Sydney International - Singapore Changi Terminal One
Gulf Air / Olympic Airways
149 / OA
Airbus A340-313 (A40-LI)
Duration: approx 8 hr 28 min
Route: Sydney – Katherine – Darwin – Timor – Makassar – Banjarmasin – Singapore
24 Jul 2004
The end of another lovely trip in Sydney. This trip also marked the first time I went spotting at a foreign airport and I shall post the results soon over the net.
I spent the first 2 nights at the awesome Sir Stamford Hotel along MacQuarie St next to Circular Quay (I had a partial view of the lovely harbour!). The GF
gals C&C were just next door at the Intercontinental so we met up during their layover.
This hotel was so opulently English in its décor and it even came with a fireplace in the hotel lobby! Coming from Singapore, we NEVER ever get to use one so you can imagine my excitement! Rate: A$250 per night.
The remainder of my stay I spent in a suburb known as Surry Hills. The hotel is Park Lodge and it is very popular with gay and lesbians during the annual Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations because of its location just across from the fields where the end-of-parade parties are held. It is an old mansion and looks very creepy though, with paintings of women from an era gone by adorning the narrow hallways and rooms. Rate: S$132 per night.
That being said, I was warned about the chilly winter before I arrived. But I never expected the weather to be so unforgiving (by Sydney’s standards!).
Fast forward to the day of departure on 24 Jul 2004…
This was day rushing to squeeze in last minute shopping at Paddy’s Weekend Market. Bags were bursting at the seams as I made my way in a taxi back to the hotel to grab my bags, and then to the airport…. A total fare of A$45! This has to be the most expensive taxi ride in my life. I didn’t have enough cash but for moments like these, there’s always Visa.
Boy was there a crowd already at the check in counters for GF
149! Despite being 3 hours ahead of departure time, it was like a bazaar! People of Middle Eastern descent were cramming the area around counters K10-18. I realized why, for every one individual that was flying off, the entire family (immediate and extended) together with friends, neighbors and the entire village came to send off this person. So if the Airbus that I was flying on carried about 300 pax, you multiply that and figure out that math!
QANTAS was in charge of the check in procedures and I guess they were pretty swamped that night. Neither of the check in agents was smiling as there were many instances of traveling pax having to unload their check in baggage for being over-weight. One couple stubbornly refused to do it and was removed by security. This made the lines move ever so S L O W L Y…..
The original time of 2145H was now moved back due to the late arrival of aircraft from Bahrain. Why are the GF
planes always late? It was the same case for my outbound flight from Singapore!
The last few flights for the night were departing, with us being one of the last ones. Hence, the terminal progressively became quieter. Soon, it was just the passengers from GF
149 milling about the airside.
A trip up to the viewing gallery yielded a quiet scene.
Boarding gate: #60
I must say the interior of Sydney International looks fantastic!
Female Gate Agent: “This announcement is for passengers on Gulf Air flight GF one-four-nine, service to Singapore and Bahhhhrain. The aircraft is now being cleaned and we would board as soon as we can. We thank you for your patience and we ask that you remain in the vicinity of gate 60 so that we can speed up the boarding process. Thank you.”
This is not a good start. Due to the late arrival, there was a rush now to clean the aircraft and leave Sydney.
2155H: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a general boarding call for Gulf Air GF one-four-nine service to Singapore and Bahhhrain. We have a VERY tight connection tonight so we ask that you be seated immediately once you are on board because we need to close the doors and leave before the curfew. If you do not do that, we would have to stay overnight in Sydney…”
I thought that wasn’t a bad idea to have my holiday extended for one more day at the expense of the airline!
“… at the airport.”
Err… not a good idea after all.
Entered the aircraft via 2L and because there was a rush to board the aircraft, we didn’t do it by row numbers and we ended up getting stuck at the aerobridge once again. The station manager walked onto the bridge and began retracting the foldable shelters exposing all of us there to the chilly breeze and light drizzle. Yes, we got the hint! We are getting onto that damn plane so you can close up and go home!
By now, most of the pax have settled down. I observed that this plane was in far better condition than A40-LG. Everything seems new but was once again, an ex-SIA A340. The Raffles Class curtains were still there, annoying the hell out of me.
Welcome announcement in Arabic and English. Cross check and pushback. The English announcements tonight were made by a lady with an Irish accent. She welcomed us and introduced the captain for tonight’s flight, CPT
Taxi begins together with the safety announcements. This catches the FAs off guard as they quickly run into position and grab on to their demonstration items. One Caucasian FA
was quickly trying to tidy her messed up hair while showing us the seatbelt.
If there was traffic police on the ramp that evening, our plane would have been caught for speeding. We taxied at unbelievable speeds towards runway 34L, presumably trying to make up for lost time. Later we slowed down as we caught up with a MAS 777-200 that was taxiing ahead of us. For a moment, I thought the pilot was trying to pull a CAL on us. Remember when that A340 took off from the taxiway at ANC
Lights off, cabin crew, be seated for take off.
The marshalling point was our position for a few more minutes as we waited for and arriving Virgin Blue 737-800.
Line up… and the take off was immediate. We quietly rotated into the skies in the rain. Sydney city glittered outside my window flanked by the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Soon enough, A40-LI tilted to the left and the awesome view was hidden forever as we headed in a north westerly direction.
The lights come on again as the Irish lady announces over the PA that the FAs tonight speak English, Arab, Polish, Thai, Afrikaan, Swahili and French. Meanwhile, the FAs busied themselves with the setting up of basinets at the bulkhead for babies while the rest are in the galley preparing the meals.
Seatbelt sign pings off a minute later.
Some more FAs appear along the aisle and distribute headsets, which were different from my outbound flight from SIN
. These are the conventional ones that loop over your head and onto your ears. They also only had one jack, while the armrest had holes for a two-jacked headset. So we only had sound coming out from one side. Another fine example of Gulf Air’s Golden Falcon service.
One consolation though – ALL
the movie channels were working this time. Plus the Airshow wasn’t displaying rubbish like my previous flight. However, not all audio channels were available (meaning music was mainly in Arabic).
Additionally, not all PTVs were working because several pax kept calling FAs to their seats and pointing to an empty screen.
The food cart makes an appearance and we have a choice of Fish or Chicken. I chose the latter as fish tends to dry up on high altitudes. Still, it was absolutely tasteless… but at least the portions this time looked more like a “meal”.
The dinner service ended with tea 30 mins later.
The trays were now being cleared into the carts while the seat belt sign pings on (and remains on for the rest of the flight). The flight becomes a little bumpy but the attendants manage to balance.
While clearing the trays, an Australian FA
saw me fiddling with my camera and told me sternly to put that away, and that no photos or videos are allowed since September 11th. Huh? Really? Is that a norm? While I continued to take photos after that, I just made sure she wasn’t around when I did it.
The cabin is now in complete darkness as we jet across the outback towards Katherine (Northern Australia). Nothing of interest outside, I count on the IFE to keep me occupied for the rest of the journey. “The Prince and Me” was my companion for the next few hours or so…. Yes, the selection was that “great”. Is it me? Or does Julia Stiles has only 2 expressions – one with her eyes closed and the other one with them opened.
Christ, that was an awful movie. The rest weren’t that great either. There were several great Hindi selections (Yeah! Shah Rukh Khan rocks!) but I didn’t feel like reading subtitles from a 6” PTV screen.
36000 ft, abeam the town of Makassar, Southern Sulawesi. Finally, we are now in Indonesian airspace. The lights from the town below glowed weakly. I managed to doze off for a bit but interrupted sleep was the rule on this flight. I don’t understand how can anyone find footrests in Economy Class comfortable?
The lights come on an hour later and I look forward to breakfast because I was famished by now. There was no walk-about during the flight since majority of the passengers were asleep.
Breakfast is served. Once again, sulky-faced FAs greeted us this morning in the bright fluorescent cabin of this Airbus. When my neighbour received her meal, her empty containers spilled all over her table because the Egyptian FA
was rather careless. Instead of saying sorry, she stared for a while, and then continued her way.
My Greek neighbour commented “Wow, what is herrr prrroblem eh?”
Breakfast was a no-frills affair, as you can see from the photo above. But I was so hungry I finished the whole thing.
Trays were cleared 40 mins later as the FAs got the cabin ready for arrival.
The captain comes on and informs us that we are now 180 miles from Singapore and would be arriving in 25 mins. He then repeated the announcement in halting French before instructing the crew to “prepare for arrival”.
And that signaled the commencement of descend.
“Headsets… Headsets please!” drawled that rude Egyptian FA
who served us just now.
As the descend continued, the basinets were folded up and stored.
By now, we were abeam the Indonesian island of Bintan heading north westerly towards Johor in Malaysia to position for a runway 20 landing.
Note: With this photo above, my camera breathed its last and quietly went to sleep exhausted from a lack of battery power.
Lights off. The cabin crew does a final walk though to get some stubborn mules to fasten their seat belts and straighten their seats.
Final extension of flaps and cabin crew seated for landing.
Descending over the state of Johor, the gears are lowered as we approach runway 20L for a smooth touchdown.
Touchdown with full reverse thrust.
After exiting the end of the runway, a 737 from Shandong Airlines took off into the morning skies. It was probably here on a maintenance visit with SAECO. Terminal One was void of aircraft at Concourse D except for a Thai 777-200 and a Northwest DC10 in the splendid new colours.
We come to a stop at Gate D43. Local time is now a God-forsaken 0440H!!!
Horrendous queue! Don’t travelers understand the weight restrictions when they fly? Obviously not. This caused a lot of unnecessary hold ups at the counters.
It is not our fault that the aircraft was late. Rushing pax into the plane the way they did was tacky. Retracting the foldable shelter while we were standing outside the door of 2L? What was she (station manager) thinking? It was cold, drizzly and we got a little wet.
In-flight service: 2/10…
A definite failure, no hesitation. Not even the Asian crew could save this trip. Even they were nonchalant! As for the Egyptian FA
that messed up my neighbour’s breakfast tray, the least she could do was look sorry. IFE wasn’t working properly, several PTVs were not even working.
Catering: 4/10… GF
SERIOUSLY needs to revamp catering. Supper was tasteless. Breakfast was unimaginative.
The only saving grace for this flight, the efficient arrival process in Singapore.
This flight was an absolute overall failure. Rude attendants, bad food, partially working IFE… Gulf Air has the fundamental hardware in place but the human element somehow got misplaced along the way. After this trip, I am definitely not in rush to fly with them again. Not that I am curious about their Business Class that cost almost $1000 more than MAS! Do I think it’s worth it? No.