Steve (DOS) and I have had a wonderful but quick trip to Calgary, Alberta, but were soon on our way to Singapore after our couple day’s stay in wintery Canada. We had been staying at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, and as we will be returning in a week for a one night’s stay, the bellman checked several pieces of our ‘winter’ Calgary luggage at the hotel. (We had packed separate suitcases for our Singapore trip, as it is an entirely different climate – Hot!)
We checked out of the Hyatt Regency in Calgary, and took the Allied shuttle van to the airport; a bargain at $10 a person, plus a nice tip as he helped us with our heavy luggage.
Our flights to Singapore were made up in three segments, starting with a 9 hour flight from Calgary to London via British Airways, followed by a 3 hour flight to Helsinki on Finnair, and finally with a 12 hour flight from Helsinki to Singapore. Complete with layovers, it was a nearly 40 hour journey! I know as I used the timer on my iPad from takeoff in Calgary, until we arrived at our hotel in Singapore.
Our first flight departed Calgary at 6:15pm via a British Airways 787, however we arrived at the airport 3 hours early, and quickly checked in and went thru security. As we were flying Business Class, we were entitled to use the Aspire Lounge in the Calgary International terminal.
Aspire is a shared lounge with other airlines, and while it was decent with food and drink offerings, it was not my favorite airport lounge due to crowed conditions and lack of facilities. I did have a few self-service brewski’s before the flight, but soon realized that wasn’t the best idea, as it was soon time to find the men’s room.
As it became closer to departure time, the lounge became quite busy, and there was only one (out of two) working restrooms (both private ones) in the men’s room, which made for some queuing. It was actually quicker to go out into the main terminal area and use the public restrooms, although I must say the bathrooms there were quite lacking in facilities as well; three urinals for the whole terminal, and they were located right next to two bars! Talk about busy restrooms!
Where does everybody go in YYC when nature calls? The fun zone, maybe? LOL!
Anyway, DOS and I headed down to the gate when it was announced around 5:25pm, and we were soon welcomed aboard our British Airways flight to London. Steve (DOS) was seated in 5 A by the window, and I was next to him in 5 B; an aisle seat. Some bean counter at British Airways must have developed this ying-yang seating, which has the Business Class cabin alternating seats forward and backwards, all while creating little to no privacy. While of course better than the Coach cabin, it just seemed like a waste and poor design on what otherwise is an awesome, state-of-the art airplane. If traveling with a partner, at least you don’t feel uncomfortable staring at them (at least for take off and landing), but if it was a total stranger, it would be quite bizarre being so close and staring at your adjacent seat mate. The seats have individual TV’s and truly lay-flat seating which is nice, with a pull out drawer by your feet for your personal belongings that you don’t want to store overhead. It’s fine for an iPad, passport, glasses, etc, but not much else.
The electronic partition between DOS’s seat and mine, was operated by the press of a button. While we kept the partition down the whole flight, it would be awkward if traveling with a stranger, as the seat partition would be going up and down the whole flight, while the Flight Attendant’s press the button for inflight service. It somehow felt like a ‘prison’, where the door was slid open for meal times.
While the seating partition was a bit strange, what was even stranger were the fold-down footrests at each Business Class seat. The foot rest folded down to allow for a lay-flat bed, however the person at the window, or in the middle section, had to literally crawl over your feet and foot rest to access the aisle. I can’t believe they don’t have more accidents on these flights; i.e. people tripping over the seats, Flight Attendant spilling food and/or beverage on the aisle passenger while they reach over them and serve the window passenger etc. Not a good design, and especially on an overnight flight when it’s dark in the cabin once in flight.
The aircraft itself; the Boeing 787-900 series, however, is a wonderful and modern aircraft with better air circulation and lower cabin pressure, coupled with quieter engines, and large self-dimming windows. Together, these modern features makes for a better overall experience, despite the odd seating arrangement designed by British Airways.
We had a nice dinner meal and drinks aboard, and I watched an Agatha Cristie move, “The Crooked House” as we flew across the Atlantic to London Heathrow. With the lay-flat seating I was able to get some five hours sleep on this nearly 9 hour flight, subtracting time for dinner and morning breakfast. The service was very good on British Airways, and we arrived on time into London.
While in London Heathrow, we had a full six hour layover, so we went One-World Airline lounge hopping, coupled with some shopping, eating, and drinking. We arrived in terminal Five from Calgary, so we had to take the intra-terminal bus over to terminal three, which was a standing-room only crowded joy after an overnight flight.
After arriving at terminal three, we had to once again clear security, before heading out to explore the terminal. In terminal Three, there are four One-World Airline partner lounges, (Cathay Pacific, QANTAS, British Airways, and American) and as were traveling in Business Class, and both have Emerald One World status, (which allows access to the First Class lounge section of each lounge) we went to all four lounges at some point during our six hour layover!
We started out at Cathay Pacific’s lounge, where we were shown into the separate First Class section of their lounge, by a delightfully friendly woman named Susan. She was so welcoming, and explained the use of the lounge, showers, storage areas etc, should we want to wander around the airport since we had a six hour layover.
We had breakfast in the separate dining area section of the lounge, which was intimate and classy, served by a nice waitress. As the Cathay Pacific flight had just departed, it was very quiet this time of day. That’s one huge advantage of having four One-World lounges to choose from, as people typically use the lounge of the airline they are flying, and when their flights depart, it’s relatively deserted until the next set of flights comes in. (The exception of course being a major hub or an airlines flagship lounge.)
After breakfast, we each took showers in the back section of the Cathay Lounge area. There were lots of private shower rooms available to use, and were well stocked with complimentary toiletries, towels, commode and shower. It felt wonderful getting a hot shower and changing clothes after the overnight flight from Calgary! The Cathay Lounge also has large and private lockers, which we stored our carry-on luggage in, while we went out and toured the airport.
Once out of the shower and dressed now for the warmer weather climate of Singapore, I met DOS back in the main section of the Cathay Lounge, where he quickly told me that ‘One of us needs to change our shirts, so we don’t look like the Bobsey Twins!’ LOL! We didn’t plan it that way, but we had the exact same Polo shirt on – great minds think a like I guess. As he was there first, I decided to change my shirt to a red Polo shirt, actually a red shirt I had gotten at the Fess Parker Resort in Santa Barbara last year, and really light weight and comfortable too.
After changing into my red shirt and storing our luggage, we headed out to explore more of terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport.
Steve (DOS) had to buy a little something at Harrod’s, so we got a miniature version of this giant bear on display. The signature bear in the front of the store was a bit to large to carry home, and at £1,500 (both price and probably weight too!) a bit over our customs allowance!
After DOS’s mini Harrod’s purchase, we continued walking around busy terminal three, and ‘played around’ a bit in the process. We next headed over to the QANTAS Lounge. Of the four One World lounges in terminal 3 at Heathrow, QANTAS is the newest one at only 3 months old.
The QANTAS lounge is very fresh, modern and spacious. When we entered we were immediately welcomed and handed a beverage menu, and provided information about the lounge.
The two level lounge has a grand staircase leading to the upper level with a beautiful chandelier hanging over the bar. A QANTAS staff member saw us admiring the lounge from the staircase, and immediately walked over to take our photo.
One settled in the comfortable seats, I had a nice glass of Australia Sauvignon Blanc, which made for a light and crisp refreshing drink, along with some mixed nuts, while DOS had a fancy kettle of tea.
Next up on the lounge crawl was the British Airways First Glass Galleries Lounge for a quick tour, some snacks and a glass of vino. We had been to the Galleries Lounge last summer when we went to South Africa, and it was as we remembered it; nice but a bit dated.
The chandeliers were nice over the self service wine and champagne area, and the divided two-sectioned lounge was fairly large in size.We were going to have lunch in the British Airways restaurant area, but after waiting for 10 minutes with no one acknowledging we were there to eat, (we walked right past the wait staff on the way in who handed us menus, and the dining area is quite small), we left and decided to eat later at Cathay Pacific’s lounge when we would retrieve our luggage (very smart move and much better at Cathay in every way!). 👎 British Airways Private Dining. To be fair, we did use BA’s private dining last summer when we flew BA to Africa, but looking back, it was slow then too, and the burger at BA and the private lounge seating was very inferior to Cathay Pacific’s, which is shown a bit lower in this post.
Finally we finished up our Lounge crawl at the American Airlines First Class Lounge. As DOS had said before we even went in there, it was pretty sub-standard; (i.e not quite a dump – NQAD).
We were offered a glass of champagne as we walked in, however, and while the AA Lounge could use a make-over, it was fairly empty at this time of day (after the Philadelphia flight had just departed), so it was a quiet place to spend some time and have a glass of vino and snack.
We chatted with one of the servers there, and he said like in the US, all of the Admiral’s Lounges are getting an update within the year, recognizing we were a bit unimpressed with the AA lounge compared to the others we had been to. I’m sure AA will do a good job with this lounge like they’ve done in Chicago, Miami, Dallas and others, when they get it updated.
Want to see the AA First Class men’s room? Not the fanciest, but they did have good soaps.
Oh, and a nice display of chocolates on the way out of the lounge.
So finally after leaving the American Airlines Lounge, we headed back to the Cathay Pacific Lounge to retrieve our luggage, and also have a nice sit down lunch. Unlike the British Airways Galleries Lounge, the Cathay Pacific Lounge was not crowded, the staff very friendly, and the food and service much-much better. 👍 We had a nice late lunch before heading down towards our gate for our next flight to Helsinki.
Overall, I give the QANTAS Lounge the best for it’s newness, space, and modern feeling, however, Cathay Pacific for it’s private dining and huge row of private showers, with fancy toiletries. The Private Dining at Cathay was especially good and like eating in a private restaurant, with attentive service and excellent quality food.
Cathay was also very accommodating when we checked in, and later when we went back to pick up our luggage before getting on our next flight.
The six hour layover in Heathrow terminal three went by really fast, thanks to the 4 One-World Lounges, shops, multiple meals and drinks we had throughout the afternoon.
Our next flight was on Finnair, leaving at 4:15pm. Compared to our first flight on British Airways, this was a ‘tiny’ Airbus 319 plane.
While we were in ‘Business Class’, on this intra-European flight, the 31 inch pitch is the same as coach, and the seating is also 3 x 3, although they do block out the middle seat on each Business Class row, so you have more width-space, but more pitch leg-room.
This 3 hour flight was fairly quick, and we were served a decent business-class meal along the way, with complimentary drinks. I slept a bit after the meal, and DOS took this very unflattering photo of me which I can’t believe I’m publishing! (Do I always sleep with a reverse smile?) 😀
After the 3 hour flight on Finnair from London Heathrow, we arrived at Helsinki airport, which was fairly quiet at this time of night (around 8:45pm). As our next (and long haul flight to Singapore) didn’t leave until nearly midnight, we had time to use the First Class Lounge for Finnair.
Finnair doesn’t have ‘true’ First Class on any of it’s flights, (only Business Class – which is really today’s version of First Class), but as One-World Emerald status fliers on American, we were admitted to the First Class (vs Business Class) section of the Lounge, which was quieter, and had a better selection of food and drink.
Best of all (and a first for both of us), they even had a sauna in their lounge! We knew this in advance, and had brought our swimsuits, however with the towels supplied we ended up wrapping ourselves for the quick sauna run!
We followed this up of course with a shower in their private shower rooms, feeling rejuvenated before our upcoming 12 hour flight to Singapore.
I did peek in the adjacent Business Class Lounge, and it was very nice as well, not to mention much larger. As the flight to Singapore and the other flight to Hong Kong had already started boarding, it was quite empty as well.
Soon it was time for our midnight Finnair flight, and we wouldn’t help by noticing how snowy it was as we boarded the plane; this one a wide body (and new) Airbus 350 jet. DOS had taken this trip last year in the same A350 aircraft, and really liked it, commenting about the high ceilings of the plane, mood lighting, large windows, and lie flat seating in the individual suites.
The large Business Class section is 1 X 2 X 1, with every seat having direct access to the aisle. Plus, my seat and DOS’s (3A and 4A respectively) had both a window view and aisle access. The amenity kit, slippers, and the ‘informational folder’ (which contained menus, customs forms, entertainment information etc) were colorful and conveniently located at our seats as we boarded, along with some nice noise-canceling headphones for use with our individual TV screens.
I didn’t take a whole lot of photos on this long flight, but it was quite nice, and we both managed to get a full seven hours of sleep or so, while the flight actually only took around 11 hours. Suffice it to say it was a very comfortable flight, on a new plane, and had very good service.
The de-icying of the plane was a long process, and a bit unnerving as it was snowing quite hard by this time. Here was an identical Finnair A350 being de-iced next to us.The Captain kept us informed, and offered his comments regarding the flight, reminding us we could watch both the route of the flight, as well as my favorite part, the ‘view from the tail’; an actual look at the plane traveling via the tale view. I left this running all night after watching the move ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, and after being served dinner. Here is a view from the tail as we headed out for takeoff from Helsinki.
Dinner was served all in one setting, on a single tray, which was fine as it was after midnight when we took off. I had the veal cheeks as the entree, as well as the Ahi-tuna appetizer, pair with some nice 2011 French red wine. Not a great photo, but was trying to watch the ‘Orient Express’ movie while I ate, but here was my dinner meal in Business Class.
By morning, it was time for breakfast about 90 minutes out, and the flight became a bit bumpy after having been super smooth and quiet all night long. I did manage to get a better photo of breakfast now that it was daylight, and again it was served as a single course which was fine with me.
After a good night’s rest, and shortly before landing, several of us opened the window shad, allowing in natural sunlight. Here are a couple window photos, along with a view from the tail camera.
One slightly negative thing tall people like me (well I’m not really that tall, but at 5’11”) the foot rest area (unlike on British Airways 787) can be a bit confining due to the way the suites are configured. Your feet ‘go inside’ the cubby-hole type seating, which if you toss and turn a bit like me, may take some getting used to, to find a comfortable (not cramped feet) position. I had read other people’s comments about this, but it really didn’t bother me much, although it did take a bit of getting used to. I still much prefer this over the BA 787 layout, even though BA’s has that fold-down foot rest.
After sleeping thru the night, it was actually afternoon by now, but time really means nothing on an international flight. Which time do you go by? The time we originally left Calgary, the time in London, the time in Helsinki, or the time we get to Singapore! Very confusing indeed! One last pic of DOS and I, and we’re not looking too bad after the long flight!
We ended up landing in Singapore around 5:30pm local time, and of course easily spotted Singapore Airlines planes taxiing to the gate like our Finnair flight.
We could immediately see how efficient Singapore is with their cleanliness, immigration, baggage, ground transportation etc. Our checked luggage was actually waiting for us after the very short (maybe 5 minutes) wait going thru immigration. The luggage isn’t that quick on a domestic flight back home! While you can’t take photos going thru immigration or customs, I quickly snapped a phone as we walked off the Airbus 350 plane that had carried us the last 11 hours or so from Helsinki to Singapore, before heading to Immigration.
After getting our luggage and walking thru the Green (nothing to declare lane) at Singapore Airport, we were soon in a cab, and heading out to our hotel for the next four nights; the Grand Hyatt Singapore. It was rush hour traffic, and although not that far, it did take us about 45 minutes to get to the hotel; admiring the many huge skyscrapers and apartment buildings on the way. Not a great photo of us as the sun was shining (and setting) on us, bu here we are on the ride to the hotel.
Once checked into the Grand Hyatt, we were surprised to see that our reserved ‘standard suite’, had been updated to a Grand Bi-Level suite on the 20th (top) and 21rst floors! I am a top-level Hyatt Diamond member, and DOS had stayed here once before, so I’m sure that helped get us upgraded, even though we didn’t request it.
I say 20th is the top floor as the elevator only goes to there. We have a circular staircase in our suite to get to the 21rst floor where the Grand Club is also located, but is accessible to other guests (without bi-level accommodations) from the 20th floor public staircase. I don’t know how or if you’re in a wheelchair you would get to the 21rst floor, and we didn’t see anyway needing special assistance; perhaps they use the service elevator? Anyway, here are a couple photos from the large two-level suite.
We had one full bathroom upstairs and one half bath downstairs, kitchen pantry with microwave, fridge and even stove burners, living room, dining room, private staircase, large bedroom, several closets, including a nice walk-in closet, and easy access to the Grand Club just down the hall, via our second floor door label 2047B (as opposed to the 20th floor door 2047). The second floor in our room had a partial cut-out which exposed the first floor ‘conference room’ (dining room) from above.
We were pretty tired from the trip, so went to the Grand Club lounge around 7pm, and still had time for the complimentary hors D’ourves and drinks. This was an exceptionally nice Hyatt Lounge, and which was actually more like dinner than hors D’orves with the many selections.
Indeed as we were a bit tired, we did make this first night into a dinner, although we did head out for a short walk in our neighborhood. As this week marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, everywhere was decorated with flower, and the mandarin orange trees we had seen in Thailand a couple years ago when we were also there over Chinese New Year.
I had started my iPad stopwatch from the time we were on our takeoff from Calgary, and remembered to stop it when I got to the lounge; the elapsed travel time was nearly 34 hours!
Welcome to Singapore!