cell phones (or HP
– Hand phones as Singaporeans insist) as if on cue like robots just before entering the air bridge. One thing I always admire in Singapore is how well everyone is dressed – be it at the malls or on the roads. Same holds good for SQ
FAs – just the way they dress is enough to make one confident that they will take care of you well.
Boarding started around 8:25PM
and First Class, Raffles Class and Business Class passengers were asked to board first along with passengers with children, elderly passengers and those with disability. Announcement also said “Welcome to Singapore Airlines and Air India flight to Bangalore”. Saw many folks walking in suits – later I came to know they were Singapore Airlines executives as well as officials from Singapore Tourism board. Only when it was 10 minutes to boarding I saw my seat number and saw it as 57A – the last row of the plane! Well it was too late to do anything at this point and since I remember last two rows being 2 seats in SQ
777 I just walked to the bridge when they announced rows 36 to 47 to board. Boarding pass was again checked at the door of the plane and a beautiful FA
directed me to the right side. At every point the FAs smiled and wished. I went to my row and stowed my luggage on the midsection cabin bin as the one above me was labeled something to the affect of “Flight material” or was it “Aircraft use only” or something.
It was a full flight and took some time for everyone to board. We were approaching our departure time but no one seemed to be in a hurry. Since I was first on the flight I was impressed to see how helpful FAs were to everyone – helping with stowing the luggage even without asking. Most of the FAs appeared stunning in the outfit and there were two FAs in our section who appeared to be Indians (or of Indian descent). Economy class had 3 – 3 – 3 seating with last two rows in 2 – 3 – 2. One unforgettable image I have in this was one gentleman arriving with an orchid in a pot in his hand delicately balancing it with his other carryover bag. BTW isn’t it illegal to transport plants between countries? As it was a full flight all the overhead cabins were choc-a-block by now. FAs looked for space everywhere for his precious orchid. Naturally it was take-off time and as he was the only one not seated he was cynosure of all passengers with people giggling and pointing at this man in mid-20s holding an orchid plant in a full flight. Anyway the orchid found some place somewhere finally.
All this time the standard SQ
music was playing at the background. (Very soothing music - Anyone know where I can download that music?). FAs made the announcement welcoming everyone – in English. Then Captain came on the PA and presented himself (Capt.Wong) and mentioned that this is their first flight to Bangalore and he expects clear weather and we will be covering 3174 kms to Bangalore in 3 hour 48 minutes.(official time 4 hrs 5 mins). Incidentally even though flight was full, the seat next to me 57B remained vacant!
Take-off and in-flight
We were pushed back around 9:08PM
and we passed the SQ
777 : 9V
(to Bombay?) and couple of Silk Air A320s. We were now ready for take-off roll and it was smooth yet powerful and we were in the air within 30+ seconds with Singapore all lit up under us. Our flight path would take us over Johar Baru, Kuala Lumpur and then onto Bay of Bengal to Chennai and then to Bangalore. (any idea why over Malaysia? Why not straight into the Bay of Bengal). Near Kuala Lumpur we reached the cruising altitude and the seat belt sign was turned off. FAs immediately sprung into action and we were given a beautiful printed menu and also peanut asked for our choice of drinks. I asked for French White wine. The other wines were French Red Wine (two). Remaining offering were the standard JW
, Vodka, Bacardi and the regular fruit juices.
Purser announced about Kris World and started the system. Before that the flight map was appearing and all the while the destination being shown was Chennai – may be Bangalore has not been keyed into the system yet? Kris World is an amazing product and the kids in front of my row as well as on 56 middle were having fun. Later I got to talk with one of them and they were part of a Singapore cultural group heading to Bangalore for a Singapore food and arts festival in Bangalore – organized by Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Airlines. They appeared veterans of Kris World and were already starting to play and also use the phone to talk with one another in different part of the plane! Around 30 minutes into it for some folks Kris Flyer did not seem to be working and the male FA
(probably an engineer who manages Kris Flyer as other FAs were coming to him and saying seat 45B not working, 37C not working etc) was going to those seats and try to troubleshoot. All in all it was rebooted three times and finally everything seemed to be working. This meant I saw a same CNN clip 3 times over and over
I like SQ
for the separate menus for every destination they fly. Dinner had Indian Selection (Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian) and International Selection. Menu was printed in English and oddly enough – in Tamil language. (For the record - official language of Bangalore is Kannada).
Indian chicken Korma with makhanna vegetables and basmati rice
Soya bean dumpling curry, mixed vegetables, dried fruit pilaf, curd and pickles
Coffee – Tea
Pan friend perch fillet served with tomato herb sauce, buttered vegetables and steamed potatoes
Cheese and crackers
From the bakery
Roll and butter
Coffee – Tea
By this time I could smell food being heated. And one of the FAs came to me and asked “Sir have you ordered Indian Vegetarian”. I confirmed it. She then proceeded to folks in 57 mid row and confirmed their order for Moslem dinner. So I am still at loss why the check-in counter warned me about the non-availability of Vegetarian food. Hmmmm. My boarding sequence number was Y 172 – may be the cause? I will never know.
I received my dinner earlier than others even though they were just going from front to the end in the cart asking what they need – Vegetarian or non vegetarian. Food was tasty and quantity just sufficient. I know comparing transpacific and Indian flights is not fair, but I think SQ
has its best Indian food reserved for flights out of SFO
– whoever their caterer there has got everything right. My Moslem neighbors also received their dinner out of turn. All this time flight was cruising at 31000 feet. Ride was amazingly smooth and this was the first time I was sitting at the last row of a 777. It did appear to be bit noisy at the back – not sure if it was sound of the winds gushing or the vent above. But there was no notable vibration or swaying. The FAs at the back were chatting among themselves in Singlish – never too loud to disturb. FAs came to take the leftovers and asked for any drinks or tea/coffee.
The purser (in green Sarong kebaya) was a friendly lady and spoke with me and asked if I am coming from USA. I asked her if they are going to stay at Bangalore for which she said Bangalore flights are “turnaround” flights both for cabin as well as cockpit crew. Must be a long day at work though! Leaving Singapore at 9PM and returning next morning at 6:10AM.
I went through the in-flight magazine and observed that advertisements announcing Bangalore was prominent. Earlier on SQ1 I had gone through the same. I saw the advertisements in Newsweek (Asia Edition) as well as Business Week announcing Bangalore as their new destination. It was here I came to know that this will be a code share flight with Air India as all the advertisements had an asterix saying “Codeshared with AI
as AI6429/AI6430). Plane was cruising nicely at 1000 kmph at this point.
FAs now came distributing Hagen Daz ice-cream. I was in no mood for ice-cream as I was very sleepy, but FA
politely insisted that I take it and I succumbed to the temptation! After this I had around 30 mins sleep. I woke up listening to giggling of some men right next to me to find two elderly looking gentlemen drinking whisky and talking loudly in a heavy Singlish or some Indian language. One was drunk visibly and was talking really loud – at this point the purser asked them politely, yet in a stern voice to return to their seat as they are obstructing service area. Like kids they returned back to their seats. I remembered the old days of flights to and from India where people drank on the plane as if there is no tomorrow. Probably this is the first time in last few years I saw a drunken passenger on a flight to India, especially Bangalore.
Note on KrisFlyer: An excellent product, though I pretty much watched only CNN and the route map. I had watched most of the movies already (considering I live near a AMC20 which is couple of minutes away from my home in Calif!) and I was really tired to play any games.
By this time we were reaching Indian coastline and the map showed plane near Tiruchinapalli and then Madras (MAA). Plane was still flying at 1000 kmph and now the Captain came on the PA to announce that we will begin our descent once we start flying over Madras. Bangalore was still not visible in the map but there was a marker in the place of Bangalore to indicate the destination. Descent started around Madras. Distance from MAA to BLR is around 170 miles and usually covered in 40 minutes in a 737. FAs came to collect the headsets and seat belt sign went on in few minutes.
Descent was smooth and one announcement just before landing was interesting. They announced that all bags arriving in Bangalore are checked by Indian customs, so they may appear late on the baggage belt. And they apologized profusely for the delay and inconvenience caused by this. On hindsight this was a good "warning" announcement – I will explain this in “Arrivals” section below. There was another announcement saying per Indian govt rules they will have to spray the cabin and the spray is not harmful. Two FAs simultaneously walked in both aisles spraying which smelt weird. This is usual practice for all flights arriving from Singapore to India – I have never received good answer on what this rule is so far except that “it is a rule” for flights from East Asia.
Bangalore was now few miles away and it was a clear sky and lights below were visible clearly. We descended over the golf course (scene of IC
A320 crash in 1990) on approach to runway 09 and landing was very smooth. But it took almost till the end of the runway before the plane came to a complete halt. I could hear folks in front of me wondering if this is the first ever flight to Bangalore, how do pilots manage to land the first time in an alien city in some other country. [Singapore Airlines Cargo already flies to Bangalore for couple of years]
Plane turned right and stopped completely for 3 – 4 minutes – pilot wondering how the heck he can get to the terminal? Anyway plane began moving and I could see the aerobridge and below that 30 men lined up – I guess this was the way of welcoming. FA
welcomed everyone to Bangalore and thanked for choosing SQ
/AI. Plane arrived at the bay and seat belt sign was turned off and the standard SQ
music started playing.
Being in lastrow on a full 777 meant solid 20 mins or so before everyone disembarks with their handbags and of course “orchid” in the case of one passenger. I whiled away this time talking with the purser who said she likes Indian flights as they are turnaround flights and they can be back at home next morning. She in turn asked me how come there are so many Indian engineers in USA and we chatted for a while till the male FA
came with a printout (from cockpit?). By this time I could see a ladder connected to the rear door and someone knocking the door. Purser signaled them to wait and indicated that she will open when all passengers have disembarked. I thanked her for a great flight and complimented her for her English – apparently she was educated in Australia so has no Singlish accent.
I took my backpack and headed to the aerobridge. Thanked FAs on the way. Cockpit door was still closed. Right outside the plane door a fully armed security person was standing in the air bridge – Welcome to India! There were also few helpers with wheelchair and cleaners waiting to get in. Arrived at entrance of immigration hall and we were greeted with a garland and a rose by six beautiful ladies dressed in Indian saree! Welcome to India again. Now I know what it means to me Guns and Roses
. Tourism and IT
minister from State of Karnataka was on hand to welcome us and left the scene soon after I arrived as they headed to departure area where I was told a formal inauguration of Bangalore – Singapore would take place. All this while many passengers were taking photographs of ladies as well as themselves with the garland on!The immigration hall at Bangalore is a small hall with four counters and 3 officials in each counter! Hall was packed to the brim with a full load of 777-200! Anyway I was glad to see my dad right next to the welcoming ladies and here I will skip the part on immigration check. Let us just say that I was out of immigration hall in 3 minutes. There were officials lounging around seemingly appearing doing nothing as in other Indian airports.
After immigration hall went to customs where our hand bags were scanned again. At the back of my customs form, “LT
” was written to indicate that I have a laptop in my bag. Then came the baggage claim area and there were hardly around 10 passengers there waiting as everyone including Raffles, First Class were stuck at the great Indian immigration counter. Bangalore International Airport has a single belt for arriving luggage and was chugging along – I was thankful that ours was the only arriving flight at that time, though Lufthansa was scheduled to arrive in an hour. When I had arrived by Malaysian Airlines in 2002 the belt was not working and bags were strewn all over the floor and it had taken me almost 2 hours to get out after landing. Bags were still not there – after around 5 minutes they started appearing. The important looking passengers from First Class/Raffles Class in suits etc were already getting restless as their bags (probably tagged “High Priority”, “Priority”, “Raffles Class” or “Kris something”) were still not there. To my utter surprise I saw both of my bags appearing on the belt with X marks all over them. They came early because I checked in very late at Singapore? I don’t know. At this point I could hear at least two of the VIPs shouting at the ground staff asking them to go look for their bags. In a way Indian airports are a great equalizer I guess – as all your priority tags literally means nothing. As long as I was there these VIPs bags never came and they were seriously agitated.
We walked to the exit and was stopped by the customs officer since the bags had X marks all over it. Officer asked what am I carrying. I had a Sony MiniDV camera and a Sony CD500 digital camera and I replied two cameras. He saw my customs form and asked if I have any document for the laptop I am carrying for which I replied I will be taking it back to US. Not sure if the presence of my dad helped or if he was distracted at this point by the sight of a family with six bags marked X all over them. It is very ironic that even in IT
Capital of India where so many Fortune 500 companies are outsourcing, the customs still goes after the laptop and other sundry gadgets which are so essential for anyone these days. My relatives and friends have been asked $100 bribe for clearing the laptop or simple digital cameras – one of the very sad aspect of India which hits you right at the airport – the gateway to the country.
We were finally out of customs into the arrival hall where we were again presented with rose by a beautiful lady – rose courtesy of Kemp Fort – a departmental store. My dad who was not a passenger also received a rose with a smile saying “Welcome to Bangalore”! There were hundreds of people jostling over each other (to watch the arriving passengers??) and it was so crowded that crowd was spilled over to outside of airport! We were soon in the parking lot and drove to dad’s place.
All in all I was pleased with SQ
’s service. The FAs appeared energetic, very helpful and polite to the core. Food quantity was just perfect for a dinner. I was happy to see that SQ
has not diluted anything when it comes to quality on Indian flights like other carriers – example Malaysian Airlines, which seem to have different set of standards for Indian flights compared to its other North American or Japan flights. It was a nice gesture to give a small gift for the inaugural flight. The welcome on arrival at Bangalore with garlands, roses was also impressive. Kris World for a 4 hour flight is a definite luxury and the 33’ seat pitch of 777-200 is welcome. Note to our esteemed Airliners.net member Singapore_Air:I did not visit the plane restroom, so I am sorry that I don’t have any comments on quality of napkin etc.
Only negative thing was the ground handling at Bangalore which is handled by Air India. Priority bags appeared late (because of Indian Customs), though it is not ground handlers fault I guess. Anyway I am pleased that Singapore Airlines has started flying to Bangalore. I hear that they are already thinking of increasing the frequency due to the very healthy loads.
Next day I flew Air Deccan – a no frills low cost Indian airliner – on their third day of operations to Mangalore from Bangalore. Trip report can be read here http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/36371/
On Sept 6th I flew Bangalore – Singapore – San Francisco on SQ429/AI6429 and SQ16. Check-in was a messy affair in Bangalore as there were around 4 International flights within couple of hours (SQ to SIN
via MAA, LH
). Also surprisingly SFO
passengers were given boarding pass only till SIN
and were asked to collect boarding pass at SIN
, even though the bags were checked in all the way to SFO
. Boarding passes and luggage tags were marked Air India. This time I asked for 44K and was granted on BLR – SIN
. Flight was uneventful and I was really sick - arrived at SFO
a whopping 90 minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival.
Thank you for reading!