Date: 26 to 27 December 2008
Flights: SQ222, SQ322 & LOT282
Aircraft: Airbus A380-841 9V
(twice) and Boeing 737-55D SP
Total flying time: 24 hours and 20 minutes (approx)
Seats: 71K (twice) and 4A
This trip marked a landmark for me. It was my first overseas flight in economy class since 1984. No, I wasn’t a victim of the Global Financial Crisis or suddenly fallen upon hard times, there is another more personal reason.
My first overseas trip in business class was way back in 1985, when I flew in a JAL 747-300 from Sydney to Tokyo (and back). Not unusually, I rather enjoyed the experience. Since that time, I always travelled overseas in first or business class.
This wasn’t because I was a bit of a snob, or because my employer was picking up the tab, but because, to put it bluntly I was so overweight, that I couldn’t comfortably fit in an economy class seat. Even short trips to New Zealand or Fiji were done in business class. It wasn’t a sustainable situation. Don’t get me wrong, flying first and business class is great, flat beds, vintage Champaign, caviar, priority boarding, pyjamas etc was all fantastic, I loved every second of it. But I needed to shed weight and a side effect is that I now easily, dare I say it, comfortably fit within the economy class seats of major airlines. This means I can fly more often. Although I did this trip just after Christmas 2008, I am currently packing my bags for another trip to Paris and New York for Easter 2009. But that will be another trip report if I get my act together.
As an Air New Zealand Airpoints member, I had a few choices for my flight to Europe, NZ
, directly and UA LH
via code share agreements. I chose Singapore Airlines because I wanted to fly on the giant Airbus A380. This was not my first flight on the new “queen of the skies”, as I had flown to Singapore on SQ
’s A380 in December 2007, (in business class) and before I had joined A.Net, so I didn’t take any photographs of this modern-classic. I thought about flying with NZ
, but it didn’t seem right flying the “other way around” to Europe. Having heard/read horror stories of people flying the Kangaroo Route in economy class, even in quality airlines like SQ
, I decided to pay USD50 for SQ
’s preferred seating – for both legs of the flight. I picked seat 71K on the Upper Deck. Yes I knew there wasn’t a window, but I reasoned that in total I would probably spend about 2 hours looking out the window and 23 hours sitting in the seat. Although I was confident I fit into the seat, I can admit to being slightly nervous as to how I would last the distance.
Any way I arrived at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith International Airport with plenty of time in hand. Although SQ222 wasn’t scheduled to depart until 16:40, I arrived at the airport at just after 12:00. More time to sniff the av-gas and what the planes take off and land. Despite being Boxing Day, the airport didn’t seem that busy. Traffic to the airport was light and there weren’t that many people inside the terminal.
As a NZ
*G member, I checked in at SQ
’s Business Class desks, despite having an Economy Class ticket. All the check-in desks were occupied, but I was the first person in the queue. After about a 3 minute wait, I was invited to check in. At Sydney SQ
use Toll Transport as their agent, which surprised me a little, as I thought a brand conscious airline like SQ
would have their own check-in staff, particularly given the relatively frequent flight between SYD
Although I purchased the flight to Warsaw separately from the London flights, I had my luggage checked through to Warsaw. Although I was prepared to collect and re-check my bags at LHR
, it is always nice if the airline will oblige. That way I avoided the third-degree that UK immigration give Australians when they arrive at LHR
. While the check-in clerk readily agreed to do it, she didn’t know the airport code for Warsaw; she thought it was WAR, which given Poland’s tragic experiences in WWII, was rather ironic. She even had trouble identifying the LOT flight number on my e-ticket for the flight to Warsaw. I helped her out with that and the First Class check-in clerk told her that t he code was WAW
. This delayed everything and the check-in process took about 15minutes.
Just after I completed checking-in, I stumbled across a bunch of virgins…on their way to Hong Kong.
The queues for immigration and security weren’t that long and I was through to the airside on about 10 minutes. Of course the Express voucher I was given at check-in probably helped here. Airport security regulations have been relatively stable for sometime, but I am amazed at the things people try to take onto aeroplanes. The couple before me in the security queue had a thermos of coffee in their carry-on luggage!! Hot coffee, I know airlines aren’t known for their haute-cuisine, but really?
After walking through the duty-free shops, I was free to wonder around the southern wing of the international terminal. While I was wondering around, I took some photographs.
After plane-spotting for a while, I then went up to the Air New Zealand lounge. In addition to being the Star Gold lounge at Sydney, the NZ
lounge is used by premium passengers from Air Mauritius, Hawaiian Airlines, Korean Air and Virgin Atlantic. I really received a friendly welcome into the Lounge from the NZ
staff. The lounge had a few people around, but there was plenty of room. There was a good selection of food and drink available and staff were constantly circulating through the lounge keeping it clean, I had a couple of bottles of water and a coffee while I read a Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately they didn’t stock The Economist magazine, my favourite aeroplane reading material. The toilets in the lounger were kept clean and being stainless-steel, looked somewhat similar to old aeroplane toilets. They weren’t, but they looked like it.
Views from the Air New Zealand Lounge:
I walked down to Gate 57. Boarding was delayed 10minutes – no reason was given but as anticipation was building, I didn’t worry and the time flew by in no time. Upper Deck Economy and Business Class passengers naturally had a separate boarding gate.
Embarkation began at around 15:50 and I was at my seat 71K in no time. I was greeted by a Singapore Girl who took my blazer from me and hung it up while helping me stow my backpack. It wasn’t heavy but the overhead locker above my seat was too small for the backpack – the exit-row seats don’t have the benefit of the luggage lockers below the windows either.
My seat to Singapore:
Pretty good legroom
The upper deck economy cabin was 100 per cent full. When the doors were closed hot (warm really) towels were distributed while the captain introduced himself and the crew and said the flight was scheduled to take 7:20 hours flying time over a distance of 3912 miles. The Straits Times and Sydney Morning Herald were also offered to passengers – I declined.
At 16:30 the captain said we were awaiting ATC clearance to taxi up to runway 34L. The safety video was played. We pushed back at 16:50. Shortly afterward, after moving about 150 metres, the captain made the announcement that no one wanted to hear. We would have to go back to the terminal due to an engineering fault. The whole plane sighed as one. What a great start to a holiday.
Happily the captain announced at 16:55 that they had managed to rectify the fault and that we would be taking off as soon as possible. Hurrah! We took off on runway 34L to the north at 17:05. From my dead-reckoning, the takeoff run was about 45 seconds. As the plane rocked from side-to-side on takeoff and the initial climb, the emergency exit creaked. A bit worrying for my, but the flight attendant strapped in opposite me didn’t look worried. I guess it was something connected to the pressurisation of the aeroplane.
Airborne at last
Not long into the flight, the drinks trolley arrived. I selected a Singapore Sling to accompany the roasted peanut snack. Luckily I was served first because the drinks service was interrupted by turbulence. I know that being towards the rear of the aeroplane accentuates turbulence, but it didn’t seem that bad to me.
By this time I was availing myself of the excellent Krisworld in-flight entertainment system. While I didn’t take not of all the movies I watched, I can say that the first film I watched was an English comedy called 1966. It was very funny.
The dinner service came along not long afterwards. As the flight left Singapore for Sydney on Christmas Day, there was festive menu in the seat pocket.
The appetiser was a smoked salmon salad and the main course a choice between lamb navarin served with seasonal vegetable and mashed potato (my choice); or stir fried chicken with spring onion and ginger, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice. Also included on the tray were a warm bread roll and cheese and water crackers. I selected a small bottle of Shiraz to accompany my lamb. Desert was an ice cream – I declined.
The flight proceeded smoothly so I took a few in-flight photos.
One or the shorter legs of my journey
Down to the lower deck"
We did hit some more turbulence over the Kimberlys at around 20:44 AEDST. This was due to the presence of Cyclone Billy off the north-west coast of Western Australia.
The rest of the flight to Singapore passes without event. Flight attendants laden with water tramped up and down the aisle very regularly and the passengers watched/listened to the IFE. About an hour-and-a-half before landing, a snack of spinach-leek and feta cheese slice or braised egg noodles with vegetables and pork in hot bean sauce was served. I declined this snack because I was still on a diet and I wasn’t particularly hungry.
In-flight service on the lower deck
We touched down in Singapore at 21:25 local time and were at the gate by 21:31. The captain welcomed everyone to Singapore and gave a time and weather update. He also announced that this aeroplane would be flying on to LHR
as flight SQ
Landing in darkness doesn’t give you a great deal of opportunity to take photos, which is a shame, because there is a great deal of variety in the traffic at SIN
, much of it very different from the traffic Down Under. After doing some plane-spotting I headed to the KrisFlyer Gold Lounge.
Now I know a lot has been written about this lounge on this and other websites, so I wasn’t expecting much. I found the lounge without much trouble and was admitted by a friendly member of the ground staff. I was warned that boarding calls are not made, and told not to miss my flight. Now I am usually quite relaxed and ambivalent to airline lounges – one place is much like any other to sit and wait for an aeroplane. I was however, taken aback by the fact that there are no showers or even toilets in the KrisFlyer Gold Lounge. I believe that in a major hub like SIN
, this is unforgivable. I had to leave the lounge to spend a penny and put some eye drops into my very dry and sore eyes. That said, the lounge was very clean, the staff very attentive and the food and drinks adequate but the view very poor.
At 22:45, I left the lounge and went back to the gate to reboard the A380 for flight SQ
322 to LHR
Again the flight was full. Again I was in seat 71K. Unfortunately for this leg of the flight, I was surrounded by families with children. Don’t misunderstand me, I like families as much as the next fellow, I am even a member of a family, but I do wish that children would behave themselves when in public. There was a very noisy argument going on in the row of seats behind me over who was going to get the window seat, the parents were sitting across the aisle from their kids and were screaming at them while their youngest child, a mere infant wailed like a banshee. People seemed to have a lot more in-cabin baggage too, 2-3 pieces each. It didn’t bother me, but it can’t be easy to travel with all that stuff weighing you down.
Doors were closed at 23:39 and hot towels and newspapers were distributed. The captain introduced the crew and said our estimated flight time was 13:40. We could expect the first four hours to be smooth flying followed by two hours of possible turbulence. As usual, we were advised to keep our safety belts fastened while seated. We pushed back at 23:44 and the safety video was played. After a long taxi, we took off from runway 02L at 00:16 after a takeoff run of about 55 seconds.
Not surprisingly, I was beginning to feel sleepy, so I skipped the supper service. I did have something to eat in the lounge, and slept for about three-and-a-half hours. Not bad in an economy class seat. The flight was a lot quieter than I expected upon boarding too! I was woken up by an announcement, over the Bay of Bengal, that we should expect some turbulence for the next couple of hours. I nodded off to sleep again for another hour or so. I watched some more movies on the IFE and generally amused myself until breakfast was served over Germany.
Ever since I was served some kippers of Qantas on a flight back from Hong Kong, I have felt that breakfast must be the worst meal to have on an aeroplane. This breakfast was quite nice. It had the obligatory sliced fruit and cereal (not in the same bowl) and a choice of fried noodles with honey glazed roast pork, vegetables and mushrooms or parsley omelette with sautéed mushrooms, chicken sausage and potatoes (my choice). Also included were a warm bread roll, orange juice and tea and coffee.
LHR.jpg" width="274" height="400" border=0>
We landed into a misty LHR
at 5:50, only 5minutes behind schedule and we docked at Terminal 3 shortly afterwards.
I had a four hour waiting time at LHR
, so I wasn’t hurrying anywhere. I took the Flight Connections Bus over to Terminal 1 where I was to pick up my LOT Polish Airlines flight to WAW
. For some reason, I forgot to take any photographs on the seven minute bus ride – perhaps the windows of the bus were fogged up, or maybe I was dazed after my long journey – I really don’t know.
After being directed to an incorrect Transfer desk in Terminal 1 by some helpful bmi staff, I eventually found out that LOT transfers were done at the Lufthansa desks, which in turn are staffed by Menzies ground staff. My boarding pass was issued quickly but with little warmth. Ignoring the directions of the transfer desk clerk to the LH
lounge, I went to the Star Alliance Lounge in Terminal 1. It was much better than the KrisFlyer lounge at SIN
and was fully equipped with showers, for which I made a bee-line.
Perhaps this is a sad commentary on the state of British plumbing, but I always think the best showers in the UK are at Heathrow – they actually have some water pressure there. After a relaxing hot shower I emerged into the lounge to have a light graze on the food and read the latest Top Gear magazine to kill some time. I felt the lounge at around 9:00 to buy a copy of The Economist and Airports of the World. I had to have some reading material, in addition a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 to keep me sane as I travelled over what was once the Iron Curtain.
Terminal 1 isn’t always the best place to take photos from, particular Gate 38, so I am sad to say the opportunities to snap my LOT 737-500 (SP-LKE
) from the outside were somewhat limited. LOT282 was code shared with bmi BD2852. There were certainly, and unsurprisingly, a lot of Polish accents at the boarding gate. We began boarding at 09:50 somewhat later than our departure time of 10:05 would indicate.
I was seated in 4A, in a row by myself and the first row behind business class. The cabin was a bit old – still had ash trays in the seats, but clean. The doors were shut at 10:25. The captain introduced himself in Polish and English and said we had a flight of 2:20. Pushback was at 10:34 and the safety demo was done to a record soundtrack. The male flight attendant doing the actions to the tape was a bit slovenly – he had his top button undone. There looked to be a load of about 60 per cent in the economy cabin.
Some photographs from the apron
The aeroplane that brought me to LHR
Somewhere over SE
The meal service started when we levelled off. The service itself was perfunctory and haphazard. I asked for water but received coffee. I asked for water again and received a meal. I eventually go the water. The meal consisted of a first course consisting of melon, cheese and turkey. The main course was some type of schnitzel, rice and beans. I passed on the schnitzel, it look far too fatty for my diet. There was also some rye bread and cheese and a Polo chocolate bar.
Somewhere over Poland...
The flight was OK
, but nothing special.
We arrived at WAW
at 14:30 and the landing was very very smooth.
Sorry about the camera angle
The Polish Government's aircraft parking area?
My luggage came arrived after a short wait and I was though immigartion and into Poland in next to no time. Overall I was impressed with my first series of overseas flights in economy class in 24 years. I was better than I remembered. In my opinion, SQ
have a well deserved reputation for excellent service and a modern fleet of aircraft that set the standard for IFE. They really could improve the KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at SIN
, but I guess they want to channel as many frequent and premium flyers into KrisFlyer and their other frequent flyer schemes as possible, so it is understandable from their point of view. I can’t understand how the Star Alliance and its members stand for it though.
The next batch of flight from this holiday will be put on A.Net after my next trip to Paris and New York. Happy and safe flying.