If I had told you my Economy Class flight was a pampering experience, would you believe?
You may retort, "Eh? If you HAD said your Economy Class experience was good, I will buy it for sure... But isn't the term pampering a bit of a stretch in a cattle class cabin packed with 200 other passengers?"
To avoid a flying-fibber label, I have decided to pen a written record out there on my pampering journey onboard Singapore Airlines SQ494 from Singapore to Dubai - all 6.5 hours of it!
Operator: Singapore Airlines
Route: Singapore to Dubai
Operating aircraft: B777-312/ER
Departure from Singapore: 3.10pm / 3.35am*
Arrival in Dubai: 6.25pm / 6.06pm*
Flight time: 7h15 / 6h31*
(*denotes actual timings)
And so on the day of departure, I arrived at the massive Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport - still my favourite of the quartet of existing terminals, for check-in.
Economy Class passengers have to do their own check-in at the self check-in kiosk before proceeding to the unmanned bag-drop stations to deposit their checked luggage.
At the back of my mind, I felt it was a little ironic that an airline that takes pride in its exemplary service would pursue a DIY self-check-in process. However, after finding out how easy it was in printing out my boarding pass and dropping my baggage independently actually made me feel a little clever about myself - quite a pleasant feeling to start my flight journey with. That said, staff are at hand at strategic points to assist when necessary (one of them even pro-actively offered to tag my luggage for me, which was nice).
Feeling smart about myself, I proceeded to the airside (was randomly selected to scan my hand baggage before clearing the immigration - alas, however smart in the inside, I might have singled out for my lack-of-sleep dazed drug mule-ish look).
Terminal 3 is definitely a fantasy land of sorts, from all varieties of food (including popular Singaporean brands) to cater to all budgets and palates, souvenir shops to stock up on gifts for loved ones you conveniently forgot during your fun time in the Lion City, endless lounging areas, and even a Butterfly Garden, for that zen moment with nature's living jewels before you are voluntarily shipped out from Singapore.
The designated gate, A11, was honestly, a moderate trek away, do factor some time to head to your gate from your fantasy land when transiting in Terminal 3.
Here's the operating aircraft for my flight (9V-SWD), a massive B777-312/ER that is lightly configured, with just 264 seats (a typical B777-312/ER can hold 396 in a two-class configuration). This version of Singapore Airlines B777-312/ER offers 4 First Class, 48 Business Class, 28 Premium Economy Class and 184 Economy Class.
Due to the delay in arrival from its previous operating sector (Sydney), our boarding was delayed. Past travel experiences have enlightened me that in times of delay, the human instinct to board is unyielding - and it clearly showed in this situation: the moment the first boarding announcement was made, everyone made an Olympic dash to the boarding door, in hope of basking in that moment of glory in being first to board in whichever boarding group they belonged.
Arriving at my seat, there was already an Arab couple seated by the window (I am on the aisle). Later I learnt that they were honeymooners from Saudi Arabia. The passenger profile was quite diverse on this flight, with Chinese and Filipino migrant workers, and all varieties of tourists from Asia and beyond. And in Economy Class at least, the flight was FULL.
On this B777-300ER flight, you may be pleased to know, even in Economy Class, there are USB charging ports and AC power ports (below the seats) for your hungry devices.
Hot towels were served after boarding was completed. In the rush for departure, the hot towels were only collected back after take off.
The signature Singapore Airlines hot towel service was quickly followed by the safety video showcasing the sights of Singapore (It's an elegant safety video, though I personally found it somewhat draggy and it is a little creepy the Singapore Girl is seemingly floating when she moves).
After take off, menus were distributed - a preview of the pampering experience ahead of us.
On the flight, dinner is served, followed by refreshment before arrival.
AND before dinner, an aperitif service was provided - quite amazing actually, for a flight of this duration.
A snack pack consisting of peas and crackers (no nuts to accommodate passengers with nut allergy) was distributed, followed a choice of drinks from a bar cart. Singapore Airlines signature cocktail, the Singapore Sling was available from the cart and was something I definitely went for.
There's no better start to a Singapore Airlines flight experience than a glass of Singapore Sling!
The Singapore Sling is a gin-based cocktail, topped with pineapple juice, for that oh-so-refreshing tropical taste.
Dinner then followed, with a choice of:
Pan Fried Fish with Green Pea Veloute
Mix vegetables and steamed potatoes
Stir Fried Chicken in Oyster Sauce
With chye sim and egg noodles
I thought the fish with potatoes or chicken with noodles choices were not the most inspiring of airline cuisine. On hindsight, perhaps I should have pre-ordered a Special Meal instead where I can select more interesting meals like Seafood Meal (SFML) or Hindu Non-Vegetarian Meal (HMNL) (more information on Singapore Airlines special meals here).
Since green pea veloute sounded quite interesting as a relish, I decided to go for the fish.
Opening the foil, a nicely browned fish fillet was sadly sabotaged with what looked like bright green organic salivary secretion from Hulk. Sigh, again, I was a victim of false advertising.
The Chicken Ham and Potato Salad appetiser was not inspired as well - but at least it delivered its promise by looking exactly as what was described.
I paired my fish option with a Frontera Sauvignon Blanc white wine.
Later on, as the meal cart is pushed back to the galley, a second drink is offered. This time, I tried the red wine, Vina Borgia 2017.
Ice cream was then served - Udders branded Singapore Chendol flavour! For the benefit of non-Singaporean passengers, the cabin crew described as a Singaporean coconut-flavoured ice cream.
The cabin crew were very enthusiastic during the service, and oh-so-polite, addressing all passengers as "Sir" or "Madam".
When the meal trays were being cleared, I requested, from the Flight Steward, for a Singapore Sling cocktail, and he was proactive in serving to me with peas and crackers. Even though he seemed green (not the pea veloute shade from the main course, but in his experience), I was very happy with his service, he was very calm and polite, and very professional in his tone and speech when speaking to passengers. I could only imagine how rigorous the SIA training for cabin crew is.
With the Singapore Sling at hand, I proceeded on to movie-binge on the excellent touch-responsive pinch-zoom KrisWorld entertainment. Note that for Economy Class, you need to pick up your own earphones at the boarding door (sometimes I pick up two - they are great for laptop use!).
Managed to catch the following flicks on this flight:
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Isn't It Romantic (Love Rebel Wilson!)
The lavatory, though evidently weary - from years of having been through the businesses (big and small) of urgent passengers (and crew), were nicely stocked with amenities such as Mouthwash, Eau de Toilette, hand lotion and dental kits. Signs (in various languages like Korean and Japanese) were faded and toilet seat was worn. However, it was a fuzzy feeling about this time-worn lavatory. It was kinda like stepping into an old, cosy motel with all the works, and wondering all the rich (brown) history behind this.
Between the dinner and refreshment service, the cabin crew (the nice Flight Steward) offered juices and water to passengers "Excuse me Sir, would you like to have some water or orange juice?"
Most passengers skipped this as they were already well-hydrated after dinner. I picked up an OJ for an obligatory evidence shot of the pampering service.
Very shortly later, hot towels were served in preparation for the refreshment service!
A hot snack in the form of a cheese sandwich or chicken sandwich was served by the cabin crew.
In detail, the choices are:
Shaved Chicken with Herbs in A Soft Roll
Sautéed Capsicum and Cheddar Cheese Wrap
Overheard a chirpy flight stewardess making recommendation to an Arab family "Would you like the cheese sandwich? This is halal. I tried it myself. As-salamu alaykum." And I thought Singapore Airlines might be culturally-sensitive enough to provide only halal meal options on their Dubai flights, as what they do with their Jakarta flights.
The sandwich was served in a snack box with a design by an artist with special needs, which is an initiative by Singapore Airlines to support local artists with special needs. This initiative, in collaboration with SG Enable and Autism Resource Centre, i'amable, showcases designs from these artists in Singapore Airlines in-flight products, including the in-flight snack boxes. Other designs are featured in products which can be purchased on the KrisShop inflight shopping. More details on this initiative can be found here.
This particular design is titled local food by Aaron Yap, which features illustrations of Singaporean food such as claypot rice and satay.
To accompany my sandwich, I requested for a Singapore Sling cocktail (As you can tell, I really do appreciate this signature cocktail of Singapore Airlines!). The sweet flight stewardess asked me if I would like to have a drink while waiting for my Singapore Sling (as it has to be separately prepared in the galley). Having learnt of my alcoholic inclination during the course of the flight, she asked if I would like a glass of wine. I happily agreed, and was rewarded a glass of Frontera Sauvignon Blanc for my patience.
Probably it was that moment after the last two alcoholic drinks, I got a little less reserved and started chatting with my Arab seat neighbours, who until now, were resting and fortunately, oblivious to my just-ended alcohol party. I learnt that they had travelled to Malaysia (Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur) for their honeymoon from Bahrain International Airport (the closest international airport to where they live). We chatted about cultures and the economy and were enlightened by the similarities between Saudi Arabia and Singapore. This really sums up the beauty of travel for me, to meet people from around the world you probably won't meet in your routine life.
Following an update from the flight deck on the descent and a searing 42 degrees Celsius on the ground in Dubai, it was a quick clearing of trash and cabin safety check before the arrival.
So in the course of 6.5 hours to Dubai, I was well-fuelled with cocktails, wines and a lot of food. Note that NO special attention was given to me versus the other passengers in this full flight. It was just the usual standard of service onboard Singapore Airlines, where the cabin crew strive to meet passengers' requests. Even on the full flight like this, service was all about the 3Ps: professional, personal, and polite. I felt I was thoroughly spoilt during this flight (I know my liver is!).
If this is not a testimony of a pampering Economy Class experience, my liver has failed for nothing.
Thank you for reading!
For the full flight video experience of this SQ494 flight report, see below!