When I initially booked my add-on flights from New Delhi to Tokyo and Tokyo to Jakarta I was planning to stay in Indonesia for a couple of days and take the quickest route home over the pacific for two reasons:
- I knew I would be exhausted after travelling an average of 5,000km per day for a week
- I was really interested in trying EVA business class
Unfortunately, when I went to book with Aeroplan, I couldn’t find a convenient routing home on EVA featuring Royal Laurel Class on the Boeing 777-300 (the Taipei to Vancouver route had plenty of availability but features an old angle-flat business product on a 747). I looked around some more and couldn’t really find anything to my liking, so I decided to look for a really fun route instead.
I decided I would try routing over the Atlantic instead (even though it would be a longer journey) and found some good availability on Thai Airways from Bangkok to Paris in first class on the A380 and Paris to Chicago on an ancient United 767-300 with the new Polaris First product. I was also able to get an economy ticket from Chicago to Vancouver on Air Canada and now just needed a way from Jakarta to Bangkok.
When I searched for flights online from Jakarta to Paris I was only getting routings via Istanbul, which was annoying as I knew there were flights from Jakarta to Bangkok direct. I always search segment by segment as I find the computer to generate the simplest routings and not necessarily the best. I found flights from Jakarta to Bangkok via Singapore on Singapore Airlines first class and business class, which was exciting as these reward seats are not usually available to partner airlines.
I was able to book all of the flights I wanted by calling in, which meant I had to pay the $30 phone fee plus taxes/fees (approximately $150) and 107,500 Aeroplan miles.
I decided to check-out of the Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta around 10:30am, as I really had no idea how long it would take to get to the airport. Google maps was saying 30 minutes, but my drive from the airport took 90, and I didn’t want to risk being late. The weather was horrible, which definitely made the drive a little longer than half an hour, but I still arrived with plenty of time before my 2:10pm departure.
Like other airports in Asia, you are required to present ticket information and pass through an initial screening before entering the terminal. There was no line and I was through in less than a minute, but I was selected for ‘additional screening’ which involved a couple of guards swabbing my bags and entering data in a logbook. The entire process took about 5 minutes. The Singapore Airlines desk was located in the corner of the terminal and had nobody waiting in line (maybe because I was 3 hours early…). The first class checkin agent was very friendly and had my boarding passes printed all the way to Chicago. She then guided me to the dedicated immigration officer and through to the first class lounge.
The Esplanade lounge in Jakarta is split into two sections, with a dedicated first class area, though I couldn’t really see the difference and both areas were crowded. The lounge was very underwhelming and not a super enjoyable way to spend roughly 2.5 hours, though I managed to get some work done with the very good wifi. Also, like most airports in Asia, security is done at the gate, which is always on the back of my mind when relaxing in the lounge. I much prefer a setup where all security clearance is done before the lounge, so you can head straight to the plane without much delay. Instead I left about 30 minutes before boarding, as I imagined the lineups to be long since we were flying a fully loaded 777 for the short 90 minute journey.
Singapore Airlines 959
Jakarta (CKG) – Singapore (SIN)
Friday, February, 3
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 1F (First Class)
Boarding began about 10 minutes behind schedule and was very chaotic. Although the gate agent called for first and business class only, everyone just rushed the doors in a crazy free for all. Once on board, however, I was welcomed by a very organized flight crew and guided to my seat by name. I was quickly offered a glass of Dom Pérignon and settled in.
This is Singapore Airlines oldest first class configuration, with 8 seats spread across two rows. The seats certainly aren’t cutting edge compared to some other products, but are definitely comfortable and very, very wide. I would say the seats were slightly less comfortable than Cathay Pacific first class but wider than the seats on Japan Airlines first class. The cabin was full on this flight, but the seat design allowed for a lot of privacy from other passengers.
Storage at the seat was ample, with plenty of room under the ottoman for my Rimowa cabin bag and backpack. There was also storage for literature and other small items beside the seat near the floor.
There was full power at the seat on the right hand side in the small storage space, and headphone jack and reading light on the upper left hand side of the seat. A pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones were already at the seat upon boarding.
The crew took meal orders during boarding, as the lunch service would begin just after takeoff due to the short flight time. There were no menus provided, but rather a choice between a chicken and vegetarian dish. I also took the opportunity to have another glass of champagne prior to pushback, and take a selfie.
Pushback happened about 10 minutes behind schedule, and taxiing took about 20 minutes. Plane spotting is always interesting on the other side of the world so I never mind a longer taxi during the day.
The views climbing out of Jakarta were great, as I always like seeing the different landscape. So much green in the tropical climate!
The seatbelt sign was turned off after about 10 minutes, at which point the crew came through offering drinks and getting ready for lunch service. I found the crew on the flight to be extremely professional, but slightly robotic. I assume that’s because it’s such a short flight and they have a lot to do in a little amount of time.
While lunch was being prepared I took the chance to explore a bit more of the seat. The remote for the in-flight entertainment was old-school, and located on the left hand side just next to the seat controls. Seat controls were very easy to use and provided comfortable lounge positions. Unfortunately the seat couldn’t convert to a bed without crew assistance, and I didn’t want to bother them just for a picture. I do think it’s great that Singapore Airlines offers this seat on such a short flight, as it’s certainly overkill. My seat controls stopped working about 30 minutes prior to landing and I thought for a minute it would remain stuck in the lounge position and I would need to be re-seated in economy or business for landing, but the crew was quick to reset the seat and all was fine!
The in-flight entertainment options were extensive, and amongst the best I’ve seen on any international flight. It’s too bad the flight wasn’t long enough to take advantage of the options. In the end I just ate lunch and did a bit of work on my laptop before the short flight was over.
Singapore Airlines also has an app that allows for you to preview the selection prior to boarding, which could be very useful on a short flight.
Meal service started about 25 minutes after takeoff. The chicken dish was very tasty, though definitely not as good as you would find on a longer international flight. The sorbet dessert was fantastic and paired perfectly with another glass of Dom Pérignon. I really like the dishes Singapore Airlines uses, even on these short flights!
I ate my lunch fairly quickly and had about 40 minutes to work on my laptop before we began our descent into Singapore. The views over the coastline were beautiful when there was a break in the cloud coverage.
We were descending just ahead of a storm, which hit Singapore moments after our touchdown and was one of the most intense thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced, though it seemed like business as usual for most people in the terminal. The descent was bumpy, with one of my seat mates making some strange noises while grasping the edge of his seat.
Despite the weather, we had a very smooth landing at 5:00pm sharp with a short 7 minute taxi to our gate!
I was really excited to book Singapore Airlines first class using Aeroplan, as premium cabins are generally only bookable with Singapore’s own KrisFlyer miles (save for a few of the short routes). My expectations are never high on a short flight, as you really don’t get to experience the full product, such as proper meal service, amenities, bedding, etc.
However, I was blown away by this 1 hour 40 minute flight from Jakarta to Singapore, and can’t believe a true first class product is even marketed on such a short flight. Flat bed seats, real food, proper dishes, Dom Pérignon and Bose noise cancelling headphones were all offered, which puts most short-haul flights to shame. Moreover, the service was fantastic, with all staff addressing me by name and ensuring I was comfortable at all times. Singapore Airlines is constantly ranked one of the best airlines in the world across all cabins, and I can see why. Now I can’t wait to try their premium product on a longer route!