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:
I could not have asked for a better visit to Melbourne. I enjoyed the vibe and feel of the city more than I did of Sydney. Sydney had the beautiful scenery, while Melbourne had more to offer within the city, thanks in part to their awesome tram system and the ease to get around the city. I did take a while to understand how the Myki card worked, but it was nice to hop off and on and not worry about a car.
After one full day in Melbourne, it was time to check in for our flight back home. SQ allows passengers to check-in online less than 48hrs before their flight and we took advantage of it to see what the sitting situation would be for our flights, including our upcoming MEL-SIN flight on the A380. We lucked out with the added bonus of finding seats in the small Y cabin on the upper deck during reservation. During the check-in process, I got to confirm my window seats on the upper deck. Once checked in, we continued to enjoy our time around the city.
On 04Sept14, we left the Melbourne CBD around 11:00 and got to the airport 35minutes later. It is amazing that for a city with an amazing tram and rail system, they have yet to offer such service to the airport. There is the Skybus service. Last I heard the Victorian government had approved of rail service.
As much as I want to enjoy one more hour eating delicious Chinese food next to our apartment, I wanted to get to the airport early so we would not feel like we would be rushing. We arrived early and discovered that the SQ counters had not opened yet. It gave me some time to walk around the International Terminal and see which flights would be departing soon.
Passengers queuing to check in for a CX flight to HKG.
VA check-in desks for international flights.
NZ check-in kiosks
JQ check-in counters for international flights.
Special QF check-in machine
SQ desks set up, but not yet open.
SQ priority counters located behind the Y counters.
Panorama view of two neighboring check-in counters
After walking around the Departure area, it was time to queue up at the SQ counters just before they opened up to check-in passengers. A number of passengers had queued up before us, yet there seemed to be a bit of confusion. They had a queue for fast bag drop along with a queue for regular Y check-in. This confused the first group of people, Aussie holidaymakers, who had not done online check-in, but apparently told they should queue at the fast bag drop off. We queued up behind the noisy lot who were in the wrong queue. They would tell off others who queued up in the regular Y line to join the current queue even though they had said they had not checked-in. One of the queue monitors looked a bit perplexed at the rather lengthy queue for fast check and no one in the general Y queue. He started asking if passengers had done internet check-in; if they had, they could stay in this lane, otherwise they would need to move over to the Y lane. All of a sudden, we had jumped to being first in the queue as the Menzies agents got their stations ready to check-in a rather full A380 to SIN.
Menzies staff having a quick pow-wow before they started to open for check-in
I got called to the first desk and was the first person to check-in. Ms. Marina was very friendly and chatty. Seeing that I had a US Passport, she asked if I had enjoyed my stay in Melbourne, and gladly informed her that I did. I even told her that I was loving this cold weather as it was Summer back home. I told her I was flying back to Houston via Singapore and Moscow. She told me I was the first person she met who traveled such route. As she typed away, she asked how many pieces I would be checking in today. I informed her I would be checking in two and then she stopped typing and looked at me. She said I would only be allowed to check in only one and have to pay for the other. I told her since I am headed to the US, we are entitled two under the piece system. She did not seem to want to believe me so he called over her younger supervisor and asked if I am entitled two free checked bags since I would be heading to the US. The supervisor confirmed that I do get to check-in two bags, something Ms. Marina had learned that day. She continued to type away with no attitude and generated my baggage tags and my boarding passes for this flight and my connecting flight. She confirmed my two bags checked in all the way to IAH as well as my boarding passes for the flight to SIN and then the flight to IAH. She pointed the direction I needed to go towards the gate. She also had me go ahead and fill out the departure card before heading to passport control. She then finished up wishing me a pleasant journey home, and I thanked her for her time.
I made my way to the side and waited for my parents to finish up with their check-in procedures. Too bad at the time we did not have lounge access as we still had just less than 3hrs till our flight departing. But that was OK, the airport geek that I am enjoyed the chance to walk around a bit before heading airside.
Now one thing that my cousin told me to try because it tastes so different and better than in the US, was to head over to Macca’s (aka McDonald’s in Australia) because all the food is locally sourced and rarely imported. Thus, the meat tastes a lot better than the questionable processed stuff here in the US. At MEL, they had a large McD outlet and figured we would give it a try as one of the last meals in Melbourne, especially since we had not had lunch yet.
The McMate, yup, we’re in Australia!
It was good. The beef patty tasted a lot better than what you get here. It definitely hit the spot. I should have also tried their chicken nuggets to see how those tasted and compared to odd shaped pieces we have here.
They had called our flight to go through security.
Time to head airside
When heading airside in MEL, you first go through security and then Passport Control. They had just opened up the second line as we approached, and some Asians tried to jump the queue, but an airport employee told them to go back in line. It took about 10min to get through security taking out iPads and other electronic devices. A bunch of kids were in the queue, so it did take a bit to wrangle them, anxious to get through the scanners and stare at planes. I knew how they felt. Just after we queued up for Australian Passport control. It was a bit odd that upon departure, they did not utilize SmartGate. The female agent called me over, and I handed her over my stuff. She flipped through them and asked if I enjoyed my stay. I told her I did and loved the weather in Melbourne because it was the peak of summer back home and already tired of the heat. She handed everything back and wished me a pleasant flight. A few minutes later, my parents finished and then it was time to peruse around the terminal.
International Terminal Map
Like most international airports after Passport Control, it’s Duty Free Shopping!!!
If I remember correctly, they had placed this status right before hitting the duty free stores after going thru Passport Control. I would have expected something like this in any of the New Zealand airports. Was interesting to see it at MEL.
Statue honoring a two-time World Champion Shearer.
Now that we had made it airside, we had just under an hour till our gate would open. We spent some time perusing around the main area just to see what the airport had on offer. The one thing I wish Australia had that I did not realize only New Zealand had was Cadbury Picnic. If you’ve had it and loved it, you know what I’m talking about! Instead, the Cadbury’s they had are the traditional varieties such as fruit-and-nut, plain, and crunchie. After wondering around a bit, we decided to just relax and wait at the gate area in anticipation of the long trip ahead. While my parents headed towards the gate around 14:30, I took my time to do a bit of planespotting, airside. I guess due to the bright sun the MEL airport authority had tinted their windows so some of the pictures will appear bluish.
VA flight waiting for a flight at the domestic terminal.
A 3U flight I believe waiting to head to CTU while, while JQ and VA tails peek out from behind.
My first sighting of a JQ 788.
Wow! I get to ride 9V-SKA, the very first A380 to do a commercial flight for SQ!
A TG 77W, QF A380, EK 77W, and I believe an MH A330.
A QF A380 waiting to head to LAX.
Today’s gate: Gate 18
Boarding queues for upper deck passengers.
To distinguish between upper deck and main deck, check-in agents place orange stickers with the silverkris bird to indicate a Y passenger seated on the upper deck.
Ten minutes after getting to the gate, passengers started to trickle in and the Menzies staff started to prepare the gate for departure.
My boarding pass. Yup, Upper Deck today!!!
Ruslan, the hunky Menzies, agent called for passengers with small children and those needing assistance to queue up for the main deck Y queue. Shortly, he said, they would begin pre-boarding. All of a sudden, a troupe of J passengers made their way from the lounge to the gate and queued up ready to board. I also noticed 4 extra passengers get specialized service and got a personal escort bypassing everyone to be among the first to board the plane. I could only assume those would be the lucky 4 passengers flying in Suites today.
Now calling for pre-boarding.
As pre-boarding started to taper off, another Menzies agent called for general boarding. She also informed myself and fellow Y passengers sitting on the upper deck to queue up next to the J boarding line. I noticed Marina verifying passports and boarding passes for J passengers and Ruslan preparing to verify upper deck passengers. By 14:55 they allowed the upper deck to start boarding. Again Ruslan verified passports and boarding passes and then you walk the few steps to the podium where another Menzies agent scans the boarding pass.
I start getting giddy like a little kid!
Ms Red Kebaya with a smile welcoming passengers at UL1
The airliner nut that I am can now cross off flying on the upper deck of an A380 off my little bucket list. My first two A380 flights I took were on LH to and from IAH on the main deck in Y. The added bonus to this flight, we flew on SQ and on the first commercial A380, 9V-SKA. After getting my boarding pass scanned, I get to the end of the jetway around 15:10. Upon walking on board, Ms Red Kebaya welcomed me on board and could tell my excitement and told me that I hope I enjoy this flight with her. She told me to cross over the galley and make a right and one of her colleagues would help me find my seat.
A rare empty J seat on this flight.
First row of upper deck Y.
Passengers getting their hand carry bags situated.
The middle seats.
I find my seat 78K and the luxury of an empty side bin. I get all my stuff settled in my side bin as my neighbor arrives, a burly Aussie female of Serbian descent heading to ZRH and ZAG via SIN. I feel like I do not take too much shoulder or seat width, while she started seep into my seat area and personal space. A bit later I felt I was sitting at an angle because of how much space she invaded, but I would push her back so she can spill into the aisle and not onto me.
MEL seems quiet this time of day.
Mr. Blue Tie Chia Tong helping passengers get to their seat during the boarding process.
Passengers getting ready for the long flight ahead.
As the majority of passengers had boarded by 15:20, at least on the upper deck, FAs started to distribute hot towels to all. Ms. Green Kebaya Cher would be serving our side today while Ms. Blue Kebaya Nor would serve the left side. Chia Tong would mainly work in the galley on this flight.
Cher and Nor return to pick up used hot towels. They hand over the towels to Chia Tong and he hands them the menus to distribute for this flight. After the menus, Cher, Nor, and Chia Tong handed out Givenchy amenity kits to all passengers in our cabin.
Some last minute stragglers boarding and looking for luggage space.
Around 15:30, local time, I heard my first automated message on an SQ flight regarding the storage of cabin baggage. Afterwards our Captain gave his welcome followed by Peter, our ISM, who welcomed us on board and informs everyone that the doors have been closed as we would make our way to SIN.
One last cabin picture before pushback.
Around 15:40, we started our pushback from the gate and made our way to Runway 16. It seemed we taxied along at a snails pace to the runway.
Heading towards Runway 16.
As you can tell, we were about to run down the runway screaming for take off, but we had to abort the take off. This had been the first time I had experienced an aborted take off. I have experienced a couple of aborted landings and fly-bys when landing in SEA, but the very first aborted take off and on 9V-SKA. As we pulled back into gate, the Captain mentioned that he aborted our take off when a cargo door light had turned on and for the safety of all passengers, he decided to return to gate and get it checked out. I for one am glad he did. I am on the side of safety and taking all the necessary precautions when traveling and laugh in the faces of people who act with some sort of entitlement as well as the DYKWIA attitude. On the positive, most of the people on board, at least on the upper deck, remained calm and understood the nature of what happened, especially with MH 17 and MH 370 fresh in most people's minds. I could hear people surprisingly talk about both as many seemed to start their holidays.
Heading back to the gate.
Seat belt sign turned off, but cannot use mobile phones.
At 16:10, we get towed back to the gate as ground personnel started doing their checks of the luggage holds. The Captain kept us informed on a regular basis. FAs did water and juice runs while on the ground. Fellow passengers had the ability to stretch their legs and I know I should have, but I started getting tired and did not want to disturb my neighbor. I did try to use up my remaining data on my iPad while we waited by doing the usual Facebook posts regarding the aborted take off and teasing that it’s a sign that I should stay in Melbourne.
As mentioned, the captain kept us informed at 10-15min intervals while the FAs served drinks and snacks. They also handled any questions, and Peter informed all passengers that SATS agents would do any rescheduling/reticketing for passengers who may miss their connecting flights. We had no worries with ours as we had a lengthy layover at SIN, but not long enough to venture back into Singapore. If we had taken the earlier SQ flight we would have, but I did not want to miss flying on SQ, on a A380, and in the upper deck. The bonus was flying on 9V-SKA, the very first A380 to go into commercial service.
By 16:50, everything checked out ok and the Captain informed that we would soon be making our way to SIN shortly and should have a smooth flight after some filing of some last minute paperwork. Doors had closed by 17:05 and then we immediately got pushed back and made haste back towards the runway. Also the redeye A330 SQ flight from SIN had just arrive, though not sure if they used the same gate as ours as we left, or they use one of the non-A380 gates.
We raced up into the sky by 17:25 and now you could tell people went into vacation mode once we took to the skies. At that point, I reclined my seat and took a short nap as we made our way across the Australian continent.
About twenty minutes after take off, Cher and Nor rolled down the aisles and started with a full drink service. Rather than getting an apple juice while we waited on the ground, I asked Cher if I could order a pineapple spritzer along with a Singapore Sling just to compare among the other flight attendants. First, she verified if I said apple or pineapple because apple juice is normally served while the pineapple juice is mainly for the Singapore Sling. Next, she said she would but needed to get some pineapple juice from the galley. I guess no one had any interest enjoying a Singapore Sling.
I should stop here and comment about Cher’s performance and do wonder if she is on her way to getting a promotion from her green kebaya to a red one, unless she just recently earned her green kebaya. While frequent flyers would say SQ FAs, especially those in the iconic blue kebaya, tend to act like robots and follow the guidebook. FAs like Cher had a more personal and friendly touch. She was talkative with all passengers because she had that happy and personable disposition that would transform this flights from a nice flight to a memorable one. I for one was glad she worked on my side.
By the time I started enjoying my drinks, I forgot to take a picture of them. In terms of which FA had the better drink, I would rank Cher’s Sling as better than Mohammad’s, but not as smooth as Raffie’s.
After the initial drinks run, it was time for dinner service. I had misplaced my menu when I got home so all I remember is the beef option that was pretty tasty.
After I had finished my meal, Cher and Nor served Drumsticks for dessert.
The meal was definitely good. However, compared to the first time, I am missing the spice and heat of these dishes mainly in the form of a small side of hot peppers. As Cher and Nor picked up meal trays, they offered some hot tea, coffee, or a top up of some water. Cher asked me if I enjoyed the meal and told her I wished it had a bit of spice to it and she said she loved her food spicy and talked about one of her favorite place for super spicy food at Lau Po Sat. She then recommended that I could enjoy the rest of the flight with some hot tea or I could go for another Singapore Sling. I declined on another Singapore Sling, but took her up on some hot tea. After both FAs finished collecting trays, people seemed to get out of their seats and stretch out. My seatmate decided she needed to go to the lav and I figured I may as well.
The slightly cramped upper deck Y throne seat
Excuse the fat toes, but I love the fact that SQ has added a step to open up the waste bin rather than touching the lid after washing one’s hands to throw the paper towel.
After waiting my turn to use one of the lavs at the end of the upper deck, I started to wonder around the plane and venturing downstairs. Cher saw me taking some pictures and I told her that I like to post trip reports, so she stopped me to say she wanted to quickly make it look nice and organized, which already was. She just tweaked a few wine bottles so their labels showed, and “voila,” she said, “the galley was ready for it’s close up”. I laughed and asked about venturing downstairs. Since the seatbelt sign was off, she said to be careful going down the stairs and see how big this plane is.
Time to head downstairs.
Upper deck rear galley
Rear lower deck Y cabin
Lower deck side galley
The busy Y cabin between doors 3 and 4.
The quiet Y cabin between doors 2 and 3.
Time to head back upstairs.
I return to my seat and decided to fire up the movie “Cuban Fury” and just enjoy the flight where 24hrs later I would be back in Houston getting back to the usual daily grind. They did turn off the cabin lights for a few hours to let passengers rest on this flight.
As we were about to enter Indonesian aerospace, the crew turn on the cabin lights and prepare the cabin for the pre-arrival meal. Similar to my previous SQ flights with two meal services, Cher and Nor started from the rear of the cabin and worked their way forward. First, they started with the oshibori, then drinks, and then finally the “snack”. I remember I opted for the beef option. Now it had some spicy peppers on it, but still wish they had a small side container for more.
After finishing the meal, everyone started getting ready for our arrival into SIN. A few passengers did get a bit anxious with our delay. With an hour left in the flight, our Captain gave us some information regarding our arrival. He thanked us for being patient with the cargo door issue and accept his apology for our delay. He said we made up some time on our way over, but we would be landing 1hr 20min late. For those with tight connections, they would have SATS personnel that would be waiting just outside the boarding bridge to direct those with tight connections and reissue boarding passes for those who missed their connection, in particular those going to CDG. I found out a bit later that our 9V-SKA would have continued on to CDG, but with our delay, that flight departed on time and our plane would now head to ZRH, thus delaying that flight a bit.
I do not know if they show connecting gate information anymore.
With five minutes left in the flight, the captain called for cabin crew to take their seats for arrival. Slowly we approached SIN and safely landed on 20R. We had a short taxi to gate B7. He had a bit of a wait to deplane as we had a packed J cabin deplaning from the single upper deck door. On the way out, I thanked all the FAs along the way for a great flight. Before leaving, I specifically made a special thank you to Chef, who sat two rows behind me, for a memorable flight with her. She smiled and wished me a safe journey to Houston.
SATS grounds crew helping passengers from my flight making tight connections.
Heading to the central area of T3.
Melbourne - MEL
Singapore - SIN
This completes this portion of SQ 228 from MEL to SIN. I cannot fault SQ for being overly cautious when an indicator light goes light goes on. Furthermore, I truly got to enjoy the personal touch from Cher and hope her fellow FAs learn from her how to give that extra touch.
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