Darkness descends Singapore Changi Airport as I continue surfing the net and chatting on MSN
... it was now 19:10 and my boarding pass saids boarding for my flight home begins at 19:30. I was in Changi's Terminal 1 and my flight departs from Gate F31 in Terminal 2 ... and I was hungry and needed some food, fast. Quickly shutting the computer down, I grabbed my bags, stopped off at a bubbler (Aussie for drinking fountain) for a drink before heading upstairs to the food court and found Subway, where I bought an ultra-expensive S$6.10 roast beef sandwich. I've never been a fan of Subway but it was food to go ... and I forgot where McDonald's was in Terminal 1!
I then ran onto a people mover onto Terminal 2 (stuffing the Subway sandwich into my mouth as we travelled) and off the other side, walking briskly to Gate F31. I took a glance at the departure monitors, it dawned on me that the flight doesn't depart until 20:30 and that SQ
allows for one hour
to board the A380. Phew! It was an unceremonious start to what would be my second flight on the A380.
Date: Tuesday 8 January, 2007
Route: Singapore Changi Terminal 2 (SIN
) - Sydney Kingsford-Smith (SYD
Aircraft: Airbus A380-841 (9V-SKA)
Arrive: 0705 + 1 day
Seat: 75A ("UPPER DECK"
The new darling of the skies
The Airbus A380 certainly is the new darling amongst air travellers - even people who don't have an interest in aviation talks about it. And so at Changi, the glass window looking onto Gate F31 (where 9V
-SKA has "lived" since October) seems to be always full of people gawking and pointing at the A380, and getting their pictures taken with her. And I was lucky enough to fly aboard the A380 ... for the second time!
It goes without saying, however, that taking pictures of the plane would not be easy in the dark, with the sloping window and no tripod. Never mind, a bit of ingenuity with a magazine means I had a place to rest my camera. I do quite like the effect of the bright nose and darkened tail:
Moments later a SilkAir A320 (9V-SLG) would pull into the adjacent gate and this gave a rather interesting photo of the smallest and largest in the "family" side-by-side (both the Airbus and Singapore Airlines families!).
After drinking even more water from the drinking fountains (this no bottle/liquids rule is really p@#%ing me off!) I went to the boarding lounge. It was approaching 19:45 (I spent many minutes trying to get those photos ...) and the security lines were pretty long. Interestingly, the staff gave out Australian arrival cards after boarding pass check.
The lounge was pretty full already and it was difficult to find a seat - I hope they made the lounges bigger in the new Terminal 3! But not to worry, boarding was called almost immediately at 19:50 and the seats quickly emptied. I have always wondered why people feel the need to line up so early when you get the same seat on board anyway?!
Now, how does gate staff know which airbridge you should go onto? After all, for the A380 there is one bridge for the upper deck passengers and another for the lower deck. Easy, just print your assigned deck SO BIG
on the boarding pass that you can see it from 38,000ft!
I took an opportunity to photograph 9V
-SKA front-on, using my backpack
as a tripod. Let's just say it took many, many attempts for one shot to turn out reasonably OK
but despite the best effort from my hands I couldn't stop the reflection! Many others were also trying this photo but gave up pretty quickly ...
The A380 is the first time I've seen the seat map on a board in a departure lounge. I wonder if they had these boards back when the 747 was new?
and Changi are milking the A380 connection for all its worth - big mural on the wall on the lounge.
By now it was 20:10 and I noticed the Upper Deck line had all but disappeared. So, I broke my "tradition" and walked on. By contrast, the Main Deck line still stretched halfway along the lounge - and you can see the line on the airbridge, too!
I really wonder if it's efficient using one airbridge for the 148 passengers on the top deck whilst the main deck also gets only one but having 323 passengers! It doesn't add up. I wonder if it's workable to draw a line on the lower deck (say from Door 4 back) and those passengers also board by the upper deck bridge?
An empty airbridge, something I have almost never seen on boarding any widebody aircraft (well except on this particular morning when I was stone motherless last in boarding my 777 in Hong Kong!).
And finally getting to the door. No-one here, either, the crew even has time to joke with the ground staff. It's another world compared to what the bridge is like on the main deck.
... to find a very empty Business Class!
Boarding has just about finished and there's only a few solitary souls here! No wonder there was no queue to get on board.
Upper deck economy, however, was pretty full. Except my row. I got to Row 75 to find two empty seats! Again, the Singapore Girl offered to put my bag away in the overhead lockers before I got myself comfortable in my seat.
The greatest thing about travelling on the A380's Upper Deck are these - the extra storage bins by the window seats. Not only does it increase elbow room but also very handy to put your carry on. As these photos demonstrates, it swallows a 17" laptop satchel with plenty of room to spare. I even stuffed the pillow + my jacket in there.
The extra space between seat and wall really is enormous:
The seat next to me was still empty, so I decided to get up and take some pictures of the cabin. The lovely Singapore Girl seen here is the one who's responsible for the port side of Upper Deck Economy. Lucky me!
Windows are smaller on the Upper Deck compared to the Main Deck.
And they're impossible to take photos out of at night due to the curvature. Nevertheless I found it amusing they always put a 737 or an A320 on either side of the A380 - at least here in Terminal 2.
Of course, the last passenger to board took the seat next to me. D'oh!!!
I noticed quite a few passengers were wandering around getting photos, and commenting about how "different" and "special" this aircraft is compared to other planes they'd flown - even a bloke from Business Class came back for some pics. That saids everything you need to know about the A380.
Into the Tropical Night
It didn't seem long until we were pushed back and taxiied out towards Runway 02R for departure. It was dark, so nothing much to see at all. A Qantas 737 took off ahead of us - yes you read that right, a 737 ... I had noticed something like a Qantas 737 come into Terminal 1 just as I was leaving but thought I was seeing things ... I wonder why it was in Singapore and where it was headed to?
Just as I noticed on my first A380 flight, the aircraft was whisper quiet as we took off. Couldn't gauge whether we were gaining height quickly at all due to the lack of landmarks. But flaps went up pretty quickly so I guess we were speeding up at least! Soon landing lights were switched off and it was absolutely pitch black outside.
It was another bumpy climb away from Singapore. The Singapore Girls started handing out dinner menus and serving juice + peanuts pretty quickly. I compiled a bit of a playlist from the excellent CD
collection and settled back to read a magazine. After the (mysterious) extra pitch in the 777 earlier in the day the A380 seemed extremely cramped.
One of the great things about SQ
's new interior are the LED
reading lights. No longer are they out of focus and nowhere near powerful enough, they're actually alright to read with. There's the conventional overhead light but to "not disturb others", there is another one provided under
the IFE screen. With both on the light is pretty powerful, as you can see here:
Dinner was served about 1 hour 20 minutes after take-off. I chose the roast chicken option which is ok, far better than the "KFC" chicken with mash I had on the flight from Hong Kong. The roast chicken is done Chinese style with tasteless fried rice ... I only realised until after I'd eaten that the dark cup with the SQ
logo is soy which you're meant to pour on the rice! Oops. The smoked salmon salad was a nice touch, the piece of salmon was HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE and thick.
As is usual, this was followed by ice-cream, an ice-cream sandwich this time. Yum.
After the trays were cleared, it was time for a a walkabout. I decided to head down the spiral staircase to see what the main deck was like. It confirmed my suspicion that service really is slower downstairs - they were only just settling into their meal when we had finished our's. Here the F/A's had just made it into the galley after serving dinner.
Due to the trolleys being around I didn't walk any further and walked back up the stairs. After the usual post-meal rush for the lavatories the cabin was quiet as everyone settled into watching something on the IFE. The lights were dimmed to a yellowish glow.
Minutes later the lights went blue and then off. We were indeed settling into an overnight flight. I returned to my seat and tried to sleep. A380 or not, longhaul flying in Economy is as uncomfortable an experience as you can get.
The lack of noise and the turbulence put me to sleep rather quickly. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I woke up to find we had reached Western Australia - I had slept reasonably peacefully for about 90 minutes, which isn't that bad. I tried to go back to sleep but it wasn't easy ... then a baby started crying, and that was the end of sleeping!
I was getting awfully thirsty, probably not helped by the wine I had with dinner. So I pressed the call button and within 30 seconds the Singapore Girl appeared. She actually brought back a full tray of water and handed them to those who were awake at the time. Smart move, and not one that's repeated often on other carriers. Throughout the next few hours I pressed the button (trust me I really was thirsty!
) and she would appear within 30 seconds. Now that's service!
Cruising above the Great Australian Outback
It was pitch black outside. This also means that the sky was lit up by thousands of stars. It's simply magical, something that's a "trademark" for the Australian Outback.
The Australian Outback might seem like a sea of nothingness but a flight over it at night proves otherwise. Every minute or so a few lights would appear on the ground below - there are certainly many people who live and work on these remote cattle stations (and other properties).
To pass the time I flipped through Krisworld to see if anything caught my eye. I chose episode 1 of Michael Palin's New Europe
series, but that didn't last long. I then plugged in my laptop and tried to sort through a few photos, not a good idea at what is 2:00am ... nor is trying to play ATC2 (the Japanese air traffic control game). And oh, just like last time I couldn't get any power through my Aussie/Kiwi/Chinese 3-pin plug - had to put on my European adaptor. It's advertised that you can use the Aussie plug on board but I couldn't get it to work either times ...
I really, really hate longhaul flying
! Especially overnight flights!
Breakfast in the dark
Just as I got really bored the cabin lights were flicked on and breakfast was served as we exited the Northern Territory. There was still almost three hours to go!
Surely they could've left it another 30-45 minutes!
We now had a nice tailwind behind us as we arrived in New South Wales:
The first rays of light appeared about an hour before we were due to touch down. I always enjoy watching sunrise from an aircraft, the colours are simply wonderful!
Soon the sky turned blue and revealed the farms of New England below.
A few minutes later we started our descent to Sydney over what should be the Upper Hunter Valley. The speed brakes were deployed.
Unfortunately the cloud cover started just as we turned onto the glidepath of Runway 16R - we were already locked on the glidepath when we were still more than 100 miles out! Here we are just a little north of Broke and Cessnock. It's a shame because I always enjoy the beautiful approach to Sydney over the Hunter Valley.
It was a bumpy ride through the clouds as we continued to descend towards Sydney. We broke through the clouds at leafy North Turramurra with the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in view here, and a glimpse of Bobbin Head Road which is one of the climbs I use when training on my bike.
The port side windows on a Runway 16 approach really shows off Sydney, as you'll see. Here we're over the North Shore suburb of Gordon.
Lindfield, the Lane Cove National Park and the University of Technology, Sydney campus - where I spent 3 years obtaining my first degree and 1 year as teaching staff.
The cargo ships that greet us on approach to Singapore Changi is now replaced by pleasure craft on the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers here in Sydney.
Over Parramatta River with formerly industrial Cockatoo Island in the middle - it's usually here aircraft on approach extend their landing gear, but owing to being on the upper deck I could not hear it being extended - although the added wind noise seems to confirm it already had.
Definitely Sydney now as the Harbour Bridge and the city comes into view - the thick clouds also made it dark all of a sudden.
I do like the silhouette effect on the buildings.
Must be really humid - check out the air stream over the wing.
The Long Taxi
Strangely, we taxiied all the way down to the end of Runway 16R before turning off onto Taxiway Alpha. As I have not spotted A380 arrivals here I don't know whether this is a usual occurrence but it is weird to me.
Horses swimming at The Beach! First time I've seen them in the water after hearing about them from other spotters - and stepping in the horse s@#$ there!
Some edited pics showing my favourite spotting location in Sydney - The Beach
. Yes you can walk out to the fence! Here someone takes their dog for a run around here (it is incredibly popular with dog owners who let their dogs run around off leash and have a swim - so don't go there if you don't like dogs!) The Fence is a fantastic spot to watch widebodies (they're almost all widebodies) taxi by just metres from you.
Other than that, the Breakwater is fantastic for seeing 16R rotations.
Over General Holmes Drive - light traffic at 0700.
Our long taxi has allowed Virgin Atlantic's A340-600 (G-VRED) to sneak ahead of us. Ironically she has also flown from Hong Kong - but left 5.5 hours after I did. This shows how much longer a Singapore transit takes.
Singapore Airlines has a 747-400 overnighting in Sydney ever night - on this occasion it is 9V
Finally, we arrived at Gate 57 - where my Asian journey began 36 days ago. As I had observed on that day the ground staff swarmed over the A380 as soon as we parked.
The "A380 Capable" catering truck doesn't take long to raise up to Upper Deck level.
Welcome Home - to a mess!
With just over 100 pax on the Upper Deck disembarkation was very swift, very narrowbody like. I really think they could let the rear of the Main Deck economy cabin come up the stairs and use this airbridge to disembark ...
A photo of Business Class on the way out:
Sydney Airport is again a big mess with the A340-600 and A380 arriving at the same time - it's the first time in years I've come through this pier and the only "improvement" has been the intrusion of the duty free store. Personally I think it's disgusting that pax have to virtually walk through
a duty free store to get to Immigration. There was a short line-up at Immigration but nothing compared to the Foreign Passports queue.
After the efficiency of Changi and Hong Kong it was a shock to arrive in Sydney. The baggage hall is about as elegant as that of Kuala Lumpur's Low Cost Terminal! And the carousels themselves are not long enough to handle a large widebody with suitcases being held back as the carousel is already full. It is not helped that the Immigration line is so long that most of the suitcases go unclaimed and go round and round. I waited 2 minutes for my suitcase to drop from the belt onto the carousel ...
Luckily, there was no queue at Quarantine, I simply showed the staff my bag of food (which was quite a bag!), whilst other staff put my luggage through the X-ray and off I went. I've long suspected that Aussie passport holders get an easier time through Quarantine and I noted the officer didn't really take much of a look inside the bag, nor at the X-ray machine!
With that, I navigated through the throng of greeting friends and relatives in the arrivals hall and proceeded on the long walk to the other side of the terminal for the train. It cost A$13.80 just to get to the city, what a blatant rip off - and all in the "comfort" of a hot, non air-conditioned train that is standing room only in peak hour.
Sydney really needs to up its game - the first impressions of a visitor can't be any worse ... especially one coming from an Asian country with their gleaming new infrastructure. It's not as though it can't be done (nor cost a lot of $$$$$), but that Sydney Airports Corporation has decided to spend money only on what can directly generate income (ie retail and parking) but not those that indirectly benefit everyone else. [/end of rant]
In the city I got off at St James, the station with only stairs for access, lugged my suitcase up the stairs and walked to my bus stop at the Queen Victoria Building, hoping that I'd made the connection as my route runs on a 2-hour frequency during the morning. The 8:25am bus home was there within 2 minutes (how's that for timing?!), and 50-minutes later I walked into the house.
Such was the sleep deprivation that I spent all day sleeping ... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
If you had to fly SQ
's A380 in Economy, go for Upper Deck at any cost
- even if you can't get the seat you really wanted. It simply is another world compared to the Main Deck - there seems
to be better crew/passenger ratio up there, service is faster, and there is a far cosier feel. That's on top of the extra storage bin for window seats and the much
faster boarding and disembarkation processes. I actually wonder why SQ
didn't opt for a premium economy class there instead of plain old Economy.
Singapore Airlines' service was simply superb and faultless on this flight. I would not hesitate to fly with them again. It was another good experience transiting Changi, too, even if it's getting extremely boring.
And the A380? My second flight confirmed my feelings from the first. It's quiet (babies notwithstanding) and it's different
And that concludes my series of Trip Reports from my Asian trip. I really do appreciate the kind comments! Until next time ... Thanks very reading!
[Edited 2008-02-11 18:19:10]