This is another contribution by CHC who recently made a trip to South Africa utilizing the new Airbus A350-900 in Business Class.
01:24AM +08 Singapore Changi – SIN
06:00AM OR Tambo Int’l – JNB
07:09AM OR Tambo Int’l – JNB
09:20AM Cape Town Int’l – CPT
Arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 3 via cab after a short 30minutes ride from home and headed straight for the check in counters. The counters’ were very quiet at that time as SQ478 is one of the latest departures for SQ out of T3. Our baggage were quickly weighed and tagged (mine was only 11.5kg wow!) and despatched swiftly out of the way. With boarding pass in hand, we headed for the duty free shops for a bit of pre-holiday shopping before heading up to the SKL.
SKL was busy but we were able to find a lounger to sit at. Not being very hungry, I looked around the beverage section and helped myself to some chips and juice. The buffet did not look particularly appetising that night, with most of the offerings half eaten and the staff not very active in replenishing finished items. I guess that’s probably because within 30minutes, the place quickly emptied out as the 11-12midnight departures started their boarding processes.
No announcements are made in SKL so one has to be aware of the boarding times. A large board stating the departure times are available at the front of the lounge. So for the next hour or so, we nursed our drinks quietly and rested while we awaited boarding.
At about 1245am, boarding started and we were one of the first few to board (which is generally uncommon for me), but I was anxious to get started as I wanted to land my hands on some of the 70th anniversary bears before they are snapped up. Sadly, the ground staff failed to load up the bears on this particular flight! (More on that later). We were greeted by the leading stewardess and attendants and offered magazines and a drink (choices of orange spritzer, champagne or water) quickly upon boarding. Some warm nuts quickly followed as well as a refreshing towel once more travellers had boarded.
I had not managed to secure the front seats of 11D/F and so settled for the next row of 12D/F. As many Flyertalkers have commented, the new seats in the 359 are different from that of the 77w. The new A350 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration which means everyone has an aisle seat, no different from the 77w, but that is pretty much where the similarity ends. Only the bulkhead seats (i.e. row 11 and 19) provide adequate legroom for those who are >170cm. Otherwise, prepare for a slightly more cramped experience. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the leg cubbyhole is angled towards the corner, thus forcing one to sit/lie slanted! I had a chance to fly back on SQ479 in the bulkhead seats of 11D/F and I can attest that it is vastly superior to that of any other row (ok maybe except row 19). There are some other minor differences, but that will be dealt in a separate post, time permitting.
Otherwise, the usual features of the J seat are adequate, with the monstrous 18inch screen the highlight. It is still not touch screen, with only the controller touch screen, which leads me to believe this IFE product will not last too long. I am not an audiophile, so the headphones were pretty good to me. Definitely functional in blocking out sound when I was trying to snooze! One armrest has a whole bunch of buttons which can be used to switch on a reading light, personal seat light, tilt the seat or summon the attendant as well as where the docking adaptor for the headphone.
Pushback was on time and once the usual departure protocols had been despatched with and the plane headed towards cruising altitude, the FAs came round to take both food and drink orders. For this particular flight, it was a supper/light snack offering alongside a breakfast offering just before landing in JNB. Book the Cook option was thus available only for the breakfast service.
These were the offerings:
Both of us tried the Ban Mee and I must say the Ban Mee is a pretty solid offering! I was pretty sceptical initially and had a bit of laugh when I saw it on the menu, but if you ever see it, do try. The accompanying chilli was superb. I noticed that most of the other travellers opted out of the supper service, deciding to catch some shut-eye instead. As such, supper service was pretty truncated, with the FAs efficiently clearing the setting upon meal completion.
After the meal, I swiftly decided to take a snooze to try to make use of the 4.5hour gap to breakfast service. Once the bed is pulled out into its lie-flat position, you’ll be given a second, smaller-but-firmer pillow (which was comfier to sleep on and not as lumpy as the larger one) and a duvet to keep you warm. For the insomniacs, the FAs had set up a snack bar, but honestly, I did not see a single person trying it out. (But maybe that’s cause I was snoring away…haha). Before I could fall asleep, the FAs handed out everyone a complimentary 70th anniversary gift, which comprised of some hand cream, lip balm and laundry associated items. This came as a surprise, as it is well known that SQ does not hand out amenity kits in J.
I was awakened about 2 hours prior to landing in JNB for breakfast. As I had already pre-browsed the inflight menu and was not keen on the offerings, I had BTCed the Nasi Lemak as it had gone down well the last time. Interestingly, it was again excellent, although the ingredients were slightly different. The portion was huge for breakfast (not withstanding it was preceded by some fruits) and a hearty way of ending this leg. A nice steaming hot cup of Oolong Cha rounded off the meal.
Pretty soon, the captain came over the intercom to announce that we were landing in JNB and that passengers onwards to CPT were not supposed to deplane as immigration officers would board the plane to inspect boarding passes. The descent was uneventful, as was the flight, with minimal turbulence.
Most of the passengers deplaned at JNB, with only a handful of passengers remaining on board for the last leg of the journey. As SQ does not have 5th freedom rights in South Africa, no embarkation of passengers were allowed to come on board the JNB-CPT leg, which I gather is a pretty lucrative route for the incumbents South African Airways.
Managed to finish watching Kong: Skull Island while the plane was on the tarmac, and after just about an hour, pushback started and without much traffic on the runway ahead of us, quickly got up into the air. The journey to CPT was just above 2 hours, which allowed more food to be plied upon us.
Even though I was not very hungry, I managed to squeeze this omelette down alongside some apple juice.
Service was decent during the entire flight, with attentive and obliging FAs and attempts to resolve issues generally going right from the way I noticed. The main grouse I had was that they had failed to load up the bears which I wanted when the plane was back in Singapore. I appreciated the attempts the staff made (multiple times in fact) to try to procure one, but it was just not to be. Food was excellent and as they say, it’s a great way to fly, especially on redemption tickets!
We were raring to go when we finally landed at Cape Town International, an airport that is a bit of a anomaly in this day and age of overcrowded airports.
*Admin note – The seats in A350-900 seems narrower than that of 777-300ER
777-300ER on the left and A350-900 on the right