Welcome to my latest in series of flights I took to New Zealand and Australia via Singapore in conjunction with SQ and NZ. If you’re joining us on this flight, please feel free to read the other reports of this journey at the links below:
The joys of flying SQ from IAH is the intermediate 5th Freedom stop at DME to drop off and pick up passengers before continuing onto SIN. As I mentioned in the previous trip report, I will compare this flight with the first time I took this flight back in 2012. Because of the ever-changing world, Russia has been a polarizing country on top of the amount of hurdles one must do to get a visa and enter the country and capital city. When this route first started, SQ did not advertise much on their website regarding the transit procedures at DME when going between IAH and SIN. When I first took this flight, the agent said to hold onto the boarding pass and no visa needed. Sure enough, DME has a minimally invasive transit process; it just depends on the number of transfers coming off the flight.
We had arrived from our flight from IAH and had a slightly delayed 1h30m wait continuing on to SIN from Gate 11, the furthest gate at the end of the pier. The same plane would take us to SIN, as this flight arrives later in the day than the flight originating from SIN. One of the DME-based SQ employees welcomes passengers in English and Russian and informs those continuing on to SIN to pick up a “Transit” boarding card and to have boarding passes and passports ready when queuing at the “Transfer” desk.
Pink Transit Card
Blue Transit Card
After collecting the requisite transit card, all passengers head down to the lower arrivals level and the maze to the escalators that will lead passengers to the transit area. The first time I took this flight, passengers did a full on sprint to get ahead of others to get processed faster. To me this leads to the frustration when transiting at DME because it leads to queue jumping along with pushing and shoving. However on this flight, this did not occur. I contribute the low load, especially a small handful of Vietnamese passengers, on the flight despite the majority of passengers, at least in Y, continued on to SIN.
After taking the escalator up to departure level, the ground staff direct passengers to a queue where an agent verifies one’s boarding pass via sequence number and collects transit cards. The agent will also issue lounge access passes to those who qualify. With this flight’s load, the agent probably wrote few than in previous times. From there they file you in inside a tiny security area that barely fits the two scanners. This area can provide some headache and angst against the transit stop at DME. I am pleased to say since we did arrive, even with a brief restroom break, earlier than fellow Y passengers and beat the crowding before security. For those that like to keep track, no need to take off shoes when going through DME transit security. Once we collected everything, you need a final boarding pass and passport check by a single, stoic Russian Immigration official. No smile, no ?????? ????, no ??????????? ????. The agent for that day, along with the other security staff members, were cold, blonde, Russian beauties. In the same tiny room as the security screening, the agent can take minutes just staring at you back and forth at your passport and you until he or she is satisfied and lets you through at the swipe of his/her card key where the sliding doors open depositing you into the craziness of the departure floor. No crack of a smile when I replied ???????!
Signage and FIDS on departure floor just after transit security.
Passengers littered all over the rather small international pier at DME. At times it just felt crowded because of the narrow hallways along with the hundreds of sweaty Russians. I remembered there used to be a small Bosco store on the upper shopping level and wanted to see if they had any Sochi 2014 Olympic paraphernalia remaining just to add to my small Olympics collection. When we got to the upper floor, it seemed they had boarded up what I thought was the location of the Bosco store from my last visit. All they had were large duty free stores for alcohol, beauty, and candies at ridiculous prices. Russians do love their vodka and tequila. Many sotcked up with a bottle of each, probably to drink on the flight or while waiting for their flight.
As an actual plus for DME, the airport does provide free WiFi throughout the airport. Last time I visited, I had saved the connection to my old mobile. Now with my current mobile, it immediately connected with a direct prompt to their welcome screen to activate for use.
Which one is my flight?
Ahhh … there it is, and it’s slightly delayed.
We did not bother shopping for anything else, especially at the start of our journey. We headed back down to the departure floor at the end of the pier that deposited us near our gate. Food seems sparse, but nothing looked interesting. I saw a bunch of people head downstairs and I followed them to discover the bus gate area for gates greater than 16. Hundreds of people had crammed this small area while people waited for their flights to neighboring former Soviet republics.
Busy around our gate.
It’s the FAs working our flight to SIN this evening.
Escalators at the end of the pier near gates 11/11A and 13.
When I returned to the gate, I noticed our new set of cabin crew waiting by the Gate 11 podium waiting to board the plane and do their pre-checks before we could board the plane. I did get to watch the previous crew head towards the arrivals hall. At an hour before our new departure time, the FAs headed into the plane to prepare for our flight. We queued up at the Gate 11 podium, which they used for general boarding. They set up Gate 11A for priority boarding for premium passengers and Star Golds. Also at Gate 11A, they have a small seating area just after the podium where they held those needing assistance. The last time I flew the route, tons of elderly Vietnamese passengers filled that little area. For this flight, only one elderly lady waited to board. As we waited, I just used the free WiFi connection to check e-mails and do the usual Facebook check-ins and download pictures. I did worry that this flight would have more passengers than the previous flight, but I could not be sure because of the packed gate area and the cramped facilities at DME.
Gate 11 Podium
After a 10minute wait, our new set of cabin crew sped up their checklists to minimize the delay out of DME. The DME ground crew had called for priority pre-boarding at 15:26 and then started general boarding around 15:30. They did not care about boarding by sections, just a free-for-all during general boarding. At IAH, they kept the boarding pass whole; at DME, they tore them up and gave back the smaller stub.
9V-SWP waiting to take us back to SIN.
I did not get the name of Mr. Purple Tie nor Ms. Red Kebaya who greeted us with the same smile and enthusiasm as Chris and Chang did while at IAH. When I boarded, J looked very open, with only a few having boarded. Those J passengers were on my IAH flight.
Entering the Y Cabin
Ms. Blue Kebaya Selena welcomed us on board and directed us to our seats. I took my original 35D while keeping watch of any open seating, especially free window seats. After the five minute rush to board the plane, the boarding process had lulled down. This gave the cabin crew to distribute the usual goodies of menus, Givenchy amenity kits, and oshibori. This flight had a few more people join us, yet it remained as open as our originating IAH flight. I eyed 33HJK open and saw Mr. Blue Tie Mohammad pass by and stopped by seat before me asking him. He asked if there was anything I needed and I inquired if boarding had completed and if 33HJK would be free for an open window seat. He said we would be waiting for a few more passengers, but most in Y had already boarded and that I could go ahead and move over. I thanked him for the information and got my stuff and got comfortable in my new seat 33J.
Mohammad would serve my side of the cabin along with Ms. Green Kebaya Chow. Once I got settled, Mohammad distributed hot and jasmine-scented oshibori on my side while Selena distributed to those on the left side. Chow and Mr. Green Tie Hang walked the aisles and started picking up used oshibori. On this flight, Chow and Hang would work in the forward galley. Afterwards, Mohammad and Selena handed out headphones while Chow and Hang handed out Givenchy amenity kits, adding to the many the airline loves to give me. As they handed out the amenity kits, the Captain gave his welcome speech and told we would still be delayed waiting for last minute bags and paperwork. Today’s flight time would be at 9h35m with a slight delay into SIN. He expected a smooth flight overall, especially after passing over Kazakhstan. He would talk to us again before arrival into SIN with up-to-date information. In the meantime, he invited us to sit back, relax, and enjoy SQ’s award-winning service.
By 15:40, doors had closed and few minutes later, we pushed back from the gate while the cabin crew sat down during the safety video demonstration. I wonder what the reason is for them to be seated during the safety demo.
As we taxied, I noticed that in addition to being a parking lot for various Russian planes and airliner, construction is still on-going despite it does not seem like much has been done. They had decommissioned a gate possibly for resurfacing. Thus, we delayed an incoming JL flight from NRT while we waited to depart. Once pushed back, we waited while the JL plane docked at our gate before we could make our way slowly towards 14R. As we queued up, we waited for an OS A320 flight to VIE to take off. At 16:00 we roared down 14R and into the air towards SIN.
Pushback from the gate.
First time seeing PostItaliane.
Look, SCAT behind the PostItaliane.
UN 763, JL 788, and EK 77W
A random Russian airliner
UN 743 and UTAir 767 hanging out by the cargo area.
Hangers and buses near 14R
Once in the air, tonight’s ISM welcomed us on board. About seven minutes later, the captain turned off the seat belt sign and released the flight attendants to start their service. A couple of passengers took this opportunity to also head to the lavatories. Selena helped the mom at 31DEF set up the bassinet for her youngest. She then also found a little kids pack for the older child to play with during the flight. Afterwards she and Mohammad took this opportunity to hand out menus prior to the start of the lunch service. I could have refused accepting a menu since the one given from IAH also contained the menu for this flight. But since I like to collect as much airline paraphernalia as possible, I graciously accepted it.
Looking forward from my seat
Plenty of open seats across the aisle.
At least 9h 54m to SIN.
After take off, I sorta took a small nap only to wake up hearing Mohammad starting the first drink service. Just like the start of the previous flight, I started off with a Singapore Sling to see how Mohammad make his. I also ordered an Apple Spritzer just in case I needed something to chase the Sling.
Mohammed gave me an extra packet of peanuts since I requested two drinks. He filled up both of my drinks before handing them over one at a time. I thanked him and he let me know that dinner service would be starting soon. I thanked him again and wondered if I looked hungry when I did not feel hungry. As for the drinks, Mohammad’s Sling tasted better than Raffie’s Sling. It had just enough alcohol without doing the sour whiskey face.
After Mohammad finished doing drinks in our section, he returned with trays in his hand for the mom with two kids in seats 31DEF. Her youngest had fallen asleep upon take off, so she placed him in the bassinet while she enjoyed a bit of silence and a chance to eat. After a few others got their special meals, Selena and Mohammad walked down the aisles to start the dinner service as well as top up any drinks.
XuT, similar to a Magnum ice cream bar
X??, a much nicer packaging when I last took this flight.
Now the one part of this flight that made my father nervous was whether we would fly over Ukraine just weeks after a Russian missile shot down MH 17 AMS-KUL over Ukraine. Fortunately, we did not have to backtrack over Ukraine towards SIN. We flew into Kazakh aerospace and the only time we encountered a bit of turbulence on this flight.
After the lengthy dinner service, I did not wait for Mohammed to pick up my tray. I started to get sleepy after taking the last bite of my ice cream bar. I moved my tray over to 33H while i used the extra blankets for bed padding and used the extra pillows. Minutes later, I end up enjoying almost 5hrs of comfortable sleep to wake up in time for the mid-flight snack.
Mid-flight snack washed down with another Apple Spritzer
Immediately after the snack, while flying over Indian aerospace, I went back to sleep because I knew we would have an action-packed day in Singapore before continuing on to our next flight.
I do want to add this here since I did not want the previous trip report to be super long. The plane offered WiFi through OnBoard. Yet looking at the prices, there was no way I would test this system out. When flying through Russian and Indian aerospace, they prohibit the use of the wifi service.
After the small mid-flight snack, I enjoyed another 3.5hrs of sleep before waking up to the smell and heard activity going on for the upcoming breakfast service. It seems like this would be the first time I would not choose the Asian meal. Mohammad and Selena worked from the back, forward. I had hoped for a noodle option or dim sum for breakfast, however, I could only choose between the wheat bliny or the cheesy omelet.
Had to wait for my meal as Raffie ran out, but they had plenty available.
A slight disappointment in the meal, but I had been craving their noodles, and so far naught among the four meals served so far. At least I could look forward to real authentic hawker food during the layover! Now, I do have to comment on the yogurt and the cherry jam. Both were tasty and not as sour as similar items from other countries.
A ding went on to ensure all mobile phones had remained switched to Flight Mode as we made our descent to SIN.
They start collecting meal trays as we approached Malaysian aerospace. Flying towards KUL meant just an hour left on this flight. This flight arrives into SIN just before 06:00, after traveling almost 24hrs.
I was getting excited because this would technically be my third time visiting Singapore as a transit passenger. I love visiting this city state, yet I have not spent the night, only spent a couple of hours getting around while on transit. We would be arriving rather early before the first service on the MRT. I learned that I should get plenty of rest on this flight to have enough energy to go eat, shop, and eat some more!
After passing over KUL, the FAs began their arrivals preparation. They opened the J curtain, they packed up the bassinet, ensured everyone had their seat belts on with window shades drawn up. As usual, the J FA in her blue kebaya seated at 3R had taken her seat much earlier than Selena at 3L. As we got closer, I tried to film our arrival, so the first part of the video just features the inflight map going into its cycling mode.
We landed in the still of darkness and humidity on 02R. Since we arrived near T3, we had a relatively short taxi to A5. The seat belts lights turned off, and everyone sprang to their feet to retrieve their items and get ready to deplane. Yet, Selena and Ms. Blue 3R closed the curtains to let everyone off first. I had gotten my stuff and joined my parents on the left side where we would eventually deplane from 2L. I got to chat with Selena a bit and asked us if we were continuing on somewhere in Asia or ending in Singapore. I told her we had a nice long layover before we continued on to AKL. My mom asked what her favorite things to do in Singapore and she mentioned the usual favorites of shopping along Orchard Road as well as eating at Lau Pa Sat. I asked if she had a favorite at Lau Pa Sat, and she said the Hainanese Chicken as well as any of the spicy prawn dishes. She peaked through and saw that we could no deplane. We thanked her for a great flight and hoped to see her again on our return.
On our way off the plane, Ms. Red Kebaya thanked us and we thanked her before getting a blast of Southeast Asian humidity right in the face. Just a couple steps away, we entered the climate-controlled jetway and entered T3, one of the most beautiful terminals I have ever visited. We had about an hour to hang around before heading down to Immigration so we could take the MRT into the city.
A330 and A380 at B1 and B2, respectively
The updated Singapore Food Street to mimic the local hawker stands.
While it seemed that the Duty Free stores remain open 24hrs a day, most of the smaller outlets were closed and in the process of opening back up. Airside, they do have a left luggage facility near the B gates and we left our bigger carryon bags while we went around the city. We exchanged some USD for some SGD and even got a micro SIM card so I could have wifi access on my iPad. Once we finished that, we made our way down to Singapore Immigration so we could begin our 10hr layover.
Bulldog statue before Singapore Immigration waiting for passengers coming from A gates.
That is one big seed!
Small garden before Singapore Immigration.
Salamat! Thanks! Gracias!
Beautiful green oasis at T3 baggage claim.
That concludes this flight. Time to enjoy Singapore!
Moscow - DME
Singapore - SIN
I knock down SQ a bit because I had been expecting a noodle dish so far on this journey and so far have come up 0/2.
As for DME, it scored high on security/immigration efficiency because of the small number of passengers continuing on to SIN. I wish there was a N/A option on some of the ratings such as Access and parking because this option area was not utilized.
Thank you again for reading and please stay tuned for more!
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