I woke up at 6 AM feeling a bit hungover. This was the day that I was going to leave America for good and my friends insisted that we had a little going away party. So we went bar hopping all night and after countless shots of Jose, Jack, and Jim and many glasses of various cocktails and wine, I finally made it home at about 2 AM. I had to wake up early for my 1015 flight to JFK by way of DTW, since I had to make sure that my apartment was spotless before giving the keys back to the landlord. After 7 years, 4 months, and 16 days, my stint in the US was finally over. The last two weeks had been really hectic, what with selling my furniture and what nots, my car, and cleaning my apartment, but thankfully I went through it fine.
Since, much to my dismay, SQ had stopped flying to ORD, the only sensible choice was to fly through JFK or EWR (LAX and SFO were too far from where I lived). I finally decided to fly trough JFK since I wanted to see the new Terminal 4 at JFK. I dreaded having to fly domestically in US since had SQ still had their services to ORD, I would only need to hop on the shuttle bus straight to ORD. But, on the bright side, I’d get to experience the new T4 at JFK and see a lot more scenery than I would’ve seen in ORD.
So I left my apartment at 0830 for the 20-minute-ride to the MSN Airport with two of my friends. Arrived at the airport at 0900 and went straight to NW check-in counters. Checking-in was fast and easy and my two heavy bags were tagged all the way to CGK. MSN was quite busy that morning, probably due to the MLK day holiday. The rest of my friends showed up to see me off, all were in various states of hangover and sleepiness. We took several photographs before I headed to the security check at 0945. I made it to the gate at 0955 and was the last passenger to board. MSN ramp was quite empty that morning, besides my NW DC9-30, there was only a CO ERJ135 and an AA ERJ145.
We pushed back on time and in no time we rushed down the runway and lifted off at 1022. After taking off, the DC9 banked to the right, allowing me a last peek of Madison, the city I had been calling home for the last 5.5 years. For the sake of keeping this report short enough, I decided to omit the NW portions of this trip. Flights were uneventful and more or less on-time (we had to wait for 30 minutes for deicing in DTW) and service was typical of US carriers. FAs were friendly on the first leg but not quite so on the second leg, but I’m not complaining.
We docked at gate A3 at 1530, 15 minutes behind schedule. My first impression of T4 was it was quite an awesome structure. Also I couldn’t help but noticed the similarities of the signage used inside the terminal building to that of Schiphol’s. Since SQ is also operating from T4, I needn’t use the new Airtrain to change terminals. I went outside for a much-needed smoke break and afterwards started to explore T4 arrival halls which was buzzing with activities. Since I needed to go to the INS office to report my departure every time I leave the US (as part of the discriminatory special registration program for Muslim countries’ citizens), I approached the information desk to ask where the INS office was located. The staff was friendly enough and directed me to the direction of the office.
The INS office was well hidden and after two wrong turns I finally found it. There was only 1 officer manning the office but thankfully there was only 1 person ahead of me. The officer was this large, obese woman who was very curt and especially rude. She took my fingerprints and photographs and finally stamped my passport with a “Departure Recorded” stamp. Fuming due to Officer Payne rudeness, I made my way to the food court and shops area in the departure hall to have a late lunch. Afterwards, I explored the area a bit. There wasn’t much to see, apart from one Duty Free Shop (who was deemed the largest of such kind in NY area, but IMHO still looked quite small), there was only a newsstand, a game/entertainment store, and a few other smaller shops. The food choices were quite good though. Feeling rather bored, I then went to the Departure Hall and Check-in area, which was teeming with people checking-in for their flights. The departure hall was awesome, with its curved ceiling and glass structure. Unfortunately there weren’t any seats overlooking the ramp so I sat on those overlooking the old TWA T5. Having flown through that terminal myself, I felt rather sad to see that it was completely empty.
SQ counters were opened promptly at 1730. There was already a queue building up in front of the Y class counters, but I whisked passed it and went to the queue-less J class counters. Check-in was quick and painless, the agent was courteous but not chatty. She confirmed my seat selection and asked if it was alright. She checked-me in for both the JFK-SIN leg and the SIN-CGK leg. She wished me a pleasant flight and I went outside to light up before heading to the Swiss Business Class Lounge.
The Swiss Business Class Lounge was located before the security check and was quite a walk from my gate so the attendant kindly reminded me to allow time to walk to the gate to ensure timely departure. It was tastefully decorated in comfy, sleek leather chairs and fortunately was not too busy since the LX flight to ZRH had already begun boarding. There was a buffet area, three bars, a conference room, four Internet terminals, a work area, unisex bathroom with shower facilities, and a smoking room. The lounge also catered to passengers of SQ, Malev, and Asiana.
I took a seat on one of the swivel lounge chairs by the window, which allowed me an excellent view of the ramp. I spotted two LX birds (A343 heading to ZRH and A332 bound to GVA) and later the stream of early evening departures taxiing to runway 31L, which includes KL 777(?), EI 332, TK 343, CX 744, various Jetblue 320s and also the arrival of Air Santo Domingo 757, AZ (couldn’t see which type), and many others that I forgot. Parked in the remote stands of T4 were my SQ 744, El AL 744(?), NW 744, which later joined by company’s DC9. I passed my time calling and SMS-ing my friends. At about 1900, I decided to raid the buffet table. The food selection was good, which includes Thai-style steamed snapper, oven roasted chicken, eggplant rotini, potatoes, and seasoned vegetables. They all tasted OK, not spectacular but good nevertheless. Fruit, cheese, crackers, peanuts, and pretzels were also available in the bars, which were also well-stocked with various drinks.
SQ 025 Leg 1
19 Jan 2004
2120 – 1050+1
B 747-400 9V-SPE
Photo © Christian Ettelt
At around 2020 I left the lounge and made my way to the departure gate A2. Fortunately there was a fast track for First and Business class customers, which was virtually empty. But the other line was not that busy either. Gate A2 was just beside the security checkpoint and was already quite crowded. There were very few seats in the gate area, so passengers were also scattered in nearby gates. 9V-SPE was doing the honor of flying me to Singapore. I had flown on this aircraft once in 2000 on a short SIN-HKG hop. Boarding was announced at 2040 and as usual, passengers with small children and passengers needing special assistance were allowed to board first. Boarding for First and Raffles class passengers soon followed but they also started to board Economy class passengers as well, as a result anxious passengers whose rows had yet been called rushed and crowded the boarding area. Gate A2 only had one jetway, so there was quite a queue at the end of the jetway. It’s a shame that a terminal this modern doesn’t even have a double jetway system.
A leading stewardess greeted me at door 2L and said that my seat was straight and to the left. I had very little expectations for this flight, service-wise, due to the reports I read on A-net. The last time I flew SQ (1.5 years ago), the service was also mediocre at best. SPE’s main deck Raffles cabin looked fresh, bright, and immaculate. In no time I found my seat, 24K, and was soon greeted by Flight Stewardess (FSS) Shirley who helped me stowed my carry-on and notebook. Chief Steward (CS) Yong also greeted me, followed by FSS Fang. So all three crewmembers working in my section greeted me personally, this had to be a good start I thought. FSS Fang stowed my coat for me and she must have read my name from my boarding pass as she came back to me and asked me if I was Indonesian in Bahasa. It turned out that she was part-Indonesian, her mother being Indonesian while her father is a Singaporean and she fluently spoke Bahasa. We chatted a bit and then she excused herself to prepare for departure. I felt that it was a nice touch for her to speak to me in my native language, made me felt welcome and right at home. I had only had another Indonesian Singapore Girls who spoke Bahasa to me although I’d met quite a few.
I quickly settled down on my comfy, big, purple seat that was the Spacebed. My first impression was that the cabin became to feel quite cramped as the Spacebeds were really monstrous. The distance between me and the seatback in front was noticeably shorter, but nonetheless there was still plenty of leg room. The armrest was longer and the seat controls were now located on top of the armrest instead of on the side and the PTV handset was now tucked in neatly inside of the armrests. A welcome change was the new location of the PTV so I could watch the Airshow right from the start and not waiting until after take-off.
FSS Shirley came and handed me the menu and drink list, as well as the headset. She noted that she would take the drink and dinner orders before take-off. She also offered me a choice of newspaper and magazines. FSS Fang came with the welcome drinks of champagne, special cocktail, or OJ. I chose the latter. She then came with the hot towel that was lukewarm. She handed the hot towel to me in Bahasa so I couldn’t really tell whether she was using a fake accent or not The cabin was not full, there was only seven passengers in the main deck out of 24 available seats. FSS Fang informed me that the upper deck was also sparsely filled. How in the world does SQ expect to fill its A345 on the new NY-SIN flights come August? The captain came over the PA and said the we would be pushing back on time. Flight time was approximately 6 hours and 40 minutes so we could expect early arrival into Frankfurt.
Push back was indeed on time at 2120 and we began to taxi slowly to runway 31L. FSS Shirley took beverage and dinner orders once the ancient safety video finished playing, I informed her that I had the “Book the Cook,” she looked surprised at first but finally confirmed that they indeed had my order. We lined up at 2143 and after a brief pause we started our take off roll and lifted off to the clear New York sky. I fondly remembered 9V-SML that brought me from SIN touched down on the same runway more than 7 years ago . As I continued to watch the golden lights outside the window, the skyline of Manhattan was clearly visible including the Empire State and the Chrysler Buildings. We banked to the left and started a gradual 180 degrees turn over the Atlantic.
My drink order of Singapore Sling was promptly served once seat belt sign was off and my tray table was dressed with linen. Trays were brought out individually by FSS Shirley and FSS Fang. The trays contained the appetizer of asparagus salad with olive and tomato, marinated prawns, and garden greens. FSS Shirley brought the dressing choice of Soya Vinaigrette or Honey Mustard. I chose the Honey Mustard and she poured them in front of me. FSS Fang offered the breads and I chose the garlic bread, which was not the foccaccia garlic bread anymore, but instead the old fashion baguette, which I like better. She also offered me a refill of my Singapore Sling, which I declined. FSS Shirley then brought out the wines and I chose the German white wine, Riesling, which is my favorite white wine. The salad was nice, especially the asparagus and the prawns. My appetizer plate was cleared immediately after I finished and my main course meal was promptly brought out. My book the cook order was “Braised short ribs of beef in Chinese wine and 5-spice sauce with egg noodles and seasonal vegetables.” The presentation was excellent, but it only tasted okay. The beef was laden with sauce, which was too sweet for my taste. Nonetheless, I managed to finish it. Fruit and Cheese followed the main course. The cheese was pre-plated and served with Carr’s crackers, two dried figs, some kind of nuts, and grapes. Afterwards CS Yong handed out the Haagen-Dazs ice cream in Dulce de Leche flavor as dessert and asked me if I wanted to have coffee, tea, or after-dinner liqueur, which I declined. The ice cream was as hard as a rock so I had to wait for about 10 minutes before I could enjoy it. Service was above average and very personal, probably because there was so little passengers in the cabin.
Dinner was cleared about 1.5 hours into the flight, after dinner I watched two episodes of Friends, both very funny ones. This month’s movie selection did not really excite me so I was getting ready to sleep once Friends finished. CS Yong must have noticed that I was having difficulty figuring out the Spacebed since he approached me and asked if I needed help at all. He put the seat in the flat bed mode (there are a lot of buttons on the seat control but actually you only need to press one button to turn it to the flat mode) and then FSS Shirley draped a blanket over me. The blanket was new as well, not the Givenchy-designed striped blue blanket no more which I like better but a purplish color one made by John Horsfall, which was longer. Before I turned in for the night, FSS Shirley gently asked if I wanted to be wakened up for breakfast. I said yes and she smiled and said good night. The Spacebed was indeed heavenly and I didn’t feel anything that suggested the seat was at a slight angle. I am 6’2” and the seat fit me perfectly, it was also wide and soft. One minor thing, the seat reclined really low to the floor so it felt you were sleeping on a mattress put on the cabin floor which made me feel rather funny.
FSS Shirley woke me up at 0930 Frankfurt time after what could’ve been the best sleep I’ve had on an airplane and FSS Fang was behind her with the hot towel, which was again lukewarm. I noticed that my water glass had been topped up during the night as it was almost empty when I went to bed. My tray table was dressed promptly and FSS Shirley brought out the tray containing my continental breakfast, which comprised of OJ, a glass of water, a cup of coffee (which I had requested earlier), and a fresh fruit platter. FSS Fang brought out the bread basket shortly afterwards, I chose a bagel which she gave to me with a packet of cream cheese. Other bread selection were bread rolls, muffin, and croissants. The fruit platter was as cold as ice, but overall the smallish breakfast was good.
We already overflew UK that time and was crossing the North Sea towards Amsterdam and then Germany. They hadn’t allowed window shades to be opened yet since there were passengers who skipped breakfast and still sleeping. Our flight path after take off was over Southern Connecticut and Southern Massachusetts before heading out to the Atlantic towards Halifax and Newfoundland. We made landfall somewhere over Ireland, crossed the Irish Channel and crossed Northern England overflying Manchester.
My tray was cleared at 1000 and the captain came over the PA to inform that we had already started our descent into Frankfurt but as Frankfurt was quite busy that morning, we were put on a holding patter and our touchdown time was approximately 1045 instead of the planned touchdown time of 1023. Window shades were now fully opened so I was enjoying the view outside. FSS Fang returned my coat shortly before landing and we chatted a bit more, in Bahasa of course. I thanked her for the great service as she excused herself to make final preparations for arrival. I came back to my entertainment outside the window and saw that we were overflying Frankfurt Airport and afterwards, downtown Frankfurt. We made a 180 degrees turn to fly back to FRA and touched down smoothly on runway 25L at 1043 local time. Taxi to the gate was long and we had to wait for a few minutes for arriving traffic before we crossed runway 25R. We finally docked at gate B42 at 1055.
I thanked CS Yong, FSS Shirley, and FSS Fang personally and went out through door IL desperate for a smoke. I remembered that you could almost smoke anywhere inside the FRA airport but apparently not anymore so I went to the designated smoking area in the middle of the transit lounge. FRA was extremely busy that morning, after smoking I explored the transit lounge for a bit. The last time I fly through FRA was back in December 1999. Now over three years later, there was little change although the terminal was much nicer with upgraded interiors. After smoking two more sticks I headed to gate B42 at around 1130 (our new departure time is 1200). There was a huge line forming in front of the entrance to the gate so I found a seat in front of the gate and waited there for the line to dissipate since we were not boarding anyway. At about 1145 I joined the much-shorter line and one of the SQ staff came over the PA to apologize for the delay in boarding due to the late arrival of the aircraft from JFK. At about 1152, they began boarding passengers with children and passengers needing special assistance to board, as well as First and Raffles class passengers. Boarding process was done in an orderly fashion even though the gate area was pretty small.
SQ 025 Leg 2
20 Jan 2004
1200 – 0655+1
B 747-400 9V-SPE
Photo © Florian Kondziela
I boarded through door IL and was greeted by the IFS. I made my way towards my seat 24K, the main deck cabin was now full to the brim. CS Daniel greeted me by name, said welcome back and disappeared. One FSS was busy attending passengers on the left aisle and no one was attending the right aisle. Finally, the FSS that was attending the left aisle now was attending my aisle so I gave her my coat. FSS Belinda soon appeared with the welcome drinks, again I chose OJ. FSS Lin distributed the hot towels, which was cleared by CS Daniel. Menus and headset were soon distributed and magazines/newspapers were offered by CS Daniel and FSS Lin. Doors were closed at 1215, credit to the cabin crew and the ground staff for boarding a fully loaded 744 in less than 30 minutes. The captain came over the PA and apologize for the late departure. He informed that our flight would take 11 hours and 10 minutes so we could still arrive on schedule in Singapore. Push back was at 1220 and after we pushed back a Thai 744 was towed into our gate B42. We were parked next to the new LH A346 D-AIHA which looked super long. Taxi to runway 18 was rather slow. We lined up with the runway around 1243 and after a short hold we began our take off roll. The take off roll was amazingly long and indeed we seemed to use every inch of runway available. We took off to the South and the sky was clear so I could enjoy the view of the German suburbs, which was later replaced by the countryside and mountains/hills.
After seat belt signs were off, FSS Lin began taking beverage and lunch orders and she confirmed my Book the Cook selection. My drink order of Iced Tea was served by FSS Belinda, meanwhile CS Daniel and FSS Lin began serving the famous satay. The satay was as usual really delicious, too bad each passenger only got three sticks and no seconds were offered. My tray was dressed shortly after the satay was cleared. Meal service was now done using carts as the whole cabin was full, only two seats out of 24 were not taken and only 4 passengers were transit passengers from JFK. FSS Lin served the meal tray, which was empty (no appetizer plate yet) and then shortly FSS Belinda brought out the bread basket. I chose the garlic bread again. The meal service was much more elaborate than the previous leg. Salads were served from a salad bowl and mixed individually in front of the passengers, choice of dressing was again offered. The appetizer/salad was Cous-cous-roasted-vegetables salad with grilled scallop and greens and served with a choice of thousand island or balsamico dressings. It was okay but the scallop was good. Again, I had the German white wine, Riesling. After the appetizer/salad was cleared, my main entrée was brought out, I had ordered “Honey-glazed duckling with oriental style fried noodles and vegetables. The presentation was not as good as the last leg’s and the noodle was quite bland. The duck was really good though, but it hardly tasted sweet, maybe they went light on the honey? Anyway, I skipped the cheese course and declined the fruit basket, so they gave me the Ice Cream for dessert. The ice cream was not a packaged one but instead they served it in a small bowl. Again, it was as hard as a rock. Probably seeing that I was having difficulty with the ice cream, CS Daniel came and apologized and asked if I would like to have anything else while I waited. I told him it was OK and there was no need to get me anything else.
Meals were cleared about 2.5 hours into the flight, when we were already flying over the snow-capped mountains of Central Turkey. After take-off we stayed flying to the south, overflying Munich, flying over Austria, Czech Republic, the Balkans, and on to Turkey. I enjoyed the lunch while watching 2 episodes each of Will and Grace and Coupling, both of which were extremely funny. I was really tired at this stage so I set the seat into the flat bed mode and began dozing off for a good 6 hours. When I woke up, it was already around 0330 Singapore time and were over India. Again, I find my glass of water was topped up when I was sleeping. Went to the loo and was feeling a little bit hungry so I went to see FSS Lin and FSS Belinda who was chatting in the galley and asked if I could have an instant noodle. FSS Lin looked surprised and asked if I would have a Turkey sandwich, which I declined. She said she had to check if the P class cabin still has an instant noodle available since they ran out of theirs already. I said OK and I went back to my seat. It turned out there were still two cups of instant noodle available and FSS Lin asked me if I would like to have the chicken or the shrimp flavored. I chose the chicken and then she went to the galley to cook the noodle for me. The noodle was served in a large soup bowl and was garnished with Chinese greens and chili slices, but no real chunks of chicken like the one that usually came with the noodles on other flights. FSS Lin also topped up my water.
After enjoying the noodle, I started to watch the movie In America about an Irish family trying to make it in New York. It turned out to be quite a good film. About one hour into the film, the lights were turned on and hot towels were distributed followed by choice of juices. All the towels served in this flight were lukewarm, so I guess there was something wrong with the towel-heating mechanism on board SPE. FSS Lin took my breakfast order and I chose the braised egg noodles with shredded pork in Oriental sauce and leafy greens, the other choices being egg frittata with veal sausage and grilled chicken in tomato sauce with potatoes. The breakfast service started with a bowl of fresh fruit which arrived frozen cold, then a choice of cereal, bircher muesli, or fruit yoghurt was offered. I chose the Yoghurt, which was Danone brand and comes in a small container. FSS Belinda brought out the bread basket, the bread selection were muffins, croissants, or bread rolls. There weren’t any bagels so I had to settle with the bread roll. Seconds were offered throughout the bar service. A smile-less FSS Angelina appeared out of nowhere (maybe she worked in Y class?) and cleared the yoghurt container and fruit bowl and gave the main entrée. The entrée was served on the rectangular casserole dish instead of the square plates. The noodle was good but it was laden with the sweet “Oriental” sauce so I had to put a lot of chili sauce to balance the sweetness. My tray was cleared shortly after I finished the entrée.
The last hour of the flight was uneventful, I finished the movie In America and they began playing the tourist information video of Singapore. The captain came over the PA for the last time and said that we would land in Singapore at approximately 0650 local time. We started descent at around 0615 over Malaysia. We approached Singapore from the south and landed on runway 02L at 0652 in the morning of January 21. Hitting the hot, humid air of Singapore, the windows became foggy so I couldn’t really see what was happening outside, but I did spot a UA 777 and a UA 744 took off right after we landed. We used the Northern Cross to get to the other side of the airport and docked at gate F60 at 0705. F60 was the new gate at the furthest tip of the F-concourse. Why oh why they had to make us parked at this gate. I said goodbye to the three crewmembers who were working in my section, they were standing beside door 2L with the smile-less FSS Angelina. Deplaned through door 2L and started the long trek to the Silver Kris lounge.
I reached the lounge at about 0715 and went straight to the smoking room. Smoke a stick and then went to the restroom to change my attire to something more suitable with the heat of Singapore and Jakarta. I left the lounge at 0730 and on the way to gate E24, I went to the duty free shop to get two cartons of Marlboro Lights. By the time I arrived at gate E24, it was already 0745 and the gate was very empty, looked like I was the last passenger to board.
21 Jan 2004
0800 - 0835
B 747-400 9V-SMT
Photo © Michael Schmidt
Photo © Daniel Talbot
When I booked my trip home, this sector was supposed to be flown by a 772 but they somehow changed it to a 744. Maybe due to the Chinese New Year they needed the extra capacity? Anyway there was also an earlier flight SQ 8520 departed at 0735 flown by the new A345, so I was looking forward to see SQ’s latest bird in CGK. I boarded through door 1L. A lovely LSS greeted me and escorted me from the door all the way to my seat, 25K. She helped me stowed my luggage and wished me a pleasant flight. A lovely Indian FSS came around with the welcome drink (OJ), headset, and menu. She asked if I’d like to read a newspaper to which I replied no. She then brought out a selection of magazines and I took the British gadget magazine, T3. The cabin was still in the Ultimo seats and looked quite tired although was clean.
Doors were closed shortly before 0800 and we pushed back on time at 0800. We taxied to runway 02R and lined up at 0815 and in no time started our short take-off roll. There was no divider between the main deck Raffles cabin with the galley so I could hear the cabin crew loudly chattering in the galley. I then remembered that SMT was the aircraft involved in the tailstrike in KL / NZAA), New Zealand">AKL. Seatbelt signs were off shortly and the IFS began dressing the table. As there was very few passengers on the cabin (10 pax out of 28 seats), meal trays were brought out individually and no carts were used. The Indian FSS asked me what I would like for the breakfast and I chose Roti Canai (Indian-style flaky bread with lamb curry), the other choices being Nasi Uduk (Indonesian-style pandan flavored coconut rice with its accompaniments) and Omelet. The Roti Canai was really good, hands down the most delicious meal I’ve had on this trip. While clearing the tray, the FSS asked if the Roti Canai was good and offered seconds if I was still hungry. Although I was tempted, I declined the offer J
The flight was uneventful with little or no turbulence. The pilot came over the PA just one time on this flight, which was right before we started our descent at approximately 0800 Jakarta time. Weather in Jakarta was hazy and we touched down at 0828 local time on runway 25R. The captain didn’t say “cabin crews to landing stations, please” before we landed so I hope there were no cabin crews that got hurt J CGK was as usual empty that time of day and in T2D there was only SQ A345 at gate D1. A Lion Air MD-8(?) was parked on the remote parking ramp of T2D. We parked at gate D2 beside 9V-SGA. I thanked the Indian FSS and deplaned through door 1L. The immigration area was empty so it was quick to go through. My bags were first and second on the belt and was already waiting for me when I reached the belt. I almost thought I was in Changi seeing that I was out in less than 30 minutes after we landed. I met my parents outside and was looking forward to a new life in Jakarta
Overall, I really enjoyed my flight with SQ especially the first leg of SQ 025 which was exceptional, one of the best flights I’ve had. The second leg was a notch down from the first leg but was still above average. SQ 152 was average, only the Indian FSS was good.
Thank you for reading this extremely looong report, I hope I don’t bore you to death. Comments, criticisms, compliments, and questions are always welcome.