BACKGROUND: Services on the Singapore-Tokyo route began on May 20, with Tokyo being the third city after Sydney and London to be operated by the Singapore Airlines (SIA) superjumbo. (Paris and Hongkong were next in line to be served by SIA’s A380.)
CHECK IN: My check in was smooth at Terminal 3 for flight SQ638, which was scheduled to depart at 11.45pm. Before then, I had rushed to the airport from work and managed to arrive 80 minutes before the counter closed. SIA passengers bound for Tokyo Narita were to check in at row three, but a customer service officer asked me to proceed to row four upon learning that I was pretty late.
Within a couple of minutes, I was checked in and my bag was whisked off onto the baggage belt. The officer, who processed me, was extremely chirpy as she handed me my passport and boarding pass and wished me a good flight to Tokyo.
After clearing customs, I had some time to pick up a few duty-free cosmetics and visit the bookstore where I bought two magazines. If I had been at the airport earlier, I would have made use of the complimentary internet access points and cleared a few work emails before my flight.
BOARDING: When I reached Gate A2, the last passengers were getting screened at the security checkpoint and Economy Class passengers had commenced boarding, which turned out to be orderly. Signs on the aerobridge were clear, instructing upper and lower deck passengers to board the aircraft via different doors.
Seating was swiftly conducted. It was hardly as chaotic or noisy as I’d imagined perhaps because there were only 12 rows of Economy Class seats on the upper deck, to which I was assigned. Once seated, I was given a warm towel and the day’s newspapers. As soon as boarding completed, the aircraft pushed back – on time.
THE SEAT: SIA’s A380 Economy Class is configured 3-4-3 in its lower deck from rows 31 to 63 and 2-4-2 (AC-DEFG-HK) in its upper deck from rows 71 to 83.
All seats are outfitted with the latest Krisflyer entertainment system comprising a widescreen LCD TV in 1280×768 resolution,in-seat AC power port, a USB port and StarOffice Productivity Suite office software.
My seat was an aisle 75H. My hand-carry items – a laptop in a backpack and a handbag – were stowed away neatly under the seat in front of me and in a very compact overhead compartment. I was surprised to find the overhead compartment small and probably fit only the belongings of passengers on the aisle row. On further scrutiny, I realised all passengers by the window seat had their own vertical storage bin under the window.
Seat pitch was 32 inches and the width 19 inches, which is an average 1.5-inch wider than the average SIA Boeing configuration. However, it was strange then that I – a small 1.5m frame – felt mildly cramped in the seat and so my hips and legs did not find the extra space it promised.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? With a significantly smaller number of Economy Class passengers on the upper deck, the chance of a quieter flight with less disturbance from flight attendants is almost assured, so do pick an upper deck seat if you can. The curvature of the wide-bodied aircraft also means that there is a huge clearance from the window seat to the window, making leaning by the window impossible – so beware if you are hoping for a “corner” to lean on when in a window seat. If you are sensitive to a low ceiling (as it tends to be at the window seats), pick the centre-row aisle seats for a greater ceiling clearance.
THE FLIGHT: The wide-screen LCD was a pleasure to use in other modified SIA aircraft I had taken, but this time around on the A380, I felt it a little too close for viewing comfort. The discomfort was compounded by the jerky filming technique of my movie choice, Rachel Getting Married. Sensing a headache coming on, I selected TV drama serials and was content with watching some episodes of Bones and CSI.
About 90 minutes into the flight, I felt settled enough to enjoy the rest of the flight onward to Tokyo.
It was after midnight by the time we reached cruising altitude and so the cabin crew was considerate enough to start distributing headphones, although I opted to use my own Bang&Olufsen headsets that were fitted for SQ aircraft. A Givenchy-logo pouch containing night socks and a toothbrush set was swiftly given out, as was a menu so that food and beverage service could commence before passengers tried to catch any sleep.
The midnight snack served after takeoff was a warm mango and shrimp with herbs Panini sandwich or a warm turkey and cheese olive Panini, served with coffee or tea. I opted for the former, which was delicious.
I thought I could try to work on my computer as the TV drama played on my LCD TV screen, but I found it difficult managing a laptop in the cramped conditions. It didn’t take me long before I decided not to work, opting instead for some shut-eye since the cabin lights had already dimmed.
It was close to 5am when we were roused by turned-up cabin lights as the crew started serving breakfast. The spread consisted of fruits, breakfast rolls, coffee/tea and a choice of either grilled perch with preserved plum, selected vegetables and steamed rice with bonito flakes, or scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, glaced tomato and hash brown. As it was not even daybreak, I stuck to a more conventional breakfast choice of eggs as the fish option sounded a tad heavy.
Service onboard was as usual attentive and efficient – one would not expect less of SIA in this regard.
ARRIVAL: We arrived at Narita on time and schedule, and while we cleared immigration relatively quickly, it was a long wait of nearly 50 minutes for our bags to appear on the carousel.
VERDICT: A smooth flight with almost no bumps along the way. An upper-deck seat is highly recommended for more peace and quiet during the flight.
PRICE: Online return fare in August is S$594 (US$411.60).
Goh Chui Peng