Singapore Airlines DME-SIN First Class Trip Report & Transfer Lounge Review Part 2

This is part two of my IAH-SIN Singapore Airlines first class trip report and includes the Moscow-Singapore leg as well as the Moscow transfer lounge. Part 1 was published earlier today.

This ticket (NYC-DPS) was booked during the UA website glitch and ensuing Singapore First Class booking extravaganza back in early July. It cost me 70,000 UA MP miles and $32 USD in taxes.

We arrived into Moscow around 35 minutes late with a layover of 45 minutes instead of the scheduled 80 minutes. Before exiting, the lead flight attendant personally came over to thank me for flying and reminded me that all information regarding my broken in-flight entertainment system had been communicated to the ground staff in Moscow and that I should remember to pick up my new boarding pass with an updated seating assignment. Upon exiting, transferring passengers are given transfer cards and directed to the transfer area by very large Singapore Airlines transfer signs. However, the transfer area was locked and there was no one at the door. As one of the first ones off the plane, I headed back towards the gate and asked where we should proceed with the gate locked. I was told that if the transfer area was not yet open, I would need to proceed through customs. That did not sound right (especially since we had arrived late) so I looked for someone else to ask while I waited for the rest of the passengers to filter out. Sure enough, everyone was lining up in the customs line (which is adjacent to the transfer area). I did not enter the line, instead asking two additional Moscow airport workers. They too directed me to the customs line. I finally saw one of the flight attendants and told him that we were being sent through customs instead of the transfer waiting area. Within a few moments he was able to find someone and get the transfer area opened. No announcement of any kind was made and several of the first and business class passengers were already in the customs line. I walked over and informed everyone that if they were transferring they needed to get off the line. As the rest of the passengers continued deplaning, the line to enter the transfer area grew quite long. There was only one woman with a printed list of transfer passengers and upon reaching her, she would take your transfer card and ticket and then look very slowly for your name on her sheet. Once she spotted your name on the list, you were then allowed to proceed through to security check. There was one other woman who was in charge of crowd management and she was doing a pretty poor job. Luckily, I was near the front of the line and only waited 10 minutes. You next pass through a metal detector and your carry-on bags are re-scanned. You do not need to take your shoes off or take your laptops out of your bag. Upon completing the security check, you exit into the departure gate area and can proceed to the International Business Lounge (business and first customers). By this time there was only 20 minutes left prior to departure, so I darted to the lounge to quickly snap some pictures. The lounge was quite a distance from the transfer security check and a brisk 5-10 minute walk. It’s nothing great and if you are short on time, you are not missing much. There are uncomfortable wicker chairs and small tables (no power outlets), free wifi, assorted pre-made mini-sandwiches, salads, desserts, and assorted beverages. The highlight of the lounge is really the view outside.

After about 10 minutes in the lounge, I headed back to the gate area and it was already a disaster! People were lined up and it was clear nobody was going to be boarding by groups. I ducked under a roped off area to get to the gate agents who as promised already had my new boarding pass printed out. I was moved to a new first class seat with a functioning tv.

I was getting the evil eye from the crowd but there was no way I was going back under the ropes and into the chaos. Surprisingly, as they called for children and anyone needing special assistance, passengers actually stayed put. However, once they announced the first class boarding all hell broke loose. Everyone was trying to board and the ropes were placed back up. As I was already under the ropes, I got to enter the jetway and take a look back at the gate…

The poor boarding process was pretty surprising for Singapore Airlines, but the agents were clearly contracted airport workers. It definitely felt good to be back on board and away from the disaster of a DME transfer. There was a completely new flight crew and as I boarded, the flight attendants already knew my name (before handing them my ticket)…impressive. They came right over to my new seat and told me that they had read the crew remarks from the last flight and were very sorry for the TV and food problems. They promised that everything would be working on the flight. We even tested out the In-flight KrisWorld entertainment prior to takeoff and it was working.  I was then given another set of Givenchy pajamas as well as an additional Kiehl’s toiletry bag. I believe it’s standard for transfer passengers to receive another set of PJs, but not the additional Kiehl’s bag.

As mentioned in the last post, the PJs were soft and included a lightweight zip-up and drawstring pants. The Kiehl’s bag included ultra facial cleanser, calendula herbal-extract toner, ultra facial cream, lip balm, and ultimate strength hand salve. Here’s a closer look at the PJs and amenity bag…

The pilot announced that the flight would be a short 9 1/2 hours to Singapore with no expected turbulence once the plane was de-iced. The first class cabin was all but empty except for myself, two Point Me to the Plane readers, and four Russian passengers who boarded in Moscow. The dinner, snack, and breakfast menu was at the back of the previous IAH-DME flight menu and included some excellent choices (be warned though, you’ll still be full from the IAH-DME flight).


For dinner I went with the salmon with dill and Greek style veggies, Oriental clear chicken broth with spinach, and veal osso-bucco. Once again, I skipped the mid-flight snacks and stuck to water, fruit, and chocolate. For breakfast I had my first ever cooked on-board scrambled eggs with tomato and mushroom (prefect and not watery), strawberry yogurt, and a fruit plate. The veal osso-bucco was excellent and the eggs were fresh and warm.

 

After dinner I intended to recline my seat and relax a bit before trying to get back to sleep. However, there was a problem with my chair. It would not recline at all. The controls were not functioning and the seat had to be reset. They tried several times without any luck and then told me they could manually recline the seat or I could once again switch seats. I didn’t feel like moving again and already knew that one of the open seats had a defective in-flight entertainment unit. Instead, I had them make the seat into the bed and I went and changed into the PJs. Again, they were very apologetic and quite embarrassed. I said it was no big deal but asked that they document the problems. I was thinking once again, I’m happy this is an award flight and I didn’t spend $8000+ on two flights with defective TVs and seats.

As I mentioned in the last report, as someone who is rarely able to sleep on flights (no matter how long or comfortable they are), I was shocked to again be able to sleep. I loved the bed, each time I would get up to go to the bathroom, someone would come by and re-make the entire bed. It was very comfortable and large enough to fully spread-out. While the bed had three different pillows, I really liked the normal size pillow and was able to grab another two from some of the empty first class seats. In-flight KrisWorld entertainment was quick, responsive, and had great selection of new releases and all time favorite movies and tv shows.

Service was excellent and even better than the first flight. As the crew was now aware of the problems on both flights, they went above and beyond to make sure I was happy. My water didn’t go more than five minutes without being refilled. They talked to me about their favorite spots in Bali and other locations I should think about for future trips. At the end of the flight, the lead flight attendant asked if he could speak to me for a few moments. He told me that he had written up the problem with the seat and also attached the problems about the TV and food from the previous flight. He wanted me to know that he had contacted Customer Service at the Silver Kris Lounge at Terminal 2, where my connecting flight would be departing from, and that I should go and speak to them as they were waiting for me. He even offered to escort me there. I thanked him for his assistance and told him that the service on both flights was incredible.

I was planning on going straight to the Private Room @ Silver Kris Lounge Terminal 3, but detoured first to Terminal 2. Upon arriving, an agent was already waiting for me and invited me to sit down. I didn’t need to do much as she already had reports from both crews. She wanted to know my email address, my United MileagePlus number, and how many miles I spent on the ticket. I provided all of the information and she told me I should hear back in 3-5 days. I received no response my entire time in Bali and for the first week+ back in the US. I then sent an online message to Singapore Airlines customer service and received this response:

VIA EMAIL
Email : Adam@gmail.com
Mr Adam
23 January 2013
130XXX11XX/CR/THx

Dear Mr Adam
I am writing to follow-up on a report that we received from our ground
staff at the SilverKris Lounge and your online feedback of 21 January 2013.
I am sorry to learn of your experience onboard flight SQ61 / 10 January
2013 from Houston to Singapore (via Moscow). Please be assured that we are
investigating into the matter and will get back to you as soon as we have
completed our findings. Thank you for your patience and have a good week ahead.

Yours sincerely
Alvin XXXX
Customer Affairs Manager
Singapore Airlines Limited

I have not received any response back but will send a follow-up message at the end of the week. If only these were the worst of the problems. Unfortunately, it all went downhill on the connecting flight to Bali. Several of the passengers (20+) including four Point Me to the Plane readers became extremely ill, apparently from the food on the DME-SIN flight (it only struck connecting passengers). The flight included passengers running back and forth to the bathrooms and sick-bags for all…more on that in the part 3 and 4- The Singapore Airlines Private Room @ Silver Kris Lounge Terminal 3, Silver Kris Lounge Terminal 2, and SIN-DPS, coming up tomorrow.

A word of advice…

When looking for first class awards on Singapore Airlines (via their website using MR or SPG points), the connecting flight in DME has the greatest availability. You might even classify it as easy to find a first class award on this flight (along with the ICN connection). I’ll have a trip report on the ICN connection soon (SFO-ICN-SIN-MEL), but in the meantime I’d say be a little bit more flexible and go for a non-Moscow connection. The TV, seat, and food problems could have occurred on any Singapore flight, but the connection problems and re-boarding process in Moscow were plain horrible. I’ve had much better connections on both US and European carriers all over the world. Meanwhile, I’ve heard only positive things regarding the NRT, HKG, and FRA connections. If you do have a DME flight scheduled, not to worry, the Singapore on-board service was still fantastic and definitely one of the best in the sky.

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