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-   -   Three A350s and a Dreamliner: Regional Flights in Asia with SQ, TG and CX (http://www.sqtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16503)

yflyer 3rd August 2019 01:26 PM

Three A350s and a Dreamliner: Regional Flights in Asia with SQ, TG and CX
 
In a recent USA TR, I recounted my experience on a 4+ hour SFO-ORD sector in economy. This was a good flight, but one flown on a narrowbody 737, where the only complimentary F&B comprised soft beverages and a packet of pretzels.

In that TR, I wrote: "It was ok, as long as you didn't compare it to a 3 or 4 hour international sector out of Singapore, where on SQ and many other international airlines, you would be on a widebody jet, and wined and dined with a full meal service and a free flow of complimentary liquor."

This TR aims to cover this regional travel experience in economy class (And in one case, premium economy) on full service airlines in Asia.

In Asia, we have several established regional airport hubs. In this TR I'll cover three of these airport hubs and their home airlines, Singapore Changi and SQ, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and TG, as well as Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok and CX. I also spent time in two other major hubs, KUL and JKT, although I did not fly on any Malaysia or Indonesia-based carriers on this occasion.

There is huge spending for both business and leisure travel in Asia, with airlines in fierce competition to serve this lucrative market. I think this competition has spurred SQ, TG and CX (And their respective airport hubs) into developing very strong products and services.

is there cost pressure on these airlines? Sure there is...LCC's are growing at a phenomonal pace, and a lot of leisure travellers, and even cost conscious business travelers are going the LCC route. But all that said, whether or not there were cost cutting initiatives ongoing at the airlines I flew, the level of service, equipment and catering I experienced was very impressive.

For USA-based travellers, for example, who have only experienced domestic sectors on US mainline carriers, I think they will be in for a pleasant surprise when they fly even 2 hour international sectors within Asia.

In the past 2 weeks, I flew SIN-JKT-BKK-SIN on Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways, and then SIN-BKK-HKG-KUL-SIN on Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and SIA.

I flew some of these airlines' newest equipment types: SQ's regional A359, TG's 788 Dreamliner and A359, as well as CX's A359. It was interesting to compare these three airlines' products on these flights.

The remaining sectors were flown on A330's, which still form a major part of the fleets of CX, KA and SQ. I'll share an opinion on how big (or small) the difference is between cabin products on the older workhorse, A330, vs the shiny new A359s and Dreamliners.

On this trip, I finally got to experience the amazing new Changi Airport Terminal 4, and the Cathay Pacific Lounge there, when I flew to BKK on CX. I also got to spent time in the the new Saphire/Plaza Premium Lounge at JKT T3, which is the designated lounge for TG and SQ flights there.

Flights and Lounges aside, I stayed at the JW Marriott in Jakarta, the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit, as well as the W Kuala Lumpur.

No hotel in Hong Kong? There is an interesting story there: As in my previous USA TR, my trip did not go quite according to plan...

TR INDEX

1. Flight - SIN-JKT on Singapore Airlines SQ964 (Airbus A350-900 Regional)
2. Hotel - JW Marriott Jakarta
3. Lounge - Saphire / Plaza Premium Lounge @ JKT T3
4. Flight - JKT-BKK on Thai Airways TG436 (Boeing 787-8)
5. Hotel - Marriott Bangkok Sukhumvit
6. Flight - BKK-SIN on Thai Airways TG409 (Airbus A350-900)
7. Airport - Changi Terminal 4
8. Lounge - Cathay Pacific Lounge @ Changi T4
9. Flight - SIN-BKK on Cathay Pacific CX712 Premium Economy (Airbus A350-900)
10. Lounge - Cathay Pacific Lounge @ Concourse G, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
11. Flight - BKK-HKG on Cathay Pacific CX616 (Airbus A330)
12. A change of plan...
13. Lounge - CX Lounge: "The Bridge" @ HKG
14. Lounge - CX Lounge: "The Deck" @ HKG
15. Flight - HKG-KUL on Cathay Dragon KA729 (Airbus A330)
16. Hotel - W Kuala Lumpur
17. Lounge - SilverKris Lounge @ KUL
18. Flight - KUL-SIN on Singapore Airlines SQ119 (Airbus A330)
19. Final Reflections

yflyer 3rd August 2019 02:27 PM

My trip began on Singapore Airlines, on SQ964 SIN-JKT. This was a 5.20pm departure, with a scheduled time of 1 hour 45 minutes.

The day's flight was operated by 9V-SHG, a regional configuration A359, delivered just 3 months previously, in April 2019.

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A350's are easily recognizable by their "Mask of Zorro" cockpit windows, with the black border, as well as the gracefully curved winglets...

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On time boarding...I ignored the box of pick-up-yourself earbud headphones by the aircraft door -- much better to bring your own headphones/earbuds.

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 04:31 PM

SQ's new regional A359s differ from the long haul A359's in that they have a 2-class cabin comprising the latest regional business class and economy products.

The new regional J product is a forward facing 1-2-1 layout...

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These seats are slightly staggered, which means that every seat has aisle access...

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The window-side seats either closer to the aisle or the window...

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An aisle-side seat...

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Window seat...

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The middle seats are either closer to either aisle, with a console in the middle, or together in the middle, with aisle-side consoles, although the middle seats would also have direct aisle access.

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The bulkhead J seats have a different layout, with a space for a bassinet, as well as a larger cubby hole for your feet.

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I have not flown this regional business class product on SQ's A350, but I have tried this J seat on SQ's 787-10 on the SIN-PER sector (TR here) and found the seat very comfortable.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 04:35 PM

The Y cabin was laid out 3-3-3, which is pretty-much standard on A350s.

The first Y cabin...

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The cabin had a very stylish, spacious feel.

The 2nd Y cabin...

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Seatbacks in dark grey, with large IFE screens...

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Very large and spacious overhead bins...

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LED display for fasten seat belt signs etc. No individual air vents...

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 05:17 PM

My seat was the row 41, first row bulkhead window seat...

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The bulkhead row had only one window, but it was a large one with a great view. IFE screens were mounted in the wall for window and middle seats.

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In the second Y cabin, the emex row 55 was a two seater, with the next row window seats in row 56 having direct aisle access as there was no window seat in front of it...

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In the middle bank, row 55 bulkhead seats, the D-E seats had a movable armrest, whereas 55G had a fixed armrest.

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Convenient walkway between the two aisles just ahead of row 55.

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 05:22 PM

Adjustable headrests...

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Very good Y seat recline...

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Recline was comparable/indistinguishable from SQ's long haul Y recline. However, unlike long haul Y, there were no footrests in this regional configuration.

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A/C power between the seats...

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Overall this was a very comfortable, fully featured seat.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 05:35 PM

I took the opportunity to check out the IFE before the flight took off...

There was an option to sign-in to the IFE with your Krisflyer details to "personalise" your Krisworld experience.

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As this was a short flight, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to do, so stuck with plain vanilla Krisworld, which was a new, and very attractive user-interface which was touchscreen-enabled...

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For bulkhead seats, there was a detachable touchscreen controller as well, as the screen could be set quite far back from the seat...

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IFE controls on one side...

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Keyboard on the back...

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I found myself leaning far forward to use the touchscreen more than using the controller itself. It was possible to reach it, but was a bit of a stretch so it was good that a controller was available.

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Headphone socket under the IFE screen along with the USB port.

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For bulkhead seats, along with A/C power, you had a second USB plug as well...

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 05:40 PM

The bathrooms, with light white surfaces and dark wood-finishing for the cabinets...

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A selection of amenities such as toothbrushes were available even for this short sector...

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 05:52 PM

Steaming hot towels were handed out and then collected prior to take-off...

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Pushback and taxi to Runway 20C...

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A powerful, yet very quiet, take-off to the southwest...

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...before a gentle turn to the southeast towards Jakarta...

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I tracked the flight's progress on the 3D map display...

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Many map different views available...

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Too bad SQ has never installed camera views on their IFE.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 06:08 PM

Cabin ambience was very pleasant despite it being a fairly full flight...

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On this short flight, with a flight time of 1 hour 20 minutes, a full hot meal service was provided...

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The bulkhead seats have a fold-out tray table which is raised slightly from armrest level...

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Two choices of main, one Asian and one Western.

I chose the Asian selection, which was beef curry with rice...

The tray as served, along with a glass of red wine. Plastic cups and not real glasses were used, but there was proper metal cutlery.

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No starter was served on this short sector. Quite a generous portion for the main.

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The main was quite delicious, with rich, spicy curry beef and mild curry vegetables. The rice was moist and not dried out...

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The chocolate cake was fine too...

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Given the short flight time, there wasn't a lot of time after meal service to check out the Movie and TV selections. Needless to say there was a massive selection of Movies, TV and music to choose from.

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My seat mate spent a fair bit of time checking out the different map views...

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yflyer 3rd August 2019 06:34 PM

Before long we approaching JKT airport...

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A dusk approach from the west...

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Quite a number of 747s in the hangers at JKT...

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A smooth landing on Runway 07R, with views of the beautiful tropical-themed Terminal 2 visible out of the left side windows. Until last year, SQ operated out of T2.

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At JKT, terminals T1 and T2 were designed by architect Paul Andreu, who also designed the iconic Paris CDG Terminal 1. While a very beautiful terminal design, complete with inner gardens, JKT T2 was just getting too crowded, and since the 2nd half of last year, SQ has been operating out of T3, which is a large modern terminal.

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At the gate at JKT T3...

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While the increased terminal capacity was definitely needed, I believe some of us on SQTalk do miss the charm of the old terminal at least a little bit.

The new terminal is huge, and has great facilities, especially in the departure area, however it is a little anonymous compared to the T2 design, which was instantly recognisable as Soekarno-Hatta Terminal 2. Looking at the picture below, this could be a modern airport in any city...

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It was peak hour for international arrivals at the airport, and it seemed like we had landed at the same time as 777s from KLM and Turkish Airways. The huge arrival hall was packed with passengers, and it took more than an hour for me to clear immigration.

Post immigration, I headed pastthe large baggage claim area...

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...and exited the terminal.

Right outside, just past the customs checks, was the transport counter. I ordered myself a Golden Bird limo taxi to take me to my hotel.

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I was lucky in that I had not made a pre-booking but a car was available. A colleague who arrived just a few minutes later was not able to book a car on the spot and ended up waiting at least another 30 minutes at the airport for a Grab car.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 06:35 PM

Final reflections on this sector: This was just a short flight, but it went perfectly. I found SQ's new regional A350 to be excellent. As far as the hard product was concerned, this is an aircraft that could easily be used for long haul sectors, whether you are flying in Y or the new lie-flat J seat. Cabin service was excellent as well, and catering in Y was top notch as well.

Downsides? Nothing I can think of on this flight, which was well up to SQ's high standards. The only caveat for pax would be to choose your SIN-JKT flight carefully, because SQ operates different equipment types on this sector, with several of the flights operated by 777-300's which are much older aircraft, with an older generation cabin product.

On the other hand, one could also argue that on such a short flight, an older plane wouldn't matter too much, and at least in Y, the SQ earlier generation Y product, such as the 2006 Y product, is still a very good one.

Still, if you want the latest and greatest, and if you want the SQ economy/business class experience at its best from Singapore to Jakarta, pick the A359 flights.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 06:57 PM

I headed from the airport to the JW Marriott hotel in Mega Kuningan in Jakarta...

The JW Marriott Jakarta is a hotel with good rooms, decent restaurants and wonderful staff. It might also not be a first choice for some visitors to Jakarta, as the property was hit by terrorist bombings in 2003 and 2009, both of which resulted in fatalities and injuries.

This was my second stay there, and it probably wouldn't be my last. The location is convenient for me, and the rates are reasonable. I could also see that they took safety and security very seriously at this hotel.

All that said, the hotel rooms, decor and facilities are showing their age -- there are fancier and more stylish hotels in Jakarta these days, and I believe the JW Marriott would need a refresh at some point if it is to live up to the standards of JW Marriott properties in other cities.

I did not take photos of the public areas of the hotel, as photo-taking there was prohibited because of security considerations.

Some pics of my room...

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Large bathroom with tub and separate shower stall...

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The view out of the window in the morning...

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During my stay, I ordered an Indonesian room service breakfast, and this came in a very attractive tiffin container...

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A very tasty breakfast...

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Their room service lunches and dinners also came with a complimentary Indonesian dessert...

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This was my first time tasting Klepon, an Indonesian dessert: boiled rice cake stuffed with liquid palm sugar and coated with coconut. I popped one whole into my mouth, as per instructions on the card, and bit into it, savouring the palm sugar within as it spurted out...quite delicious.

In the hotel bar, I sampled Two Islands Chardonnay, made with grapes from South Australian vineyards, but the wine itself was vinified on the Indonesian island of Bali...

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I had no idea that they produced wines in Bali, and was so intrigued that I later ordered a glass of Two Islands Shiraz to accompany my buffet dinner in the lobby restaurant...

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The international buffet at the main restaurant at the JW Marriott was pretty impressive as well, with a wide selection of dishes from various cuisines, including Western/International, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and of course local Indonesian specialties.

Highlights included this dish, Gulai Kikil, which was a curry made from cows foot, tendon and skin...

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...and several delciious sambal chilli preparations...

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A very pleasant stay at the JW Marriott Jakarta.

yflyer 3rd August 2019 11:20 PM

From Jakarta, my next destination was Bangkok. I flew JKT-BKK direct on Thai Airways. My flight was TG436, a 787-8 Dreamliner service departing at 7pm and arriving in Bangkok at 10.30pm.

Soekarno-Hatta's T3 Departure area was massive...

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Both domestic and international flights were served at T3...

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There was decent free wifi connectivity in the landside area...

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As well as many F&B options both landside and airside...

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The airside area...

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Large airside food court...

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Bookstore and reading corner...

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More airside F&B...

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There was also a Toast Box.

SINFJ 3rd August 2019 11:32 PM

Thanks for the SQ A350 walk through. Really appreciate the pics for the 2nd cabin EY exit row Glad to know that these seats are partitioned unlike the CX ones. I am plus sized and at times, my seat mate and I will be jostling for real estate :p. This would be the go to seat pair if I next travel on SQ's A350


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