Trip Report- January 11, 2013 14:15 departure 18:50 arrival
Singapore Airlines SQ11 LAX-NRT A380 via NRT
Seat 12A Upper Deck
Background on the booking
If you are looking for a trip report with photos of the lavatory and diet coke with lime this is not the report for you. If you are looking to learn secret tricks for bookings, I doubt that there are any tricks to be revealed, but this just a practical overview of one person’s reward flight experience.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I am a pretty frugal guy, so booking in SQ Suites or even in SQ First Class seems like throwing away money to me. One of my goals in flying is to stay out of economy class, travel with a certain level of comfort and not be nickeled and dimed by the airlines. Any references in this report are not endorsements of those companies and I am not being paid any referral fees for this report.
I was fortunate to be made aware of the SQ online booking glitch last July 7, 2012 when SQ was switching their online systems and mistakenly allowed UA Mileage Plus members to book wide open availability on SQ Business Class and First Class seats. I booked two seats that ultimately migrated into the following ticket: SAN-LAX-SIN-DPS-SIN-LAX-SAN in business class for US$151.00 taxes and fees & 240,000 United Airlines MileagePlus points for 2 passengers. Being a United Airlines 1k (100,000 miles elite status) passenger allows me a certain amount of leisure in the ability to book flights that are opportunistic, aspirational, and speculative while preserving the ability to cancel and redeposit mileage points with no fees.
I booked this ticket basically because it is a flight that is not supposed to be allowed as a reward redemption using United Airline MileagePlus miles.
I assume that the reader is familiar with airline alliances and the ability to book rewards across an alliance so I will not cover that here. If you are not familiar with these terms, check out FlyerTalk.com or milepoint.com and become active in those online communities. You will learn a lot. I will also cover my hotel experiences during this trip and how networking at the Chicago Seminars and Frequent Traveler University helped this 30 year experienced frequent flyer learn new tricks.
My original booking was just a straight round trip SAN-LAX-SIN-LAX-SAN. United Airlines allow redemption of both an open jaw and a stop over on award redemptions. At the time I booked this ticket it was impossible to redeem international SQ business seats with UA MileagePlus miles. Only do to the online glitch was I able to make this booking. As of today booking have opened up intra-Asia in business class, but to book the A380 in business class is still next to impossible unless you use SQ KrisFlyer points and book directly though Singapore Airlines. SQ is a transfer partner with Starwood Preferred Guest and American Express Membership Rewards.
As availability opened up on business class I was able to add segments for no additional fees, a business class flight segment from SIN-HKG on the end of my outbound flight and a feeder flight from Denpasar (DPS), Bali, Indonesia that connects to my return non-stop SIN-LAX on the A340-500. This non-stop flight was of particular interest to me as it is the second longest flight in the world, and is due to be discontinues this year. It is second longest only behind the SIN-EWR flight. I accumulate United MileagePlus miles via credit card purchases and various opportunities through financial institutions. I also earn miles with the 100% bonus from flying on Star Alliance carriers.
This booking left me with an open-jaw segment whereby I had to find my own way between HKG-DPS. This was easily booked using the shitload of AA miles that I earned helping keep our nation solvent by buying one-dollar coins from the US Mint using a Citibank American AAdvantage credit card. Two one-way business class rewards were 22,500 Advantage points or 25,000 British Airways Avios. With AA EXP status from the 2012 status match offer used AA miles since it was easier to make changes with no fees. Taxes came to US$37.00 for both seats.
The actual flight day
The SAN-LAX UA commuter flight was uneventful so I will not really comment on it. The only thing I have to comment on it is that UA changed the flight times and I only had 60 minutes to connect from terminal 7 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal where Singapore Airlines flies out of. I barely made it and I would suggest if you have any delays you would not make it in 60 minutes. TSA security screening was so long even with an escort, so I opted for the first time, against my better judgment, to go through the scanning machine. I set up online seat alerts via ExpertFlyer.com and on the morning of departure 2 award seats opened up on an earlier connector flight, but I had already committed to my morning schedule and was not able to get to the airport any earlier.
Upon boarding the SQ A380-800 I was welcomed by a Singapore girl and directed to my seat 12A and my companion was in 14A. Singapore does not have aisle 13 seating. We were on the port side window seats. The flight attendant came to my seat and took departure drink orders. Pre-departure offerings were champagne or orange juice. Choice of newspapers were offed and I accepted an LA Times. The flight took off to the west and was smooth and quick.
Shortly after departure the inflight purser Mr. Goh announced that the passengers in 14 C&D we celebrating their honeymoon and came around with Dom for everyone to offer a best wishes toast. We got to talk to them and they were a very nice couple, a Kiwi and American. They were very interested in the miles and points game.
Cold mixed nuts and my cranberry juice with vodka was delivered. The Singapore girl confirmed my book the chef order was onboard. Hot towel service was brought before and after lunch.
1:40 minutes after departure the Singapore girl laid out my table setting in preparation for lunch. The dinner setting was Givenchy dinnerware, butter, salt and pepper, cutlery and bottled water. Yes, the napkins have the highly desired buttonhole that United Airlines First Class flyers are ever so fond of.
Onboard power options included two USB ports and a 110-volt electrical outlet. This aircraft was broadcasting a wifi signal, but there was no Internet service offered. The 110-volt outlet was powerful enough to power a CPAP machine.
Alcoholic beverage offering included:
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
Champagne Henroit Brut Souverain
2009 Clos du Val Chardonnay, California
2010 Weinhaus Ress Rheingau, Germany
2010 St. Hallett Faith Shiraz, Australia
2008 Chateau Preuillac Cru Bourgeois Medoc, France
2007 Bodeagas Rioja Reserva, Spain
2006 Dow’s Lante Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal
All of the usual suspects including Singapore Sling and Silver Kris Sling
I ordered a Singapore Sling and it tasted, and glowed like radiator fluid. Absolutely disgusting.
1:50 minutes into the flight starters of Parma ham, with saffron pear, blue chees and baby arugula. Choice of breads, garlic bread and tiny bottles of Colaviita extra virgin olive oil were delivered.
The main dish was delivered 2:05 after departure.
The main offering on the menu was as follows:
- Beef cheek goulash with baby salad, crème fraiche and paprika potato puree***
Exclusively created by Suzanne Goin of Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern, Los Angeles
- Seared seafood with tomato saffron sauce, spinach crème and boiled potatoes
- Cantonese style roasted duck with plum sauce, Chinese greens, carrots and steamed rice
I had made advanced arrangements to “Book the Chef” through the Singapore Airlines Kris Flyer website and selected Japanese Sukiyaki, one of my favorite dishes, second only to a good Cioppino.
I found the Sukiyaki main selection to be less than satisfying and when they picked up my empty dished I asked the Singapore girl if I could also order off of the main menu. She was gracious and brought me the Beef selection.
The Beef cheek selection was delicious, tender and melts in the mouth. Surprisingly it tastes very similar to my own brazed short ribs. The potatoes were smooth and fresh, like they were whipped right on the plane. I definitely would order this again if I were forced to.
The desert menu was a choice of three of the following:
- Gourmet cheese with garnishes
- Chocolate ganache
- A selection of fresh fruit
Gourmet coffees and selection of fine teas with pralines. What was actually delivered was a choice of cherry vanilla ice cream or chocolate cake. I selected the ice cream with cherry drizzle on top, and it looked like the same Singapore Sling radiator fluid drizzled. There were large chunks of cherries inside of the ice cream. The serving portion was small but very flavorful.
At about three hours into my flight I asked for my bed to be made which entails the Singapore girl flipping the back of the seat down to create a bed already made with a duvet and blanket. It was kind of like a convertible sofa, which explains why the seat position felt like there was a metal bar under the seat. I am not convinced that the seats are very comfortable.
I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep and then woke to look outside to a beautiful Pacific sunset. I got up and walked around the upper deck. It was actually cramped with all of the business class cubicles squeezed into the plane. When I got back to economy class I could see that they were really shoe horned into the seats.
Mid flight snacks
Selection of snacks including Sour cream and onion chips, apple crisps, Hershey chocolate bars, Ramen noodles, soba noodles, selection of fresh fruit, chicken burritos with guacamole and salsa. I took about 8 Hershey bars and slipped them into my luggage.
Light meal menu (or Last supper)
About two hours prior to landing hot towels were delivered to freshen up and the Singapore girl confirmed my “Book the Chef” order of Crab Raviolis.
I think the Crab Raviolis were the best thing on the menu.
The menu choices were as follows:
Smoked salmon with honey mustard sauce
- Bacon cheese quiche with tomato Provençale and grilled vegetables
- Thai red curry beef, stir-fried cauliflower, carrot, sugar peas and steamed jasmine rice
Again, I had previously “Booked the Chef” and selected the crab filled ravioli, which was an excellent choice. The crab was not fishy and the ravioli was fresh. I am not sure what the sauce was but it tasted like a pumpkin sauce.
Chocolate pudding with raspberry compote
Gourmet coffees & selection of fine teas
We arrive at NRT about 10 minutes early and taxied to Terminal 4 gate 46. All passengers had to deplane for the two hour layover prior to continuing to Singapore. All personal items had to be removed from the plane. We exited quickly and cleared security, carry ons items went through metal detectors and passengers walked through metal detectors. We did not have to remove shoes. Near gate 44 is the ANA Business class lounge where we were able to catch a quick shower, change, and sample the udon bar, the infamous ANA beer machine and relax prior to boarding the continuation flight.
More to come, including the baggage missing for two hours!
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