SQ850 Singapore SIN – Guangzhou CAN
10 Aug 11
Airbus A330-300 9V-STA
Seat 14K moved to 11K
Doing something for the very first time is indeed a very gratifying feeling. While it is not my first time on SQ’s business class, this flight will allow me to experience SQ’s new regional business class seats as well as my first visit to a new city in China. To top it off the flight departs in Changi’s magnificent Terminal 3, and that was where I was dropped off by the taxi driver. I had another small bag to be checked in for my flight to Guangzhou that day and stopped by the Business Class check-in counter once again. It was a simple and fast process, since there wasn’t any queues and there was available counters to serve me. Having obtained my boarding pass the previous day, I proceeded past security towards immigration.
There is no wonder why Changi International Airport gets its awards since immigration is also a breeze that morning which seems like a peak time for travel. Once through immigration, I enquired for the Silverkris Lounge and was directed to the escalator opposite the Hermes boutique, but I chose to take the earlier escalator situated closer to the immigration desks. This allowed me to walk past the Star Alliance Gold Lounge first, but I decided to go forward towards the Silverkris Lounge.
Like all homeground lounges, the Silverkris Lounge was a huge lounge. Dark wood and brown marble covers up most of the lounge so walking into it on a morning makes it feel like entering a cosy club lounge, and the way it faces the terminal without views out towards the tarmac makes it seem enclosed. Fortunately the wide expanse and spread out seating areas make it seem like a gentleman’s club. So it was still a comfortable place to sit down, have a drink and munch on some food.
Speaking of the food, the Silverkris Lounge has an excellent variety, and since it was in the morning, they had a selection of western breakfast buffet that would make some hotel’s breakfast buffets seem underwhelming. They even have carrot cake fried in the Singapore style and some dim sum for those seeking local dishes. Beverage selections were also aplenty from individually bottled mineral waters to TWG tea bags. I did ask for ice cream in the lounge but they didn’t have it, so I returned to my seat with some carrot cake, french toast and a bottle of apple juice. The good part about this lounge was how it felt like a hotel club lounge and had the space for passengers. Even with the numerous departures in the day, there was plenty of seating spaces available, even those prime seats with a view over the terminal. After my small snack, I browsed through the magazines rack and noticed at the large variety of magazines covering topics to lifestyle to business and one of the best selections of newspapers on a lounge. The magazine selection is more skewed to luxury though and doesn’t offer more diverse topics like other airline lounges.
Taking some newspapers along with me, I head to a quieter alcove at the end of the lounge so that I can start a Skype conversation with my iPad. I had about a 20 minute chat with my family on the iPad before finishing my bottled water and head out of the lounge to head for boarding. It turns out I left the lounge quite late for boarding; and by the time I arrived at the gate where the A380s usually depart for London leaves, I was the only remaining passenger that have yet to board. There was only one other person behind me passing through security, though the other passenger was just waiting for his flight departing in the other gates. My flight that day departs from those multiple holding gates in Terminal 3 which usually gets busy late at night.
At the security, one of the gate agent proceeded to help me and requested for my passport and boarding pass, hoping to expedite the passenger check, and after collecting my luggage and placing my iPad and Macbook Air back on my hand carry bags, I went to collect my passport and boarding pass stub from the agent by the gate. I just hurried into the plane without taking any further photos, and once I was onboard, the same welcome was presented to me and I was directed to my seat. However I noticed the narrow aisle and my luggage seems stuck. My actual seat assigned was to be on 14K, a window seat on the 3rd row (since there is no 13K) but as there was another passenger seated on 15H on the aisle side, and with a light load on Business Class today, the stewardess mentioned I was free to sit at any empty seat. I chose instead to sit at the bulkhead on 11K.
The empty first row cabin also allowed me to take some nice photos of the new regional Business Class cabin which I was very impressed of. For a flight of around 4 hours, this particular cabin with its airy beige leather seats were very comfortable. I particularly liked the soft seats and pillow cover which is probably one of the best regional Business Class seats around. I would even think this particular product might have been equal to some lesser airline’s First Class. The ‘ears’ covering the sides of the seats acts as a privacy screen and also as the placement for the LED reading lights which was a neat design. Even being the last one to board the aircraft, I was still offered a welcome drink from which I picked the orange juice. I was then provided with hot towels, headsets and the menu for the flight. Apparently upon boarding, one of the passenger in Economy had just left a package in the airport, and he rushed out to retrieve his package, giving me some time to relax after rushing through the security and the gate to board the aircraft.
With the empty seat beside me, I was able to put my newspapers and iPad at the side along my extra blanket. It sure is nice to have a relatively empty cabin for this short regional flight. The only drawback of taking the bulkhead seat is perhaps the proximity to the galley which can be noisy and I could really hear the crew member discussing my change of seat very clearly. Legroom though seems to be slightly more spacious with the personal IFE screen being fixed on the bulkhead. Glancing out of the window, I gaze at the huge SQ A380 beside us and the A330 that I am seated on seems rather small in comparison!
As the passenger who went out to retrieve his package returned, the crew member prepared the plane for pullback and the captain started the safety demonstration video as the plane made its way around Terminal 3 and into Terminal 1. It seems that today we will be using the runway closer to Terminal 2 and this meant a trip around Changi and allowed me to take some photos of the planes docked at the airport that morning. Amongst the rarely seen planes that day was a Transaero Boeing 777-200ER from Russia which seems to be a chartered flight and a Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737-800. It was interesting to note how even the Chinese airlines are already using the next generation 737s. We also cruised pass by a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 before waiting to use the runway proper for take off.
Take off on the lightly loaded A330 today was fast and we were soon up above the clouds, giving me only a short window of opportunity to capture the fleet of cargo ships docked along the Eastern shore of Singapore. The wide angle of banking done by the captain meant we turned rapidly and coupled with the fast ascent, the only view out of the window was the cloud formations.
Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, amenity kits and eyeshades were passed around and the blue drawstring pouch contains a pair of socks. It was perhaps similar to the amenity kits given out to economy class passengers during my flight between SIN and LHR last year, since there wasn’t anything else in the pouch. This was at least better than Cathay which doesn’t even give out amenity kits for a longer day flight between Jakarta and Hong Kong.
Afterwards the crew got busy to preparing for meal service and started taking orders for meals, and like some airlines, the crew started taking orders from perhaps its most premium customers and since I had am just a basic Krisflyer member, and on a redemption ticket, I was obviously asked for my choice last. However that gave me time to peruse what is one of the most complete airline menus for a medium haul regional flight. I also took this time to watch the movie ‘Thor’ on the IFE and the large screen in the bulkhead was really good to watch movies in.
Breakfast Menu 早餐 | Singapore to Guangzhou 新加坡飛往廣州
A choice of apple, tomato or freshly squeezed orange juice 精選蘋果，番茄或鮮榨橙汁
Fresh fruit 新鮮果盤
Choice of cereals or yoghurt 自選谷物或酸奶 – cornflakes with milk or granola with yoghurt-berry compote 玉米片佐以牛奶或格蘭諾拉燕麥卷佐以漿果酸奶
Plain or fruit yoghurt 純酸奶或水果酸奶
Selection of dim sum 自選點心 – Oriental glutinous rice with chicken, pork dumpling, prawn dumpling and vegetable dumpling 東方糯米飯佐以雞肉，豬肉餃，蝦餃和蔬菜餃
Egg noodles with braised beef brisket and vegetables 雞蛋麵佐以燉牛腩和蔬菜
Poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, chicken sausage, grilled tomatoes and potatoes 水煮蛋佐以荷蘭醬，雞肉香腸，烤番茄和土豆
Assorted breakfast rolls 什錦早餐麵包
Butter – Fruit preserve 牛油，鮮果醬
Gourmet coffees & selection of fine teas 咖啡或自選茶
I picked the egg noodles with braised beef brisket and vegetables for the main course. For starters, I was served a fresh fruit platter which comprised of rockmelon, honeydew, watermelon, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. It came with a warm croissant. The flight attendant proceeded to ask me what I wanted to drink, and I chose the Paris-Singapore tea from the TWG tea selection which sounded interesting. The tea is actually a green tea infused with fragrances of cherry blossoms and red fruits which makes it fresh and soothing on the palate. I declined on the next course which was yogurt or cereals since I was quite full after my breakfast at the hotel, and snacks at the lounge. I also didn’t finish my croissant, and just awaited for the main course.
The main course of egg noodles was delicious but again I didn’t finish the egg noodles. However, I did finish the fantastic beef brisket which was tasty with the accompanying gravy and fried onion garnish. SQ really did a good job in ensuring the beef brisket was tender and cut into small portions so they were easy to eat as inflight food. The gravy also made the vegetables sweet which I also finished. The flight attendants weren’t that attentive to passengers considering the light passenger load in Business Class today, and I had to request for top up of hot water for my tea. At the end of the meal service, I was offered a choice of coffee or tea, and went with another cup of tea, this time opting from their in-house tea selection and choosing the Japanese Sencha to cleanse the palate after a hearty meal.
The meal service was a bit underwhelming considering their wonderful menu extensive selection. Anyway after the meal service, the crew placed a bottle of mineral water for passengers and I set my seat to the angled lie-flat position and found it to be as comfortable as the Qantas Skybed fitted on their A330s. I head to the lavatory and noticed that SQ offers some toothbrush and shaving kit on the drawers under the washbasin. Upon returning to my seat, I requested for a set of SQ’s playing card and writing kit, since I remembered that they have a very nice ‘Raffles’ class writing kit long time ago. However, when they came back with the normal writing kit which I had obtained in Economy Class last time, I was a bit disappointed. It was a very nice and decent writing kit nonetheless.
Service in this flight practically stopped after the meal service reminding me of the transcontinental business class flight I had on AA between JFK and LAX early in the year. So my empty glass of Sencha practically sat on the armrest even after I returned to me seat. I continued watching ‘Thor’ for a while further before deciding to catch up on my sleep since I woke up early this morning for this flight. I had a nice 1 hour rest before the captain announced the start of our descent into Guangzhou.
It was a cloudy but pleasant day in Guangzhou with cool weather in town on the day I arrived. While it was cloudy, it wasn’t raining so it helped to lower the summer temperature somewhat. Definitely a welcome compared to the summer heat I experienced in Shanghai last year! Though the cloudy weather meant there wasn’t much to see upon landing. Guangzhou’s location along the river, with Baiyun mountains at the north end of the city as well as numerous reservoirs scattered in the suburbs also meant that the city would be cooler in the summer months compared to densely populated Shanghai.
The pilot performed a smooth landing at Guangzhou Baiyun and I was impressed at the exterior of the Baiyun Airport. However air traffic seems low for such a large airport. I surmise the airports in Shenzhen which is close to Guangzhou has diverted much of the business passengers while Hong Kong remains a major transit airport for much of the world. The low amount of air traffic meant it was a short time to our gate at the international terminal and we were soon parked at our assigned gate.
Disembarking was fast in the airport and we alighted into a dark end of the arrival terminal similar to my arrival in Melbourne. Why can’t all airports have arrival halls like Changi, Vancouver or Hong Kong? Anyway while the arrival hall wasn’t particularly nice like its exterior, I was able to capture some nice shots of our A330 since my rushed boarding didn’t permit me to take any photos of the plane. Immigration afterwards was alright, though the queue was slightly long for foreigners. Apparently there were some passengers on a tight transit schedule and a China Southern gate agent directed some foreigners on the ‘China National’ line but without communicating with the one in charge of the line who then sent the 2 foreigners out of the line. I guess the airport was still lacking in some operational procedure, but even though the queue was moderately long, the bright and spacious immigration hall was a comfortable place to be waiting in.
While checking my passport, the immigration officer was scanning my Australian visa, and I wondered why he chose this visa specifically since it didn’t concern me entering China. Weird but I didn’t want to ask about it lest it increases curiosity on his part. Anyway by the time I left, my luggage was already on the carousel and ready for pick up, so Baiyun Airport is pretty efficient in baggage handling considering the short walk from the gate to immigration and finally luggage claim. Exiting the airport, I was greeted by a staff from the Westin Hotel since I had a limousine transfer arranged with the hotel. It was a nice ride towards the Westin located in the Tianhe district on an S-Class which had cooling fans on the seats for the hot summer days.
For as long as I could remember, I was really pleased with every SIA flight I had taken, when the majority of those are in Economy. I can’t say Singapore Airlines as being one of the best airline, especially on the service department based on this flight, since it was just average at best. The only great part of the flight was the new regional business class cabin on the A330s which I prefer to Qantas A330s since they have much better hardware. Service wise this flight was lacking miserably compared to flights on Cathay Pacific or Qantas in the same cabin class. As one might also notice, the Silverkris Lounge doesn’t announce for boarding at the lounges which made me take my time to head to the gate, and this resulted in me being the last passenger to board. This is because SQ’s boarding time on the boarding pass is always ridiculously early and always end up having passengers have to wait at the gate waiting for boarding. So on the overall, I would rate this flight as another business class flight – good but not excellent.