BACKGROUND September the 11th 2014 saw me going back to Britain for a few more years. As far as the flight journey is concerned, we were choosing between Singapore Airlines (SIA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Philippine Airlines (PAL), Emirates and Etihad. What drew us to Singapore Airlines on this occasion was the flexible conditions attached with the ticket. It cost us around $900 (£530) one-way for myself, and less than $1700 (£970) return for my mom and we can change the flight schedule if necessary without having to pay a rebooking fee. CX charges slightly higher for similar conditions and PAL assesses a rebooking fee for all its economy class tickets.
Choosing SIA on this occasion was also extra special for two other reasons. One of them was that this will feature the use of Airbus aircrafts for the entire journey. I generally have a soft spot for Airbus aircrafts not least because they are known to feature a 2-4-2 configuration in economy class (unless of course you are flying PAL or a low cost carrier). The other reason is that we get to use its new home in Ninoy Aquino International Airport: Terminal 3, and experience how “fully operational” the building actually is.
JOURNEY TO THE AIRPORT As excited as I was, to commence my journey, the hours leading up to leaving the house was manic as I had to run last-minute errands. In fact, I didn’t get to sit for a meal or even drink water. We left the house at around 2.45 pm, more than four hours before the flight. It was just as well because the traffic just outside our village was bad. School children were dismissed from classes and the lorries were putting things to a standstill. The traffic improved once we reached the flyover.
CHECK-IN, SECURITY AND PRE-BOARDING We reached the airport at 3.50 pm. I was greeted by new signs with the carriers’ logos shown on the curb. SIA’s station was #4 and the check-in desks were not far by. Security at the entrance was relatively quick.
We were ushered into the appropriate check-in lane by one of the staff. However, despite performing an internet check-in, the queue took a while: about 15 minutes and they spent 10 minutes on one passenger alone. When it was our turn, we were directed to the lane normally reserved for Kris Flyer Gold and Star Alliance Gold members. It also took long, but that was because our my mom wanted to sit next to me. We discovered that the flight was packed on this occasion. The staff had to consult with colleagues at another desk for a change in seat so it added more time to the process. Unfortunately it meant that I won’t get to use the boarding cards I printed at home in two different colours: one for each segment.
We proceeded to passport control. Along the way, we spotted a lot of Cebu Pacific ground staff on the lookout for passengers who would unscrupulously sneak-in oversized bags or bags in excess their allowance. Once at passport control, we found that unlike Terminals 1 and 2, each desk had its own queue. So it took a minute or so for us to determine which had the shortest waiting time. Final security check also proceeded smoothly.
After security, I found NAIA's duty free pales in comparison to what you would see elsewhere. My mom and I were so hungry that we settled for the Great Man Han to have a really late lunch. I found the Korean Barbecue Chicken meal I ordered rather bland. WiFi was also poor in this area.
I spotted the Pacific Traveller’s Lounge. Although there was a receptionist to screen who was eligible to enter, it was a rather open space. I could in fact take a photo of it from where I was: everything was visible. Now I could see why SIA said that it apologised for the inconvenience: passengers there would have to put up with the noise.
When my mom went for a quick massage, I used this time to take even more photos of terminal 3. to my surprise, establishments were springing up the further down you go. My suspicions were also confirmed: one of the holding areas were cordoned off with glass from the rest of the terminal. These actually belonged to KLM and Delta, whose passengers had to undergo further checks.
This afternoon was remarkably a busy time of the day for the terminal as passengers headed for the middle east flocked to take a Cebu Pacific and Emirates flight to Dubai.
However, there was somehow better news when it came to the establishments found in the facility. There were almost a dozen active establishments airside. In fact, I found two competing brands here: Seattles Best and Bo's Coffee. One of the cafes serves as a make-shift lounge for All Nippon Airways at certain times of the day. There are nonetheless plenty of unoccupied space.
We arrived at the holding area at about 6.15 pm. Despite the advice on our boarding card, the flight did not board until 6.25. It worried me because it could increase the risk we could be delayed. As we were assigned ourselves to the front seats, we were the last to be called. However, my mom insisted that we board. But I personally preferred that we board late since we would stand in queue for a long time. At the aerobridge, a bottleneck ensued. It took almost 5 minutes after entering the narrow passageway when we actually boarded the aircraft.
We got settled in our seat rather quickly. However, some of our hand luggage were stowed in compartments slightly away from us. I leafed through the KrisWorld catalogue. Based on the collection of entertainment they boasted about, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. I had several films and TV shows queued up like the Lego Movie but I decided to view these selections instead on the longer flight as I won’t be interrupted at that time.
Despite the rather late boarding, we were ready to go at about 6.50 pm. At 6.55 pm, the plane was push backed away from the gate. It took us 15 minutes to get from the gate to the runway as the plane was rather slow. There were a few planes taking off and landing immediately ahead of us. But what surprised me during this time was that KrisWorld was available. Picture was crystal clear. At the moment we were to take off, I was playing music from the World Cup while viewing the live airshow.
Eight minutes later, the seat belt sign was switched off. It was time for me to reach for my memory stick and iPhone. I took more photos and tried whether my personal collection would work and to my delight, they did. I enquired from the crew if there was a special cable to connect our iPhone to the IFE and unfortunately they told me that they didn’t provide it anymore. I tried the regular cable of my iPhone later and KrisWorld read it as an iPod. But I had some trouble setting it up. Perhaps it was because I used a later version of iOS.
We were also served with the obligatory hot towels and peanuts. I also used this time to visit the lavatory and take more photos from the rear. Along the way, I found an empty block of chairs. Not bad so that one of the tray tables would be used for me to type parts of this trip report.
Approximately an hour into the flight, dinner service began. Despite moving a few rows to the rear, my choice of chicken was still available. And guess what? It was with pasta. So I was in for a treat after not having early lunch at all, and a not so scrumptious late lunch at the airport. I took as much time to finish Moreover, the chocolate cake dessert appealed to my sweet tooth. That and the two glasses of Sprite though were a reminder for me to take it easy with the sweets. Whilst enjoying my meal, I continued listing to the playlist assembled from the in-house collection of KrisWorld.
Even after most of the passengers were done eating dinner, cabin crew still obliged to serve hot drinks. Meanwhile, other passengers also enjoyed the endless selection of films.
Less than 75 minutes into the flight, I switched to the section of the IFE where I could get information on my connecting flight. I felt pretty unlucky on this count. When I monitored SQ921 in recent weeks, it docked at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. However on this occasion, I was to be treated again to the sight of Terminal 2. Docking there does not help us especially on a tight connection.
As I set my seat to the reclined position and the lights were dimmed, I briefly watched some in-house videos by SIA. One of them involved SIA showing us an instruction video of how to set up the business class seat. After watching it, I found that it was rather complicated to set it up despite the tagline at the start of the video. As this flight was flown a month after Signapore’s national day, there were some videos about Singapore. I decided to watch some of them, including a programme that searched for ordinary Singaporeans who were part of news history. Needless to say, I did not finish the programme (at least not without the audio as headsets were collected). When the captain announced our initial descent, it was a signal for me to move back to my original seat so that I can disembark at the same time as my mom and help her gather our things.
We landed more or less on time but I was slightly annoyed that we docked at a distant part of terminal 2. That of course would add unnecessary time to our connection. As a courtesy, SIA let business class passengers disembarked before us. As we were on the right side of the cabin asked to exit using the business class door, we were treated to a sight of business class on the way out .
Although most of SIA’s regional 777s are also good, I would only wish the A330 would make its presence felt in Manila more often, not just on SQ916 and SQ921. It offers so much in the way of comfort and entertainment. Without a doubt, I can say that this was the “fastest” Manila-Singapore flight I ever experienced.
This trip report continues with part 2, which will be uploaded at a later time.
Manila - MNL
Singapore - SIN
If there is one way I can sum this entire trip up, it would be with the phrase I hardly know where to begin (enjoying) it. This is also special as this comes 10 days after Singapore Airlines moved into Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 3.
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