Flight #333: Singapore Airlines_CDG-SIN
Equipment: Airbus A380
Actual flight time: 11:55
Load in Suites: No Idea
Load in J: 80%
Load in Y: No Idea
I had arrived from JFK on AF (at 6am) and took a taxi to the Hilton to have some tea and croissants prior to taking the shuttle over to Terminal 1 check-in for Singapore Airlines (SQ).
I arrived at the visually unappealing terminal 1 that is home to Singapore Airlines and its A380 at CDG. Rather then going straight to check in, I figured just for the heck of it I would speak to the LH ticket counter (the ticket counter that handles SQ’s ticketing duties at CDG) to inquire as to the cost of upgrading to Suites. Expecting something along the lines of $4-5k, I was surprised when I was informed very encouragingly (as though it were “reasonable”) that the one way cost to upgrade to suites was $12,800. I thanked the ticket agent but of course had to decline the offer, as much of a bargain as it may have been.
By 9:15am I was checked in and was in the SQ Business Class lounge located about 10 minutes from the gate itself. The lounge is a star alliance sponsored lounge and is not an actual SKL.
The lounge was nice enough, but being downstairs had a sort of dungeon feel to it. For the flight, I had pre-reserved seat 12A, which is upstairs and in the forward business class cabin, which is smaller and a bit quieter then the aft business cabin. Note: The seat is the first with a window (the first seat (11) DOES NOT have a window). Boarding began on-time and because SQ uses these particular gates at CDG (rather then the new A380 dedicated gates at the new terminal E (ill get to this later)), boarding cannot occur directly to the upper deck. Rather, one is fortunate enough to get a brief view of Suites as J boards through the front door. The one disadvantage however is that all of the coach passengers seated in rear of the upperdeck have to walk by Business. This resulted in many stopping to take pictures, look at the plane, etc, which never really bothers me however I did see one woman sit in another persons seat in order to take a picture (she was holding a green economy class boarding pass) and I felt this was in poor taste.
Picture of the Girl:
SQ went through the usual formalities; pre departure drinks, warm towels, eye shades and slippers. Since no BTC (Book The Book) option was offered CDG-SIN, I settled for the pork stir-fry option, which I politely informed the FA of as she came by just before push back. We departed on-time under the watchful eye of pretty much every single employee at CDG. It still amazes me that after 2 years, everyone in viewing distance seems to stop what they are doing to watch the A380. Even as we went by the adjacent terminals, flashbulbs could be seen through the window panes. Like children at an ice-cream shop, adults pressed their faces and their cameras up to the glass in hopes of getting that perfect photo of the A380.
Takeoff was to the east today. Now, I have read time and time again about people reporting how unbelievably quiet the takeoff is, so I was expecting nothing less. Perhaps it was because of this expectation that I was not overly impressed by how “quiet” the takeoff was. Personally I enjoy loud take offs, when you can actually here the thousands of pounds of thrust working to lift you off the ground, so it didn’t bother me, but honestly it was not THAT quiet. As we headed up into the sky, I began to take notice of the cabin itself. The luxury of the business class on this plane is really exacerbated when one takes into account the seating layout, which is 1-2-1 on an aircraft so wide that coach is 3-4-3. The business seat is wide enough that if I had a twin, the two of us could comfortable sit next to one another. Another aspect of the cabin worth noting is the small size of the overhead bins. My 21 inch suitcase, a suitcase which fits comfortably into the overhead bins of MD-88’s, would not fit into the bins above my seat and thus was taken to a cabinet by one of the FA’s. Further, in a traditional SQ move to make the cabin feel more spacious, there are no bins on the middle sections, so all passengers must use the smaller bins on the sides.
Seat and Cabin photos:
(My Seat, 12A)
The mood lighting does add a nice soothing effect; however SQ was certainly having a difficulty getting it down right today. There were multiple “cycles” of light; it was as thought the sun was setting and rising 5 times in 3 minutes. About 35 minutes into the flight, the first meal service began. Rather then go into detail, I will tell you it was delicious as usual, and provide some pictures.
At the completion of the meal and with the assistance of my good friend Ambien, I put the bed down and set off for a few hours of sleep. As is typical on Asian carriers, the cabin is kept quite warm. Today’s flight was no exception and I awoke a few times from the warmth and was never really able to use the blanket. The bed was fairly comfortable, albeit a bit bumpy in places. I probably would have slept for longer had it not been for the temperature. I awoke about 4 hours prior to landing and was unable to get back to sleep, so I decided to watch a few movies on the very good Kris World entertainment system. I stayed awake until breakfast began, where I chose the pancakes, which were also quite good. The remainder of the flight was uneventful and we touched down at SIN a few minutes early, ending another good flight on Singapore Airlines and first on the A380.
My only major complaint on this trip with SQ was that only one of the FA’s referred to me by name. Negating whatever arrogance you may or may not feel this represents (I can assure you that is not my intent), we all know that it is a nice gesture by FA’s to refer to you by your name as a paying premium passenger. In all my flights with SQ, this is the first flight I can remember them not doing this.
Flight #334: Singapore Airlines_SIN-CDG
Equipment: Airbus A380
Actual flight time: 13:11
Load in Suites: No Idea
Load in J: 95%
Load in Y: No Idea
For the return flight, we were delayed departing SIN by almost 2 full hours due to awaiting “18 passengers from the SYD flight” as it was put by SKL lounge staff. This was okay with me as it gave me more time to enjoy the lounge after my inbound from DPS. The flight from SIN-CDG would of course be longer however that was not the only difference from the first SQ leg. The FA’s on this route were much, much better. Not only in referring to everyone by name, but they seemed overall much less methodical then the first crew. They were always smiling, always around, and seemed to have that typical SQ attitude of always wanting to better your experience. I had pre-ordered the lobster thermadore as my BTC meal on this leg, and was disappointed by its size, which did give me a good chuckles as I remember the size of the lobster I received in SQ F back in February. I guess I now know the difference between a lobster in J and F! It was tasty nonetheless.
The flight was fairly uneventful and we arrived into CDG quite late this morning. One major thing of note was that for the first time in my life, in 11 SQ flights, the cabin actually became cold! Yes, it can happen!
Air France A380
Flight #006: Air France_CDG-JFK
Equipment: Airbus A380
Actual flight time: 7:52
Load in First: 2/9
Load in J: 58/80
Load in Y: “Nearly Full”
I had pre-selected seat 62E on AF’s A380, which is a left-side favoring Business Class seat on the 2-2-2 configured upper deck. I originally had 61A, but the check in agent promised to block the seat next to me if I wanted to switch to 62E. Needless to say I went ahead and made the switch. Nothing of note in the Terminal E Air France Salon lounge and after a shower I was off to the gate.
AF A380 at Gate; Registration: JA:
Boarding was absolute chaos today. As it was only the 3rd departure from CDG for the AF A380, I had expected something similar. There were AF employees running around with signs of who goes where, babies crying, J passengers barking at the gate agents. It sort of resembled a scene out of dazed and confused; there was a whole lot of something going on, but nobody really knew what it was. Boarding finally began about 30 minutes late and I really enjoyed the ease of using one of the brand new dedicated A380 gates in terminal E. The best part is the approach to the plane itself, which for business class passengers is made through a down sloping jet-way lined with floor to ceiling windows that provides a fantastic view of the plane you are stepping onto. Once on board, it was immediately apparent that while the plane was brand spanking new, the Business Class was actually a step backwards.
AF A380 Business Cabin:
The new seats are bad; just awful. For those that are familiar with the AF 77W J seats, imagine making those narrower, taking away storage space, and bringing the seat in front of you 2 feet closer. Ill sum it up in list form:
Pros of business class seats on A380:
-Touchscreen IFE (and larger ones)
-New remote control
-Table is very sturdy
-Seat seems to respond much better to commands and works together as one unit
-Overall cushion feels softer and more comfortable
-Inclusion of the “foot flat” on the end of the seats
-Much more narrow, both in the seat portion and in the leg room. Absolutely awful (im 6’0).
-Too little storage space
-The seat in front of you has now been brought in so tight that if I try and put my foot on it, my knee is almost completely bent at 90 degrees. From a seated and full upright position I can almost touch the seat in front of me with my hand. Unacceptable for long haul J IMO.
-It is now IMPOSSIBLE to get out if at the window with both seats reclined. Because the new seat frame pulls forward with the recline, it makes the gap between the structure and the proceeding seat about 10 inches.
-Did I mention the narrowness? The seats of course still “leans” but Im not really complaining as that’s not an A380 specific issue.
-Recline noise is very, very loud. Enough to disturb others without headphones on.
Other things of note:
-3 different exterior camera angels
-Storage bins along the windows much like on SQ
-As it was this crew’s first trip out, they did not quite have the service figured out yet and consequently it took forever to get plates cleared and to serve the next course. It appeared they ran through both cabins before coming through again to pick up dishes. This might work on a 777 or A330/340, but not on a A380 with such a large business cabin to serve.
-The F cabin looks very nice and very spread out, better then on the 777.
-The overhead bins are HUGE. Absolutely the largest overhead bins on any aircraft I have ever been on, whether A340, 777, even other companies A380’s. The bins on the Air France A380 are enormous in comparison.
With all that behind us, the flight itself began much like the boarding process; delayed and confused. Wrong automated announcements were going off, bells, alarms, etc. I was expecting to be accidentally ejected at any point. It was sort of fun however with everyone running around taking pictures and overall being overwhelmed by the new aircraft. It goes without saying that everyone at AF is very proud of their A380. The smiling faces of all the employees working on board were a testament to this. As we departed the captain did make a special announcement saying it was his first AF A380 flight and it was “one of AF’s first A380 flights.”
The strangest part of the plane is the mini Louvre art exhibit that acts as sort of a standing lounge at the very front of the business class cabin adjacent to the stairs down to First. Throughout the flight, different pieces of art were scrolled across the screens. Throughout the flight FA’s kept bringing coach passengers up to see the art exhibit, which was clearly bothering some of the business passengers as flash bulbs routinely lit up the cabin. I suspect this is more a component of the new aircraft and is sure to subside in the coming months of normal operations. Take off was almost an hour late due to “paperwork”, although I was skeptical about this justification as I literally saw 10 Airbus technicians in the cockpit prior to departure. The flight itself was uneventful. When we touched down in JFK, it took the Jet Bridge operators 20 minutes, yes 20 minutes, from the time we pulled into the gate to get the upper jet bridge attached. By the time I was off the plane, nearly half the plane was already waiting in line for immigration. Fortunately, as is often the case for internationally based airlines, the majority of people were headed for the foreign visitors line. Below are some photos.
Mini-art show area:
Landing in JFK
And with that, I have just passed 201,000 BIS fMiles Flown for 2009 and counting!
Happy Holidays and safe travels to all!