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Flight Review: Singapore Economy Class HKG-SIN

by on July 26, 2014 · 15 comments

in Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Reviews, Singapore Airlines, TPG Contributors, Trip Reports, Ultimate Rewards

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On his recent round-the-world trip, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen made a quick stop in Bali. To get there from Hong Kong, he flew Singapore Airlines economy via Singapore. Here’s his review of the experience.

Until my recent trip around the world, the last time I flew Singapore Airlines was back in 1992 when I went to Asia for the first time as a kid. So when I found out I would be flying Singapore again from Hong Kong to Bali via Singapore, I was interested to see what the experience would be like over two decades later.

I couldn't wait to try Singapore again.

I couldn’t wait to try Singapore again.

The flight from Hong Kong to Singapore is just under 3 hours, and the subsequent flight from Singapore to Bali is about 2 hours, so with a 90-minute layover I was looking at about 6.5 hours of travel. Both segments of my flight were aboard 777-200’s that Singapore Airlines operates regionally.

On the Ground

In Hong Kong, I arrived at the Airport Express train station in Central just under two hours before my flight, checked my suitcase directly at the station at the airline’s desk, and got my boarding pass printed out. The agent there had a sign saying the last possible baggage check time was 80 minutes before my flight was supposed to depart, so I had plenty of time.

The ride to the airport took just over 20 minutes and cost 100HKD ($12.90), which I think is a great selling point to spending a stopover in the city, and I walked right off the train into the terminal and to security. I had to pass an immigrations checkpoint, which only took a few minutes, and then I was at my leisure in the airport.

As hectic as it was, boarding was still quick.

As hectic as it was, boarding still went quickly.

Boarding

The flight began to board about 30 minutes before departure time, and was basically a free-for-all after business class had boarded. I waited until the line had subsided and then made my way onto the plane. It always mystifies me how Asian airlines loading up big planes like this one – after all, it’s capable of crossing oceans, and many US airlines fly the 777-200 on their premium international routes – can get all the passengers onboard so quickly and efficiently with seemingly no system in place, while US carriers can’t seem to board a 737 in less than 40 minutes!

A shot of the central row of the main cabin.

A shot of the central row of the main cabin.

The Seat

The plane was configured with a business class cabin up front with 30 angled lie-flat seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 arrangement, and two economy class cabins with a total of 255 seats in a 3 x 3 x 3 configuration. Each economy seat had a pillow and blanket waiting on it. I rarely use these when I fly, but both my flights were freezing. I’m almost never cold on an airplane (I usually bring a hoodie along just in case, but I was bundled up by the time we got to Singapore.

My seat - small but comfortable.

My seat – small but comfortable.

The seats have 32 inches of pitch and are 17.5 inches wide. By contrast, American Airlines’ 777-200 economy seats have 31-32 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide. Each seat had its own 9-inch entertainment screen controlled by a handheld console in the armrest, and offered over 100 channels of movies and television in several languages. Flight attendants handed out headsets during boarding, so you could start watching as soon as you sat down. The odd thing was, these weren’t video on demand (VOD) systems, so the programs ran on a loop and you would jump in during the middle of a movie. If you wanted to start at the beginning, you would have to rewind all the way.

I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, but my screen had issues and kept skipping. I told the head flight attendant about it as she happened to walk by; she checked on it for me and tried restarting it, but said that my seat was known to have that issue. There was nowhere else for me to move, so I was stuck there, but she asked if she could bring me a glass of wine or anything as a consolation. I said no, but figured I could ask for miles in a customer complaint after my flight if I wanted to.

My seatback monitor had an issue.

My seatback monitor had an issue.

After the cabin doors were closed, flight attendants came by with hot towels (I might or might not have used mine to wipe down my armrests and table in addition to my hands!), and then passed out a selection of water, orange juice and beer as soon as we were up in the air.

Meal Service

About 30 minutes into the flight, meal service started. The flight attendants began by serving the special meals, and then brought around lunch. The flight departed at about 2:45 pm, so it was really a mid-afternoon meal, but I was hungry. There were even two choices to select from.

The menu choices for my flight.

The menu choices for my flight.

The “international menu” started with a Waldorf salad, with beef goulash and vegetables over pasta as a main dish, then cheese and crackers and ice cream. The “oriental selection” started with marinated conch and cucumber salad, stir-fried chicken with ginger and spring onion over steamed rice, Chinese snack crackers and ice cream. I went with the Asian menu, which turned out to be mediocre. I only ate a few bites of each item because it wasn’t very interesting. Still, I appreciated not only having a choice, but also being served a full, hot meal on a three-hour flight.

It was nice to have a hot meal, I just wish it tasted better.

It was nice to have a hot meal, I just wish it tasted better.

For beverage service, the airline offered the usual selection of soft drinks and water, as well as a signature Singapore Sling cocktail (I didn’t see anyone order it, though), a few French wines including a Chardonnay and red Bordeaux, spirits and Singha beer.

Meal service lasted about an hour total and the rest of the flight was quiet, with one more beverage service before landing. We got to the gate right on time, and I was off the plane, onto the airport shuttle train and at my new terminal within 10 minutes.

The Second Flight

My second flight, though shorter, went pretty much the same: hectic but quick boarding process, the same plane and configuration, hot towels and headsets, and meal service starting about a half-hour in. This time there were no printed menus, but there was a choice of a fish curry or spicy beef with steamed rice and curried vegetables, which I chose. The tray also came with a side of marinated, grilled vegetables with smoked salmon and a pistachio cream cake. The meal was again average, but it tided me over until I could reach my hotel in Bali and get something more substantial.

The meal from my second flight - just enough to tide me over.

The meal from my second flight – just enough to tide me over.

Overall

All in all I would say my experience on Singapore was pretty great. It was a total of about 5 hours of flying time, and it was all really pleasant. Its strange boarding such a big plane for short flights like these, but it’s nice being on the larger aircraft since they feel more spacious and comfortable. The service was impeccable – polite and efficient, perhaps a little aloof, though with a few smiles sprinkled in. I also really liked having actual meal service and (on my second flight) an entertainment system with tons of options.

I’ll definitely rank Singapore as a top airline choice for flights within Asia on future trips (and I actually flew their business class from Singapore to Copenhagen a few weeks after this trip as part of my award ticket, and had another great experience). In fact, I’ve been studying their award chart pretty thoroughly since the announcement in May that its Krisflyer program had become the 11th Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner for cardholders of the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and/or Ink Plus.

I only wish US airlines could match this level of service and ease when operating domestic flights. It would make flying fun again.

Have you flown Singapore Airlines within Asia recently? How was your experience?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • hillrider

    > It always mystifies me how Asian airlines loading up big planes like this one … so quickly and efficiently with seemingly no system in place, while US carriers can’t seem to board a 737 in less than 40 minutes!

    It’s simple: they don’t charge for checking in bags. Southwest’s boarding process is just as fast.

  • shademaster

    Unrelated: had a blast watching TPG dancing at the JT concert at Hammerstein surrounded by a gaggle of pocket gays, all wearing white t-shirts, and then seeing them running like ducklings behing TPG up and down the street trying to locate the Uber, TPG shouting the license plate number. was a gay ol’ time, hah.

  • damai

    I flew with them last May from SIN – HKG after 6 x hours flight from DXB with them as well. I choose A380 schedule tahg depart SIN around 9 am ish and land in HKG at 13 noon. the service better and as u said it was such strange that they deploy big aircraft for 3x hours flight. my flight is not full however still pretty packed. food and service smooth and nice as always.

  • sonatona10

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the>>CLICK NEXT TAB FOR MORE INFO AND HELP

  • http://www.igobyplane.com/ [email protected]

    my speculation is the economics work out better for large planes flying less often vs. smaller planes flying more often.

  • Poptarts

    TPG: I’m going to Tokyo and HKG for two weeks in November, one week in each locale. I would love to see Bali. Instead of spending one week in HKG, would it be reasonable to spend a few days in HKG and then a few days in Bali? Or am I trying to do too much in one trip? I’d appreciate your thoughts!

  • Rusty Longwood

    “There were even two choices to select from.”

    What international airline flights with a full meal don’t give you at least two choices?

  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    This.

  • sherman

    YYZ-NYC? either of those flights were shorter than a lot of domestic flights in USA>

  • Darrin Earl

    A better way of phrasing this question: it mystifies me how most American airlines would prefer to take some checked baggage fees from a few customers, rather than improving their capital efficiency, operational timeliness, and passenger experience for all their customers.

  • Eric

    My point was that there were two distinct full menu options, not just a choice of entree.

  • Antonio C.

    If you feel strange to a 777 on a short flight, you should try Emirates newly 777 DXB-DOH… three-class cabin for a 40 min flight!

  • George T

    It depends on what you consider “reasonable”. It took me a weekend to do everything I wanted in HK. Macau was another weekend.

    If it matters to you, nicer beds are cheaper in Bali.

  • EMS

    I just flew Singapore Airlines from SFO to HKG, HKG to SIN, SIN to BLR, BLR to SIN and SIN to LHR. 5 flights over a span of ~20 days, in each case except HKG I was staying for at least a few days, so I checked into 4 airports, twice at Changi.

    I thought Singapore Airlines was phenomenal as a carrier.

    On my SFO to HKG and SIN to LHR flights the in-flight was on-demand and had a quite good selection of movies. The other shorter flights were also on-demand, but with a smaller/different selection. I didn’t experience the looped movies.

    My only complaint is the cost/lack of available on-board Wi-Fi in SEA. On my SIN to LHR flight it was available, but at an enormous cost ($10-15 per 100MB). Perhaps that area of the world just isn’t serviced by cost effective coverage, but I really appreciate Virgin America’s $15-20/trip for ‘unlimited’ use.

  • singaporean

    “The odd thing was, these weren’t video on demand (VOD) systems, so the programs ran on a loop and you would jump in during the middle of a movie. If you wanted to start at the beginning, you would have to rewind all the way.”
    ~ Its still a VOD system on this flight (I used to fly weekly, usually prefering the A380, but the 777 had better timings). You just have to press stop twice, and press play and it starts from beginning. Its the older system that just auto-started when system booted. I don’t understand why they don’t put a better instruction on this. (Many think its the older system where you have no choice)
    Drop SQ an email on your bad seat entertainment system. They usually give you a cash voucher on the spot for such issues if there’s no seat for them to move you to.

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