After 2 nights in The Big Apple, it is time to come back. A very short trip indeed, but this is all the time I could afford to be away from work.
I had both a confirmed advantage Business ticket and a waitlisted Business saver ticket. I was very much hoping for my waitlist to clear but by 12 October, I did not receive the clearance email. I know my waitlist was unlikely to clear. I had problem checking in online the day before flying as my saver waitlist was still active. I tried cancelling my waitlist and I had trouble doing it using the SQ app. I was prepared to go to the airport early to do it but by the night before flying back, my waitlist booking automatically disappeared and I could finally check in! On checking in, I noticed that the cabin is full!
Going from Crowne Plaza Newark Airport was easy. There is a complimentary shuttle bus that services the airport every 30 minutes (stopping at every terminal). We arrived to a fairly empty line. The check in process was pretty slow and by the time we were done, there was a line at the Business Class queue! While waiting for our friend (coming in from Manhattan), the line grew longer (than that in Premium Economy).
There was no Star Alliance Gold track in Terminal B. As United Airline departs from Terminal C, I figure that Terminal C may have one. The queue was fairly long, but I managed to get through in about 20 minutes. Being a very small terminal, it took only about 5 minutes to walk from the security point to our gate. Before that, breakfast in lounge.
Up till check in, I was quite clueless to which lounge I will be using. I had wanted to try out the highly rated United Polaris Lounge but as it is in Terminal C, it was quite impossible for a morning flight. It turned out that Singapore Airlines will be using Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is located one level above the departure hall, right next to British Airways Galleries lounge. The lounge is fairly small (compared to its counterpart in JFK which I will visit in June 2019), and filled up pretty quickly. Most of the users in the morning are passengers of SQ21. This lounge also serves a Priority Pass lounge but it is only open for cardholders from 2pm to 6pm ONLY (1pm to 5pm from November 4 onwards).
The lounge is pretty nice in its design and modern looking. However, it lacks natural lighting (with only one skylight window above the bar area). It has a lounge area and a dining area with the bar located in the middle of the lounge.
Food is only ala carte (which is good) and drinks are freshly prepared at the bar. Breakfast menu looked decent, but when I tried to order a Mimosa, I was told that New Jersey law prohibits serving of alcohol on Sunday mornings.
I started with an order of tea with a nice English breakfast with a cup of smoothie. My tea took 10 minutes, English breakfast 30 minutes and smoothie 40 minutes to arrive. My friend’s soy cappuccino (which ended up in my tummy) came about 2 minutes after he left the lounge (after being tired of waiting) and another friend’s diet coke failed to arrive at all! Although the lounge looked cool and menu items looked great, the service (or lack of it) was a complete let down! Let’s hope it is not the case in JFK.
Our plane was scheduled to depart from gate 53 which is just 5 minutes walk from the lounge. While waiting to board, I tried to take a picture of 9V-SGB (yes, same plane that we took to EWR) but the gate design is not suitable to get a good picture of the plane. The four of us decided to wear our inaugural t-shirt once more and again, we attracted attention (although less). Soon, boarding announcement was made and I proceed to board for my seat for the next 18 hours – Seat 12A.
I was hoping that Singapore Airlines would introduce a new product (or at least introduce the 2017 A380 Business Class seat) onto the ULR but it turned out to be the same product as that of the 2013 Business Class (albeit with slight modifications just like the Premium Economy seats to make it lighter). I can’t really tell the difference to be honest. The cabin however houses 67 seats (vs. 42 in the regular A350-900). There is an interesting seat – 10A, which is a solo seat by the front galley. I shall not go too much into the seat as the seat is similar to that covered in earlier reviews on both the A350-900 and B77WR.
One thing I note though is a mattress pad that I don’t recall seeing on my previous flights on the A350-900 or 777-300ER (WR version). It did help me to get 6 hours of sleep. This was helped by (what I think) a new eye shade that is more comfortable – coming from someone who don’t like using eye shade.
On this flight, 10A was reserved as crew resting area. If opened, I believe this seat would be quite popular due to its privacy.
My return flight was full in Business Class and one of the returning passengers in this flight was none other than Captain SL Leong, our captain on the inaugural flight. He was kind enough to take a picture with me (although he was prepared to go to bed).
The pushback was pretty punctual. Soon, we were up in air travelling on a North East course towards Greenland over to Scandinavia and back via Europe. Interestingly, SQ22 and SQ21 have 3 route options: Pacific, Atlantic and Polar. We flew in via the Pacific Route (refer to my post on SQ22 Inaugural). The SQ21 inaugural flew the polar route (with an excellent view of the icy tundra landscape) while we flew back on the Atlantic route (completing our Round the World journey). The route choice depends on tailwind in order to maximise the efficiency of the aircraft. On landing, Captain Leong asked the pilot regarding the fuel consumption – the reply was that it was only marginally more than calculated while Captain Leong said that on his flight the consumption was on the dot.
tarmac view as we taxi
About an hour after take-off, meal service commenced. Before the meal service started, I went to the Premium Economy section to have a toast with my travelling buddies. While there, Leading Stewardess Wendy came to look for me just to take my meal order (very nice of her).
Unlike your regular long hauls, the ultra-long hauls come with 3 meals. It comprises 2 main meal service and 1 refreshments service. From the menu, the first meal will commence 1 to 3 hours after take-off while the second meal can occur anywhere between 8 to 16 hours after take-off. This is to allow passengers freedom to choose when they want to eat. In between, there is a refreshment service similar to the delectable offered on long haul flights.
selected pages of the EWR-SIN menu for food
This is what I ate for my first meal:
The prawn and quinoa salad was good, although the prawn was a little too salty
The beef was a little overcooked, hence dry but tasted ok
The cherry ice cream was probably my favourite
I am not one to tell if the cheese is good
For the second meal, it was served about 9 hours after departure. Although some were still sleeping, cabin light was switched on (not to full brightness though) and this may affect sleeping passengers. However, the light is necessary to facilitate crew movement. As for the second meal, my combo is as follow:
The canapés was fine
Smoked salmon trout wasn’t too overbearing in taste
Steamed cod fillet was excellent, on par with what I had on SQ327 early this year. The cod was juicy and firm (my kind of texture) and it would have been better if they provide more fried soy bean crumbs
Dessert was served on a nice dessert trolley where you can choose from it (loaded with dessert, praline, cheese and fruits).
The interval between the main and dessert seemed to be a little long. Hopefully, this can be shortened so that those who wish to go back to sleep can do so promptly.
Although I prefer Singapore Airline’s food over that of Qatar’s (this is more of a personal preference), I find that food presentation of SQ pales in comparison to QR’s. Here are some examples:
On the left – Qatar Airways and on the right – Singapore Airlines
Refreshment (or the third meal) is useful just before landing. I tried the Oriental Chicken Noodle Soup and Mushroom Soup. The noodle is similar to those served on my previous trips (although previously they used prawns instead of chicken). Mushroom soup was pretty standard – creamy and tasty (not diluted). There are also snacks available throughout the flight such as nuts, chips and popcorn.
Drinks were pretty standard for SQ’s Business Class selection with Charles Heidsieck being the champagne of choice. 2 new mocktail were introduced, 1 which is available in Premium Economy is the Canyon Ranch Agave Lemonade (only on SQ22) and the other is the Coconut Pineapple Fresca (only on SQ21). Coconut water is something new and 2 new TWG teas were introduced as well. I personally prefer the Lemonade over the Pineapple Fresca. The 2 new teas from TWG were good as well.
The 2 new drinks and 2 new TWG tea introduced
Entertainment system has been covered on the SQ22 inaugural with the only difference being the larger screen and a touch screen remote control (similar to that on other planes spotting the 2013 cabin).
Service on this flight was excellent, kudos to In-flight Supervisor Toh and Leading Stewardess Wendy who were very prompt and friendly.
As mentioned in my previous post, the inaugural flight’s Wi-Fi was horrendous, with a 0 mbps upload speed! On this flight, the download speed remained the same while upload speed scored and impressive 3.6 mbps! I met the Panasonic engineer again on the same flight and he did say that some tweaking was made to the antennae and boy it did wonders! For those who has Citi Prestige credit card, one of the perk is a complimentary unlimited Boingo account which includes access on Singapore Airlines Wi-Fi. On both legs, I had free unlimited data!
Just like the Premium Economy, Business Class has no place for social gathering, short of the forward galley. This will certainly impede crew movement and is not recommended! Mid section galley would be a slightly better place to socialize if one wishes to.
Singapore Airlines seem to have finally caught up with the idea of providing amenity kit to Business Class passengers. Instead of a pre packed kit, you will be given a bag (which is a very nice brown pouch) and with individual items loaded on a trolley (which you can select). This is very different from what you get in First Class (with their pre packed Ferragamo and subsequently Lalique kits). However, there are still no pyjamas provided (unlike in Qatar Airways). That doesn’t mean I can’t bring my own SQ pyjamas on board to wear.
Traversing the Atlantic route, the plane rode on an extremely strong tailwind (hitting up till almost 260 km/h!). At one point, we were almost 2 hours ahead of our arrival time. This was subsequently cut down as tailwind over Europe was much slower. The strong tailwind also caused quite a fair bit of turbulence (which constantly woke me up from my sleep).
Soon, our 17.5 hours flight was coming to an end. The In-flight Supervisor was kind enough to accommodate my request for a final group photo after landing. Not only did I manage to have a picture with the Business Class crew, I managed to get a picture with the entire SQ21 crew! Even better, Captain Leong and the rest of the SQ21 pilots agreed to take a picture with us too! This has got to be one of my most memorable (if not the most) flight!
I burnt a staggering 135k miles (my most ever spent on a single ticket) for this flight. My most before this would be 120k for my upcoming SQ25 in Suites from JFK back to Singapore (which I am still hoping that it can be changed to the new Suites). I was tempted to do the soon to be terminated SQ7 in First Class from LAX (as I have yet to try the SQ 2013 First Class cabin). To connect to LAX, I was hoping to try either JetBlue Mint or United P.S transcontinental service. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to spare. Looking back, I had no regret flying on SQ21 even in Advantage ticket as I had my buddies flying with me and an excellent set of crew! (Not to forget my photo op with Captain Leong).
We did a true RTW trip in 80 hours! (slightly more)
How much did I spend for this flight? USD 24 (which is way cheaper than a trip from New Jersey to Manhattan on UberX!). I have to thank Citibank for “sponsoring” this EWR inaugural (thanks to their 3 months of 8 miles per dollar promotion on Apple Pay). With the recent changes done by Citibank and OCBC, it will be more challenging getting the miles from now on.
My next trip will be a ride on SQ830 and SQ833 in Economy (which I shall probably do just a short review if possible). I am also hoping that my waitlist on another SQ830 or SQ833 in the new Suites to clear for next year.
Bonus (views along the flight route)