From Mountains to Beaches – SQ Business Class Jakarta to Male

SQ959 Jakarta CGK – Singapore SIN
Saturday 16 Feb 2013
STD-STA: 14:15 – 16:45
Actual: 14:26 – 16:47
B777-200 9V-SQE
Seat 11A

Check-in was conducted at the SQ counter but premium passengers on SQ does not have access to the new JAS Premier Check-in facility which is a bummer really since the SQ lounge is just beside the exit of that check-in area. In the end, I had to walk back to the immigration in concourse E of the terminal and register my passport for the ‘autogate’ check. That was real easy and it allowed me to cut the queues in immigration, so kudos to Indonesia for progressing to the use of e-immigration counters!

It was a trek back to the D concourse to access the Esplanade Lounge which SIA uses in Soekarno-Hatta. Probably one of the better lounges in Jakarta, and there was adequate food for a light lunch before boarding. They had a small model of the 747 which I thought was funny since SQ no longer flies that jet as they have replaced it with the A380s.

I had a bit of a snack in the lounge and while the food selections is really not on par with any international airport lounges in Asia, they were the best in Jakarta (Garuda’s Executive Lounge beats it by a tiny bit). The Esplanade lounge had a better selection of international newspaper though. I made a review of lounges in Jakarta back in this post.

The lounge is basically good just for waiting and it wasn’t long before the boarding announcement was made. It was another short walk to the gates but Jakarta now has common security checks before the concourse gates. No long queues here and I was through security in no time. There was a ticket check before the entrance to the waiting area and boarding has indeed started by the time I arrived, leaving me just some time to note the aircraft I will be flying today.

Welcome Drink and Hot Towel
Welcome Drink and Hot Towel
Kris World, Kris Shop and Silverkris Magazine
Kris World, Kris Shop and Silverkris Magazine
Take-off from Jakarta
Take-off from Jakarta

I headed to the bulkhead seat on the window and was welcomed by the crew who offered me welcome drinks. The flight will not be full but I had seat mate for this short flight. The menu for this flight has not changed since the late in 2011 when I took the earlier flight SQ957. I remembered ordering the Pad Thai which was awful at that time. This time I ordered the Opor Ayam, which is a spicy chicken rice dish commonly found in South-East Asia. Not very good either as the vegetables were soft and the chicken lacks any flavour of any sort. But for a 1 hour plus flight, there was little to complain when the meal is served in proper tableware and served with tasty garlic bread and a dessert. I asked for water and coffee to go along with the meal as well.

Nasi Opor
Nasi Opor Ayam
East Coast Park from the Air
East Coast Park from the Air

There was little else besides the meal service to report about and we started our descent into Singapore. One of the best views can be had on the left side of the plane during descent into Singapore especially when descending from the south-eastern side of the island as it is possible to spot the Central Business District, Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer from the air. Passengers on the left side will also be treated to a nice view of East Coast Park and the ships plying the waters off the coast of Singapore.

Plane Viewing at Changi
A Cathay 747 takes-off from Changi

SQ452 Singapore SIN – Male MLE
Saturday 16 Feb 2013
STD-STA: 20:40 – 22:10
Actual: 21:05 – 22:09
A330-300 9V-STA
Seat 11A

Headed to the KrisFlyer lounge after disembarking but as it was in the late afternoon, no more Chay Tow Kuay (or carrot cake), so I went to get a seat, and made some calls to friends in the city. For snacks, I had some sea coconut with jelly and TWG tea. I do like the Vanilla Bourbon tea by TWG and really liked the wide selection of tea the lounge provides.

Snacks and Fried Nian Gao 炒年糕
Honey Sea Coconut and Fried Nian Gao 炒年糕

With a moderately long transit time, I had a shower first before having dinner. The shower area was inside the toilet, and it was the norm for a lounge shower, though Cathay Pacific does have better shower room in their home lounge at HKG. Dinner selections was not bad too and I noticed there were some changes to the pasta dish from earlier in the day. Due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, the lounge had some new year delicacies such as mixed Chinese rice and fried nian gao (sticky and sweet rice cake).

Shower Room
Shower Room in Silver Kris Lounge
Orchid Decor in the Lounge
Silver Kris Lounge Dining Table

With no boarding announcement, I checked with the receptionist of the lounge on the flight status and she proceeded to direct me to the gates about 30 minutes before departure. Boarding was just starting when I arrived and after passing the security check at the gates, I proceeded into the plane. Welcome drink offered includes an Apple Bliss concoction that is made from apple juice, 7-up and a dash of lemon bitter. It was fantastic and one of the best drinks I had in a plane in a while! As the same in previous flights, the crew came around with newspaper choices, then once again with magazine selections. Another male crew went around distributing hot towels. The purser was friendly in this flight and made a point to talk to all the passengers in the Business cabin, probably because this is a ‘leisure’ holiday flight.

Bulkhead Business Class Seats
Bulkhead Business Class Seats on the Airbus A330

The cabin soon filled up with Chinese tourists headed to the Maldives, and save for another couple and myself, I believe the rest carried a passport from the Greater China region. Pillows and blankets were already on the seats and menus were on the front seat pocket. The business cabin seems full but there was no one beside me, and the bulkhead middle seats remained unoccupied throughout the flight. However, there was a slight delay due to two Japanese passengers who did not make it for the flight and as such their luggage had to be offloaded. This led to a delayed departure at slightly past 9pm.

Inflight Movie Guide and Amenity Kit
Inflight Movie Guide and Amenity Kit

As we reached cruising altitude, the crew handed out the business class amenity kit, which consisted of a pair of socks and they do hand out the eyeshades separately now as well. For other amenities like toothbrushes, they can be found in the lavatories. The crew also asked for our first drink orders and I picked the Apple Bliss drink once again. Right after the drinks were served, the crew came out with the trolley serving Singapore Airlines’ signature satays, with a choice of chicken or mutton satays. It is one of the most enjoyable dishes onboard SQ!

Pre-dinner Satay
Pre-dinner Satay

There was a short break between the Satay service before the appetizer was served as the trolley makes one round from serving my aisle before moving to the next aisle. I checked out the inflight entertainment during this time and KrisWorld is one of the best entertainment systems in the skies, with lots of selection. After all SQ was the first airline to offer AVOD to economy class passengers. Till today, their inflight entertainment systems is one of the best in the skies, and it is so good that I had too much choices to select from.

Seat Controls
Seat and Inflight Entertainment Controls

Shortly after starting my movie, I was interrupted by the commencement of meal service as the table cloth is set up on my tray. I wondered why they don’t set it up before the satay service since the peanut sauce might cause more damage to the table, in my opinion. Though for this appetizer today, table cloth is indeed necessary. Due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, SQ serves up Fa Cai Yu Sheng 發財魚生 which is a mix of shredded vegetables topped with raw salmon, crackers and cinnamon powder, and other assorted condiments. In Singapore, this dish is always served nicely and diners have to mix it by ‘throwing’ it up using their chopsticks as high in the air as possible for a ‘leap in fortune’ in the year ahead. I wondered how if some guests insists on ‘throwing’ it up as high as possible in the plane… Since I am already having it 30,000 ft up above the air, I guess that’s as far as it goes. It was pretty good having this dish up in the air and maybe SQ could serve a new signature salad dish based on this! Passengers also get to choose a selection of breads from the basket at this point and I selected the garlic bread again and a flat crispy pastry which was tasty, though I appreciate it if someone can name this pastry.

Yu Sheng and Garlic Bread
Yu Sheng, Garlic Bread and unknown Pastry

For the main course, I had pre-ordered from the Book-the-Cook menu and my Lobster Thermidor dish was served shortly after I finished my appetizer. The serving of lobster was served with rice and buttered asparagus. The cream sauce over the lobster was tasty and it was one of the best lobster dish I had on a plane, and definitely better than the one on my Asiana First Suites flight. The asparagus that came with was also crunchy and still tasted fresh. The food I had in this flight shows once again that SQ’s catering out of Singapore is extremely good!

Lobster Thermidor
Lobster Thermidor

However the meal was far from over, and for this four hour flight, Singapore Airlines still serves a wonderful dessert and a choice of fruits and cheese from the tray. The dessert today was a dark chocolate creme brulee which actually tasted a lot like dark chocolate mousse, but as a fan of chocolate, I loved it. A nice selection of grapes, tangerines and pomelo made for a great end to the meal service and allowed me to snack while finishing my movie.

Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee
Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee
Selection of Fresh Fruits
Selection of Fresh Fruits

After clearing my tables, the crew actually offered pralines with hot tea or coffee choices from the menu and I picked a cup of green tea. The attentive and proactive service from this set of crew truly surprised me. By this time, we still had half of the flight to go and the whole meal service lasted about one and a half hours. I reclined my seat to an angled lie-flat position and headed to the restrooms to freshen myself up before lying down for a short nap. The seat is pretty comfortable for a nap and I ponder about the question of just how good they are today with competition rising up. As they are more consistent when it comes to the seats in their fleet, Singapore Airlines is one of the most reliable airlines when it comes to premium services for travel within Asia and the Pacific. At worst, you get pretty crappy food, but the entertainment and the hardware is still impressive enough to make you forget about the rest. However what they have to constantly make improvements otherwise they can be left behind.

Tea and Pralines
Tea and Pralines

To end, this is perhaps one of the best Singapore Airlines flight I have ever had due to the excellent crew on board, and the fact I was smart enough to order a book-the-cook meal. Maybe it was the excitement of visiting a new country, or maybe it was because I was just relaxed heading into the flight, but I really enjoyed the night flight to the Maldives and makes me rethink my previous grudges about SQ.

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