CHECK-IN I had spent the night at the nearby Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, which provides a frequent and very efficient shuttle service, so I arrived at Bangkok’s gateway a good hour and twenty minutes before the 0940 departure of SQ973 for Singapore. This is Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) first of four daily flights (1240, 1830 and 2100 are the others), which competes with Thai Airways, which also flies four times daily: 8am, 11.15am, 4.25pm and 7.40pm.
The early check in was done on purpose as I am always aware of the great distance to the gates from immigration, and thus always allow myself great leeway when navigating this hub. I was also keen to experience SIA’s business class lounge there. The purpose of catching this flight was to join the carrier’s inaugural service the next evening (March 28, 2011) to Sao Paulo, and wanting to make it easy for myself, I had my suitcase checked through, which the staff quickly did.
As the flight was already full, they assigned me 11E, the middle seat in the front row of the Raffles Class (business class). I kicked myself mentally for not having remembered to check in online (allowed 48 hours at the earliest before departure) and get a better location. After handing me my passport, boarding pass and lounge invite, the SIA clerk advised me to use the fast-track facility and furnished verbal directions to the executive lounge.
The entrance to the express lane is just after the main door to immigration, and with hardly anyone in the queue, immigration procedures and security scanning were accomplished in minutes. I turned left of the colourful, gigantic art installation of a snake-like dragon being hoisted by several warriors to take the long walk to the SIA lounge, which was made easier, bagging one of the small carts provided by the airport to dump my tote bag and laptop trolley. If one is not rushing, the experience can be a pleasant one, peering at Thailand’s latest handicrafts and wellness items from native ingredients along the way. There is a variety of restaurants, bars and snack kiosks as well as foot massage services as well.
THE LOUNGE I passed the D area – where I was to depart from – before I saw the sign on the left for the airline lounges, which was up the escalator. SIA divides its facility into one side for first class and business class on the opposite side. My section was cosy and well lit with natural light and lantern style lamps. After munching two small sandwiches and sipping apple juice, I went over to the long table set against a wall, which featured two Mac desktops and those ergonomic black mesh office chairs. I preferred to use my own MacBook. Earlier, the receptionist had given me the password to access the internet, and this worked immediately.
BOARDING By 0905, the SIA ladies were moving around the room, informing us it was time to board, but I didn’t pack up till near to 0920 as I was rushing the last of an article. I backtracked to the D gates, down the escalator and to D3. Boarding was already in full swing but I was quickly let through. Drinks, hot towels and the menu were handed out once we had settled down.
THE SEAT The aircraft on this Bangkok-Singapore route was one of SIA’s numerous Boeing B777-200s, consisting of three classes (for the seatplan click here), which has proven to be a dependable wide-bodied workhorse for its regional operations.
Business class consists of 42 seats occupying two cabins, following the A,C – D,E,F – H,K pattern, and as holder of boarding stub 11E, I was in the middle seat of the first row in the first section, certainly not the most desirable place. But I decided to enjoy the ride anyway, immersed in the latest newsmagazines.
My two male seatmates respected my space as I did theirs, although the young man on my left put his grubby sneakers up on the bulkhead in front of us throughout the entire journey leaving smudges. This did not seem to bother the flight attendants though who never admonished him to put his feet where they belonged – on the floor.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Legroom is more than ample in the front row, with the only downside being that you have to store your belongings in overhead bin as the design of this chair does not provide for an under-the-seat cavity.
The washrooms are located towards the back, behind seats H,K of row 14 (the last row) and directly in front of row 15 in the second business class cabin, with seat 15B witnessing all the comings and goings of the facility, which can be annoying. But occupants of this row are first out of the aircraft as they are near the exit doors. If I remember to check in online in the future, I will opt for any of the two seaters on the sides, but not 15B. A panel of levers are found on the right armrest to control recline and raising of leg rests.
THE FLIGHT Breakfast was served on this two hour and 15-minute journey, starting with a choice of apple, tomato or freshly squeezed orange juice (I chose that) and sliced fresh fruit. I chose the fried noodles with chicken and vegetable and shrimp dumpling over the Thai carrot cake with pork and baked eggs with bel sausage, sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomatos and potatoes. I wanted to fill myself up as I knew I wouldn’t be eating a heavier meal until after 2pm. (It turned out to be even later than that –5pm). It was delicious. Dessert was a chilled tapioca cake.
After the tables were cleared, I went for a nap instead of indulging in the multitude of Krisflyer offerings as I just couldn’t be bothered with taking out the monitor from storage. I guess I have become lazy and used to having the monitor in the seatback in front of me. Anyway, the nap would fortify me for the socialising that awaited me in Singapore before the 23-hour journey to South America.
ARRIVAL We arrived earlier than the scheduled 1.05 time slot, and around a little past one I was already giving the friend picking me up a bear hug. With my luggage already checked in, there was nothing to worry about.
VERDICT SIA cabin crew carried out their routines flawlessly as usual, making this reasonably short flight a hassle free experience. I fault only my carelessness in not having checked in online earlier and securing the seat of my liking.
Margie T Logarta
PLANE TYPE Boeing B777-200
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-3-2 business
SEAT PITCH 50 inches/127cm
SEAT WIDTH 19.5 inches/49.53cm
PRICE Online round trip rates for a mid-May departure start from THB24,150 (US$793) and includes surcharges, change in departure date and points accrual. Cancellation fee applies.