Part 6(A) – SQ 15 First Class (SFO – ICN)

All good things must come to an end.  After 5 cities (comprising 4 flights, 1 train ride and 3 bus rides), it was time to go home.  What better way to come home than on Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines operates 2 daily flights to and from San Francisco i.e. SQ2/1 (SIN-HKG-SFO) and SQ16/15 (SIN-ICN-SFO).  My initial intention was to travel on SQ1 with a short stopover in Hong Kong for one last round of good food before returning home.  However, I was not able to get 2 First Class tickets on SQ1.  Therefore, I had to settle with SQ15.

The few differences between SQ1 and SQ15 (besides the stopover destination) were:

  • Timing – SQ1 has a better timing arriving into Singapore (in noon) while SQ15 arrives at 1:10 am! SQ1 is considered a redeye flight while SQ15 is a ‘daytime’ flight
  • Service – SQ1 is a redeye flight hence meal service provided will be supper, breakfast and another breakfast ex-HKG while SQ15 is a ‘daytime’ flight hence meal service will be lunch (full service minus satay), light dinner and dinner ex-ICN (full service minus caviar)
  • Cabin – currently SQ1 is being served by 77WN (2006 cabin) while SQ15 is still being served by the older 77W (2006 interior). This will soon change when SQ15 will be equipped with the 4 class 777-300ER (with a reduction in First Class capacity, making it harder to score an award ticket).

After trying out Singapore Airlines Suites 3 times, this was my first time ever in Singapore Airlines First Class (and also my first ever in an SQ 77W).

 

SQ15 departs at 12:50 pm from San Francisco International Airport.  Due to a hoax bomb threat on SQ1 a few days before, I decided to arrive early in anticipation of a stricter security check.  We left our hotel at 9:30 am and we went to the airport on a UberX (which cost us about $31).  Traffic was again smooth and we arrived in airport in about 30 minutes (as it was Thanksgiving day).

The check in counter was quite empty when we arrived.  There was no queue at the First Class counter while Business Class counter had only 1 person.  The queue in the Economy section wasn’t too long either.  After checking in our luggage and getting our boarding passes, we proceeded to immigration and security check.  Premium class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members has a special Priority Lane.  It took us only about 20 minutes to get through the security and we made it into the transit area at about 10:30 am.  We had almost 2 hours to burn before boarding, hence we decided to try out both United Global First Lounge and Silverkris Lounge.

 

We started off with United’s Global First Lounge as it was nearer to our departure gate (G96).  After passing security, one needs to walk straight ahead for about 5 to 7 minutes before reaching the lounge.  Silverkris Lounge on the other hand was just a short walk after security check (turn right after security, one will encounter United Club.  Walk further in and you will see both Silverkris and EVA Air Lounge).  After my encounter with Boston’s United Club, I was worried that they would deny my entry.  I did check with the check in counter and they told me that I would be eligible to enter the Global First Lounge.  Thankfully, we did not encounter any problem and we were welcomed in.  The proper lounge was located one level lower (one can take the stairs or the escalator).  The lounge was quite spacious and not at all crowded.  This was probably due to the more limited access as the lounge is restricted only to First Class passengers:

 

Access policy

The following customers may access the United Global First lounge by showing their United boarding pass for a flight arriving or departing on a same-day (within 24 hours) itinerary.

  • United Global First customers traveling on long-haul international flights*
  • Star Alliance™ First customers departing on international flights

These eligible United Global First Lounge visitors are allowed one adult or child to accompany them as a guest.

*Long-haul international flights are between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East or South America.

United Global Services® members departing Frankfurt, Germany or Munich, Germany and traveling in United Global First may access the Lufthansa First Class Lounge. Some restrictions apply.

 

Things on offer in United Global First Lounge San Francisco Airport

 

The lounge was very elegantly decorated with a nice ambience (but there were no hints of any Thanksgiving decoration).  Sofas were available with side tables (equipped with charging points).  Nearer the buffet area, there were also dining tables.  Food selection still paled compared to what Silverkris First Class lounge in Changi offered but the food quality was pretty good.  Beverage selection wasn’t shabby either and they even had Sake!  However, there was no hot food on offer during that morning.

As the lounge was very close to the boarding gates, one is very near to the planes.  However, view of planes were partially obstructed from the window design of the lounge.  This is understandable and is necessary to give the lounge more privacy.

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Crouching me, hidden Jumbo.. So close yet so far

 

We decided to hop over to Silverkris Lounge for a quick look.  When we entered, it was a stark contrast from what we had in United’s First Lounge.  While United’s design was elegant and classic, Silverkris Lounge was more spartan.  Food selection was worse than what United had to offer (although they had some hot food).  Silverkris Lounge had one item that reminded Singapore travellers of home, Singapore Prawn Noodle.  I decided to give it a try.  No doubt the soup was tasty, the freshness of the prawns left much to be desired.  The prawns in United’s lounge were much fresher.  Silverkris Lounge however offered a much better view for plane spotters.  After 10 minutes, we decided to hop back to United’s lounge. Soon it was time to board the plane.

 

Date : 26 November 2015

Flight : SQ15

Plane : Boeing 777-300ER (9V-SWT)

Photo taken : iPhone 6+

Seats : 2C/2D

Duration : 12 hours 50 minutes

 

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9v-SWT

Our bird for today is a 6 year old Boeing 777-300ER (9V-SWT), which happened to be the last 77W to sport the older cabin design (9V-SWU onwards uses the 2013 cabin design).  This would be my first experience in a SQ 77W (and also my first experience in Singapore Airlines First Class).  Suites and First Class differed only on the hard product, the soft product remains the same.

We arrived at our gate at 12:30 pm (boarding started at 12:20 pm) and we were the last to board the First Class cabin.  My first impression was that the crew seemed less friendly than my SQ26 flight.  Although we were greeted at the door, no one escorted us to our seats (a small issue though) and the general feeling was that they were less warm.  My guess is that this was probably due to a full load in First Class.  It also didn’t help that Business Class passengers boarded from 1L (instead of 2L), thus stretching the First Class crew further (as they needed to deal with more incoming pax).

As usual, pre-departure service was provided the moment we sat down and our meal preference was taken.  Just like our flight to FRA, we had a full cabin (8/8).  As Christmas is just around the corner, Christmas decoration was up in the cabin.  Just like in Suites, overhead bin were not installed in the First Class (making the cabin looked more spacious) and luggage need to be stowed under the leg rest.

 

First class cabin is much smaller than that of the Suites.  This is not unexpected as an A380-800 is way larger than a 777-300ER.  The cabin felt a little too small to my liking, especially when you have a full load.  Even with a full load in Suites, you won’t feel it as the cabin is larger and you are shielded from the rest of passengers in your Suite (first world problem).  The seats in First Class are open suites, equipped with a very large and comfortable seat (with 35” width and 71” pitch) and a 23” 720p HD screen (similar to that on Suites).  The table is hidden underneath the TV and below that, the foot rest.  Personally, I preferred the chair in Suites more than that in First Class as the chair was too wide that even with a movable arm rest, I can’t rest my arms comfortably.  One cannot dine together in the First Class as the foot rest is located under the TV.  The one advantage however is that the TV is much nearer to your seat.  At the side, there are magazine storage compartment and hidden in it is the AC adapter with 2 USB ports (I had a lot of trouble finding it).  Just like in Suites, First Class passengers were provided with the Bose Noise Cancelling headsets.

 

Our plane left the gate quite promptly and after taxiing onto the runway, the plane took off without much delay.  As with our previous trip, more beverages were served after taking off (accompanied by warmed nuts).  After the take-off service, the crew distributed the pyjamas and also the amenity kit (the same Ferragamo kit we got from our flight into New York).  There was the men’s kit and the bright red ladies kit.  I think I had the old pyjamas design as the word ‘GIVENCHY’ was still printed on the bag.  Colour and design looked very similar to the new pyjamas.

 

For SQ15, we had a full lunch service (minus Satay as meat products from Singapore are not allowed into USA from what I was told) meaning we had a choice of Caviar!

The Menu

 

IMG_6118
All ready for our lunch

We started off with the appetiser in which both of us chose the Malossol Caviar.  The dish was nicely presented with the caviar in the middle and the rest of the condiments (and toast) at the side.  The caviar serving wasn’t big (probably due to a full cabin) but I didn’t tried asking for more.  I was encouraged to try it with a glass of vodka (which I did) but I could only finish half a glass.  I wasn’t too sure how best to eat it so I decided to just squeeze the lemon on the caviar and mix everything up.  It actually tasted pretty good!

 

As for soup, we had choice of either Seafood Chowder or the oriental Oxtail Soup.  I took the chowder while my wife took the oriental soup.  The chowder was thick and tasty with loads of goodies in it.  I did not try the oriental soup though.

 

Salad came next and I would sum it up as – mediocre!  It looked plain and simple and the taste was not up to my liking (the saving grace was the cherry tomato as I love cherry tomatoes!).  The bakery basket came along and again Garlic Bread was my choice.

After the salad came the main course.  Again, we took our BTC:

5 oz. rib-eye steak and peppercorn sauce with grilled yellow squash, asparagus spears, baby carrots, roasted Roma tomato, and fried potatoes

Jumbo scallops in raspberry vinegar sauce with baby vegetables

 

The steak cut was quite generous (smaller than the cut ex-FRA though).  There were a little too much fat to my liking and it was too well done.  It wasn’t tough (unlike what I had on my SQ807 back to Singapore last year) but it was a little dry.  It tasted alright with the peppercorn sauce but there were too much potatoes.  I should have tried the Thanksgiving Turkey instead.

IMG_6127

 

The jumbo scallop which I booked for my wife tasted good though.  It was BIG and JUICY and cooked just nice.  It wasn’t tough and rubbery but also not too soft.  The scallops came paired with vegetables and rice.

IMG_7291

 

For dessert, we chose one each.  I was too full to try the Peach Parfait.  The dark chocolate ice cream was served with strawberries and blueberries.  Once again, I opted out of the cheese as my tummy was the verge of exploding (I even had to take a tab of Nexium post meal).  However, I still managed to snuck two pralines in (there will always be space for chocolates).

 

After meal, I changed into my pyjamas while the crew offered turndown service.  The toilets in 77W was smaller than the A380s.  That made changing a little more challenging (thankfully, I didn’t gain that much weight in my 3 weeks in North America).  When I was done, the bed was all made.  Unlike the Suites where the bed had a mattress, the 77W First Class bed was pretty much similar to that of the Business Class bed (i.e. the back of the seat).  A duvet was laid over the seat to provide more comfort.  As a result, the bed was less comfortable than that of the A380s.  Nevertheless, it was a massive step up from Economy class J.  Unlike Suites, First Class seats has no closet hence we handed our clothes over to the cabin crews.

 

I decided to watch a movie while waiting for my food to digest, and also to try to sync my body clock back to Singapore’s time.  After 2 movies, I decided to try to catch a nap.  By then, we were flying past Aleutian Islands.  I tossed and turn as I could not sleep very well (partly due to a near bursting tummy).  After 1+ hours, I decided to do the unthinkable – to stay awake till Singapore!

 

I took a stroll down the Business Class and the first thing I noticed was Seats 12D/F were empty!  The mini J cabin seats usually get reserved first as these are the most popular seats in 77W Business Class.  As I walked further down, I noticed how empty the cabin was!  Later I found out that there were only 14 Business Class passengers (as opposed to 8 in First Class).  I took some photos of the Business Class cabin for the sake of this post.  After my short tour, I decided to watch more movies (and some coffee to help me stay awake till 1:30 am!).  Halfway over the pacific, I managed to snap some sunset pictures.

IMG_6158
Sunset over the Pacific

 

After missing out on the light bites on my way to JFK, I decided to try some this time.  By then, there were (some) space in my tummy.  I decided to give the wanton noodles a go.  As much as I wanted, there was no space for the smoked salmon focaccia.  The serving of the noodle wasn’t big.  It came with my favourite chopped red chilli in soya sauce.  There were no wantons in the noodle but just prawns and vegetables.  The prawns were big and succulent while the soup was good.

I noticed that the crews were hardly seen throughout the flight but when called upon, they will be at your seat quite fast.  Plenty of snacks and drinks were available throughout the flight.  I managed to help myself to some Hershey bars, chips with the usual Champagne, cocktails and even Sake.

 

About 2 hours out of Incheon, cabin lights were switched on for our light dinner prior to landing.  We were given hot towels to freshen ourselves up first.  First was the appetiser (which we had no options).  It was Greek Salad with Parma Ham.  No price for guessing which bread I took from the bakery basket again :P.

 

For dinner, again we chose BTC:

Lobster Thermidor with buttered asparagus, slow-roasted vine-ripened tomato, and saffron rice

Braised quail with chestnut and Chinese sausage served with Chinese greens and noodles

 

The Lobster Thermidor was probably on par (or probably slightly below that ex-FRA) and consisted of the same sides (rice, asparagus and tomato).  Again, the lobster was done just nice, not tough and rubbery.

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The quail was served with noodles and vegetables.  I did not try it but my wife loved it (so I guess it must have tasted quite good).

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Our meal ended with a simple dessert.

IMG_7293

 

Once we were done, the crew started clearing our tables and started to prepare the cabin for landing.  Our beds were converted back to seats and we changed back to our clothes.  All passengers heading to Singapore had to disembark in Seoul.  Our flight landed promptly at about 6:30 pm (local time).  We had about an hour in Incheon Airport before re-boarding the plane.  We exited door 1L but unlike in Frankfurt, we had no one waiting for us at the door.

After almost 3 weeks away from home (and barely any sleep since 7:00 am Pacific time), I was counting down to reaching Singapore!

DSC_0851
Cabin on landing in Incheon – 8 more hours to go before reaching Changi

 

(to be continued….)

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