“Singapore Airlines will be operating its last Boeing 747 flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on 6 April 2012. Tickets are on sale on singaporeair.com now”. This was what I have been waiting for – A seat on the very last Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 flight. Upon receiving the news, I had been tracking the prices on the web and receiving updates on any price changes via fellow a.netter yapple who is also looking forward to the flight.
As fate would have it, the flight was sort of “sold out” when I wanted to book. A friend of mine let me know that he could use his miles to redeem a Business Class ticket for me instead of having me fly in Economy. I gladly accepted the offer at first, but decided to forgo it as I did not want to owe him a favour. Henceforth, already having a mood to visit Hong Kong, I had to look for a way to go there. Remembering that Shantou’s new airport, Jieyang Chaoshan Airport has just opened on 15 December 2011, I decided that it is time for me to visit the new airport and (probably) make an a.net first report on that airport.
The old airport was showing its age. It was dark and dim inside. There was no wi-fi. There was only 1 mini eatery available seeing super overpriced drinks and food. Shantou is in desperate need of a new airport. Thankfully, Jieyang Chaoshan Airport was established and further opened up the capacity to my small hometown city. Besides Shantou, Jieyang Chaoshan Airport also serves the neighbouring cities of Jieyang and Chaozhou (hence the name Chaoshan, the name used to describe the cities in the area, akin to Pearl River Delta). The Chaoshan area is not a very well off area compared to the likes of other big cities. In 2011, Shantou had seen 1.9m passengers passing through the old Shantou Waisha Airport and the new Jieyang Chaoshan Airport. Ranked the 50th busiest airport in China, it is certainly something that most people would have overlooked, or not even heard of.
Flying with Jetstar Asia is certainly not something new to me. I have flown with them numerous times to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Shantou. Despite offering attractive fares for the former 2 destinations, fares to the latter still remain sky high, as much as S$300 one way (on promotion you can get SIN-HKG-SIN for around S$400 on CX/SQ which is just slightly shorter in distance) which makes it S$600 both ways. They must be taking advantage of the monopoly they have on the route. Ever since flying there in February 2010, the 3-weekly route has been a huge money maker especially on the Saturday flight (other days are Monday and Wednesday) as both Singaporeans and Chinese head to Shantou to visit relatives, play or back home. Jetstar’s service is superior compared to the likes of their direct competitors, Tiger and AirAsia. They serve with a smile and from their heart. It can be said that it is the best budget airline that I have flown on and have no doubts that I will be flying them for many more times in the future.
The airline recently just had a minor facelift; changing its livery from JetstarAsia.com to just Jetstar.com and more recently enlarging the “Jetstar.com” words on their fuselage which makes it looks more beautiful compared to the old livery. I instantly fell in love with the new livery and hoped that I will be able to fly on one of the planes in the new livery for my trip.
On a fine day in March, my tickets were booked, leave applied, S$304 poorer and after a 1.5 month wait, I am finally setting off for my trip, as excited as before.
I arrived on the kerbside of Changi Airport at 11.35am, 2h 10m before my flight departure. Not sure if I am not fated or what, it seems like half of the flight’s passengers were already queuing for check-in and the queue was notoriously long. To add insult to injury, most of them were carrying huge bags which later I found out was golf clubs (explained later in the report). It took 25 minutes for me to finally reach the counter. My baggage was checked in and boarding pass given to me all within 1 minute. Sometimes you cannot doubt how efficient the ground handlers of budget airlines are, even if it is to save time.
Still lots of people queuing for check in
Terminal 1 still looking great
Satisfied after getting my boarding pass, I headed on to the T1 viewing gallery and seeing that there was nothing much to see, I made a beeline to the nearest restaurant landside, Aston’s Specialities for a steak. Their food was okay the first time I tried them elsewhere but this time they thoroughly disappointed me. My steak was burnt on the sides and I could literally taste the bitterness as I bite through the meat. However, their service there was pretty good. I guess that pretty much compensates for the below average food.
Guess where I’m headed to (hint: it’s not the baby care room!)
Pretty empty apron for a Saturday afternoon
The new glass flooring, allows you to look directly down
The awful steak
Around 45 minutes before my flight, I headed on to immigration and directly to my gate at D37. Greeting me was 9V-JSI, the first Jetstar A320 to be in the new livery. I could not hide my excitement at this point in time and *click click* my shutter went. Just as I took out my laptop to use, a lady approached me and asked if I could help to do a survey on Changi Airport’s service. It lasted around 5 minutes and I was given a very nice pen as a thank you gift. That’s very thoughtful of them!
Headed this way today
Where are we going shopping today?
Now this looks better
Reaching my gate soon
No doubt this is the correct flight!
The Changi Airport pen
Yes, it's the new livery!
Soon after the survey, boarding for my flight was announced and passengers were called by those needing assistance and those seated in rows 20-30. I did not hear any announcements about passengers who bought priority boarding which made me wonder why and so I approached the agent who let me in straight away upon knowing that I had priority. As usual with priority boarding, I was the first person to step into the plane.
Jetstar Asia Flight 3K 823 – 21APR12
Origin: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN/WSSS)
Destination: Jieyang Chaoshan Airport (SWA/ZGOW)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Scheduled Time of Departure: 01:45pm
Actual Time of Departure: 02:04pm
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 05:55pm
Actual Time of Arrival: 05:37pm
Airborne Time: 3 hours 33 minutes
Class of Travel: Economy
“Good morning sir, this way please”
This marked a very good start of a wonderful flight. I was personally brought to my seat (yes in an LCC!) and F/A Michelle checked my boarding pass and noticed that I have pre ordered a meal and proceeded to ask for my choice.
I made my choice and settled down into my seat to watch the boarding process. Boarding for this flight was done pretty fast, probably in 15 minutes. At around 1.50pm, the Captain came onto the microphone.
After what seemed like an eternity, we pushed back at 2pm and headed directly to runway 20C for takeoff at 2.04pm. On the way there, I managed to catch a glimpse of a SQ Boeing 747-400 which I assume is 9V-SPQ, the aircraft that flew the last ever SQ 747 flight.
View across from my row
My seat. Notice that there are airbags
Legroom was more than sufficient
Audio channel controls? Don’t look like it’s used at all
Rest of the passengers started coming in
AirAsia special livery
The best seat in the plane
This plane, 9V-SVM flew me SIN-CAN on 3 March 2009
The IAE engines on this mighty A320 spooled up and in a few seconds we lifted off Singapore soil bound for Shantou. There was a sharp left turn right after takeoff which made me have a pretty good view of Pulau Tekong which used to be my Basic Military Training army camp. I am glad to have come out of that island, alive! Seatbelt signs were switched off 5 minutes after takeoff, just after entering Malaysian airspace.
Pulau Tekong… The place where I spent my initial days of army life
As I was still fiddling around with my camera and taking pictures, Michelle has already got my pre ordered meal ready within 10 minutes of the seatbelt sign being switched off (Cathay, hear that?!). I seemed to be the only one in the entire plane that made a pre order for my meal as I was the only person served before the meal cart was pushed out. In fact, I already finished my meal by the time the meal cart was out! However, something that I did not really like was that my cold and hot drinks were served together. I suppose they could serve them separately as it is a long flight.
Back to the meal, the Vietnamese Chicken Curry looked pretty promising. As I opened the aluminium foil cover, the aroma filled the whole cabin. This certainly attracted some attention from the people around me as I was the odd guy eating while others were not. Soon after I finished my meal, a middle aged guy seating beside me asked what I just ordered as it looked pretty nice. He ordered the same thing as the meal cart rolled down the aisle 5 minutes later. Eavesdropping into their conversation, it seems like passengers had to wait for 20 minutes for their hot meal to be ready. Not the shortest time but still faster than what Cathay took (100 minutes just to start the meal carts rolling).
At cruising altitude
Lots of movement around the aircraft
There was a pretty joyful ambience onboard as there were a group of middle aged men heading to Shantou for golf as my seatmate told me. It turned out that most of the group knew my dad as they are working in the same area. They were cracking jokes around with the FAs. One of them handed a S$50 note over to the male FA and they were like, “Keep the change!” in which the FA replied, “Keep the change? It’s too little!” Ah, the joys of flying!
After the meal service, I started chatting with my seatmate and he introduced to more people from his contingent that are Teochew like me and some of them knows my dad pretty well. We had a pretty good chat for at least 2 hours and they were pretty amazed at how a young guy like me would be willing to travel to China alone every year to visit my relatives there and told me how rare of a breed I am. That made me blushed pretty much! But sure enough, youngsters nowadays in Singapore are more and more unwilling to visit China as they do not really have a good impression of that place. I guess they have yet to see the most beautiful parts of China yet. In fact, I am visiting China so much that my relatives joked that I can be the next foreign ambassador of China in Singapore.
After the whole chat, I felt pretty peckish and decided to order potato chips and a bottle of Evian (read: NAÏVE) mineral water. Nothing much to say about the snacks though, they were pretty okay. The exciting part came when it was time for our descend into Jieyang Chaoshan Airport. It was the airport that I had been looking forward to ever since I heard of it. Pictures of the airport from the web further made me want to visit this airport.
Cabin from the back
Beautiful clouds along the way
There’s a follow me car! We were assigned the leftmost jetway
Old lady taking a rest
Where in the world are we?
We touched down on runway 04 at Jieyang Chaoshan Airport at 5.37pm, 14 minutes earlier than our STA.
Jieyang Chaoshan Airport was opened on 15 December 2011 to replace the existing Shantou Waisha Airport. I was fortunate to have used Waisha twice before they closed it down and switched to Chaoshan which let me have the chance to compare both airports.
To read on my experience with Shantou Waisha Airport, please refer to the following reports.
Flying The Orange Star Monopoly - SIN-SWA On 3K (by initious May 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
Flying The Orange Star Monopoly - SIN-SWA On 3K (by initious May 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
First On Airliners.net - CZ Shanghai To Shantou (by Initious Jun 27 2010 in Trip Reports)
To compare between the 2 airports, I can say that Jieyang Chaoshan Airport is a huge improvement over the old Shantou Waisha Airport. Be it infrastructure, efficiency or design, Jieyang Chaoshan Airport is miles ahead of its older counterpart. The improvement also means that Shantou can now more competitively compete with the neighbouring airports like CAN and HKG.
Pictures of the old Shantou Waisha Airport
Now compare to the new Jieyang Chaoshan Airport
GPS is always a saviour
Look at how new the roads are!
Driving in Shantou at night
As a new system, I will start rating my flights with regards to several pointers. Each has different weightage but all add up to 100.
Aircraft Condition ( /30): Whether the aircraft is breaking apart of still sparkling new after numerous flights and whether the cabin is clean or dirty. Also includes aircraft exterior.
Food ( /10): Taste and quality of food served, number of choices available.
Service ( /30): Service standards of the cabin crew like attentiveness and effectiveness.
Seat Comfort ( /10): If the seat width, seat pitch and cushions are comfortable enough for the flight duration. May also depends if my buttocks hurt after the flight. :p
Ambience ( /10): How the ambience was like throughout the flight and if the right ambience was set at the right time.
Ground Handling ( /10): How the ground staff handles the check-in and how fast the baggage arrives at the carousel.
0 – 50: Poor (1*)
50-65: Below Average (2*)
65-70: Average (3*)
70-80: Above Average (4*)
80-100: Excellent (5*)
To view my previous trip reports, please visit my blog at http://danieltripreports.blogspot.com or click here. Comments are appreciated on how the blog can be improved!
[Edited 2012-04-22 00:52:51]