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Trip Report Flight Report Card - PER-SIN (SQ), SIN-NRT-SEA-DEN-COS (UA) and return

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Inspired by Wally’s entertaining and informative airline reports, I’ve decided to take a crack at writing one myself, covering my recent flights from PER-SIN (SQ), SIN-NRT-SEA-DEN-COS (UA), returning COS-SFO-NRT-SIN-PER.

SQ 226 Perth – Singapore A330-300

Check in is slow, due in part to our itineraries. I’m headed to Colorado on Singapore Airlines and United. The spouse is going to Colorado via Singapore, Moscow and Houston on Singapore Airlines, then on to COS on Continental. I‘m flying encroachment on SQ ($1,070 AUD!) and Business Class on UA, having upgraded with miles and a $400 per way co-pay. The spouse is in Business Class all the way, compliments of his company.

That Perth has outgrown its international airport is glaringly obvious the minute one enters the departures hall and tries to find a seat. There just aren’t any, save a handful of café tables arranged near a couple of food vendors and a row or two of seats near each gate. I don’t know what they were thinking when they built the place, but by all appearances it was not designed to accommodate the numbers it serves, not comfortably anyway. I’m routinely amazed at how a country with so much empty space is so stingy with it. Costs I suppose.

Lucky for us, we’re both UA PE, so we cool our heels in the equally crowded SilverKris lounge, but at least we can sit down. The lounge has a decent spread of snacks, beer and spirits, plus some Vasse Felix wine (local) and those mini packages of extra sharp cheese that go so well with a nice glass of grape. Mel is happy.

In true Singapore Airlines fashion, they begin to board our flight 20 minutes before departure. Normally this works. I don’t know how they do it, but SQ typically manages to board in a fraction of the time that other airlines do.

Perhaps it’s the hoards of families with small kids (this is Easter week after all, a major holiday in OZ), but our flight leaves the ground 20 minutes late, for which the pilot is very apologetic.

Five minutes later I’m watching the King’s Speech on the large screen embedded in the seatback in front of me. Actually, I’m well into the movie before takeoff, but SQ requires that you remove your headphones during take off and landing, so I have to rewind, bugger. They also request that you keep your shoes on…I’m not sure I want to know why.

The seatbelt sign is off 10 minutes into the flight. I think of Wally, knowing he’ll approve.

Shortly thereafter begins that world class Singapore Airlines service; hot towels and headsets are offered, two passes of the beverage cart and the dispensing of peanuts (which surprises me in this day and age of nut allergies). I opt for the red wine, forgetting that SQ tends to serve it refrigerator cold, ick. I’m not sure what this is about, but I’ve been served cold red wine in Singapore restaurants and I’ve seen red wine in the chilled section of Singapore grocery stores. The spouse up in Business Class later tells me that his was cold too. I don’t get it.

The service continues, first the special meals, then the regular meals, then another two passes of the beverage cart followed by the handing out of ice cream cones.

The advantage of having your meal delivered early is obvious, especially if you happen to be hungry. The drawback is that you’re physically trapped for a longer period of time, which I am, making me uncomfortably claustrophobic.

At long last, the flight attendants free us from our entrapment. For the remainder of the flight they periodically pass through the cabin, topping up water glasses. Announcements are few, and the seatbelt sign remains off until 10 minutes prior to landing.

As for the food…I rather like SQ’s Indian Vegetarian meal and I always request it. They overdo the bread and crackers, and I can certainly live without the unflavored yogurt, but otherwise, it’s not bad.

As for the seats…they’re hard, squishy and tightly packed (no surprises there), but remarkably well equipped. The video screens are large, the entertainment system and selection is fantastic, the screens can be adjusted as the person in front of you reclines, etc. The seat slides forward, giving the illusion of space. There’s a footrest, a few cubbies to store personal items, a cup holder and a retractable knob, which I assume is for stowing a jacket, although it would rest on your lap if you used it. And my favorite part, they keep the cabin nice and cool.

As for the service…what can I say, it’s Singapore Airlines. The flight attendants are efficient, helpful and friendly. The service is uniformly good and I’m made to feel like they actually want me there. I love SQ, they get an A.

Up next:

United Airlines falls short…

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    I flew SQ PER-SIN last November, but on the early morning flight. The contracted check-in desks simply couldn't manage to check-in everybody in time. Flight was delayed waiting for everybody to go through immigration and security.

    The meal services on all my 4 fligths HKG-SIN-PER and return were too long. That was my main complaint against SQ.

    As for the shoes, it probably has to do with the SQ006 TPE crash in 2000. After that crash, they also changed the footwear of the SQ Girls. Before that, they were wearing very flimsy sandals - current ones offer more protection.

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    Nice report. Will you get a chance to fly Continental? The fasten seatbelt sign never goes off on that airline.

    Boarding of the plane was quick on my flight, too. Perhaps because the limit the carry on bags to 11 kilos. If you fly on a Boeing 757 with United or Continental, the boarding can take 45 minutes.

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    Hi rkkwan -

    PER is a bit of a mess. Lines are notoriously long and slow. It's hard to believe they serve a city of 1.7 million.

    We're headed out there tomorrow, wondering if 2.5 hours is enough time to run the gaunlet.

    Hi wally -

    I've never flown Continental, but just asked the spouse what his seatbelt experience was - he flew IAH-COS and return four times in a month. He remembers the seatbelt sign being off more than on, but his flights were pretty smooth. That's not always the case flying into CO.

    Are you referring to SQ limiting carry ons to 11 kg? I've never had them weigh a carry on. The Perth Airport has an airport policy limiting carry on weight regardless of airline, but it's pretty hit and miss.

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    UA 804 – SIN-NRT – 777

    The spouse and I part ways at Changi Airport in Singapore. I head to the Transit Hotel, he heads off for a massage and to await his wee hour flight to Moscow.

    The following morning I collect my boarding passes for my onward flights and have my luggage transferred via the Transit Desk. I pop into the SATS Lounge for some caffeine; sadly, the coffee hasn’t improved since my last visit, but there’s a nice selection of juices and beverages, soft and hard. Green bean sambai and grilled chicken sausages are on offer for breakfast. I pass.

    Boarding begins at 6:25 am. I enter the gate, where I’m singled out for the second pat down in as many days. Apparently I look shifty. We’re pushing back at 7:05 and in the air by 7:20, ten minutes after scheduled departure. The seatbelt sign is turned off 20 minutes later, but comes on many, many more times during the ~six hour flight. It comes on at the slightest hint of turbulence and stays on long after the turbulence has passed. I begin to think the pilots and flight attendants are in cahoots to keep the passengers seated as much as possible to make their jobs a bit easier. Either that or they instinctively know when I need to use the loo.

    The announcements are made in three languages, so it seems that someone is always talking, yet it’s fairly quiet white noise.

    I’m in the Business Class section of an aging 777. I sigh when I pull out the video screen, maybe six square inches of viewing pleasure; I have bigger calculators. Quite a disappointment after Singapore Airlines, yet completely expected. My screen won’t stay upright, it limply tilts to the left and bobs around like a dashboard hula girl, forcing me to also tilt to the left, making viewing just a wee bit awkward. There are seven movies on
    offer, all which begin at the same time, when the flight attendants get around to starting them. No rewinding here. If you have to take a wee you could very well lose the plot. I watch a nameless movie for awhile, then give up on the video and settle in for six hours of New Age music, which repeats after about an hour or so. I long for the day that United upgrades its entertainment system.

    We’re offered breakfast. I opt for the continental selection; a big plate of fresh fruit, corn flakes, a croissant with butter and jam, flavored yogurt and a Mimosa. The fruit hits the spot.

    My water glass is regularly topped off which makes me almost as happy as free wine makes Wally. The flight attendants are unobtrusive and quiet in the galley (nothing bothers me more than raucous flight attendants, particularly on overnight flights).

    An hour prior to landing we’re served an inedible sandwich; a thoroughly wasted effort as it’s only been a few hours since breakfast. The pilot then announces that we’re 40 minutes from Narita. It’s expected to be bumpy so he suggests now would be a good time to visit the facilities, which everyone does, just to have the seatbelt sign turned on five minutes later. Huh? Quite a queue has formed; a Japanese flight attendant apologetically tells everyone to sit down. I really appreciate that she doesn't bark, she just quietly asks people to please be seated.

    We mysteriously arrive an hour early, but then we drive what feels like 30 miles to the gate. I get through security in record time and head to the Red Carpet Club, hoping that our early arrival gives me time for a shower. The club is surprisingly empty, no queue at the shower desk, no one milling about with shower buzzers in their hands. I get in right away, I’m given an amenity kit with everything a person could possibly need and I’m treated to that most refreshing of all things, a hot shower between flights. If only the woman sitting next to me in the lounge had availed herself of this opportunity.

    The Red Carpet Club is stocked with all manner of beverages, hard and soft, and an interesting beer dispenser that I always find amusing. There are plenty of snacks for the peckish, more than I’ve seen here before, perhaps due to the time of day.

    Suffice to say UA isn't my favorite airline, but I'm an elite member with Stockholm's Syndrome. I give this particular flight a C.

    Up next:

    An overnighter on UA…

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    >>>I love SQ, they get an A.<<<

    (and no complaints from me over the years...)


    Now, many thanks, Mel, for warming my heart on this warm Asian evening! Great writing, keep it up.

    Should our paths ever cross at various SIA SilverKris Lounges, well, 'drinks on me'.

    As always, sweet and smooth (SQ) rides to all of you.

    macintosh (robert)


    ... Singapore Girl, You're a Great Way to Fly ...

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    UA 876 - NRT-SEA - 777

    My 4:50 pm flight boards at 4:05 pm. I’m offered juice, water or champagne in a plastic wine flute prior to take off. Champers for me thanks.

    I've managed to secure seat 9H in the smaller Business Class cabin with tons of extra leg room. We push back at 4:50 pm on the dot. I settle in for the eight hour, 45 minute flight to SEA. The seatbelt sign is turned off 25 minutes after take off.

    The flight attendants on this leg are a chatty bunch, taking every opportunity to give instructions and demand obedience, particularly one American woman who appears to be well past retirement.

    As I watch the flight attendants peel away the plastic and paper that encases seemingly every implement in the kitchen, I wonder about UA's recycling policy, or if they even have one. The sheer amount of trash generated by one single flight must be mind boggling. Plastic cups, cling film, napkins, foil food covers, mini jam jars, individual packets of butter, salt, pepper, cream, sugar, not to mention cans, bottles, newspapers, magazines, menus, the plastic coverings from blankets, etc.

    The flight attendants come through the cabin and ask what we’d like for dinner. Our options of beef or chicken have been outlined on a printed menu, which was handed out shortly after boarding, yet many passengers seem to have overlooked this convenience, as most of them ask what their choices are. Hello?

    Once all is settled, beverage service begins. The usual choice of champagne, wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks served with a small dish of warmed nuts, which the FAs offer to top up more than once.

    I choose the chicken, only to be told later that I’m out of luck as there are only four chicken dishes on board and distribution is based on status, of which I apparently have none.

    I don’t eat beef, but it isn’t a big deal. I’d considered ordering the vegetarian meal in advance, but I’m always afraid they’ll give me seafood or eggs, a fate much worse than having to eat around a piece of meat. The shrimp salad appetizer is wasted on me, as is the big fat filet, which my spouse would have loved. I work around it, rather enjoying the potatoes, gravy and broccoli. Between the vegetables, bread, chocolate ice cream, cheese, grapes and crackers I don’t go hungry.

    The flight attendants make several drink runs, then retire the beverage cart for the evening, turn down the lights and leave us to our own devices. The video portion of my entertainment system isn’t working…the movies play, but the soundtrack doesn’t. I duly report it to a flight attendant, but it doesn’t really matter as I plan to sleep. Instead I dawn my ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones and eyeshades and try to get comfortable in my old school, semi-reclining Business Class seat.

    I have it on good authority that I snore like a chainsaw when I sleep on my back. Unfortunately for my cabin mates, that’s the only way I can get comfortable. Let the festivities begin. I manage about four hours of sleep.

    Five hours after end of dinner service, the rummaging in the galley begins again and the flight attendants are soon roaming the aisle offering breakfast. There’s something about the smell of breakfast being heated on a plane that puts me off, so once again I choose the fruit, which is good. I furtively look about to see if any of my cabin mates are glaring at me, but all is well.

    Inexplicably, as we begin our descent, I’m suddenly overcome with the urge to purge and I dash for the mercifully close and vacant loo. I don’t notice if the seatbelt sign is on, nor do I care. The flight has been mildly turbulent, but I certainly didn’t see this coming. My seat mate eyes me warily as I clutch my barf bag. I want nothing more than to get off this plane.

    We finally land. I work my miserable self towards Immigration where I’m greeted warmly by a friendly officer who interrogates me about Australia. I claim my bags, clear Customs and recheck them before embarking on a rather long journey to the N Gates.

    Three trains later I’m finally nearing the Red Carpet Club, when once again, I find myself frantically looking for a restroom. When I finally enter the club, I advise the gatekeeper that I’ve been ill, just in case anyone else from the flight reports in sick, thinking that perhaps the cause was food borne. I give this flight a C.

    Next up:

    Are we there yet?

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    UA 876 – continuation – SEA – DEN – 757

    My layover in SEA is spent in the Red Carpet Club, trying not to move and avoiding all contact with food. I choke down some water, hoping I can drown whatever bug has overcome me.

    My 2– ½ hour flight to Denver boards at 10:55 am, pushes back at 11:25 and leaves the ground at 11:35 am. I’m in the First Class cabin of a 757. The flight attendant offers beverages and pretzels, followed by soup and sandwiches, which sound pretty good, so I put in my request. Shortly after takeoff though I’m feeling like death again, so I give up on trying to eat. I request a gingerale, cancel the food, cover my head with my shawl and try to shut out the world. My seat mate no doubt thinks I’m nuts, but the flight attendant is patiently empathetic. I’m too ill to pay any attention to the seatbelt sign. I finally begin to feel human again about two hours into the flight. I give this flight a B-.

    UA 6629 DEN – COS – CRJ-700

    There was a time that I would move mountains to avoid this 18 minute flight from DEN-COS. It’s odd that I can fly across the world, yet a teenie-weenie flight along the Front Range has the power to stop me in my tracks. It’s all about the turbulence and the wind, the rocking and rolling, the bumping and lurching…within full view of the ground. It troubles me.

    However, it’s also the last leg of a very long journey, and I’ve discovered that by the time I get to Denver, I’m too tired to fret over a bumpy little flight. I guess I’ve evolved.

    I arrive in Denver with 20 minutes to find my next flight. Not a problem, as its just a few doors down from my arrival gate. Experience tells me that I have to gate check my carry on, so I collect a tag at the podium and cool my heels for a few minutes. I’m feeling 100% better and thinking about food.

    I board, leaving my carry on at the end of the jet way. The plane pushes back at 3:40 pm, right on time. I’m in First Class, but it doesn’t mean much on an 18 minute flight. The flights attendants are required to remain seated...the usual turbulance. We’re offered a beverage before take off. The woman across from me quickly sucks down a glass of gin…I reckon she’s not a fan of this flight either. We’re in the air at 3:50, at our cruising altitude of 12,000 feet within five minutes and then beginning our descent five minutes after that. One good thing about this flight, it’s short!

    I all but kiss the ground when we touch down. I collect my carry on from the jet way, not noticing until the following day (after I’d disposed of my luggage tag) that the baggage gorillas have somehow managed to destroy the zipper. How that happens with gate checked luggage is a mystery. UA gets a big fat F for that.

    At long last, I’m home.

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    Any reason why you didn't take the Singapore flight from Tokyo to LAX, and then fly to Denver? The amenities with Singapore in economy seem to be better than the amenities of United's Business--except the legroom.

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    Sounds like the usual business or first experience on United: the seats are either good (new style) or relatively louse (old style), and pretty much everything else is inferior: ground services, IFE, meals, etc. Can you imagine if someone paid business-class fare (around $7000) for the NRT-SEA flight and had only 1 choice for a meal? On airlines with reputable business and first class products (Singapore, Swiss, BA, Lufthansa, ANA, JAL, Cathay Pacific, etc.), they load many more business and first meals than they have passengers, so that the chances of running out of a particular meal is much, much less.

    Melnq8, how unlucky for you to be ill on the flights. That is never fun. Speaking as your personal Physician, it sounds like you might possibly have had some sort of problem/inflammation in the ear, possibly a mild labyrinthitis, where you have problems adjusting to changes in air pressure. (Problem began when plane began its descent and again when plane took off; problem abated when on the ground or when plane leveled off.) My Former Beloved had a nasty case of this on one trip: she was feeling OK, maybe a little tired, before a flight home. 3 minutes after take-off, it was BarfBag time. I don't suppose that sitting next to me helped things, but that's probably not relevant.

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    >>>The amenities with Singapore in economy seem to be better than the amenities of United's Business--except the legroom.<<<


    (Greetings, wally, and re SQ economy legroom. Before long, you'll be able to fly SIA's fine and rather spacious A380s on LAX-NRT sectors. On the upper deck, certain Y class rows have most agreeable legroom. More info - and 'preferred seating' options - to be found on the ever-evolving singaporeair.com/ I've always enjoyed my A380 rides with the Girls and suspect you'll also find it an uplifting experience.)

    Back to Mel: a big thank you for an enjoyable read! If so inclined, post same on the most informative and entertaining SQ talk dot com -- great people. Early weekend wishes to you and all.

    robert


    ... SIA -- All the Way ...

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    Wally -

    I was using UA miles to upgrade, which meant UA flights. As much as I love SQ, I don't want to fly coach anymore than I have to...on any airline...there's also the issue of cost - SQ isn't cheap...and I hate LAX.

    When UA's connections work, they work pretty well.

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    Mel, I also hate flying in coach anymore. I've got a S E Asia trip starting in a week, flying a combo of UA (first class), TG (biz) and SQ (biz). Routing takes me from ORD to HKG to BKK to SIN to BKK and back to ORD. I hope to enjoy SQ as much as everyone raves about it... my first experience with them (BKK-SIN-BKK). Not on a 380, but that's OK. I'm not the least bit interested in flying the 380!!

    Thank you so much for your report!

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    Hi simpsonc510 -

    Let us know how it goes on SQ, you're in for a treat flying them in biz. I feel the same way about the 380, the sheer size scares me a bit.

    DonTopaz -

    I think you may be on to something. I do have a history of ear problems, but I fly frequently and this has only happened once before, while deplaning, oddly enough.

    I've just returned from three wonderful weeks on the SI of NZ, having flown Business Class with Air New Zealand (fantastic!). I just might get around to finishing this report yet (return to PER from COS).

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    Melnq8 - Please consider chatting with your health care people about a prescription medication that's called meclizine (MEK-li-zeen) in the U.S. -- it's extremely helpful in combating the symptoms of labyrinthitis. (The medication is surely available in other places, as well, but possibly under a different name.) I always carry a few tablets with me when flying, just in case.

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