Flight 3: SQ319 LHR-SIN 27MAR (FR), 747-400, First Class Seat 3F
STD: 1815 (On Time) STA: 1305 (On Time)
Once I landed and left the gate, I made my way through the surprisingly queue-free immigrations, did not need to collect any baggage, and went to the left luggage counter where my credit card weeped a little as it was swiped for the extortionate charge of GBP32 for storing my bags overnight. Oh well, it was bearable in the context of the exciting trip. Bags on trolley, then I went to the SQ
check-in counter in Zone A.
Zone A is where Virgin have their check-in desks, and also where SQ
recently moved the check-in desks from its previous location somewhere in the middle of the main building which always reminds me why I don’t like LHR
. Thanks to the huge number of intercontinental flights departing from T3
, the queues often spill well outside the check-in zones and into the main corridor of the terminal building, giving it a distinctly third world appearance. Zone A was much more pleasant in comparison, although this may well be because I was the only one crazy enough to be checking in 4 ½ hours before departure.
The check-in agent at the Business Class desk was the first to acknowledge me walking over so I went to her to check in. Check-in was uneventful except that I had to remind the agent to put the priority tags on by bags, otherwise I will be waiting forever at SIN
for my bag which will no doubt be the last bag to come out due to the very early check-in. I also asked about the load for the flight – absolutely full in C and Y, and 7 empty seats in F. Although the Singapore Girls and Boys no doubt cope well even with a full cabin, things are naturally easier when it is less than full, and 5/12 was a pretty light load considering that the previous day’s flight went out 12/12.
With my boarding pass in hand and baggage no longer in my hand, I made my way to the Fast Track security checkpoint which, rather unusually, had very few people waiting. Quite often, Fast Track is a definite misnomer as you can end up waiting just as long as the regular queue.
No need to mention that it was another delightful affair – see above for the tedious procedure which was exactly the same here except they also have a rather ridiculous shoe x-ray. Who comes up with these sorts of arrangements?? Clearly not someone who travels with any sort of regularity…
Without further ado, I made my way to the Virgin Clubhouse which was one of the saving graces of departing from LHR
. After showing my SQ
boarding pass, I was welcomed into the lounge after being reminded that they do not call SQ
Before anything else, I wanted to have a shower first to freshen up so I walked up to the Cowshed reception and asked whether I can use a shower, and also whether I can book a massage before my flight. The receptionist tried to hint that she had no free slots but I managed to convince her that my flight is not departing for another 4 hours so surely she must have a slot somewhere. She told me my neck and shoulder massage will be at 4:15, and told me I can just go into any of the showers to use it.
The shower room was nicely appointed with marble floor and surfaces and a big rainfall shower head. The shower booth was very large – big enough for two, at least
– and doubled as a steam room but I just took a shower fairly quickly and got out, as I was beginning to be very hungry having declined the meal on the previous flight.
After the shower I walked over to the Brasserie area and sat down at one of the tables. A rather cute waiter appeared with a menu very soon, and the selection was quite impressive with a decent range of food and drinks. I didn’t want to stuff myself as I knew I will be eating a full dinner once on the flight, so I chose a few light bites.
Fresh orange juice
Brioche with smoked salmon and scrambled egg
Oriental platter – dim sum and sushi
Half pint of prawns and some marinated seafood
Unfortunately, the quality of the food did not meet the very favourable first impressions from the menu. The smoked salmon on the scrambled egg was sliced far too thinly which made it much less appealing, and the scrambled egg was too firm to be scrambled egg. I had a mental picture of fluffy scrambled egg with large pieces of smoked salmon on top. The oriental platter was also a huge let-down, with one lonely piece of fried dumpling and three pieces of sushi rolls that could barely qualify as sushi in my books. The plate of seafood from the Deli was better, but not great. Overall, the only saving grace of the meal was the very attentive waiter – perhaps I expected too much?
One of the booths in the Brasserie
After the meal, I walked around for a bit, taking photos until it was time for my massage. After signing a rather detailed disclaimer form which made me wonder exactly how badly they were going to beat me up, the masseuse brought me to the z-shaped massage chair and gave me a very good massage over my knotted neck and shoulders for the next 10 minutes. I told her I might just go and cancel my flight now that I can float all the way to Singapore!
Some more photos around the lounge:
The Sky Lounge flooded with natural sunlight
The famous Candy Bar
The Den again
The Poolside Lounge
The Concierge desk
The Cocktail Bar, with the funny bartender who joked "It costs 20 pounds to take a picture of me, you know!" - at least I think he was joking! :p
Various views around the lounge
Overall, the Virgin Clubhouse experience was great. It is by far the best lounge in LHR T3
as far as I know, and probably among the best Business Class lounges around the world. The decor is either cool or pretentious depending on your viewpoint but it’s difficult to refute the fact that it is a nicely appointed lounge with plenty of amenities and facilities. The complimentary massage definitely sets the right tone for the flight and really was great. The only downside was the quality of the food, which really needs to be improved if it is to meet the high standards of rest of the lounge.
My ride to Singapore!
I decided to make my way to the gate early, roughly 45 minutes before scheduled departure time (and therefore 15 minutes before boarding time) in hope of snapping a few nice photos of the aircraft while it is parked. But it turned out I should have listened to the person checking my boarding pass as I entered the gate area – “Sir, you do know you can’t go back out once you come in here?” As soon as I passed the boarding pass machine, I realised I wanted to go back out immediately. Being a completely full 747, the holding area was hopelessly inadequate for the number of people that were waiting there and there were no seats to sit down on. I couldn’t even achieve the purpose of coming to the gate area early, i.e. taking photos of the bird, as there were no windows in the holding area! Talk about a waste of time… I could have been sipping on a nice mojito at the Cocktail Bar still. Arghh!
Trying to make the best out of – quite frankly – the crap prospect of standing around for the next 15 minutes in a massively overcrowded room, I approached one of the SQ
-uniformed gate agents to see whether it would be possible to board a few minutes before everyone else so that I can grab a few photos of the First Class cabin still empty. The gate agent radioed the ground staff in the aircraft and was told I can board, so I proceeded to the aircraft.
Ahh, the familiar scent of the aircraft filled my nose as I stepped onto the aircraft, with the view of the best place on the aircraft coming into my sight to the left. I was very warmly greeted by Kelvin, the Leading Steward (LS) and shown to my seat. I mentioned to him that I boarded a little before everyone else in order to get some photos of the F cabin, and he agreed that it is the best time to take photos.
Views around the cabin
Seat 3F – mine for the next 12 hours
View from seat 1B
One of the two pairs of seats in the middle
The 14-inch LCD
screen which was the biggest in the sky back in 1999 – how times have changed!
View from seat 3F with Kelvin and Jasmin handing out things and storing coats
Always a sign that all is well in the world – a glass of Dom while settling down for departure
Jasmine – the Leading Stewardess (LSS) – followed shortly after to take care of handing out the PJs, amenity kit, newspapers, menu, headphones, and so on. Normally the In-Flight Supervisor (IFS) comes round to introduce himself and welcome everyone but I guess he was busy with something else. After browsing the menu and fancying the lamb instead of my pre-booked lobster, I let Kelvin know that I would prefer to have lobster for breakfast so could he please set it aside for later? No problem
Jasmine took orders for the meal and post-takeoff drink.
I knew as soon as I spoke the first words with Kelvin that it was going to be a great flight. He was very warm, engaging and personable right from the start. Jasmine was a little more reserved, but still very warm and attentive as well. There was also an Inflight Auditor onboard who is responsible for checking everything is in order regarding inflight service, and apparently they are a real source of fear (and, in turn, motivation) for the crew!
Doors closed early at 6:05pm and we pushed away from the gate right on time at 6:15pm. As we were taxiing to the runway, I noticed that the windows next to seat 2A looked very clean whereas my windows were scratched and foggy. After checking with Jasmine, I quickly moved to 2A and noticed the great sunset out of my window.
Soon we took off from 27L and we were up in the air. Video:
Great view of the sunset again once airborne
Soon after reaching cruising altitude, the comforting smell of satay filled the cabin and I started to get hungry. Jasmine came around with the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee that I asked for previously, and the IFS came round with the satay. I always love the Blue Mountain coffee on SQ
F – such a creamy, smooth scent and flavour. The satay was great as well - a mixture of chicken and lamb. The two things tells me I am on an SQ
flight for sure.
The satay disappeared pretty quickly as I was hungry by then. However, the actual meal service didn’t start for 20 or so minutes since they had to heat and prepare all the meals. Here is the menu for the flight:
FROM LONDON TO
SINGAPORE (27 March)
Create your gastronomic experience from our selection of tantalising options
With onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce
Chilled malossol caviar
With melba toast and condiments
Marinated crayfish and avocado tartare tian served with chilled gazpacho
Cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup with procuitto ham and chives
Double-boiled chicken soup with ginseng
Romaine lettuce with bacon, Parmesan cheese, croutons and anchovy-garlic dressing
* Pan roasted lamb saddle, rosemary jus, provencal style courgettes, gratinated potato
Stir-fried beef in hot bean sauce served with asparagus, gingko nut, lotus root and fried rice
Indian style chicken tikka in masala spices with braised lentils, okra and cumin rice
Pan fried pancetta wrapped monkfish served with light mustard sauce, artichoke puree, roasted baby carrots
** Roasted vegetables and ricotta cheese lasagne with tomato coulis and arugula salad
Wwarm apricot frangipane in chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis
Camembert, blackstick blue, st. nectaire washed rind and mullkintyre cheddar served with quince paste, grapes, nuts and cracker
Fresh fruits in season
A selection of gourmet coffees & fine teas served with pralines
* Exclusively created by Gordon Ramsay, London
** Specially prepared meatless selection
light bites FROM LONDON TO SINGAPORE
Should you fancy a little snack or something more substantial, simply make your selection known to our crew, during the flight
Macaroni in light chicken broth garnished with Chinese greens and sliced chicken
Assorted savoury finger sandwiches
Roasted vegetables and hummus wrap
Cashew, almond or macadamia nuts
Assorted walkers biscuit
A selection from the fruit basket
Assorted cheeses with garnishes
before touch down FROM LONDON TO SINGAPORE
As your destination nears, refresh your senses with our delightful culinary treats
TO START WITH
A choice of apple, tomato or freshly squeezed orange
Fresh fruit plate
Choice of cereals or yoghurt
Cornflakes or granola with milk
Plain or fruit yoghurt
Thai style rice porridge with sliced pork and pork meatball, fried garlic and pickled vegetable
Wok fried rice noodle topped with braised prawn and scallop, leafy greens and mushroom
Bubble and squeak
Pan fried leek, green cabbage and mashed potato served with poached egg, pork sausage and steamed asparagus
Fresh eggs prepared on-board (baked, boiled or scrambled)
With your choice of grilled ham, smoked salmon, vine ripened tomato, mushrooms and toasted muffin
FROM THE BAKERY
Assorted breakfast pastries and bread with butter, jam, marmalade or honey
A selection of gourmet coffees & fine teas
Krug Grande Cuvee
Dom Perignon 2000
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Beaune du Chateau Premier Cru 2006 Bouchard Pere et Fils
Chateau Cos d’Estournel 1999 Saint-Estephe
Mr Riggs The Gaffer Shiraz 2005 McLaren Vale, Australia
Dow’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal
Another veritable feast in the air. As I normally prefer on SQ
, I chose both the Caviar and the crayfish, skipped the salad and the soup, chose the lamb for the main, plus the dessert, but not fruits or cheese. If I ate every single course I would just pop – I don’t know how some people manage to finish every course! Anyway, the photos:
The table setting for the meal. Notice the new tableware that is used on the 77W and Suites and now progressively introduced to the rest of the fleet.
Then the IFS brought the crayfish starter, which I took with a glass of the Burgundy White. I had the caviar as well (which was great, but no cream with the other condiments! Also, I prefer blinis over melba toast) but forgot to take a picture before I wolfed it down. The crayfish was very chunky and had a great texture. Avocado and gazpacho both worked together well with the crayfish. Quite a rich flavour but still felt light in the mouth. The white wine was fantastic.
After the plate was cleared, I asked for a glass of the Cos d’Estournel for the lamb dish that was coming shortly. It needed plenty of time to open up but once it did, the wine lived up to the hype – quite wonderful.
The lamb arrived soon after and – wow. Must be something about SQ
and lamb dishes! The lamb was cooked through yet still extremely tender. The flavour was just right, and there was the perfect amount of fat around the meat for my liking. The accompanying potato was great (though probably difficult to make a hack job of gratinated potato!) and the vegetables were also good. It all worked very well together. Previously I’ve tried the Rack of Lamb twice on SQ
F and each time it was stunning as well.
After the lamb was finished, I had to take a break as I was beginning to feel like the Michelin man. So, for 20 minutes I just had some wine and waited for my stomach to settle a bit before continuing with the dessert. We were flying towards Warsaw by this point
I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I looked at the photo afterwards I realised that the dessert was plated to look like a smiley face! Although I must say, it looks a bit scary with the raspberry coulis being red – like a clown gone horribly wrong. Anyway the thought was there!
As expected, the quality of the dessert didn’t quite match the rest of the meal – it’s usually too simple, and almost always comes with vanilla ice cream which is fine, but I would really expect something a bit more special considering the high standards for the other courses. The tart was good, although the apricots were a little too sweet - and it did go nicely with the ice cream. But I do wish it was a more elaborate affair such as a proper cake.
Having finished the meal and feeling stuffed like the Christmas turkey, there was only one thing to do – sleep! As seat 3D was free (well, more than half the cabin was free in reality) I asked Jasmine to turn 3D into a bed. Meanwhile, Kelvin came and asked me for my camera – before door close, I asked him whether it would be possible for me to go to the cockpit to take a few photos, and he told me I can’t do that but he will ask the Captain’s permission to take my camera up and take photos for me. However, the 3 days of non-sleeping caught up with me again and before Kelvin came back, I promptly fell asleep in the bed – I hope Kelvin didn’t think I was being rude!
I woke up roughly 4 ½ hours later, and found my camera in my seat complete with some nice pictures from the cockpit:
And some pictures of the bed:
I took a walk around the aircraft, noticing just how full to the brim it was in Business and Economy. Every single seat was filled – apparently even the relief pilot rest seat in the Upper Deck was sold to a paying passenger. I had a nice chat with a Flight Stewardess in the upper deck and came back downstairs to my seat, but snapping a few pictures first:
A photo of the wing
The registration of today’s aircraft: 9V
My seat in reclined position
Since I managed to fall asleep straight after my meal, I wanted to chat to Kelvin as he had to prepare the cabin for takeoff when we were talking earlier on the ground. However, he had gone on his rest break and only Jasmine was there, and she seemed a little reserved as mentioned before so I went back to my seat and started watching Quantum of Solace, with a cup of the Blue Mountain.
By the time the film had finished, we were almost near Bangkok:
During this time, Kelvin had come back from his rest break in preparation for the second meal service and I chatted with him about how much I loved the F cabin on the 747 and how much I’ll miss it. I asked whether he also works on the A380 and he told me he was not yet trained for the A380 so he will be flying the 747 and 777 until they phase out enough of those aircraft for him to be trained on the A380. While I was still in the galley, I asked whether I can buy a model of the 77W to expand my collection at home and Jasmine went to bring one for me from the duty free cart further back.
After paying for the aircraft model and going back to my seat, I asked for a cup of the Blue Mountain coffee again and also some macadamia nuts – but Jasmine came back and told me unfortunately macadamias were not loaded, would I mind perhaps having some honey coated walnuts instead? I just wanted some nibbles so I said yes to the walnuts, and it was brought with the coffee. Wonderful coffee – must remember to buy some for home!
We were a shade under two hours away from Singapore when the lights were switched on and window shades were pulled up. The rest of the cabin (well, the other four passengers in First Class) started waking up for the second meal service as well. It was a very sunny sky outside and looked to be a really hot day in Singapore.
Kelvin brought me a Comments form and asked whether I would mind filling it out, including the good and bad points. Since it was such a fantastic flight, I took this opportunity to set out how much I enjoyed the flight and in particular the service from Kelvin, and suggested improving their dessert course. (Note: I received a personalised email three days after the arrival of the flight, thanking me for the comments and addressing the points raised)
Orders were taken for the meal and the table was set once again with the charger and cutlery. I opted to have just the fruit plate and my Lobster Thermidor, as I knew the lobster is quite a full-on type of dish and I didn’t want to overeat for the second time.
And then the fruit plate was brought out. Each fruit tasted fresh and sweet, and it was the perfect way to refresh my palate and get my stomach going again.
Then, the lobster came out. Oh my god. I’ve rarely seen a lobster this big on the ground, let alone in the air! Even Kelvin commented that it’s the biggest lobster he’s ever plated, which is saying something! It was huge – the shell must have been at least 5 inches wide, and it was filled to the brim with huge chunks of lobster meat that were around 4cm in diameter – there were at least 15 pieces of those huge chunks inside the shell. And the huge claw at the front as well. I was in lobster heaven in the most unexpected of places.
Another picture to show you how full of meat the lobster was
It was cooked in a relatively light cream sauce and there were no mushrooms as there usually is (good). The rice and asparagus was great with the sauce. The lobster meat was very fresh and succulent. I bet it would cost a fair whack to pay for this size and quality on the ground. Simply an amazing dish – having seen other pictures of the lobster thermidor on SQ
F, I know I really struck jackpot with mine. As you would expect, I was totally full after that monster of a lobster even though I skipped other courses and also didn’t have any bread.
After everything was cleared away, we were flying over Malaysia and fast approaching landing time… Arghh. This was one of those flights that you wish it would never finish.
I started to get ready for the landing by packing my bags again and tidying up around my seat. Before the seatbelt sign came on, I moved to seat 2A again in order to take the video through a clean window. Plenty of ships going to/from Singapore as usual:
Video of landing
We reached the gate on time at 1450 and I looked around the cabin once more to take in the view. Sure, there will be bigger and better products in the future, no doubt. There already are very nice looking F products on airlines like CX
. But for me personally, the SQ
747 represents my teenage flying fantasy, leaving such a strong impression on me 10 years ago that it still has the wow factor even today when other airlines have launched much more impressive looking seats. The location in the nose of the 747 is unmatched in its atmosphere and tranquillity, the seat design thoughtful and elegant, and the crew as graceful and perfectionist as ever. It really is about as good as it gets, for me. Although it’s somewhat unlikely that I will fly the SQ
747 before its retirement, I will not be forgetting that view for a very long time.
to follow shortly)
[Edited 2009-04-05 16:52:49]