This trip report was originally featured on http://www.philippineflightnetwork.com/2014/09/singapore-airlines-flight-report-manila.html. This trip report is the 2nd of a two-part journey. To read part 1, please click here: http://flight-report.com/en/report-8031.html 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.
INTERMISSION: CHANGI AIRPORT STOPOVER
Although arriving at our destination on the dot (not early) is normally a good thing, it only meant that we will be subject to a tight connection on this occasion. We had theoretically 60 minutes to wrap up our affairs.
Having said that, I was reminded not to rely on probabilities because in the end, what mattered was either something would or happen. And if the unlikely were to happen, a person will have to bear the full brunt of it. That was manifested on this journey because although SQ921 was used to almost always arriving at Terminal 3, that was not the case this time. To make matters worse, our arrival gate was on far end of the F gates of Terminal 2, and the gate of the next flight was at the B concourse. On another note, the arrival at Changi’s Terminal 2 on this occasion also means that I wouldn’t have a perfect streak of entirely using Terminal 3 of the airports involved in this journey (we departed Manila using Terminal 3, would depart Singapore using terminal 3 and will arrive at Heathrow Terminal 3).
We gathered a trolley and headed for the Skytrain. The flight monitors were saying that the status for our flight read “gate open”. We missed the first train so we had to wait for the next one in 5 minutes. Once we got off, we asked for help on how to sort my mom’s return flight because the second leg was of her return journey still on wait list. Unfortunately the transfer desk was not able to help us on this occasion.
Despite the tight time remaining, my mom headed for some of the stores to buy something. I took a few pictures and accessed the WiFi network on my mobile phone. Too bad none of them included a photo of myself.
Right before proceeding to the gate, we passed by the area where we can play for a chance to become a millionaire. Unfortunately we were not lucky on this occasion but our entry was carried over to the draw at the end of the month.
Changi Airport has a habit of displaying status messages like “final call” or even “gate closing” as early as 40 minutes left before the scheduled departure time. This put us under greater but unnecessary pressure than the actual time remaining before the gates were due to close.
We arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before departure. Security was quick. I hoped to sit down first and try to upload this trip report from my laptop as I would be without internet access for more than half a day afterwards.
Despite the harassment of time I described earlier, one thing I looked forward to was that I would be seated on the upper deck. This is significant because it was configured 2-4-2 rather than the 3-4-3. Moreover, there were fewer economy class passengers on this section.
The aerobridge had the same upper deck entrance for business class and upper deck economy class passengers. As we entered, I asked the cabin crew if the flight was full, he said it was, 100%. Business class seemed to be fully occupied. I also chanced upon some business class passengers already in bedroom clothes. It was also difficult at first to find storage for our hand luggage and the cabin crew helped us.
Once we settled, we departed the gate more than 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time. We took off past midnight. So much for the pressure to haul us into the flight at Changi Airport. While waiting for take off, I continued to watch the documentary I started watching during the previous flight. Just as the take off from Manila, I listened to tracks from the World Cup’s sound track at take off from Changi.
After the seat belt sign was switched off, the cabin crew came by serving us a choice of beverage (between juice, wine and water) and peanuts. I asked for two more packs of peanuts and finished them quickly. They also handed us a basic amenity kit with socks, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Not so long from then, we were going to have supper. I did not realise we had three choices despite reading the menu. I opted for the chicken supper with steam rice. Like the meal on the previous flight, I found it really filling. Crackers with cheese and bread were also provided, which I finished in no time.
As much as I wanted to finish the dessert, the passenger beside me wanted to locate his own power socket. So I had to give way to the cabin crew to help him locate it. Unfortunately, while the crew understood each passenger/seat should have one to himself, they found out that on this aircraft, it the socket was shared. I rather found this bizarre because the seats in front had one power socket per seat.
The WiFi provider on this flight was OnAir, which is also the same provider for Philippine Airlines (PAL). However, unlike PAL’s plans which allow for time-based plans, SIA’s plans are by the amount of data consumed. Putting it in perspective, PAL charges $40 (£23) for an unlimited plan whereas SIA charges almost $30 (£17) for 30MB of data. That barely allows you to upload or view 10 photos on Instagram. It seems like the cabin crew were a bit confused because one of them told me they had vouchers but no WiFi service on the A380 whereas the other said that there were no vouchers at all and that we should use our payment card, which I did. I tried a $6 (£3.50) plan which gave me 5MB. I had to disable automatic (push) updates for apps though emails still flooded in automatically.
Taking photographs became challenging after the first meal service. The cabin lights were gradually dimmed. Within three hours, lights were turned off. Perhaps this is one disadvantage of night flights. The sun would rise in the UK after landing so the only source of light we would be getting would be from the cabin itself. It also became challenging as passengers on this full flight were sleeping and the glare of flash near their faces would the last thing they want to experience too.
From time to time I checked on how the lower deck was but didn't go any further than where the crew's jump seats were located.
During the first half of the flight, I watched two films: The Lego Movie and Veronica Mars. Between and within each of these films, I took a break and even dozed off. After the Veronica Mars film, I realised that we were near the halfway mark. By then, I hardly knew where to proceed. In fact, the IFE was competing for my attention vis-a-vis other things to do: writing this flight report in real-time, getting some shut eye, walking around.
The flight path indicated that we were just above Dubai. At this point, it became clear that we were to avoid Russian airspace altogether and we know the reasons for this. However, the tentative flight time was slightly shorter than our previous Singapore-London flight by 5 minutes.
During that time, I opted to take a sort-of midnight snack (it was midnight in Britain anyway). I chose to have crisps from Lays and figured that I had to take advantage of it as it would be the lat time I would see it. After that quick bite, I headed over to the toilet, washed up and brushed my teeth. I knew that I needed to spent 2.5-3 hours doing some shut eye afterwards, I was on and off with quick naps.
Shortly afterwards, I watched another video, Veep starring Julia Lewis-Dreyfus. I also had a chance to listen to more audio from my own collection as well as come up with a customised playlist using the in-house collection.
Two and a half hours before the landing, the lights were slowly coming back. It was the sign that breakfast was upon us. They of course served those with special dietary needs. Then it was my turn. I ordered for breakfast the poached egg. As a bonus, it came with bread rolls, cereals, fruits and a muffin. I knew I was going to take as much time as possible to finish what I could. Normally it would be either cereals or a real meal, not both, hence this meal was made extra filling.
While having breakfast, I watched an episode of the award-winning TV series “The Little Nonya”. I watched a second episode of the same series too when the cabin crew started to collect the headsets. Fortunately the programme was subtitled into English so I was able to follow the remainder of it. It was a testament to how much the breadth of SIA’s IFE collection has improved over the last time I flew long-haul with that carrier.
I also observed dawn breaking in the final stretch of the flight. I felt refreshed to see some semblance of daylight after more than 18 hours of flying. I was also hoping it would symbolise the good start as I will spend the better part of three years in Britain.
We were descending in no time. Although initially the pilots told us we were to land at 6, they came back with news that we would land at about 5.55, which was more or less or scheduled arrival flight. We watched the outside from our window as the A380 was on final approach to Heathrow.
We landed more or less on time and it took 5 minutes to reach our gate. However, a few more minutes passed by before passengers actually disembarked. I could see from my vantage point that this also applied to business class passengers. When they did, we had to wait as well. In the meantime, the cabin crew handed back to us our bags which they stowed on their cabinets. We had a good chat with neighbouring passengers about what brought each of us to Britain on this occasion. When I brought up that I was from the Philippines, they also pointed out that they knew Filipinos from their side of town.
As we disembarked, we got to chance upon the business class seats used on long haul flights. SIA's long-haul business class products are known to be some of the widest in the industry.
The one small complaint I had was the tight transit time of 70 minutes. Now this is fine if the transit airport is uneventful anyway and As I said, this amount of time does not do justice to let the passenger experience for himself the wonders of Changi airport. I wish this A380 flight I was on was timed to depart later to allow us to breathe and “save the best for last”.
I also realised on this SIA journey one added advantage of flying with a stopover. That is passengers will get an extra meal. Although carriers like PAL have three meals (since their Manila-London flight was ultra long-haul anyway), this won’t always be the case in PAL’s Manila-US flights. By taking another carrier like Cathay, we can get at least three opportunities to be fed on a long journey.
Singapore - SIN
London - LHR
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