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Old 16th May 2020, 12:45 PM   #1
yflyer
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Default SQ A380 Y to New Delhi: Butter Chicken & The Art of the Seat Swap

It is now mid-May 2020, and the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. SIA's Whalejets are currently grounded, along with much of the rest of the fleet. Will there ever be a time when travel demand picks up enough for SQ to reinstate A380 services to India?

Turning back the clock to late October last year, I made a business trip to the Indian business and IT hub of Gurgaon, not far from the nation's capital, New Delhi.

I flew there and back on SQ's A380 in Economy. As it turned out, I've not flown on the A380 since that time. Will this A380 experience be my last ever? When things return to some sort of normalcy, I can see A380's on routes like SIN-SYD, SIN-LHR or SIN-NRT, but I doubt many other routes would be able to fill such a large aircraft.

Just in case I never again set foot onboard an A380, one of my favourite aircraft types, here is a TR documenting the pre Covid-19 travel experience on SQ A380 Y....

Last edited by yflyer; 16th May 2020 at 03:08 PM..
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Old 16th May 2020, 01:39 PM   #2
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My flight out was SQ406 SIN-DEL, a 5+ hour flight departing Singapore at 4:50pm and arriving in New Delhi at 8:10pm local time.

Check-in was at T3...



The terminal was fairly empty in the mid afternoon. Check-in at the KF Gold / PEY counter was swift...



At the gate, 9V-SKH, a 10 year old plane (At the time).



This was an A380 in SQ's original configuration with 12 Suites (The "Old Suites") in the nose and a small Y cabin on the upper deck, which was where I was seated on this flight.



I boarded through the upper deck entrance, along with J pax...



...and passed through the Business Class cabin, laid out 1-2-1...



These were the original A380 J seats that were used when SQ launched this equipment type, and while no longer the newest, I believe these seats remain quite popular among pax.





A view of the J cabin from the rear, looking forward...



If flying were to resume after Covid-19, these would be great seats, as far as social distancing was concerned....

Last edited by yflyer; 16th May 2020 at 02:58 PM..
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Old 16th May 2020, 01:44 PM   #3
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My seat was in the small Economy cabin at the rear of the upper deck, which was laid out 2-4-2...



There were 2 emex rows in this upper deck Y cabin. The forward upper deck emex window seats offered good privacy, although I felt that the protruding emex door did detract from the ambience at the window-side emex seat, even if it was far enough ahead that it didn't impact legroom.



I also felt that cabin area near the forward emex seats was a little dark as well as there was a bulkhead station/galley right there.



There was another set of emex row seats further back in the upper deck Y cabin. I felt this emex row was preferable to the forward emex row as the cabin and emex area felt more spacious and roomy there.



...as well as a middle block of 4 seats with a lot of legroom to facilitate emex access...



The window seats on the upper deck had a small side storage area.


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Old 16th May 2020, 01:48 PM   #4
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My favourite seats (Personal opinion, YMMV...) in this upper deck Y cabin have always been the two rows of centre 2-seaters in the rear of the cabin.



Why were they my favourites? Mainly because I would have aisle access, with no-one stepping over me to get to the aisle, plus the fact that the row in front had 4 Y seats, giving the 2-seater rows extra space on either side.

These were close to the toilet, but for me that was a positive, rather than a negative.

Note that overhead bins are quite small in the rear of the upper deck Y cabin, so if you have a large carry-on, stow it in one of the forward bins before reaching your rear seat.

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Old 16th May 2020, 01:54 PM   #5
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Seats were comfortable, with adjustable leather headrests...



Seat width was as good as it gets in any Y cabin...



Recline was good as well, by Y standards...



No issue with recline in the very last row...

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Old 16th May 2020, 02:22 PM   #6
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IFE was on a non-touchscreen widescreen, controlled by a handheld controller.



There was a cup holder and a USB charging port on the seat back.

The foldable tray table had a built-in vanity mirror under a sliding cover.



On this aircraft, there were footrests fitted.



I've always found these footrests to be very useful when resting or sleeping, however it appears that SQ is in the process of removing these from at least some (Or possibly all...) of their long haul fleet.



A/C power was in the armrest (Note: While some later aircraft have universal power sockets, this A380 still had an older Empower socket that didn't support UK-stye 3-pin plugs).



The Krisworld IFE system had a great selection of full AVOD Movies, TV and Music, including international / foreign language titles, as well as a special set of movies just for Halloween...



Picture quality was good, and so was audio quality (As long as you used your own headphones with an airline adapter...).

One notable IFE selection that month was "Detective Conan", a Japanese animated movie based on the manga, where this episode was set in Singapore. The movie featured beautiful depictions of Singapore scenery...and perhaps contributed to a boom in Japanese tourists coming to Singapore as well!

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Old 16th May 2020, 02:23 PM   #7
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Bathrooms on the upper deck were done in white / light grey tones.

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Old 16th May 2020, 02:27 PM   #8
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While this aircraft still had the original cabin launched when SQ was "first to fly" the A380, i think this cabin product has stood the test of time very well.

While not a match for SIA's latest V2 A380 cabin products, the Economy Class cabin product on my flight was still very comfortable. I think this remains a very competitive aircraft config, as far as hard product is concerned, across both Economy and Business Class cabins.
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Old 16th May 2020, 02:32 PM   #9
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Onboard, it was time for hot towels...



...and then a long, quiet take-off roll as we took to the air for New Delhi.



After take-off, snacks were handed out...



Today's menu...



The drink list...(I still wish they would more specific about what was on offer...)



3 choices for dinner...

An international selection...



...and two Indian selections, one veg and one non-veg...

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Old 16th May 2020, 02:48 PM   #10
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We were treated to full drink service before dinner was served...



Cabin crew on this flight were exceptional...very attentive and cheerful, yet with a relaxed vibe...

I began with a Gin & Tonic..



My G&T came garnished with a lemon slice...not something that always happens with SQ!

We were over the Gulf of Thailand when dinner service began...





I opted for the Butter Chicken...

The tray as served...



This was a pretty decent spread...



I thought the spiced spinach lentil dumpling was ok, but a little dry...



As for the butter chicken, I thought this was ok, but not quite as good as the real thing in restaurants on the ground, whether in Singapore or in India.



The butter chicken gravy was not as thick or creamy as I liked, and the spice mixture was not particularly aromatic either. It was decent, but somehow I expected more.

I also could not help noticing that rather than proper Indian curd / dahi, we had plain yogurt as a decent but not perfect substitute. This also came with a regular bun, rather than Indian bread, roti or chapati.

So overall, this was a decent but unexceptional Y meal.

Dessert was SATS vanilla bean ice cream...


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Old 16th May 2020, 02:56 PM   #11
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After dinner, I took the opportunity to rest, as the flight continued over the Bay of Bengal...



...before making landfall over the Indian subcontinent, close to Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Kolkata, as we flew towards Delhi...



Internet was available onboard, although on this flight the internet service was not available over India...



Cabin ambience was very good in the upper deck Y cabin...



The cabin felt intimate and peaceful...



I took the opportunity to head down the rear stairs to check out the main deck Y cabin...



Downstairs, it was 10-abreast 3-4-3, but the sheer size of the A380 cabin meant that even this main deck felt spacious and comfortable.

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Old 16th May 2020, 03:04 PM   #12
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We landed on time in New Delhi. Thankfully immigration queues were short that evening (Not something to be taken for granted at DEL!).



I was out of the airport and heading towards my hotel, the Westin Gurgaon, in no time at all.

Overall this was a very good flight...an on-time arrival after a flight on one of my favourite aircraft types, in my preferred (Y) seat, with great cabin crew and a decent meal.

While I would definitely have preferred to be on an A380 with the new cabin products, on a 5-6 hour sector, the first generation A380 cabin product was perfectly adequate.

The only minor letdown was the butter chicken meal, which was so-so. I didn't know it at the time, but my return DEL-SIN flight a few days later would also feature butter chicken on the DEL-SIN dinner menu. How did the ex-India catered butter chicken compare? Would SQ redeem herself then? More on that later!

To be continued!
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Old 23rd May 2020, 08:43 AM   #13
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Continuing with the TR...

My hotel in India was the Westin Gurgaon. This was a newish business hotel located quite close to the offices in Gurgaon that I had to visit on this trip.





Gurgaon is about 30-60 minutes drive from New Delhi. In the distant past, there used to be a shortage of good hotel rooms in Gurgaon, which meant that I had to stay in New Delhi and commute to Gurgaon each day. While the hotels in New Delhi, such as the ITC Maurya, were great, the drive did take a long time. These days, there are ample top-end luxury or business hotels in Gurgaon itself, such as the Oberoi, Leela and Trident, not to mention the Westin.

The Westin cannot match the likes of the Oberoi, or even the Trident, in Gurgaon for OTT luxury and ambience but it is a pretty good business hotel, with spacious, beautiful rooms.





Large work desk...



Spacious bathroom...





A plate of very tempting looking traditional Indian desserts/snacks was on the table when I checked in.



I spend a few days in various meetings with colleagues and clients before heading to the airport for my flight home.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 09:22 AM   #14
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My flight home was SQ403, a 9.55pm departure time, with arrival in Singapore at 6.10am the next morning.

This flight was 5+ hours long, which meant that, once you factored in meal service and time to prepare for landing, there really wasn't that much time to sleep on this overnight flight.

Once again this was an A380 service, but this time I was seated on the main deck, laid out in 10-abreast 3-4-3.

My seat was 44G, an aisle seat in the centre block of seats.



The forward Y cabin where I was located was quite well filled. That said, my flight was a mid-week flight, and the flight was not completely full.

Which leads me to a topic that many frequent flyers in economy class are acquainted with: the seat swap.

When flying economy, it is not just about choosing the most desirable seat on a seat map at time of booking. On the day of the flight, when you actually get on the plane and get a sense of where pax are distributed in the cabin, this is actually the best opportunity you have to maximise comfort onboard by moving to another unoccupied seat, if one is available, so that you end up sitting next to an empty seat, or better still getting a whole row of 3 or 4 seats to yourself.

On a red-eye flight in economy class, an empty seat next to you is gold, and having a whole row of 3 or 4 seats to yourself is like striking lottery: a Y-flat bed, I like to call it.

I like to observe pax around me when I am onboard planes. Seat swaps happen often, especially towards the rear of the plane, which tends to fill up last as pax generally prefer to sit closer to the front of planes.

I find that the pax who are most savvy about this are on long haul sectors like SYD-SIN-LHR, and on red-eyes to and from North Asia / China. On flights to Australia on QF or SQ, in the back of planes, pax move around and find empty space to make themselves very comfortable on a routine basis.

On some red-eyes in Asia, I see pax from quite far up in the front of the Y cabin make forays into the rear to see if there are empty seats, and if they are, call their friends and family to the rear.

You can always identify the folks who know how to "play the game". They are the ones always sticking their head up or into the aisle, checking to see where the empty seats are. Or they are standing in the rear, by the aisles next to the restroom, scanning the cabin ahead, waiting for the opportunity to pounce.

Then there are the newbies, who stop passing cabin crew to ask "That seat is empty, can I move over there?". The answer from SQ cabin crew invariably is that there are pax still boarding, and would you please wait until the doors are closed before moving.

Normally I abide by this basic rule:only when I hear "Cabin crew, doors closed" on the PA do I make my move and improve my position by shifting to a nearby seat. It has worked quite well in the past: In the rear of the plane, on less full flights, there are often banks of 3 seats with no occupants. With 3 in a row, I can sleep quite comfortably in the horizontal position. And my seatmate in my original seat now has an empty spot next to him/her. A win-win situation!

That said, on some flights, the competition can be quite fierce for those prized empty rows. Often there are others gunning for the same empty seats. When exactly do you make your move? Do you risk it while pax are still boarding, which means the potentially uncomfortable or embarrassing possibility of the allocated pax showing up, and you having to slink, red-faced, back to your seat.

On my flight from Delhi to Singapore that day, an interesting situation presented itself: I had a perfectly good main deck aisle seat, on a flight which seemed quite well filled, but not completely.

Towards the end of boarding, I noticed, inexplicably, that a row of 3 on the ABC side was completely empty. Other rows were quite full. Remember, I was at 44G on the other aisie of the A380's large main deck. It would be quite a long trek over to the empty row at 43ABC.

But this was too tempting an opportunity to pass up. On a red-eye like this, lying flat would give me much better sleep.

Remember, boarding was still in progress. I weighed pro's and con's...

If i waited till doors were closed, it would be quite possible for any of the pax seated closer to the empty seats to move to there. Once the cabin settled down, and pax nearby realised that there was no-one else boarding, someone nearby might move to the empty row.

What if I moved now, while pax were still coming onboard?

I was tired. It had been a long day in the office. After years of flying, my skin has become quite thick. The embarrassment of moving back to my original seat if the allocated pax came on would not be a big deal.

I decided I would make my move right there and then, even before the aircraft doors had closed...

I got up from 43G, and headed down the aisle back a few rows, to the connecting passageway several rows back, and crossed over to the other aisle, before heading forward and plonking myself in 43C like I belonged there...



Success! Eventually doors closed and no-one else came onboard. If the pax around me saw what had happened, they pretended not to notice.

As far as Y red-eye flights were concerned, this was a near-best case scenario: 3 seats to lie flat. Of course, the very best scenario would be 4 empty seats in a middle bank: these days that's only possible on an A380 or 747 (If you can still find a flight operated by one), and only on very lightly loaded flights.

I was very pleased to have 3 empty seats to myself. This rarely ever happened on high-traffic sectors like DEL-SIN. I would enjoy this flight, and even get some sleep...


Last edited by yflyer; 23rd May 2020 at 02:44 PM..
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Old 23rd May 2020, 09:34 AM   #15
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We eventually took off into the night sky...



This would be my "bed" for the night, once armrests were raised...



No footrests on this particular A380...



Universal A/C power in the movable armrests...



I took off my shoes and put on the thick socks that came with SQ's Y amenity kit...



I asked the cabin crew for a gin & tonic...

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