Flight Report : SQ 871 Hong Kong - Singapore

Flying out for a cheap holiday during the height of the summer holidays seem an impossible task. Most of Asia north of the Equator is unbearably hot, with Japan seeing 40C temperatures and monsoon rains drenching Southeast Asia. So where to go for a cooler break that can also be affordable? Ironically, it is Australia, one of the more expensive countries to visit.

Singapore Airlines was having a fare sale on certain days to Perth, costing under HKD 4200 including taxes. Cathay wasn't too far behind, with a direct flight only about 1000 dollars more expensive, and redemption was available for many dates in August. While Perth made it on my radar as a possible weekend getaway during my previous trips to Sydney, the long flight across the continent made this impossible.

Booking on SQ's website was easy with a 7-day calendar showing the cheapest fares, which is the reason why I found this deal. Online check-in was a completely different animal altogether, with system issues, weird error messages, and seat selection at an extra charge that was saved even though I didn't save it. A call to the phone reservations hotline confirmed the system does this but because I didn't proceed to credit card payment, the seat will be released in 48 hours or something like that.

It also took a while to try to book a stopover hotel, with no resources online as to which fare classes are eligible, and the stopover option not available under Manage my booking.

There is good reason why the fare is cheap. It requires an overnight transit in Singapore. At such a low price, I could afford booking the air-side transit hotel, a basic room with shared facilities for a 6-hour block, which is just enough for a decent night's sleep for the next morning's flight.

There were no passengers at the check-in counters when I arrived at the airport with a fairly large margin of error for my evening flight. The whole process was efficient and I was nowhere near my 30kg free checked bag limit - the benefits of flying in Asia.

With the inbound plane late, an announcement on a 30 minute delay was finally broadcasted quite late as we awaited at the changed gate. I took my time browsing around the terminal knowing this would happen even if they didn't revise the departure time promptly. Some interesting birds included Mandarin's Taichung special livery narrowbody, PAL's A350, and a fruit stand at AA's gate.

There were also a few museum-like exhibits scattered around, although they seemed more contemporary.

Seems tonight's delay is not related to the weak typhoon hanging around offshore for a few days already. Today, I would be flying on an A330, arriving around midnight, with a stay at the airport's transit hotel before continuing to Australia the next morning.

Stepping onto the plane, it screamed retro. It is an old jet although the cabin colours still looked smart enough. Each seat had a blanket and pillow placed already while earphones have to be picked up at the bridge before boarding the aircraft. The PTV screen is not a touch-screen, so I have to use the remote to browse around.

What was special about this aircraft is the exit row actually has a proper window.

Loading was quite light and the doors were closed quickly. We ended up departing right on the revised time.

Browsing around the IFE, the selection was quite pitiful. I had flown SQ a few years ago in a much newer jet and I recall it had much more selection than this antiquated version.

This Orient Thai 747 has been grounded for quite a while, supposedly abandoned. Formerly a Cathay jet, it landed in March but and could not fly again due to mechanical problems. The airline went bankrupt and the jet has since sat here.

We took off heading southeast initially, which I presumed was to avoid the typhoon. It was quite bumpy and we stayed at 26000 feet for half the flight. During the bumps, menu booklets were distributed and dinner was served. SQ's catering in Economy is nothing to boast about anymore either, although the Haggen Daz ice-cream at the end was probably the only highlight of the meal. They have insisted in keeping the metal cutlery, although I wished the food was better instead.

Flight attendants worked efficiently to distribute the meals and topping up our drinks. When I wasn't interested in an additional drink, they asked if I wanted more water instead. Good to be proactive. The chicken pasta had a large vegetable serving although looked a bit basic. The Middle Eastern airlines still win for catering.

Due to bad weather tonight, we had to veer around the storm.

There is an IFE feature on business protocols in different countries. I recall another airline got into some trouble for producing a booklet of cultural sensitivities for its crew, which was taken in a different way as stereotyping.

The safety card was not a 2-page flyer but a fairly detailed 4-pager. The symbol explainer took up a large box on the front page already.

One feature I liked was the connection information. For those connecting to London, they would probably have to dash for it.

They insist on keeping the paper menus even though some competitors have gone the environmental way. I do collect these, anticipating that in the near future these relics will disappear, like paper boarding passes.

We ended up parking at the gate about half past midnight. This flight is designed for connections to red-eye flights as the trains into the city have stopped running way before midnight. Being on a cheap fare, I wouldn't get a free stopover hotel tonight, so I booked a budget room at the T2 air-side hotel.

I had to take the air-side train from my arrival gate at Terminal 3. It was easy enough with little luggage on tow.

Getting a place at the Ambassador was an adventure in itself. Their website has a form but it doesn't confirm anything, but sends the details away with a standard reply they will get back to me within 2 working days. It didn't help I booked the flight at the last minute and wouldn't have 2 days for them to turnaround. They did reply me the next day saying they are full and I would be waitlisted. Frustrated, I found Expedia had availability so I booked through them instead. Strange booking direct would be less flexible for this place. Rooms are charged on a 6-hour standard block with additional charges if you were to exceed that block.

Located upstairs in T2's air-side area, they seem to have 2 receptions - 1 for their lounge and 1 for the hotel. The hotel couldn't find my reservation. I tried to use the airport's wifi but they needed to send a token to my phone which didn't seem to work, so reception had to give me a manual code to try to log in. After a long time trying, they relented and sent me to the lounge across for the paperwork. That reception gave me a piece of paper and directed my back to the hotel side. Classic bad customer service case study.

The room only has a bed and a desk but the walls were well-insulated, offering a good place for a quick sleep before my next flight. Bathrooms are shared but are lockable rooms so it is not like a youth hostel. The whole facility is clean and the 6-hour block costs about SGD 60, which is quite reasonable.

Next Leg : Singapore - Perth | Flight Reports Main

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