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EurAustralAsian Sampler — 40K miles in 2 weeks — SQ F/J, QF F, BA F, S7 J, AB J, UA F

EurAustralAsian Sampler — 40K miles in 2 weeks — SQ F/J, QF F, BA F, S7 J, AB J, UA F

Old Jun 12, 13, 3:00 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: SFO
Programs: BA Gold, Hyatt Glob, MR Plat, HH Diamond, IHG Amb
Posts: 388
EurAustralAsian Sampler — 40K miles in 2 weeks — SQ F/J, QF F, BA F, S7 J, AB J, UA F



Trip Report: EurAustralAsian Sampler

Background

This trip was conceived in March 2012, booked over a couple of months and executed later that year in September. Caveat legentibus: this is my first trip report. Apologies in advance for volubility, but I am just too excited to share this with a wider audience.

I won’t lie. The inspiration for this trip came mainly from reading many fine trip reports whilst losing prodigious amounts of drool when ogling cabins, food, amenities, sleepwear, and entertainment that some of the top airlines in the world provide to those willing to part with a few miles. I’d flown in BA and AY business previously thanks to op-ups, but First Class had been, alas, out of reach. Until now. Having joined the club of miles & points collectors a few months earlier, I was anxious to try out some of these premium products and live it up a bit “in the pointy end” (hat tip to Moomba).

Planning

My schedule was fairly flexible, but I was limited by the minuscule vacation time American companies allow their employees, as well as a couple of required touchpoints (Russia to visit the family for a few days and then Munich for the Oktoberfest opening). I decided to base the core of the trip on lucky9876coins’s, aka Lucky, TR where he covered 37,000 miles in 2 weeks visiting 4 continents. The plan was fly to Asia via Europe, then to Sydney and back to Europe and Russia again. Along the way I wanted to visit Bangkok, Singapore, Vienna, and Salzburg, thus turning it into what I called “EurAustralAsian Sampler”. Oh, and I had to get back home to San Francisco too. Figuring out how to split this itinerary between airlines and awards was the real fun, but my plan was to try first class on Lufthansa, Thai Airways, and Qantas, which necessitated at least a couple of one-way awards.

Booking

This was quite an involved affair with a certain measure of luck, so feel free to skip to the juicy parts with visual stimulation (and I’m not talking about the Bangkok layover, nope, not at all).

Initially I planned to use 70K United miles for US-Asia award routing via Europe with segments on Lufthansa and Thai Airways – to enjoy the amazing ground services in Bangkok and get an hour-long massage in Royal First Lounge. Right about that time Lufthansa decided they wanted to make money on those F seats rather than give them away to miles hoarders and became very stingy with the award space. *sigh* All right, United Global First to Europe it would have to be. The best itinerary time-wise was SFO-ORD-AMS-FRA-BKK-SIN, with a few hours in AMS and long stopover in BKK. My hope was to switch to LH and a more direct routing a few days before the trip.

SIN-SYD was a simple nonstop 35K AA award in QF J, since I could not locate availability in F.

Next was getting back to Europe from Sydney. I desperately wanted to fly Qantas’s A380 and after many hours of searching inventory via their website, I pieced together a First Class itinerary with SYD-SIN in BA, SIN-LHR in QF and LHR-DME in BA J. 80K AA miles and $425 poorer due to BA’s “fees” and “surcharges” I had the award in my pocket.

To get back to SFO I briefly toyed with the idea of parting with hard earned cash since one way fares from Europe were hovering around $550. Things got busy with work then, and I left the trip as-is until July.

[montage of San Francisco cable cars, bridges and fog, with a few MRs to pass the time]

Enter early July 2012. Some of you may remember this as that brief, yet heady time when Singapore Air reservation system was undergoing an upgrade and in the process giving out First Class award space to anyone who bothered to ask. I was in DFW, on my way back from experiencing a gorgeous summer in Montréal, when I saw Lucky’s tweet about the SQ glitch. A quick check on United search engine revealed that FRA-SIN was gone, but MUC-SIN had availability in F. Huzzah!

Seldom have hearts beat faster as I dialed up the United award desk and very gingerly asked if they wouldn’t mind updating part of my itinerary to fly MUC-SIN-BKK-SIN on SQ instead (I had to get back to SIN to continue to SYD). The agent agreed that yes, SQ space was available and she would work on it. This touched me deeply and almost brought a tear to my eye. Meanwhile, the boarding started and ended, but the agent was taking her sweet time and I had to fight off persistent FAs who wanted me to shut down my phone. Don’t you people understand that this might be my only chance at experiencing what is arguably the best First Class seat in the sky and the availability may be gone any minute?! Thankfully, the agent confirmed the change before I could be thrown off the flight and all was good. The initial part of the itinerary stayed the same, SFO-ORD-AMS, but now I had only 45 minutes to connect in MUC. No worries, since I planned to switch to LH later and get a better connection.

Then I got bold.

Back home I thought – if SQ is still in glitch mode, why not shoot for the moon? I dialed up United and casually ventured that I’d like to add a segment to my existing itinerary, the segment being SIN-SYD in SQ F. I don’t know if this agent came from US Airways or something, but instead of laughing in my face, he started futzing around with the computer. I was sitting there with all my fingers and toes crossed while he muttered that the system was acting up and he’d have to find out how to override it, and so on, but in the end he said those magic words: “You’re all set”. I refused to believe it until I refreshed the itinerary window and there it was.

US-Europe-Asia-Australia. For 70K miles. In First Class. With 2 segments on Singapore 77Ws.



Except that 2 days later the reservation was still not showing as ticketed, giving me a more than mild panic attack. I called United again and spent an hour and a half listening to them figure out how why the ticket wasn’t being issued. After scaring me into semi-catatonic state by pronouncing the word “invalid”, they proceeded to much back and forth and finally narrowed it down to incorrect taxes having been charged, but couldn’t get the system to spit out the proper amount. Some poor soul there had to go through the itinerary segment by segment and calculate the appropriate taxes by hand. I owed $70 extra, which I was all too happy to pay. This also obviated the need for the 35K AA award from SIN to SYD, so I canceled it easily.

At the same time, I remembered that I still had no ticket back home from Europe. A search on ITA revealed that the one-way fares for September were above $900 now. *gulp* Since I saved 35K miles on getting to Australia, why not add a few more and fly back home in style? Air Berlin had a few TATL J seats available, so I used 50K AA miles and the international gateway rule to create a stopover in SFO before continuing to Hawaii a few months later (MUC-DUS-SFO-LAX-HNL). Total outlay was 45K miles because I had the Citi AA Visa card which gives you 10% rebate on awards.

I was meeting family in Krasnodar (KRR), but getting an award space on S7 was a pain, so I just bought revenue tickets to fill in DME-KRR-DME and DME-DUS-VIE. Vienna-Salzburg and Salzburg to Munich were done on trains.

Done? Almost. It still bothered me that I didn’t maximize the SYD-DME award and had to pay those expensive fuel surcharges. Another A380 flight for SYD-SIN segment would have been lovely, but there was no availability. I kept poking and prodding Qantas search engine for a few days and finally a space opened up on A380 for MEL-SIN route. EXP desk helpfully changed the itinerary to start with SYD-MEL-SIN and refunded me $250 in fees, but the only available J seat from SYD gave me less than an hour in MEL and I wanted to experience the QF First Class lounge that I heard much about. I knew that QF flies that route almost every half hour, so something was bound to open up. ExpertFlyer to the rescue. I set up an alert for a few possible flights and sure enough, one of them triggered a few days later, but for an economy seat. Still, I'd have almost 3 hours in MEL. As a bonus, I was also able to switch the LHR-DME segment to be on BA F.

Fast forward to a few days before the trip. My days were filled with work and preparation, and nights with visions of dancing bottles of Dom. The only remaining task was replacing the TATL UA segment with LH one. United engine showed award space for the date I needed, but then LH, with uncanny and precise German timing, announced the upcoming strike. I called United anyway and the agent confirmed that space was available, but after a few minutes of slow typing informed me that the system would not let the change go through as-is, because my itinerary was “very wrong”. How dare they call my little miracle “wrong”! The agent said that if I wanted the change, it would be charged as two awards – US-Asia and Asia-Australia – and I would be forced to pay extra untold number of miles. I hung up and called again, but the result was the same. Faced with the prospect of screwing up the existing award and the possibility of LH strike screwing up the flights anyway, I decided to stick with my existing UA Global First seat. There would be other LH F flights in the future.

As for the hotels, my goal was to stay at Starwood properties as much as possible since I completed the Starwood Platinum challenge in June 2012 and was ready to enjoy the perks. The hotel planning process was somewhat complicated as well and I’ll share the details in the individual installments.

Summary

This would be a trip of many firsts. First time on Singapore Air, Qantas and S7. First time on A380. First time visiting Bangkok, Singapore, Vienna, Salzburg and Sydney (adding a new continent to my list). First time at Oktoberfest. First time in international First Class.

Now, where were we? Oh, I had 40000 miles to fly and 2 weeks to do it. Let’s go.

Final Itineraries

SFO-ORD-AMS-MUC-SIN-BKK-SIN-SYD – 70K UA miles, UA F, SQ F/J
SYD-MEL-SIN-LHR-DME – 80K AA miles, QF F/Y, BA F
DME-KRR-DME – S7 J (revenue ticket)
DME-DUS-VIE – AB/HG Y (revenue ticket)
MUC-DUS-SFO – 45K AA miles, AB J


The routing on GCMap (colors represent different itineraries)

Installments

1 - Flight: SFO-ORD UA F / Lounges: UA FCLs
2 - Flight: ORD-AMS UA F
3 - Flight: AMS-MUC CL Y
4 - Flight: MUC-SIN SQ F
5 - Flight: SIN-BKK SQ J / Lounge: SQ Private Room
6 - Hotel: St. Regis / City: Bangkok
7 - Flight: BKK-SIN SQ J / City: Singapore
8 - Flight: SIN-SYD SQ F
9 - City: Sydney / Hotel: AirBNB
10 - Flight: SYD-MEL QF Y / Lounge: QF Business
11 - Flight: MEL-SIN QF F / Lounge: QF First
12 - Flight: SIN-LHR QF F / Lounge: BA/QF First
13 - Flight: LHR-DME BA F
14 - Flight: DME-KRR S7 J / Lounge: S7
15 - Flights: KRR-DME S7 Y, DME-DUS-VIE AB,HG Y / Lounge: Hugo Junkers
16 - Hotel Imperial Vienna, Starwood Luxury Collection
17 - City: Vienna
18 - Train: Vienna-Salzburg / City: Salzburg/ Hotel: Sheraton
19 - Train: Salzburg-Munich / City: Munich / Oktoberfest
20 - Flight: MUC-DUS AB Y, DUS-SFO AB J

Photography

All photos were taken with Sony RX-100, which is excellent for portable low-light photography, and iPhone 4S. Processing was done in Lightroom 4 with some Photoshop touch-ups here and there. I stole a few ideas on placing and formatting photos from stevieed's wonderful trip report. Full trip photos - especially additional menu pages - that did not make it here can be found in corresponding Flickr albums, available in this collection.

Last edited by andreiz; Sep 25, 13 at 8:46 pm
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Old Jun 12, 13, 3:01 pm
  #2  
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Friday morning at 5:45 am is a punishingly early time to wake up. Ordinarily, if someone tells me “Rise and shine!” in a sing-song voice at this hour, I shoot them, but that day I hummed it myself since it marked the start of a trip I’d been planning and waiting for with baited breath for 6 months.

Bags had already been packed and re-packed, so all that remained was a shower, a quick breakfast, and an appraising look in the mirror to decide if I was presentable for First Class. I passed. The plan was to take the bus to BART station and continue to SFO on the train, but as I descended the stairs my iPhone informed me that the bus, shockingly unlike normal MUNI operations, was arriving early by a few minutes. I grabbed my hefty carry-on in one hand and the shoulder bag in another, told myself that this is what the last few months of gym had been for and sprinted up the street to the stop. Uphill.

I made it, but barely. The driver grunted, unimpressed by my semi-Olympic performance, let me onboard and promptly slammed on the gas, living out his imaginary career as an F1 driver.

This was decidedly a Y bus and the legroom was even smaller than Lufthansa economy. But it got me to the BART station and I caught the next train to SFO, trying not to think about the origins of various interestingly shaped stains on the seats and the carpet. Yes, a carpeted commuter train. Welcome to BART.

At SFO I approached the deserted United counter and was quickly checked-in, obtaining BPs for the first three segments. I didn’t expect them to be able to print SQ ones, nor did I want them to, because, SQ F pass on UA card stock? Please.

My SFO-ORD flight was leaving from Terminal 3, but I wanted to check out the United RCC lounge in the International Terminal, which was easy, since both terminals are connected airside. Onto security theater. An inane question (what is your name?) and a quick grope later (opting out as a matter of principle), I checked in at lounge entrance and ventured upstairs to the main area.

My first impression that it was very large, very quiet, and very, very beige. I think that they tried to go for “unobtrusive”, but ended up with “bland”. It was also deserted. The whole place must have had fewer than a dozen pax, myself included, which was somewhat refreshing after the chaos of most of the domestic Admirals Clubs.


Upon seeing this sign I figured the lounge would have some food on offer:

However, after walking through the lounge end-to-end I discovered only: 1) a bowl of yogurt, 2) a tray of bananas that could perhaps achieve a measure of ripeness by the time my trip ended.


Finding myself listless, I decided to hop over to the domestic RCC in Terminal 3. This lounge was much smaller, but also much more convivial (as RCCs go).


I realized that I actually visited this lounge quite a few times when I used to fly UA in the distant past, so I turned left past the Bluetoothed corp drones and headed for the food bar, which handily beat the International one by having such exotica as bagel-shaped rubber, Bet You’ll Only Eat One™ mini-muffins, and apples. I grabbed an apple and settled down to check up on email and such.


As the boarding time approached, I bid adieu to the lounge dragons and made my way to the gate.

United 841
San Francisco (SFO) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Friday, September 7, 2012
Depart: 9:09 (10:10 actual)
Arrive: 15:25 (15:44 actual)
Duration: 3h 34min
Airbus 320
Seat 2F (First Class)


[photos of the flight redacted to protect the guilty writer. Yes, I forgot to take the photos, but what’s there to see in UA domestic first?]

Settling into the cabin, I was trying to remember whether UA offers PDBs during boarding. My bet was no and I was almost proven right, but the captain came on the horn and informed us that we’d have to wait for a mechanic to fix a “minor issue”. Great, not even one flight in, and I already ran into a mechanical delay. The captain assured we'd still be on time and went back to reading Facebook or whatever it is captains do during mechanical delays. Kidding, I know they actually re-read flight manuals and play Flight Control on iPads.

PDBs were finally offered during the wait, and our departure was now estimated at 9:40 am. I passed the time by reading Hemispheres and trying to figure out if anyone ever followed one of those “3 Perfect Days” itineraries precisely and how much money they had to spend for lodgings and food. The minor issue proved minor and we pushed back at 10:10 am and took off at 10:20.

[My notes run out here, so I must have fallen into a stupor for the rest of the flight.]

ORD
United GFL


We arrived at Concourse C and I headed off in search of United Global First lounge supposedly located at gate C18 near the customer service desk. When I got there, I looked left and right a few times. Customer service was there. C18 was there. GF Lounge, however, was on a leave of absence. I circled the area a few times, thinking maybe a different perspective would help. It did not. Baffled, I approached the CS desk and sheepishly asked where the lounge was. The stylish young lady smiled, extended her hand to the right and said, “Right there, in the back”. I looked and saw the entrance door. This must be how they maintain the exclusivity of the GFL, by make it really tough to find. In the future, if you ever find yourself in my situation, just walk past the CS desk on the left side and turn left, it’ll be right there.


My BP was scanned and I was welcomed and told that the boarding would be called in an hour. This was a smallish lounge with somewhat meager (cold cuts, bread, fruit, etc) food options, but a decent collection of self-serve beverages, including Veuve Clicquot on ice.


I decided to partake of it along with some snacks. Wifi was kind of slow, but I had time to re-charge electronics and catch up on social media and FT.


Time flew by and soon the boarding was announced for my first international F flight.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 3:01 pm
  #3  
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: SFO
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Posts: 388
United 908
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) - Amsterdam (AMS)
Friday, September 7, 2012
Depart: 18:10
Arrive: 9:30 (+1 day)
Duration: 8hr 20min
Boeing 767-300
Seat 2A (First)


Boarding for F was through doorway 1L. I entered the aircraft with a frisson of excitement, said hello to the FA and found my seat. Well, more like “seat encampment”. (this is a seat across from mine, actually)


The pillow and blanket were waiting for me on the the seat. After stowing them and my carry-ons overhead, I sat down and took in my surroundings. Clearly, UA had traded the size for the nuanced color scheme, because everything was in half a dozen shades of gray.


Though not unattractive, especially with the brushed metal and wire mesh look. On my right was a large storage compartment embedded in the seat cradle, and on my left was the remote, seat controls, and various connectors along with a smaller storage bin.


The reading light was over the right shoulder with two buttons for quickly putting the seat into flat bed/chair modes down below.


I was happy to see that there was an AC power outlet.


...as well as enough legroom for a tall person to stretch out.


It was time to peruse the menu. I silently commended UA for having two champagnes on offer. Too bad they weren’t Dom and Krug.


As if on cue, the chief purser came over to introduce herself and ask if I’d like some refreshments before the take-off. Following the well set precedence, I suggested that a glass of Philipponnat Brut would be lovely. She delivered it shortly in real glassware, along with water and a bowl of warm almonds.


Yes, yes, I could get used to flying like this.

The boarding finished and the the FAs in the front cabin did an in-person safety demo while we taxied to our runway. One of them came around to do the last minute check and told me that I had to wear the chest strap during take-off. Pardon me, a what? She reached over my left shoulder and, after some struggle, pulled out a car-style seat belt that apparently plugs into the top of the seat buckle. I complied, but the strap was tight and uncomfortable and I couldn’t wait to take it off. It was also hard to pull out because it hides in the insides of the seat. But at this time the pilot punched the throttle and after a fairly short take-off roll, we were off.


Now, I am absurdly bad at sleeping on planes and in all my flying history I probably slept a total of 12 hours. So I fully intended to stay awake and catch up on sleep during MUC-SIN flight. Because, if you can’t sleep in SQ F, where can you sleep?

The food orders were taken shortly. I went with the warm appetizer and the salad, opting out of the soup, never quite having developed a taste for shrimp. For main I selected the Cajun-style breast of chicken and cheese plate for desert course. The FA also set up my tray table with tablecloth and silverware.

I flipped through IFE menus and discovered that it was remarkably good for a domestic airline, with a wide-ranging library of movies and TV shows. But my iPad was loaded with many episodes I had to catch up on, so flipped it open and settled in to watch Fringe.

Bread basket was brought around along with the appetizer; I chose a pretzel roll.


As for the appetizer, the mushroom pastry was nothing memorable, but the empanada was pretty good especially with the “Amazon” sauce.

The salad was painfully lacking in imaginative ingredients, having the standard issue lettuce, cherry tomatoes, tough croutons, and a few strands of shaved cheese. Still, veggies are good for you, right?


I had a glass of Alexander Valley Vineyards 2008 Syrah to go with the next course, the Cajun-style chicken breast.


It was a bit dry, but tolerable. The best part were the white beans with sausage, which had nice pepperiness to it. My wine was topped off during the meal.

Having eaten only half of the chicken, I made up by consuming the entire cheese plate and washing it down with the tasty Graham’s Late Vintage Port. I proposed to the FA that anytime they were in doubt if I needed any more port, the answer was yes.


It was dark night beyond the window and I sat back in peace, sipping the port and thinking about the upcoming parts of the trip. My main worry was the tight, 50 minute connection in MUC. If the AMS-MUC was late for any reason, I could miss my SQ flight out and the rest of the itinerary would be screwed up, since SQ has only one flight daily on that route. I suppose they could put me on a TG flight instead, but I was loathe to miss the SQ experience.

I turned the IFE back on to see the arrival time prognosis and it greeted me with a stark crash screen.


The rest of the flight was spent watching more episodes of Fringe and Dexter and a movie that I don’t remember now. Shortly before the landing, the FA came around to remind us about the “chest strap” again. I struggled to pull it out of the seat back and saw the passenger across the aisle in the same situation. Having secured ourselves, we descended through a low cloud ceiling and landed in AMS.


I don’t have much to compare it to, for obvious reasons, but I thought it was a pretty good flight, though not a remarkable one. The food was above domestic F standards and the service, while polite and timely, was not especially attentive or welcoming. The seat itself was roomy, with lots of storage and good enough ergonomics, if not for that pesky chest strap.
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Old Jun 12, 13, 3:02 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Dec 2011
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AMS

My primary task after deplaning was to find a replacement contact lens case, since I forgot mine at home (and the only thing I forgot) and the contacts were starting to bother me. I bought one at a sundries shop near the gate and, after switching to glasses, went to find the Silver Kris lounge, which was outside the Schengen zone. I was hoping to get them to print out the boarding passes for the SQ segments and relax for a bit.

At the loungeI I presented the Lufthansa Cityline (CL) BP to Munich as well as my Turkish Air *A Gold card, but the attendant said, “You are not allowed to access to lounge, since you are not flying SQ from here”. I tapped into my reserves of patience, smiled and replied, “Yes, I’m flying to Munich and connecting to SQ there. Plus I have *A Gold status, doesn’t that work?” She stood firm, “No, only if you are flying SQ from Amsterdam”. She was also unable to print out my Singapore BPs. What, do they only load AMS-originating flights into their computers or something?

A bit frustrated, I went through the passport control to the Schengen area and traipsed to the departure gate which seemed to be in Belgium judging by how far I had to walk. Schiphol is really not that well designed for an international hub – it takes a long time to get from one end to another and if you have a short-ish connection, good luck. I suggest practicing power walking.

It being a warm day and Schiphol administration refusing to believe in air conditioning for sub-desert temperatures, I walked up to the gate 5 minutes before the supposed boarding time, shedding sweat and feeling decidedly non-First Class. What do you know, the inbound aircraft for my LH2303 flight wasn't there yet. The cute, yet supremely bored gate agent told me in curt Polish accent, “Maybe 10 minute delay”. The first tendrils of worry stirred in my gut as I imagined a dramatic scene where the SQ 777 pulls away from the gate just as I get there, drop to my knees, shake fist at the skies and shout “WHYYYYYYY?”

The delay soon grew to 20 minutes. I was starting to worry for real now, because I knew the minimum connection time in MUC was 40 minutes. The inbound plane showed up then, and it took another 20 minutes to disembark passengers, prep the plane, and board everyone waiting at the gate.

Lufthansa Cityline 2303
Amsterdam (AMS) - Munich (MUC)
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Depart: 11:10 (11:35 actual)
Arrive: 12:35 (12:50 actual)
Duration: 1hr 5min
Embraer ERJ-195
Seat 18A (Economy)


I took my window seat with a certain measure of trepidation. I was ready to write off the SQ flight until the captain came on to apologize for the delay and tell us he’d try to shorten the flight time by 20 minutes. This would still put us in MUC at 12:40 pm and things could go either way. We finally took off around 11:35 am. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the flight, except that I fretted incessantly during the first half. When the beverages cart came around, I got some tea to sip on and remembered what someone told me once, “It makes no sense to worry about the things you have no control over, it just keeps you immobilized”.

Since there was nothing I could do to affect the situation, I sat back and enjoyed the landscape outside. If I was meant to make SQ327, I would. I don't remember much of the flight, but it was decent, for intra-Europe economy. The cabin was in 2-2 configuration.

The flight took a bit longer than the captain promised and we touched down and were at the gate by 12:50 pm. To our left, a Singapore 777 was trying its best to hide behind a Lufthands A320(?).


MUC

As I stepped outside the plane, I heard someone calling my name. “Mr. Andrei Z? Mr. Andrei Z?” I turned and saw a Lufthansa agent holding a red-striped SQ boarding pass with my name on it. Afraid I was just hallucinating from all the stress, I identified myself and she pronounced the most wonderful words in the history of mankind, “We’ve been expecting you. Please follow me so we can get you through the passport control and to your flight.”

I can hardly convey how relieved and elated I felt at that moment. I was ready to give her a hug, but such personal interactions are probably verboten in Germany, so I just grabbed my bags and followed her. Along the way I passed another SQ 777.–.perhaps the one that would take me to Singapore?


We hurried on foot across the terminal to the Lufthansa FCL which had a private passport control booth. My passport was stamped in 20 seconds and we exited and continued to the gate just as briskly.


There she handed me off to the gate agent who produced an envelope with the BP to BKK and an invitation to the Private Room at Changi and said that the boarding would start in a few minutes. I took that opportunity to find a men’s room and wash off literal and metaphorical sweat from my face. I made the flight. Things worked out on their own. Kudos to Lufthansa for being proactive with handling this in such an amazing way.


After 10-15 mins, the boarding was announced and I got in line with the other premium passengers (no differentiation between F, J, or PPS).
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Old Jun 12, 13, 3:03 pm
  #5  
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: SFO
Programs: BA Gold, Hyatt Glob, MR Plat, HH Diamond, IHG Amb
Posts: 388
Singapore Airlines 327
Munich (MUC) – Singapore (SIN)
Saturday, September 8
Depart: 13:25
Arrive: 7:10 (+1 day)
Duration: 11hr 45min
Boeing 777-300ER
Seat 2F (First Class
)

After my BP was checked, I proceeded down the jetway with a spring in my step and entered the 77W aircraft. At doorway 1L I was greeted by a male crew member, who directed me to the right aisle.

I stepped across the galley and entered the First Class cabin. There they were, the enormously large seats attired in the brown-and-beige scheme that I’d seen so many times in various trip reports, and one of them was mine!


As you probably know, the cabin is configured as 1-2-1. I was in the single window seat on the right side. There was no overhead storage, so I just stowed my carry-on and shoulder bag underneath the footrest, which had plenty of space.


As soon as I sat down, a lovely stewardess (SQ nomenclature) named Jasmine, dressed in the beautiful Singaporean uniform, gave me the First Class menu and offered newspapers and magazines. I selected a couple and got up to look around and take a few photos. Only 5 out of 12 seats were taken, 2 more than what I saw on ExpertFlyer before leaving SFO.


Meanwhile, the other steward, Reuben, approached and asked if I’d like something to drink. No points for guessing what I ordered, but instead of the anticipated, "Dom or Krug, sir?", he apologized profusely, visibly discomposed, and said that Krug was still chilling, so he could only offer Dom 2003 vintage. If I must. The bubbles were delivered shortly along with a hot towel and were quite lovely indeed. Here’s to you, SQ reservation system gremlins!


I looked around what was to be my home for the next 12 hours [video].

The seat was wide. I mean, Texas wide. You could probably fit two skinny hipsters on it without problem. SQ even gives you a pillow on one side and a square cushion on the other, so you can rest your arms on something instead of sitting like Captain Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise. The (faux-)leather upholstery was pretty supple and comfortable, but has definitely seen some use.

The descriptions of the IFE screen did not disappoint – it was large, sharp and bright. I expected to use it heavily during the flight.


The seat had a fair amount of storage, including a large magazine pocket and a compartment in the right console for things like glasses, phones, and other miscellany. I stuck the slippers in there too. The remote and the seat controls could be found in the left console, under the flip-up armrest.


Jasmine brought an amenity kit from Kiehl’s (sadly, no photo) and noise-canceling headphones. These were Singapore branded and plugged into a proprietary triangular connector below the reading light.


Happy as a clam, I sipped champagne and flipped through a magazine. Being new at this First Class thing, however, I was apparently was a bit slow in consumption, because Jasmine showed up to take the remains of the Dom away for the departure. I'll see you soon, Dom.

The captain came on the horn to greet us in a wonderful British accent and inform us that the travel time would be as scheduled, 11 hours 45 minutes, and should be a smooth ride ahead.

Push back was at 13:35 and after a short taxi and a nice long roll, took off at 13:50. After the 10K feet bell, the crew sprang into action, drawing the curtains between cabins, and the inflight supervisor Chai came over to introduce himself and chat a little bit. He was the one to greet me at the door, but couldn’t pronounce my last name at the time. Now he said it perfectly. I was suitably impressed. Hell, I have problems pronouncing my last name, especially after a few refreshments, so I commended him on it for doing it without any help from me. He was very funny and good natured guy. Actually, the whole crew seemed more personable than what I've heard about SQ.


I flipped through the extensive menu, strategizing on how to try as much as possible without stuffing myself silly. My strategy failed miserably, because as Jasmine came by to take my order, I panicked and went with with Satay, caviar, watercress soup, salad, and red snapper. She smiled and asked what size of pajamas I wore. Muttering, “No judging!”, I briefly considered XL, given the range of my food order, but decided to stick with my normal L. She went away and returned with slippers, socks, eyeshade, and Givenchy pajamas. In between the deliveries of all the goodies, Reuben made one of his own, a fresh glass of Dom to help my parched throat.

The service started with satay, which was nice, juicy and flavorful, though the lamb one seemed a bit tough. I polished it off quickly, and Chai tried to entice me with one more satay, but I declined due to more food coming.


I played around with the KrisWorld IFE – extensive selection of entertainment programs and good UI, but a bit slow in operation. Soon enough Chai set up the table, covering it with a tablecloth and arranging the utensils, salt/pepper shakers and butter, all with utmost precision, SQ-style.

To give you an example of Chai's humor, after setting up he said, "I'm sorry, I'm the ugliest geisha", as he placed a big napkin on my lap. What a riot. Bread basket appeared next and I selected garlic bread and a small ciabatta roll, as well as truffle oil. Then Chai brought the caviar course and asked if I wanted a shot of chilled vodka with it. I concentrated and thought hard of reasons to say why I shouldn’t, but came up with none and then remembered that I was Russian, so the answer was predetermined anyway. I said, “Of course. But Russians consider it impolite to drink alone –.will you join me?” Chai demurred, blaming the “duties”.


The chilled malossol caviar was delightful, and it was interesting combining it with other condiments like chives, onions, and cheese, which I’d never done before. I drank the shot and immediately Chai brought over a bottle of Belvedere and poured me another one. Well, one’s a warm up, two’s the real thing. He was about to go for the 3rd one, but I declined, not wanting to be known as “that Russian that finished all the vodka onboard”. Instead I finished the caviar, and tried some bread with truffled olive oil. Delicious.


The watercress soup with balik salmon and button mushroom was next. Interesting and pretty good, the salmon had a rich seafood taste.


The salad, though, was decent, but nothing special.


For the main I switched to the Chablis from the menu, which was nice. The red snapper was tasty but felt a bit overcooked. It's difficult to get fish cooked to the proper condition on the plane, but I was still hoping it would be better.


Feeling pretty full and sleepy at that point, I left half of the main on the plate, and asked Jasmine for the turndown service. The middle seats next to me were empty, so she had Reuben convert 2E into a bed for me, while I changed into the pajamas in the lavatory. They were a bit heavy and had slightly uncomfortable fit – I expected more from Givenchy. The lavatory itself was quite nice, with a large sink, recessed lighting, and various amenities.


As I exited, Reuben took my clothes to hang in the closet and I went to catch some winks, but not before arranging the multitude of pillows they left me into a semblance of cocoon.


I slept for about 3 hours, which is 2.5 hours longer than I'd managed to sleep on any flight ever. The bedding was nice and comfortable, but a bit warm, especially since the cabin felt kind of warm as well. I felt rested and decided to lounge in bed and watch something on KrisWorld while imbibing some of the Sauternes that I didn't get to try earlier. When I ordered that, Reuben noted that I missed the dessert too, and wouldn’t I like to have it now? Oh, maybe in 30 minutes.

I scrolled through movie selections and chose "Safe" with Jason Statham. The Sauterne was lovely – sweet and floral. Exactly 30 minutes later Reuben delivered the rum baba dessert. Beautiful presentation and just as delicious as it looks.


It got bumpy a couple of times during the flight, so I had to put on the belt strap while lying down, which was a novel thing to me. The movie was good fun and afterwards I watched Up in the Air on my iPad. Hadn’t seen it before, but it's funny how the frequent flyer world depicted in it feels so familiar since I became involved with it over the previous couple of years.

After it was over, with 2 hours to go before landing, Jasmine came by asking if I wanted breakfast. I ordered scrambled eggs with toast, fruit, and coffee and reluctantly got out of my comfortable bed to move over to the original seat. The ever efficient Reuben was already there to set up the table and offer some pastries with butter and jam. I pecked at that until the fruit plate arrived, followed by the rest of the meal.


The eggs were good, but the rest was so-so – pastries didn't impress and the toast was pretty hard. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee was truly wonderful though.


I watched some Community on IFE and, with an hour of flight time remaining, went to change and clean-up before the arrival. Stowed the pajamas and the amenity kit in my carry-on and after getting a refill of coffee, caught up on writing trip notes and watched more Community. Oh, Annie.


The sunrise struggled through the cloudy horizon. We flew over some islands and descended through fairly heavy fog and clouds to land at 7:05. As we pulled in, the stewardesses stood at the back of First Class with the curtain to Business closed. It was hard to say good-bye to the seat, but I'd see it again in a couple of days. Our cabin deplaned via 1L and the rest of the plane did so via 2L.

Overall, this was a great flight and everything that I expected from Singapore First. Nay, more, since the crew seemed more friendly and engaging than in some of the reports I’d read. They may not have been obsessive about placing my slippers just the right way for when I got up, but I don’t begrudge them that, because the service was great where it mattered. The seat itself was roomy and comfortable, with excellent IFE system and enough storage for what I had. On the whole the food was good to very good, with just a couple of food items that were mediocre. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, I’m happy to report, was excellent. Johnnie Walker Blue... well, there’s another installment for that.

Next: 5 - Flight: SIN-BKK SQ J / Lounge: SQ Private Room

Last edited by andreiz; Jun 14, 13 at 11:05 pm
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Old Jun 13, 13, 1:12 am
  #6  
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Loving this so far. Glad you made your SQ flight. Can't wait for more!
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Old Jun 13, 13, 3:04 am
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Great F sampling so far, waiting for more.
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Old Jun 13, 13, 4:47 am
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Excellent report! Such an obvious difference from UA F and SQ F. I haven't been on UA F, but it really doesn't look all that much better than Delta Business Elite, anyone have any opinions on this?
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Old Jun 13, 13, 5:15 am
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Great TR! Really enjoying it so far, looking forward to the rest.
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Old Jun 13, 13, 5:40 am
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Loving your TR, food looked really good on the SQ flight, so much looking forward to the next part of the Trip, certainly a quick trip round the world almost^
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Old Jun 13, 13, 6:24 am
  #11  
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Great TR!!!!!!! ^
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Old Jun 14, 13, 8:34 pm
  #12  
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Previous: 4 - Flight: MUC-SIN SQ F

Amazing. Beautiful. Best airport ever!!! These are just some of the descriptions of Singapore Changi airport that I’d read before. A bit skeptical, but curious to see what it was like for myself, I emerged into Terminal 3 and just had to stand there and admire the architecture for a bit. It was bright, modern, spacious and I really liked it at first sight.


I picked up a Changi brochure on the way and wandered around for a while, past the indoor butterfly garden, rest areas with snooze chairs, and phone charging stations. Wifi was free, just ask at any Information Counter for the login code and start surfing. The shopping arcade definitely looked like a mini-mall – and, despite the early hour, most of the shops were already open. I knew that somewhere there was a fitness center, a pool, and a movie theater, but I had only a couple of hours and the Private Room was calling to me.

I followed the signs to the SilverKris lounge on the upper terrace.


The entrance was staffed with 3-4 suited attendants. As soon as I approached, one of them greeted me warmly and asked for my BP. I presented it, along with the Private Room invitation, and the sight of it put them into an overdrive mode. “Ah, Private Room, right this way, sir!”. The male attendant took my suitcase and followed me as I walked next to the arrestingly charming female attendant. We glided through a mini-labyrinth of turns, and she pointed out the Business Class lounge on the way, but turned right to the First Class one. It was large and airy, with a big dining area and what looked like an extensive buffet. Busy, but not full. I made a note to check it out on the return flight from Bangkok. As we came through, there were a couple of turned heads, wondering perhaps where and why I was being escorted, which made me feel a bit self-conscious. The entrance to the Private Room was towards the back of FCL, staffed by yet another attendant. I was handed off to him and he welcomed me to PR and said he would alert me when the boarding time came.

PR itself was spacious, quiet and decorated in rich brown, beige, and gold tones, with marbled columns and tables. I’m guessing they were going for the air of exclusivity and weren’t unsuccessful with it.


The dining area was at the back and had a dozen tables with high-backed leather benches for seats


Adjoining was a small room with a couple of iMacs.


There were only a few pax besides me, and I wondered whether it ever got busy. I chose a chair halfway down the lounge near the window and took the opportunity to reorganize my suitcase, which was looking somewhat rounded from having pajamas, slippers, and amenity kits stuck into it. A waiter appeared promptly and asked if he could offer anything; I went with some sparking water and bubbles, specifically Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, which was quite a nice drop.


You could dine either in the dining room or at your own seat, and while the food menu had some interesting items, I declined for now.


The lounge attendant gave me a code for wifi and I caught up on email and such, though wifi was kind of slow. At this point I started feeling a touch tired – unsurprising really, considering I just finished my 4th flight in a day and half and won a battle with a provocative quantity of first-class alcohol. I decided to stop with the champagne and got a coffee instead.

The flight to BKK was leaving from Terminal 2, so I left early and took the Skytrain there. The departure was from F60, the very last gate at the end of T2, and the boarding already commenced by the time I walked over. It was a corral-style gate with security at the entrance and just seats inside. Compared to TSA, security was a breeze – just take out the laptop and iPad and walk through the scanner – though they do lose points for the lack of TSA-style complimentary massage.

The agent had to hand-write a J class boarding pass because mine was for some reason printed on F stock (and I kept it as a souvenir).

Singapore Airlines 972
Singapore (SIN) – Bangkok (BKK)
Saturday, September 9
Depart: 9:40 (10:00 actual)
Arrive: 11:05 (11:14 actual)
Duration: 2hr 14min
Boeing 777-200
Seat 12A (Business Class)


I boarded through 1L into what was a fairly full business cabin. SQ regional business is configured as 2-3-2. I turned right and walked down the aisle to my 18A window seat.


Aside from the somewhat garish purple/red color combination the seat was nice, with lots of legroom.


PDBs were apple/orange juice and water; I chose the apple juice. Departure was delayed by about 20 minutes, so I listened to PointsHoarder podcast about the Singapore, since I was coming back here tomorrow. Most of it was food-related, and I salivated a bit, hoping that my Singapore friends would take me to some good places. We pushed off around 10 am and passed a couple of SQ 777-300ERs on the way out.


Shortly after take-off, the drinks and lunch orders were taken by two achingly lovely stewardesses.


I went with Sunrise Breeze, a cocktail with sake and bitter lemon, and decided to try the braised udon noodles. The cocktail was delivered in a few minutes and was tasty, though I think would benefit from being made with gin instead of sake.

Before the trip I put together a “Window Seat” playlist filled with mostly instrumental and electronic music. I forgot about it during the SQ flight, but fired it up now and had a great time sipping my cocktail and staring outside the window. The noodles were ready in half an hour or so and were enjoyable, but pretty filling, so I ate only half. My favorite part was the fruit salad and the orange/pineapple gateau.


The overall meal quality was similar to what AA/UA serve in domestic first, which is not too bad for a 2 hour flight. I got some more coffee and went back to looking out the window. Once the descent started, the stewardesses gave out Premium Lane passes for immigration. We landed just a couple of minutes late and taxied to the distinctive looking Suvarnabhumi terminal.


Previous: 4 - Flight: MUC-SIN SQ F
Next: 6 - Hotel: St. Regis / City: Bangkok

Last edited by andreiz; Jun 17, 13 at 11:17 am
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Old Jun 14, 13, 9:44 pm
  #13  
 
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Your trip sounds amazing so far! Changi is such a cool looking airport!
Is the fabric on the SQ seats different on the front and back? In your second picture they look more camo-style then in the first picture.
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Old Jun 14, 13, 10:14 pm
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great TR!
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Old Jun 14, 13, 10:45 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by tsquared1029 View Post
Is the fabric on the SQ seats different on the front and back? In your second picture they look more camo-style then in the first picture.
Yes, it is different – not sure why they went for the camo look on the back.
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