Flying Economy with Singapore Airlines to Philippines and Indonesia

My first trip with Singapore Airlines was a FAM in the business class. The aircraft was A380. After that I was a little unsure about flying economy with them.

I took multiple flights with them recently. I flew Delhi-Singapore-Manila and back in October. It was followed by Delhi-Singapore-Jakarta. On the same trip I flew back Bali-Singapore-Delhi in October-November. But these were not Singapore Airline FAMs. My tickets were sponsored by Philippines Tourism Board and Indonesia Tourism Board respectively. For Singapore Airlines, I was a normal passenger, not a hosted travel blogger.

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The A 380 on the Singapore Delhi Flight

On the very first flight, I was a little apprehensive because of the previous business class experience. But within five minutes of settling in the economy of the same A380, all was well. There are two reasons for this, one Singapore Airlines is an awesome airline and two I will even travel cargo to see new places! Luxuries are extra when I travel. I can anyway afford them only as a blogger!

First Things First, The Food

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Loved the Biryani at the end of the Philippines Trip!

Even in the economy the food is good. My tip to is pre-book your preferred meal. Don’t leave it to the last minute or expect a special meal in the aircraft. For example I am a vegetarian. I usually order Indian vegetarian or Asian vegetarian, whatever is available. Both are fine with me. It is easy to book it online.

I made sure that I had booked my meal on every sector that I was flying with Singapore Airlines. And they never made a mistake. I always got Indian or Asian vegetarian meal on my all flights to Philippines and Indonesia. But I believe the key is to pre-book a meal if you have any special requests.

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The Landing at Changi Airport

If you do this you can happily watch movies and look out of the window throughout your flight.

And guess what? They have an in-flight menu even in the economy class. I could choose my drinks, I asked for Bailey’s many times and got it without any fuss.

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Masala Chai on Singapore Airline, I Loved It!

And their masala chai is sheer bliss. I can’t tell you how much I miss this brew on my foreign trips and it is amazing that Singapore Airlines gives it to me right in the flight. How I wish they had a non-sugar version but then at the end of a trip, I am simply craving masala chai and I will take it with sugar too!

Leg Room

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The A 380 Economy Class on Singapore Airlines

In the A380 the leg room is decent even in economy. Even on other planes (Boeing 777 I think) I thought the legroom was decent. Some of the flights were not full and that added to the comfort. When I talk of leg room you have to remember I am not tall, just 5 feet 4 inches. But then I am the same on all planes!

In Flight Entertainment

The in-flight entertainment means only one thing to me, watching movies. I’m sure there is much more to the entertainment system like TV shows, documentary, games, kids corner etc. But I have just one point agenda, I watch movies back to back till the flight lands.

The other bit that I loved about the flight was the USB port in every screen. It was a blessing as I could use it to charge my phone! There is WiFi on board on the Delhi-Singapore-Delhi flights but it is charged.

Service Aboard the Singapore Airlines

The airline maintained impeccable service on all my flights. There was not a single incident where I could say I needed something and I didn’t get it. The staff was courteous at all the times.

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The Butterfly Garden at Changi Airport

The added advantage of flying Singapore Airlines is you get to transit via Changi, which is a beautiful airport. Overall, I recommend Singapore Airline highly if you’re looking for a flight on a full service premium airline.

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Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class is coming to India and soon. It will start operating from October 25, 2015 on Delhi and January 2, 2016 from Mumbai sector. Today they unveiled the new premium economy seats at the DLF Promenade in New Delhi.

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Tintin Checks out the Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Seats!

Tintin was one of the first people who got to check it out. He liked the bright colored cushions, HD TV Screen and the feel of leather. We were told that premium economy seats carry 1.8 times more space than an economy seat and cost 50% more! For example the fare for economy Delhi Singapore is 28,000 Indian Rupees and 45,000 for premium economy.

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Mr. David Lau, the General Manager of Singapore Airlines in India

While addressing the press conference Mr David Lau (General manager, India for Singapore Airlines) repeatedly stressed that the focus was not on how many inches extra were available but the experience that one got while flying Singapore Airlines.

Priority boarding and baggage is avail for premium economy- the order being suites, first, business, premium economy and economy. He was quick to add that all customers were catered to according to the finest traditions of Singapore Airlines, irrespective of the class you were flying. To begin with the premium economy is available only on evening and night flights from Delhi and Mumbai.

He mentioned that they are noticing a new pattern of flying in premium economy. While the whole family or groups tend to fly either business or economy, he said passengers would split up in premium economy. He mentioned an instance when the family flied economy but they put their parents in premium economy as a mark of gratitude.

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Singapore Tourism Board- Partners with the Airline

 Singapore Tourism Board is also co-promoting the destination along with the launch of the premium economy class in India. Two people flying premium economy (for full terms and conditions please check the website) would get SG $ 50 gift card each to spend in Singapore.

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With the Lovely Ladies from Singapore Airlines

The event started at 11.00 am and when I checked my watch next it was 1.00 pm. I spent an enjoyable time at the launch of the premium economy seats of Singapore Airlines in New Delhi.

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This year I have taken many flights. Last year I took even more flights. I know the drill, more so at T3 or 1D in Delhi, my home base. I can do it on auto-pilot, I don’t need to think much. So, I stood in line of the Singapore Airline counter this Monday and waited my turn. It came quickly. And then things started happening which lead to my first ever Singapore Airlines Business Class experience!

The guy who was checking me in looked at the screen and blinked. And then he blinked some more. After a while he said, “ma’am you have been upgraded to business class”. I also snapped out of my zombie mode and started paying attention. He asked me to wait a minute as he would make a call. I am guessing that he was talking to his supervisor, double checking that it was not a mistake. Then he put the phone down, gave me a business class boarding pass and asked his colleague, “Aman please escort ma’am to the lounge.”

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Aman and I

Suddenly my familiar drill had gone for a toss. I asked Aman after a while, “Can’t I go on my own?” He replied, “ma’am I will walk with you up to the lounge.” The trouble was I needed to fill the immigration form and change currency. I almost always end up changing currency at the airport. Usually I arrive in quite early so it is never a problem.

But I didn’t wish to waste the time of an employee. The queue at the exchange counters was long. I decided to withdraw money from an ATM in Malaysia. I have done it before, I could do it again.

Aman and I proceeded towards the immigration. There was only one person ahead of me in the first/business class counter! I was out of immigration and security in  jiffy. And then we went to a part of the airport that I never ever venture otherwise, the lounge area. Aman dropped me at SilverKris Lounge. He told me he would be back at the time of boarding. I think this is not normal procedure, but as this was a Silk Air/Singapore Airlines FAM, I am guessing that I got this special treatment.

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The SilverKris Lounge, T3

I had a bit of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of feeling. As I had checked in early, there were hardly any people in the lounge, however it got quite full later. There was complimentary WiFi which was fast. I made good use of it. I updated my status on FB about my first ever business class travel on any airline ever!

There was a dining area in the lounge which had dinner, tea, coffee, snacks and drinks both alcohol and soft. I had several cups of tea with a bit of makai kabab and veg Manchurian. I used the time to complete an article I had promised to someone. I barely managed to finish it when Aman came back, telling me the flight was boarding.

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The Business Class, A380-800, Singapore Airlines

I had priority boarding to the upper deck of the A380-800, as that is where the business class is. I had a single window seat which was as large as three economy class seats. There were two seats in the middle and one more at the other end of the aircraft. So the configuration is 1-2-1. Needless to say my seat was large! It could easily accommodate two people, and three if everyone followed “thoda adjust kar lo” (please adjust a little) attitude. I touched every knob in order to figure out what it did. There were side compartments for light luggage like hand bag and ample area to stow away my laptop bag in front of the seat. But try as I might, I could not figure out how to switch on the TV screen. I had to ask the air hostess in the end. The remote is beneath the right hand side arm rest, under the flap.

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Champagne and Movies

As we boarded first there was ample time for the crew to serve drinks. I missed out on it as I went to use the wash room. But I was served Champagne as soon as the plane was at the cruising height. On the flight back, I was served Champagne even before the flight took off! There are plenty of choices, it is just that I took Champagne. After all the first ever business class flight called in for some celebrations!

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The Main Course of the Vegetarian Meal

I was remembering the conversation I had at the Singapore Airlines Shahi Thali event a few weeks back- that an A380-800 if full becomes a 500 seat restaurant! And in business class they literally do it like it is done in the restaurants. When you open the tray by pressing a lever on your left hand corner, the cabin crew spreads a table cover over it! Then came the starters, the main course, papad, curd, pickles, two vegetables, daal, rice, roti, bread, butter and forgive me if I forgot anything, served in proper plates and bowls.

This was accompanied by a choice of your drink, I went with white wine. When the pretty lady gave me a few names of wine which made no sense to me, I smiled and asked, “What would you recommend?” She asked if I wanted dry or not so dry wine. When I said not so dry she bought me something which tasted delicious. After this there was dessert, Gulab Jamun in a mango base and then cheese and fruits.

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The Flat Bed, Business Class, Singapore Airlines

As the good lady had told me where the remote was, I was already watching ‘The Mansion of Gods’ an Asterix movie. After the Meal was over the lady asked me if I would like my bed to be made? I happily got out and left the task to her. And lo and behold, my already large seat became a flat bed! I asked her to click a picture for me which she happily did.

But then I am so used to watching movies that I could not fall asleep even though I really tried. After struggling for sometime, I watched Tanu Weds Manu Returns. After that I must have dozed off for what felt like 15 minutes but the plane was ready to land. The bed was folded once again. I snuggled in my blanket trying to rub off sleep from my eyes. The hostess came and told me to wait after the plane landed, they would assist me at the terminal! And sure enough there was a lady waiting for me who took me to the Skytrain which went to terminal two from where I was taking the Silk Air flight. I was in business class on the Silk Air flight too but I it is in a separate post.

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The Milo and Bailey’s Based Drink called SG50

On my return flight, I was already familiar with some of the business class procedures. I enjoyed my Champagne even before the flight took off. They asked if I wanted a refill which I politely declined, all before take off. Once the plane was at the cruising height, the service started again. I asked for a Milo and Bailey’s based drink called SG50. I was not so sure about Milo but I like Bailey’s. I liked the drink, so much so, that I asked for a refill. Three glasses of any kind of alcohol are my absolute limit and I stuck to it. My feeling is that they would have given me more refills if I cared for.

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Raspberry Ice cream

The food followed the same procedure as before, only the dessert was a choice between chocolate or raspberry ice cream. I could not finish all the food, the air hostess was quite concerned that I didn’t like it. I told her that it was too much for one person like me. I think she was somewhat pacified by my explanation.

sunset-40000-feet
The Golden Sky

As it was a day flight, I had a cup of coffee and two cups of tea instead. That is what actually I like. I would have actually stopped at one coffee and one tea but at one point I asked for a blanket. The charming lady then suggested if I would have something hot to drink as well. That is how I asked for a second cup of tea. In Dwivedi family a hot drink means tea and no one says no to it! I watched Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Get Hard on the return leg. There was a glorious sunset in the sky, which was the icing on the cake.

As the plane made its descent eventually and landed, I was all eager to get out. And to my surprise there was Aman to see me back to the exit gates! I cannot remember when I was pampered like this on any flight ever. Thank you Singapore Airlines for making my first ever business class journey so memorable.

PS. I was on a Silk Air/ Singapore Airlines FAM to Kota Kinalabu, Malaysia.

PPS. All configurations I talked about are of an A380-800 on the Delhi-Singapore-Delhi sector.

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I get all a flutter when I am invited to food events. For my life, I can’t get that whiff of cinnamon in the dish nor can I taste the delicate flavor of pine nuts! I also do not pretend otherwise. But when Singapore Airlines invited me for their event Shahi Thali I decided to go. The meal has been designed by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Both the cab driver and I were a little lost about the location of TajSATS near the IGI complex. Google Maps came to our rescue. When the cab driver realized that we were going to a catering service which provided meals on the planes he asked me, “madam khana kya bahut acha hota hai kya?” (Madan is the food very good on flights?) I was truly torn about how to answer it. I told him, “nahin tikh sa hi hota hai.” (No it is just about alright). The map took us to the venue without any hiccups and I walked in half an hour before the event!

I was met by Gerald Tan, manager for Northern Indian, Singapore Airline at the entrance. He quickly ushered me in and handed me over to the organizing team. I sat down patiently and started playing with my mobile. But Gerald came back asking if I would like a drink. And he returned yet again saying I could come in and have a chat with Sanjeev Kapoor. Angeline Khoo Vice president in-flight services and Hermann Freidanck, manager inflight services were also there.

singapore-airlines-team
From left to right- Hermann Freidanck, Angeline Khoo, Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Gerald Tan

If I was nervous at the start of the event, my stomach became full of butterflies at the thought of interacting with the celebrated chef alone! I will be honest, the first few minutes went in a haze. Sanjeev started talking about the cuisine and I realized after a few minutes that I could actually get away without speaking much!

And then slowly the haze subsided and I started getting interested. Sanjeev was talking about taste buds not being the same at 30,000 feet. Now why did it never occur to me? Then somewhere down the line,  Hermann added, “we are a transportation company and yet we are supposed to be a flying restaurant as well”. In fact there were so many interesting quotes flying about that I can present a list of new things that I learned!

  1. For airlines weight is everything, they have to be very conscious of weight.
  2. In an A380 a full flight means 500 people or so. Imagine a restaurant with 500 covers flying in the air, that is what they become!
  3. The number of steps involved in serving are important. Because it can’t be 10X60 for even first class. They need to cut down on steps!
  4. The food has to be frozen according to the airline regulations and then heated again, they have to take that into account while doing the recipes.
  5. Everywhere else in the world, bread is a starter. Roti is a bread and yet it is not a starter, so how do they serve it?
  6. When you fly back, the caterer of Shahi Thali is from Singapore or wherever you are flying back from. That probably accounts for the difference in taste?
  7. They serve the same Shahi Thali in all segments, the difference is there are 4 side dishes in the first, 3 in business and 2 in economy.
  8. Crockery has to look good but it cannot weigh a lot, so how do you balance that?
  9. The food goes into the ovens on the plane in different containers and gets poured into the dishes to be served in.
  10. There is very little space for the crew to stand and do all these activities. So, if there are many steps involved in serving, it will be frustrating for the crew and the flyers will get impatient as it will take more time!

I remember telling Angeline that the next time I sit in a plane I will try to be more appreciative of the food.

Sanjeev once mentioned that airline food is one of those things that people like to kick. And I told Hermann at one point, you were talking about being a transportation company but people expect you to be an entertainment company too! He said one of the worst experiences is to have a flight where the entertainment system went down! Sanjeev mentioned that his daughter would refuse to fly a few airlines because she didn’t like the entertainment system!

shahi-thali-airline-food
The Shahi Thali

You can see that by now I had lost all my fear of the event. Other members of the media were around and I was happily participating in the conversation. So let me talk about the actual food now, the Shahi Thali. The main course of the Shahi Thali (as served in the first class) is what we got to taste. As I am a vegetarian I can only talk about that.

It has Shahi paneer, bharwan torai mussallam, sukhi palak methi matar and tadka daal with sofiyani pulao and a choice of roti/paratha. I have to say I never tasted a torai (snake gourd) dish as tasty as this. But my hot favorites were the Shahi paneer and rice!

dessert-shahi-thali-singapore-airlines
The Dessert Platter

The mango lassi was delicious too. The dessert platter had chocolate chip kheer, pistachio burfi and fruits. I was not too sure how I would find the chocolate in the Kheer.

By the main course I was so at ease that I could ask the chef what a particular dish was, he would also happily tell me. I have to say Sanjeev Kapoor is very easy to talk to and has a great sense of humor.

I told him, “I was not sure how I would like chocolate in my kheer but it is actually quite good.” Another member of the media said chocolates go with everything. So the chef in good humor said, “pakode mein daal kar dekho!” (try putting it in pakoras).

master-chef-sanjeev-kapoor-mridula
With the Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

When I came home and showed Chhavi my selfie with the chef she was quite impressed! When she was even smaller I would scold her for watching too many cartoons. She would then tell me, “mom let us watch Food Food.” And me who can literally set the kitchen on fire if I try to cook, would agree. She could not believe it that the TV ‘Chef Uncle’ was standing next to her mother!

She proudly went around telling her friends that the box of chocolate that mom got home was given by the ‘Chef Uncle’ (it was a souvenir from the Singapore Airline) and all her friends wanted some!

Now I wish every food event was this easy to attend! I find some of the people who are knowledge about food so intimidating that I wish to run away and hide. But here was a master chef, none less than Sanjeev Kapoor, who could put me so much at ease that I would ask all my silly questions without any hesitation! And as I promised to Angeline I would be more sympathetic to airline food in future.

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