Here is a report of my trip from Atlanta to Bangalore in September/October 2004. Sorry for the length but it is a pretty long haul to get there. Airlines used included Delta, Virgin-Atlantic, Jet Airways, Air Sahara, and Singapore Airlines. It was literally an around-the-world trip when all was said and done.
Because of the approach of Hurricane Ivan I moved my departure up a day. I knew if I stuck around until the 16th that the storm would be in Atlanta and screwing everything up. Given the VS
connections to DEL aren't every day I figured play it safe. Luckily I did because ATL
was "cancellation central" the next day. My in-laws evacuated from Pensacola and arrived in the middle of the night as I was packing. My wife's grandparents got there in the morning and it was almost comical to see her grandfather's jaw drop when she said I was leaving for India for a month. Literally they were walking in the door with luggage as I was walking out with mine.
My wife drove me to the airport and we said our goodbyes since it would be a while until I got back. Since I had checked baggage I went to the Medallion counter to get my ticket. Although my bags were heavy when I explained I was connecting to Virgin they were cool about it and put priority tags on my bags and sent them on their way. Once I got my ticket I headed to the E concourse since the flight would continue on out of JFK
as an international flight. I had a seat in BizElite which a few years ago was good but it is showing its age and nowhere near the quality of other airlines' business offering. While I was comfortable for the flight I was eager to see what Upper Class was going to be like on VS
. The ride up to JFK
was uneventful with the regular snack and drink service. I was surprised to see that no meal was served on the plane up front because I have always gotten a substantial snack when flying into Newark.
When I got off the plane I headed to the Crown Room in Terminal 2. I forgot to make copies of my passport and credit cards before I left so I went there to make copies. I grabbed a Diet Coke and some of the cheesy stuffed crackers that are really quite good. Here's where I screwed up bad. I wandered off and left all my credit cards right on the copier. I didn't realize this until after I had left the secured area. I did a quick u-turn and explained to security what I had done, showed them the boarding pass and they let me enter the line. Of course my computer backpack was full of wires so I had to be the one pulled aside and have everything gone through. Luckily I got through there and back into the CRC where everything was still on the copier. Thank God! I folded up the papers and put them in an envelope and asked the
front desk attendant to drop it in the mail to go to my wife.
I proceeded down to baggage claim but after the security fiasco my bags were nowhere to be found. I asked in the baggage office and they had them set aside for me. I was expecting to be read the riot act given it was NYC post 9/11 but when I told them the story they apologized I had gotten the massive search. No big deal though. I had all my bags and made the trek over to the international terminal to check in.
Checkin: 10/10, the First Class/Medallion desk does a great job even with the heavy bags
Crown Room in ATL
: 7/10, free drinks but they are starting to show their age
In-flight service: 8/10, a couple of drinks, snacks, and hot towels even though no meal service. Could be better though.
In-flight comfort: 7/10, Delta should put 5 seats across like CO
on the 767 for bigger seats. Just a little bit cramped. BizElite is showing its age as well but for the short 2 hour flight it was good.
Crown Room in JFK
: 7/10, same as the ATL
9/15/2004 - 9/16/2004
747-400 (G-VROC aka Mustang Sally)
Checkin for Virgin was pretty easy. The lines set aside for Upper Class moved quickly and I only had to wait a couple of minutes for the 3 folks in front of me. I was given my "invitation" to the Clubhouse and for the Revivals Lounge the next morning in Heathrow. I took my bags over to the screening area and dropped them off and then went through the metal detectors and on to the Clubhouse.
For some reason I though it was going to be bigger but it is still very nice. I picked a big comfy seat by the windows overlooking the ramp. Immediately I was asked what I would like to drink and I got a Diet Coke and a Martini. I wandered back outside a little bit and went by a gift shop to get some mints and a magazine or two to read on the plane. When I got back I had a Blue Cheese burger that was pretty good and some fries which were ok. Another Martini and I went to check on the weather. Good thing I left when I did as Atlanta was fixing to get some of the outer bands of Ivan in a little while.
About an hour before departure I made my way out to the gate because I wanted to get on the plane early and see what all Upper Class was about. I took the fast track line at security and was at the gate in another few minutes. When I got there I started chatting with a nice couple who were on their way home. They had lived in Delhi for a while so they told me to prepare for the heat and humidity. I assured them that since I grew up in Central Florida I was well adapted to those conditions. I wished them a good evening and hopped on the plane. I was greeted at the door by a steward who was very cheerful and directed me to my seat at 19K. Before I was even done getting my bag is the overhead I was being offered champagne by a gorgeous stewardess. (let me tell you how sexy I find a British accent!) I instead asked her for a Jack Daniel's which she quickly got for me.
The in-flight beauty treatment girl came by and asked me my choice which was a head and neck massage. She also gave me my ammenity kit for the evening which was in a nice tan "leather" zippered bag. Another stewardess gave me the menu for the evening and another wanted to refresh my drink which this time I just got a Diet Coke. Forgetting for a split second I was on VS
I was given a Diet Virgin Cola which while different was pretty good. Still another stewardess came by and inquired if I would be eating dinner or would I like to sleep after takeoff. I told her I would like dinner and gave her my order.
I changed into some shorts and kicked off my shoes and got comfortable for the flight. We backed away from the gate on time and taxied to the runway. I had heard stories about the safety video and did get a few chuckles out of the cartoons in it. Pretty soon we found ourselves on the runway and off to London. A few minutes after takeoff thee drink service started up again and dinner started. I began with a nice salad and then moved onto the beef dish which was a nice veal chop. Cheese and fruit came next followed by a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream which was just incredible.
Next came getting sleep in the fancy schmancy suites. Sitting in these seats is a little strange since you sit at an angle. Takeoff is slightly strange but you don't go slipping out of the seat. One of the stewardesses flipped the back of my seat over and made it into the bed. She set up my pillow and down comforter and wished me good night. I got under the covers and that is where the evening got bad pretty quickly. First off I ended up with a horrible case of heartburn where for a few minutes I almost though I was having a heart attack. That continued on for quite some time and was gone when I woke up in the morning. The second thing is the walls on the suites bottle in the heat when lying down. Perhaps I just am a hot-blooded guy (my wife tells me no) but I began to get miserable. I would sit up and cool off but then back
to the furnace. I moved the air vent as much as I could but still no luck. Anytime I went below the walls it got miserable. I made the best of it and finished watching The Office from dinner and then on to Caddyshack for the mindless put me to sleep movie.
I woke up a few hours later just off the Irish coast. I got up and made my way to the bar for fresh OJ. A stewardess came by and asked me if I was ready for breakfast which I said absolutely. I had eggs, some pancakes, sausage, fruit, and baked beans to make it ever so British. I think I offended her though when she came with my tea and I said I was sorry it I liked it black with no cream. She quickly got me a new cup and apologized for not asking the first time. Despite the great breakfast I still felt like absolute crap and was miserable after the sleepless evening and on top of that I had lost my voice and picked up a cough. Great! I've caught a cold and I'm not even there yet. What a wonderful start to my trip.
Soon after we landed at Heathrow and taxied to the gate. We were given the coveted pink Fast Track passes and I cleared immigration in just a few minutes. I gathered my bags and went through the green channel at Customs and then wandered to find the Revivals Lounge. The signage for getting there is a little bit lacking. That or Heathrow really is a maze in disguise. I made it to Revivals and was presently surprised. It was quiet and a refuge from the hubbub of the main terminal. I was shown to a shower room where I seriously had the best shower of my life. The water pressure was incredible and whatever cough I had went away after that shower. I got dressed, had some more tea, and read the paper. It was the day after the guys stormed into the House of Commons to protest the hunting ban so that was all the news everywhere that day along with the hurricane. I was met by my driver and we walked out to the parking garage where he ran off to get the limo which in actuality was a Volvo. He drove me into the city and dropped me off at the Sheraton in Knightsbridge. Let me just say here how wonderful London is to visit. The first day it was in the 70s and clear. The next day was in the 40s and rainy but I didn't care. Everyone is so polite and had no issues stopping what they were doing to give directions to the lost Yank.
Checkin: 10/10, Upper Class checkin was quick and friendly
Clubhouse in JFK
: 10/10, brand new club with great views, comfy chairs, good food, and great drinks.
In-flight service: 10/10, all I can say is excellent.
In-flight comfort: 7/10, sitting up in the suite was fine but sleeping was miserable.
Revivals Lounge in LHR
: 10/10, the best shower of my life. Period.
Ar DEL 1120
A340-300 (G-VAIR aka Maiden Tokyo)
After spending the previous day and night and most of this day in London I wasn't ready to leave. But alas, business required me to continue on so I had the Virgin limo service pick me up at the Sheraton about 1700. This time I still got no limo but a very nice Mercedes but no big deal. Traffic wasn't bad and we got to Heathrow pretty quickly. We pulled into the drive through checkin and it looked nothing like the picture on the website. The pic on the website has green bushes in the background but there was nothing like that there. Perhaps a different airport? I was checked in quickly and my bags whisked away. We continued on and I was dropped off at T3
and walked right to the security lines. I passed through quickly and wandered around the Duty Free area but didn't buy anything. I figured I would be back in a few weeks but little did I know that would change.
I made my way to the Clubhouse and got a comfy chair and got a drink from the bar. I wandered around and checked out all the areas. I got a small plate at the buffet and sampled a few of the items. Not too bad but I ordered a full meal of lamb shank and vegetables. Very good but I saved room for dinner on the plane for more sampling. Seeing as I had wandered around London all day wearing a baseball hat my hair was a mess and I went to the beauty treatment area and got in to have my hair washed and fixed up. I always feel weird having someone wash my hair and even more so getting in done in an airport lounge but I felt better afterwards and was ready for my flight.
Eventually I made my way out of the Clubhouse and got to the gate. Very crowded with passengers but I finally got through and made it up towards the front and was one of the first on when they called for boarding. The calls for Upper Class passengers only were pretty much ignored and everyone made a mad rush for the doors. Once onboard the service was just like the night before...excellent! This plane did not have the suites at the time I flew on it and the J2000 seats were nice. After flying in both seats I prefer these older seats for sleeping. Everyday use was better in the suite as you have more room but I slept quite soundly in the older seats.
I had a smaller dinner on this flight as I had eaten before. I skipped the salad and had a nice chicken curry from an Indian restaurant that was featured on the menu. Not bad in my opinion. Dessert was another chocolate concoction with ice cream but also good. I finished my drink and went to sleep. I woke up over Afghanistan and could see Kabul off to the north. The Himalayas came up pretty soon and we soon started our descent into Delhi. Breakfast this morning was pretty much the same as the previous flight. That was good as I would not get a good meal until much later that evening.
We landed pretty much on time and made out way to immigration. I cleared through here pretty quickly, got my luggage, and then went on to Customs. After Customs I followed the signs to the shuttle bus over to the domestic terminal. I was greeted by an Army guard with a large machine gun who never smiled. He told me to take a seat and that they would call me when they were ready. After about 20 minutes they told me to come with them and we got on a bus that had been sitting right outside the door the whole time. One thing I had to do before I left was get briefed by the Department of Defense because of my security clearances and also my company as well. One thing they both told me was whatever I did don't take any pictures at Indian airports. I was told it was the surefire way to end up in jail for questioning. Everywhere I looked were signs saying the same thing. No Pictures! I followed the orders, got on the bus, and enjoyed the drive over to the other terminal. Since this was my first time in India I had my eyes glued to the window. They dropped my off in front and I made my way into the terminal where I had to show my flight schedule to get in the door.
Checkin: 10/10, Upper Class checkin was quick and friendly
Clubhouse in LHR
: 9/10, showing some wear but comfortable. Smoking area bothered me though as it was out in the open.
In-flight service: 10/10, all I can say is excellent.
In-flight comfort: 9/10, a decent night's sleep (unlike the suite).
9/18/2004 - 9/19/2004
Lv DEL 1715
Ar BLR 1950
Once I got in the front door of the domestic terminal I made my way over to the Jet Airways counters. I didn't see any that were set aside for Business Class so I picked the one with the shortest line. Once I got up to the front of the line I presented my ticket and was checked in quickly and sent with my bags over to the x-ray machines to drop of my checked baggage. One of my bags went through with no problem but I had to open up the other one to show them my screwdriver toolkit that I had brought with me for work.
I went back to the counter and requested the bag tags for my carry-on luggage since I had been warned before I left to make sure I got those to get through security. I placed them on my bag and backpack and was promptly greeted by another 9W
employee who greeted me and led me to the lounge that they use for business class fliers. The lounge was nothing to write home about but given that I was going to be there for about 5 hours it was better than waiting in the main terminal. There was a flight that was connecting through Mumbai that would have gotten me there sooner but I had read some horror stories about that airport and figured why bother with it. Perhaps it would have been fine but I had my ticket and just didn't feel like changing it. I believe they now have a dedicated lounge in Delhi but at that time it was a shared lounge run by ITC. They had a small buffet set up for 9W
fliers with all sorts of things that I had never seen in my life. I tried a few and made sure I had a glass of Coke at the ready for the spicy stuff. The attendant in the lounge was very nice and checked up on me often and refilled my drink. I pulled out my laptop and watched a few movies on DVD while killing time.
I made my way downstairs about an hour before my flight and went through security. While not a bad ordeal I did have to have my backpack searched by hand since it was full of weird cables for work. One thing that did surprise me was that I was frisked about 5 times before I finally got on the plane but nobody ever checked my ID
. Once through the main security line I found the boarding area to be a complete zoo. There must have been 20 flights getting ready to go with doors for just a few of them. They finally called for our flight to Bangalore and we got frisked once more, got stamps on our carry-on baggage tags, and then walked out to the bus for the ride to the plane. We pulled up to the plane and made our way up the stairs. Since we came out to the plane by bus it was a free for all getting on the plane.
Once settled in I was offered drinks by the stewardesses. One of the choices was that sweetened lime drink you find throughout India (learned this one later on) and I started in on those. Little did I know I would get addicted to these on my trip! The pilots made their announcements and the safety demonstration was done by the stewardesses and we were off. We were reminded that window shades must be open for take-off and that no pictures were allowed. Does anyone know why the Indian government has this rule? The afternoon was hazy so there wasn't much to see outside the window. The meal service was ok but not what I expected. It consisted of a sandwich with a salad on the side. Drinks kept coming throughout the flight. After a couple of hours we started our descent into BLR and were on the ground very quickly. While I was one of the first off the plane I was one of the last off the bus at the terminal but not a huge deal as I was in no big hurry.
I was greeted at baggage claim by a representative from the Taj Residency hotel. How he knew it was me I have no idea. He wasn't holding a sign with my name and I didn't have a flashing neon sign that said my name. Perhaps his notes said look for the tired American businessman. Anyways, we made our way out to the car and I was whisked off to the hotel for my stay in Bangalore. I have to say that while the accomodations at this hotel were comparable to a Marriott Courtyard the service went above and beyond. They definitely earned their 5 stars and it was quite amazing for almost everyone to refer to me by name within the first few days. (Maybe that was from listening to the Florida-Tennessee game over the Internet and hollering at my PC
at 5AM when Florida lost but I'll never be sure.)
Checkin: 7/10, no dedicated business class line, had to take bags to x-ray and then return for hand luggage tags, otherwise quick and efficient.
Lounge: 4/10, rundown shared lounge, good service but limited choices, bathrooms left a lot to be desired.
In-flight service: 7/10, Nothing special but attentive and polite plus easy on the eyes. The meal left something to be desired.
In-flight comfort: 8/10, Comparable to domestic First Class in the States but with foot rests which was nice.
Lv BLR 1950
Ar DEL 2230
This flight was originally supposed to be the start of my flight home. I was going to head up to Delhi and spend a few days sightseeing there and in Agra. Needless to say my project got extended but I decided to take the weekend off after over 2 weeks straight of work and enjoy the sites. I left for the airport later than I wanted and was worried about traffic but the notorious Bangalore traffic just wasn't that bad that day. Since I had no checked baggage I made my way to the counter where Sahara did have a dedicated line for Business Class. I was checked in quickly and given a bulkhead window seat. I was then given a pass to visit the private lounge that Sahara operates at BLR. I made my way up the stairs and entered the lounge which was small but comfortable and away from the busy terminal. There was a small buffet of sandwiches and desserts which I sampled.
I eventually made my way downstairs and went through security to the gates. Unlike Delhi the Bangalore airport there is a fair amount of seating and it wasn't nearly as crowded. They called our plane and we made our way out to the bus and then on to the plane. As with my previous flight there is a free for all getting on the plane but I settled in and was offered that wonderful lime drink again. We took off on time and made our way up to Delhi. Dinner service was veg or non-veg. I picked the non-veg which consisted of soup, a beef curry dish, salad, and a dessert was a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
The flight was uneventful and I kicked back, read, and listened to my MP3 player. The flight wasn't very full and Business Class was almost empty. Unlike the American carriers I was allowed to leave my backpack on the floor during takeoff and landing which was nice. We landed in Delhi and got on the bus to the terminal which was easy. I was going to be staying at the Sheraton in the Diplomatic Enclave and they were going to have a driver meet me. Unfortunately they spelled my name wrong and reversed the first and last name so it took me a while to find the driver. Once I did though we were on our way and at the hotel quickly.
I spent the next few days in Delhi and Agra taking in the sites and had a great time. The Indian restaurant in the hotel is very good. In fact, it is listed as one of the "1000 Places to Visit Before You Die" (ISBN 0761104844) and was some of the best Indian food I had while in country.
Checkin: 9/10, dedicated business class line, quick and efficient.
Lounge: 8/10, small lounge but decent buffet, comfortable chairs, and quiet.
In-flight service: 8/10, Nothing special but attentive and polite plus easy on the eyes. The meal was quite tasty.
In-flight comfort: 8/10, Comparable to domestic First Class in the States but with foot rests which was nice. Also felt a little bit more spacious than Jet Airways but maybe because I had the bulkhead.
Lv DEL 1550
Stopover in Hyderabad
Ar BLR 1920
After my time in Delhi and Agra I had to return to Bangalore for work. I had purchased this ticket at the city office in Bangalore a few days earlier. It was the first time I had ever had a hand written ticket so I was a little worried about it. Luckily I had no problems with it and checked in just fine. I was led to the private lounge and grabbed a seat while waiting for the light. Like the lounge in BLR this one was somewhat small, had a nice buffet set up with snacks, and a lot of various soft drinks you could get yourself instead of having to ask for them.
The lounge is on the same level as check-in and security so I made my way to gate about an hour before the flight. I cleared through security this time with no issues since I left lots of the cables and wires back at the hotel in Bangalore. Again, you get frisked more than ever but still no check of your ID
The flight was uneventful like the previous one and we took off on time for our first leg down to Hyderabad. Meal service on this flight was a Chinese dish with noodles that was really quite good. I kept drinking the lime drinks and had a bowl of ice cream for dessert. We landed in Hyderabad and quickly unloaded some passengers and picked up some new ones. Total time on the ground was right at 30 minutes. We took off and continued on to Bangalore. Since this flight wasn't going to be nearly as long they offered snacks and drinks but no full meal service. That was fine by me as I was already full from the noodle bowl on the first.
We landed in BLR ontime and taxied straight to the parking area. BLR has airbridges but only in the international concourse so everyone piles down the stairs and onto a couple of busses for the quick ride to the terminal although it could be walked. I was met in baggage claim by another employee of the Taj Residency and got into the car for the 20 minute or so ride to the hotel.
Checkin: 9/10, dedicated business class line, quick and efficient.
Lounge: 8/10, small lounge but decent buffet, comfortable chairs, and quiet.
In-flight service: 8/10, Nothing special but attentive and polite plus easy on the eyes. The meal was quite tasty.
In-flight comfort: 8/10, Comparable to domestic First Class in the States but with foot rests which was nice. I didn't have the bulkhead this time but it still felt like more room that First Class back in the States.
10/15/2004 - 10/16/2004
Lv BLR 2345
Well I had finished my project in Bangalore and was ready to go home. This past week was originally supposed to be vacation before the start of my next project but my boss needed me back. Luckily the next project was going to be 10 miles from my house so no major travel involved. When I had to extend my stay but also get back home to start my next project I realized I would not be able to fly Virgin home due to their 3x weekly schedule out of Delhi. Singapore flies out of BLR a few times a week and I chose them based on reputation and reviews. I also had seen a feature on CNN International from their travel reporter who took the flight roundtrip and it just seemed fun to take the longest non-stop flight in the world. (Is it still the longest?)
I purchased my ticket online but had to visit the local ticket office to pick up my paper ticket. I found the office but arrived just after it had closed so I came back the next day. They were able to issue my ticket quickly and were very polite. Good marks already for SQ
. I purchased my "Singapore Stopover" tickets as well and made a reservation for the Raffles-The Plaza hotel at this time as well.
The day of my flight came and I was in an incredible rush to take care of all the remaining little cleanup issues. I figured I needed to leave the office by 9PM to make the flight but I ended up not getting out the door until 10PM. I was worried that I was going to miss the flight and get stuck in Bangalore for a few more days but luckily it was raining pretty heavy and the inbound flight was delayed.
I started to schlep my bags into the terminal and a gentleman asked if I had stayed at the Taj Residency which I said yes. He explained he was from another Taj Hotel in the city but that he was there to assist guests staying at any of the Taj hotels get checked in. I had no idea that this service even existed and given the amount of bags I had to get home it was great. He and I chatted as we waited in line and once we got to the front he excused himself and thanked me for staying with the Taj. I thanked him immensely and still remember that service to this day.
During checkin I was given a voucher to get a free drink at one of the shops in the boarding area and the agent apologized profusely for not having any lounge services in BLR. I was given my boarding pass and made my way over to Immigration to get through. The officer here was quick and thanked me for visiting India and wished me a nice trip home. Again, it's those little touches that make you remember your trip fondly. I then checked out the Duty Free shop there but really didn't find anything I could live without.
I made my way through the security check and then waited in the boarding area. The Lufthansa flight that evening was scheduled for about the same time so the gate area was an absolute zoo. I grabbed a Coke (I hardly ever found Diet Coke in India) and searched in a small shop for some final trinkets to take home. About a half hour before the flight there was a mad rush to get to the front of the line. A calm boarding procedure was not in the cards tonight. The gate attendants started yelling at the crowd to back up and that they would load First, Business, and then Coach in that order. I chatted with a girl from Minnesota who was going to be in Raffles class and she stuck by me to hopefully not get crushed by the crowd. I was if First for this first leg but I noticed many Coach boarding passes getting on at the same time. I suppose they just gave up keeping control of the boarding process.
Despite the madness of the gate I was transported into another world when getting on the plane. I was greeted at the door by one of the Singapore Girls who showed me to my seat and said "Thank you very much for flying with us this evening Mr. Nichols." From that point on I had contact with at least 6 or 7 other stewardesses and stewards and every one of them referred to me by my name. Granted, the 777 only has 12 seats in First but those little touches make it nice. I was given my amenity kit which had Bulgari products in it. I meant to ask for on for my wife as they had different kits for men and women but I never did.
We took off about 1.5 hours late and started off towards Singapore for the 4.5 hour flight. While on the ground I had a Singapore Sling which was good for a first try but I moved to good old Jack Daniel's after that one. Dinner service after takeoff was a lamb shank with a mustard sauce, vegetables, and a salad. I honestly don't remember what we had for dessert. I had one more drink and fell asleep watching "Dodgeball" on the PTV system. I awoke about 40 minutes before landing in Singapore and had a simple breakfast of fruit, bread, and tea before landing.
Upon landing at Changi the windows fogged up almost immediately from the humidity so the views weren't that great. Since we were about an hour late landing there were quite a few people rushing to make connections. I got out of their way and made my way to Immigration. Having read about Singapore before I arrived I knew about their stance towards drugs and such. It was still interesting to see the warning signs telling you the penalty for drug possession is death. Of course I didn't have any problem with their view since I don't do drugs and I cleared Immigration quickly. I picked up my bags and went through the green line in Customs and walked right out into the main terminal. I made my way over to the Singapore Stopover desk and picked up all my vouchers and waited for the bus to take me to the hotel.
Checkin: 10/10, dedicated First/Raffles class line, quick and efficient. The guy from the Taj was great and although not part of SQ
experience made it that much nicer.
Lounge: No lounge but a voucher for a free drink at the coffee shop in the boarding area.
In-flight service: 10/10, All I can say is Singapore Girls (and one guy) rock! Excellent meal as well.
In-flight comfort: 10/10, It wasn't the Raffles Spacebed or the First class seats like the 747 but it was huge, comfortable and recline almost the whole way for a good couple of hours of sleep.
I could have connected directly to the flight to Newark but I instead decided to stay in Singapore for the evening and leave the next day. While the Raffles-The Plaza was a great hotel I wish I had stayed at the original Raffles Hotel. It wasn't that much more and has all the history in it. I had a great time in Singapore, ate way too much at the food stalls, and generally had a good time sightseeing and relaxing after my month in India.
I took a taxi out to Changi around 8AM from the hotel for my Noon flight. I wanted to wander around the terminal since so many people have told me it is great. I checked in at the dedicated Raffles line for the Newark flight and made my way to Immigration. I passed through here quickly and wandered around the shops for a while buying some additional trinkets to take home. I can see how this airport would be great for transit passengers given all the shops and comfort facilities to make the wait tolerable.
I made my way upstairs to the Silver Kris lounge and turned left to go into the Raffles side of the club. I wish I could have seen the First Class side but no luck there. The lounge here is huge with plenty of little nooks and crannies to hide and sleep if you want. There wasn't a huge amount of food at the buffet since it was kind of an off time for flights but what they did have was great. You could also get ice cream from a freezer for dessert and whatever drink you wanted from the bar. I spent about 45 minutes here before I got up and wandered around the terminal some more before walking to the gate.
Changi is interesting in that they do the security check as you get to the gate area. I cleared through the security line quickly and was waiting for the flight to load. Looking out the window I saw the A340-500 for the first time and all I could think was that little thing is going to take us on the world's longest non-stop flight. It just didn't look very big to me although I knew it was plenty. We boarded not too long after arriving at the gate and we backed away on time. I had a glass if champagne before takeoff and confirmed my "Book the Chef" selections with the head stewardess.
We took off and the meal service started almost immediately. First we had a chicken satay appetizer which was incredible. Next came the salad which was very good and fresh but nothing fancy. For my first entree I had picked the Lobster Thermindor which was quite tasty. Dessert was a peach cobbler kind of creation with vanilla ice cream and very good. From takeoff and through lunch I had watched 2 episodes of Friends and 2 of Everybody Loves Raymond. I settled in and watched Spiderman 2 and then fell asleep for a little while. The Spacebed is quite nice although you do feel like you are going to slide off of it. Unlike the older Virgin seat the armrests retract giving you more room for your shoulders. I woke up a couple of hours later and it was 6:30PM and we hadn't gotten to Tokyo yet.
I got up to use the restroom and talked with a steward afterwards. I wondered when we were going to eat next and he said about 9PM. I said ok and that I would need to convince my body that I was actually just waking up and that dinner was actually going to be breakfast. He asked why I wanted to do that and I told him if I could convince my body that it was breakfast time and I could stay up the rest of the flight I might avoid some jetlag and go to bed at my normal time of midnight east coast time when I got home. He said that might actually work so I figured let's try it.
I grabbed a Diet Coke and some chips from the snack bar and watched another movie from my seat. I finished that movie and made another bathroom run. The A340-500 has a window in the head which is kind of weird. Even at 36,000 feet you are wondering if anyone is watching. During the next movie I watched they served dinner for which I had selected the veal shank which was very good and filling. The stewardesses are great and very attentive but not overly so. The kind of service that you don't really know is there but when it is missing you suddenly realize it. As with the flight the night before I was referred to by name the entire flight which just flat out impressed me even more now that there were a lot more folks in Raffles Class.
This pattern continued on for a while and I did my best to stay awake although I lied down to read a book. Drinks and snacks during the movie followed by a bathroom run. I still can't believe how incredibly long that flight was to this day. We had breakfast at 4PM somewhere over Canada which was a Fritata (fancy word for omelette I discovered), some sausage, fresh fruit, and yogurt. I caught one last movie, Dodgeball, before landing and as much as I laughed I'm sure some of the folks around must have been annoyed. The AVOD system on these planes was amazing. The amount of movies, tv, games, and music you could select was astronomical. I was very surprised to see Blazing Saddles as one of the choices. I was sure it had to be edited in some way but it was not.
Upon landing in Newark we made our way off the plane and into Immigration. The lines were empty but right as we were walking in the main room an announcement was made that all computer systems were down nationwide and that nobody could be processed until it was fixed. 45 minutes later we were finally allowed back home. The agents were great and were as frustrated as we were. I was given a complain form and asked very politely to please fill it out and send it on so perhaps the higher ups would understand they needed better equipment. If anyone knows what happened that day I would love to hear about it. From what I could hear all entry points into the States were affected for around 45 minutes to an hour.
I made my way from Immigration to baggage claim and then on to Customs. I got the customary questions and was allowed to pass without inspection. I then made my way upstairs so I could check in for my flight on Delta back home to Atlanta.
Checkin: 10/10, dedicated Raffles class line just for this specific flight, quick and efficient.
Lounge: 9/10, Silver Kris lounge was very nice and probably the best I have been in outside of the LHR
and JFK VS
Clubhouses. Could have used more viewing areas though.
In-flight service: 10/10, As with my flight the night before all I can say is Singapore Girls rock! Excellent meals as well and a great wine service.
In-flight comfort: 10/10, The Raffles Spacebed is great. You do feel like you might slide off but the retracting armrests give you so much more room.
I checked in upstairs and was given my boarding pass. Checkin was quick and I was given priority tags when I explained my bags were so heavy because I had just come from Asia. I made my way to the security lines and was amused at how it is handled at EWR
. You first have to show your boarding pass to get in the line. Then you move about 4 feet and another TSA
agent who just saw your ticket and ID
get checked wants to see it again. Then you had to show it once more in another few feet before you could put your bags through the x-ray. Once you walked through the metal detector, without your shoes of course, a 4th agent who also just saw you get checked 3 times wants to see your boarding pass and ID
again before they finally let you through.
I made my way down the concourse and went to the Crown Room Club. I luckily had some time to spare so I got a drink at the bar (Delta mixes a stiff drink in my opinion), called some friends for the first time in a few weeks and just generally relaxed. As with the other older CRC in the Delta stable this one uses the same squiggly line carpet, light colored furniture, and other ammenities. While it wasn't in horrible shape I think it might be time to update some of them.
I made my way to the gate which was just a quick couple of steps down the concourse right before they started boarding. I asked the pilot if there was any way he could get us home quicker since I was coming up on 24 hours straight. He said he would do what he could but the headwinds were going to be pretty strong. The flight was very full and we were able to get 2 drinks before we took off. The flight down was uneventful and the meal service was the standard chicken wrap, chips, and a brownie that seems to be the standard on this route. Not bad and given that my system was completely screwed up at this point it could have been Haggis and I would have found it good.
We landed in ATL
a little bit behind schedule and I made my way off the plane as quick as I possibly could. I walked as quickly as my tired body would let me and met my wife by the dinosaur fossil in the main terminal, waited a couple of minutes for my luggage, and then headed out to the car for the ride home. Total time from the gate to the car was about 40 minutes. Total time from when I left the hotel to when I walked in the front door at home was almost 28 hours with just a couple of hours of sleep. Needless to say I didn't get out of bed the next day and still wasn't refreshed and ready for work on Monday morning.
Checkin: 10/10, Standard Delta First/Medallion checkin that is quick and efficient.
Lounge: 7/10, Crown Room is starting to show its age but drinks, those little cheese "Oreo" crackers, and a comfy chair.
In-flight service: 7/10, Meal service was the standard EWR
fare but tasty.
In-flight comfort: 7/10, After the Spacebed the MD
-88 just didn't hold a candle but roomy enough to relax for 2 hours.
"If you can't delight in the misery of others then you don't deserve to be a college football fan."