I know that I promised this trip report earlier, but I have been getting acclimated to my new teaching position in Tennessee and have not had the time to post this trip report, so I apologize for the delay.
As I was finishing my year of teaching in Changzhou, China, I began looking for reasonably priced one way tickets to get back to the US from Shanghai. I searched for many weeks and always ran into the same situation, full flights with high fares. I was growing increasingly concerned that I would have to settle for a Y experience back over the Pacific and was not looking forward to the long flights in a seat not really created for large people.
I happened to give the searching one more go about 10 days before I left and was amazed to find a Saturday itinerary that had everything I was looking for, including a long-awaited opportunity to fly on Singapore Airlines, for a most reasonable price of approximately $1800 USD! I grabbed my credit card and purchased my tickets immediately. I shall now do my best to dust off my memory and relate my travel experiences from Saturday, June 30 with those willing to continue reading.
I left Changzhou at 6:30 Saturday morning for the 3 hour ride to Pudong airport in Shanghai. I arrived at 9:45 for my noon flight on Japan Airlines from Shanghai to Tokyo-Narita. I had never flown with JL before and really had not read much about them, either good or bad. I was happy to find out that I would be able to accumulate Advantage Miles since they had recently joined the OneWorld alliance. Sadly, my Singapore flight did not offer the same miles, but that was not reason enough, for me, to choose another airline instead of giving SQ a try. (More on them later) I arrived at the JAL counter only to find that it was empty. I only had to wait about 20 minutes however before the whole PVG crew emerged from the inner sanctum to assist those of us waiting to fly to Tokyo. I was assisted by a very lovely lady in her mid 30's who suggested that I move some items from one suitcase to the other in order to avoid paying the extra fee for overweight baggage. That process was quick and painless and soon I was on my way to the lounge to await the boarding of my JL flight. The lounge was adequate, but not really worth discussing further.
As I boarded the JL 763 with 30 biz seats, and many more economy seats, I was greeted by a strikingly beautiful Japanese FA, who had a most genuine and warm smile. She asked me for my boarding pass and then quickly escorted me to my seat in the last row of business class. She placed my bag in the overhead bin and then asked me if I would care for juice, water, or champagne before we departed. I asked for the champagne which was served very promptly by the same wonderful flight attendant. Even though the aircraft was completely sold out, the boarding process seemed to go very quickly and efficiently and before I had even settled into my immensely comfortable seat, we were pushing back from the gate and moving to the runway for takeoff. The captain came over the intercom and welcomed everyone and board and then informed us that we would be able to watch our own takeoff as the large screens throughout the aircraft would be showing the view from the camera placed at the front of the fuselage. I have heard of these cameras before, but had never had the chance to view the process before. It was thrilling to watch and as I love to fly under any conditions, it was a very special experience for me.
After takeoff and climb out, the flight attendants immediately came through the cabin and offered the passengers a menu for the meal service. There was a Japanese selection and a Western selection and all the accoutrement's that went with each choice. I chose the steak entree and then settled in with my bag of snacks to enjoy the very impressive entertainment system. The meal was fantastic, the seat was extremely comfortable, with lumbar support and multiple seating choices available. The entertainment system was crystal clear and ran smoothly and the service was quite simply, THE BEST I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED ANYWHERE WITH ANY AIRLINE!!!
This flight ended far too quickly for me and in a little under 3 hours we were rolling to our gate at Narita. I took my time getting off the aircraft. Even though I had to take the train from one terminal to another, I knew that I had a 3+ hour layover in Tokyo before I boarded my SQ flight to LAX. I arrived at the SQ counter located near the gate to check in for SQ Flight 12 a continuation of SIN-NRT-LAX. I was so excited about this flight for two reasons, 1) I have heard so many wonderful things about Singapore's product and 2) because this would be my first ever 747 flight. I have flown on many types of aircraft in all my years of travel, but never managed to be lucky enough to fly on a 747. I had experienced last minute change of equipment situations on three separate instances in the past and only hoped that I would not have that happen to me again. I asked the girl at the check-in counter if the flight was still scheduled on a 747 and she happily confirmed that the aircraft was en route and was indeed a 747. I passed the time in the lounge on the 2nd level of the terminal. It was used by many different airlines (sorry I don't remember who the lounge actually belonged to) and the amenities were adequate. The available food was a little more spartan than I would have liked, but no real complaints, after all I did not book these flights to experience the customer lounges.
The time finally came and I hurried to the gate to get a look at the beautiful lady before I boarded. I had chosen a window seat in "the attic" and was thrilled to be climbing those stairs to the top. From the moment I walked on the plane, I felt as though the flight attendants really were happy to have me travelling with them. Everyone I met was most gracious and sincerely interested in making sure I wanted for nothing. I was ushered to my seat by the "lead" flight attendant who insisted on carrying my bag up the stairs. When we arrived at the seat, my row mate had chosen to seat in the window seat and was already "asleep." The flight attendant started to wake him but I asked her to let him sleep. The window was not important to me as we would be flying primarily at night over the Pacific. I got settled into my seat and marvelled at its comfort. I had read mixed reviews about the business class seat on the SQ 744's, however I must say that I found it to be extremely comfortable. I did have some difficulties with the leg rest which seemed to have a mind of its own, but rather than bother the FA's with such a pedestrian problem, I eventually conquered the ornery beast and got myself comfortable. I had two glasses of champagne before takeoff and after looking over the menu decided that the fish dish looked the most appetizing. I do want to mention here that one of the flight attendants approached me shortly after I was seated to let me know that my "kosher meal" was onboard. I immediately told her (wishing later I had kept my mouth shut) that I had not ordered a special meal. I assumed that the meal must be for my suite mate as we had changed seats and informed the FA of this. She tapped him on the shoulder to inform him that his meal was on board and he also claimed no prior knowledge of the special meal.
The takeoff in the 744 was all I had hoped for and so much more. The power of those engines is like no other commercial aircraft. The acceleration and lift-off was nothing short of magical and the climb out into very stormy skies and blowing winds was negligible at the very most and the "Queen of the Air" certainly lived up to her billing. Once airborne the flight attendants came around and asked for dinner orders. They started in the front of the aircraft, right behind the cockpit, and moved aft from there. I was in the last row on the left and began to worry that the fish dish might be unavailable. I had decided that I would choose the steak as my second option, even though I had eaten a wonderful filet on my JAL flight several hours before. Sadly, my premonition was not only correct, but even more disastrous than I could have feared. Not only was the fish dish unavailable, the beef dish was also unavailable. The only option still available was the duck - let me say here and now, that I enjoy most poultry, but am not a fan of duck. The meat is too dark and gamy for me, but what other choice did I have, so I had the duck. My suite-mate also seemed disappointed by this turn on events and to be honest neither of us ate very much of our duck dinners.
The satay cart came around shortly after and it was just as tasty as I had expected. That peanut sauce they offer is divine and the meat was so tender. I thoroughly enjoyed my skewers, even though I could have eaten several more than the 2 skewers of chicken each of us received. After the satay, the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for dinner service when we hit some heavy turbulence. A short while later, the captain came over the intercom and announced that the cabin crew would be suspending the meal service for the immediate future as he wanted them to sit down and buckle up. The turbulence was quite tumultuous for about 15 to 20 minutes but the 744 handled it with grace and aplomb. Dinner service was re-established about 30 minutes later and as I mentioned earlier, my duck dinner was not very good. How I wish I had kept my mouth shut when they told me that my "kosher" meal had been confirmed.
After the meal and the ice cream sundae dessert were taken away, the lights were lowered and the sleepers began their snoozing. I was too keyed up, being on a SQ flight on a 747, to sleep so I watched my Krisworld entertainment system. I enjoyed the VOD feature and also managed to watch several episodes of Samantha Brown's wonderful series, "Passport to Europe." I really like her and enjoy her shows immensely. The flight attendants came round several times throughout the flight and offered me beverages and snacks. I started to ask if they had any un-used coach dinners left over, but made due with the many snack options they had to choose from. I do finally manage to grab a couple hours of shut-eye before the breakfast menu was presented. I chose the pancake and bacon entree and enjoyed it very much. I had several cups of java and an extra danish or two and settled in for a few episodes of 30 minute comedies before we began our final descent into LAX. The landing was smooth and the roll-out was also very nice. I was sad to see the flight come to an end, but very grateful that I had finally got to experience SQ's product on a 747.
Overall, I was very impressed with both airlines, aircraft, and their respective amenities, but I have to give the nod to JL for the most outstanding overall experience. I had heard, from several frequent fliers, that JL caters to their Japanese customers first and foremost, and that non-Japanese passengers, get less than ideal service, but I must say that I DID NOT find that to be the case. The Japan Air experience, especially the flight attendants, was quite simply PERFECTION PERSONIFIED. I thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic flight on Singapore, but the next time I am flying to Asia, I will seek out a flight on JAL first and foremost.
Thanks for reading my rather long trip report and, as always, your comments are most appreciated!!
[Edited 2007-09-02 07:13:35]