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:
By the time of this flight, most would have been ready to just get the flight over with and get home. I, on the other hand, did not look forward to this flight as it would mean my travels for 2014 would be coming to an end. Also, it would mean I would not know when I would be flying SQ again.
Last where we left off, my parents and I were heading towards the transfer area at DME. With our transit card in hand, we made it up the escalator and got checked off by a member of SQ ground staff before allowed to enter the tiny security area. With the relative few passengers continuing on to IAH, the process did not seem dreadful as the very first time I took this route. It just seemed nice with less pushy Vietnamese families, as well as getting toes run over by those in wheelchairs. After a quick passport and boarding pass check by an aloof and stoic Russian immigration official, I entered a much quieter departure level at the swipe of the cardkey with no sounds or grunts made.
Again with no lounge access, we had to walk around while we waited for over an hour to continue on to IAH while they clean and prepare 9V-SWP. First up, I checked the tiny FIDS displays to see the flights on schedule.
To stretch our legs a bit, we checked to see if anything interesting available at Duty Free. However, since I’m not a big fan of vodka, I decided to pass.
A quick pass through of Duty Free.
My mom passed by a small Russian tchotchke shop and bought an overpriced Babushka doll. Too bad entering Russia just seems like a hassle for a wandering tourist like myself.
Still wondering around.
Which gate should I go to?
S7 and a T5 77L waiting to head back to ASB.
It was 09:30 and we headed to the gate as it approached the prescribed boarding time on our boarding pass.
We headed to Gate 13, specifically 13A. This gate has a 13B. For the purpose of our flight, Gate 13A served as the wait area for all Y passengers, while Gate 13B served as the waiting area for F and J passengers. Since the flight heads to the U.S., boarding pass and passport screening are done before entering, followed by quick security check. Thus, if anyone is bringing any liquids not in an approved ziplock or sealed duty free bag, it would be confiscated. Once we got the OK to enter, an agent hands out a U.S. customs declaration form. These days, U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need to fill out the Customs forms as many airports, including IAH, have self-service kiosks to undergo U.S. Immigration. A form spits out and gets checked by a US CBP officer in which he or she checks whether you get a quick Welcome back home! or Please fall into that line over there.
We found a seat near the boarding door. I recognized most of the passengers already waiting had flown with me from SIN. I did notice a couple of new passengers ending a tour/cruise head back home and joining out flight. I walked around to do a bit of plane spotting now that I was confined to the gate and not want to get rechecked.
An S7 A320 heading to an international destination in the foreground, while the S7 737 in the background would be doing a domestic Russian flight.
A couple of UN and S7 planes waiting for their domestic flights.
Does anyone recognize the airline and the aircraft?
9V-SWP getting ready for its journey to IAH.
At 10:00 they started with pre-boarding of premium passengers. Two minutes later, they called for general boarding since it would still be a relatively empty flight to IAH. At times, I do wonder how much longer this flight will last, especially now that KE, NH, and BR have started services to ICN, NRT, and TPE, respectively, providing additional 1-stop flights to SIN and cheaper flights to those heading to Southeast Asia.
I had missed the SQ FAs make their grand presence known as they walk through the halls of the DME international wing. They had now been waiting for us for the journey to IAH.
First time two males welcoming passengers on board. Mr. Green Tie would be working the forward Y cabin.
The “old” J seats.
An empty Y cabin so far.
I tried to get situated in my seat as boarding continued. I was curious just how open this flight would be.
It did not really take long for most of the Y passengers to board and get settled in their seats. I noticed that the cleaners did make sure everything was organized and replenished.
They DME cleaners made sure I had an inflight magazine and a waste bag.
Plenty of open seats and photobombed by a Russian passenger.
It seems there would be more male FAs on this flight and those in blue kebayas were trainees on their first flights. Ms. Blue Kebaya Sarah was taking her first training flight just after passing through the classroom portion. She told me that SQ had done a recruitment tour in China and a friend of hers, Liu, from the same city and class would also be on this flight for her first training flight.
Such a beautiful and iconic uniform!
At 10:25 Sarah and Liu came through the aisles distributing hot, scented oshibori. About five minutes later they returned to pick up used towels. At 10:35, they distributed menus. As they distributed, Captain Ang welcomed everyone on board. Joining him in the flight deck would be Captain Lee and FO Faisal along with 14 crew serving us this afternoon to IAH. He told us our flight time would be 11h40m and just waiting for some last minute paperwork before pushing back in the next few minutes. Two minutes later I heard the doors closed and then we started our push back towards Runway 14R.
During pushback, they played the inflight safety video and the FAs took their jumpseats all belted up ready for take off.
We finally took the air, my last flight for this trip and for 2014. My month-long birthday vacation would now finally come to an end. I had enjoyed the colder temperatures of the Southern Hemisphere and would be heading back to the wonderful heat and humidity of Houston. Now time to enjoy one last international flight for now.
I noticed the lights started to act up a bit. Rather than a single light, the lights above me appear to have been defracted
Mr. Green Tie RJ Bryan seems to be the lead FA for Y and directed the trainees. But first, he passed out the Givenchy amenity kits about ten minutes after we took off. While I know the items included in the kit are not true Givenchy products, I do find it interesting that they advertise the zippered pouch with the Givenchy logo.
As RJB handed out the kits, Sarah and Liu prepared their beverage carts for the initial drink service. I saw in the menu they had an alcoholic version of my favorite apple spritzer called Alspritzer with the addition of Stoli. Also since Sarah was a trainee, I ordered a Singapore Sling. Both were not bad; not bad at all! Along with the Alspritzer they handed out a packet of peanuts.
After the initial drink service, it took about thirty minutes before they started the meal service. When RJB asked my choice of meal, I finally got my choice of noodles along with some pickled peppers! Sarah followed and I ordered just my regular apple spritzer, but this time I think she thought I said and gave me apple juice.
About twenty minutes later as most of us started to finish our meals, Sarah and Liu handed out “???”, which I remembered had the Magnum packaging the first time I flew SQ 61 DME-SIN and tasted good. This time around, it seemed to have lost its Unilever packaging and lacked any flavor, especially the chocolate coating. A few minutes later, they picked up trays and offered coffee or hot tea. I opted for the hot tea.
The meal services had concluded by 12:30 with RJB picking up trays. I had prepared my “sky sleeper” seat and enjoyed 8hrs of sleep when turbulence awakened everyone up. At that time the FAs had taken their rest and had prepared the second meal service. I had missed the mid-flight snack, which was fine since I had remained full from the lunch.
It was Kaeng Chicken Curry; unfortunately, this is the only picture I took as I got hungry and forgot to take the pic before I dug in.
Again for the pre-arrival meal, the FAs started from the rear of the cabin and worked their way forward. First, Sarah and RJB offered hot, scented oshibori. Once they had collected used ones, they offered meals and a drink service. As soon as they handed them out, most passengers had finished.
After they had picked up my tray, I organized my “sky sleeper” and just enjoyed the last hours before I’m back to Houston’s wonderful summertime heat and humidity.
Around 13:20, Captain Lee made an announcement that we would start our descent into IAH and would be slightly late due to traffic with incoming arrivals. We would be arriving at D2, which would mean a rather lengthy hike to the IAB. At that point, the FAs made their final checks picking up any last minute service items and trash.
We safely landed at 13:55 over on Runway 8 and made the lengthy taxi to D2 with UA planes going all over the place. Once docked I retrieved my items and then waited to deplane once all the priority passengers had. I did get to talk to Sarah and learn more about her. I asked her how the flight was for her and she said it was a lot quieter than SIN-DME she had taken a few days before. I told her that I hope she enjoys the short time she has in Houston.
We arrived before the bus-full LH A380 from FRA flight. We got to US Immigration with no one waiting in line as the new automated kiosks expedited the queue for US/Canada citizens and visa-holders. By the time I got welcomed back home and made it downstairs to baggage claim, I noticed that the first of my checked bags started their fun ride on the baggage carousel. Once retrieved, we breezed through US Customs. This was the very first time, ever, at IAH where we had gone from plane to arrivals hall just under 30minutes. If only all flights could be like that.
Moscow - DME
Houston - IAH
As I finish writing this trip report, I do wonder how much longer SQ plans to keep the IAH and DME flights to SIN. I love these flights as it is the longest way to Asia, maximizing the amount of time I am in the air. It does not hurt that fares are rather good. But now, it is time to compare how airlines like KE, NH, and BR do at IAH. Thank you for reading my 2014 trip Down Under and stay tuned to my 2015 adventures!
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