With only a weeks' notice, I found out I had to make a work trip to my company's North American HQ just off Dallas, Texas.Itinerary Planning
The first itinerary that came to mind was SQ's non-stop to SFO and then on to a Virgin America or United flight to DFW but the former was full in Business Class. SQ's Singapore-Manchester-Houston flight came to mind next but it was also full in J. So I settled for SQ 12 for the outbound journey that would take me Singapore-Narita-Los Angeles and inbound on SQ 7 that goes Los Angeles-Seoul-Singapore. I then looked at domestic flights to between LAX and DFW but couldn't get any meaningful connections on United or Virgin America so I settled for American Airlines.I eventually realised DFW is an AA hub. Checking in and Singapore Airline's homebase SilverKris Lounge
As always at Singapore Airlines' Business Class counters in SIN, there was no queue. The agent checked my bag all the way to DFW. I was surprised they could do that since my LAX-DFW leg was on a non-Star Alliance airline. The agent explained that they could do it as my flights were all booked under the same itinerary. Apparently most major airlines have interline agreements with each other that allow them to do things like this. Makes me wonder what the value of an alliance is then, beyond earning miles on partner airlines.
There was no queue at immigration either and so I arrived at the Silverkris Lounge no more than 5 minutes later.
The Business Class section was busy but there were sufficient seats that were spread out well into sections that allowed for some privacy
I have always loved how classy this lounge feels with its marble and leather. My only complaint is that there are now windows.
Rumour has it that SQ is going to do a big revamp of the lounge soon... I think SQ should try doing what Changi Airport does so well- indoor gardens. A large indoor garden within or by the lounge with lots of natural light could really give SQ's homebase SilverKris a big wow-factor.
I didn't take pictures but the loos were now stocked with Miller Harris handwash and moisturisers, they same ones they use on-board. Amenities like toothbrushes and shavers were available too.Silverkris- Business Class section
Food! There were more than 20 hot food options that included continental breakfast options as well as local Malay, Chinese and Indian options.
Food has always been a strong plus point of this lounge. In stark contrast to ANA's homebase lounge which was a huge disappointment (rant below!)Generous booze selection
I asked the staff if I could check out the First Class section. I've been there before but was curious to see how crowded it was in comparison. There were but 3 people in there! It isn't all that different from the Business Class section. It has the same feel and food offerings. The main differences is the bar and windows with tarmac views. Chanced upon Airbus' 10,000th Singapore to Narita, Tokyo: First time on SQ's New (2013) Business ClassI was on a 777-300ER fitted with SQ's latest long-haul Business Class seats circa 2013
I had only been on the previous generation Business Class before this; the one introduced in 2007.I remember how I was amazed I was the first time I saw it. It was a revolution at its time with it's true 1-2-1 configuration, the first and the widest for any major commercial airline in Business Class. I never imaged that SQ could improve it but they managed to.
According to some people I spoke to in SQ, they worked with designers for over a year studying how passengers sat and slept and this new Business Class product was a result of it.
The first thing I noticed was that the seat has shrunk to make way for a console with a lot of storage space and the tray table. SQ probably realised that the older Business Class was too wide it was almost uncomfortable. A First-World-Problem it is but I always had to ask for extra pillows and cushions as my slim frame barely occupied half of the older seat!
It was a 100% load in Business Class today. The 4 seat, single-row First Class cabin had 1 seat unoccupied. Not sure how Premium Economy and Economy fared. I eventually realised that Business Class was full on all 4 sectors I had on SQ in this trip. The forward Business Class cabin with 3 rows of seats. Just as it was with the old configuration, this section feels quieter and more private that the bigger cabin behindMy seat- 14K for both sectors. The first impression it gave me as I walked into the cabin was that of style and understated luxury, much like its predecessor. The new KrisWorld. Apparently touch-screen was disabled in Business Class as they deemed the seat too far awayThe handset was a touch-screen. Took me a few minutes to get used to it but when I did it worked great. A great improvement over the interface of the previous generation.SQ11 Menu ScansAs always they have Japanese meals for flights to and from Japan which are always excellent.
In First Class, SQ offer Kaiseki, the Japanese equivalent of Haute cuisine- typically 12 or so courses. In Business Class, they offer something that's nearly as nice. It's pretty much like Kaiseki except that it comes in a bento box rather than individual dishes.
I decided to have it for the two meal services between NRT to LAX since it's always better out of Japan as one would expectCanapes were SQ's trademark satay. This is one local dish SQ always does wellSeafood Platter Appetizer; didn't take a picture of the wine menu but I went for the 2012 Chateau Belle-Vue which was excellentI'm not big on red meat so I went for the Spiced Chilean Bass with puy lentils topped with a carrot-bacon stewThe cherry cake wasn't great; in-line with past experiences on SQ in J and F, desserts are their lowest point when it comes to cateringI love my cheeses.. The crew offered me a second round when they saw how quickly I had it!The loos were well-stocked with amenities like Miller Harris toiletries, toothbrushes and shavers. I don't get why some folk on theis forum are so upset that SQ doesn't hand out amenity kits in Business Class. This is a lot more environmentally friendly as you can take what you need.Transiting in Narita: ANA's lounge disappointed
I took SQ in Business Class once from NRT to SIN three years ago but didn't get the time to visit the ANA's homebase lounge which is what SQ uses.
Since I had a little under two hours I thought I'd pop by.
I have always been a big fan of Japanese food and always tried out the local foods of each prefecture I visited on my previous holidays there.
I actually never had a meal that disappointed in Japan, in any city or town I visited and I've traveled between Tokyo To Kagoshima (including Shikoku along the way). The bento sets from the department stores too were always great.
So I expected something special in ANA's homebase lounge and boy was I disappointed. I actually went out to ask the staff if I was in THE ANA INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS lounge and I surprisingly was. I later learnt there was another but that was similar to the one I was in, just bigger.
The lounge which ANA uses for its own Business Class passengers had the feel of a typical food court in Singapore's shopping malls. It was busy, noisy and with staff almost literally running around. Nothing about it felt premium or classy in any way.
There were only two hot food options compared to over 20 in Singapore Airlines' homebase lounge- and that was at breakfast. The two options were local curry and udon. I saw the udon the people around me had and it looked like the most basic sort, like the sort you get in the local convenience stores in the city.
Apart from that, there were onigiri rice balls and a very basic salad. Again, this could be right out of a convenience store. So the only food choices ANA offered represented the bottom end of Japanese cuisine. I decided to give the curry a shot but again, Japanese convenience stores, yes, the likes of Family Mart wins!
The only thing that looked decent was the one live sushi counter with some basic sushi options but it had a long queue so I'll pass.
Maybe I am a little spoilt, having had wonderful meals across Japan but seriously ANA, not even a basic bento with some cooked dishes to choose from?
My friends who have been to this lounge told me to try the fine sake they have but it turned out that they had run out of two of the three options. Another minus for this lounge.
I still want to try ANA's Business Class when I visit Tokyo for work later this year. But I'll definitely give ANA's lounge a miss. I know where I can get a great meal in town and if I need to work, there is free wifi in the terminal which has a lot more sitting room than this crowded lounge.Views of the lounge; it was busy and the interiors were tiredPoor food options- a very basic salad, onigiris and ramen.. all looked like something you'd find in a convenience store in Japan The sake selection my friends raved about but 2 of the 3 sake canisters were empty! I thought I'd ask the staff if they'd be topped up but no there weren't any around so I settled for the one availableNarita to Los Angeles
One good thing about the fact that the food at the ANA lounge didn't appeal to me was that that left me more room for what turned out to be yet another excellent onboar Japanese meal out of Narita. Another round of satayI tried to reference to the menu but couldn't figure out what was what. Everyything was great though so it didn't matter!And when I thought that was it, I found out that that was only the appetiser bento! Loved the blue stilton!The pumpkin cake was great. A lot better than the previous sector's dessert
I slept through most of the flight after dinner and got up two hours before landing. Opted for the Japanese selection again for lunchThe crew offered me both dessert choices. I couldn't resist!
The sesame panna cotta was divine.. it was silky, creamy, smooth and subtle. While the Green tea cake was not bad too
Some shots of the bed which was massive as you can tell from the pictures. I heard the crew would do a turn-down service if you requested for it, but I had no trouble setting the bed myself. You simply needed to pull a latch and bring the seat down. Everything else falls into place. SQ and their designers must have put quite a bit of work into this as the previous-generation one wasn't as easy.
SQ also improved on the feet space The previous used to force me to sleep at an angle.Los Angeles to Dallas and back on American Airlines in Economy
I haven't travelled all that much in the US. My only experience flying domestic was a decade ago when I was travelling solo at 19 on a number of flights with United and the now-defunct Northwest. That was between DCA, JFK and PHL. Frankly, the airport and airline experience was atrocious- it was all quite frigtening! And so my expectations couldn't have been any lower when I landed in LAX and mentally prepared myself that I would be flying domestic in the US from LAX to DFW on American Airlines, and in coach at that.LAX turned out to be a very pleasant airport; no long waiting queues on arrival and departure as well. The terminal was bright and welcomingThe AA 787 I was about to board. This livery has grown on me
I was pleasantly surprised actually.
LAX was pretty.. the terminal was bright, immigration and customs took only 20 minutes with the the new computerised systems they have. I wanted to take some pictures of it but I was afraid the TSA might hurl me away if that was a crime somehow!
Boarding my AA flight was smooth. The cabin crew were all smiley and pleasant. The new Dreamliner I was on was a comfy 9-abreast in Economy with legroom that felt like what I'd get on international flights. AA's IFE was excellent. The interface was smooth and there was a great selection of movies and TV shows, including a fictional drama, "11.22.63", based on the assassination of JFK I watched on both my AA sectors. Meals were available for purchase. Non-alcoholic beverages were complimentary but I passed on them.Ample legroom
On my way back, DFW was also a pleasant airport. Some terminals were noticeably older and less pretty but getting around with the walkways and light-rail was intuitive. Again, exceeded my expectations. AA insisted the couldn't check my bag all the way through to SIN (even though SQ's agents did it the other way around). Despite being on a full-fare Y ticket that cost $2,000 for this 3-hour flight, I had to pay a domestic check-in baggage fee, and would have to check in again at LAX. Definitely the lowest point on my "AA experience". If AA charges for bags even for full fare Y, there really is no incentive to choose them over say Southwest. I will keep this in mind the next time I will be flying domestic in the US.
My return flight was on a 737 but the experience was consistent with the earlier sector- the crew were pleasant, IFE was just as good. Had a conversaion with my neighbour, a middle-aged Texan lady en route to Paris to join her family on a holiday she had been anticipating for a long time!Even more legroom on my return sector. Full fare Y gave me the option of selecting an exit row seatDallas
I had only a day to myself before I'd have to go to the office and fly off after so I tried to make the most of it. I walked... a lot. I covered most of the city I think!
Dallas was absolutely pretty and left me a fantastic impression of Texas. The streets were squeaky clean with a good mix of old and new architecture. The people I met along the way were incredibly friendly. Everyone was just so warm- and that sort of warmth that felt genuine. I have to come back and explore more of Texas.The Deep Ellum neighbourhood was hip. Lots of old industrial warehouses turned cafesPulled pork and sweet potatoes.. Southern comfort food!Some shots of the city. I've got to come back!Food trucks; my Texan friends told me how food trucks were quite a thing over there. I had some awesome tacos there but there are food trucks that serve just about every other cuisine as wellThe Star Alliance Lounge at LAX
When I arrived at LAX, I was looking forward to checking out the Star Alliance lounge I heard a lot about.
Definitely the best airline lounge I have been to in the US. It was fairly large with different themes that included a dinning section, a lounge area, two(!) bars- one with a darker, more contemporary feel and one that had an outdoorsy feel as it was exposed to the airport's natural light. There was even an outdoor garden. The buffet spread was wide with a large salad bar with lots of options The alcohol selection was excellent as well with a number of wines and liquours to chose from. I was surprised that they were available free of charge. I never had free booze in a US-based airline lounge before- all of which were United lounges. Maybe it's just United?The buffet spread; there was another counter with hot food optionsThe "outdoorsy" barLounge areaLos Angeles to Singapore with a visit to SilverKris Seoul enrouteThe 777 that operated SQ7 that day
I kept awake throughout the LAX-ICN leg and planned for sleep for the most part of the ICN-SIN leg as the latter would be in night time in SIN. Forcing myself into the timezone of my destination is how I have never gotten jetlag on any of my long-haul flights. SQ7 Menu ScansNuts served in a (square) bowl... The Koreans would approve!AntipastoI am not fond of red meats in general but the beef short rib was excellentIce cream with some incredibly sweet sauce. I couldn't eat more than a spoonfulBut of course! I asked for more cambozola
Most of the crew on both my return sectors on SQ didn't have that special SQ touch to them. They did their drink rounds every few minutes but they were pretty distant, except for one blue-kebaya clad stewardess on the LAX-ICN sector and a Chief Steward on ICN-SIN. Nothing to complain about though, the service was still good and the crew offered me refills of my Charles Heidsieck champagne.
I chatted a little with the stewardess who stood out. Turns out she has been with SQ for 6 years. She struck me as someone particularly intelligent and was quite interested to know more about what I did for work.It became the start of a long but interesting conversation as she has a degree relevant to my field and was very well-read. I guess she'd be donning a green kebaya soon and she definitely deserved the promotion. She took the effort to get to know the passengers in her section, offering drink suggestions and the like... every bit what one would expect of a "Singapore Girl". From our conversation though, she has different career ambitions, and mapped out pretty well at that. I wanted to get to carry on with our conversation but was afraid I'd come across as creepy asking her for her number.
I was still full from dinner when the crew began serving supper 2 hours prior to landing. I initially thought I'd pass on supper but it looked way too good when I saw what the other passengers had.Parma Ham and garlic bread- SQ always does the latter wellFettuccine and salmon. The salmon was great but I was too full for the formerMango cheese cake.. not bad
We had a layover of around two hours in ICN. Most of the shops were closing when we touched down in the late evening so I visited the SilverKris there.
That there were good shower rooms was greatly appreciated. It was quite a small lounge as I expected with it being an outstation lounge but there was a decent alcohol selection and food spread including several hot food options.SilverKris IncheonGlad they had showers!I was way too full to eat but there was a decent food selection with some hot food options at the back... Definitely better than ANA's homebase lounge in Narita
On the final leg of my trip I slept through the flight but before I did, I asked if I could have breakfast an hour before touchdown. The Chief Steward I spoke to said that'd be alright and I asked if they had their single-origin coffees that were featured in the menu. They had them all. That's good I told him as I always found the usual brew too acidic. When I woke up about 90 minutes before landing, I turned my IFE screen and left off where I last remembered on an earlier movie. The steward came back and asked if I was ready for the Book the Cook Grilled Norwegian Salmon Steak I ordered online, though if I felt like it, I could have anything else off the menu. As for coffee, he asked if I might want the Guatemala blend since I prefer something less acidic. I have woken up in a Singapore Airlines flight alright!Had a good 5 hours of sleepI used SQ's Book the Cook option for this sector; A fantastic grilled Norwegian salmon steak
Some Concluding Thoughts
Ultimately, this was a work trip so I was glad to have a comfortable bed in the sky that allowed me to avoid getting jetlagged either way.
Singapore Airlines is still the creme to me: Check-in, the lounges, the redesigned Business Class seat and bed and of course the personalised touch of their iconic cabin crew. Even if the crew on the return leg didn't seem as great, the service was still excellent by any yard stick. I will fly with them if I have the choice.
LAX and American Airlines left me with a great impression, except for the fact that I had to pay for checking in my bag even though I was an incredibly over-priced full fare Economy ticket!
ANA's homebase Narita lounge was the only part of the trip that disappointed.
Thanks for reading!