Flight check: Auckland to SingaporeSave
Andrew Stone enjoys the comforts aboard SQ286.
By Andrew Stone
The plane: The mighty Airbus A380-800. The airline also uses Boeing 777s on this non-stop flight, but today the double-decker A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft, is on duty.
Class: Business. Not my usual destination but just great for the long hop. It is reasonably full. Little touches — socks, slippers and a blackout mask — are appreciated.
Seat: 18F. My wife was beside me in 18D. The middle side-by-side seats are directly behind a galley wall, on which the entertainment screens are mounted. Online feedback suggests these seats should be approached with caution given the proximity to the galley and loos but our experience was positive. The seat does just about everything at the gentle press of an arm-rest button — push forward, lie flat, sit-up straight, footrest extended. The overhead locker — actually above the row of window seats — could swallow a sheep and beside the leather seat are various cubbyholes in which to lose items. (More on this later.)
Flight time: About 11 hours. We left Auckland at 1.30pm, 30 minutes behind schedule.
Still the trip is long enough for a nap, a meal and a movie. Speaking of which ...
Entertainment: Spoilt for choice. The large LCD monitor has crisp definition, though the cabin lights affect clarity. Noise-cancelling headphones are comfortable and the aircraft noise inaudible. More than 100 titles — including new Hollywood releases — are available, as well as 180 TV programmes. I caught Manchester by the Sea, which was preceded by an ad for Burma's power industry. Clearly an Asian flight. After a meal I watched Bastille Day, with annoying subtitles.
Food: As you'd expect with a gastronomic destination, the airline cooks up a treat. Late lunch starts with a tasty chicken and lamb satay, with a light and piquant sauce. From the main choices, I opt for lamb tagine with saffron couscous, green beans, red peppers, yoghurt and pistachio. It was as good as it sounds. It came with a Stonier Pinot noir, a Victorian drop. Service was attentive. Two hours out from Singapore, we were offered a light dinner. The menu included pork belly, lingfish in malabar curry sauce and ricotta-stuffed chicken. I asked for a wedge of tasty cheese and fresh fruit.
Final word: A note on lost property. Leaving the plane at Singapore's efficient Changi airport, I left my reading glasses behind. Wandering the terminal waiting for a connecting flight, I approached a service counter in a mild panic, to be told little could be done. The recommendation was buy another pair at an airport store and file some paperwork for an insurance claim at Colombo, the next stop. After a four-hour wait, and having bought a foldaway set of specs, we joined the departing flight. Settling down with a juice, a book and the new peepers, a ground steward approached my seat.
"Mr Stone," she inquired.
"Yes. Is anything wrong?"
"Are these yours?" she asked, holding out a brown case.
They were. Order was restored, with a big thanks to the airline. Our holiday, which had threatened to fall apart at the second check-in, was back on track.
Would I fly this again? Most certainly, though the next trip is likely to be where I've always flown — down with the people.