We spent a great eight days in Beijing visiting The Great Wall, The Summer Palace etc. My mum’s business associates took very good care of my friends and I and I must say they are one of the most hospitable, kindest, warmest people I have met in my life.
Sharapova at the China Open!!
Of course, all good things must come to an end we headed off to Beijing’s Capital airport at 1.30pm to catch our 4pm flight SQ801 back to Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ801, ETD 1600, ETA 2205.
Aircraft: 777-200 Registration 9V
Block Flight Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Actual Flight Time: 5 hours 35 minutes
The checkin area of Beijing’s airport is in a restricted area. Only passengers holding tickets are able to enter. The only other places I have seen this in play are CDG
Terminal 2B (I have no idea why ONLY 2B has this!) and New Delhi. I have a feeling this is the case as people from India and China tend to invite their entire clan along when they go overseas, which would result in an uncontrollable crowd.
We headed to the economy section of SIA’s checkin counters for checkin and joined the queue.
A staff of SQ
’s Ground Handler in Beijing was walking along the Y Class pax to stick an SQ
sticker on them. Why this is done remains unclear, though I suspect it’s to identify any pax who might still be at the duty free shops 5 mins prior to departure, or just pax who might be wandering in a daze at the airport minutes before departure.
Two local men decided to cut the queue in front of us. This seems to be a rather unfortunate occurrence in China. We then informed them (in Chinese) that we were there first. They then tried to cut the queue of a Singaporean couple and we told the Singaporean couple that someone was trying to cut their queue.
While we were nearing our turn (we were second in line) another two Chinese nationals tried to come in front of us. We then told them politely to go away. They didn’t go to the end of the line and tried to cut into every space they saw. The SQ
Ground Agent saw what was going on and walked up to them, saying “Could you please queue up? Thank you.”
The two Chinese nationals then straddled to the end of the Y line, decided it was too long, and headed to the First Class queue. The same SQ
ground agent saw them and said “Gentlemen could you please queue up at the economy line? This line for First Class passengers”
That aside, it was soon our turn and the checkin agent greeted us. We noticed that many pax had through-checked to SQ237 to Melbourne, the new departure from SIN
at midnight. It was not surprising that the three of us were among the minority of pax joining SQ801 who were not ending our journey in SIN
We spoke to the checkin agent in Chinese and asked him for three seats together. He said the only place in the plane where there were 3 seats together was at the very last row of the aircraft. We were a bit disappointed at that, but agreed.
On leaving, my Canadian friend insisted that the checkin agent gave us the last 3 rows because ‘we were young’ but I dismissed that of course. I mean, the flight was really full!
Immigration had really long queues but we cleared it 10 mins. Just past the security checkpoint the officer asked to smell my bottle of lemon tea. I found that rather strange because in no other airport (including the US) has any security officer asked to smell my drink.
Soon after, the Singapore girls (and boys) in their kebayas glided past us towards SQ801. This set of crew looked very ordinary and one leading stewardess was pushing the limit on her size. I swear she was quite unshapely and it was rather unflattering towards the legendary kebaya. (I exaggerate for effect….)
Duty Free shops were aplenty but rather pricey (Singapore was cheaper for perfumes and alcohol) and we had some afternoon tea which was horrendously expensive for China. 65 Yuan for a bowl of noodles. That’s US$8. It was ironic when we heard the service staff at the restaurant comparing their salaries, which were around 500 Yuan a month. That will buy them less than 10 bowls of noodles in the airport restaurant!
Took some pictures of planes, including a UA
772 bound for Chicago, our own SQ
flight, and an Air Canada plane that just landed from Vancouver that totally excited my French Canadian friend.
THE FLIGHT ITSELF
SQ801 operated by 9V
-SQB, the second oldest 777 in SIA’s fleet delivered in May 1997.
At 3.55, we decided to leave our horrendous afternoon tea for SQ801. Needless to say, we were the last passengers to board the aircraft. An Indian Singaporean Steward welcomed us aboard with a smile saying “Hi guys we were all waiting for you!” and directed us to our seat.
We made our way to seats 57D, F and G, the middle section of the very last row of the 777-200.
This plane looked spanking new. Better than 9V
-SQA, the one we took to PEK
. There were substantially more Chinese nationals on this flight than our outbound flight.
An Aussie Captain welcomed us aboard and told us our flight time would be 5h35mins.
Got a copy of The Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper (Oh it is really such a crap paper but hey, it just gives me that feeling I’m close to home!)
Announcements on this flight were made first by a Singaporean in English, then by a Chinese national “Singapore girl” in Mandarin.
The safety video was screened (I have a shot of the first 30 seconds of the new SIA safety video. If any of you want it just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you. It’s 7 MB
I think so do make sure your inbox can handle it)
was really crowded at that time of the day and we were like, 10th in sequence for takeoff or something, so it took a really long time before it got to our turn. The Captain came on to tell us that all we could do was “wait as there was nothing much we could do at this point”
We soon took off and the weather was turbulent for the first 15 mins of the flight. The Captain then came on to ask us to expect turbulent weather till until we passed Hong Kong, which would be about 2.5 hours later.
Just after takeoff
Soon after the seatbelt sign was switched off, the crew distributed the menus and commenced with a full bar service and gave us packets of nuts. Being seated at the last row, we obviously we were the last to be served!
After the bar service, the crew came round with duty free sales, after which it was coming to 6pm local time and I was feeling quite famished. Being seated just next to the galley, I went to ask if they had instant noodles or anything to nibble on. The Singapore Girl told me that Dinner would be served in 5 minutes.
And it was. Except that being in the last row it got to me about 40 minutes later. In the meantime, the flight path showed we were getting very close to HKG
airspace to our left, so I wondered if we would be able to make out the territory from 37 000 feet.
We did! It was a clear day over HKG
and we could make out Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui) and Hong Kong Island clearly, with a faint outline of the spectacular Hong Kong skyline (which of course wasn’t that impressive at 37 000 feet….)
At which point it was dinner time.
I didn't take photos of my meals as my memory card was full. However, I have tried to do the next best thing: Take photos of the menus! Haha.
So as you can see there was an international selection and an oriental selection with two different choices of appetisers, maincourse and savoury snack (cheese/chinese snack)
My Singaporean friend and I chose the Oriental selection (made exclusively by Mr Yeung Koon Yat of Forum Restaurant, Hong Kong) and it wasn’t too bad, though mass cooking does destroy anything that any famous chef tries to make.
My Canadian friend found the beef goulash tasty and wanted more.
However Nestle Ice Cream Cones were served for dessert (they are HUGE) and he ended up each asking for another helping.
By the time dinner was cleared, there was a little under 2 hours less for the flight. Cabin crew came round periodically with water and juice, while we decided to ask for more ice cream.
The cabin crew were a notch better than the flight to PEK
. They spoke more eloquently, had more smiles, were much warmer and weren’t so “to the book”. Eg when it got to our turn for meals, they knew we were young people in our early twenties and spoke to us in a more casual way (that didn’t diminish their service level at all) and could make conversation with us in the galley.
Went to the galley and asked the crew in very Singaporean English “eh can we be very cheapskate and ask for more ice cream har?” The Singapore girls smiled and offered each of us an additional ice cream each. They even told my Canadian friend she would charge him for it, in zest of course.
Not Robotic at all!
And I must emphasise that in all my years of traveling SQ
, I have never ever felt they treat whites better than Asians. I have never felt they treated darker skinned people worse too. Being part Indian and part Chinese myself, I obviously am somewhat darker skinned and I’ve always gotten very good service from them. SQ
crew are always happy to engage in conversations with pax of all nationalities!
Being the second-oldest 777 in SIA’s fleet, we had the standard Krisworld IFE with no AVOD. Just 22 channels. I dreaded it being the same selection as what we got on the way up but as it was nearing the end of September, we had October’s selection instead! They had Spiderman 2, Mean Girls, The Terminal and many other great movies. I caught The Terminal and part of a horrible French movie.
Before arrival in SIN
, an arrival video was shown. Oh this video always depresses me for it reminds me that my holiday is ending. Even if you don’t wanna watch it it’s screened on the big screen as well so images of Singapore are everywhere and I can’t escape them!!
Our Flight Path took us from Beijing straight down to Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Ho Chi Minh City, the Gulf of Thailand, over Singapore then a sharp 180 degree turn towards runway 02R (the one where you have a great view of the city, flying over the East Coast Parkway, Tanah Merah Country Club, Safra Sea Sports Centre, then the runway with that nice long road parallel towards it!
I do apologise for the poor quality of photos. I just couldn't get my camera to focus on the screen.
We disembarked at E24 and had a huge long walk to the immigration area. Changi’s Terminal 2 was really crowded at that time, with all the European flights about to leave. Walked past all the gates of people going to places like Istanbul, SYD
etc and felt rather jealous!
As most pax in SIN
are connecting pax, there was hardly a queue at immigration and the first bag on the belt was already there when we arrived. How Changi manages to offload bags and have them on the belt in just over 10 minutes still never amazes me.
I doubt there were even 100 people waiting for their bags at our belt. Out of an aircraft of 298 passengers.
Cleared customs with tonnes of fake DVDs. (SIN
customs never stops you and never cares…..) out to the arrivals hall where we were ferried home by our respective family members.
Another great flight on SQ
. Service was slightly better than the flight to PEK
which was good to begin with. IFE was great. Food was great. Ice Cream was just wonderful!
Where did they go wrong? Well I notice a bit of cuts in catering here and there. I bet only geeks like us notice it but when the general flying public feels it then SQ
will feel the pinch.
Nevertheless I was never hungry throughout my flights ever. At least they have decent snacks like sandwiches, instant noodles and so on.
My next report could either be QF SIN
, SQ CDG
, TunisAir Paris-Tunis-Paris, United Airlines CDG
, SQ SIN
, SQ SIN
or QF ADL
. I’m inclined towards QF SIN
. Of course if I have bored all of you to death do inform. And I’ll stop right away! Thanks for getting to this point!