Trip Report: London to Singapore on Singapore Airlines SQ321 (July 2016)

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Previous components to this trip:
SQ318 in Business Class Singapore to London
Hilton Hotel, Canary Wharf
Sukanya Thai Restaurant
Maya Tandoori Restaurant

You will have seen that I wrote about my last long haul Singapore Airlines flight, and it was actually in business class back from London on the same flight number: SQ321 in September 2015. I had originally intended that flight to be a Suites reward flight, but for various reasons was not able to use it so in the end up using those miles to upgrade from economy to business.

However, I had not planned on flying to the UK on business class again for some time, but as I mentioned in my outbound business class report on SQ318 here I had been called back to the UK for work, so was delighted to be flying Singapore Airlines once again. And for those who didn’t see, during this trip I stayed at the Hilton Canary Wharf hotel. My two weeks in the UK were over so quickly, work was successful and I had eaten at a couple of really delightful places: Maya Tandoori Restaurant near Uxbridge and the Sukanya Thai Restaurant near Denham (full disclosure: these were not the first times I had been to these restaurants) – for both these restaurants, evening meals probably require bookings. Don’t want you to miss out!!!

After my two weeks in the UK, I was kinda ready to head back to my current base of operations in Singapore, but first it meant negotiating the Singapore Airlines business class experience!!

As I mentioned previously, Singapore Airlines used to be situated in Terminal 3, which was a bit of a concrete jungle and this was only my second time travelling out of the “new” Terminal 2 building (I’m probably going to still call it new as it’s new to me), so it was going to be interesting to see if I had any fresh observations, if I was still impressed with the cleanliness and the efficiency of the check in.

The 10.05pm SQ321 flight suited me well. I wanted to leave at night and get as much rest as possible. Although I don’t normally suffer from jetlag, I think that is partly due to planning not because I am particularly good at dealing with it.

As I’ve got older, while I really want to enjoy the whole travelling experience, I have found it a lot more difficult to travel. Long haul flights are enjoyable once in a while but with another journey to Canada coming up, I wasn’t as excited about travelling until I got in the car to the airport.

Suddenly it dawned on me, I was flying SQ! Yeah! Business Class! F Yeah! We rolled up to the airport around 6 something, more than three hours beforehand.

Terminal 2 (aka the Queen’s Terminal)

Arriving earlier at the airport, check in was pretty straightforward. This wasn’t my first time flying out of Heathrow Terminal 2. (see my previous business class from London on SQ321 in 2015) As I think many people would agree definitely an improvement on the the dark and concrete structure that was SQ’s previous home of Terminal 3. This was the photo from my previous trip as this trip there was a lot of building work going on around the entrance (drop off) area. Seems strange to have so building work given how new the terminal is.

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Once you can under the cover it opens up into a large atrium. I really like the big windows. These new modern airport designs are really great in the way it opens up the space, makes the whole airport feel like you can breathe and not stuffy at all. I think a lot of the older concrete terminals across the world need to be torn down and replaced with these much brighter and airier spaces. Almost makes travelling a pleasure … almost!

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According to all the blurb, Terminal 2 opened June 2014 (eventually to house all Star Alliance carriers at Heathrow) and SQ moved in September of the same year.

Singapore Airlines helpfully provides a map for those of you unfamiliar with the new Terminal layout

CHECK IN

There are two ways to check in when you get to the airport. One is the manual process and the other is using the kiosks. I think all the airlines use the self service check in kiosks. If you don’t travel in a premium cabin you basically have to do the work yourself — print the boarding pass and attach the baggage tags. I never trust myself to attach the luggage labels correctly so try to make sure that there is a member of staff who takes control of that. The claim is that process will make check in so much faster, but if everyone is struggling to attach labels and print out boarding passes, how much quicker can it be really?

I’ve never used them but happily SQ have provided  an online guide as to how to use those check in kiosks. This is where you print both your boarding passes and luggage tags. You then have to go towards the desks to drop you bags.

As I was travelling business class this trip (and also my previous trip from London on SQ321) I decided to go through the manual and more personal process. If you are travelling economy, you probably don’t have the choice.

When I arrived at the check in area there was a stupendously long queue… At first I thought it was the business class check in, as they were lining up in the front the premium check in counters… but no… it was all the tourists claiming their VAT. I bet when they were planning this terminal, they never counted on the hoards coming in to do their shopping!!!! Good for the economy I guess… Maybe authorities could use this line as a leading indicator of how the economy is doing?

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CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check in was super smooth, and it always amazes me that it only seems to take a few minutes to get get checked in, but for some people it seems to take an age. I’ve been stood behind people for a good 20minutes, and when I get to the check in counter it takes minutes to be done. I wonder what additional checks are taking place that means it takes so much longer … maybe they’re getting upgraded!!!

Once you get past check in, it’s a quick hop through security. There is a fast track security channel but when I wandered over I saw that there was virtually no queue for the normal channel so I just went through there instead – because it happened to be closer 🙂 If there had been a queue I would have gone straight to the fasttrack.

Once you get through security it’s time to find the lounge. As I mentioned last time, the first thing to note about the SilverKris lounge is that it is actually in a completely different part of the terminal – Terminal 2B. So give yourself plenty of time to find it, if you want to use the facilities. Also, as it is terminal with a lot fewer shops. If you want to have a wide variety of choice, I suggest you do your shopping in the main terminal. I re-post a time lapse video from my previous report which shows the journey to the SilverKris lounge in Terminal 2B.

Of course this trip I knew that the Silver Kris lounge was all the way on the other side of the terminal so did my perfume hunting in the main terminal first. What a relief to be in an airport where they just don’t care about shoppers spraying themselves with aftershave/deodorant. I don’t even have to prepare to run away. I can move from one perfume counter to next and keep spraying. Finally when I thought I had created a cloud of perfume around me, it was time to hit the lounge.

I don’t get why they have such a long set of underground travellators. They basically rebuilt this terminal from scratch, there must have been some bright person that thought, oh let’s make them walk underground for about 10 minutes before getting to the gate… yes let’s do that.

Lounge 

As you can see from my previous business class flight to Singapore from London, I visited the lounge back then as well and was a bit more impressed with it than I was with the old lounge in Terminal 3.

The first thing I noticed about this lounge is that the seating area appears bigger than the last incarnation. The below panorama doesn’t show the seats behind it (with bar stools, as well as further seats behind and to the far left near the buffet. Because this is not the main station, the lounge can get quite full of people and especially for the two night time flights. Before the 20:50 flight, the lounge has passengers from both that flight and also the later 22:05 flight.

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Also they have introduced these new alcoves. I really like the look and the concept – your own private working/relaxing area. However, what I found was that there wasn’t enough room beneath the table for your bag. So you have to put it on the floor by the side of the alcove, which could lead to someone tripping up on it (for example if they are carrying food). The other thing I noticed was that the spotlight really is on you. I suppose the light is meant to help you see the table, but I found that it actually makes the whole experience a bit hot.

Singapore Airlines spiel on their press release on their website shows that they are proud of the food on offer. I had a few observations. First, I like the way they laid out the fruit juices (along with the snacks) I thought that was nicely presented, and the juices they had some original mix of flavours – though I must confess I can’t remember them. I believe one was an elderflower mix.

They had the typical Singapore Airlines mix of warm dishes, thai chicken curry and the like. What really let the presentation down was the warming cabinet. It was a bit “economy class” and looked like a last minute addition. Having said that, the chicken wings were delicious!!!

There is of course a first class lounge area. Since I was travelling business, I was not able to sample and thus not able to review that part of the lounge.

SQ321 LHR-SIN

July 2016
A380
Class: Business
Estimated duration: 13hr 05mins
Scheduled Departure: 2205
Actual Departure:
Scheduled Arrival: 1810
Actual Arrival:
Plane registration:

As with my journey out to London on SQ308, awave of anxiety rolled over me…. would we leave on time? or is it possible that we might be delayed a bit? Couldn’t we possibly need to offload some luggage that would allow me to enjoy this experience for a bit longer?

Unfortunately I didn’t get a record of the timings, but as I recall we didn’t leave too far behind schedule and arrived close to expected arrival.

My seat was 96A which is the seat right at the back of the plane on the left hand side (you can see it on seatguru).  It quite literally the last seat in the cabin and it is separated from the rest of the business class cabin by the emergency exit.

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The toilets are right behind and because there are toilets at the front of the cabin, my experience is that most of the passengers use those as they are facing towards those toilets. Some reviews have mentioned the proximity of the galley but actually once you put on some noise cancellation head phones you can barely hear anything… in fact I find I need to remove my head set whenever the crew is talking to me. I can’t figure out how people can hear when still wearing the headsets!!!

The middle two seats next to me were occupied by 3 generations of women – a baby girl, the mother and the grandmother. Every time I got up to go the bathroom the mother profusely apologised for the noise her baby was making. Yes. It annoys me that babies scream. Yes. I know they can’t help it. But in this case, the baby girl was quiet as a mouse for most of the flight – ok maybe an exaggeration but you know what I mean.  Those noise cancellation head phones probably had something to do with it, but I really didn’t hear anything. I think what annoys me about babies when I fly is when parents seem to think that it’s up to the cabin crew to look after them. Am I being harsh?

Rant aside, after boarding was completed, the plane pushed back and was shortly up in the air. Does anyone else hear the slight creaks when the A380 is trundling a long the taxi ways and as it takes off? Almost like it is struggling with the weight. Of course, it is an awesome beast, and I am astonished every time it takes off so smoothly and quietly.

About 10minutes after take off, the seat belt signs were switched off and the crew sprung into action.

The menu for these flights are usually pretty awesome. However, these is, of course the option to Book the Cook, which is what I did for my outbound journey. And I decided to repeat it for my return journey to Singapore. The options available from London are different to those departing from Singapore, so I’ve listed them all here.

Grilled Angus Beef Fillet
Grilled Aberdeen Angus fillet of beef with selected fresh market vegetables and Chef’s potatoes
Braised Beef Short Ribs
Braised short-rib of beef, potato puree, red chard and horse radish cream
Thai Beef Red Curry
Beef simmered in Thai red curry and served with stir-fried vegetables and steamed Jasmine rice
Grilled Lamb Cutlets
Grilled lamb cutlets marinated in spiced yoghurt, bubble and squeak, Greek salad and raita dressing
Cantonese Roast Duck
Cantonese roast duck with vegetables and steamed rice
Singapore Chicken Rice
Poached chicken, sliced and served on long-grain rice cooked in chicken broth. Accompanied with dark soya sauce, tangy ginger and fresh chilli and lime sauces
Nut-Crusted Roast Chicken Breast
Roast chicken breast with pecan, almond and maple syrup crust, sweet potato mash and vegetables with chorizo
Chicken Biryani
An Indian specialty – Fragrant Basmati rice, cooked with aromatic spices and herbs, served with chicken, dal channa and pineapple raita
Pad Thai Noodles
Pad thai noodles with chicken and prawns
Grilled Salmon
Grilled salmon fillet with asparagus, fried caper and vinaigrette
Grilled Monkfish
Grilled Monkfish with mushroom sauce,new potatoes and grilled vegetables
Sesame-Fried Sea bass
Deep fried sea bass with sesame seeds, egg fried rice, vinegar sauce and stir-fried vegetables
Lobster Thermidor with asparagus, potatoes and diced tomatoes
Lobster Thermidor, grilled asparagus, roasted diced tomatoes with herbs and fingerling potatoes
Prawn Wanton Noodle Soup
Oriental noodle soup with prawn wantons, shiitake mushrooms and pak choy
Selection of Sushi
Selection of sushi with pickled ginger and condiments
Vegetable Kebab
Couscous with 7 vegetable kebabs and mint yoghurt dressing
Multigrain Toast
Toasted multigrain country bread with herb cottage cheese, grilled vegetables and fresh berries low fat yoghurt (Breakfast only)

Departing Singapore, the options are far greater, but that is only to be expected from the home base. For this leg of the trip I booked the Lobster Thermidor which I always think is an excellent option. And Singapore Airlines does it so well.

No satay for this leg, which seems to only be catered out of Singapore, or am I wrong on that front?

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Lobster Thermidor with asparagus, potatoes and diced tomatoes

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Desert and cheese at the same time. I wonder if I asked for more I would get it … probably would right?

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As this was a night flight, after eating my main meal I settled back down to relax and get a decent sleep.  I think you can ask the crew to convert the seat into a bed, but I just did it myself. It was pretty straight forward as I’ve travelled this seat type on a number of previous occasions. However, I can understand it getting a bit complicated if it’s your first time.

They do have a video explaining how to do it, but for those too tired/impatient to find it and watch it, just ask the cabin crew. They will have done in a jiffy.

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After a few hours in deep slumber I awoke and felt a bit peckish so ordered some noodles. These were not as tasty as the fishball noodles I had on my journey out but they filled a hole which was all I could ask for.

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I then promptly went back to sleep again:) I wanted to stay up to watch a movie or tv program, but just felt knackered and nodded off quickly.

A couple of hours before landing, it was time to hit the food again.

Some fresh fruit, croissant and muesli to begin with.

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Followed by Pad Thai which I had booked earlier. I wanted to book something else like roast duck or the salmon, but you can’t seem to select that for the breakfast meal. Am I missing something or is it not possible?

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Landing the a380 is always interesting, sometimes it feels like it is slamming into the runway, sometimes it feels so gentle, and this was the latter. Perhaps it had something to do with being on the upper deck?

A couple of minutes later and we were at the gate and off…. I went through immigration with no problems and emerged at baggage reclaim. They call Singapore the Garden City and you get that even as you collect your luggage in Changi Terminal 3 (garden) baggage reclaim.

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