A thrilling vacation to a relaxing place
This trip report will cover the following flights on board Singapore Airlines SQ and Silk Air MI in Economy Class.
1) Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN) to Singapore Changi (SIN)
2) Singapore Changi (SIN) to Phuket (HKT)
This time we were heading to Phuket for the Phuket Marathon. First time going to Phuket, first time participating in a marathon and first time travelling on Silk Air (MI). The decision to make the trip was made about two weeks beforehand, so we were rushing to buy tickets, make hotel reservations etc. Unfortunately at the same time the violent protests in Bangkok was on going, but luckily for us that meant cheaper flights and hotel accommodation in Phuket. Usually the prices for a roundtrip ticket between BWN – SIN – HKT would’ve been around $800, but we got it for $610.
Booking the tickets were pretty easy and straightforward done by my travel agent. There are plenty of options to fly to Phuket from Brunei, but my preference was to fly onboard a Star Alliance airline. The other choice was TG but TG fares were much more expensive than SQ.
Some photos might be missing, since some of them I took with my phone, and someone took my phone on my return flight! Check-in
The flight was at 1800, so we arrived around 1630, slightly late due to rush hour. When we arrived at the SQ counters, I was surprised that First Class was offered on this flight! SQ had the whole row to themselves, about 4 counters for Economy, 2 for internet check in and one each for F and J. Funny enough, I tried to check in via the internet beforehand but was told that internet check in wasn’t available for BWN.
SQ operates 5x weekly to BWN, with flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays operated by B777-200ER, while the rest are operated by Silk Air.
After a few minutes of waiting it was then our turn. Everything seemed fine at first, but then after noticing that it was taking 3 people including the manager to check us in, I knew there was something wrong. We were then told that the system made double bookings for us! So that meant they had to cancel us off the passenger list, and then re-enter us. It was kind of like cancelling our reservation, and then making a whole new booking for us. The check in lady was starting to blow off steam so the manager took over and then it was all smiles, and he assured us that we will be getting on that flight as there are plenty of seats left. After nearly 45 minutes, we were issued our boarding passes, and by this time we were the very last at the counters.
By then boarding call was announced so there was no time to visit the lounge or toilet, as SQ is usually very strict with late boarding.
Boarding & Onboard
Gate was G1, and the post-immigration side was pretty busy as 5pm onwards is the peak hour for BWN, considering BWN is a pretty small airport. They didn’t use the boarding/ holding room so we were all waiting in a cramped area post-boarding security check as they thought the flight would be on time, but the incoming plane was delayed so we waited. Boarding was announced according to priority, so PPS/First class passengers were the first to board. My seat was at the very back of the plane so we were the first to board as well.
We were welcomed by the smiling purser of the flight and her colleagues and by 1755 I was onboard.
“Good evening sir, and welcome onboard. Sorry for the delay.”
Date : 9th June 2010
Flight : SQ181
Airline : SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Origin: Bandar Seri Begawan International Airport (BWN)
Destination: Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN)
Distance: 790 miles
Scheduled Dep. Time (Actual Dep. Time): 1800 (1820)
Scheduled Arr. Time (Actual Arr. Time): 2010 (1955)
Class : Economy Class
Load: F - (4/12), J – (15/42), Y – (185/234)
Aircraft Reg.: 9V-SQG
Condition: Aircraft was delivered in June 1999
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
The aircraft was almost 11 years old, and you could clearly see the old and worn blue-purple interior plus the tiny PTV screens.
As old and worn the seats are, they were very comfortable and plush. Although this flight is equipped with PTV, there is no AVOD system. Good thing this flight will only take about two hours. One thing I immediately noticed was the very generous leg room and also the decent recline despite sitting in the very last row.
At 1810 doors were closed, followed by a welcome announcement by the purser, introducing us to the cabin crew of this two hour flight to Singapore Changi International Airport.
Ten minutes later we were already taxiing fast heading to runway 21. As the engines spooled up down the runway, I was savoring the deep raw sound of the Trents, and enjoying the start of a fun and thrilling vacation.
As soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, the crew started preparing for the meal services. While waiting, I decided to explore the decade old IFE system. Despite being ancient-old technology, the movies and tv shows on offer were of the latest and I started enjoying my favourite tv show, Top Gear!
Meals offered were roasted chicken with potatoes, or curry mutton with rice. I opted for the roasted chicken and they were definitely delicious! Singapore Airlines always never disappoint with their onboard offerings.
Every seat was equipped with footrest, but mine was stuck in the middle. The IFE box was also noticeably quite large, so that took about half of my leg room. One thing that I noticed with the crew was they were all very professional, but seemed a bit to robotic, with little or no personal interaction. This was strangely un-Singaporean if you get what I mean.
Fifteen minutes later the captain announced that we will be starting descent soon into Singapore and that we would be slightly ahead of schedule.
At exactly 1945 we touched down Singapore Changi, and welcomed by the purser. The captain immediately came on the PA and told us that we would have a long taxi since we were to dock at Terminal 3 instead of the usual Terminal 2.
Ten minutes later we docked at T3, engines turned off and seatbelt signs switched off.
We had a one night layover till our flight to Phuket the next afternoon so we stayed at Royal Plaza On Scotts for the night in town.
The experience on board Singapore Airlines usually is an unforgettable/excellent experience, even in Economy but on this particular flight, they were just average. With the aircraft and products on board available, I think the regional B777s will be retro fitted soon so my next experience on board a regional flight with SQ should be good. What happened with the booking was certainly unexpected, and of course happened due to the staff or the booking system and certainly shouldn’t happen again. We were lucky the flight wasn’t 100% full.
Booking System & Call Centre 5/10
Flight Punctuality 6/10
Total Score = 65%
Flight to Phuket
Our flight to Phuket was scheduled to depart at 1625 the next day, so we left our hotel around 1400. Silk Air MI departs from Terminal 2, and at check in row 11 but our taxi driver dropped us off at check in row 3! So we had to walk all the way across the building, and it felt like walking a mile! SIN being MI’s hub, internet check in should be no problem. But I tried checking in online, again the same message came up telling me that internet check in isn’t available for this flight. But no problem as there were about 8 counters for Economy and the queue was moving smoothly.
Singapore Airlines code shares with Silk Air to all destinations, and Silk Air operates 4 flights every day to Phuket.
This time there were no check in trouble or drama so were at the airside within minutes.
Boarding & Onboard
After exploring Terminal 2 and 3, boarding call was announced one hour before scheduled departure time. When the actual boarding call was announced, I swear I heard “We welcome Business Class and PPS illegal members onboard”. Illegal??
By 1600 we were all on board.
“Good afternoon sir and welcome onboard.”
Date : 10th June 2010
Flight : SQ5056/ MI756
Airline : SILK AIR
Origin: Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN)
Destination: Phuket Airport (HKT)
Distance: 610 miles
Scheduled Dep. Time (Actual Dep. Time): 1425 (1415)
Scheduled Arr. Time (Actual Arr. Time): 1710 (1655)
Class : Economy Class
Load: J – (5/12), Y – (110/132)
Aircraft Reg.: 9V-SLI
Condition: Aircraft was delivered in May 2006
Photo © M Radzi Desa
Walking very slowly past J class due to human traffic jam, the aqua-green colour onboard somehow reminded me of all the gorgeous coral reefs around the world.
Around 1610 doors were closed and since my seat was at the last row, I could hear the cabin crew going “Yay we’re way ahead of time!”.
Little did I realize we were already lining up on the runway, and soon the tiny engines powered up. Tiny, compared to yesterday’s Trents
The aircraft was still in their original cabin configuration, so it was those old big rectangular seats that when you sit on them, you sort of sink into the seats. So yes, they were definitely very comfortable!
As you can see even the leg room was generous. Okay I tried to rotate the photo but didn't want to save...
There are no PTV screens but instead the IFE were the LCD screens lowered down from the ceiling. They were showing episodes of Just For Laughs, but I noticed there were no ports or plugs were you can plug in your headsets!
The reading materials onboard consists of the in-flight magazine, in-flight catalogue and the safety card.
The cabin crew were very friendly, especially Nur. After seat belt signs were switched off, I asked her what the plane’s registration is as I couldn’t see it before.
Me: “Excuse me, what’s the registration of this plane?”
5 minutes later she came back to my seat and asked
Nur: “Why did you ask earlier on?”
Me: “Oh, I’m an aviation fan and I record planes that I ride in.”
Then she immediately asked
Nur: “Airliners.net sir?”
Me: “YES! ”
I guess we’re that famous guys
Soon meal service began and we were offered roasted chicken or penne pasta. I opted for the roasted chicken, and again they were deeeeelicious. Meals were much simpler than SQ, as in no appetizers or cakes offered. Didn't really mind though, since main course was good!
Not long after meal service concluded, captain announced that descent into Phuket will start soon and you could already see the gorgeous islands down below!
Touchdown was around 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and 5 minutes later we were docked and engines turned off.
The Aussies on board Virgin Australia beat us to it so there were looooong queues at the immigration counters and the officers weren’t that upbeat about it either…
The flight on board Silk Air was much more pleasant and enjoyable than the flight I had the previous day with SQ. Check-in was straight forward, boarding was swift and despite the aircraft being in the old configuration and IFE wasn’t available (no headsets), it was the service offered by the crew that made a whole lot different.
Booking System & Call Centre 7/10
Flight Punctuality 10/10
Total Score = 76%
Part Two will come shortly, with more drama