As most of you know I have just returned from a journey of some 25,000 miles to my homeland, New Zealand. Ooh and a billy can of Australia too. 25,000 miles is a long way to fly. It takes a long time, costs quite a bit of money, requires a modicum of stamina and a generous clench of gritted teeth.
The airline I fly with on these marathons shares my holiday, beginning and end. How do I choose which carrier to fly? Price, of course although I do have limits. I will not, for example, fly via Mumbai, Seoul and Brunai to save a few hundred pounds. Nor will I allow myself to be flagelated by a lack of care and/or service on such cut price airlines as Jetstar. I am too old and too interested in my own welfare.
But assuming that we all share the same ultimate desire from an airline, to get us to our destination safely, there are a number of choices that always pop up when I go to book my flights.
This time Singapore Airlines offered me the best deal. So I snapped their petit hands off. The price differential was in the hundreds of pounds sterling and could therefore not be ignored.
I haven’t flown Singapore Airlines for many years but have flown with them many times. Indeed they brought me to London mumble mumble years ago and nearly took me straight back, when my then boyfriend overslept and was not at Heathrow to greet me and my two ginormous suitcases. This was back in the days of landlines only and I had no method of contacting this man. It was most distressing. But I digress. NB: He did turn up and hour or so later and I remember clinging to him on the long tube ride to Hampstead, where he had found us a flat above a curry house.
My twelve hour flight to Singapore was fantastic. The plane was brand new. Everything was plush, polished and generous.
Not as generous as this though. This was going on elsewhere on my flight. They’re called ‘suites’ fyi and I do not believe I will ever get to experience their myriad delights. Unless I win the lottery.
I knew there was something missing in economy – rose petals and a handsome stranger to share my suite. No, I jest.
I watched three movies – Argo (ok but not as good as its hype), Hitchcock (much better than the press gave it credit for) and a subtitled Argentinian film about the revolution which was very good, sad and honest. I cannot remember its name. Sorry.
The service was exemplary. The stewardesses tiny and beautiful as always. How can any real woman fit into those uniforms?
Oh and I guess I should mention I had three seats to myself. It does make such a difference. Shame I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t tired on that leg of my journey but I was on the next. Very tired.
The next leg of my trip was from Singapore to Auckland and lasted for an excruciating ten plus hours. I honestly believe there were more passengers than seats. In economy anyway. I’m sure no one was made to ‘top and tail’ in the suites. If there were suites on that plane. Which I doubt.
It was so old and weather beaten I wondered if it was going to get off the runway and was sort of hoping it did not. It did and we shook and rattled all the way to New Zealand. The staff were overworked and a tad harassed. One steward ran everywhere. Initially I found this disconcerting given the cacophony of sounds emanating from the hulk but in the end he gave me something to wait for. His pounding feet simply a metaphor for the air miles I was clocking up with the Star Alliance.
Sleep was an impossibility not only because I couldn’t find my Nytol but because I was crammed into a lumpy bumpy seat and could not get comfortable. Thank goodness I was on the aisle. Anywhere else I would have had a panic attack.
I did not watch one movie. The screens were minuscule and I was feeling quite ill through lack of sleep. All in all this flight was ghastly but we must remember I arrived safe if not quite sound at Auckland Airport at 1.00 am (NZ time). So priority #1 achieved at least.
Half way through then, the jury was well and truly out.
I flew to Melbourne from Wellington with Air New Zealand. I am not writing about this carrier in this blog but utterly unbiasedly, they’re a super airline again after a few years in the cloud covered wilderness and if you want to do what I’ve done, a word of advice. My friend in NZ bought me the ticket for £70 less than I would have been charged here as a package with the rest of my flights. Yus! I do love a bargain.
With some trepidation I hauled my slightly overweight suitcase to Melbourne airport last Monday night. Would this journey be a rerun of flights one or two?
A bit of both as it transpires. But I had found my Nytol and popped it the moment the wheels left the tarmac. Pity the flights were not designed more evenly, time-wise. I was asleep before the food was brought and still asleepish as the wheels touched down in Singapore. I think I did eat something but can’t remember what as I kept nodding off.
This leg of the journey was less than eight hours. I wished for more, realising it did not bode well for the next. The next flight was thirteen hours and twenty five minutes long. That is a very long time in a seat with a recline of, give or take, 115 degrees, a three hour wait in transit and a horror of a row companion.
I spotted him in Singapore, largish, long white ponytail, hairy stomach. And a snorer. It’s amazing what you can determine about people in a transit lounge. Oh, lest I forget, he was opinionated, did not like children, had a potty mouth and a very loud voice. He was sitting in 39B. I was allocated 39C. Nooooooo.
Thankfully, there was no one in the window seat.
“I think we’re lucky,” I said. “We’ve got a spare seat.”
“Do you want to move there?” he asked.
“No, but I want you to.”
Sometimes it pays to be direct.
I kept my headphones on the whole flight. Not only to hear the soundtrack of Impossible (another Ewan McGregor disaster, tsumami and script), Dans la Maison (pretty good) and The Life of Pi (wish I’d seen it in 3D) but also to block out my companion’s constant belching and smashing of and swearing at the handset, the recline button on 39A and finally his own watch.
None of the last paragraph can blamed on Singapore Airlines. But this can. Here, then is the very unexpected and exceedingly unwanted third half.
We waited for our luggage to arrive on carousel #4. The priority, suite patrons’ suitcases circled us remorselessly. And then the announcement.
“For all [non suite] passengers on flight SQ308 from Singapore there has been a luggage loading error and you can anticipate a wait of between ten and fifteen minutes.”
Collective sighs, groans and ringing of loved ones waiting in the arrivals’ hall.
Little did I know the luggage loading catastrophe was personal. My suitcase came out next. Just it and some remaining suite bags (their owners possibly still in the land of nod on the aircraft).
It looked as if a bomb had gone off inside it. Perhaps it had. It did not look remotely like the relatively new and most intact Antler suitcase I had handed over to the Singapore Airlines’ ground staff at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne. No Sir, no Siree.
I like to think that even after thirty odd hours crammed into an economy seat with too much bread to eat and a boorish neighbour I can still fight a good fight. But you can’t fight County Hall. It’s an English saying and means ‘the system’.
“Don’t think I need to say anything,” I said as I wheeled the remnants of my luggage up to the Donarta baggage handling desk. Singapore Airlines does not feel it necessary to waste its own staff’s time on bothersome customers’ complaints.
Four men leaned over their counter and stared. They told me 1) I had to accept the heinously ugly suitcase on offer then and there 2) I had to go through my remaining possessions right then, on the floor in front of them and all passing passengers or the claim would be void 3) that my bag now weighed more than its loading weight so I could not have lost anything. You should see the replacement case. It’s the Lada of the luggage world. I pointed this out. They didn’t get it 4) one man spelt pair – pire and earrings – ear rungs. I almost saw the funny side. But then I saw my new trousers. They appeared to have been through their own mid-flight nightmare as had a blouse, a dress and a brand new cardigan. My jewellery was missing.
I just wanted to go home. I went home.
Singapore Airlines you got me back safely and that is, of course, the only thing of import but you’re duty of care has been found wanting and I do believe you have let me down. I await you promised letter with not too bated breath.