Aboard the World's Longest Flight - Newark to Singapore on SQ Business Class

After spending some time, due to my long layover, in New York City I took the Newark Airport Express ($28 r/t from EWR to the city), and was surprised to see that I was the only passenger riding the bus to the airport. Traffic was extremely light that night, allowing us to make it from Manhattan to Newark in less than forty minutes.

I was dropped at the opposite end of the terminal, and made my way to Singapore's check-in counters, though I first had to ask for assistance to find them. I had never flown out of this terminal before, and with poor signage, it was somewhat challenging to find out where I should go. Fortunately, a friendly airport staffer walked by, and directed me to the Singapore counter (at the far end of the terminal).

Despite a fully staffed check-in counter, I was the only passenger being helped during the ten minutes that it took me to check my bag and grab a boarding pass. I was initially surprised, but considering that there would be less than 100 passengers aboard the flight, it made sense. The contract staff were very friendly, and spent about five minutes chatting with me about the cancellation of the flight, though they agreed that the flights were not very profitable for Singapore.

Singapore uses the SAS lounge in Newark, which was on the right side of the terminal as I exited the checkpoint. Lufthansa also had a lounge in the same area, though it appeared to be closed when I visited.

Lufthansa/SAS Lounge

Five minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, one of the agents paged for all passengers to prepare for boarding. I wanted to get some photos of the lounge once it emptied out, so I waited to leave until the boarding process had started.

only one other flight was boarding as the same time

a very empty gate area!

At the gate, I saw the agent who checked me in two hours earlier. Before I handed over my ticket and passport, he addressed me by last name, and wished me a good flight. TSA was milling around the area, trying to look important, though the idiots did not interfere with the boarding process.

Airbus A340-500

Boarding was done with just one jet-bridge through door 2L, which was directly behind the first business class cabin. As I approached the aircraft door, both of the flight attendants bowed to me, checked my ticket, and then escorted me to my seat.

As I was unpacking the items I wanted to have for the flight, another flight attendant came over to take my coat, and assist with storing my bags in the overhead bin. Moments later, another flight attendant came over to offer me my choice of pre-departure beverage, and also offered a newspaper. Upon returning with my drink, the flight attendant offered a small bag that contained two socks. Unlike a traditional business class flight, Singapore does not offer a true amenity kit on their business class flights.

the "amenity kit"

Less than two minutes after I sat-down, the chief flight attendant walked over to welcome me aboard, thanked me for my loyalty as a Star Alliance Gold member, and asked if I had any questions about the flight. Though I did not have any questions at that time, he indicated that I should simply ring the call button if I had any questions for him, or if he could do anything to improve my 'SIA Experience'.

Just as the door was about to shut, another flight attendant came around to offer hot towels, as well as a glass of water.

The Singapore A345s only feature 100 seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration. This allows for an expedient boarding process, especially when the flights are empty. On tonight's flight, there were less than 60 people on-board, mostly concentrated in the forward and mid-cabin. For those that desired some privacy, the rear cabin had a very small handful of people in it, and was the quietest part of the aircraft on our eighteen hour journey.


Immediately after the cabin door was shut, the Captain came over the PA to welcome us aboard, and to brief us on the flight. To my disappointment, we were not going to be taking the polar route to Singapore, instead flying across the Atlantic, like a normal trans-atlantic flight, and then continuing Southeast until we reached Singapore.

screen-shot-2013-05-08-at-12.01.47-pm

KrisWorld, Singapore's Inflight Entertainment System, does not turn on until ten minutes after take-off, though the flight attendants did use the system for the safety video, and then switched it to the moving map for our departure.

Newark was fairly quiet as we pushed back, allowing for an expedited taxi to our departure runway. Within five minutes of departing the gate, our Airbus began a long take-off roll.

video of our departure from Newark

The flight attendants jumped out of their seats almost immediately after we left the runway. Within seconds of their appearance in the aisles, drink orders were taken, and the first part of the meal service was started.

Additional photos of the food and drink menu can be found here.

spicy snack mix

Tian of crabmeat with avocado and cold spicy gazpacho

freshly baked garlic bread

Grilled beef fillet in red wine sauce, braised red cabbage, baby carrot, beans and cheese potatoes

Though the photo makes it appear as though the steak is rare, it was cooked just the way I prefer- medium rare.

Once the main course was cleared, the flight attendants returned with a selection of desserts. Though I was offered the berry compote and the ice cream, I was too full to have both items.

chocolate truffle cake with berry compote
KrisWorld Entertainment Options

Five hours after our departure from Newark, I had watched Argo and each episode of The Big Bang Theory, before deciding that I should get some sleep. The KrisWorld IFE system had a decent selection of tv comedies, and a wide selection of movies. Even though I had loaded up my iPad with plenty of movies and tv shows to watch on the flight, I went the entire flight without watching any of the pre-loaded content.

With less than four hours of sleep the night before, I was about to fall asleep sitting up when a flight attendant came by with a mattress pad, blanket, and pillows for my bed. Unlike a traditional business class seat, the Singapore seat required me to shift my body around to lie fully flat, and keep my feet supported by the small footrest. I was also disappointed with the thickness of the mattress pad and pillows. If it were a shorter flight, I wouldn't necessarily care. However, due to this being an ultra longhaul flight, I was surprised that Singapore did not go with higher quality bed products (such as the former Westin Heavenly products on United's p.s. flights).

Over the next eight hours, I managed around five to six hours of solid sleep, followed by a couple hours of tossing and turning. Perhaps the tossing and turning was due to my body being unsure of what time zone I should be in, or I slept too long, but in either case, I decided to watch a few more movies on the KrisWorld system, and take advantage of the mid-flight snack menu!

There was almost eight hours remaining in the flight, so I decided to try out the satellite wifi installed on our A345. Though not cheap (100MB of data for $25!), I was able to maintain a stable enough connection to download my email, and browse the internet.

The connection speed was similar to what you would get from dial-up internet, though there were intermittent periods where I was pushing 1-2mbps. Not quite fast enough for most websites, though it worked quite well for iMessaging friends and family, and reading my email. The connection did drop off when flying through Iraq, and some neighboring countries, though it was available for the majority of the flight.

The rear cabin was the empties of the three cabins, and provided plenty of space for walking around and doing some light exercises.

Singapore does not offer their business class passengers an amenity kit, though the items in the bathroom do allow the ability to make a basic kit. Upon exiting the bathroom, I was surprised to see one of the flight attendants waiting for me to exit, cleaning solution and rags in hand. This was a trend throughout the flight, as flight attendants were often on their hands and knees tending to the lavs.

KrisWorld Flight Status

Just under three hours from our arrival in Singapore, the lights were turned on, and the breakfast service commenced. There were two breakfast services available (Complete or Continental), the latter beginning just one and a half hours before landing.

I chose the Complete Breakfast, which began with fresh juice, cereal, bagels and fruit.

The Complete Breakfast
Braised chicken breast in tomato-rosemary vegetable stew and fingerling potatoes

I was surprised to not receive a regular breakfast dish, though the chicken was very moist, and perfectly cooked. The meal ended with the flight attendants offering a selection of teas, along with some freshly baked breads and croissants.

Twenty minutes before our arrival, the flight attendants collected our breakfast trays, prepared the cabin, and then shut off the KrisWorld system for landing.

Boats in the Singapore Strait

Despite the early hour (it was shortly before 6am), we pulled into a gate fairly far from passport control. The agents meeting our flight paged a few passengers with their connecting flight information, welcomed us to Singapore, and directed us towards passport control.

Passport Control

The agent warmly welcomed me to Singapore, offered me some of the trademark Changi candies, and gave me directions to the taxi-stand (despite overhead sings). With nobody in line, I was in a taxi to the Grand Hyatt, less than twenty-five minutes after landing in Singapore.


 

One thing I also want to mention was my experience in Newark with the TSA. Once the check-in process was completed, I walked towards the TSA checkpoint, not really looking forward to possibly arguing with the clerks on duty. The checkpoint was deserted, save for a mother and two kids who were also traveling on the flight to Singapore. As I approached the document checker, I handed over my passport card and ticket. The passport card is acceptable ID, and as the TSA does not handle immigration duties, they can not require me to present a passport if flying internationally.

Our conversation was somewhat like this:

TDC: "I need to see your passport"

Daniel: "The passport card is a valid form of ID"

TDC: "I don't care. I need to see your passport"

Daniel: "No, you don't need to see my passport"

We went back and forth for several minutes until a supervisor appeared and began to argue with me. Despite my insistence that I did not need to show him my passport, and him agreeing that they were not CBP agents, the guy could not come up with any sort of argument against me showing my passport card. This continued for several minutes until he said that I could not pass through the checkpoint unless I handed over my passport.

I had an hour until boarding began, so rolling my eyes, I handed over my passport, and also wrote down the names of each clerk for the complaint that I later sent in (not that it did anything). The TSA often wonders why everybody hates them, which is troubling to me, as it appears that they aren't smart enough to realize how rude they can be.

The rest of the time at the checkpoint was fairly simple, though I developed some minor shoulder pains just before I got up to the nude-o-scope. To my surprise, I had no issue going through the metal detector, and then my shoulder magically felt better about 100 feet from the checkpoint exit. ;-)


 

Overall, I was glad that Singapore screwed up and allowed their alliance partners to book SQ awards. The hard and soft product were certainly worth the 60,000 United miles (and $2.50 in taxes :D) I used for the flight, and the "Singapore Experience" lived up to my expectations, and matched trip reports that I had read about previous flights.

It's a shame that Singapore is discontinuing the Newark and Los Angeles non-stop flights in the fourth quarter of 2013, though the five A345s in the fleet are being traded in towards the purchase of five more A380s, and 20 A350s. I hope to fly aboard Singapore's LAX-SIN non-stop, though saver space (booked through KrisFlyer) has been extremely tough to find.

Comments

#1
naif July 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

Loved this: "TSA was milling around the area, trying to look important, though the idiots did not interfere with the boarding process."

#2
brian July 15, 2013 at 01:56 pm

I'm curious as to the reason to not show your passport at TSA checkpoint? I thought the passport card was only good for visiting Canada, Mexico and some islands?

@brian: I don't show my passport because it's no business of theirs what countries I visit, etc. I had one clerk a long time ago that started to quiz me on the countries that I had been to, and tried to interrogate me for the reasons behind visiting each one.

As far as the passport card, its technically only valid for land and sea crossings to a few countries, though it is considered a valid form of ID for the TSA, and they should not have refused it. I've had this problem once before, in Orlando, though I was trying to use my NEXUS card. While also a valid form of ID, the clerks tried to refuse it.. Supervisor did step in, but it was a waste of time.

#4
Patrick July 16, 2013 at 12:00 am

Great post, but -- your rationale for not showing your passport is that it's none of their business what countries you visit, and yet you run a travel blog?

I always wonder about the blood pressure of the passengers at the airport who prefer to argue with officials than just be wrong and have an easier trip.

But most importantly, good post and interesting writeup -- thanks for that.

@Patrick: Thanks for the comments. I normally try to steer away from confrontation with the TSA, but when they decide to make up rules, I have a problem. Had I been in the wrong, I wouldn't have pressed my case; however, given that the TSA website specifically states that the passport card is a valid form of ID for the checkpoint, I had every right to 'argue' with the clerks. The email I received back did state that I was correct, and that somebody would speak with the clerks, though I doubt anything will happen. They'll likely continue with their old ways of requiring a passport.

Daniel, you were right to resist the TSA.

Good report--my SIN-LAX flight was not so stellar...stay tuned.

#7
Thom July 16, 2013 at 03:08 pm

I was on LX 19 to Zurich a few months ago and I had the same issue with TSA and my New York EDL. The TDC's comment was something along the lines of "you're flying SWISS, I take it you're going to Switzerland , so I need to see your passport." I just wanted to get to the Senator lounge so I didn't press the issue.

Too bad SQ doesn't release premium space to Star partners on that flight. I could think of many worse ways to spend 18 hours than a nonstop in SQ C. Maybe with the 350-900R (which will have the range for JFK-SYD nonstop) we'll start seeing mega hauls again in a few years.