First off, thanks for the positive comments on my last TR
. I didn’t want to respond just to say thanks, but they’re appreciated! This one is kinda long and a bit inconsistent in terms of content, but hopefully it will have a little something for everyone and just ignore the bits you don’t care about.
Business once again took me to a land far away -- this time Singapore. My first transpac (other than Bali in 1995) so I was pretty excited. Right to it, then.
1 April 2006
Seat: 12H (upper deck window)
Dep 11am local, Arr 3pm local
As usual, Caltrain to BART, painless check-in, painless security. From the Red Carpet Club I went to G97 and got straight on board. Settled in, and stayed in my seat this time, not wanting to make a bad impression on my cabin crew by missing the distribution of menus like I did the last time I flew UA
C (shameless link to previous TR
). Got my menu:
Didn't like that line about "secure the Obento," since I hadn't known it was likely to be unavailable to anyone who wanted it, and I was definitely hoping to get it – I’ve seen it in trip reports, and on airlinemeals, and in menus on flyertalk, but never knew you could order it ahead of time. Uh-oh. Being only Premier Exec, I doubted I had much status in the C cabin of SFO
, and sure enough, our tall young female Asian flight attendant bounced all over the cabin taking orders before getting to my neighbor ("I'll have the beef") and then me. "The Obento?" "Oh, so sorry, there are none left." I have this aversion to chicken on airplanes, so I defaulted to the filet mignon, it was OK
last time I flew out of SFO
. And next time, whether I'm 1K by then or not (seems likely the way things are going), I'll make sure to "secure the Obento."
The amenity kit had exactly the same contents as on the trans-Atlantic flights reported by me and others, but in a different container -- a drawstring bag that's probably more practical. There were also slippers.
We pushed sometime after the ANA 777 that was adjacent to us and headed, obviously, to the same place, and as we started taxi, passed the SQ
777 that had just arrived from ICN
. Fun to think that this bird and I would be in the same place in "just a few" hours. Grabbed a picture through my rainy window, then more of a wide variety of Skywest aircraft as we taxied out to the 28's.
Takeoff was on 28R, and we flew to the coast, then turned right on the MOLEN3 departure -- turned out our entire filed route was:
MOLEN3 MOLEN AMAKR LINUZ NATTE ZANNG 4900N 14000W 5100N 15000W 5100N 16000W 5100N 17000W ADK R451 AAMYY R591 ADNIP OTR5 PABBA OTR6 KETAR OTR10 ARIES
Which looks something like this:
The weather had cleared up a bit by then, and there was a bit of a view of the Golden Gate and then the coast was visible all the way up until we were too far west to see it any more.
Hot nuts came out, which I had with champagne (they had the Hide ‘n’ Seek Monopole Blue Top on all the flights on this trip), and food soon thereafter. I don't remember too much about the starter except that it was better than I'd expected, maybe it even had some items that hadn't been listed on the menu. The main, though, was pretty disappointing, even without great expectations. The bacon wrapping the meat was awful, so I risked the fate of the two Portuguese Jews in Candide and tossed it aside. The green beans didn't live up to billing, and the meat started out OK
, but at some point with about 1/3 left I realized the remaining bit was all badly overcooked, dried out with no flavor, and I just stopped eating it. Should have tried that chicken, which sounds pretty good now sitting in my living room. There was red wine, but I have a tough time remembering the UA
red wines for some reason, so I’m not sure which one my whim drew me to. After cheese and port, with the darkened cabin and my LAN eyeshades, I had no trouble drifting into sleep even though it was only about 2pm in my home/departing time zone.
Woke up mid-flight, we were somewhere over the Aleutians. Did my little walk down the steps and back up a few times, and grabbed a bowl of the instant noodle soup. It was surprisingly good – had expected something like the versions I can buy in Asian markets and sometimes take for breakfasts when camping, but this had a lot more interesting flavor and ingredients.
Tried to sleep more, but already having slept in "afternoon" kept me from getting much, probably a good thing going west. Goofed around on my laptop and watched our progress on skymap. Eventually they came with the second meal, and I was surprisingly hungry, and as usual late in a long flight, craved hot food, so I got the “pasta trio.” This was a huge amount of food (I’ve seen it listed as a dinner main course on UA
C-class trans-Atlantic menus), with cannelloni on one side, stuffed shells on the other, and tortellini in the middle, all stuffed with ricotta and covered in marinara, with some pesto drizzled over the middle only. Not exactly cutting-edge cuisine, but this would have been my favorite restaurant meal when I was about 9 years old, and somehow I got mesmerized into eating way too much of it.
Service on this flight seemed better than the last time I was in C on UA
, although the magic water glass didn’t seem quite as consistent, but I might have just been awake more. We had two flight attendants, the aforementioned tall young Asian woman and an older, shorter white man, and I thought they were both pretty good. The woman was a bit robotic, the guy was friendly in a restrained way. All in all, no complaints whatsoever.
About 90 minutes out, it got pretty bumpy, and was that way on and off for the rest of the flight. As we approached Tokyo, channel 9 was (back?) on, and other aircraft on approach with us were UA801 (777 from JFK
), NH202 (744 from LHR
), CX520 (330 from HKG
), Air Japan 1051 (763 from HNL
) and some KAL plane. We got vectors to the west flying north of the airport for a left base to 16R. I had my camera out trying to get some pictures as we turned for a long final but nothing seemed worthy, and then when the aircraft in front of us (I think the Air Japan) reported “bumpy and gusty” on short final to the tower, I put it away and assumed a more balanced posture, so I didn’t get any on landing either. We landed on 16R, exited on A8, and taxied to gate 37. As we taxied in, I saw two UA
trucks coming to service us, one in the old grey, the other in the new white, and the latter looked very sharp.
After landing I passed through the security (love the uniforms they wear, and how polite they are!) and then went to the Red Carpet Club. Couldn’t get any coverage on my mobile phone, and the wireless internet was pretty flaky. Took a shower, had some tea (I found that the bag with the green wrapper makes green tea and the one with the orange wrapper makes orange tea), and used the famous beer machine, even though I wasn’t really sure I wanted a beer (but it was pretty good, was glad I did).
Soon enough, it was time to go board. Walked to gate 44, and straight onto the plane.
2 April 2006
Dep 1730 local, Arr 2330 local
My seat was an aisle on the left of the middle section of 3, very last row of C. Looked for a while like I might have an empty seat next to me, but he got there eventually, one of the last to board. There were no amenity kits, but they came around with a big basket offering anything we might want from the normal contents of the kit, which was nothing for me.
We pushed, taxied past a bunch of other UA
aircraft and several NWA, out to runway 16R. Channel 9 was disabled this time.
Our cabin crew were Tokyo-based, all Asian (as far as I could tell), and made announcements in English, Japanese, and Mandarin.
Route of flight seemed to be:
PAPAS8.PAPAS APPLE TANUK MJE A590 JOM M767 TERIX M758 URIGO N891 OBDAB.OBD1A
Which looks something like this:
Dinner choices were all Asian, and for a change all sounded good:
I’d heard good things about the fish, and we were catered in Japan, so I tried it, and was not disappointed. Had the Pouilly-Fume with the nuts, which were not warm but still good, and kept drinking it with the fish, it was good. Guy across the aisle had the pork, which looked OK
, and guy next to me had the noodles, which looked good too, but I think I made the right choice for me, it was nice. Skipped the dessert, but had a cognac (they had a few different after-dinner drinks on the dessert cart – but just one of each on display, if you wanted one they actually went back to the galley to get it, I think, I could be confused here, I’d been flying for quite a while by this point!). And then, as usual – off to sleep. I woke up just after we’d passed the Philippines, and spent a little while watching skymap and guessing our route. Got it wrong, thought we’d take M767 all the way to TOMAN and then G580 in, but the right turn at TERIX was unmistakable. What can I say, don’t you wish your life was this exciting? We eventually landed on, uh, some runway, must have been 2L. It was around midnight local. The UA
744 from HKG
was already there, which is bad, it’s supposed to be about 20 mins behind us so probably just beat us and helped clog up passport control. Sure enough, the lines were really long, and I picked by far the slowest one – in fact, someone who showed up a good 10 minutes behind me in an adjacent line and was complaining to his companions about his continued knack at picking the slowest lines got through a good 10 minutes before me. I don’t know what our guy’s deal was, and he didn’t say a single word to me, just took my passport and landing card, verrrrrrry slowly looked at them and badly stamped them, and handed them back to me. The taxi queue wrapped around three times and took a while to clear, but then it was a quick ride into town with no traffic. All-in-all, though, a very disappointing 80+ minutes from deplaning to hotel check-in, more than half of it in the passport control queue.
Loved Singapore, and though I didn’t have very much free time, I did snap a few pictures:
And while I’m usually too embarrassed to take a picture of food on airplanes, I was just fine in the privacy of my hotel room:
But after three full days there, a long trip by my standards, it was time to head back. Per my normal practice when returning home from far away, I stayed up all night the last night – had a few drinks at the Long Bar, did some phone calls with the office back home, then went to Lau Pa Sat hawker centre for a bowl of noodle soup around 3am, a guy’s gotta eat. Taxi to the airport was utterly painless, and there I was.
6 April 2006
Seat: 17A (upper deck window)
Dep 0645 local, Arr 1030 local
Went to checkin, and a security guy randomly selected my about-to-be-checked bag to search. He got to several closed boxes, and said, “what’s in here?” I said, “uh, cheap trinkets.” He nodded and didn’t open them. He re-closed my bag and let me continue to the counter. The woman pulled up my reservation and said, “you have 17A, an upper-deck window in the last row, is that OK
?” I said, “yeah, that’s my favorite seat” and a passenger at the next check-in desk over next to me said, “oh yeah, that’s a great seat,” and I was too tired to respond in a friendly manner, so I hope he doesn’t think I was unfriendly or anything. I kinda grunted, mostly surprised that anyone heard me say that, and looked back at the check-in agent. Not sure why little things like that haunt me.
I was given a pass and map to a lounge because the one they normally use is being renovated, and along with a colleague who was departing on the flight to NRT
, walked up to the lounges. He thought we were supposed to go into the Thai airlines one, so we did, and I’m not sure that was the right one but whatever. There was power for my laptop, wireless, and bottles of water and juice. No food worth speaking of, some little pastries or something. Cans of beer, and I probably should have had one, but decided against it. After about an hour of doing not too much of anything (a little email, a few phone calls), we headed out towards the gates. Mine was C22. There's no security until you actually get to the gate, and the metal detector is the most sensitive I've encountered -- a metal snap on my pants set it off. Once through that hurdle, I boarded, climbed up, sat down, watched them preparing the 777 to NRT
out the window to my left, and soon the sun was coming up and we were pushing back. By the time we were rolling on 2L, it was fully light out, and I watched the ground until I couldn’t see anything anymore, then drifted into a short nap.
The cabin crew were Hong-Kong based. The purser was American and Caucasian. The two FA
’s on the upper deck were reasonably young, an Asian man of nationality I couldn’t determine and a Caucasian American woman. They were both very nice, and service overall was good. All announcements were in English and Cantonese, and maybe half were also repeated in Mandarin. For the first time I’ve seen, C wasn’t full – the upper deck had about 8 empty seats, including the one next to me. Breakfast choices:
With only 3 days and some meals out of my control, I hadn’t had time to try every “signature” dish in Singapore, and knowing Hainanese Chicken would likely be an option on this flight, I skipped it on the ground. I know, I know, an airline meal is no way to experience a unique dish, but I hope to go to Hainan some day anyway, and like I said, I couldn’t eat everything in 3 days. In any event, it was the obvious choice, compared to yet another no-win option of eggs with meat & taters or yogurt with fruit. I took one bite, and asked the FA
if there were any Asian beers, because a Tiger or similar would have gone great with this. Alas, all he had was American crap, so I just ate without drinking. Even without the beer, it was good stuff. Again, nothing that would win any awards, but for the time and the place, it was perfect.
After eating, I grabbed a little more sleep, then woke up somewhere in the Vietnam FIR and put Channel 9 back on. Was a pretty quiet morning. ATC was asking us and other flights to report next waypoint on the airway – SIN
stays on M771 the entire way between the terminal procedures, route of flight looks something like this:
She asked another UA
flight on frequency (I think UA862 from SGN
, which would be my HKG
flight) to confirm RVSM compliance, that seemed unusual. After getting handed over to Hong Kong, we started hearing some outbound flights passing us – SQ001, the famous SFO
flight; CX717 to SIN
; CX767 to SGN
; CX793 to HAN
; CX723 to KUL
. Also MH75 and FX8, not sure whether they were inbound, outbound, or transit. Eventually we were given the DUMO1B approach to 25R. This was great for someone with a left-side window – I’ve never been to Hong Kong and don’t know the geography well, but we flew past several islands with lots of very tall buildings. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear at all, and through the clouds plus looking south into the sun it was hard to get a good view or good pictures, though that didn’t stop me from trying. Oh, first, being the nerd I am, I had to take this picture:
But then there were these, and if anyone can explain what any of this is, that would be great, and it was cool seeing it all anyway.
We landed as advertised on 25R and then had a short taxi-in to gate 63, where we saw the other UA
B744 (from SGN
) already parked next door. When we got to the end of the jetway, there were agents directing all passengers continuing to ORD
or connecting to SFO
to the left and everyone else to the right. To those of us who were going to SFO
, they offered a little piece of paper with the flight info:
Throughout March, the aircraft had been switching flights in HKG
, with the SIN
UA896 aircraft next flying HKG
UA862, but with the schedule change as of 2 April due to the US going to summer time (75 mins connection for me in HKG
instead of 135), I figured that would stop, and indeed this paper confirmed that the aircraft were sticking with their flight numbers today. That was my preference, since I agree with PlaneHunter’s sig to a point (it’s kinda cool to repeat a reg in a totally different place years apart, but on the same day, you’d definitely rather have two different ones than two of the same!).
We followed the hallway to a security checkpoint, and then I had about half an hour to kill before boarding. First grabbed a few pictures from the terminal. Hate those window reflections.
Included in the bunch are N116UA which I’d just gotten off, and N198UA which I’d soon be getting on.
In my few minutes in Hong Kong, I went to the Red Carpet Club, checked email (they have a hilarious password for the wireless network, reminiscent of Spaceballs), hoped for dim sum, of which there were only BBQ pork pastry puffs, several of which went down very nicely with a couple of San Miguels (where were those on the flight, would have been great with that chicken and rice!):
Very soon, though, it was time to go board.
6 April 2006
Seat: 18H (upper deck window)
Dep 1145 local, Arr 0847 local (same day – the “time machine” flight)
Settled into my seat, talked a bit more with home (it was 8-something pm the night before) on my mobile phone until they shut the door. Amenity kits on this leg were the same ones as on the trans-Atlantic flights, no slippers. Menus came out:
For the first time I encountered the order-taking method of going straight through the cabin but asking for a second choice, which I’ve heard is how they’re supposed to do it. Does anyone get stuck with their third choice? My first choice was fish, second chicken; my neighbor was beef then chicken, and we both got our first choice.
We pushed back, and Channel 9 was on
, and I took many pictures as we taxied to 25L, a few of which I’m willing to share:
When we switched to tower, the A319 in the last photo (B-2222) was lined up, and we were cleared to line up after his departure. Meanwhile a China Southern B738, B-5020, was holding short off our right and instructed to line up after our departure:
We took off, and I immediately fell asleep – so quickly that I had no idea until much later that we turned left after departure and flew south before turning back east. I later found that our filed route had been:
ENVAR M750 MOLKA M750 MJE A590 KAGIS OTR11 GARRY 3900N 16000E 4200N 17000E 4400N 18000E 4500N 17000W 4500N 16000W 4300N 15000W 4100N 14000W 3900N 13000W DACEM PAINT PIRAT OSI
which was on PACOTS track 3 that day, and looks something like this:
Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about this flight. The nuts were again not warm (is that a departing-Asia thing?) or maybe they were but by the time I woke up they’d cooled. I was pretty full from the pork puffs and beer so I put my nuts over on the side-bin shelves (absolutely love upper-deck window seats!) for safe keeping. Food came, and it was good, somehow the Asian meals all seem better than the filet mignon or many of the domestic-F meals. I think I drank champagne with it, but I’m not sure. I know I had cheese and port. I don’t remember the FA
’s much but they were cheerful and seemed attentive. I can’t even remember what languages all the announcements were made in. Nice trip report, eh? But a few more things I do remember.
This was my most distant flight ever, with a great-circle distance of 6005nm and filed distance of 6265nm, but not in my top few time-wise. We had sick tailwinds, 100 knots or so most of the way, and our actual flight time was about 11.5 hours -- but these winds and time are pretty normal for this season on this sector. We also got a tiny short-cut from our filed plan – Fukuoka control gave us direct IMPAL from SE
of Miyazaki, skipping MADOG and MANEP. We were at 290 in Fukuoka, requested 330, but only got 310 due to traffic. Very soon thereafter, though, I fell asleep, and didn’t wake up for many hours. When I did, I drained my magic water glass, nibbled on some of my carefully reserved nuts, and then went straight back to sleep. Woke up again just a couple of hours out, more water, more nuts, and couldn’t resist a picture of the early morning sun lighting up the front of the nacelles:
Soon it was breakfast time, and the Dr. Rumack came out in me. Faced yet again with the eggs or yogurt torture, I asked if I could instead have a bowl of the noodle soup they have for mid-flight snack. It took a couple of tries for me to successfully communicate this – I was still only semi-coherent and apparently the correct terminology is “hot noodles” – but I got a cheerful smile and “oh sure, of course, just a moment,” and they were in fact exactly what I needed, hot, salty, not too much food, woke me up. I think I had tea with them too, maybe a whole pot in fact. Or coffee. Maybe both.
It wasn’t long before everything was getting cleaned up for landing. With nothing better to do, I pulled out the camera, as we crossed the coast, flew just west of Stanford, and then crossed over the San Mateo bridge, which had less traffic than I’d expect for 8am on a Thursday.
We landed about 45 minutes early on 28L and taxied to G95, with my trip ending pretty much the way it started, with yet another Skywest CRJ out my window:
Forgot to mention that on check-in in SIN
they gave me a coupon for entry to "Arrivals by United" in SFO
, which was great. My only complaint is it was a bit hard to find. There are no signs at all if you exit customs in the direction of SFO
final-destination traffic. After finally getting a chance to ask a check-in agent, once I got headed down the correct way (on the walkway towards the domestic terminals), there was a sign placed at an unfortunate angle that sent me off in the wrong direction again, past all the inbound international connecting passengers and baggage re-check. Those of us getting off 20 hours of flying might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, so a little more help would have been nice. But it was really good to have a shower, a little transition time, etc. before encountering anyone back in the real world.
Thanks for reading, I know this was long and somewhat random and uneven in terms of detail, and my sleep-dominated approach to IFE is not terribly exciting – I hope everyone found a little bit that made it worth the time to read.