I have recently taken a journey from London to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, and I would like to write about my experience in economy class.
Although Singapore Airlines (SQ) have four daily flights on this route, I always specifically choose Flight SQ317, which is timed to leave London Heathrow at 10.55 and land at Singapore Changi the next morning at 07.30. The flight is scheduled to take around 12 hours and 50 minutes. The reason I prefer SQ317 over the other 3 Singapore Airlines flights is because of the timing; I like to leave London early, so I don’t have to wait around at home, and more importantly I like to arrive in Singapore as early as possible, as it makes it feel like I have more time in the country to enjoy myself (or recover from the jetlag)! Although my trip began in Terminal 3, Singapore Airlines now depart from London Heathrow in the new Terminal 2, just like most other Star Alliance airlines.
Having flown with Singapore Airlines to Singapore on multiple occasions, I am now well-versed in the rituals of what happens, where, when, and why. I know that SQ317 is scheduled to be served by an Airbus A380 aircraft, which is the largest aircraft in the skies – a double-decker, in fact! Singapore Airlines has been using A380s on the London-Singapore route since at least 2008 as far as I recall, although it is interesting to note that SQ has two variants of the A380: the original layout contains an upper deck economy cabin; the more recent variant contains an all-business class upper deck, so if you are flying in economy class like me, it is always wise to choose your seats on the upper deck if possible, to give yourself a better flying experience. It is much quieter on the upper deck, I find. Additionally, the cabin is obviously much smaller, as the rest of the aircraft on the upper deck is full of business class passengers. Therefore, you get your meals slightly quicker, service is always prompt, and there is a greater level of personal attention to each passenger from the Singapore Girls and cabin crew.
I was a little concerned in the run up to my flight that SQ may change the aircraft at the last minute, leaving my plans for the upper deck scuppered. However, I was tracking through FlightRadar, which aircraft was going to be used for SQ317 on my day of departure, and it seemed all was well with my plans. Incidentally, just so you know, SQ322 flies from Singapore to London and then goes back to Singapore as SQ317 after a 5 hour layover at Heathrow, so by checking which aircraft was heading to London as SQ322 (9V-SKJ), I was able to put my mind at ease.
Upper deck passengers usually board before the lower deck passengers, but it doesn’t really matter as, like I said, the upper deck only has one small cabin, so no more than say 60 passengers will be flying with you anyway. My seat was 75G. I always choose an aisle seat for these ultra long-haul flights. It would be nice to have a window seat and watch the take-off and landing especially, but believe me, after 5 or 6 hours you begin to feel a little cramped, and the opportunity to just pop up and go for a walk whenever you want (without needing the ask a stranger to move out of the way) is too good an opportunity to miss! Incidentally, today’s flight on SQ317 was only around half-full. This is quite unusual, although I have noticed that the Singapore-London route is always much busier on SQ than London-Singapore. I think this is because British people have more choices to get where they want to go, whereas Singaporeans and Asian people in general will almost always choose to fly with Singapore Airlines to Europe from Changi.
Before take-off, you will see the Singapore Girls come through the cabin offering hot towels to all passengers. These are not to warm you up, but rather to refresh you. You also get towels before breakfast much later on in the flight, to wake you up and refresh you before landing, but before take-off the towels are just a nice touch to let you know that you are in good hands for the next 12 hours or so. Headsets are also distributed so you can enjoy the KrisWorld entertainment system, although this entertainment does not come on until the aircraft has reached cruising altitude.
It is normal for the pilot or first officer to make a friendly announcement to the passengers just before the aircraft reverses from its gate, informing you of the estimated flight time and estimated weather conditions for the flight ahead. You are always advised to keep your seatbelt fastened when seated, just in case we hit any unexpected turbulence. On today’s flight, we actually departed London Heathrow a little later than expected, but once we were finished taxiing to the runway, it was a pretty uneventful ascent above the clouds.
After take-off, and once KrisWorld has been turned on, I always settle back and watch some of my favourite movies. On this occasion, I began by watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and later on in the flight I can recall watching Lone Survivor, Thor: The Dark World, Elysium, Ocean’s Eleven (classic), and an episode of Dragon’s Den. I may have watched something else, but I have long since forgotten.
Not long after we reach cruising altitude, the cabin crew come round and distribute menus. This is a nice touch, as although we are all in economy class, we can see that we still have a small choice of meals. Not long after that, the first drinks run will be performed, where can have a drink or two. I always start by drinking Coke (and you get given a small pack of salted peanuts, too), and I continue drinking Cokes until around 4 hours into the flight, at which point I ask for a Singapore Sling. I find the Singapore Sling to be actually quite strong (or maybe I’m a lightweight!), but on the other hand it settles me down and almost makes me a little drowsy. I cannot sleep on planes, but having a Singapore Sling calms my nerves somewhat and prepares for the next phase of the flight once the meals have long since been distributed and eaten.
Regarding the meals, I think they are distributed less than 90 minutes after take-off. This is usual for most long-haul airlines, although SQ are certainly quicker and more prompt at handing them out than the likes of Emirates or Turkish Airlines. I didn’t get a picture of the menu (although I did put the menu in my bag for a souvenir), but I can tell you about the choices:
Oven-baked Cod, with white wine dill sauce, vegetables and potatoes
Braised Pork, with shiitake mushroom-ginger sauce, vegetables and fried rice
Gaeng Phed Kai, Thai-style red curry chicken with Asian vegetables and steamed rice
I chose the pork option (as you can see from my photo above), and it was not a difficult choice for me, as I am not a fan of seafood, and the Thai meal would have been a little hot and spicy for my British palette! The meal was extremely nice and I tucked into it gladly while watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. All meal choices were accompanied with an assorted seafood cocktail, cheese and crackers, a roll and plentiful butter and jam, and of course a choice of drinks to go with the meal. Ice cream is also served for dessert, although this is served a little while after the meal itself. Meals on SQ317 may change from time to time, so you may be offered a different selection when you fly to the selection I encountered myself.
After the meal service, and after a couple of movies, we now find ourselves around five hours into the flight. This puts us probably around Iranian airspace and due to the shift in time zones, it is beginning to get dark outside. SQ has mood lighting in all its cabins on the A380, and you will notice the main lights of the cabin gradually dim to reflect the darkness outside. Basically, this is a good time to set your watch to Singapore Time (which was GMT+8 at my time of travel, although remember the UK does use Daylight Saving Time, so in the summer, we are only GMT+7 behind Singapore). The next 4 or 5 hours of the flight will be with dark cabins, as you are encouraged to sleep. After all, in Singapore, it is now nearly midnight, so people are getting to sleep there, too. As I mentioned earlier, I cannot sleep on planes, and unless I am very tired then I am not even sure I want to. I carry on watching movies and generally try to enjoy the experience. From what I could see, around half of the cabin was trying to get sleep, the other half were – like me – persisting with their KrisWorld entertainment.
To be honest, even for people who enjoy flying like myself, the middle part of this flight does become something of a challenge. I find that I need to get up and stretch my legs after I have watched each film. That’s once every 2 hours or so. The good thing with the upper deck on the A380 is that there are winding stairs at the back of the cabin just behind the galley that take you down to the lower deck economy class cabin. Sometimes these stairs are cordoned off with a little rope, but if you ask the cabin crew in the galley if you can go for a walk to stretch your legs, they will always be happy for you to do so. Actually, the first time I did this, there was a bit of turbulence and seat belt sign came on, so I had to return to my seat again back upstairs, but usually it is a nice chance of scenery to hang around at the back of the lower deck cabin – and there are a few toilets there too if nature calls. On today’s flight, there were maybe 50% empty seats on the rear lower deck cabin, so if I had wanted to I could have sat down – or laid down over 4 seats like others were doing – to get some rest. However, I was happy to just stand there and stretch. I must have ventured downstairs 3 or 4 times during the ‘night’ and spent at least 10 minutes each time down there. I would recommend this practice to everyone who flies on the SQ A380. It really does pass time very well, and you could also get talking to someone else doing the same thing as you while you’re at it.
So, every now and then, I checked the Flight Route map to see exactly where we were. It seems like it takes forever to cross India, but I guess that’s just the psychological impact of getting restless on a plane. Arguably my favourite moment on SQ317, is when we have long since cleared Indian airspace and are now flying over the Bay of Bengal, perpendicular to the west coast of Thailand. Around this time, people in the tropics are beginning to experience the first signs of sunrise. It is probably around 10 hours into our flight, therefore we are only approximately 2 hours away from touching down at Changi. The reason this is my favourite moment is because very gradually, and I mean VERY gradually, the mood lighting kicks in again and begins to slowly light up the cabin, to replicate the sunrise itself. I first noticed this during one of my regular forays downstairs. I also know from experience that this also signals two things aboard SQ317: firstly, you begin seeing some of the cabin crew members walk through the cabin again after a long absence (they have to sleep as well, you know, albeit not at the same time as there is always cabin crew members in the galley if you need them), and secondly; breakfast can be smelt being warmed up in the galley!
For breakfast on SQ317, we were offered a western breakfast (Poached Eggs with Hollandaise Sauce, roasted tomato, kassier and potatoes) or an Asian breakfast (Pad Thai, which is Thai-style fried noodles with shrimps, egg and beancurd). I decided to get in the mood for my travels in the region by having the Pad Thai – and it was delicious! The fresh yoghurt, fruit and cake which all accompanied the breakfast were also a godsend to fill me up for the morning ahead – even though I had in fact been snacking all night long with drinks and chocolate bars (just walk up the galley and ask, and you will be given as much as you need!).
After breakfast has been served and cleared up again, we were flying in Malaysian airspace and were only around 50 minutes until landing. The Pilot made an announcement to say that he hoped we had had a good night’s sleep, and that we would be beginning our descent very soon into Singapore Changi Airport. The final 50 minutes or so is a great chance for people to get up and brush their teeth (ah, so that’s why there’s always a queue for the loo?) and even some people change from their trousers into shorts to make sure they are prepared for the famous Singapore humidity upon disembarkation. Thankfully, the touchdown at Changi was smooth and uneventful, and on this morning it was very hazy and misty, which made visibility quite poor as I looked across the cabin and tried to get a glimpse out of somebody’s window. The Singapore Girls will make a famous announcement upon landing, something to the tune of: “Welcome to Singapore, ladies and gentlemen, and to all Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, a very warm welcome home!”. All Singapore Airlines flights from Europe (including SQ317), East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the US, land in the incredible Terminal 3 at Changi Airport.
Arriving early in Singapore, despite a slightly late take-off, was an added bonus, and I guess we must have had some very favourable tailwinds over the middle part of the flight to make up for lost time! When leaving the plane, you are subtlety reminded by recommendation of the Government that drug offences can be punished by death in Singapore, but the final memory of my flight with Singapore Airlines is the warm smiles and friendly attitude of its cabin crew – it really is a great way to fly!
When I landed in Singapore, I made my way to my favourite hotel in the World! For an idea of what to do when arriving in the country, have a look at my blog post of the top 10 attractions in Singapore! And finally, please check out my views on Singapore Changi Airport: The best airport in the world!