SQ461 Male MLE – Singapore SIN
Wednesday 20 Feb 2013
Airbus A330-300 9V-STM
As expected the airport in Male is small but there wasn’t much crowds and check in was fast since SQ has 2 counters for business class and only one for economy, in addition to another one being for online check-in. This resulted in some queues at the economy line.
There was no wait in immigration or security check as well, which was a nice change and relaxing enough for a return trip from the holiday. Past passport check, there is basically a duty-free section before a large atrium selling all kinds of Maldivian souvenirs. There is also a Dome coffee outlet and a money changer where I actually converted some local currency for collection purposes. The lounge is at the end of the departure hall and managed by Plaza Premium. There was a small food counter and a few tables set up as dining areas in the lounge. The food was acceptable and slightly better than what I would normally get in Jakarta. While it was a small lounge, there was adequate space for passengers to have a seat. Complimentary wi-fi is available using a passcode and it worked reliably.
I had some soup, fried noodles and also tried the desserts, all gulped down with a bottle of Bitter Lemon. The soup was the best dish in the lounge, though the dessert was awful. At least they still had Bitter Lemon in the lounge and I guess that was enough to refresh and relax in the lounge.
After about spending half an hour in the lounge, boarding for the flight was called and passengers had to go down one floor to access the gate. I had already spotted the Singapore Airlines’ Airbus when I disembarked from my domestic flight and we would again be walking to the plane similar to my arrival into Male. It is one of those rare occurrences for me to board a wide-body jet via the stairs and as a photographer, I kind of enjoyed this since I could then take a shot of the aircraft.
Upon boarding, I had pre-selected seat 15A since I wanted to try out a different seat having had so many bulkhead seats onboard the flight. With this being a day flight, I had no intention to sleep either. There was an incident of an unhappy female passenger on this flight who seemed to have her chosen seat assigned to someone else. Apparently she wanted the bulkhead seat but it was assigned to a couple and this made her really unhappy. The ground crew managed somehow fix the problem and she had a choice of sitting beside me or choosing the middle aisle seat. Fortunately for me, she chose the aisle seat and that left me 2 seats to myself once again!
The same procedure by the crew upon boarding, with welcome drinks served first followed by newspaper choices, then a selection of magazines. I picked Apple Bliss again as a welcome drink and chose the Financial Times and Top Gear for my reading material. Shortly after the crew came back with hot towels. So all the process was completed efficiently but there was a slight wait on the gate after the boarding was completed. Our plane had to wait for traffic arriving into Male which turns out to be an Emirates 777 parked next to our flight. What was lacking here though was that no further drinks were given out to passengers since it was a pretty long wait of more than 15 minutes. Somehow I suspect this crew is not going to be as good as my incoming flight.
Being a small airport, there was no wait for the runway and we took off straight away after taxiing to our position. The rapid take-off meant there was not much opportunity to take photos of the Maldivian ocean landscape which is beautiful as I had a window seat on the domestic flight before this. We were up above the clouds and cruising away from the Maldives, so I switched on the KrisWorld entertainment system, relying on it to keep me occupied for the rest of the flight.
Passengers are asked for the post take-off beverages and I asked for a cup of brewed coffee, which was wonderful. They also took meal orders during this time, and I had wanted to order the yu-sheng that they served on the flight from Singapore since I liked the freshness of that salad, though they mentioned for safety reasons, they cannot serve any leftover meals. The meal as always began with the satay and the crew served the satay with the peanut sauce on the side, just the way I like it rather than on the previous flight where the sauce was served over the satay. Wet towels was served alongside the satay.
There was a lull in service as the crew prepared the meal for a relatively packed flight in the Business Class cabin. During this time, I asked the crew for a writing kit and playing cards.
Starters were then served as it was common for every passenger. The beef was tasty and not dry and tasteless as I expected it. The appetizer will turn out to be the best part of the meal today, as the dressing, meat and vegetables matched well with each other. Then the bread basket came around and I picked garlic bread as they did not seem to have the pastry that I liked on my way to Male. However the roast lamb loin which I picked was dry, tough and overcooked. The sauce and side vegetables were alright, but the lamb was really bad and made regret my choice. It did reinforce my opinions on ordering lamb dishes onboard as I have had one that is good at all.
I had a glass of red wine with my lamb and it was alright. Since I am no wine connoisseur, I thought the wine tasted fine, but I did have a better glass of Bordeaux from the welcome amenity provided by the Grand Hyatt Macau. For the dessert, it was cheesecake with sour cherries which I finished. I asked for a cup of Iced Milo to accompany my dessert and I highly suggest passengers on SQ Business Class to order this beverage which is a type of popular iced chocolate drink that many students who grew up in Singapore are familiar with.
At the end, the fruits selection is passed around and I picked some grapes, oranges and the packet of pomelo again. I found this meal service to be not as polished, as there was some time before water is refilled, and the trays are cleared. The service seemed slower somehow. Perhaps I was seated in the bulkhead on my previous flight and hence was served the food first. But I just felt the crew in this flight fell a bit short such that the flight was just like any other Business Class flight.
I finished watching the movie ‘Magic Mike’ which was interesting for its theme and managed to catch a couple more TV shows during the flight. As I finished my cup of Iced Milo, the steward who served me coffee enquired if I would like another cup of coffee. This time he asks the type of gourmet coffee that I might like, and I picked the Brazilian Santos Bourbon which is supposed to have a ‘smooth, nutty texture with a balanced body and clean aftertaste’, but I thought the brewed coffee at the start of the flight was much better, and I am particular about coffee since I prefer lower acidity coffee. And don’t get me started on the terrible coffee that Starbucks serve.
As I finished my coffee, the crew came back with bottles of water for passengers and probably half an hour later, the flight started its descent. What was different was that the cabin crew gave out candies during the descent, as I do not remember getting them on the way out. It was late night when we landed though there was thankfully no queue at the immigration. It just feels so relaxing landing into an airport and not having to wait for passport control. Hear that Americans? Within 30 minutes from leaving the plane, I was out with my luggage and ready to head out to the hotel.