In the spirit of Christmas cheer, here we go with a trip report of a Christmas Day flight!
This report starts in the gate lounge of one of the satellite buildings of CDG’s Terminal 1. There would be no Christmas cheer in this part. It is clear that this design – one central terminal linked to several satellite buildings by underground tunnels – was originally intended to provide more gate space. However, the older and more crowded CDG gets, the more it becomes clear that this was a terrible idea. The layout is confusing, claustrophobic, and chaotic (gotta love those alliterations), and crowd control is non-existent.
Our gate was the only one in use at the time, and if the satellite could barely handle a full 777, I shudder to think what would have happened if the other gates had also been in use.
Perhaps it is a mark of how poorly managed CDG is that I couldn't get any photos of the arrival and shopping areas, seeing how occupied I was with not getting lost or accosted by a security guard on my way to the gate. While I do appreciate that CDG isn't truly the worst of airports out there, it is surprising how hard they appear to work at being just that.
This is us at 9:25AM, approximately one hour before boarding would begin.
Singapore Airlines SQ335 Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) - Singapore Changi (SIN) Boeing 777-300ER 9V-SWA Economy Class December 24, 2018
Remember that poor crowd control that I mentioned earlier? This was on full display here. The staff made the initial call at 10:20AM, only to be notified almost right away that the flight attendants were not in fact actually ready and needed a few more minutes.
As one can imagine, half the world had rushed to the gate as soon as the initial announcement was out, and a snaking queue had already formed. In anticipation of the 'real' call, no one was moving from their positions. This went on for an agonizing five minutes. While it was clearly not the fault of either the airport staff or the flight attendants, this dumpster fire of a boarding call underlined just how inadequate the space in the satellite building was.
For a number of years, Singapore Airlines ran a daily A380 to Paris, before switching to a somewhat convoluted schedule – two A380s and five 777s on its daily SQ336/335 run as well as 777s on its thrice-weekly SQ334/333 service. The A380s are now gone, with this route now being operated entirely by 777-300ERs.
Our star today was 9V-SWA, the dean of Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER fleet. And she comes with her own slice of history as well. In 2006, Singapore Airlines debuted then-new seats in both business class and economy, intended to go as a package deal with their new A380s. However, A380 production delays – a development that the CEO was not happy with – meant the seats ended up debuting on the 777-300ER. In fact, on this very particular aircraft.
Those seats are now gone, courtesy of a 2016 cabin upgrade, but the history remains. Most of SQ's 777-300ERs are, like this one, now configured F4 J48 W28 Y184 for a total of 264 seats.
I would be seated in 42D, an aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft just a few rows behind the premium economy section. Legroom was fine, though not as good as what SQ had on some of their older aircraft. I felt a bit boxed in at times, and I am not even a big person to start with. The IFE was of a newer model, equipped with a screen remote and touchscreen capabilities. As I've mentioned in other reports, this was a huge improvement from the 2006-era seat product. Lack of touchscreen capabilities on that product usually entailed a significant amount of button-mashing in order to scroll through all the options.
And a look through the movie selection:
Of course, what flight to Singapore is complete without a screening of Crazy Rich Asians? I was extremely tickled by this scene of one of the characters reading The Little Prince to her son in French. As a French-speaking East Asian, I am well aware of how my people sometimes stereotype the language as being flamboyant and grandiose… and therefore a convenient way to appear more cultured and refined. It was particularly amusing to see how on-the-nose the movie’s portrayal of crazy rich Asian ostentatiousness was!
For all of Singapore Airlines' refusal to be featured in Crazy Rich Asians, it was interesting how much Pacific Asean Airlines' livery appeared to be a ripoff of its own… Some shots of the cabin during boarding. The IFE is equipped with the latest Voyager 3D maps, which allow numerous options as to how you want to view your journey… This is why I still prefer watching movies on my own laptop to those on the IFE. On the old 2006 product, this is even more disruptive to the viewing experience. On that product, the end of each announcement would bring up an option menu that covered the entire bottom half of the screen and could not be dismissed until it timed out. This would have the side effect of covering up the captions on the movie even as it ran, which would not be user-friendly to those watching foreign-language movies. On this model, the menu could be dismissed immediately after the announcement, which helped smooth things over significantly. Boarding completed on time, and we left at 10:55AM, just five minutes behind the scheduled departure time. We would be treated to SQ's new safety video, showcasing locations of significance in the island city. The only thing that SQ missed the mark on here was dressing their sign language interpreter in non-contrasting colors, which would make comprehension harder. Pre-flight service took place while the aircraft was still prepping for departure. The flight attendants distributed oshibori towels (not shown), as well as drinks (apple juice in my case) and snacks. We took off at 11:10AM Paris time, beginning our puddle jump of 11 hours 45 minutes across the Eurasian continent.
Lunch menus were distributed soon afterward, including, appropriately enough, a Christmas special. We hit severe turbulence over Hungary, which led the flight attendants to suspend meal service only a few minutes after bringing out the trolleys. It would take another half hour before they were ready to start working again. Another cabin shot during the wait for service to resume. This flight was 95% full in both Y and PEY. No prizes for guessing what option I chose on this festive occasion! This dish was delicious and well-prepared, which more than made up for its somewhat threadbare portion size. The bathroom was clean and well-maintained, apart from a full trash can, and appeared to have been upgraded quite recently as well. Mouthwash, hand lotion, and eau de toilette are provided. By the time we finished our meals, we were traversing the Black Sea… Amenity kits were distributed shortly afterward, including a pair of socks and a toothbrush kit. I took this opportunity to take a nap, and when I woke up, we were 4.5 hours into the flight, working our way across Iran. I went to the galley for some midnight snacks (I detest call buttons, since they make me feel like I'm summoning personal servants). The flight attendants on duty already had a basket of various snacks, including sandwiches and apples, ready for their passengers. I took a ham-and-cheese as well as a can of pineapple juice. Making landfall over Afghanistan, 5.5 hours into the flight… …and crossing Pakistan and India, 6.5 hours in… Three hours before arrival, the cabin lit up in preparation for breakfast service. By then, we were halfway over the Indian Ocean. Meal service took another hour, during which time we were presented more oshibori towels to refresh ourselves with. I took some time to check out the seatback literature… The literature was not terribly entertaining, but of course, what trip report is complete without a shot of this page? The breakfast I picked was advertised as beef meatballs with quiche and spinach, which was a bit odd considering there was literally a single meatball in the dish… The meal also included bread, a fruit dish of grapes, oranges, and pears, and a cup of yogurt. The meal was, in fact, quite good. In particular, the spinach was very juicy and flavorful, despite having been in storage for over 10 hours by that time. I, however, gave the grapes a miss – the photo doesn't quite show it, but some of them had literally turned grey, as though you were looking at them through a greyscale lens. No, thank you, I think I'll pass…
As meal service wrapped up, we were soon to make landfall over Peninsular Malaysia… Overflying the Malaysian port city of Melaka less than an hour before arrival… We curved around the island of Singapore in preparation for a landing on Runway 02C, which is typical for the winter months. We touched down at 5:50AM Singapore time, nearly a full half hour ahead of schedule. All in all, the flight had taken 12 hours 5 minutes, gate to gate – one of the fastest journeys on this flight in the last week.
Making a bonus appearance was 9V-SGB, one of Singapore Airlines' A350-900ULRs specially configured for their ultra-long-haul flights to LAX and EWR. Bye, 9V-SWA! Baggage collection was extremely speedy, as is frequently typical of Changi Airport. And a final look at the arrival area… …as well as a bonus appearance of Hogwarts Castle, LEGO edition!
Paris - CDG
Singapore - SIN
Singapore Airlines' crew continue to be attentive as always, making regular snack and drink runs to ensure all their passengers are comfortable. However, I did get the impression that they were a little overwhelmed at times, even during the lull period of the flight. Oftentimes, they were content to send me on my way as soon as I had taken whatever snack I had come for. It, however, is surprising how far they will go to ensure their passengers are comfortable. At my turn during the breakfast service, the apple juice I had originally requested was unavailable, as another FA had taken the carton to serve another passenger. Even though I quickly requested another option, the FA was intent on waiting for her colleague to return so that she could serve me -- she only relented after I reminded her she still had another 40 passengers to serve! Overall, this was a very satisfying flight, from start to end, which more than made up for the preceding disaster that CDG is. While some buzz has been made over Singapore AIrlines' seemingly declining service standards, I found this to not really be the case this time round, which is encouraging.
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