5th Freedom Flight on United Airlines UA895: Hong Kong to Singapore
United Airlines operates its last flight between Hong Kong and Singapore on October 27, 2017 (from Singapore to Hong Kong on 28 October), in favour of a nonstop service from Los Angeles to Singapore. Thus, from October 27, 2017, United Airlines will provide twice daily non-stop connections from the United States to Singapore via San Francisco and Los Angeles.
This flight report documents the fifth freedom flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on UA895, which I was happy to experience once more before the ceasing of the service.
UA895 is a daily service from United's headquarters: Chicago to Hong Kong to Singapore, and United Airlines utilizes its 5th freedom rights to carry passengers on the sector from Hong Kong to Singapore (and vice versa).
This United service will surely be sorely missed by Singaporeans given the favourable morning arrival in Hong Kong and night departure from Hong Kong, allowing maximizing of shopping and leisure time in one of Singaporeans' favourite weekend getaway cities.
Flight Details Operator: United Airlines
Route: Hong Kong (HKG) to Singapore (SIN)
Operating Aircraft: Boeing 777-222/ER
Departure from Hong Kong: 20:25 / 20:49*
Arrival in Singapore: 00:15+1 / 00:09+1
Flight Time: 3 hours and 50 minutes / 3 hours and 20 minutes
(*denotes actual timings)
The boarding process is divided into four groups, with me zilch-status, back-of-the-Boeing low priority customer in Group 3. Every passenger, however status-ed or not, had to go through a second security screening at the aerobridge, just before boarding the aircraft. It was somewhat intimidating with the number of security personnel but they were polite and courteous, which made the process more comfortable.
I entered the B777-200, and what struck me was, aside from the cheerful blue seats, how tired the cabin looked in general - well, the dim yellow-ish lighting might have played a part but I could spy on stains and wear and tear on the walls as I made my way to the rear cabin. Immediately, I felt I was transported back to the good old days of air travel (when low-cost airlines were non-existent and everyone dressed to the nines to fly). Sigh!
The seat itself was pretty comfortable and nicely furnished with a thin blue blanket. There weren't any pillows but that was fine on this short sector. With the cold air current blowing directly at me, I shut off the air vent above my seat but the cold air current persisted. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from but I was grateful for the blanket to shield myself.
Seat pocket contents:
Earbuds were distributed once everyone had boarded (it was a pretty full flight), allowing passengers to commence their inflight entertainment. There was a decent selection of movies in the touchscreen entertainment and I certainly didn't have problems eyeing a few to enjoy for the flight.
It seemed the flight team comprised of US-based flight attendants and Hong Kong-based ones, and announcements were made in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
The safety video - presented by United's global employees, was getting dated but nevertheless, still entertaining, played before the B777-200's departure into the night sky. All passengers' window shades were curiously shut when I entered the aircraft but I was quite surprised that they were not asked to be raised for the take off.
After the immigration forms were distributed, dinner service commenced, with two choices of meals: chicken with rice or cheese pasta. Oh well, chicken or pasta - pretty standard (boring) Economy Class meal choices.
Not feeling the mood for a creamy dinner, I decided on the chicken option.
And here's the lowdown on United Airlines Economy Class catering:
Garden salad with Italian dressing
This salad seems to be the staple of United's catering - having flown this route many years back, I still see this United's signature side, complete with a slice of tomato and cucumber. As old as this dish is, I do appreciate the fresh crisp leaves and crunchy cucumber slice which pair perfectly with a few good splatters of the tangy Italian dressing.
Hainanese chicken rice
I am honestly blown away by how scrumptious this dish was! What I really appreciate was the authenticity in taste and texture of this Singaporean dish - the chicken slices were moist and tender, with an almost melt-in-the-mouth feel in each bite, and the chicken were delicately coated with a ginger-garlic relish for that oomph kick to the tastebuds.
The bed of fragrant oily rice was piping hot and each mouthful revealed the utmost effort in slow cooking in a savoury chicken broth. I would give the dish a delicious 6 out of 5 stars!
All too often, airlines (even premium ones) make caricatures of ethnic dishes in their inflight catering, and I am bowled over that an American carrier, with catering coming from Hong Kong, could cook up a restaurant quality Singaporean dish, in Economy Class nonetheless!
Bun and butter
Works perfectly well as stomach fillers
Mini walnut cookies
A nice sweet treat to end the satisfying meal
The drinks cart followed shortly, with a full range of beverages on offer, including wines and beer, and hot coffee and tea. I requested for a beer and the flight attendant was nice to give me a whole can.
There were some light bouts of turbulence when the meal trays were cleared so the seatbelt sign was switched on. The Captain made an announcement to personally address the passengers to keep their seatbelts fastened, which was nice. I could spy on towering clouds and lightning flashes on my side of the window but nevertheless, I dozed off in the comfort of the timeless aircraft cabin.
Waking up later, I had a chuckle by watching hilarious chick flick "Rough Night" before we landed very smoothly into Singapore.
Glimpse of the lavatory - basic and stocked with paper towels and hand soap
It was a pleasant cattle class experience with United Airlines, and I was more than thankful for the delicious meal and the whole can of beer. While this 3 hour flight had been easy to pass, I am not convinced to fly United Airlines on the new non-stop service to Los Angeles (not even that heavenly Hainanese chicken rice meal could sway me otherwise). Unless the B787-900 plying the new non-stop service from Los Angeles offers a product and inflight services that's at least several notches up, I feel I would better spend my money for a more pampering longhaul Economy Class experience on other airlines.
Thank you for reading this review of United Airlines.
For the full video report of my UA895 experience, please see below:
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