Having spent the last several months studying in France, I recently had the opportunity to return home to Singapore for a short break. This report covers my return flight to Paris with the much-vaunted Singapore Airlines.
The relatively low load factors on SQ’s CDG flights gave me some much-valued flexibility in choosing my seats. I originally went for 50E, which I found to be particularly attractive given that it had double the aisle space of all other Economy seats (the presence of a trapdoor beside the seat precludes the existence of 50D on all of Singapore Airlines’ A380s).
But while doing my online check-in the afternoon before my flight, I realized the relative emptiness of the flight gave me the opportunity to gamble my chances on poor man’s business class…
Ta-da! All ready to go!
I arrived at the airport around 6pm, and had dinner at Itacho Sushi, which also happened to be the same place I had my last meal in Singapore before leaving for France at the beginning of the school year… how poetic.
Some impressions of Changi Airport's Terminal 3:
On my way to the gate, I spotted the entrance to Singapore Airlines' first-class lounge… not for me, now, but perhaps someday…
I went through passport control about an hour and 20 minutes before departure, and was soon in the transit lounge.
Relay convenience stores are extremely common in France, though they didn't appear in Changi Airport until quite recently.
I originally had my gate at A5, though it was later changed. FIDS shot.
Since I had entered just 20 minutes before boarding was supposed to start, I didn't have much time to hang around, so I decided to head straight to the gate, where both SQ336 and SQ800 to Beijing were waiting.
Singapore Airlines SQ336 Singapore Changi (SIN) – Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airbus A380-800 9V-SKS January 13, 2017
Singapore Airlines outfits its A380s in two distinct styles. The first 11 aircraft have a small economy section in the rear of the upper deck and 441 seats in total, while the youngest 8 have an all-business-class upper deck and 379 seats. Notably, the second configuration is, to date the least dense to ever appear in an A380.
SQ mixes these two types on its SIN-CDG flights, though at the time of my flight they were tending towards deploying the latter, which was confirmed by the lack of an upper deck booking section during online booking. Tonight's aircraft, 9V-SKS, was a 5-year-old A380, the second-youngest in SQ's fleet.
The aircraft had arrived only an hour earlier from Shanghai, which created a few problems: first, uncleared rubbish in the seat pockets, and second, this on the seat cushion…
Not a good start to what was otherwise a great flight.
Cabin shot halfway through boarding. Tonight's SQ336 was going to be 50%-65% full.
Seat 65A, the seat beside mine, is one of the rare, but notorious, window seats without a window. This would not affect me much, since nobody was sitting in either of the seats beside me, but I would imagine passengers sitting there on a full flight would feel rather claustrophobic.
Legroom was decent:
Quick tour of the IFE (photos were taken at the end of the flight):
And the seatback literature:
Oh, don’t you hate it when your game stops right as you’re about to clear two lines of Tetris blocks in one go? This announcement (among others to come), however, belied another issue at hand: pushback was going to be delayed because a few no-shows on our flight had to have their baggage removed from the flight.
Another cabin shot just before pushback at 12.22am, 12 minutes behind schedule.
Safety video. I understood all three languages represented in the video, though I found myself focusing a lot more on the French instructions. Was it some kind of instinctive compensation for the fact that French is my least fluent language of the three, perhaps?
After a relatively short taxi with no queuing, our flight finally took off at 12.35am Singapore time. Shot of the flight map just before departure.
Of course, establishing my poor man’s business class was the first order of business after the seat belt sign went off. Gracing the whole setup was, of course, one of my past planespotting photos: a shot of British Airways’ G-XLEC taken way back in February 2016.
Amenity kits were distributed:
I had just begun work on writing this report when meal service began, less than 30 minutes into the flight.
The English version:
and the French:
I chose the pork.
One thing I’ve noticed is that when airline catering prepares rice dishes, they tend to mess up the rice and the vegetables – they are either wrinkled, soggy, or hard as a rock. Not so in Singapore Airlines’ case – the food could well have come from a regular restaurant on the ground. Props to the caterers for this.
The crew were also extremely proactive, offering coffee (probably not a good idea given that it was approaching the end of the day in Paris, but still appreciated nonetheless), and constantly making periodic runs through the aircraft to spot passengers in need.
Token shot of the A380 stairs. The black rectangle was a sign that read "Upper Deck: Business Class Only", confirming the nature of the aircraft's layout.
Our progress out of Southeast Asia.
After I finished my meal, I made a lie-flat bed for myself out of my two empty neighbouring seats (who’d have thought it was possible to write “lie-flat bed” and “economy class” in the same report?) and went to sleep.
Progress over India and the Middle East.
I finally woke up for good at 3.30am Paris time, as we were approaching Moscow, Russia, 3 hours and 30 minutes before arrival.
After a quick toilet break, I went to ask the FAs for a couple of cups of water. As it turned out, they had already put another cup of water in my cup holder during my break, without even being asked, and I hadn’t noticed! The level of proactiveness here really was unrivalled. I accepted all three cups with thanks.
Breakfast service commenced about half an hour later, or two and a half hours before landing. I chose the cheese omelette, which turned out to be exactly the same offering I received for breakfast on my inward flight to Singapore from London. The food was relatively OK despite having been in storage for over 10 hours, though the pineapple in the fruit bowl turned out to be pretty gross, and I ended up being unable to finish it.
Making progress over Germany, almost exactly 12 hours after takeoff.
Passing Frankfurt and making landfall over Metropolitan France.
Approaching Reims on the final lap before landing.
One of the final full-map shots just before landing.
We finally touched down on Paris Charles de Gaulle's northernmost runway at 6.40am Paris time, 30 minutes ahead of schedule, marking an end to 13 hours 5 minutes of nonstop flying.
Given my position in the back, I was naturally one of the last to disembark, but when I did so, I headed straight for security and then to the baggage belt. Paris Charles de Gaulle is an airport that tries, and frequently fails, to do the job it was designed to do. SQ336's baggage was spread out over two belts, making for a relatively troublesome experience (especially for a solo traveller) in having to watch two belts simultaneously so that I could find my bags.
Parting shot of the hallway that links the six main iterations of CDG's Terminal 2.
Shot of the streets outside the airport.
Singapore - SIN
Paris - CDG
While I did enjoy, and probably will always enjoy, Singapore Airlines’ offering, I’m also going to be a little contrarian here and point out that the IFE system on SQ’s A380s, while well-kept and updated, are not the best product out there in Economy. Having gotten the chance to experience the IFEs on a few other airlines since my last trip report, there are definitely still more advanced Economy offerings out there as far as the IFE product is concerned. In particular, Qantas’ A330s and Qatar’s A350s come to mind. It’s not all gloomy though, since the product still beats the horrid 4:3 aspect ratio IFE systems that Air France used to have on their long-haul 777s up until 2015.
As seen in the report, those in 65A on a full flight will definitely not have an easy time, given that it’s one of the infamous window-seat-without-a-window seats. One saving grace, however, is that bulkhead access gives the user greater freedom to recline compared to the other economy seats.
Also worth noting is that while I have found the A380 to be generally quieter than other aircraft, the position of the last several rows behind four yawning Trent 900s still make this a comparatively noisy section of the aircraft.
Otherwise, SQ’s Economy continues to stay above the competition in most other aspects, especially their service and catering, despite the fact that their IFE (A350s excepted) is no longer the most current example out there. However, they did do in 2006 what other airlines got around to doing in 2012, so credit to them for this.
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