Singapore Airlines SQ 22 from SIN-EWR
June 26, 2013
/ Airbus A340-541, 9V
/ 9,030 nmi (16.724 km, 10,392 mi)
/ 371,157 kg (818,261 lbs)
/ 16K (Business)
Boarding was announced for 10.25 this morning so I headed to the gate early in the hope of getting on to the plane first to snap some pictures. Our boarding gate was B1, part of the B1-B4
gate complex at Changi that shares a common security screening area. Given that our gate was the only one active in this complex, and that we only had around 80 business class passengers who turned up quite late for boarding, this was the quickest security screen I had ever experienced. The gate was still completely empty with only a single other passenger present, five minutes before the published boarding time. Things were looking good for my cabin photoshoot opportunity. Views from the gate area weren’t too great, but I managed to get a good impression of our aircraft while meandering the T3
Our chariot today was 9V
, one of four Airbus A340-500s in the SIA
fleet, which first flew on 03.10.2003, was delivered to the airline on 23.01.2004 and was sadly stored in November 2013. Although I am a big 777 fan, I do find the A340-500 and -600 to be some of the most beautiful birds ever produced. Replacing the hairdryers with some proper Trents did wonders for the aircraft’s general proportions.
Boarding was announced about 10 minutes late. By this time, the gate area had filled up a little more with a large group of today’s passengers arriving around the same time. The load factor was around 85% and the general passenger profile consisted of Americans (leisure and business travellers with a few families in the mix) and a few Asian business travellers. Aside from some of the families, I was definitely one of the youngest passengers on board, an image that was supported by the fact that I rushed on to the aircraft with a large camera in hand as soon as I heard the characteristic beep confirming that by boarding pass had been scanned by the gate agent.
I was greeted by name by no less than six Singapore Girls in red, green and blue kabayas who were enjoying a bit of a laugh — it seemed like a joke that had just been told before my arrival. I was happy to see this as it immediately indicated that this crew would be less “robotic” and more personable than some of the other SQ
crews described on this forum. I was escorted to 16K and was assisted with placing my coat and hand luggage into the overhead compartments. I immediately got down to snapping some pictures, being interrupted only by offers for a hot towel, some champagne and my post takeoff drink order (I of course could not resist the Singapore Sling).
The cabin was well-maintained with the ottomans being the only obvious signs of wear that I could find. I couldn’t help thinking about the Emirates A345s I had been on numerous times on trips to Uganda and the absolutely horrible state those aircraft are in, with seats, panels and bathrooms all falling apart. Kudos to SIA
Engineering Company for keeping these, and in fact all their birds, in such good shape. Cabin ambience was exceptional and made me feel like I was in a private jet. This feeling was further supported by material selection, colour schemes and the general use of space. The entry way to the aircraft was wide and open, similar to the lobby concept developed by Boeing for the 787 and 748i’s. I was located in the forward cabin, however, due to a lack of physical dividers, my view extended about 13 rows back, again, into a wonderfully open and airy space.
A random observations from the cabin: SQ
installed the shallow centre luggage compartments throughout their A345s, which I assume were necessary in the original Raffles + Executive Economy cabins with 2-2-2 and 2-3-2 configurations, respectively. With the new 100-seat 1-2-1 business class, I could help noticing how empty all the bins were — I had an entire set of two to myself, which I “filled” with a tiny canvas bag and small jacket!
Right from the start our crew embodied all the characteristics that the Singapore Airlines brand and its flight attendants have become know for: caring, warm, gentle, elegant and serene. Again, I would add personable to the mix as all crew members I interacted never missed an opportunity to strike up conversation and also delivered their service with genuine and enthusiastic smiles. I decided not to waste time and inform the crew member serving my section of the cabin (Ms. Green Kabaya) about my love for aviation, my first time flying SQ
Business and the fact that this flight was a dream-come-true moment for me. I also handed her a “certificate” I had put together asking it to be filled out and signed by the flight deck and cabin crew. She loved the idea and didn’t hesitate to help me out (the results of this exercise will be discussed later on
Pushback and first contact from the flight deck with quite a few details on today’s routing. While I can’t remember the captain’s name it appears that he was from a spanish speaking country. We followed a fairly southernly routing for the flight, heading east over the Pacific (I was excited to cross the international date line for the first time), making landfall over Alaska and then continuing in a steady drop over the Canadian Northern Territories, Manitoba, Ontario and into New York.
During boarding, the airshow was showing an extreme-polar/westerly routing, which I initially thought would be our actual routing, before realising it was probably a glitch in the mapping system. The system was probably not designed to account for the rather edge-case routing of SIN
, which I admit made me even more excited about the flight I was sitting on
My only comment on the safety video is the ridiculous choice of subtitle font, which looked like something out of an 80s TV
show and not a premium 5-star airline. But maybe that’s just the design snob in me
The confused Airshow Map
11:22 AM – Takeoff
No reason was given for our (slight delay) but with a block time of well over 18 hours, no one was concerned about arriving late! We taxied for about 10 minutes to the active runway 02L.
At 11:22 four mighty Rolls-Royce Trent 553 turbofans spooled to their maximum thrust of 240 kN (54,000 lbf), hauling our 371-ton beast on the longest takeoff run I have ever experienced (60s). We were obviously carrying quite a bit of fuel! In comparison to the A343, this aircraft felt like it was backed by the power it deserved. Despite this, we still climbed out at quite a slow rate while I remained glued to my window watching the mighty wingleted surfaces in front of me flap away in the mild turbulence.
Now, I started the stopwatch on my iPhone and sat back with a grin on my face, ready for my 18 hours of bliss NOTE: Takeoff and inflight video coming soon!
00:20 into flight
Service started immediately with the Singapore Sling I had ordered earlier and a bowl of mixed nuts. At this point, I also checked out the “amenity kit” items that were handed out along with the noise cancelling headphones for the Kris World system. I have heard a number of criticisms of SQ
’s amenity approach and, while I agree the offerings are limited compared to other airlines, I actually found the provision of eyeshades and socks to be perfectly adequate for a flight like this. I am not usually a sock wearer on flights, however, I found these to be quite useful (despite looking hideous) for this 18-hour hop where I would be doing a lotos cabin wandering and bathroom visiting. The only other items I regularly use in amenity kits (during flights) are lip balms and moisturisers; the latter was available in the bathrooms along with other items like shavers and combs. I actually find this approach to be a little more responsible than handing out complete kits with items that the majority of passengers do not use. Which airline is the one that goes through the cabin with amenity items, allowing passengers to pick and choose?
00:40 into flight – Lunch Service
Lunch service commenced, and it is at this point that I have to make a terrible confession. I had planned to scan in the menus from this flight to show the offerings in full detail, however, I seem to have forgotten these in a storage box when I moved away from Boston last year. The box still exists and is in good hands, so if I ever get my hands on the menu again, I promise to upload it for the sake of completion and for documenting a now historic flight.
Suffice to say, the lunch service was excellent, starting with the wonderful preparation of my tray table. I especially liked the salt and pepper shakers, which remind me a little bit of Cathay’s now discontinued models. I have to say that I am not a huge fan of SQ
’s crockery design — I felt it looked a little “grandma”, despite the multitude of “Designed exclusively by Givenchy for Singapore Airlines” tags to be found.
I choose the seared tuna filets as a starter, the steak with pumpkin mash for my main and a delicious chocolate mouse cake for desert. The quality and presentation of the meals was good, though nothing exceptional like on Austrian Airlines or Turkish. As usual for in-flight beef, the steak was definitely on the well-done side, although miles better than the one I ate on an Emirates J-Class flight from DXB
a month later.
03:00 into flight – The Seat
With the two-hour dinner service completed, a satisfied stomach full of tuna, steak, chocolate cake and heaps of bread, and a liver working off some champaign, a Singapore Sling and a glass of port – I succumbed to the temptation and decided to take a little nap! After all, I still had 15 hours of flying to go and would, therefore, still have enough time to enjoy this dream flight. Just as I started clearing my seat in preparation for the signature SQ
flip, the male inflight supervisor turned up and asked whether he could assist me in making the bed. I gladly accepted this offer and also briefly chatted with him about the flight, New York and how the crew had to specially apply to work on the SQ
This is probably an appropriate point to discuss the seat. Let’s start with the bed. I really have nothing to complain about here. I am not sure whether it was the exhaustion and full stomach or the fact that I felt SQ
’s was the most comfortable fully-flat bed I have enjoyed in the sky, but I slept like a baby. The thin mattress, which is stored behind the backrest of the seat when in its upright position, was a little hard and accentuated bumps in the seat but was still a pleasure to sleep on. I had no issue with sleeping diagonally as required by the seat’s layout and also found the large pillow and blanket to be extremely comfortable.
On to the actual seat: I absolutely didn’t mind the width, which I have heard negative comments about before. Quite on the contrary, I found sitting with the small armrest cushion to be perfect comfortable and also appreciated having the space next to me too keep items like my camera and the headphones when I was not using them. The absence of a headrest didn’t bother me either as the supplied pillow more than made up for it. My two mini-gripes were the difficulty of finding a good lounging position and the hassle of switching between “seat” and “bed” mode. I ended up lounging in my “bed” while using the frame of seat as a backrest. It looks like SQ
has addressed some of this feedback in their new Business Class seat designed by BMW DesignWorks. It features a narrower seating surface and, what looks like more comfortable lounging controls. Still, I would even classify this as a complaint as I truly had nothing to complain about: I was soaring through the air at 900 km/h enjoying the world-class service.
05:30 into flight
I woke up after a solid 2.5 hour nap to a surprisingly warm cabin. The temperature remains high throughout the entire flight and I end up just wearing a t-shirt for most of it. It’s really interesting to see the differences in cabin-temperature philosophies among airlines.
During a brief trip to the bathroom I notice that, once again, there are no paper towels to dry my hands after watching. This was the case on all the SQ
flights I took during this trip including SQ
25 from JFK
972 to BKK
. Is this generally a SQ
06:40 into flight
Feeling well-rested after my nap, I decided to explore and enjoy the incredibly diverse offering of SQ
’s award-winning KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system. As this system has been discussed extensively in this forum already, I won’t go into too much detail. I certainly had no shortage of options of things to watch and, quite on the contrary, spent a long time deciding where to even start! Feeling nostalgic for Europe, I ended up exploring the French and German film catalogues and then watched a range of documentaries and a few sitcoms to round things off.
I was initially concerned as “welcome aboard” image shown during boarding appeared to be of very low resolution. I thought that this would perhaps be reflective of the screen’s general resolution but was proved wrong once the system was activated and the menu system appeared. The 15-inch screen was crisp and sufficiently bright to enjoy even with windows open.
07:30 into flight
It now started getting dark outside. This is probably the point at which the true beauty of this flight started kicking in. I was about to experience a mini full day-night-day cycle, another tasty meal, endless hours of entertainment (I must have watched four films in addition to documentaries and shows) and another refreshing nap. And I would still have time to spare! Comparing this to a quick 6:30 hour hop from the U.S. east-coast to Western Europe or a sector from DXB
to Eastern Africa, I realised that I would never again be satisfied with the length of a flight! Also, I would never again be able to get such good bang-for-buck on a Miles and More redemption (when considering the raw number of hours in the air).
07:50 into flight
To my surprise, orange cabin lights were raised (seemingly the only mood-lighting colour on these SQ
birds) and the crew started preparing for the second meal service. At this point we were steadily plodding along through the northern Pacific, around two hours north of Japan. I didn’t quite understand the timing of the in-flight service as more than half the cabin was asleep and we were “only” five hours out from our last meal, with about 10 hours remaining on the clock. The menu included a range of mid-flight snacks that could be ordered at any time, so I would have thought it would have been more appropriate to have the second meal service 3-4 hours before arrival and provide these snacks in between. Could this timing be due to restrictions on how long food can be stored on the aircraft? To tell the truth, I wasn’t too hungry at this point, but decided to play ball as I, once again, was not going to miss a moment of this experience. And I was not the only one: I noticed quite a few people around me converting back to their seats for the second meal service.
The “dinner” service started with a round of satay that was served before the tray table was set. A crew change had taken place (Ms. Green Kabaya had probably retreated to the crew rest), however, I was still addressed by name from each and every one of the new crew members. To describe this as impressive would be an understatement – it demonstrated the depth of SQ
’s service training and the dedicated professionalism of the crew.
I had considered trying out SQ
’s famed Book-the-Cook service but decided that there would be enough interesting choice on the in-flight menu. I chose a lobster dish as a starter and decided to go for a more “regional” option for my main with a choice of Beef Rendang and finished with a desert that I cannot remember the name of. The food was good but seemed to be of lower quality than the previous meal. The beef was a bit rubbery and the desert not particularly inspiring. But I thoroughly enjoyed the satay, which I had been eagerly awaiting to try since the first meal service
09:50 into flight
At the end of the second meal service we were greeted with the return of the sun, making this the shortest “night” I have ever experienced! Cabin lights were dimmed, once again to allow passengers to return to sleep. A few minutes later Ms. Green Kabaya returned with a few other FAs and the inflight service manager. My flight certificate had been signed with small notes and sketches from each of the crew members and with completed information from the flight deck. The IFSM thanked me personally for “saving all of miles to fly SIA
— it is a pleasure having you on board and I hope you enjoyed the service!” Ms. Green Kabaya had collected some goodies that she found throughout the cabin including a small SQ
teddy, two decks of playing cards and a pen. The crew insisted that I have my picture taken with them next to the entry way at door R2
, which I gladly agreed to. This was a wonderful gesture all-in-all and I was so grateful to Ms. Green Kabaya for all the effort she had gone through to make this flight a special one. What a great team!
A happy camper with 7:50 hrs to go!
11:30 into flight
After watching another film and reading some of my book I decide to catch some more shut eye just as we were passing Anchorage, succumbing once again to sheer exhaustion (but definitely not boredom!)
16:20 into flight
After another great (and unexpectedly long) nap, I woke up to find bright sunshine over northern Ontario. I ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice (why couldn’t they offer this in the lounge??) and starting reminiscing about the wonderful flight. At this point we had less than two hours to go.
I managed to grab the inflight supervisor as have passed and asked whether it would be possible to visit the flight deck once we had landed at Newark. He immediately went to check with the captain and came back with a positive confirmation about 10 minutes later. I enjoyed more of my book, watched one last documentary and then started getting myself ready for landing with a freshening up in the bathroom and a collection of the various items I had scattered around 16K over the past 3/4s of a day!
17:30 into flight
Descent started with an announcement from the flight deck and I spent the remaining time studying the flapping motion of the wings and watching the Trents spool up and down as we reached our target flight levels. Descent was smooth with clear views of Newark city, but unfortunately not of Manhattan.
18:11 into flight – Arrival
Touchdown on Newark Liberty’s 22L! A fairly lengthy taxi to terminal B followed with a quick docking and disembarking by the only 85 passengers. My visit to the flight deck was brief as I could tell that all four crew members were eager to move on themselves. I thanked the crew for an absolutely wonderful trip and assured them that I would keep fond memories of it for years to come.
NOTE: Landing video coming soon!
9V-SGC at Newark Terminal B getting some well-earned rest!