When figuring out how I was going to get home from Singapore, none of the options looked overly attractive. EVA Air offered to try and find an option to rebook me, but since I’d paid more than I wanted to for this segment just to fly the Hello Kitty service, I wasn’t really interested in getting a lesser product for that high price.
So, I asked for a refund, and set out to search. There were options, of course, all in business class, and all cheaper than I’d paid EVA – but none of them were particularly enticing. Air China? No thanks. A few other random Chinese airlines that would get me into JFK and I’d have to take the train home? No thanks.
Then, finally, after a lot of searching, I found Hong Kong to DC on United at a standard award level! That will do nicely! No, it’s not exciting, but the Hong Kong to Newark 777 would at least feature the new Polaris seats, so I knew it would be comfortable…and save me a good deal of money.
There was, however, that small matter of how I was going to get to Hong Kong. Paid flights were about $600 which was still much less than I’d paid EVA, but I wasn’t excited about spending that AND the miles from Hong Kong. A bit more searching and I found award space on Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong…but of course United couldn’t book it.
I decided to transfer points from Chase to Singapore Airlines and hope they went through before the space disappeared, and fortunately they did, and I was all set. Whew!
9:55 was a bit earlier than I preferred to get up and go to the airport, but it still wasn’t crazy early. I decided to maximize sleep and then use Grab to the airport and grab some Starbucks once I got there. All that sorted I didn’t even have time for the lounge, but hey – if I have to choose between sleep and the lounge I’ll take sleep every time!
Singapore Airlines flight 856 Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG) Depart 9:55, Arrive: 13:55, flight time: 4:00 Airbus A380, Registration 9V-SKZ, Manufactured 2018, Seat 96K Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 70,311 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,762,899
I’ve flown the A380 in business on plenty of airlines, but with a 1-2-1 configuration I was looking forward to seeing how roomy the seats would feel on Singapore compared to some of their competitors. The answer? Very roomy. I could be super happy in this seat even for a 12+ hour flight! Plus…how in the world could I resist the novelty of sitting in seat 96K in business class. One day, someone needs a row 100!
Pre-departure champagne was served – I really liked the simple but elegant glasses that Singapore uses – though with such a small base I wondered how stable they would be in turbulence.
I can’t remember the last time I had a window seat behind the wing, not to mention one on the upper deck. It was fun watching the wing during takeoff, especially once in the air and you could actually see the air moving over the wing!
Not terribly long after takeoff breakfast was served, which started with breakfast breads, a fruit plate, and of course since it was brunch a bit more champagne!
The fruit was followed by a cereal course, where raisin bran was on offer today. I never eat cereal at home, but it was kind of a fun novelty in flight I guess?
After the cereal there was a choice of hot meals, and I chose the cheese omelet, but who knows what happened to the pictures. It’s not like me to forget to take a picture, so I’m going to guess that it got accidentally deleted. Oh well, you’ll just have to trust me that it was tasty!
The meal didn’t end there, however. There was also a strawberry cream cake for dessert. Breakfast with dessert and champagne, what’s not to love about this!
Flight wasn’t really short at four hours gate to gate, but also didn’t feel super long. I definitely could have enjoyed the seat and the Singapore service a bit longer without wishing the flight was over!
Immigration line was fortunately not too bad when we landed, and I grabbed the train into the city. One of the nice things about the W Hotel in Hong Kong is that it’s connected to a mall right above the train station, so a straight shot from the airport and a short indoor walk (read: no need to go outside and get sweaty) and you’re there.
Strange comment at check-in: “we are sorry as a platinum member we were not able to offer you a suite on a previous visit, so we wanted to make sure to get you one today.” Wow, front desk staff that actually looked at guest history? That’s pretty impressive!
I don’t know if I should consider a view of the freeway and water filled with cargo ships a good view or not, but hey, it’s always fun to have something to look at…right?
Protests were unfortunately happening very near the hotel this weekend, and there were quite a few police hanging out near the hotel. The protestors had targeted mainland visitors this weekend, and the mainland express train also left from the mall, so there was quite a bit of action in the area.
That said, it still didn’t seem to horrible, but rather than try and deal with transit I foolishly decided to grab an Uber to head out to get some beers. Unfortunately, the police had closed several streets due to the protests, so the ride was much longer than it should have been, but at least at the end I was rewarded with some tasty beers!
Post-beers I decided to save a bit of time and grab an Uber back to the hotel as well, and snapped this artsy shot looking straight up as I waited for the Uber. There’s something about the dense chaos of Hong Kong that I find really energizing!
Off to bed – I wanted to get up in time to enjoy a lazy coffee before heading to the airport and the excitement that would be a flight home on United!
So, right, off the plane in Singapore after back to back flights and straight for a walk around the airport. Singapore is cool because T1, T2, and T3 are all connected, but if you have a long way to go and don’t feel like walking you can take the train between terminals.
After back to back flights I definitely needed the walk, so walked for about 45 minutes around the terminals to stretch my legs before heading to the lounge. Fortunately, I had done my research online before visiting, and knew that there was no dedicated first class lounge in Singapore for Qantas. It will be opening later this year, but for now I would have to share with the masses in business class. Oh the horrors!
Now, that said, if you have to spend time in a business class lounge, a Qantas lounge is an excellent place to do it. I was feeling the need for a brief detox at this point after two flights of back to back champagne-fuelled nonsense, so went with the coke light along with a little bit of curry and some dragonfruit.
After a quick snack, I felt like I should walk a bit more, so went out for another 30 minute or so stroll around the terminal before coming back for a shower. Fortunately, the Qantas showers were a much more reasonable temperature than the horrendous Emirates ones, and I actually would be heading to my Qantas flight feeling a bit fresher.
…which was definitely a good thing, because I think my Qantas flight was boarding from Malaysia the walk to the gate was so far! Oh well, it was good to get more of a stretch in before boarding!
Qantas flight 2 Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD) Depart 19:30, Arrive: 05:10 next day, flight time: 7:40 Airbus A380-800, Registration VH-OQK, Manufactured 2011, Seat 03A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 59,026 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,751,614
The signs in the boarding area weren’t clear, and I hadn’t researched, so I followed the jetbridge to the upper deck…only to discover the saddest first class seats I’d ever seen in the front of the plane. Fortunately, it was just a momentary confusion and I was able to trudge back downstairs where I found a seat much more to my liking!
This definitely takes the cake as the most unique first class seat I’ve ever been on. Faces forward for takeoff and landing, but then you can swivel the chair about 45 degrees to the light so it lines up with the monitor and foot rest. Definitely unusual, but I really enjoyed the spaciousness of it!
Nothing says welcome aboard quite like a glass of Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2004. This is actually one of my favourite champagnes, and I know I’ve said it before but it’s always nice to see airlines taking a “risk” in first class and deviating from the common offerings of Dom Perignon or Krug.
After takeoff, I must feign confusion. I remember the amuse bouche of a caviar tart…but I have no idea what this glass of what appears to be white wine is. Maybe it’s the angle of the pic, but I’m certain I would have been enjoying champagne at this point!
So what’s to eat? That’s a good question, because I also don’t have a picture of the menu! I know I was exhausted on this flight, but it’s very not like me to forget to take so many pictures. At least you can see what’s to drink!
Note that despite serving the Sir Winston during departure, they actually had Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame during the flight. That much I remembered and actually added in my trip notes!
Probably one of the largest tables I’ve ever seen, even in first class! I do remember switching to the rather nice syrah for the main event.
Delicious appetizer, if I remember right it was a thai style spicy shredded chicken salad.
After all the eating the past few days I decided to go with the lighter fish option, which was absolutely outstanding. I’ve been ordering fish a lot more lately on flights, and so far have had mostly excellent luck with it!
Of course, I couldn’t skip the cheese. It pales in comparison to Emirates’ or Lufthansa’s offerings, but was a reasonably solid showing.
The desert, however, was a lemon tart that was out of this world. If I wasn’t so stuffed from all the flights I might have shamelessly asked if there were more, but my waistline thanks me. Plus, despite all the time zone confusion I was feeling pretty tired so decided to chance a bit of sleep.
I must have been exhausted, because I had absolutely no trouble passing out for a solid four hour nap. At this point, after two consecutive redeyes, my body had no idea what time it was anyways, so I was definitely in “nap when you can” mode.
Woke up with just enough time for a light breakfast, and enjoyed some muesli and a tasty cinnamon roll. Before anyone judges me, yes, that’s Coke Light and not red wine with breakfast. Unfortunately, the strawberries with the fruit were seriously underripe, but other than that it was the perfect light breakfast right before landing.
…and just like that it was 5am, and we were arriving into Sydney. Fortunately no queues at immigration at this hour, and had no trouble catching an airport express train straight to my hotel.
The stop was just about a three minute walk from the hotel, and despite showing up at 6am they were ready for me, and let me check in super early. Another solid four hour nap, and around 11am I was ready to head out and make the most of my day in Sydney!
Eventually found my way to the A gates, and from there to the elevator up to the First Class Lounge/Floor. I say floor, because the A terminal is one long pier, with the entire second floor being business class lounge, and the top floor being first class. Given that first class on most planes is 20% the size of business class or less, you can imagine just how spacious it is!
I really needed a shower at this point, despite having read multiple times online that you’re almost better off skipping it due to the heat and humidity in the shower rooms due to lack of good ventilation. Well, out came my temperature cube while I took an ice cold shower. At the end it was reading 81.4F in the room with 77% humidity….and that was 10 minutes post-shower. Yeah.
Went to have a nibble to eat (not so much because I was hungry, but because who can pass that up?) and was still warm…and getting a little sweaty. Ugh! Probably the most extensive made-to-order lounge dining menu anywhere in the world:
I love a good poke bowl, although I was really reluctant to risk raw fish in an airport. Oh well, if a first class lounge can’t get it right who can! In fairness, it was super tasty!
If they’re going to go through the trouble of having a signature sandwich (the Emirates Sandwich) I had to give it a try. The sweet potato fries were actually really good, and the sandwich was pretty meh. Only ate a little of it for the novelty factor…and to have something to soak up the champagne. I’d heard the catering on the next overnight segment would be sparse (and being honest, I was getting really tired so hoped to sleep a fair amount).
So, how about a quick tour of the lounge? When I said it was enourmous, I wasn’t kidding. The “features” like the restaurant, showers, etc were in the middle, and down the sides by the gates (yes, there are gates and if you leave from the A Terminal you get to board directly from the lounge) there are nooks with chairs and such.
I had time, and the bar area was calling, so I decided to have some bubbles. It was also the most populated and social area of the lounge, so it looked inviting. Sometimes privacy is nice, but this lounge was so huge it was almost too much. Lovely bartender from Kenya, who instantly became my best friend when I wished “asante” after getting the champagne. Refills were very quick to arrive…
Sadly, at a fairly late moment, my A380 got moved to the B gates (I thought A was supposed to be the A380 terminal and nearly all A380 flights leave from there? Boo hiss!) but it wasn’t too bad, so took the underground people mover over just as boarding was starting.
Emirates flight 354 Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB) to Singapore (SIN) Depart 03:05, Arrive: 15:00, flight time: 7:55 Airbus A380, Registration A6-EDV, Manufactured 2012, Seat 03K Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 55,118 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,747,706
I really wasn’t looking forward to a 3am flight, but given I was going from Tunisia to Australia I’d be crossing so many time zones I’m not sure my body would know where it was anyways. Plus, I’d take a flight in this seat any day of the week! …even at 3am!
Not sure if it’s a known fact, but I’m convinced that Emirates caters their wine lists by destination, with “cheap destinations” like Tunis catered with nice stuff like Dom Perignon, but not ridiculously nice stuff like 2006 Dom Perignon Rosé – was nice to have something a little less common!
Shower orders were taken right before takeoff, and I was informed that I only had one choice of time left – 3 hours before landing. There was a large family of eight in the cabin, and apparently they’d reserved the eight closest slots to landing. Ugh. I told the flight attendant I’d take it if awake, but please don’t wake me up three hours before landing just to shower.
More interesting than a shower, the food and beverage list. Confirmation it would only be light snacks on this flight. Probably good, more incentive to sleep!
Crew was fantastic, and right after takeoff I asked for more rosé, and he said he’d just located a second bottle despite telling many other passengers they were out….so I’m guessing this was to make up for the shower disappointment. The FA serving my section was from Belarus, and when he found out I spoke (pretty awful) Russian we became even better friends…
Decided to snack on the nasi goreng which was actually delicious, and have some of the Château la Mission Haut-Brion 2004 which is an excellent bottle that’s quite hard to find. Generally receives ratings of 98-100 from many of the large wine raters lately, and was shocked when asked “maybe you’d like it decanted into a carafe?” Are you kidding me? Forget the shower, this is onboard living!
I’m not certain if the carafe was refilled or not…maybe it was…the wine was definitely delicious…so I’m guessing it was. Passed out for several hours…and must have tossed and turned a bit because I remember being gently asked if I wanted the shower or not…and saying no and falling right back asleep. So long that I actually missed any pre-landing food. I would have said breakfast, but when you land at 3pm it’s hard to think of it as breakfast.
So, yeah, it was honestly a super rough schedule on the body, and when we landed it was 3pm and I was staring yet another redeye in the face. I was starting to feel a bit out of it and not great again just like I had in Tunis, so decided the best strategy instead of going to the lounge in Singapore would be to walk around the terminals…all three of them…and then go to the lounge for a cold shower.
Turned out to be a good call, because after a stroll I was starting to feel more human. (Yes, I’m sure two long flights of good eating and drinking had nothing to do with this…) I’m getting ahead of myself, however…
So, if you saw my post yesterday, you’ll have seen that I had a work trip to Paris, home for one day for an important event, then had to turn right back around to go to Germany. In an ideal world I would have either stayed in Europe, or stayed home longer, but sometimes these matters are just out of your control.
The other downside: when I booked the Germany trip it looked like Paris was going to be a full month earlier, so I’d have lots of time at home, so I agreed to a one-stop routing to save a bunch of money. Unfortunately, this meant leaving home at 11am instead of 5pm like the nonstop to Frankfurt would, so this was going to be a much less than ideal trip. I could really have used those extra six hour at home.
See, at the time, United/Lufthansa had a killer fare from NYC-Frankfurt that was like 1/3 the fare out of DC. So, even with adding a one-way ticket to JFK and a one-way ticket back from EWR, the overall fare would still be less than half. Had I known I’d have so little time between trips, I would have splurged on the nonstop. By the time the Paris trip moved, however, the price difference was more than 300%, so I was stuck with it. Oh well, make the best of it!
Delta flight 5957 operated by Republic Airlines Washington, DC, National (DCA) to New York, Kennedy (JFK) Depart 11:00, Arrive: 12:18, flight time: 1:18 Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N206JQ, Manufactured 2008, Seat 1A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 26,399 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,718,987
…and make the most of my time I did, so much that I arrived DCA at 10:20. was through CLEAR/PreCheck in less than two minutes and still at the gate 5-10 minutes before boarding. I don’t usually like cutting it close and like to relax in the lounge a bit, but hey, I’ve been in the DCA SkyClub somewhere around 1,000,000 times, so the precious extra minutes at home were well worth it.
Not much to say about this one, standard short hop up to New York. The most surprising part was no wait for a landing slot at JFK (thank you Saturday morning traffic) and would actually be arriving over 25 minutes early today. Also the shortest flight time I can ever remember at 32 minutes.
With nearly five hours to kill at JFK (the only flight that left “enough” time between my separate tickets without anxiety, I decided to make up for my lounge negligence at DCA and visit every lounge I was entitled to at JFK, starting with the SkyClub right after landing.
Food was uninspiring today, but they had real honest-to-God Champagne. Cheese cubes and hummus were as normal, but the chicken strips were awful pressed/processed with fatty and dark streaks running through them. Revolting. I’ll spare you the close-up shot, but rest-assured I didn’t have a bite.
After these adventures in dining, it was time to make my way outside security in Terminal 2 and attempt to find the AirTrain to Terminal 1. Down the escalator, across the street, through a parking lot, up another elevator, and finally the train platform. Seriously, between JFK and LGA I’m not sure which is a bigger embarrassment. That said, I made it just fine on the first try and it gave me practice for my next upcoming JFK flight in a few weeks.
Security in Terminal 1 was the biggest shitshow I’ve ever encountered in the US, with no CLEAR line and no clear PreCheck line either. I asked the agent at the front about PreCheck and “I just yell to the other agent that you got it” – I asked about laptops out, shoes off, etc and was met with a nasty response. When I went through, my laptops caused problems, and the next agent snapped at me that I “should know better.” It was the last straw, and I asked for a supervisor.
“You can talk to me.” No apology, no “I’m sorry that happened” but after calmly explaining the severe attitude from the agents he just said “The one that looks like Dora the Explorer? I need you to identify her so she can be punished.” Seriously, this is what is “keeping us safe” these days? Now, I find TSA agents 99.99% of the time to be great and professional, but this entire crew at JFK was a nightmare. Is this the norm at Terminal 1? I ask because I’ll be back in a few weeks…
Up to the Lufthansa lounge, where I spotted the steed that I will take in a few weeks….the ex-Singapore A330 recently acquired by Evelop! which is operating for Norwegian on the JFK-London daytime flight. I might be crazy for trying this, but I’m kind of looking forward to it. Great views from the lounge, and a tasty array of nibbles…
The lounge was so nice I didn’t want to leave, and had amazing people-watching on top of it (including the Chinese guy with a sequinned sweatshirt that said BITCH PLEASE! in huge letters) but I vowed to try all the lounges I could…so traipsed off to the Korean Air lounge which I could access via PriorityPass.
I should have fled when I saw the elevator was out of service. Lugged my Rimowa up the stairs, and was met by a surly agent who was clearly over it. Seriously, I know New York attitude, but the airport staff (non-Lufthansa and Delta: they were lovely) were just miserable.
Also, this was the best snacks on offer. I should have once again passed…but drank the water, few sips of the wine and a fig newton, and I was off to the gate.
When I got to the gate, thanks to my need to check out the Korean Air lounge, boarding was already underway and I was concerned I might have trouble finding room for my bag due to the huge number of people queued up in front of me. I forgot, however, that the A380 is simply massive even in business class, and there would be plenty of room.
Lufthansa flight 401 New York, Kennedy (JFK) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) Depart 16:10 Arrive: 06:05, flight time: 7:55 Airbus A3800-800, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2012, Seat 22D Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 30,255 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,722,843
Remember when I foreshadowed yesterday about how nice the last row of business class was in the Polaris 777 as long as there was nobody with an infant in the bulkhead? Well, karma paid me a major visit today…and I had a second passenger in the seat next to me today who seemed incredibly interested in my pre-departure beverage:
Now, in fairness, with the exception of takeoff and landing he did sleep 80% of the flight and was pretty much an angel the rest of the time, so it didn’t work out too badly, except mom was constantly working to keep him busy. Fortunately, with a 4pm departure I had no interest in sleep anyways, so it all worked out just fine.
Meal service was actually one of the better ones I’ve had on Lufthansa lately. Their business class meals can be a little on the unusual side, but they’re usually tasty. This one was more-or-less pretty mainstream, and the crew was absolutely fantastic. Once they found out I spoke some German, even though English was obviously easier, they made a huge effort to speak slowly and clearly in German to let me practice. Major points for that. Plus, the food was really good too:
Other than that, the flight was excellent. I skipped the breakfast since I wanted to head straight to bed upon landing. We arrived nearly 40 minutes early around 05:30 and I was in bed and asleep in the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport by 06:00 for a solid six hours of sleep. So much nicer this way than trying to sleep on the plane, and since it’s still on East Coast time it was very easy to fall asleep.
Woke up at noon, did a little work, and then off to catch my train to Saarbrücken for work. Unfortunately, there were no direct trains this late in the day so I would have to change in Mannheim. Unfortunately, the train to Mannheim was nearly 20 minutes late, meaning I missed my connection and had to wait another hour – making me late to dinner. D-Bahn is no Swiss train system these days – that’s for sure.
I treated myself to some Apfelwein and Pringles to enjoy the delay a little more…
Not too much to say about Saarbrücken since it was three very intense days of working with clients, but fortunately very productive. Stayed at the Mercure hotel this time which was more than adequate, and very well-located in the middle of the city. Close to Starbucks, and walkable to lots of places to eat and drink.
I had been completely unsuccessful on previous trips finding any craft beer at all, but this time found Stube 8 which at least had a couple. Not a great selection, but hey it’s a start!
Enjoyed a nice dinner with clients at Zum Stiefel as well, and got to have some traditional heavy Saarlandische food. I had to try the Saarländische Versuchung (the Saarland Temptation) and got a little bit each of three things: a “gefillder” which is basically a potato dumpling with liver sausage filling and sauerkraut, a green “hoorische” (a green dumpling) and a large meatball which I’m still not sure of…heavy, but delicious!
After successful meetings we ended just in time that I could catch a direct ICE back to Frankfurt. Unfortunately, a person was on the tracks between Mannheim and Frankfurt, and we ended up delayed on the train by nearly an hour. Worst service I’ve ever had in ICE first class, however, and never once did I see the train attendant – would have been nice to have a beer!
Arrived in Frankfurt early evening, however, with just enough time to head out to my favourite little craft beer joint for dinner. Naïv is a great little place, and this time they had several fantastic drafts and cans. Either my German was getting better or the staff’s English worse, because I managed to keep the whole thing in German this time without them switching to English. Dinner was two tasty sausages and a delicious brownie with ice cream. Oh, there may also have been a few beers….
Up somewhat early for breakfast at the airport (I sometimes feel like I live in Flughafen Frankfurt, and it’s amazing!) – my usual Iced American and Bretzelsnack…mmmm…so good! Stopped by the Senator Lounge only briefly and then strait to boarding. I needed to max out sleep this morning so little time for the lounge today.
I was pretty excited for this flight – my first time ever on the 787-10 – which was even more awesome because it had “real” Polaris 1-2-1 seating installed and I had managed to get my favourite seat – 1L – way in advance.
United flight 961 Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR) Depart 11:20, Arrive: 13:50, flight time: 8:30 Boeing 787-10, Registration N12006, Manufactured 2019, Seat 1L Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 34,125 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,726,713
Pre-departure sparking wine delivered, and temperature sensor reporting a reasonable 71F today…at least we wouldn’t be roasted during boarding.
Mixed nuts and wine to start, while Paul judges from afar….
Meal was pretty standard Polaris fare, and nearly the identical menu I had from Paris the week before. I was glad to see the delicious pork and apricot terrine was back, and I went with the fish again as well. This is starting to be a habit! The cheese wasn’t quite as good as from Paris, but much better than from the US, and they actually had butterscotch today! YUM!
Mid-flight snack…I’m addicted to the little cakes and overly chewy macarons. Meanwhile, the Great British Bakeoff was providing some very suspicious looking bakes….and Paul was quick to glare!
Pre-arrival was the same meal options as from Paris, and since I won once with the mozzarella salad and “Hamburger Wellington” I decided to give it another go. The cheese was weirdly peppered with all the pepper on one cheese ball, but other than that it was quite tasty again.
On approach to Newark…not sure which airport this is. Approach into Newark was super, super bumpy today, with our 787 being tossed about pretty seriously.
Immigration was a breeze, though I find it annoying that more and more arrivals into Newark arrive at Terminal B these days necessitating a transfer over to terminal A or C for connection. Fortunately my connection was from Terminal C today, and I was curious if I could get into the Polaris Lounge since my arrival was on a different ticket. Yup, no problem since they were both United, and they even let me bring my Starbucks in. The Newark crew had never heard of the Mescal Paper Airplane, so I got to share that with them…though they were still suspicious of it.
Off to the gate to fly to DCA, and once more short segment to go.
United flight 3434, operated by Republic Airlines Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, DC, National (DCA) Depart 15:45, Arrive: 17:03, flight time: 1:18 Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N864RW, Manufactured 2006, Seat 1A Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 34,324 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,726,912
How much can you say about a 40 minute flight from Newark to DCA. We were delayed about 30 minutes by a flat tire (seriously) but other than that we still arrived exactly on time. Very good luck today considering how the weather was. Super, super bumpy on the takeoff just as the approach had been.
…and with that two of my four back to back trips were done. Unfortunately didn’t get home until 6pm which meant a very short night to do laundry and repack since my flight the next morning was 8:30am. UGH. Fortunately managed a same-day-change to an 11:00am via Newark, so at least I would salvage a LITTLE more sleep….
Slept in a little bit, and then did some walking around Singapore in the morning. Frankly, in the heat and humidity, it really wasn’t that pleasant for walking around, so I headed to the mall at Bugis Junction to at least get a bit of air conditioned exercise in (and I won’t lie…I also wanted Starbucks so I killed two birds with one stone.) It was mid-day heat at this point, the time of day when no sane person from northern climes would be caught dead outdoors in Singapore, so I checked out of the Westin and made a hasty retreat to Changi Airport.
Now, let’s be honest. Since I was flying in first I not only had the awesomeness that is Changi at my disposal, but the Private Room in the Singapore Airlines lounge as well. In my previous attempt six months earlier at enjoying Singapore A380 suites the one thing I did right was enjoy the Private Room. But, frankly, after a while a lounge is a lounge and it’s pretty easy to get bored in there. So, I didn’t want to get to the airport TOO early.
Caught an Uber to Changi, piece of cake, and in case you’re unaware many passports can now leave Changi via automated gates so there’s not even a need to queue for passport control. Biggest downside is that you also don’t get stamped out of Singapore…if that matters.
It was early afternoon at this point, and I was getting pretty hungry, so I decided to stop by the Private Room first for a bit of lunch. Today’s menu, notably absent was the lobster which they were serving in February..
I figured I would go with the satay as a starter, which was absolutely delicious, with a glass of champagne. Singapore has really upped the champagne game since my previous visit, however, and they were now pouring 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Millésieme Cuvée Rare. I know I’ve said it before here, but people have long associated Dom Perignon with luxury airline champagne, and Krug is also on that list. In the club scene (at least in the US) Cristal would also be a “bling” label…so it’s always nice to see a really high end champagne that’s different on offer.
I was a little hungry still after the satay, so asked the attendant what was small, and was recommended the dim sum. Perfect amount of food along with the satay, and a rather generous top up of the champagne.
Unfortunately, they only had vanilla ice cream today, but that was just fine with some chocolate flakes and almonds as a dessert!
Completely full on lunch, and with nearly four hours remaining until my flight, I decided to do a lap of the airport. The entire airport. Changi is shaped in a giant U shape with terminal one being the “bottom” of the U that connects terminal three (where the private room is) with terminal two.
Fight thing I saw when I left the lounge was my plane, already parked next to the lounge, waiting to take me to Delhi in a few hours. Coincidentally, it was the same A380 that had delivered me from Sydney the previous day!
So, I walked all the way to the other end of terminal three, the entire length of terminal one, and then to terminal two where I decided I was getting sleepy…and wanted to enjoy the flight ahead…so I stopped for some Starbucks. The people watching in T2 was fascinating, given many budget airlines leave from this terminal.
Walking past this gate, it wasn’t difficult to figure out where this flight was headed. Given the attire of the passengers, many already in their Ihram dress, headed to Jeddah and on to Mecca.
Caught the monorail back to T2, and had a little more time to enjoy the private room. The decor definitely reminds me of a living room…if you live in a really expansive and non-fashionable place with lots of dark wood and marble:
Enjoyed a shower (nothing luxurious at all about the shower facilities in the Private Room), a couple of glasses of champagne, and it was time to finally head down to the gate to enjoy my flight to Delhi.
Singapore Airlines flight 406 Singapore (SIN) to Delhi, India (DEL) Depart 17:10, Arrive 20:10, Flight Time: 5:30 Airbus A380-800, Registration 9V-SKD, Manufactured 2008, Seat 1F Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 95,685 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,472,662
Compared to the previous day when I had the entire cabin to myself, today I had two other people joining me. It seriously felt so crowded that I want my miles back! Just kidding…but I did move up to suite 1F so it seemed like nobody else was in the cabin, given they were both back in row three. Pic of another A380 as we taxied out:
KLM 777 with a great livery:
Boats in the harbour shortly after takeoff:
One note on the crew. Maybe it was the length of the segment, or maybe Delhi is a less desirable route than Sydney (maybe they do an immediate turnaround?) but there was something slightly less polished – and more fun – about this crew. When I say less-polished I mean it in a good way. People often accuse Singapore crews of being “robotic” and while I have never really found that, this crew was very lighthearted in a way you very rarely see with crews of Asian airlines. There was just enough informality that I really enjoyed this crew.
That said, let’s start with another glass of champagne. Yes, there were also a couple of glasses before takeoff, but I didn’t manage to grab snaps of those:
This was followed by more satay right after takeoff. I definitely got my fill of satay in these 24 hours!
After the satay, the crew suggested they could begin the dinner service in a little over an hour. I’m sure they would have been happy to do it whenever I wanted, but truthfully I was still a little full from the lounge, so that sounded like a great idea. I enjoyed catching up on some tv on the iPad, and soon enough some nuts came around. The champagne was flowing the entire time.
For a starter, “seared tuna on niçoise salad with quail egg” – this was absolutely delicious. Note the water glass, we had quite a bit of turbulence.
Indian style creamy carrot soup with coriander. Spicy, and delicious!
…and I quote: “Green coral lettuce, frisee, spinach, cherry tomato and red radish” – for such a fancy name, it was a pretty meh and blah salad overall.
The Boston Lobster Thermidor. Frankly, the one out of Sydney was better. It was definitely delicious, and that big ripe tomato was amazing, and there was more lobster than out of Sydney, but it was just kind of bland and overcooked from a flavour point of view. That said, it was still in-flight lobster so you have to like it!
Who can say no to a cheeseboard like this?! This is pretty much my idea of Heaven. Lufthansa has some serious competition in the onboard cheese department!
Why yes, I’ll have a nicely plated small amount of each. Should have asked for extra of the Stilton – it was delicious!
In fairness, I wasn’t overly excited by the dessert, which was listed as “chendol with coconut ice cream” but I think at the end of the meal it was definitely the best part. Absolutely delicious, and paired very nicely with a glass of Johnny Walker.
After dinner pralines with my friend Johnny. By the time the meal was over, we were barely an hour away from landing in Delhi.
With that, all too soon, my two fantastic Singapore A380 suites experiences were over. It was a great experience, a fantastic way to travel, and I would love to do it again if the opportunity presents itself. However, I can finally check “flying it just for the fun of it” off my list, and get back to other products I’m still curious to try, as well as just flying the most comfortable product on the routes I do need to fly.
Now, time to engage in the delightful chaos that is India…
I was feeling a bit lazy in the morning, so I decided to spend the extra $20 or so to save 30 minutes or so and call an Uber to the airport. Last time I tried this, there was a super long backup for cars to get into the airport so it actually took longer, but this time it went absolutely perfectly.
Unfortunately, Singapore’s check-in was at the very last desk in the hall, which meant quite a walk inside the airport once I’d been dropped off. However, once I got there, I was rewarded with my very own lane:
The check-in agent confirmed that yes, I was the only one in Suites today, and I would have the entire cabin to myself. Score! After a quick duty free shop it was through security and immigration which was pretty quick, and then a rather long walk to the satellite gates where many of the Star Alliance airlines have their gates.
Once in the Singapore First lounge, strangely, there were about 10 other people hanging around, in addition to 4-5 lounge staff who were all sitting around and having a chat. Rather strange, especially since I knew I was the only one in suites today. The others, I assume, were top level Singapore elites, but the whole environment was a bit strange. Anyways, made a quite pit stop before getting food….I’m surprised anyone in a first class lounge needs to be told this is recycled water and they shouldn’t drink:
Agent presented me with a menu of what was on offer in addition to the buffet…naturally, I went with some eggs benedict:
The buffet did look rather tasty, however. Even with ten or so people in the lounge you had to wonder how long it had been sitting around for though…
Most important part of the buffet. I tried to pour myself a glass of champagne, but the lounge staff was mortified and insisted on bringing it to me.
The “living room” area of the lounge:
My eggs benedict were super tasty, although my Veuve came cut with orange juice. I suppose it was only 10am so I can forgive this, but I did ask for “champagne.”
I love the little seating cubes that Singapore has in their first lounges. They’re the perfect combination of private, space, functional, etc.
I think I tried two or three different times to go down to the gate to board starting about 45 minutes before the flight, only to be told by the lounge attendant that it wasn’t time yet. Of course, with about 15 minutes left until departure I tried again, at which point she simply told me “yes, you can board now.” Hmmm…..
Singapore Airlines flight 232 Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Singapore (SIN) Depart 11:00, Arrive 17:20, Flight Time: 8:20 Airbus A380-800, Registration 9V-SKD, Manufactured 2008, Seat 3F Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 93,106 Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,470,083
Once aboard, however, the crew instantly greeted me by name (easy since I was the only passenger in Suites) and was the perfect blend of helpful and hands off. Normally, I struggle with crews that are cold and lazy or the other extreme: too deferential and won’t let me have a bit of space. From the very first moment this crew read me perfectly. Nice note in my suite letting me know it was ready for me:
Glass of champagne? Don’t mind if I do!
Overhead view of the 12 suites Suites cabin:
My suite, taken from the door:
Seated, looking across to the other site of the plane with all the doors/windows opened:
Bit of an angled shot into the suite directly across the aisle from me:
Have champagne, am happy, ready for takeoff:
After takeoff, candied nuts and more champagne. Personally wasn’t a big fan of the candied nuts.
Next up was the caviar course, which was fantastic. Debated asking for another helping, however, knowing all the food that was coming I was glad I passed. It was served with some of the butteriest and most garlicky bread I’ve ever had on a plane. Winning!
White onion and thyme soup with prosciutto ham…was way more flavourful than expected!
Very tasty salad with cranberries, goat cheese, and walnuts:
…and the book the cook main course, the Boston Lobster Thermidor. The most interesting part to me was that Singapore offers two different lobster thermidor dishes, but depending where it’s catered from it seems potlatch which you will eventually get. It was slightly overcooked, but given it was being served on a plane it was pretty tasty!
Warm rosemary apricot tart with vanilla ice cream…amazing.
If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I can’t turn down cheese. I could make a whole meal of it…which gives me an idea for a future flight. However, I was pretty stuffed by this point. The crew, however, would not be deterred, and insisted on making me a cheese plate with a little bit of everything. I have to say, Singapore is the only airline that can rival Lufthansa in my books on the cheese course.
We’re finished, right? So I asked for a Johnny Walker Blue, one ice cube, so I could watch some tv. I was offered pralines. I declined. “Are you sure we can’t just bring you one?” Ok, one. This is what came:
They tried to give me more food before landing, but I just couldn’t. I was still stuffed. Plus, the whole point of arriving Singapore late afternoon was to enjoy the magic that is Singapore’s street food scene! I did, however, have one more Johnny Walker for the road. This flight was absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. My last A380 flight in February I felt a little cheated because I slept 90% of it, but this time I definitely maxed out the experience!
First thing I wanted upon landing was a washroom, and look…first one I found had a perfect view – from the urinal – of the plane I had just arrived on:
My phone rang at this very second, and reminded me: “Welcome to SIN!” Uhhh…..
Decided rather than melt in the humidity I would try Uber once more, which was super easy, and soon I was checking in at the Westin. After a shower and a bit of rest, headed up to the executive lounge, which had a rather impressive happy hour buffet and drinks service, despite the lounge being absolutely empty.
Impressive, except this scary jell-o concoction:
After recovering a bit, I headed out to one of the best things about this hotel. It is right around the corner from the Lau Pa Sat market, which has a street next to it that is known as “Satay Street” at night. So, it was time for dinner: delicious chicken satay.
See the right side of the pic? That is more than a dozen stalls with grills all making satay. Plenty to choose from, and all delicious. But the heat, smells, and humidity are overwhelming!
I was pretty exhausted at this point, so headed back to the room to get some sleep. Only one problem. When I opened the door, I couldn’t see anything. This was perhaps the most strangely designed room I’d been in anywhere in the world. No light switches near the door. When I finally did find one, I took pics to show why it’s so confusing.
View from the door. Imagine this long corridor in the dark:
Then, when you find your way to the end and turn left, you have THIS long corridor…also pitch black. See where my suitcase is? Once you pass that, there is finally a light switch on the left. Incredibly odd design!
That said, after dozens of times in Singapore, this was only the second time a hotel has really impressed me. I seem to stay somewhere different every trip, and never am super happy with my stay. They’ve all been “fine” and never really “bad” but also never impressive. The Westin, however, despite the light switch, I really liked. The other one I’ve really liked is the Mandarin Oriental, but for price reasons, that’s just not a regular option.
The view, however, from the approximately 30th floor “lobby” of the Westin is great:
After an all too short overnight in Singapore, it was time to head back to Changi Airport to enjoy the world’s best airport and also the Private Room Singapore First Lounge! Called another Uber, and I was on my way…
Easy trip by train to the Sydney airport, and soon was at the Qatar check-in area. Qatar slightly unusually has one queue feeding into separate check-in counters for first and business, so after asking an agent I ducked under the ropes and waited for the first agent to be free. When she was, I started walking up and the guy at the guy of the long queue literally rushed over and physically shoved me out of the way. I politely asked “are you in first class?” and he just glared at me and went to the desk. Ok, whatever.
When the agent was free she did apologize for what happened (although it was not her fault) which was a nice touch. She informed me that I was all alone today in first, so I would have the cabin to myself – which seat would I like? The cabin was empty when I booked so I had already selected the seat I wanted, but I appreciated her letting me know I could have whichever one I would like. Immigration and security were painless, and soon it was into the departures lounge.
I’ve flown into and out of Sydney multiple times, but never on a OneWorld airline internationally, so I haven’t had the chance to use the Qantas First lounge before now. In general, I’m not a fan of what OneWorld calls first lounges, because they’re usually heaving with all the OneWorld Emerald members, so they’re usually no more quiet or exclusive than a Star Alliance business class lounge.
This lounge was no exception as there were well over 100 guests, but it was huge and well laid-out, so didn’t seem quite so noticeable. Decided on a quick shower to wash off all the rushing around the city, and on the way to the showers noticed our plane parked right in front of the lounge. At least it would be a short walk!
Showers were fine, nothing special, but definitely got the job done. I decided to head over to the dining area and order some light snacks. I had reached out to a few friends who are well-versed in this lounge, and they told me I had to try the salt and pepper calamari. It was good, but not mind-blowing:
I was going to leave after this, but the very charming lounge agent named Henry wouldn’t let me leave without some dessert. Ok, now this is fun:
I stayed around a couple more hours getting some work done, with Henry always being attentive. Despite him only asking once, he never forgot any preferences and as I was leaving, I complimented him on his memory. He smiled and told me “there are three rules in hospitality: smile, genuine, and remember.” I need to hire this guy! I honestly can’t say I remember the last time I’ve received such fantastic service from an airline.
Walking out of the lounge to my plane, the lounge features a very interesting living green stuff wall:
Boarding was a mad rush for first and business, no separate lines or boarding call, and we were soon aboard.
Qatar Airways flight 909
Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Doha, Qatar (DOH)
Depart 22:10, Arrive 05:05, Flight Time: 14:55
Airbus A380-800, Registration A7-APD, Manufactured 2014, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 24,006
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,388,407
First thing I noticed…I was already the fourth person in first. I thought I was the only one? Very polite Korean crew, but there was a rather significant communication gap. Their English was some of the poorest I’ve ever had from a crew on Qatar/Etihad/Emirates. They were perfectly polite, however, and Krug soon made an appearance along with olives and cheese. Unique and tasty choice.
Lots of space, but the seat is rather lacking in privacy. By this point, the cabin had filled to seven of eight seats. I asked the purser what happened and she said “business class is too full today” so I guess there were six lucky people who got operational upgrades to first. Small silver lining, the one seat kept empty was the one across the aisle from me, so they at least tried to keep it as private as possible.
Lots of folks are fans of Qatar’s lifejacket demo guy in the video, and it appears they have a special guest in the current video:
Soon after takeoff, it was warm. Very warm. I asked the crew several times if they could turn the temperature down, and they said they were trying, but the cabin remained extremely warm – I would say approximately 25C/80F.
Started off with the caviar course, which came with blinis and toasts, as well as plenty of sides:
Rather odd what I think was an attempt at a crab cake, but whatever it was was bland.
Nice bread basket and amazing butter.
Sous vide lamb with spinach and feta cheese gnocchi, crushed peas, baby carrots, and radish. Noticeably lacking: anything resembling spinach or feta cheese or gnocchi. The lamb was also cooked well-done. This whole meal was a huge miss.
The empty seat across the aisle. With the privacy screen up it was pretty private, but had that seat been taken there would have been very little privacy.
Rather sad cheese plate. The one thing they did nicely was add some jam/chutney to the offering.
The entertainment selection was pretty extensive, but every video started with an annoying few minute ad for tourist in Qatar. I got kind of sick of them asking this woman about her wedding day. It was more irritating since I was watching tv shows, so every 20-30 minutes I got to watch her.
Chocolate soufflé with strawberry coulis:
Despite the efforts of the crew, the cabin remained an oven. I decided to change into lightweight gym shorts and shirt to try and sleep as opposed to the rather heavy pajamas they were offering. I also tried to stay awake as long as possible on this flight so that I could somewhat switch to arrival time. It must have done the trip, because I slept for a solid eight hours and woke up just about an hour before landing.
Wasn’t too terribly hungry, but the crew insisted I eat a little. Nice little bread basket, some tea, fresh orange juice, and a banana and cinnamon smoothy, which was actually quite tasty.
I really wasn’t feeling a big breakfast, but I wanted to eat a bit in the lounge, so I just asked for the “cured balik salmon with chive cream cheese, egg and caper berries.” It was smaller than I expected, but plenty untilI got to the lounge. The crew actually seemed offended whtn I wouldn’t let them cook me eggs.
The cabin hadn’t cooled down at all in flight, so I waited until the last moment to change back into regular clothes. We landed in a very dark Doha about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule and I was wide awake thanks to the time shift.
Overall, Qatar was pretty much what I expected: good, but not great. Like Emirates and Etihad I think the first class product was a lot of show without the little touches that make first class “exceptional.” You can’t just spend money on things like caviar and champagne and expect a world-class product to materialize. It was a big step up from Thai/United/American, but nowhere in the same league as the big boys like Cathay, Singapore, Lufthansa, Air France.
After landing, I had initially planned to head to the office for a few hours to get some work done, but it was absolutely pouring outside and the Private Room was beckoning. Had a rather long walk from my gate today to the lounges, but once inside and after showing my boarding pass, one of the agents insisted on escorting me to the Private Room.
What I’ve personally always loved about Singapore is they manage to deliver perfect service without ever coming across as “hovering” over you or being at all pretentious. It’s the perfect combination of letting you know you’re a valued customer, but giving you the space and amenities to enjoy your time with them how you please. This was my first visit to the Private Room and it was nice to be walked to my seat, asked what I want (Coke Light, still water, and a cold towel please) and then left alone for a couple of hours to get some work done on the laptop.
It was about 2pm by this point, and I was starting to get hungry, so I wandered over to the dining room to check out some lunch. I had the entire place to myself. In the entire lounge at this point it was just me and one other couple. View from my table:
Panoramic of the Private Lounge dining room. I can’t imagine people eat from the small buffet often.
Glass of bubbly and some delicious mixed satay to start. The peanut sauce was fantastic. I would quite literally come back to the Private Room just for another helping of this!
Main course of lobster and asparagus. Skipped the potatoes – don’t want to fill up on empty starches!
Ice cream? I really shouldn’t..you insist? Fine, for research purposes, of course…
At this point, it had stopped raining outside, so I decided to walk off the calories and head into the city for a bit as I had almost nine hours left before my connecting flight. Here’s the one thing I didn’t like about the Private Room – nowhere to store luggage. I asked…and then I asked even more nicely, but was sent away to the main terminal left luggage. Got there, and of course the T3 left luggage was closed today. Seems they alternate every day, and today only the T1 terminal left luggage was in service. Seriously?
Took the tram over to T1, found left luggage where a very friendly gentleman patiently weighed my bags and took my money, and then I was able to head through immigration. Just going to the city for three or four hours? Apparently that’s not suspicious at all in Singapore, passport was stamped and I was on my way. Quick train ride into the city, and a great walk through Bugis and and the Downtown Core. I resisted stopping for an overpriced touristy Singapore Sling, and was content to just wander and have some Starbucks. (Again, research purposes of course.)
On my way back to the train I ran into a special Valentines Day outdoor concert where people were having an Adele lip synch contest. It was all at once the most culturally fascinating and disturbing thing I think I’ve ever seen! Made it back to the airport around 7pm and had a quick walk through the terminals before heading back to T1 to retrieve my bags. Tried for 20 minutes to get a good shot of a butterfly in the butterfly garden, but no luck, so finally settled for a picture of people taking a picture of butterflies:
Back to the Private Room, showed, my boarding pass, and as it was a new shift the desk agent wanted to walk me back to the Private Room. I told her I knew the way and could show myself since I was returning from earlier in the day, and she was happy to let me go. Again, service offered, declined, and no “are you REALLY sure?” Perfect service. The real kicker was when I got back to the Private Room desk, the agent greeted me by name – despite the shift change. I had to ask her. “My colleague from earlier today told me you would be coming back and what you looked like, so I’ve been expecting you.” Now THAT is service.
Couple more hours of work, and it was time for some dinner. I had heard the couple earlier in the day mentioning that the Thai mango salad was delicious, and they were absolutely right!
The satay was so good earlier, and I didn’t want a huge meal, so I ordered it again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mixed this time – so wasn’t quite as good, but still excellent.
Back to my seat to do a little more work, and immediately the attendant was over suggesting I should have more champagne. Well, if you insist…
“You’re not having desert? I can’t convince you? How about some chocolate ice cream?” Well, how can I resist that. “Maybe some red wine with that?” I swear, these people are enablers…
With that, my lovely day in the Private Room was over, and it was time for the short 10 minute walk to the gate.
Singapore Airlines Flight 231
Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD)
Depart 00:45, Arrive 11:40, Flight Time: 7:55
Airbus A380-800, Registration 9V-SKD, Manufactured 2008, Suite 3F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 16,319
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,380,720
Upon boarding, I was met at the door with “Good Evening Mr. Jason, we’ve been expecting you.” I asked how they knew my name – was I the only one in Suites tonight? “There is one other, but they have an Asian name.” Again, impressive personalized service.
It was noted that I ordered Book the Cook, but “you may like to look at the menu regardless”
The suite from above:
Yeah, this is a horrible way to fly.
Looking across the plane at the empty suites:
If this suite is a’rockin…don’t come a’knockin!
Tasty macadamia nuts and cashews with a glass of Krug.
Very shortly after take off my Boston Lobster Thermadore was delivered. From research online, the difference between the Boston and the classic seemed to be that the Boston is the full lobster, and indeed it was:
Clearly, it was awful:
I would post more about the time I enjoyed in suites, but, well, right after eating I fell asleep and was out for fix straight hours, landing just 30 minutes out of Sydney. The crew seemed very disappointed I wasn’t up for any breakfast, but was happy to make me some tea when I asked.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and now I have to find an excuse to fly Suites on a much longer daytime route to enjoy all the service (and hopefully get some caviar!) With that, a couple of outstanding flights in Singapore First were behind me, and it was time to enjoy a couple of days in Australia!
After a refreshing shower, I still had about 90 minutes to enjoy the ANA Suites Lounge. Not one of the more impressive first class lounges for Star Alliance, it was still pretty empty when I arrived. It did, however, fill up quite a bit over the next hour. Before it got busy, I took a chance to have some tasty Japanese snacks and plum wine.
Not much more to say. I actually liked it when it got a bit busier, because the lounge attendants hovered less…and they actually let me pour my own water/drinks. It’s nice having helpful people around, but at ths same time I really don’t like being waited on hand and foot and feeling like I have “staff.”
Thai flight 677
Tokyo, Narita (NRT) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 17:30, Arrive 22:30 next day, Flight Time: 7:00
Airbus A380, Registration HS-TUD, Manufactured 2012, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 9,775
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,374,176
Boarding was a little late, and was the “usual” cast of characters. Three large western guys and their Thai “companions,” a Thai pop star (according to the flight attendant) and then there was me. While the hard product isn’t really world-class, it’s much better than what any US airline offers.
“Can I get you some Dom Perignon?” Very first-world nit-picking, but while other airlines are more subtle, our flight attendant quite emphatically stressed the brand. As if he was trying to impress people. This perhaps goes back to my impression that Thai has some things in common with US airlines, including that lack of finesse in service. I suspect a much larger percentage of their premium cabin passengers are upgrades/awards.
Thailand is still in mourning for the king, and after the safety video a brief video celebrating his life was played.
Post-takeoff, more champagne quickly appeared.
Very strange amuse-bouche. A curry puff and very fatty chicken yakatori.
Delicious thai salad.
Very nicely set table.
Chilled seafood starter. Normally I avoid seafood and mayo on planes, but decided to go for it this time. I regretted it within 12 hours…
Chestnut soup with duck liver mousse. A bit unusual, but quite tasty.
The pork curry. Super tasty – definitely the highlight of the meal.
Rather sad fruit and cheese course. Nowhere near expectations.
Rum savarin with orange sauce, and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue. It was a bit on the sweet side for me, but definitely good.
Unfortunately after dinner I passed out for two to three more hours, putting a dent in my plans to stay awake so I could get on a normal sleep schedule once I got to Bangkok. Oh well! The crew was largely absent after I woke up, but after using the call button they did show up with tea and water. They were perfecly friendly and helpful, but there was nothing proactive about the service. Nothing bad, just nothing outstanding.
I had an 18 hour overnight thanks to the award, so decided to stay at the W Bangkok. I’ve had very mixed experiences here before, but decided I would give it one more try. They proactively upgraded me the day before to a “Marvelous Suite” which was the largest suite I’ve gotten here. I think I actually prefer the junior suites I’ve had before, but on the upside the air conditioning was freezing in the room I got.
Six solid hours of sleep, and it was off to enjoy what I think is one of the best hotel breakfasts in the world – especially for the price! Sure some five star/$500 hotels might do a notch better, but for the price point this property’s breakfast can’t be beat! I wasn’t super hungry, but started with some super fresh fruit, salmon, and duck.
After breakfast I went for a walk to walk off the jetlag. First, the view from the hotel:
Stopped by the Siam Paragon Mall to walk around in air conditioned luxury, and then headed down the street to satisfy my craving for some Hokey Pokey ice cream. You can’t really find it in the US, so wanted to use this opportunity to make sure to get some…even if it was 10am!
Very unusual sculptures in the mall.
Walked by the in-mall ice rink, but no time for skating this morning.
Back to the W, and decided to use my free drink coupons. Sure, it was only noon, but couldn’t use them the night before due to it being what the front desk guy called “some kind of respect the buddha holiday” causing a ban on alcohol sales. Decided to try the W’s signature cocktail, which was super sweet and came with 24 karat gold leaf.
With that, it was time to call an Uber and got a fabulous ladyboy driver wearing a Hello Kitty shirt and giant silver bow in her hair. When we got to the airport, I asked to take a picture with her, and she suddenly got really nervous and wouldn’t do it. Awe!
Since I hadn’t heard anything from Etihad four hours before my flight, I called to check the status of my car transfer. Since the booking was made less than 24 hours before flight, I was advise they couldn’t guarantee the car, but would see what they could do. When I called at 9am, they assured me that yes, the transfer was scheduled and would be there at 10am. 10am came and went. 10:15 came and went. At 10:30 I gave up and called an Uber to the airport.
Arrived in the first class check-in area, and first thing I asked was what had happened with the transfer…she made some phone calls, and “yes, the car came to get you…at 6am.” Um, seriously? You sent a car for me eight hours before the flight? First off, it’s not true because they would never send a car that early, and second, why did they then tell me 10a when I called? Complete confusion on the part of Etihad, and makes three for three the amount of times they failed to show up to take me to the airport as promised. Completely unreliable.
Anyways, moving onto check-in, the agent starts paging through my passport. “Where’s your visa?” I have a ten year multi-entry India visa, in another passport. The agent presses on “but I need to see it.” Now, time for a bit of background. A few trips ago, in Delhi, the agent told me “why are you showing me that? I can see your visa in the computer, there’s no need to bring it and show it every time.” So, I haven’t My last three trips to India, no questions at all on the visa. But, this agent wouldn’t budge. To the point she had supervisors calling the Indian Embassy. They were standing firm. No visa, no checkin, no flight.
So, I asked her “if I’m transiting, I don’t need a visa. If I buy an immediate ticket out of India will you check me in.” Her: “no, because we know you will attempt to stay in India.” But yes, I will attempt, and if they tell me no, I’ll go right back out on the connecting flight. I even bought a one-way on Air India from Mumbai to Colombo, departing three hours after arriving in Mumbai. She wouldn’t budge. “Ok, I will go to Colombo, not try and go to immigration, and will sort out the visa from there.” Exasperated, she finally gave up, and agreed to check me in.
This had wasted nearly two hours of time, which meant I only had 15 minutes to enjoy and check out the new Etihad First lounge. I will say, this is the one part of the Etihad ground experience that was amazing. I had a perfectly lovely former flight attendant dedicated to helping me out, and she saw to it that I got some champagne, pronto:
Bar/lounge area of the Etihad First lounge:
I shared my check-in experience with her, along with my poor experiences with the limo service and in flight service where they frequently run out of food options. She was very pleasant and genuine, and it was nice to finally be able to experience a bit of actual service with a human touch on Etihad. Of course, there was also a huge downside to a lounge. There was a group of about 10 Etihad staff having a rather loud meeting in the lounge – seems an extremely weird place to be having a meeting but it appeared to be some kind of training. Mid-day was a rather quiet time in the lounge so maybe it was the best time if they had to do it, but still just seemed a bit…unclassy.
Rather long walk to my gate, the very last one in the terminal, and soon it was time to forget all the stress and enjoy the A380 experience. Of course, I was asked to show the visa again at the gate, but showing the connecting ticket was just fine for them. The boarding area was an absolute madhouse, and boarding had already begun when I reached the gate. The agent was fantastic when he saw I was in first, and actually escorted me down the long jetway, actually pushing other passengers waiting in a long line in the jetway aside so I could go past.
Etihad flight 204
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AUH) to Mumbai, India (BOM)
Depart 14:10, Arrive 19:20, Flight Time: 3:40
Airbus A380, Registration A6-APE, Manufactured 2015, Seat 3K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 123,471
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,312,608
Very nice welcome aboard with champagne, dates and arabic coffee:
Forget the stress of the whole limo/check-in drama with Etihad, and enjoy relaxing in the A380 apartment:
Unfortunately I didn’t have all this space for a 14 hour flight to Melbourne as planned, but 2.5 hours to Mumbai would have to do:
Full menu for the short flight:
Our captain today was SMOKIN’ hot!
Shortly after take off cashews, mixed nuts, olives, and more champagne:
Arabic mezze to start…relatively tasty:
By this point, the WiFi was also up and running, and I sent some emails back home to see if I could at least get a scan of my visa. Thankfully, less than 30 minutes later, a friend had found the passport for me and taken a shot of the visa, so at least I had photographic proof of the visa, if not the actual visa. Oh, and if you think I’m bad with all the photos, the guy in the apartment across the aisle had a go-pro set up to record his entire experience, lol:
Since it was so good the last time I’d had it, I got the biryani for a main and the in-flight chef insisted on making me a salad to go with it. Delicious once again:
Fortunately, this time, they didn’t run out of cheese, although the selection was quite on the disappointing side:
Couldn’t resist a bit of ice cream and arabic sweets…were also super tasty. Not sure what flavour the ice cream was, but tasted a bit like speculaas and was super tasty:
Panoramic shot of the suite:
Unfortunately the flight went by all too quicky and we landed in a very stormy and rainy Mumbai as the sun was setting. See, when I woke up and decided going to Mumbai sounded like fun I’d forgotten to do any research and had arrived in the middle of monsoon season! Our A380 from the gate upon arrival:
Headed down to immigration where the business class line was pretty short, and handed him my passport…and waited. Eventually, he asked, where is your visa? I told him I have a 10 year visa in another passport, and no I don’t have it with me, it should be in your computer. He seemed completely confused…either Mumbai does things differently or something has changed. So, I offered him my phone with the picture of the visa, oh piece of cake, that’s plenty, here you go, welcome to India!
Even a bigger surprise, when I left the airport, the Etihad drivers were all there…but none for me. So I asked one of them if there were any other drivers…he asked my name and I told him. “OH! FIRST CLASS!” were his next words and he called another driver who was apparently waiting right outside for me. Apparently, not only did Etihad get the transfer right this time, but first class gets better cars or something. Was a very nice ride of maybe 30 minutes in spacious air conditioned comfort and soon we were arriving at the St Regis Mumbai. Before this trip I’d never stayed at a St Regis before, and now this was to be my second time in a week…and a huge surprise awaited me with a giant two bedroom suite. The living/dining area:
Full kitchen as well:
Another shot of the living/dining room area:
At first I was worried when I saw I’d been given a room with two beds:
…but at least it has a nice bathroom:
…but wait, there’s a second bedroom as well!
…with its own bathroom:
Got a fantastic night of sleep, and enjoyed the view from my room in the morning:
Headed down to breakfast first, and it was a huge buffet, but the place was absolutely packed. There were probably 200+ people eating, and the place felt like an absolute madhouse. There were also lots of large families with children running around, not what I would have expected at a St Regis. Had a small bit to eat, and then found out…just next door…was Starbucks! I decided to get my caffeine there before continuing on with my day.
Managed a good day of work, which was good because spending much time outside didn’t really appear to be an option since it was torrential downpours pretty much all day…then the rain would stop, sun would come out and bake in the humidity….just in time for another downpour. I did get out for a bit of a walk as well in between storms, but other than work it was a pretty uneventful day.
Oh, and on top of work, I did manage to decide what I felt like doing next…heading to Bangkok!
Back to the St Regis, and up to the top floor bar where they supposedly had a happy hour for platinum and suite guests. There was a snack menu, as well as anything you wanted to drink. I decided to go with the pan fried dumplings and some Indian red wine which wasn’t bad:
…this may have been repeated a few times. The weirdest part was when I left, then told me I had to sign. Ok, fine, and then they brought me a bill….for nearly 9,000 rupees – or nearly $150! I was assured I didn’t have to pay it, they just needed the bill for “internal bookkeeping.” Ok, fine by me. Who knew a few glasses of wine and three small appetizers could cost so much….more than the room even! With that it was off to bed, because I had to get up relatively early to continue on to Bangkok the next day!