Singapore Changi Terminal One- Sydney International
Gulf Air / Olympic Airways
148 / OA
Airbus A340-313 (A40LG)
1116 – 2051H
Duration: approx 7hr 30 min
20 Jul 2004
Yippee! Sydney beckoned once again and it was time to fly again. Unfortunately, I only decided on this a week before departure and all flights were full – even on Business Class! Thus, no MAS for me. There was no way I was going to fork out cash to fly First Class. And the only airline available was Gulf Air.
So here am I, embarking on my adventure once again as I plonked my bags at Row 7 in Changi airport. Getting served by Juhana, who was employed by SATS in Terminal One, she informed me that the flight was delayed due to the late inbound of aircraft.
I asked for a window seat and wanted the seats next to me to be left empty. No problem since the flight was only ¾ full. So I was assigned to 49K.
The original departure time of 1045H was now 1055H. Not that bad, I thought.
Arriving at Gate D41 (the same gate for my last trip on Valuair), transit passengers were in the midst of boarding. The agents were rather strict about letting ONLY transit passengers in as they had to identify their bags in the aircraft.
There is no way the flight would be leaving on time now. The general boarding call came over the PA and everyone expectedly rushed for the doors. Since I was standing at the entrance, I was on of the first few on the aerobridge. But there was going to be a further delay.
“Stop! Hold on! Not yet, we are not ready…” hollered this Arab accented in-flight supervisor at the entrance of 2L. So we stood there for 10 mins like fools while the flight attendants nonchalantly went about their duties within without even a crack of a smile.
We were finally allowed to board and was welcomed by the same man (let’s call him Ahmed) who hollered at us at the door. Something had pissed him off and I was to find out why. He basically looked at our boarding passes and gestured us “hhhhere” and “down therrre”.
I walked into the Business cabin and found it very familiar. Why of course! This looks exactly like Raffles Class! The Economy section soon made an appearance and the same SQ
-coloured fabrics were used. The interior looked like it had seen better days. The seats looked tired and worn. The Arabian and Caucasian FAs didn’t smile muchand left pax to their own devices, while the Filipinas and Chinese ones seem to be genuinely happy to see us.
I soon found my seat at the back of the cabin and sat down next to the broken armrest. The seat next to me was empty, of course. On the seat were blankets and earphones, which are the clip kind similar to those found on SQ
As soon as the pax were settled, didn’t take that long as the passengers joining the flight from Singapore were a mere trickle, Ahmed went down the aisle with a bag in his hand belonging to a transit passenger and shouting “Whhhhose bag eeees theeees? Whhhhoooose bag eees theees?”
A Caucasian pax raised his hand in my cabin and boy was I sorry for him. Almost immediately Ahmed fired off in rapid Arab before chiding him loudly for the entire cabin to hear “Whhhy didn’t you claim your bag just now?! Do you know the flight has been delayed further because OF
He then opened the overhead compartments, chucked the bag in it, and firmly slammed it shut.
As soon as Ahmed disappeared into the front of the aircraft, the doors were closed and pushback commenced.
Manual demo was carried out by 2 FAs on each aisle, a Malaysian on the further aisle and a Caucasian on mine. The Caucasian seemed like she has something else better to do.
The welcome announcement came on in Arabic followed by Australian accented English. Meanwhile, a long taxi ensued as there was a line of aircraft waiting to depart. We taxied behind a SQ
777-200 and were followed by a CX
777-300 and a MAS 737-400.
While we waited at the marshalling point, a SQ
747-400 landed before we lined up.
Line up, and roll a minute later.
Many on the forum have joked about the climb characteristics of the A340. One thing I can say, I wasn’t pressed onto the seat as we headed for the skies.
The seatbelt sign soon pinged off and the cabin lights dimmed. Climbed and tracked over the Indonesian island of Batam and turned left for a south-easterly heading towards Karimata Straits along the western coast of Borneo.
FAs soon walked down the aisle and disinfected the cabin with a spray. A little early in the flight, no?
The Australian announcemencer came on the PA that told us pax that the FAs toaday spoke English, Punjabi, Arabic, Malaysian (??), Tagalog and Polish. “Malaysian”? What is “Malaysian”? I thought it should have been “Malay”.
The passengers soon became comfortable in their seats and began to explore them. Some complained that the reading lamps weren’t working. As for the IFE, even though the magazine illustrated 7 channels of movies, only 3 were working. So I had a fantastic choice of “Hellboy”, “Laws of Attraction” and “Hidalgo”. Yawn…
The rest of the channels had Arabic, Hindi and Filipino together with sports and entertainment programs. So there were actually a total of 24 channels including the Airshow.
Meanwhile, my headrest refused to be cranked into position so it remained the same way for the rest of the flight.
Lunch cart appears! My aisle was being served by 2 lovely individuals who were a Malaysian and a Singaporean and I shall name them Connie and Carla respectively. Connie was a trained “Sky Nanny”.
When the arrived at my seat, Carla was excited to find out that I was Singaporean and starting yakking to me in Mandarin. She was so sick of speaking in English that she took the opportunity to banter in her mother tongue, I gladly humored her. Carla joined in the tête-à-tête and the both promised to see me after the meal service.
The meal was pathetic. A choice between Beef or Chicken pie…
552 mph, 35000 feet
The trays were soon cleared as we coasted into the eastern tip of Java. Over which I witnessed a volcano spewing plumes and several other imposing peaks. Just check out the photos!
I noticed that the Airshow was making no sense as “Estimated Time of Arrival”, Time at Destination”, “Time at Origin”… was all the same!
The FAs walked around the cabin asking for the shades to be pulled down in order to darken the surroundings. Presumably to allow pax to sleep before arriving in SYD
Carla soon appeared next to me and we chatted excitedly about home and Sydney. Connie popped by and gestured to her chest while saying in Cantonese that the "Sky Nanny ran out of milk". We had a good laugh about that and woke several slumbering pax in the process... I later found out that their hotel was just next to mine! So we made a date to meet for supper once we arrived, together with Connie.
With the island of Bali now behind us, we cruised over the Indian Ocean and coasted into Australia (photo above) at 1400H for a direct track to Derby, across the Great Sandy Desert and the Great Arterian Basin before arriving in Sydney. Pretty much a straight south-easterly flight.
This part of the flight gets pretty boring as there is nothing much to do. Even the FAs disappear into the galleys and bunks. Meanwhile, Connie and Carla took turns to chat with me. I even took a trip to the spacious aft galley and was being offered ice cream before anyone else on the plane.
Deep into the flight, I requested for water and Carla returned with a giant bottle!
“Shh… don’t tell anyone” she whispered.
She later walked down the aisle again with a tray of ice cream and began distributing to the pax who were not asleep. “I don’t think you want another one, right?” She laughed.
And with that, we continued to cruise across the vast continent into the sunset. Carla later came over and asked me if I wanted to have a “crew meal” because the dinner later would be “disgusting”. She lifted the foil over her pasta and I must say it was indeed tempting, but I turned her down as I didn’t want the rest of the pax to wonder.
The sky is now completely dark outside. The lights are turned on and the meal carts appear towards the front of the cabin with Carla and another stoned face Australian FA
We had a choice of fish or chicken and I chose the latter. As soon as I lifted the foil, Carla found the opportunity to lean towards me and said “I told you so…”
Dinner consisted of just 2 small sticks of kebab.
Tea is being served by Connie after the meal trays are collected. The flight continues leisurely and the remaining meal service items are soon cleared.
Arrival announcement in Arabic and English, that also signals the commencement of descend.
Another round of disinfectant spray into the cabin.
The aircraft was soon tracking south of Sydney towards Wollongong ...
But soon made a northerly heading change pass Sydney over the western suburbs.
Further descend and an announcement comes on for cabin crew to remain seated. Lights are then turned off in the cabin. The aircraft is now in North Sydney as it swings back south for runway 16R.
Flaps are extended further as the landing gears starts clanking beneath.
Touchdown and full reverse thrust…..
The cabin erupts in spontaneous applause after the smooth touchdown and I wonder if it is an Arab trait to do so?
It was a quiet time for Sydney and only the following aircraft were seen at the international terminal: 1 x 747-400 each from SIA, QF
and Thai, Polynesian 737-800 with winglets, Emirates A345-500 and a Hawaiian 767-300.
We finally came to a stop at Gate 60 at local time 2051H.
Since we were the only flight arriving, immigrations and customs were quick and I was out of the airport and onto the train bound for the city within 30mins.
Check in was handled very well by cheerful SATS agent and she was very informative.
Someone screwed up here. The crew was obviously not complete with their screening of transit passengers. It was not nice for us to be stuck in the aerobridge for 10 mins.
In-flight service: 4/10…
With the exception of Connie and Carla, plus another Filipino stewardess, everyone else was all sour faced and didn’t even bother with service. I would have given this score a token “1” if it wasn’t for them. The Middle Eastern FAs wins hands down for topping the angry look with their heavy eye-liners.
For a flight with this duration that requires 2 meals to be served, I thought at least one meal would be substantial enough to fill the tummy. The meals the served on this flight, I would classify them as “snacks”. A pie for lunch? 2 miniscule sticks of tasteless kebabs for dinner? Looks to me that GF
didn’t even bother to try…
No complaints here as I was at the hotel by 2200H. I would describe this part of the journey as painless.
My first impression of Gulf Air is not good. They have a good advertising campaign in the press that gives the impression of the fabled “Golden Falcon Service”. However, I found them to be rather sloppy and disorganized. The service level was comparable to a bad domestic flight in the US.
With Emirates at their doorstep, and the creation of Air Etihad and the general expansion of Oman Air and Qatar Airways, they have some serious competition. GF
does not seem like an airline that has been around for a long time as their overall service seemed to be amateurish.
They didn’t even bother to remove the evidence of the previous owner of the A340 that I was flying on to protect their product integrity. The curtain separating my cabin and Business Class had a VERY visible “Raffles Class” imprinted on them. The toilets had a container at the tap with the logo of the previous owner. The mentioned container was empty and not in need to store anything, and could be removed by simply removing the screws. I guess no one bothered.