This is my first attempt at a TR so any and all comments constructive and otherwise is welcomed
Winter had arrived and so had the time for my family's annual trip to India. Only this time, I was combining a business trip in Bangalore, Hong Kong & back home in San Francisco in between vacation time. Having done my due diligence, I decided to use a two-fold approach to ticketing this rather complicated routing. First off, I purchased my personal trip routing from SFO-MAA-SFO on SQ J. I then contacted SQ Singapore and was able to secure the special RTW F fare ex SIN for my business trip. then had to add the intra-Asia flights seperately. Final routing was as follows : SFO-SIN-MAA-SIN-HKG-SIN-FRA-JFK-SFO-HKG-SIN-MAA in a mixture of J and F
Due to me laziness on my part I am reviewing only the MAA-SIN-HKG-FRA-JFK portion of this itinerary. More to come on the other sectors later.
You can view all the pictures (in chronological order) here :
Flight # 1 : MAA-SIN (SQ 529)
Date : 1st January 2011
Leaving my family to enjoy the start of the festive season in India, I made my way to the bustling Chennai airport. Knowing there was construction going on, I made sure to be at the airport well before the usual 3 hour time slot. I must say that the experience at MAA has improved considerably. Granted it is still an old airport, but it's been revamped and now seems a lot roomier. Things just seem to flow a lot better than they used to!
Check-in was a breeze as I was the first passenger in J to be at the airport. Bags were tagged all the way to HKG and hand baggage tags issued. For those travelling through Chennai, be advised that the hand bag tags are as important as your boarding pass. Airport security uses these tags to stamp security clearance. If you do not have a tag they will make you go all the way down to get one! An invitation was provided to the Taj lounge. SQ routinely switches between 2 lounges in MAA - the Taj one and the Le Meridien one. I always prefer the Taj since it has free wifi!! Off I went past passport control and to the lounge.
After a rather extended and uneventful stay at the Taj lounge, I made my way through security and to the boarding area. This is the worst part of MAA - several flights depart at the same time and the boarding area is woefully small, leading to stand only room for a lot of people.
Boarding was soon called and I was onboard with minimal delay. I totally enjoy the J class seats in the retrofitted SQ 777 on these regional flights. The seat is VERY comfortable and while it doesn't go fully flat it's at a perfect angle for a good night's sleep (kind of prefer these to the old Space bed seats!). You can also position the seat in multiple ways for that perfect posture.
Load was around 75% that night but the seat next to me was empty. Pre-departure drinks were offered along with the usual scented towelettes. Service was on-par with what one would expect from SQ. Supper service was efficient and the indian vegetarian choice was quite appealing. By time supper service concluded and I was through watching 1.5 movies, we began our descent to SIN.
Flight # 2 : SIN-HKG (SQ 856)
Date : January 2nd 2011
After a relaxing 4 hours at the SK lounge in T3, I was ready for my first encounter with the A380. I proceeded to Gate A2 only to find it was chock-full! The true size of the A380 hit me finally - all these people were going to be on board. Boarding was announced and there was a 10 minute delay before I could get through to the aerobridge - courtesy of long lines in J.
My first impression of the A380 - Cavernous!! It seemed like was stepping into a huge room with rows of seats. Truly enormous! I am used to the narrow upper deck of the 747, but the A380 seemed spacious and luxurious! The curvature of the plane did seem to make the fish bowl windows curve a bit but it was not as pronounced as it is on the 747. No real surprise with the seat as it's an exact replica of the 77W one that I am used to. Service was top class with the cabin crew making sure everyone was well fed and drunk
A short 3+ hours found us making our descent and approach into HKG. It was a murky day with low level clouds. We broke cloud cover only around 4-5k feet and touched down shortly thereafter.
Flight # 3: SIN-FRA (SQ 326)
Date : January 6th 2011
Readers will have to excuse my frog leaping here. I did fly back on SQ 1 from HKG to SIN, but didn't take any pictures of note on that flight. Thus let me move on to what is perhaps my best experience with SQ thus far - the flight from SIN to FRA. This began my RTW portion of my travels on F. Disembarking from SQ 1, I made my way to the Private Room where I was treated to some gastronomic delights. SQ is distinguished in providing such upscale environs to its F class passengers - it almost felt like being in a posh club vs an airport lounge.
A ground staff approached me 5 minutes prior to boarding time and asked if I was ready to proceed to the gate. I picked up my bags and was escorted out of the Private Room. As I prepared to thank the staff for their hospitality and start my walk to the gate, she pointed me to a waiting buggy. "Sir, please allow us to take you to the gate" - she said. Happily seated in the buggy I was whisked off to the waiting 77W. I realized it would have been a good 10-12 minute walk so was glad for the ride! Gate was almost completely empty when I reached and I was rushed through security and onto the waiting aircraft.
As I walked into the F class section the purser and the lead flight stewardess were waiting for me. Addressing me by name one of them took my bags and the other escorted me to the seat. Once I was in my allotted seat the leading stewardess smiled and said "Cabin is all yours today sir - feel free to use any seat you like" - now, that's a real treat! That was the beginning of a remarkable 12hr and 15 mins where I had the full attention of 2 flight attendants. Service was spectacular to say the least. I was offered the usual Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits an PJ's. I was even given an extra one I just had to tilt my head toward the galley and the stewardess would pop out to ask me if I needed anything - wonder how they do that !
All in all it was a spectacular flight and while the hardware is not wildly different from J - I could make out the service difference - F is a class of its own!!
At this point, I'd like to narrate an incident that truly illustrates the quality of service SQ provides to its customers. Initially, I was planning on continuing to JFK the very next morning upon my arrival into FRA. Hence my luggage was through checked to JFK all the way from HKG. However, mid way through flight I decided to spend a day in FRA. I asked the lead stewardess if they could off-load my bags in FRA. She smiled and said ofcourse. She asked me when I wanted to proceed onto JFK and took down my booking reference number. 30 minutes later she was back to inform me that a message had been sent to FRA and that someone would be waiting for me to help me with my bags and change of flight.
True to her word, there was a meet and greet agent waiting for me at FRA upon disembarkation. She requested for my baggage tags, directed me to the baggage claim area and asked me to wait on the side whilst she made the necessary arrangements. As I waited she paged the lead baggage handler read out the claim tag numbers and asked him to pull these bags out of the transit containers. In the meantime she unchecked me from the next day morning flight and rebooked me a day later out of FRA. My bags arrived and I was out to the airport hotel all in a matter of 25 minutes upon arrival. Take a bow SQ!!
Flight # 3 : FRA-JFK (SQ 26)
Date : January 8 2011
After a day in Frankfurt I was ready to cross the smaller pond. Staying at the FRA Sheraton was helpful which meant I could saunter to the check-in area within 10 minutes. Check-in was efficient, though I was disappointed that they had minimal ground staff that day therefore J and F customers had to share 1 check in counter. After a bit of waiting I was finally checked in.
I made my way to the LH F lounge and I realized it would be an effort to get back - for some reason the LH F lounge is situated at an area in the terminal where you have to cross through one security check and upon leaving the F lounge and making your way to the main terminal you technically go "out of security" hence have to go through one more security check to get to the SQ gate. Oh well - thankfully I had enough time to make it to the gate in time for boarding. I must say that the ground experience at FRA was found wanting. The boarding areas are small and do not have sufficient seats to house a full 747 flight.
Boarding for F was called and I was one of the first on the aircraft. Much to my surprise the entire F crew were the exact same crew that were on my SIN-FRA flight 2 days ago! Suffice it to say that the service was above excellent. I truly enjoyed the old Sky Suites - infact it felt a bit more comfortable than the new F seats - albeit a bit narrower. Apart from a 1 hour delay due to de-icing procedures at FRA, the flight was unremarkable and food was superb!
All in all I landed in JFK totally refreshed and ready for the penultimate leg of my RTW journey : JFK-SFO on United PS F class! But that will be another day and another trip report!
In a future TR : JFK-SFO & SFO-HKG-SIN-MAA in F
Thanks for reading everyone!