FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I was no stranger to the Singapore-Beijing sector, having flown it many times before. What was new to me was trying out SIA’s check in by SMS. First, I had to log onto my online Krisflyer account, selecting the option to check in by SMS. Then 48 hours before flight SQ802, I received a text message to start the procedure, which after completing, I received my seat allocation.
This service is so handy for travellers, who may be on the road without laptop or internet access. The only downside is not being able to view the seatplan, which can be done by those performing an online check in. As luck would have it, I bagged an aisle seat.
BOARDING: The processing of this 0850 service was efficient, quick and uneventful. I grabbed a copy of the day’s newspapers before turning into the Economy section which was filling up fast. I arrived at my seat to find the overhead compartment already bulging, leaving me no choice but to reluctantly store my carry on some distance away.
THE SEAT: The Economy Class cabin of this Boeing B777-200, featured a 3-3-3 configuration.Having landed an aisle seat, I settled down easily but not the lady passenger on my right, who spent most the time before take-off, grumbling to her companion about being in the middle. To shut out the whining, I whipped out my iPod and retreated to a much more pleasant world.
THE FLIGHT: As I had seen most of the movies available on the IFE system, I whiled away the under six-hour journey to Beijing, listening to music and reading. Halfway through the newspapers, I came across an interesting article and wanted to take notes. But with my tote placed where I could not get to it easily, I buzzed for help, not once but twice, and still no one showed up. I stopped a stewardess who happened to be passing by and requested for some writing paper. Almost immediately, she replied: (and this I found most uncharacteristic of the SIA service I am used to) “No, we have no writing paper.” She must have noticed I was taken aback because she offered to help me get paper from my bag. When she realised that piece of luggage was just too far away, she said she would see what could be done. A few minutes later, she returned with some nicely printed Raffles Class stationery. Now, what was all that “we have no writing paper” business about, I’m still wondering.
For the rest of the journey, I scribbled away, stopping only for a meal of Fish Fillet in Oriental Golden Mushroom Sauce with Deluxe Vegetables and Rice. This being the Chinese New Year period, the appetiser was a yummy Yusheng (festive season raw fish delicacy) and dessert was a jelly and tangerine combo.
Wanting to do some in-flight shopping, I decided to browse through the KrisShop catalogue, but was dismayed to find a tatty copy with all the pages stuck together. It was clear someone before me had wet the pages.A flight attendant, seeing me struggle (I was still determined on a purchase) tried her hand at prying the pages loose but failed miserably. She could only apologise profusely for the state the catalogue was in. I managed to get some L’Occitane items as giveaways for female business associates I was meeting.
ARRIVAL: It’s always such a pain to fill out the three forms – arrival, health and customs –required of every passenger landing in China but nothing much could be done but to fill them up.
VERDICT: Even with a few unexpected kinks in the in-flight service, I still appreciated the crew’s ability to handle a cabin that was full to the last row. SIA flies three times a day from Singapore to Beijing, but I find SQ802 the most convenient, allowing lots of time for a business appointment or two, followed by a satisfying Chinese dinner.