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A Solo Pacific Crossing (KUL-SIN-NRT-LAX | SQ J, NH F)

A Solo Pacific Crossing (KUL-SIN-NRT-LAX | SQ J, NH F)

Old Jul 24, 15, 10:45 pm
  #1  
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A Solo Pacific Crossing (KUL-SIN-NRT-LAX | SQ J, NH F)

It's been a while since I was on a long-haul flight. The lack of any major redemption bookings in months has led to a growing stash of miles. Throw in the paranoia of a devaluation, and I finally had my cue to do what any sensible FlyerTalker would do: book a First Class award to some far-flung destination, more than half a year ahead.

Availability was fairly generous 8 months out. I was itching to try Asiana's new A380, but I had flown with the Korean carrier in the not-too-distant past, and something equally lucrative was available: ANA First, on the exact date I was looking for.

I wasn't entirely sure if I even could make the trip at that point, but pulled the trigger nonetheless. What can I say? I like living my life dangerously

I eventually worked out a pretty satisfying routing:

KUL-BKK-HND//NRT-LAX, with TG and NH in F, save for the first segment which only has a 2-class service.

Of course, expecting TG to stick to the schedule several months out is a little naive. As *A regulars would know, TG's only consistency lies within its inconsistency. I wasn't the least surprised when I found out TG had brought forward the departure time for the BKK-HND segment, only to push it back by 30 minutes after a few days. What did surprise me, however, was the aircraft swap from the suite-equipped 74N to a two-class 773 with their regional Business product. In short, I was downgraded. But I wasn't annoyed.

Just as one door closed, another opened, in the form of NH's new F service to SIN. The early morning departure from SIN to NRT was swapped from a 787 to a 77W, with F. More importantly, award space was wide open. Without a hint of hesitation, I picked up the phone, and had my ticket reissued with an even better routing:

SQ107 KUL-SIN J
NH802 SIN-NRT F
NH006 NRT-LAX F

With the flights fixed and hotels booked, all that was left was to was get a wardrobe revamp, in hopes of being at least semi-presentable on the streets of Beverly Hills.

***

Tuesday

I'm NOT a morning person. I try avoiding morning flights as much as I can, but SQ doesn't have many flights a day out of KUL. SQ107 with a 0955 departure is the only SQ flight for the next 8 hours or so. Although my flight to NRT leaves at 0550 the next morning, I wanted to maximize my time in SIN without having a stopover. I have family there, so there's never a shortage of things to do.

And that is how I ended up at Kuala Lumpur's Sentral station, waiting for the 0700 express train to the airport.



Ever since the line was extended to KUL's new LCC terminal (KLIA2), the trains have become a lot more crowded, without an increase in frequency nor capacity. Not that I know of, at least. This means standing-room only if you're among the later ones to board. Not the most comfortable thing to do for the half-hour ride.

By 0735, slightly over 2 hours before departure, I was at the SQ counters, where I was checked-in by a lady who quite evidently enjoyed mornings no more than I do.



I tried my luck and asked if the boarding pass for tomorrow's NH flight could be issued, and was met with the familiar "it's another airline, we can't touch their flight" excuse, before realizing she'd mistaken NH for MH.

Red and blue boarding passes in hand, I thanked her and headed airside.



My appetite was starting to kick in, so I went straight to SQ's SilverKris Lounge.



A SilkAir flight was about to leave , so the lounge was rather empty. A stark contrast to the last time I was here, prior to an SQ flight on a Friday evening when it was standing-room only.

There was an adequate selection of hot food and drinks, though the lounge itself was really showing its age.



As with most other lounges in KUL, there's a decent view of the tarmac. Today's departure was from gate C2, which was still occupied by an MH 772.



For the past 18 years, the 772 has been a beautiful, reliable workhorse for MH. It's a real shame that it became the icon of the airline's misfortunes. Some of my fondest memories of MH were on their Triple Sevens.

My flashbacks were interrupted by the arrival of my chariot for this morning, looking ever so classy under the morning sunlight.


Eager to get onboard, I left the lounge before the boarding call was made and made my way to C2, just 3 minutes from the lounge.

Today's 30 minute hop was operated by 9V-STR, a 2010 addition to the SQ fleet.



Flight: SQ107
Dep: Kuala Lumpur 0955
Arr: Singapore 1050
Aircraft: A330-300 9V-STR
Seat: 14A


SQ's A330s are equipped with the airline's regional 2-2-2 product also found on some 777s. With 30 angled-flat seats it's a perfectly decent product for short hops around Asia, but I wouldn't be too thrilled if I'm on the red-eye Australian or Japanese flights that can be as long as trans-Atlantic flights.

(The next two pictures were taken on a flight earlier this year)


The pre-departure rituals were carried out in typical SQ efficiency, a little more relaxed than usual thanks to the light load. Unsurprisingly, I was addressed by name at every interaction.

There's only so much that can be achieved on a flight that's only slightly longer than a Seattle - Vancouver hop, but SQ still manages to serve a decent sandwich, which is already a scaled-down version of the pre-2008 days when the Business cabin was actually sold as First. International First, not US domestic "First".



At 5 years old, this aircraft can be considered middle-aged by SQ standards, though I was a still bit surprised to find an obvious sign of wear.


You know a flight is short when the aircraft doesn't get a chance to climb to its cruising altitude before beginning its descent.


An on-time arrival at SIN's Terminal 3 marked the end of an uneventful flight on my most-flown route. True to the airport's stellar reputation for efficiency, I was out of the arrival hall 10 minutes after the aircraft doors opened, leaving me with plenty of time to head for my lunch appointment at Orchard Road.

Next up, a pre-dawn flight to Tokyo on ANA First!
SilverChris is online now  
Old Jul 27, 15, 5:09 am
  #2  
 
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Thanks for sharing your flight story, that was a long flight indeed.

Last edited by Moomba; Jul 27, 15 at 6:25 am Reason: removed quote of entire OP
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Old Jul 27, 15, 9:13 am
  #3  
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Looking forward to the rest ^
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Old Jul 28, 15, 4:45 am
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Waiting for the rest.
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Old Aug 2, 15, 9:47 am
  #5  
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Wednesday

After a short stay in the city-state, it was back to Changi for a pre-dawn flight to NRT. For over 2 years, I managed to stay clear of morning flights ex-SIN. I didn't have the luxury of choice today, which explains my presence at Terminal 2 at a rather ungodly hour of 0350, exactly 2 hours before departure.



The first rays of sunlight were still 3 hours away, but Changi was already abuzz with activity. An IndiGo flight to Chennai has a similarly obscene departure time, followed by the usual bank of flights to other regional destinations.



I quickly found the NH counters where I was immediately approached by a Japanese-speaking queue minder who escorted me to the First Class counter.



A polite agent confirmed my final destination of LAX and quickly processed my check-in. As I was filling out the paperwork for a US-bound foreigner, I was told that I'd be the only one in F for the SIN-NRT segment.



It's far too early for such news. It was 4am, and moments like this only ever happen in my dreams. After confirming with the agent that I was very much awake, I was grinning from ear to ear. The last time I had a solo ride in F was back in 2013, albeit on a short hop to HKG on SQ.

The agent then went on to mention that I was actually among the last of the passengers to check-in despite arriving 2 hours before departure. It seems most of my fellow passengers had started queuing at 2am, before the counters even opened. Cheaper than spending another night at the hotel, I suppose

New boarding passes for both SIN-NRT and NRT-LAX segments were printed, although I already had the SIN-NRT one printed by SQ the day before. Despite the less-than-desirable departure time, this is the only NH flight that offers convenient connections to the afternoon bank of North American flights at NRT.

Immigration took less than a minute, and I headed straight for the SQ lounge.



The desks were unmanned, which I found rather strange. After waiting for a minute I was quite tempted to invite myself inside. A moment later, a Japanese lounge dragon came running from the Business side, apologizing profusely as she scanned my boarding pass. After being informed that no boarding calls would be made, I made my way to the First Class section.



The lounge shares the same decor with its T3 counterpart. I still prefer the latter with its higher ceilings.



There was a decent selection of hot food, but I wasn't hungry. I've never enjoyed SQ's lounge food anyway, apart from those served in The Private Room at T3, which is the airline's equivalent of the Concorde Room.

I made myself a cup of Earl Grey and spent my entire stay texting my friends in LA as we made plans for the weekend.

At about 0515 the same Japanese lounge dragon came over and informed me that it was boarding time. So much for the "no boarding calls" policy, I suppose

Boarding was at gate E26 which was quite a walk from the lounge. It's just 2 gates away from Terminal 1.



Boarding was well underway when I arrived. I was invited to "board immediately to ensure a timely departure". Okay then...

The entry to the door 1 jetway, marked "First Class", was roped off. The ground staff pointed to door 2, so I just assumed they were using only 1 jetway, although I did find it very strange for SIN.

Flight: NH802
Dep: Singapore 0550
Arr: Tokyo-Narita 1400
Aircraft: B777-300ER J
Seat: 2K


A warm Japanese greeting at the door marked the start of my NH experience. As I crossed the mini Business cabin into my sanctuary at the front end of the plane, I was greeted by no less than 3 FAs.

There are tons of trip reports on FlyerTalk with better pictures and more detailed explanations of the NH "Square" F seat, so I'll spare you the details you've probably read about a dozen times. The lack of decent lighting, coupled with my substandard photography skills make for disappointing pictures, so I do hope you'd excuse me for that.



One of the FAs from the J cabin came up to me and said "Sorry to keep you waiting as I will get your flight attendant to be with you shortly."

She then hurried towards the front and disappeared into the galley. I heard a loud gasp, presumably from the surprised FA who was waiting for me at door 1L. The seemingly stunned FA came over and bowed as she apologized for not noticing me earlier. I told her it was really no big deal, but my reassurances did little to dispel her apologetic look.

She introduced herself as Kimura, and offered me a drink which was promptly delivered.



A pair of slippers were waiting at the seat along with a shoe horn.



I was rather curious to see what amenities NH would offer on this 7 hour intra-Asia flight. I was a bit surprised when Kimura returned with a pair of pajamas, although this was pretty much a day flight.



More importantly, an amenity kit was provided. Sadly, Rimowa was replaced by Samsonite. I was looking forward to adding an NH kit to my collection of LH, BR and TG ones, but I guess it's just not meant to be.

On the bright side, the contents were of decent quality.



Kimura then came over with a tray of even more amenities. After realizing I was about to take a picture, Kimura quickly rearranged a few items, as if the presentation wasn't neat enough to begin with.



Some basic items were expected, such as toothbrushes, earplugs and socks. What I found surprising were things like "leg refreshing sheet' and "sleep support fragrance". Only the Japanese are capable of such creativity ^

She encouraged me to take as many items as I wanted. I was, after all, the only one in the cabin. I still had to exercise some self-restraint, though. If I had my way I wouldn't even have spared the flower.
SilverChris is online now  
Old Aug 5, 15, 10:58 am
  #6  
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The noise-cancelling headphones were superb. Sadly I didn't use it a whole lot because the IFE selection was just mediocre.


Using the headphones was more than a plug-and-play affair, apparently.


As we began our pushback, the crew lined up along the aisles and bowed in perfect unison. Despite the left side of the cabin being empty, the FA who stood beside 1A bowed without a hint of awkwardness.

After a quick taxi, we took off at precisely 0600, even before most of the early morning long-haul arrivals.

The purser came over and introduced herself just as the seatbelt sign was switched off, informing me of the shorter-than-expected flight time and a typhoon that won't be affecting my connecting flight.

If the way she communicates with her (only) First Class passenger is any indication, she was definitely one of those no-nonsense pursers. The kind who'd make any junior FA tremble when they hear her name.

Don't get me wrong. She was polite, but not overly friendly. Her confidence along with a facial expression that was friendly yet serious at the same time made sure that I knew exactly who was the one in charge. She handed me the menu and wine list, with a drink recommendation that sounded almost like a request that I was expected to comply with.



It's never a good sign when the offerings for the main meal service occupies less than a full page, with a huge spacing in between, for a flight that's nearly 7 hours long. It's rather disappointing that both the western and Japanese options were "petite", which is a polite way of saying you won't be getting a full breakfast. The offerings were no better than an average Business Class breakfast. To make matters worse, there weren't any choices for the western option, so the entire meal service had only two options.

I wasn't sure what to expect before this. I could've checked the menu online but refrained from doing so as I like being surprised. And I was, but not in a way I was expecting.

However, they did try to make up for the disappointing breakfast offering with the light dishes menu. Quite a substantial one, I must say.


It's clear that NH expected most of their passengers to make up for lost sleep and order something light later on during the flight, but I still find it bizarre that they can't have a proper breakfast service in First Class on a 7 hour international flight.

A minute later, Kimura came over with the only dish on the flight that resembled a First Class offering.


I've always enjoyed watching the sunrise on flights to Japan, though it felt a bit odd when the sunrise was right after takeoff, rather than shortly before landing on the usual overnight flights.


As I was browsing through the lackluster IFE selection, Kimura showed up again, apologizing for her "interruption". She was taking meal orders, and I ordered the Japanese meal. I appreciate how proactive she was in recommending certain food and drink options, despite not being fluent in English. To be fair, my Japanese could use some brushing up

I heard a pop sound coming form the galley, and we all know what that means.



Pouring a glass of champagne might seem like a routine affair on other airlines, but is was much more than that to Kimura. She seemed genuinely proud to present the expensive bottle of bubbly to me, and poured it with much grace and precision. It's something she's probably done countless times, but she still managed to make it feel like a ceremonious affair ^



She returned to the galley, promising to deliver my breakfast shortly. Alone once again, I sipped the glass of fine champagne in a slightly reclined position as I immersed myself in that paperback I'd been neglecting for months.


Half a chapter later, Kimura arrived with the "petite Japanese course" I was curious to try.



After placing the tray ever so delicately in front of me, she went on to explain each and every item, down to the pack of seaweed. She wasn't just reciting the descriptions found on the menu, but even explaining how it was cooked/prepared, and how healthy the meal was.

The presentation resembled a Business Class meal, although I'm not sure what more to expect given the limited number of dishes. In fact, I've had more elaborate Japanese meals in Business before, so this was nothing short of a disappointment. In fact, the entire menu seemed like a Business Class offering at best, albeit with a slightly wider array of snacks.

I finished the piece of salmon and nibbled on everything else. My dissatisfaction with the meal didn't go unnoticed by Kimura, who seemed to be devastated that I hardly touched the food. She asked if something was wrong with the food, and I assured her it was just my appetite that hadn't kicked in yet. That did little to appease her disappointment, which made me wonder if she personally prepared the meal.

A dozen apologies later, my table was cleared, and I went to change into my pajamas. I returned to find my seat converted into a bed.

Having found nothing in the IFE that excited me, I slipped under the sheets, hoping to catch a quick nap although it was barely midday.



I found the blanket to be very soft and nice, with a perfect degree of thickness. Unfortunately, it was far too small for me, and I'm barely 5'10".


Kimura made another appearance, this time asking if I'd like the window shades to be down. I've never had an FA asking for my permission to lower the shades, as I'm used to being forced to do so in consideration of fellow passengers (so they won't be awaken and bother the crew for drinks ). So this is what it feels like to have a private jet...

I did eventually fall asleep, waking up with nearly 3 hours to go.



After another unsuccessful search of something interesting to watch, I gave up and decided to just de-stress with Ed Sheeran's latest album.
SilverChris is online now  
Old Aug 5, 15, 11:15 am
  #7  
 
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Good to know that NH is running three cabin F to SIN now... Must begin scheming

Looking forward to the rest of your report!
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Old Aug 5, 15, 11:43 am
  #8  
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I was starting to get peckish, which meant it was time for the pre-arrival meal.

I ordered an ice coffee to start.


I found out there's a beef bowl on offer, which I immediately went for. I quite like Japanese beef bowls, especially those served in Yoshinoya restaurants. Sadly this was quite a different kind, but Kimura assured me that it wasn't half bad, and it wasn't



Dessert was offered, which I gladly accepted along with a nice cup of green tea.


I asked Kimura if there was a Yoshinoya outlet at NRT, as I had a real craving for it. I was even willing to go landside and even change terminals if necessary. My 3 hour transit was made longer by our early arrival, so I had enough time to make that happen.

She wasn't sure if there was one at the airport, but she told me she'd check with her purser and get back to me.

Now that the lighting was better, here's a shot of my cabin


All too soon, we began our descent into NRT.

It was a lovely day, with no signs of that typhoon the purser was talking about earlier on.


Speaking of the purser, she made her second appearance of the entire flight, this time to thank me for flying with NH. Kimura was by her side, who told me I'd enjoy the food served on the flight to LAX a lot more. Evidently, she had not forgotten about my disappointment of the first meal service. She also didn't forget about that Yoshinoya question I asked earlier.

"The captain radioed the ground to ask, and I am very sorry to inform you that it is unavailable at Narita."



I didn't know what to say. They actually got the captain to check with the ground staff if there was a certain fast-food restaurant at the airport. How cool is that?! The best part is, Kimura was apologizing as though it was her fault that Yoshinoya didn't have an outlet there.

I thanked both the purser and Kimura for their amazing service, who bowed and wished me a pleasant flight to LAX.

We landed a good 50 minutes ahead of schedule, and I was first off the aircraft.



What can I say? My first flight in NH F was nothing short of amazing. The crew's attention to detail was what made it an experience I won't be forgetting anytime soon. The food left a lot to be desired, but the crew more than made up for it. Despite having a (very) light load in F, Kimura didn't have the "take it easy" attitude, and that's a trait which is far too uncommon these days..

It broke my heart thinking that it'd be a long time before I get my next solo ride in F, though I later learned that my next experience would be much sooner than I thought.

SilverChris is online now  
Old Aug 6, 15, 8:59 am
  #9  
 
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Posts: 96
Very nice report so far!

I am flying NH F SFO to NRT and NRT to SIN in December, your report is a good indication that I will have an amazing experience! Can't wait to read your next part to LAX (another solo F cabin???)
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Old Aug 7, 15, 1:59 am
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I'm really enjoying the TR. Thanks for making the effort to write it.
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Old Aug 7, 15, 2:57 pm
  #11  
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Wonderful, great pictures.
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Old Aug 8, 15, 1:21 am
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Originally Posted by SilverChris View Post
"The captain radioed the ground to ask, and I am very sorry to inform you that it is unavailable at Narita."
Hilarious ^
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Old Aug 17, 15, 8:27 am
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Sorry this update took so long. I'm currently on the road without my laptop, so I have to rely on computers in hotel/airline lounges. Excuses aside, here's the next part of this TR.

***

Transit security was a breeze, with the officers treating passengers as guests rather than potential criminals. With a over 3 hours to kill, I took a slow stroll to the lounge.



The attendant manning the front desk greeted my arrival with a polite bow, and informed me of a delay to my flight.

"Boarding will be delayed by 10 minutes. I am truly sorry for the inconvenience", she said in a very apologetic manner.

Many airlines don't even consider 10 minutes a delay, but to NH, it's pretty much the end of the world

Apologies aside, I made my way down the corridor lined with stylish black walls to the First Class section, where my arrival was met with bows and greetings in a language I don't understand.



Black seems to be the colour of choice.


Just as I took a seat near the windows, I was offered a drink and a cold towel.


While the lounge has a lacklustre food selection by Asian standards, the nice tarmac views do make up for it. I'm still trying to decide if I prefer watching widebodies in action over a pack of nuts here in the NH lounge or having a gourmet meal in SQ's (mostly) windowless The Private Room where one is constantly watched by no fewer than 2-3 waiters.



The booze selection was pretty decent.


With a long journey ahead I decided to take a shower. While NH might stinge on the food, their shower rooms are excellent, as is the case with their HND international lounge.



The basket contains a whole bunch of stuff that one can't possibly use up in one go.


After a leisurely shower I realized I didn't have my hotel confirmation with me, so it was off to the business center to print another copy.



"Business center" might be a bit of a stretch as the other cubicles were occupied by Japanese businessmen relaxing with headphones on.

Anyway, how hard can it be to print a simple hotel confirmation from my Gmail account? Turns out, clicking "print" was like trying to fit a cube down a round hole. Nothing seemed to happen. It seems there were instructions on the sole printing machine, with flowcharts to match different circumstances (ANA Mileage Club member, non-AMC member, USB printing, internet printing). It made absolutely no sense to me, and the computer's language was in Japanese, so I got an attendant to help.



She seemed to be just as lost as I was, clicking every option on the computer to see if something popped out of the printer. After 15 minutes of hopping between the computer and the printer she got another attendant to come over, so there were 3 of us in the small cubicle. And that didn't solve the problem.

By then, my boarding time was getting near. I didn't want to pressure them as they were really trying to figure things out, but I had to point out that I didn't have all day to play what was essentially a guessing game on the computer. That totally freaked out the attendants, prompting them to call for even more backup. A minute later, there were literally six attendants trying to help me print one page. I felt horrible for getting so many people involved, but I did find it amusing that six attendant couldn't print one straightforward email.

One of them suggested calling the United Club to see if I could use their printer, so three of them left for the front desk "to confirm if it is acceptable to use their computer".

Meanwhile, I realized their version of Internet Explorer (yuck) wasn't supported by Gmail anymore, so I quickly downloaded Google Chrome, and a minute later, printed my confirmation with absolutely no issues.

The two remaining attendants who were looking over my shoulder were shocked, and proceeded to apologize for the inconvenience. I told them they had nothing to apologize for, though I really wondered how six attendants in one of the world's most advanced countries couldn't figure out how to print a simple email. I'm blaming NH for having a stupidly complicated printing system.

Before I knew it, my short stay in the lounge came to an end. The gate was just a short walk away, where long queues had already formed.


I overheard some passengers complaining about how long and painful the flight was going to be, but I couldn't wait to board the flight I wished would be a few hours longer.

SilverChris is online now  
Old Aug 18, 15, 12:14 am
  #14  
 
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Loving this so far. Debating flying ANA in a few months and this is great. Can't wait for the next installment.
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Old Aug 18, 15, 4:03 am
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by Shocker077 View Post
Can't wait for the next installment.
Dito ^
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