My first Scoot experience!

It was an extremely last minute decision made by an ever-indecisive me to travel for a short holiday, so it wasn’t surprising that I ended up (again) having to fork out a sizeable amount for the airfare. Despite this, of course, what I paid to fly Scoot was still relatively cheaper than if I had chosen the full-service carriers. For some weird reason, perhaps in order to sell the premium seats, the Scoot-Biz tickets were actually on offer at a lower price than the “Fly” option, which does not even include checked luggage. I could have gotten it cheaper but the time factor made it such that by the time I got round to making up my mind, I had to pay more.

Scoot-Biz offers priority check-in with a separate queue, so it was a breeze to get my boarding pass and luggage deposited. The fare comes with this privilege, together with 20kg of checked bags, meals and entertainment (streamed on your own device, e.g. iPad).

The 2 things that they could improve on, one of which I believe is already in consideration and in the works, is online check-in. Currently, they only offer check-in service at the airport, which if you are flying in Economy and not early, can mean long, snaking queues. The other thing I would like to see would probably be the distinction of checked bags for Scoot-Biz customers. I don’t know if they tag the bags separately, but on both out and inbound flights, I realised that I had to wait a long time for my bag to appear on the carousel, even though there were other Biz passengers whose bags came out earlier, together with normal Economy bags. So Scoot if you ever get to read this, a suggestion and point to consider perhaps?

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The Biz fare gets you ample legroom, much more than the usual Economy class on even full-service carriers anyway, at 38-inch (as described on their website), and the seats are leather. Well, I don’t really mind if they are leather or not as long as they are clean and keeps me warm in the cold cabin, but it was comfortable for me, with lots of legroom available. Besides, since most people tend to fly Economy for such short flights, it means that the Biz cabin is generally emptier, at least for the outbound portion that I took. The inbound flight was fuller and as such, even Biz was almost full, but I was lucky to get both seats to myself next to the window!

Biz passengers also get priority boarding but there wasn’t any control exercised by the ground staff to ensure this was followed. Rather, the moment the boarding announcement was made, everyone just rushed in, segregated only by the use of separate aerobridges. However, upon arrival, there was only one aerobridge provided, and Biz passengers ended up having to exit through the common door, after a batch of Economy passengers located between the Biz cabin and the door.

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Food is included and there are several options available, whether it is a full hot meal such as pastas or rice, or lighter meals like wraps and salads. For a small premium, you could even upgrade your meal to enjoy a Haagen Daaz ice-cream and a premium meal choice. Each meal comes with a Toblerone chocolate bar and non-alcoholic drink, and a complimentary cup of water.

I chose the soya chicken with rice, even though originally I had contemplated a vegetarian curry option. It wasn’t too bad but oddly, the soya chicken reminded me of canned braised meat dices. It was a nostalgic feeling that I got from that, and partly, I seemed to feel like I was eating rice dumplings.

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On the return flight, I chose the Teriyaki Chicken wrap, which wasn’t too bad but it was served cold. I don’t know if wraps are meant to be served cold but it would have been nice if it was warmed up, and although I suppose I could have requested for it, I couldn’t be bothered at that point as the return flight was fairly full and the flight attendants seemed to be already having their hands full.IMG_0251-0.JPG

So perhaps I will make other trips using Scoot in future, I don’t know. It isn’t compelling, depending on which destinations I am considering and also the flight departure times. If I could have found flights on other airlines with competitive pricing but other options in terms of the airport and the flight times, I would probably gone with those other options. But if you can get a good fare for the Scoot Biz, I would say, go for it and give it a try!

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Pampering thyself (part 2)

Part 2 would invariable be talking about the return trip from Seoul. Obviously on the flight from Seoul to Singapore, there wasn’t the Book-the-Chef service available but I was still looking forward to the food being served because I’ve had the opportunity to try the premium class food a few times when I was working at the airline, and I really do think the quality is pretty decent. I still don’t get why people complain about airplane food all the time like they are eating it everyday for every meal. C’mon people, be a little thankful! And since it’s already paid for, why let the food go to waste right? By saying this, I am not even talking about the premium class food, even in cattle class, whether it is Singapore Airlines or not, I do think that food is fairly decent. At least it is edible.

So for starters, they are still serving the same thing, i.e. satay! I do really quite enjoy the satay, which I have had only one other time I think.

IMG_9971.JPGI had the chance to check out the in-flight catering facility before, the place that prepares all these food and so I guess that led to me appreciating what is being put out in front of us.

Unfortunately, the return flight was quite full. So besides the fact that I had someone sitting next to me as compared to the trip to Seoul, being seated at the last row of the cabin means that I am the last to be asked what I would like to have for the meal, and everyone else seemed to want the same thing as me. So despite that there were 4 choices available, there was no more “stock” of that one option I wanted.

At least the appetiser was quite good though. The satay and the salad made up a little for it. And of course, that huge bun you see on the left. I really like these soft buns that they serve on the plane, sometimes it is the highlight of my meal, not that the rest of the food is that bad, but because I really really had an unfathomable love of bread.

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Ah… I really miss this. Where you get the food being served course by course on a tray table complete with table cloth and salt and pepper shakers! In economy where common folks like me usually travel in, we can only be contented with all our food arranged compactly and neatly (usually anyway) in small rectangular trays, much like a tetris game. That is if we are not travelling in those fuss-free flights with meal service where they just dump a burger and some snacks on your table along with a plastic cup of a beverage.

So this was the other main that I could think of eating. I had wanted the fish but it was not available anymore, and I didn’t want sweet and sour pork (which is to me like zi-char and I would rather have that at a zi-char stall) nor the beef.

IMG_9973.JPGThe chicken wasn’t all that bad, particularly since it was served up with a dollop of mashed potato and some grilled vegetables but I wasn’t in the mood for chicken, so I had to do the unthinkable act of wasting it.

IMG_9974.JPGAnd to finish off the meal, I asked for a cappucino! I think I also took some desserts, i.e. chocolates but I can’t recall now already if I took the ice-cream. It really is a lot of food for one sitting but since I have already used my miles to redeem for this flight, might as well enjoy to the fullest right? Call me a cheapo if you want, but hey I don’t get to fly business class otherwise.

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Christmas that came late

Finally back from the land of Santa Claus! Again. Visited Finland in September last year and then, it was already chilly despite that it was supposed to be autumn, or so I thought. Well, by some twist of fate I was to return again, and while I was lamenting to some extent that I don’t think I’ll be seeing snow in 2013, well well, you never know. So never say never.

It was a Sunday morning when I arrived in Helsinki, taking a flight from Singapore on Saturday night and flying a long way to Paris. I was honestly quite apprehensive about the transit stop because it had a window of 1.5 hours. Seems like a long time, but actually it’s pretty short, considering that you can never factor enough time for possible flight delays on the inbound, and then foreign airports are sometimes quite confusing, to say the least. Besides, I had one transit experience at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle, and it wasn’t a good one because I missed my flight then due to the extremely tedious process of getting from one terminal to the other, clearing passport control and security checkpoints. It was just a nightmare. Thank God everything went fairly smoothly and I landed rather on time, and by some rushing and running about at 7am in the morning in terminals that don’t feel like they had any heating on, I managed to reach the designated gate in about 50 minutes.

It was an Air France flight that I took to Paris, which I never had a great impression of. You see, I am quite the fan of SQ, even if its standards may have slid much over the years, but Asian carriers generally pamper their customers more than the European or American ones. Surprisingly, the AF flight that took me to CDG was ok, maybe because the aircraft was an A380, which should be relatively new, and perhaps because I was sick (again), I did manage a little sleep. The inflight entertainment was quite limited, in my opinion at least, or I just was not interested in what they had. Food was ok, and during the long haul flight they actually don’t have much water service. I found out that they had, albeit infrequently, and there was a cart filled with some drinks outside the toilets that we could help ourselves to. Ok, self service I suppose? I was routed through Amsterdam on my return flight on KLM, which was pretty similar to AF but the plane was older, a 777-300ER (I think) but luckily they do have VOD, which however did not have too many films I wanted to watch. Overall, I think I only caught 2 or 3 shows on the whole trip.

So then I got to Helsinki, and my hotel, just before noon, then decided to head out to the city for a short walk about since I didn’t want to start sleeping the day away. It was gloomy, and honestly, quite depressing. It was really cold, like what I had always been told by my colleagues about the Scandinavian winters. By about an hour of being outside, despite wearing gloves (which probably didn’t work) when I was not trying to take pictures, my fingers were already numb, and afterward indoors they swelled so much that it was so painful. 😦

Even the sea was frozen. Or from what I could see, it seemed like it was frozen. 20130120-222935.jpgIt was just a short one week trip this time, and then on Wednesday evening it started snowing, and it didn’t stop until Thursday. This was taken on Thursday morning when I was having breakfast. I typically wake up really early when I am in Europe due to the time difference, or maybe I just prefer to have a slow leisurely breakfast when the place still isn’t too busy.

20130120-223021.jpgFeels very Christmas-like? Wished I was here really around Christmas time, although there probably wouldn’t have been any activity, and I was told it was even colder then. I can’t imagine.

It was sub-zero everyday of the week that I was there in Helsinki, but usually single digit minus, or sometimes in the nights or early mornings while I am still in the hotel, perhaps -10 to -15. But one morning when I woke…

20130120-223046.jpgHonestly? There seemed to be some cold snap that went through Europe that day, because from the news channels, the weather forecasts for all the nearby European cities showed a large drop in temperatures continent-wide. Strangely, this happened last year too, in February when I was in Italy. It was cold, but because I stayed in most of the time, it was still bearable, although in the office, the heating didn’t work that well so mostly I will still have my thick sweater and scarf on as much as I can. I don’t know how my colleagues could just wear normal clothes like we do. Perhaps they have really great thermal wear beneath or they are just used to it.

Oh but the scenery in the Nordic countries is really amazing. The colours in the sky were so pretty when the sun finally made its appearance towards the end of the week, but of course the iPhone camera is quite hopeless there. It’s a pity I could only visit Helsinki and not the other Nordic countries/cities. But I guess it would have been better to be there for holidays rather than work.

20130120-223105.jpgSeriously, I need to think about putting a stop to the business trips someday. Maybe at least not in this same line and not in such conditions. I just pray for the right door(s) to be opened soon, this year.

United

I’m home!

Not the first time I’m flying United, but it’s really one of those rare times. I remembered ever flying United to Hong Kong in the past and it wasn’t too bad. Good because it is extremely early to leave Singapore, as is with most flights that go to the States, and it returns really late from HKG. But then maybe it was too early, that I have to get up at unearthly hours to reach the airport, and the price became not so good that I changed options when I’m visiting Hong Kong.

In my last flight for work to the US area, actually to Mexico City, I flew United from US to Mexico City, and it really wasn’t too bad. It was sort of like the usual domestic flight in US where you don’t get anything, even though the flight can be about 4 hours, enough for me to fly to HKG already. It’s usually a small plane, like an Airbus 319 of sorts, whatever, the kind where you have just one aisle in the middle and three seats on either side. There isn’t any service, and usually people buy their own food onboard or they just choose to sleep for the duration of the flight, while some or most, would either arm themselves with a book or their own inflight entertainment, i.e. iPad, laptop, etc.

I think as compared to international United flights, these domestic flights were considerably better. Perhaps because they are not as long in terms of number of hours, and perhaps also because you already have set your expectations really low. I used to think that it’s odd for me to be travelling on these flights where I am perhaps the only Asian on the flight. You just don’t get many Asians going to Mexico City, or maybe even Austin, although I have seen quite a number of Asians who seem to live in Austin.

The B747 that flies to/fro Singapore-Narita on United had no personal inflight entertainment in the Y class, all you get is this common screen which I didn’t care for anyway since the movies they were screening I’d already watched in the cinema or on other flights. Then there was the B777 that I flew on from Narita to San Francisco, which wasn’t too bad because there was VOD. But the one I came back on yesterday didn’t. I think I have been too pampered with VOD on most planes recently that I just cannot believe there are still flights with such ancient inflight programs that are not on-demand. I watched one movie and tried to sleep for the rest of the 10.5-hour flight, and failed. So I watched some drama episodes on my phone.

It was really a back-breaking trip that I made from here to Austin and back. If you’ve read my tweets or facebook or earlier blog entry you’d have known my SFO-AUS flight got cancelled. But it was just that the overall trip that took almost 30 hours or more, is just too much to bear.

Last night on the final leg of the flight back from Narita I just couldn’t take it anymore and so I think I did manage to sleep a little. I just dozed off unknowingly.

Service-wise, I think we all know that US carriers can’t compare when the comparative object is an Asian carrier, it doesn’t even have to be SQ. The service is not bad, but it isn’t good; just something basic, so don’t expect too much. That’s the way to go. Where food is concerned, I have heard my friends complain about SQ food quality getting lousier these days. I think maybe they haven’t tried United, or maybe the non-Asian airlines. The food portion is something I think a typical American would find inadequate, and it is just bad. In terms of the 4 flights I took that actually served food, the food quality just got worse. So maybe it’s a great idea because I always complain about over-eating and feeling bloated from long-haul flights. This time I ate perhaps 20% of the food each time, so I didn’t need to feel bloated. In fact last night when I got home I felt hungry so I had to eat something before going to sleep.

Given a choice, I think I won’t choose them. Domestically they are ok, but internationally if I have a choice I think I’d go with other choices. During my flight home last night, I suddenly thought, hey they are like a budget airline that has a little bit more frills, i.e. the food and the common screen. But really, you can actually do without them. Although I think they do have better planes with better amenities; my colleague who flew from Germany to the US actually said they have in-flight power supply in the seat, i.e. like the newer SQ planes where you can charge your phone with a USB cable. But oh wait, maybe he was in J class or the EcoPlus.. Hmm. Maybe that’s what makes the difference.

flight path

The loveliest part about a flight is cloud-surfing. That was the hobby that an ex-colleague-turned-commercial-pilot named as one of his interests. I wonder if they ever get used to all those breath-taking views they see all the time when they fly. I only tried once when I was in a flight simulator at the training facility of one of my ex-companies, and it was already amazing enough (ok maybe I’m just easily impressed) with a simulated take-off and landing (in various simulated weather settings) from the vantage point of a cockpit.

I can only make do with looking out from the tiny cabin windows at the side, and usually I don’t get a window seat because I don’t really like being crammed right on the inside of a row of seats unless of course the flight is empty and I get the whole row to myself so it’s easy to move in and out. Or when I am seated in the emergency exit row where I don’t have to go about “excusing me” to get out over two other persons.

On the most recent flight back from Bangkok, I was seated along the aisle on a 2-seater row towards the back of the plane, so the window was nearer to me and I could just glance out and get some pictures at the same time.

It was a late afternoon flight and the sun was just beginning to set a little as I said goodbye to Bangkok. I don’t know if I will return in the near term, be it work or holidays, but I don’t have a very strong motivation to go back. It’s just too warm there somehow, unless I can get past that first. Phuket or Krabi, maybe, if and when that happens, since being at the beach, I am fine with perspiring but aside from that, hmm nope.

As we neared Singapore twilight descended and this was the striking cobalt blue sky that I had mentioned before. The almost-full moon was beaming brightly enough to catch a tiny picture of it.

And as the plane finally touched down on the runway at Changi, the sun was just disappearing beyond the horizon. During the flight, I was on the east-facing side of the plane, if not I guess I could have caught some sunset view from the plane too.

On this trip, I was booked on TG and although the plane was not too bad, I think their service definitely wasn’t fantastic. A rather new plane was used on the return flight, a 777-300ER-alike (if I’m comparing it to the SQ fleet, which I think should apply across airlines) and it had VOD which was really useful for such a short flight that I was on. But the flight attendants… they were not even professionally polite. I suppose such short flights usually meant it’s a turnaround, which often equates to a negligible amount of allowance and perhaps that’s why the sour faces, but it’s a job still and the least they could do is to display some professionalism? The way they went about serving meals and handing out amenities to passengers was as though they were doing it so grudgingly.

Thailand is marketed as the Land of Smiles but apparently their flagship carrier is lacking in the smiles department.

sawadee ka

I was back in town for two weeks, and then it was off to Thailand, Land of Smiles. Or whatever it’s called now.

This time, the company booked me on Thai Airways, so no SQ for me. Actually I’m ok with it for this trip, since it isn’t such a long flight from SIN to BKK, and honestly, most Asian airlines are fine. There was this TG flight attendant whom I encountered onboard who wasn’t so friendly, so maybe she wasn’t having such a great day. But thankfully the flight attendant serving my aisle was really friendly and the meal served was good. Of course, in-flight meals in Y class is never really excellent but it’s edible and sometimes, can be above average. Besides, my favourite part of the whole meal is the bread bun (yes go ahead and laugh) so it isn’t that hard to fulfil.

There was no inflight entertainment since the flight was so short at slightly more than 2 hours, plus I didn’t really feel the 2 hours that much.

The company put us up at an apartment that’s relatively near to the office and it’s nothing short of great for me. Went out on Sunday evening upon arrival and it’s just hot through and through. Even though Singapore is pretty much as warm as Bangkok can be, it seems to feel more unbearable here. Perhaps it’s the congestion of traffic that leads to a whole build-up of hot air in the atmosphere that makes it so bad. But luckily it’s much cooler now, since during the day I’m in office, which is intolerably cold, and the air wasn’t so still at night when I was out. And last night it was raining so the mood to head out was totally dampened.

I really don’t mind staying in a nice apartment like what I have now, but definitely not here. It’s too hot, and not enough air-conditioned places around to make it better. But Bangkok is still quite a good city, with delicious and yet affordable food, though the last time I remembered being here was probably 5 years ago.

back on local soil

After being diligent in posting daily in January, I think I’m starting to slack this month. It first began because I went away during CNY and on certain days I didn’t have a proper connection to do any form of blogging.

And I realised that there are just days I don’t feel like posting. I’ll still be updating regularly of course. I can’t afford to neglect my blog because I like to write too much about anything and everything.

I had to sit through an uncomfortable flight last night for the whole of 7.5 hours, and I was so glad when the plane finally touched down at Changi and I was able to collect my luggage promptly and head off for home. The weather isn’t comfortable at all at 26 deg, when I was just getting acclimatised to the single-digit temperatures in Tokyo, but at least there is a familiarity that is somewhat comforting.

The thing about taking non-SQ flights is the larger mix of passengers’ nationalities on board, and it helps greatly during customs clearance locally because you will see that the automated clearance counters are typically quite empty, and so it makes clearing the customs a breeze. Then, our ground and baggage handlers definitely have to be lauded on efficiency because being amongst the lucky ones to get out early and not having to queue for Dad’s alcohol at duty free, the wait for the luggage wasn’t long at all.

Today was an exceptionally warm day out, and I had to be out running various errands such that I wasn’t able to get enough rest even though I went to bed only at close to 2am, because I was quite determined to catch up on the pineapple tarts that I had missed out when I decided to fly off to Tokyo on the night of the 初一. And the catching up continued today when I came home with the prawn rolls and bak kwa, and then… my parents actually saved me a huge bowl of sharks’ fins soup they cooked! The family tradition is to have sharks’ fins soup each year on the second morning, but because I wasn’t around I whined that I am missing out this year. So a bowl of it was scooped and frozen for me to have it tonight for dinner, together with chicken curry that my mum decided to cook. For a week without exercising, and all that good food that is lining my stomach, I am quite hesitant about standing on the weighing scales because I just know for sure how reality is going to come crashing down on me.

There are some things that I had wanted to write about, but I shall leave that for another time because it’s really right about time for me to go off to slumber land before I return to the daily grind, even though yes I know, it’s tgif.