Good day all, welcome to another of my trip reports. This trip report is the second part of 2 where I would fly to Hong Kong and take the final Singapore Airlines B747-400 flight back to Singapore. I usually don’t ‘split’ up reports into parts, but this is such a special and momentous occasion that I decided to do so. Hope you would enjoy reading this, as much as I have enjoyed writing, and experiencing it. Thank you!
The idea of going to Hong Kong began in late December, when my younger cousin who was working as an intern in a travel agency mentioned to me that between February and April, Singapore Airlines was to have a special flight to commemorate the Queen of the Skies- The Boeing 747-400. He said it was a piece of info not to be leaked out to others, and I did not tell anyone as such. However, in order to be sure to make it for the trip since the departure date was unknown, I could not work full time temporarily, so I began looking out for temporarily event jobs, to ensure that I have the cash to pay for the trip, and the time to make it for the trip.
It was around late January or early February this year, when rumours of this commemorative flight spread around. I nearly dropped the idea of going when I was told that an Economy Class ticket could cost nearly SGD 2000 due to goodies and was only available for a short period of time. However, a few days before the Singapore Air Show 2012 (Public Days), I was alerted on Facebook that tickets were available on sale, and the flight was to be held on 6th of April, which happens to be Good Friday. This was 1 day before the details was announced publicly. I checked the price of a 1-way ticket on that day, and it came out to be around SGD 800+ inclusive of tax. I hadn’t thought of buying 2-way tickets at that time though, as I was thinking of going there with a budget carrier and flying the final flight back for some weird reason. It was quite expensive, so I contemplated for a day.
After it was announced in the local media, I went to sq.com to check again. The price actually dropped! A 1-way ticket cost slightly over SGD 700, which was pretty reasonable. I then tried to convince my parents to let me go. I could tell they weren’t really for the idea of me going alone, but they said since it was my money, I should think carefully. I made up my mind (to go), but as I tried using sq.com, there was an error, and I could not even see the flights available! I was quite panicky, and I called the ticketing hotline at around 0150 in the morning, trying to find out the situation, and hoping it wasn’t fully booked. After a few tries, I finally got through, but to my disappointment (at the point of time), I was told that flights originating from Hong Kong (1 way) could only be booked from the HK office or something, and he even said that SQ 748 was FULLY BOOKED. I was so disheartened that I went to sleep immediately.
I woke up the next day to find that the SQ e-booking system was working again, and I could check out flights and availability. I then tried to find 2-way tickets, and to my pleasant surprise, I was quoted SGD 624.30 for a 3 or 4-day trip! I wanted to try a B777-300ER for the first time (and hoping to get 9V-SWI), so I sacrificed the flight timings, and was booked on flight SQ 866 and SQ 748 quite effortlessly. I did not manage to get a window seat though, but at least, I was going to be on the FINAL flight! This would be the first time that I would be travelling alone too, and it was a LOONNNG wait for 3rd of April to arrive. This would be my First Ever solo trip overseas.
A Great Way To Fly Indeed!- Pt.1-SIN-HKG on SQ 77W
After spending 4 days (well based on the dates only) in Hong Kong, it was time to go to the airport (for the 3rd time in 4 days) once again, only difference being that this is the reason why I went to Hong Kong in the first place.
Originally planning to take the 11am shuttle bus so as to arrive early to capture the arrival of 9V-SPQ, I missed the coach, so I ended up leaving Gold Coast at 12pm, with many other Cathay cabin crew/pilots, and a small handful of passengers. Despite this, I reached the Departure Hall at around 1240, with much time to spare before departure. I proceeded on to Check-in Row F.
There was a queue at Row F, but not all the passengers were going on SQ 748. After waiting for around 10 minutes plus, I was done, with my ‘precious’ boarding pass and ‘invitation card’ in hand.
After all the security checks and stuff, I went to Gate 25 directly, though to my disappointment (though I fully expected it), 9V-SPQ was already parked at the gate, in the process of being loaded with the meals. At the adjacent gates, many people were taking photographs of the Queen, whether or not they were going to be on that flight.
After some photos, I decided it was time to make use of my ‘invitation card’. (Thus missing out on the shot of SPQ without any ground vehicles blocking).
The female airport staff greeted me by name cheerfully as I entered the area, where many passengers and media were already there, enjoying themselves. There was a performance area at one end, and a reception area at the other.
Some famous names could be seen, as with such events. I ‘grabbed’ a cup of juice, while walking around taking some photographs. I saw Mr. Sam Chui, the famous aviation photographer and trip reporter, and asked for a photo with him, which he gladly complied.
Mr Sam Chui and I!
Soon, it was time for Mr Mak Swee Wah, Vice-President of SIA to make a speech. The SIA cabin crew then put up a great show in the performance that followed.
You could see that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Soon after, boarding commenced, and it was time to take one last look of the exterior of an active SQ B747-400 in daylight.
Date: 6th April 2012
Sector: Hong Kong – Chep Lap Kok International (HKG) – Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
Singapore Airlines Flight: SQ 748
Aircraft: 9V-SPQ, B747-412
Delivered to SQ: 31-10-2001
SDT (ADT): 1445 (1445)
SAT (AAT): 1930 (1906)
Journey: 4hrs 21mins
1st flight on 9V-SPQ
7th B747-400 flight
10th B747 flight
3rd time on SQ B744
12th SQ flight
In an effort to speed up the boarding process, boarding was called at 1410 for both the priority passengers and the economy class passengers seating at the rear of the aircraft (which I found out that most of them were off-duty cabin crew) (Rows 49 to 66) at the same time. (Thumbs up, SQ!).
I made my way to the back of the queue, and thinking: ‘I’m boarding an SIA B747 for the first (that I can remember anyway- the previous 2 times (Also to HKG in 1998 (not Kai Tak unfortunately))I was only 7 years old) and the last time!’
The airport staff greeted me by name, cheerfully and said ‘Hope you have an enjoyable flight, Mr Yap!’ A nice gesture. I wanted to ask her not to tear my boarding pass, but before I could even open my mouth... Oh well… I made my way down the aerobridge, where yet more airport staff were present to hand each and everyone the goodie bag, and wished us passengers the best of flights. The goodie bag was heavier than I had imagined it to be. (I will post some photos later on in the report)
’Thank You for flying our 747 commemorative farewell flight
Nearing the aircraft!
I stopped in front of door 2L to take some photographs. As I was doing so, the 2 friendly Singapore Girls welcoming passengers on board looked at me and joked, ‘ Don’t worry, we are not the ones that are retiring, and we won’t be anytime soon!’ Haha! What a nice way to start the SIA journey! Is this a prelude to what would be coming?
Retiring? Not so soon
I made my way to my seat (52B), and took the chance to get some window shots, as I might not have the chance to do so later on in the flight (maybe). My seatmates arrived. One of them is a First Officer working for a HK carrier, and the other is an aviation photojournalist for a famous Japanese aviation magazine! (He was sent to cover this flight, how lucky!). Both of them were really friendly. Load today was to be exactly 90%, with 337 passengers on board out of the 375 available seats.
We were push backed on the dot at 1445. I heard afterwards that many aviation enthusiasts were present around HKIA despite the gloomy weather in an attempt to catch a SIA B747-412 for the final time. The Captain today would be CPT Roger Loh, with the First Officer being CPT Eric Oon. It was announced that a game of Bingo, and a quiz, would be held in-flight, and the winners of the Bingo game could win a $100 KrisShop Voucher, in addition to a cockpit visit at the end of the flight in Singapore!
Also, a B747 commemorative video, which includes interviews with some of the staff, would be shown. Champagne would also be available across all cabins (Oh, I really regret not taking up the option!) At this point of time, I was asking myself: “Where is the water salute?” That thought did not materialize at all, unfortunately.
We made our way to Runway 07R for departure, and we were behind a Malaysian B772 in the queue for take-off.
Before our turn though, a Singapore Airlines Cargo B747-400BCF touched down on the runway. How fitting! Take-off roll commenced and the 4 PW PW4056 engines got into ‘overdrive’. We rotated at 1510 to start our special journey back to Singapore. Instead of the usual SIN-HKG-SIN route, where flights would ‘cut across’ Vietnam, this special flight would fly towards Manila and throughout the flight, travel above the South China Sea.
As we lifted off into the hazy skies, cheers could be heard throughout the aircraft! Let the celebratory mood begin!
After we broke free from the dark clouds into the clear skies, it was time for the toast, led by Mr Mak Swee Wah. Loud cries of ‘YYYUUMMM SSSEEENNNGGG’ could be heard, and every passenger and crew was raising their cups in the air (mostly champagne, but unfortunately for me, orange juice).
Cue the party atmosphere. The Bingo game began, but unfortunately, I only reached 3 in a row. 2 passengers won though, I think.
My seatmates began talking to me, and our common interest. The first officer recounted his experiences (he had worked for other airlines before) and even gave me some helpful tips of becoming a pilot.
At this point, nearly everyone was walking around, talking to the crew and other passengers, while others were busy taking photographs around the cabin. I was seated quite near the galley, and it was congested with passengers interested in the in-flight promotion (specially for this flight). SQ’s vice president Mr Mak also came around talking to us passengers, a lovely gesture. I had a good time listening to what he had to share with us (my seat mates).
Around halfway through the journey, the long-awaited meal service began. The menu, which had been distributed earlier on, was a specially designed booklet with a picture of the Big Top (B743) as the cover, a real keepsake.
A quote from the menu:” In honour of this special occasion, we have meticulously put together a gastronomic feast made up of classic favourites.” And classic favourites it was. We had a choice of the pan seared beef fillet, or the deep-fried fish. I don’t take beef (except for that one time in Kobe), so naturally, I opted for the fish, along with a cup of Fruit Spritzer, a non-alcoholic cocktail.
The fish was a delight to eat, though in truth, I was expecting codfish or something. The Fruit Spritzer complemented the meal perfectly. There was even a specially ‘designed’ mixed berry mousse cake, with vanilla thyme sauce. A small pack of spring onion biscuits was also included in the meal for the oriental selection.
Up till now, the service provided has been near flawless. Despite the expected excitement and stuff, and also being extraordinarily busy, the crew was always smiling, never failing to attend to any passenger’s requests (so far). Some things cannot be written down, and have to be experienced personally... and this was it. The service provided by this crew of 18 was excellent, it was the best service I’ve ever experienced on board any aircraft/flights, by far and I can’t find any other words to describe it ☺. Full marks to them wouldn’t even be enough. It was time for the quiz, but I did not take part in it, as I was roaming around the cabin. Unfortunately, I did not visit the Business Class, First Class, and the cockpit. Wasted really.
It was time for another drink service, and I ordered the Singapore Sling, something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time (though I rarely drink alcoholic drinks). In case anyone doesn’t know what’s it, the Singapore Sling was a classic created in 1915 at the Long Bar of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel and is now famous the world over. It is a concoction of dry gin, Dom Benedictine, Cointreau, and cherry brandy, shaken up with lime and pineapple juices and a dash of Angostura bitters and Grenadine.
Well, I’m not a big fan of alcoholic drinks, but the Singapore Sling tasted pretty nice, certainly worth a try even if you don’t drink cocktails etc. I would definitely try that again in the future. I didn’t talk much to anyone besides my seatmates, but I was absorbing in the fantastic atmosphere. I didn’t think that anyone would want to take this flight (though it was obvious that some was surprised that it was a special flight) and use the IFE/ listen to his or her own music, but people did. What a shame.
Of course, nothing is 100% perfect. Then came the only blemish in what was to be a fine flight. It was the fact that it took around 25 minutes for me/them to clear my empty cup, even though I left it on the table when I used the lavatory. )The other cups were cleared a while back)I don’t really blame them however, as they were really busy with the KrisShop sales Like many, I’ve never seen such brisk sales in-flight before, no doubt thanks to the promotion when one buys $74.70 worth of items. I finally remembered to ask for a pack of cards, but the Singapore Girl regrettably told me that they were all given out (She only took the cup away after this moment).
Another thing to note was that the seatbelt sign was not even turned on during the course of the flight. No turbulences, nothing. It was a very smooth flight thankfully. I heard from a steward that the First Class passengers polished the champagne, all 20 plus bottles of them. I really regretted not asking for it. ☹ All good things must come to an end though, and it was announced that we were descending into Singapore shortly, and would have to return to our seats (The ‘rules’ on this flight was quite lax, as what was mentioned after take-off I think).
We would be landing on Runway 20R, which would mean over-flying the ‘island resort’ of Pulau Tekong that I’ve (and many others) started my national service journey on more than 2 years back. (I had completed the mandatory 1 years 10 months service in December 2011)
With a landing as smooth as anything you would encounter, we touched down gently onto 20R at 1906 amidst loud cheers, from the cabin.
We landed nearly half an hour earlier than expected. Normally, people would be happy…but obviously not on this flight. It was quite emotional to say the least, for everyone.
As we made our way towards Terminal 3 (of course, no water cannon salute, as one would expect from Singapore), the Captain thanked us for being on board such a historical flight. The Queen slowly taxied past the newer and more efficient aircrafts (B777-300ER, A380) that were going to replace her, and she made her way to Gate B7, back to where the journey had started earlier on at dawn.
The engines stopped, but everyone stayed at their seats. No one wanted to leave the aircraft. Soon, passengers started packing up and walked along the aisle heading for the exits. Not a lot of passengers were left in the rear economy section, except for some others and us. Most of them were off-service cabin crew (and performers) taking group photographs. I had some minor ‘objectives’ to accomplish, which was to take some photographs with the pretty Singapore Girls.
Another one won’t hurt ☺
It was obvious that we were not the only one that thought of that, as there was an ‘unofficial’ queue to take with them! They were all very complying with these requests though. I thanked them and the other senior management staff for the wonderful flight, before proceeding out of the aircraft and onto the aerobridge to get some last shots of 9V-SPQ. (I hadn’t thought of visiting the cockpit unfortunately- what a regret, as many people went up to the cockpit!)
On a side note, it was noted by some that it might be intentional of SPQ to be docked at gate B7, and luggage being deposited at belt 47…making it (747). A real interesting observation!
Finally, the journey had ended. It was simply too short for our liking. As with all trips abroad (though especially so for this one), I always feel a tinge of sadness as I leave.
Wow…this has to be the best flight that I’ve EVER been on, and what a special flight it was, the FINAL Singapore Airlines B747-400 passenger flight. I could go on and on and wax lyrical about it.
To plan this special event (and the fact that they would even think of such an event) and execute it to near perfection leaving every passenger satisfied is not an easy task at all, yet Singapore Airlines achieved it, outstandingly. Everything was just great, I’m sure many would agree. I would have been prepared to pay more for the tickets, but for that low price, what we got were priceless experiences and souvenirs, never to be gotten elsewhere.
This day would NEVER be forgotten. Thank you, Singapore Airlines B747-400 (and 9V-SPQ), you would be sorely missed.
Thanks for reading,
Past trip reports
1. Aloha! From SIN To HNL/ITO (and Back) On CI And YV (Jan 10)
2. Flying The Classic 734 To Bali On GA (Apr 10)
3. A Great Way To Fly Indeed!- Pt.1-SIN-HKG on SQ 77W (Apr 12)