Saturday, December 31, 2016

Flight Reports Overview 2016 - Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2017!

2016 would be remembered for Brexit, Trump's stunning victory, Carrie Fisher's passing, just to mention a few.  For myself, I thank God that 2016 has been another fruitful year, one that has passed by very quickly during to a hectic schedule. In 2016, new experiences were Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, Turkish Airlines (Economy) and Vietnam Airlines (Economy and Business).  Repeats included AirAsia, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.  All these trips have allowed me to continue my hobby of publishing Flight Review videos on YouTube - Guitar Singapore Travels - now exceeds 4.6 Million views (as at end Dec 2016).  Thank you viewers, for all your support!  And most grateful to God for the opportunity to travel and for the many new experiences!  

On this summary blog post, I post a summary of the various flights that I have enjoyed in 2016 as well as the memorable moment or learning point for each flight mentioned. The year started with an AirAsia flight from Singapore to Langkawi, Malaysia . Memorable moment, cabin crew were still serving the pre-ordered food even as the plane descended into landing.  I had food as the plane landed!  (Technically a safety breach)

The return flight from Langkawi to Singapore was on SilkAir, fully owned subsidiary of SIA.  I've not flown SilkAir in many years and couldn't remember what it was like.  Memorable moment - no In-Flight Entertainment system but I could use my own phone to watch some movies.

Next, was a long-haul trip to Washington DC, flying Singapore Airlines Business Class to London, before transferring to Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to DC.  This would be a long flight, across many time zones! This first video is Part 1 of the SQ 306 Singapore to London flight.  Memorable moment - caught up on many movies, including Star Wars Episode 7.

I had read so much about the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow, and so it was a real privilege to be able to use the Heathrow Terminal 3 Club House for a few hours before my connecting flight on Virgin Atlantic to Washington DC.  Memorable moment - the lounge serves a mean breakfast! This is arguably the best Business Class lounge in London Heathrow. 

Flying from London Heathrow to Washington DC was on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, my first time on this premium product.  Memorable in many ways, including this wonderful afternoon tea service which I had on board prior to landing.  Service was very good too!  I enjoyed my flight, but certainly didn't enjoy the almost 2 hour wait time at Dulles International to clear immigration.  (No Fast Track either!)

The return trip from Washington DC to Singapore was the reverse order of flight - Virgin Atlantic from Washington to London Heathrow, followed by Singapore Airlines from Heathrow to Singapore. But before that, I spent a few hours at the Virgin Atlantic Dulles Clubhouse, and this experience was awesome!  Food was great and so were the craft beers (Flying Dog Seasonal Hop).

From London Heathrow, I took the Singapore Airlines SQ 305 flight back to Singapore. It was on a retrofitted Boeing 777-300ER and I managed to snag seat 11K which was super private and comfortable, right at the front of the Business class section and just behind the First Class cabin (which had only four seats).  Awesome!

In the middle of the year, we tried something new - Turkish Airlines!  We had to make our way to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a cruise to the Baltic Seas.  We chose Turkish due to the good price and the fact that we could return from London Heathrow.  This was the almost brand-new Turkish Airlines plane we sat for the Singapore to Istanbul Leg, on flight TK55 out of Singapore.  Interesting experience with interesting food.  Memorable moment - Turkish Airlines have flying chefs and they serve passengers in Economy class too.

The second leg of the flight from Istanbul to Copenhagen proved to be interesting because one of our seats was missing a seat cushion!  Definitely a first for us.

After our cruise, we made our way from Copenhagen to London, by plane.  The flight was with British Airways BA815 (Airbus A320), and it was a glorious sunny day in Copenhagen.  Even though it was a relatively short flight, we still got something to eat, and I even managed to get whiskey to go with my coffee. Hilarious me. (We bought a one-way ticket from Copenhagen to London)

Flying back to Singapore from London Gatwick, was our return leg on Turkish Airlines.  This was our first time flying out of Gatwick (in many years) and I didn't like the experience much.  The airport was really far away. Anyway, Gatwick aside, the flight back to Singapore via Istanbul was fine.  The first leg on TK 1998 from London Gatwick to Istanbul on an Airbus A321-200.  This regional jet had personal In-Flight Entertainment system installed.

From Istanbul to Singapore, we flew on TK54, which was also an Airbus A330 (similar to the one we flew Singapore to Istanbul). The Economy seating was in a 2-4-2, which was more comfortable.   I must say that after flying a few times on Turkish Airlines, the food (in Economy class) started to taste the same.  Not that it was bad, but the taste was very similar across flights. (Yes, I got bored)

On a whim, we decided to take a short family holiday in Hanoi, flying Vietnam Airlines!  Fun and exciting.  It would be our first time on Vietnam Airlines, and we had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be very good, given the price.  Food was good and service was also very good, given that this was a 3 hour regional flight.  The aircraft used was an Airbus A321, Flight VN 660.

The return flight from Hanoi to Singapore was also good.  On this flight, we had an interesting dessert, which I don't know the name in Vietnamese.  We have similar desserts in Singapore, but the concoction provided on the aircraft was nice.  Also tried Halida beer!

Towards the end of the year, it was a real privilege to fly again in premium cabins.  This was on the new Singapore Airlines Capital Express, connecting Singapore with Canberra (capital of Australia) and Wellington (capital of New Zealand).  This flight route started in mid Sep 2016. The video below was Part 2 of the Singapore to Canberra leg, which they call a sleeper service.  I booked the cook (choosing a beef dish called Soya Beef), which ended up being my breakfast before landing!

On the flight back to Singapore from Wellington, I spent some time at the Air New Zealand Business Lounge in Wellington before boarding the plane.  It was a decent lounge.  Star Alliance Gold members could also gain access to this lounge.

The first leg coming home was Wellington to Canberra.  SQ 292 would depart Wellington for Canberra at around 2100hrs local time. This was a relatively short 3 hour leg. A full meal (dinner) was served on board and I thoroughly enjoyed the food and service.  After the dinner, I managed to grab a 1 hour nap before the aircraft arrived in Canberra.

The next leg was Canberra to Singapore.  This was a sleeper service, as the aircraft departed Canberra in the early hours of the morning.  Given that I had a full meal on the previous leg, I wasn't hungry, therefore I chose to go to sleep shortly after take-off, and have a full meal just before landing.  Food was good, service was great.  Well done, Singapore Airlines.

And finally, the last trip of the year (with the family), was again on Vietnam Airlines, this time to London Heathrow!  Now, doesn't that sound exotic.  Yes, we fly Vietnam Airlines to London, from Singapore.  The first leg up was Singapore to Ho Chi Minh.  But before the flight, we checked out the SATS Premier Lounge at Changi Terminal 3, which came with Osim Foot Massagers and chair massagers.

The first leg was Singapore to Ho Chi Minh, on a regional Airbus A321.  Of course, being in Business class, we sat in front.  I found it interesting that the Business Class cabin only had 2 rows of seats, in a 2-2 configuration, with 8 seats in total. Service was good, meal was good!

We had a rather long layover at Ho Chi Minh before the next flight.  No worries, we camped at the Lotus Lounge, which was nicely decorated with decent food, especially Vietnamese Pho.  Wifi connection was very strong, so the time passed quickly.  Here is the video of Lotus Lounge.

Finally, it was time for the Ho Chi Minh to London Heathrow leg.  This was the exciting part of the trip because we would be flying on a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which uses the latest Business class product for Vietnam Airlines!  Yes, it was the reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration.  The seat could easily turn into a flat bed, which was very good for a long flight of 13 hours. Flight VN 51 would bring us to London Heathrow, and it was a very good experience indeed.

In part 2 of the Ho Chi Minh to London leg, I called it Bed and Breakfast because I took a closer look at the bed.  At first, I could not deploy the bed fully into a lie-flat position and I wondered if my bed was not working properly. Turns out that it was my own fault. My backpack and shoes were blocking the way!  Silly me.  I also show you the wonderful Vietnamese Pho we had for breakfast.  It was an awesome experience and I drank up all the soup.  My first time experience Vietnamese Pho on board an aircraft - only on Vietnam Airlines, of course.

After our holiday in the UK, it was time to fly back to Singapore.  Vietnam Airlines operates from Heathrow Terminal 4.  Before the flight, we spent some time at the SkyTeam lounge, which frankly was a tad disappointing.  Food at breakfast wasn't great, the coffee machines weren't working properly and the empty cups were not re-filled.  The lounge looked pretty though, with the green walls.

This time round, we would fly to Hanoi first, before heading back to Singapore.  Yes, it was the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, though this time the plane was a bit older (more than 1 year), but hey, we were flying in Business Class so can't complain!  Looking back, it is a great privilege and humbling to be able to do this as a family.  This was a day flight (departing LHR at 1100hrs), so we didn't sleep very much on board.  Spent the time watching movies and day-dreaming.

We arrived in Hanoi on schedule (5 AM local time) and had plenty of time to kill because our next flight home wasn't till 1050hrs local time.  Thankfully, the Lotus Lounge in Hanoi was a nice place to chill for many hours, and I captured our experience in the video below. When we arrived shortly after 5, the lounge doors were opened but everything was still dark.  The staff had just arrived and were setting up.  Fortunately, they let us go in and rest.  Later on, all of us took a shower.  What was memorable in the lounge was instant noodles and instant Vietnamese pho.  You had to prepare the noodles yourself, using hot water from an electric flask, and then using the micro-wave to further heat the noodles up.  First time I see this in a Business Lounge - Fascinating.

Our final flight for the year, Vietnam Airlines Hanoi to Singapore.  This flight was completely full! Flight to Singapore was about 3 hours.  Meal service was efficient and thereafter, I managed to get a nap, before arrival in Singapore.

That's it! This wraps up my flight travels for the year 2016.  Looking back, it was a wonderful year of flying, with many new experiences and learning points.  Grateful for the opportunity and thank God for journey mercies, and the ability to see and experience so many new things.  I do not know what 2017 will bring, but I trust the Lord to open and close doors as He sees fit.  Wishing one and all peace, and a very fruitful and healthy 2017 ahead.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017.  Thanks for reading.

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