It had been a while since the last time I flew business class for work (policy is C/J for flights over three hours). Last time it was on SQ
. But since I changed jobs internally for the company I work for, I’ll be travelling for work a bit more often.
This time work would take me to Athens for a conference, and since I hadn’t been in Europe in over a year, I decided to also pay a visit to a friend in Belgium and to some of my family in Italy.
I booked myself on SQ
(as usual) via Paris, as the flights to Athens are not daily, plus I’d have a chance to try, for the second time only, the new Business Class seats. In addition, I booked myself back via Milan, as I’d be in northern Italy towards the end of my trip. In between, I got a ticket on the TGV to go to and back from Brussels, and I also booked myself to fly on Air France in Business to Athens and on Air One in Economy to Bologna, while I booked an Opel Corsa to drive from Bologna to Milan.
I left the office around 7pm, having just enough time to go buy some souvenirs for the people I was visiting, as well as for ironing my shirts and packing my bags, before I headed out to the airport around 9pm. There was some heavy traffic on the East Coast Parkway, so I decided to fire up my laptop and do some work I had to send out before I got on the plane.
In a cab on the way to Changi
I got off the cab at gate 5 in the new Terminal 3, where they have some nice lighting outside. It actually looked like Christmas lights. They just keep coming earlier and earlier each year.
Outside gate 5 Changi Terminal 3
After a quick check in by a trainee, I got my boarding passes and headed to the lounge. The lounge was absolutely packed, as many flights to Europe, North America, North Asia, and Australia leave in the late evening. The new lounge in Terminal 3 is quite big, but it was hard to find a seat. Needless to say that I felt a bit too self-conscious about taking pictures.
As I didn’t have time to have dinner at home, I had some of the food at the lounge. I was disappointed there was no dim sum, but figured they just have it for breakfast and that’s it. Instead I had a very spicy curry cauliflower, sweet and sour pork, and Sichuan mushrooms and tofu.
After dining I did some work on my laptop and fired off a few last minute emails before I left the lounge and went over to the gate area. My flight would be leaving from gate A5, which is located in a common lounge which houses gates A1 – A8. Other flights leaving from these gates were the one to BCN
and the non-stop to LAX
, in addition to mine, which made the gate area quite crowded. But I didn’t have to wait long, as a minute or two after I arrived there boarding was called for First and Business class as well as for PPS Club and Star Gold members.
Duty free area
I was the first one on the plane, and all the cheery flight attendants greeted me, well, cheerfully! I made my way past First Class to the second cabin of Business Class and one of the flight attendants showed me to my seat and took my suit bag from the to hang in the closet.
Seat 14K is the bulkhead, which has its advantages and its disadvantages. In my opinion, it has more cons than pros. Yes, it is nice that there is no seat in front of you, which gives you a bit more legroom, and also there is no seat next to you, so it is very, very private. The problem is, of course, that it is aft the toilet, so from time to time people pass by your seat. The galley is also next to it, so there is a bit of noise and smell. Additionally, all bulkhead seats have the hinges for the baby basinet, which means that, even in Business Class, chances are there will be a f@#king baby crying the whole flight.
Stretching out on seat 14K
Once everyone was onboard, the pilot came on the PA introducing the flight crew and the flight attendant crew, and then informed us that the plane that was pushed back behind us had some Mx issues, so we would be delayed by about 15mins. During the delay, the flight attendant came to my seat and asked me if I would like to have a drink after take off. I opted for the Singapore Sling, as long as she made it with a bit of an extra kick, as usually I find it too sweet and lacking alcohol. She also asked me what I would like for supper, and as I thought most of the options were too heavy to have, I opted to have beef pastrami on a foccacia.
Looking out the window prior to pushback
We pushed back at 12:15am, and taxied quickly to the active. As it was at night, I was a bit disoriented, but I think we took off from rwy 02L. After take off, the FA
came over with my cocktail and with some warm nuts. I reclined my seat a bit and did some reading before I put the newspaper and magazines away and watched an episode of The Office.
About to enter the active rwy
As we flew past the shared coast of Malaysia and Thailand, flying somewhere over the Andaman Sea, and close to the Nicobar Islands, dinner was served. It was started with a very tasty prawn salad with Singapore dressing (a spicier version of Thousand Island). A selection of breads and rolls was offered, before they brought out my sandwich. And what a disappointment that was. First off, the sandwich was tiny, although that may be excused anyway as I wasn’t absolutely starving. But the sandwich was fridge-cold, and thus didn’t taste so good. I ate it anyway, but decided never to ask for it again.
Doing some work…
…while listening to Coldplay…
…and drinking a Singapore Sling
After the meal, I went to the toilet to brush my teeth, and then it was time to put my seat in the sleeping position. The seat itself doesn’t recline into a flat bed, rather, you need to put it in the upright position, and then fold it down into a fully flat bed, which is super comfortable, and for someone who is just 5’8 (about 173cm), it’s big enough to stretch out a bit.
What was left over from the starter
Half a pastrami sandwich
Capuccino and Perrier
I fell asleep while we were somewhere above the Bay of Bengal and had a very good rest. I didn’t wake up until about 6 hours later, at which point we were flying over Georgia and just about to cruise above the Black Sea.
Waking up over Georgia
Now you may wonder what woke me up. Was it:
a) The mood lighting
b) The smell of Colombian coffee being brewed
c) The beautiful FA
shaking me ever so lightly
d) The howling cries of a 2-year old girl
Well, the answer is obvious! It was the f@#king little girl. Now, when I fly Economy and choose the bulkhead seat, I know I am at a high risk of having crying babies around me. When I fly Business Class, I do not expect nor can I stand crying babies around me. But this little girl would not shut her trap, nor did her mother attempt to shut her up either. As soon as she woke up, she started running up and down the aisle. And it was a good thing that the flight attendant escorted her back to her seat, as she was very very close to getting an unintentional slap in the face.
Since I was already up, I decided to turn my bed back into a seat and continue to do some work, as well as start writing this TR
. As I did so, I ordered two cappuccinos and a glass of OJ. That, while listening to Coldplay’s Lovers in Japan song was the perfect way to wake up.
I caught up on some additional work, before breakfast, which was served about 2 hours before landing. It started with a small but good fruit salad, rolls and croissants, a very nice and strong coffee, corn flakes, which I declined, and the main, for which I chose the dim sum. I usually ask for the dim sum option on SQ
as I know it’s fairly tasty and it’s lighter than the usual eggs and bacon, etc, that they offer as an alternative. The dim sum consisted of some glutinous rice with pork and mushrooms, some pork and prawn dumplings, and carrot cake, which was all quite good and dipped in a spicy chilli sauce.
Writing the TR while drinking coffee and OJ
Information screen on the remote
Seating area and view towards the galley
Delicious dim sum
After the FA
’s picked up all the plates and cutlery from breakfast, the captain came on about 30mins outside of Paris giving us an update of the weather conditions, and then he instructed the crew to get ready for landing, which seemed a bit premature, as we ended up circling around quite a bit. It was very cloudy and I couldn’t see the ground outside until nearly close to touching down. We then made our way to Terminal 1 and parked fairly close to an Air Gabon 767 under a rainy Parisian sky.
Air Gabon 767 and a rainy Paris
It was a wonderful flight for sure and the FA
’s had been very nice, even chatting to me quite a bit, which I find is a rarity on SQ
as some of them can be too robotic to do small talk.
After landing, I headed towards immigration. It seemed like a bit of a mess since a few other flights from Asia and the US arrived at the same time, and there were only six booths open, and I did have a choice of using my EU or my US passport, but decided on using the EU one as the line was much faster. After this I headed to baggage claim, picked up my bag, and rushed to the TGV station to catch my train to Brussels. Unfortunately, the TGV automatic machines are totally inept and do not accept Visa, Mastercard (but they take Maestro. Huh???), nor Amex, so I had to stand in line to pick up the ticked I had booked and paid for online, but of course by then I had missed the train.
1832 rebooked to AF
Dep [New] (Act):
13:55 [18:15] (18:35)
Arr [New] (Act):
18:10 [22:30] (22:50)
1C rebooked to
After finally making it to Brussels, I spent most of the rest of the day on a train to Luxembourg, had dinner there, and then went back north to Antwerp for some Belgian beer. The next day, unfortunately, my train problems would only get worse. My Intercity to Brussels got cancelled, so I missed the TGV to CDG
. I then opted for the Thalys to Paris Gare du Nord, but that one was delayed by over an hour due to some tech problems in Holland.
The problem now was that I had checked in online in case I got to the airport a bit too close to departure, which in retrospect was quite stupid. When I tried to call the travel desk I use, they told me they couldn’t cancel my booking, but they did manage to book me on the later flight. I made it to CDG 2D
about 15mins after my flight had departed, but luckily I had no problems on getting a seat on the 615pm flight. After this, I headed to the Salon Air France, which is the lounge I presume used for intra-Europe flights. The quality overall was somewhere between a US lounge and an Asian one. In terms of furniture, etc, it looked like those in the US, but at leats it had some free sandwiches, coffee, drinks, and alcohol.
Food at the Salon Air France
Salon Air France
Salon Air France
About an hour before the scheduled departure I left the lounge as I didn’t know how long the lines at security would be, plus I was in need of a bit of retail therapy. The good thing was that the security lines were empty, but the bad news was that the little shopping to be done was pre-security. This terminal reminded me a bit of LaGuardia or some of JFK
’s old terminals. I did find a Swatch booth and was swayed into buying one of the new 007 Quantum of Solace edition watches, which was pretty cool and IMO a good buy.
The gate areas were all pretty full, so I just stood around in front of my gate reading The Economist while I waited. It was close to boarding time and it was announced that we would have a delay (no excuse given) of about 15 minutes, which was then followed by another announcement saying that our flight would have an additional delay of another 15 minutes as there was some kind of mechanical issue with the jetway (even though we were boarding by stairs).
Our plane to Athens
Once boarding was called, a bit of a crowd formed around the small gate area, but soon enough I got past the gate, down the jetway stairs, up the other stairs next to the plane, and on to my seat, 3F.
Boarding through stairs
During boarding those of us in Classe Affaires were offered champagne or OJ. I had the champagne, as after such a long day I needed the taste of alcohol. We pushed back at 6:35pm and had a bit of a long taxi to the active.
Once in the air, the male FA
came around offering amenity kits, which I thought was a nice touch. There were only three items: A pair of socks, eyeshades, and a moist towelette, but the amenity bag was quite nice and I decided to keep it. This was then followed by the menu, which more than a menu it was rather a list of what would be served, without a choice.
Still, the food was not bad. There was a prawn, veggies, and feta cheese salad. The main was a veal stroganoff with rice pilaf, along with a roll, cheese, dessert, and coffee.
I was very tired from all the train travel and rushing during the day that I fell asleep for most of the flight, and didn’t wake up until we were descending into Athens. The captain came on advising weather in Athens was good, with a temperature of just over 20 C, and a little fog. Well, it turned out to be a lot of fog! On our first attempt to land, we only managed to see the runway lights a few meters before landing, so the captain revved up the engines and aborted the landing. It was interesting to see that the city had no fog, but the airport was completely engulfed in it.
We circled the airport and came in for a second approach, after which we landed successfully. However, when taxiing to the gate you could no see for more than 5 meters ahead, as the fog was super thick. I was very surprised at the fact that we landed under such poor visibility and that we didn’t divert to another airport instead.
After a week in Athens of hard work but also very good food, it was time to head to Italy to spend the weekend there with family before going back to Asia.
I booked a car to take me to the airport, which took about 30mins. I had to walk a bit to the Air One check in counter, and found there was a bit of confusion, as there were three counters open, one for Milan, one for Bologna in Economy, and one for Bologna in Business, although everyone was lining up at the Business Class counter. I got my boarding pass and managed to get a priority tag on my bag (Air One is a Lufthansa partner), and after that I headed to the duty free to buy some unbelievably cheap bottle of Ouzo (a big bottle for €4.95).
Athens Departures board
Security was painless and I headed to gate B24, where I learned the flight had been delayed to 2.45pm and apparently the route had changed from ATH
, which was better for me anyway. Well, turns out no one at the gate really knew where the airplane would stop first.
Once boarding started, we all got on a bus to a ramp were 2 or 3 Air One planes were a long with 4 or 5 Aegean 737s. Once we boarded and were all seated, we were told that the delay was because our airplane had brought in a mechanic to work on another Air One plane, and we needed to wait for him as he would go back to Naples in our plane.
Of course, my luck being what it is, I was seated in a windowless window seat, which sucks if you’re an airplane enthusiast as well as if you’re claustrophobic! So not too many pics from this flight for that reason.
15 minutes after this announcement we were on our way. Not sure which way we took off, but once in the air I found out that we were stopping at Naples first, rather than in Bologna, which was the original plan anyway. Service on this flight consisted of a drink and a pack of crackers or cookies. I opted for the crackers and they helped stave off hunger. About an hour into the air, we started our descent into Napoli and landed 20mins later. We taxied to a ramp where there were another 3 or 4 Air One planes. I asked one of the flight attendants if those passengers continuing to Bologna could stay on board or if we had to get off the plane, and she told me that we had to get off the plane and check in again! This didn’t make sense at all, so I asked her if I had to go all the way past security and to the front of the airport to check in, and she said yes! Well, I knew she had to be wrong, so I asked the other FA
and she said we could stay on board! Now I was a bit confused and mostly scared that a) my bags weren’t checked to Bologna (I didn’t check) and b) that I indeed had to check in again and that if I didn’t they would assume I was a no-show.
Finally another FA
came on and said that those going to Bologna had to disembark, but that we should do it last and we should board another bus. We waited a good 20mins for the other bus to arrive, and by the time it took us to the terminal, passengers from Naples to Bologna were already boarding the bus taking us to the plane to Bologna! Well, that was quite stupid, although I did learn a few minutes later that we were taking another plane to Bologna. I found all this very confusing, but once I was seated on the plane to Bologna I felt relatively safe that both I and my bags would make it to the correct destination.
The snack service on this leg was the same as the one before, and again I had the crackers. The pilot (who sounded very American) came on the PA and told us that we would be at the gate in Bologna exactly an hour after take off, which indeed was the case.
After landing in Bologna, I had hoped not to wait for too long for my bag as supposedly I was to get one of those priority tags, but of course I didn’t get it and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference as most of the bags came out before any of the priority ones did.
I rented a car to drive from Bologna to Milan, as there are no direct flights and the train connections make you go into the city of Milan, then take the subway, and then on to another train to the airport, which sounded like too much of a hassle to me.
Opel Corsa I rented to drive to Milan
On the A1 between Bologna and Milan
I took me about 3 hours to drive to Milan, at an average of 140km/h. There were signs pointing to an exit for Terminal 1 and one for Terminal 2, but there was no indication as to which one was for which airlines or which exit was the one for car rental return. I decided to get off on Terminal 1, which was a lucky move as this was the international terminal as well as the place to drop off the car. Once I did that, I went to check-in lane 5 and got my boarding pass and a card that would allow me to use the fast track security lane as well as the BA
Milan Malpensa T1
Aegean and Crossair
Turkish, US Air, Qatar, and American
Check in area full of ads for Prada, Armani, Zegna, etc.
Air China, Etihad, Air One, and Blue Panorama
Alitalia, Eurofly, and Livingston
The lounge was OK
. It was quite small and it seemed to be shared between many airlines. The food and beverage options we OK
as well, they mostly offered sandwiches, but those were quite good. I had probably 5 little sandwiches (was very hungry!), a bottle of peach juice, and some fizzy San Pellegrino water.
Entrance to the BA Terraces
I tried to connect to the lounge’s wifi, but it didn’t work, so I connected to some pay-per-day wifi, but the signal was so low in the lounge that it made the internet very slow. After nearly two hours in the lounge, I headed to gate B10, from which we would depart. 10mins after boarding commenced and again I was one of the first to board. Once on board I was offered a Tropical Sparkle, a copy of the IHT, but none of the Economist! That was a shame, as I nearly bought one in the airport terminal.
Air One A330
Air One A330 and EgyptAir A321
We pushed back on time and departed to the North. We continued on this course for some time and we got a fantastic view of the Swiss alps!
Lining up on the active
After take off we were offered a cocktail, but I just asked for Perrier as it seemed too early for alcohol. The Perrier was brought nice and cold, with a wedge of lemon, along with chicken and mutton satay, which were quite tasty. Then one of the FAs came to my seat and took my order for lunch. I chose the pork with vegetables and oriental rice.
Flying somewhere over Eastern Europe
The food service started with smoked salmon and potato salad, which was followed by the main. The pork and rice were very good, although the vegetables were overcooked. For desert there was a flan in some sort of citric sauce, which was quite nice, and I finished it off with a cappuccino.
Smoked salmon to start
Pork, rice, and vegetables with Oriental sauce
After the meal service was over I watched a few TV
shows, such as Curb your Enthusiasm and How I Met Your Mother. After this I watched The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was not great, but was better than the other options. I decided to go to sleep after this, as there were only about 5 hours left in the flight. I turned my seat into a bed and went to sleep comfortably. However, I didn’t sleep much and kept on waking up every 30mins or so, but not because it was uncomfortable. The new seat is fantastic and you can really stretch out.
Sunset somewhere over the Caucasus
I woke up about two hours before arrival, as we were flying over the Andaman and Nicobar islands, just about to go over land again, this time over Malaysia. At this time the FAs were taking breakfast orders. Breakfast started with fruit, a full mug of strong coffee, a croissant, and followed by cornflakes and the main, which was omelette, veal sausages, a mix between a hash brown and roesti, and a grilled tomato. The main was OK
, the sausages looked a bit funny, but it all tasted good. I really like the fact that SQ
serves you a full mug of coffee, rather than the small cups that are used on other airlines.
Sunrise over Malaysia
We started our descent somewhere over central peninsular Malaysia and landed on rwy 20R and made a short taxi to Terminal 3. After disembarking, I went to the empty immigration area, got my work pass checked, and headed to the duty free to buy some booze and then to the belt to pick up my bag, before I hopped in a taxi and went home.
If you’ve read this far, hope you enjoyed it, and please leave a comment!