One of my goals for 2007 was to fly the Airbus A380 if it did get itself into revenue service, I had followed the A380's development more so than any other aircraft so I'd naturally wanted to fly on it as soon as I can. The aim was to fly SQ
somewhere in December after I finish my course. Conveniently, I'm a resident of SYD
so it wasn't at all out of the way for me!
released the A380 schedule in mid-September, I decided I would go on a short trip to Singapore and Malaysia (in fact I'm typing this from my hotel room in PEN
), then onto Hong Kong to visit relatives (and spot at HKG
, of course
). And of course it would be conditional on being confirmed on SQ220/1 for the legs to/from SIN
. I'd never been to Singapore or Malaysia at all either, so this trip would be a bit of an adventure for me.
I would also get to fly on the 777 (an aircraft type that has eluded me thus far) between HKG
, and it goes without saying that one of the sectors will be on the 777-300ER.
As it's a long report, let's cut to the chase with the conclusion.
A definite winner. The A380 has tonnes more natural light thanks to the bigger inside window cut-out, is absolutely whisper quiet (about as far as you can get from the 743 I flew a few months ago) and there appears to be more fresh air too. They are the things passengers actually notice, and no wonder they all want to fly the A380!
SQ's new interior
Also a winner. The seats are surprisingly comfortable given the thickness of the padding (or lack thereof). The only complaint is the lack of legroom whenever the seat is reclined. The Krisworld system with the big screen is also fantastic (save for the glitch in my system which resulted in no video images being loaded).
[i]Fantastic. Best I've experienced in Economy and light years ahead than anything else, even with the likes of QF and CX. My last longhaul flight on BA's World Traveller Plus was nowhere near this and it cost one hell of a lot more. And those Singapore Girls!
So as you can see, I was rather impressed with WhaleJet.
Date: Tuesday December 4, 2007
Flight: SQ220 (Sydney-Singapore)
-SKA (duh ...)
Seat: 60K (MAIN DECK
Captain: Jerry Peacock
Arriving at the airport
After a rather sleepless night (you can guess why) it was an early wake-up call at 4:40am to make the 5:15am train to the airport. Yawn. Now I hope the A380 would keep her promise and not break down on me.
I arrived at the International Terminal at 6:20am and walked swiftly towards the SQ
counters, where I'd found a long queue was developing. I had checked myself in online so it was a matter of walking straight to the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Internet Check-in" line and to be waved straight through. I wonder why people don't check themselves in online?
I couldn't get many seat choices online. Ideally I wanted an upper deck window - but there were only 3 window seat options and all on the main deck - 2 over the massive wing and one behind - plus a handful of middle of the block seats , and the last row in the middle on the upper deck. I had wanted a window for this daylight flight so settled on 60K on the main deck.
I noticed a few huge trolley full of boxes around - bicycles being checked in all the way to Beijing - it was the Track Cycling teams going from the Sydney World Cup round to the Beijing World Cup round. The bikes belonged to Team Focus of Germany:
And this is what are inside those boxes (well the bicycle part anyway) - those trolleys are worth $$$$$$$$$$ (and I want one!):
The Whale Arrives
I had arrived early as I wanted to see how they turned the A380 around so walked straight through immigration checkpoint and was airside by 0650. Of course, I didn't see the WhaleJet and went walkabouts, only to find it had just arrived when I returned.
Soon the catering trucks arrived and this was the scene. How many trucks?
And so had the Airbus mechanics. There were about 10 of them all in Airbus vests and were there until departure. They were certainly anxious to make sure nothing goes wrong on the A380.
The unloading seems to have taken about 30 minutes to complete, and soon they started loading cargo + baggage on. It was all a very efficient operation. Meanwhile, the departure lounge was filling up with SQ220 passengers. The SQ
guys came around to check boarding passes and ushered any Y pax with UPPER DECK
on their passes to a cordoned off area near the departure gates - controlled by security goons, no less!
Meanwhile, I escaped the crush to go see other aircraft - it was Airbus central with the EK
345 and VS
346 parked next to 9V
As you'd expect, boarding was a messy affair. The Y Main Deck line stretched around the departure hall and then some! (A cabin walk revealed later than Y was 100% full on both decks - so it was impressive how quickly they were all cleared)
Singapore Girl welcomes you to Economy:
But no Singapore Girl to welcome the premium passengers?
Boarding opened at 0810, and looked to be quite smooth. There were a lot
of gate staff on hand. As expected, the upper deck boarded quite quickly (only 150 or so pax up there compared to 300+ on the main deck).
As usual, I waited until most people had boarded when I made my appearance. Still a queue to get on board.
Phew! Made it. It was 0830 when I made it to my seat. I immediately noticed how much lighter the A380 cabin was compared to other aircraft, and especially the lovely Christmas decorations. What a nice touch!
333 is towed past - they start their engines on the taxiway.
I spent time fiddling with the Krisworld system (you could use most functions on the ground), which was interesting - a lot of menus to navigate through to say the least. Doors shut on time and we were pushed back almost immediately.
We would taxi via Hotel and then onto Alpha for the long taxi to Runway 34L.
Here is a CA
333 parked at the gate with the airport's safety 4WD in front ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ after more than a month they're still sending cars behind the A380! I remember Tower telling SQ220 on 9V
-SKA's first regular flight on 29 October that it was only necessary for the first week!
As we taxi past an Airbus sistership (VS's 346 G-VEIL)
You can really appreciate how lucky we are in SYD
to have a spotting location so close to a taxiway. We can walk out to the fence you see here!
And I'm beginning to really like this breakwater to take photos of 16 Right departures.
We have to wait for a CZ
772 to land before we depart.
And so we were off! The acceleration was so gentle, hardly know we were gaining speed at all ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ a sensation heightened by the lack of noise. We rotated at the same point it always does just past the Control Tower. Speaking of the spotters only one car was present on Shep's Mound this morning (the novelty of the A380 must have worn away!), with 2 airport workers looking on:
We would've looked like this from Shep's Mound when we climbed away:
Whilst I looked down on the domestic terminal:
Now, as I'd observed previously 9V
-SKA doesn't seem to gain height at all. I got the same sensation on the plane itself as we seemed to be very low - much lower than I can ever remember on any 34 Left departure. The Whale climbs slower than an A340!!!
Over St Peters with Eveleigh Railway Workshops visible here:
A great reason why Sydney is a great city with a beautiful harbour as we're turning over Iron Cove with Balmain in the foreground, the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Heads in the background:
The peninsula of Hunters Hill with a Rivercat heading west under Gladesville Bridge.
The Lane Cove River snakes its way towards Parramatta River:
Ryde bus depot - pretty full for 0920
The ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“technology"ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â area of North Ryde:
The suburb of Eastwood
Then Carlingford - with Carlingford Court shopping centre on the lower left.
And into the leafy Hills District in Sydney's north-west with West Pennant Hills Valley in the foreground - you can also see the Berowra River Valley here. My house is somewhere in this photo:
A little further west is the suburb of Glenhaven:
Sydney does have its rural charms - the Hills District has plenty of acreages. It's part of the reason why I love my area so much.
About to leave Sydney - we cross the Hawkesbury at Richmond.
The Blue Mountains is another beautiful place near Sydney - here is the lower slopes at Kurrajong.
Colo River - we're now entering World Heritage-listed wilderness
It really is rugged, but spectacular territory in the Blue Mountains. We're now above the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains and Wollemi National Parks.
Cruising above Australian skies
By now the Singapore Girls (and Guys) are starting to get ready to serve. Of course, being such a big aircraft, it takes a while ...
You can really see the window here - the clear bit is same old small but the inside part is much bigger ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ which is how the A380 has way more natural light than any other aircraft.
A bit early for wine! The wine producing town of Mudgee is below us. What a beautiful it is too.
A few minutes later we enter the NSW Central West - home to lots and lots of farms!
Meanwhile, juice is served.
A Cabin Tour
The old couple next to me decided to take a walk at this time so I decided to get up and stretch my legs too.
The upper deck seems to be another world. It's much more cosier than the main deck (which must be said is no different from the 747), largely due to the increased curvature of the fuselage and the lower ceiling.
There's an even bigger gap between the window and the window seat on the upper deck - which gives an extra storage bin.
Well you'd have to wonder when I'd slip a pic of a Singapore Girl in there! Here she collects the cups.
Not long after this breakfast was served. Which was regulation fare but quite good nevertheless:
The service by the Singapore Girls was lovely - far better than the attitudes you get on QF
, for instance. Or maybe they were just far better looking than the F/A's you'd get on those airlines!
The Spectacular Australian Outback
The flight took us north into Queensland and then into the Northern Territory. I could not believe how spectacular the view was outside:
The red earth somewhere over the Darling Downs region in Queensland:
Check out the riverbed!
And what about this dried up river - this is truly spectacular.
So after breakfast it was time to settle in to the realities of longhaul flying. Waiting to reach the destination and hope it will come sooner rather than later.
The In-Seat Entertainment
The new SQ
seats promised a lot and certainly delivered. At the SQ
Roadshow in SYD
in October I was concerned at the lack of padding on the Y seats but it seemed comfortable enough for an 8-hour flight. The thinness of the seats was certainly great for legroom, accommodating my long legs without too much trouble:
The only trouble was when you recline - with the new generation of Y seats the trend seems to be to slide the cushion forward to increase legroom for the person behind - but something has to give and it's your own legroom that's sacrificed. No wonder the Polish national cycling team guy kept kicking me in the back!
The new Krisworld AVOD was pretty good - this is actually the first time I've flown on an aircraft with AVOD and it's certainly a big step up from the old systems. I noticed many many more people were using the IFE, if you take a look with the old systems half the screens would be on flight info as people can't be bothered waiting for stuff to start. Here, only my screen seems to be on flight info! (I'd compiled a playlist earlier and was quite happy just listening to music whilst I ate and read)
The screen sure is large. The control easy to use but of course the keypad is too small, but what else can you do? The USB plug-in for your photos and documents work as planned, and is quite brilliant. Although it's very limited by the keypad and the way the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“mouse"ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â works - that part is very awkward.
Here is the playlist function which was really good as I got to choose the music I wanted to listen to (or at least whichever albums in the collections least irritated me). I managed a loop of around 120 minutes so that wasn't bad at all. The best thing about it is that you could actually hear the music and not the engine noise!!! The "loading"ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â icon kept being in the middle of the menu even though nothing was to be loaded. I think there was a fault with my IFE as it didn't load any of the video images at all, just the sound. I'd discovered this rather late in the flight so it was no worries and in any case I brought my own IFE.
In-seat laptop power was fantastic on a longhaul flight as you can bring your own entertainment on board too. It was also a great time for me to sort through photos. One word of warning for my fellow Aussies - the Aussie plug can plug into the socket but you cannot get power out of it. I had to use my European adaptor for power to come through (you can see that on the left). The lack of seat pitch in Y means that the working conditions is rather cramped and I couldn't get a good view of the monitor on my 15.4"ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â laptop. And guess what I have as my wallpaper?
This flight is really long ...
It never ceases to amaze me how long a flight to/from Australia is and this is no exception. Even after playing around with photos etc we still have a couple of hours to go to SIN
. I decided on another walkabout:
What a massive wing!
The A380's doors have this section in the window where thereÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¾ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢s a different material that allows you to look down. What's the point I wonder?
Most in the cabin are now settled in to watch their IFEs or sleeping:
As we now fly under
some ominous looking clouds at 38,000ft:
Now above the Kimberleys in Western Australia:
And how spectacular is this? The Kimberley Coast of Western Australia - no wonder some operators are making a fortune out of cruising the waterways around here!!!
Lunch was soon served over Timor Sea. There was a choice of chicken or lamb - complete with smoked salmon salad. It was quite nice.
It was now rather cloudy outside and we didn't see any of the ground over the Indonesian archipelago.
However there was a glimpse just east of Surabaya:
There was also rather a lot of turbulence around this time with the seatbelt sign going on and off several times. Ah, the fun of flying in the tropics!
Very relieved to hear the engine note change as we started our descent. It was another bumpy ride on the way down.
Not sure what islands these are (Indonesia or Singapore?) but they sure look very industrial:
Soon we turned right to join final approach. These cargo ships always mean you're on approach to SIN
I would love to stay here - right under the approach!
It was then a long taxi over to the gate. Everyone was eager to get out but with more airbridges the A380 was quicker to unload than a 747. The difference was noticeable as I was way up the back of the aircraft. Even so, the wait did provide this photographic opportunity:
I also snapped these photos before going through immigration - it's the only photo with the sun during my 2.5 days in Singapore!
The mechanics were already on hand - see the engine cover is raised on Number 3.
Soon I was on my way through immigration - Singapore is so efficient, not even a line! And as soon as I got through my suitcase appeared on the carousel. Fantastic!
Not long after I headed towards the city and start my 2.5 days holiday in Singapore. Unfortunately it rained (more like dumped) for most of it ...
All in all I was extremely impressed by the A380, the new SQ
interior and the SQ
service. Can't fault any of it, I have to say.
I'm already looking forward to my return to SYD
-SKA next month.
Look out for my upcoming flight reports:
Air Asia JHB-PEN
Air Asia PEN
Singapore Airlines SIN