Flight SQ222. Sydney to Singapore
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
KrisFlyer, Star Alliance
Economy seats 55A, 55B and 55C (myself, my husband and son)
Seven hours and 40 minutes, non-stop. After a late departure due to missing passengers, we make up time in the air and arrive on schedule.
There are currently 17 flights per week between Sydney and Singapore .
Two weeks before our flight, we receive almost daily email updates outlining pre departure testing, in-flight and on-arrival entry requirement emails. Our flight is a designated Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flight, which allows only fully vaccinated passengers on board and requires that masks be worn at all times.
We are also required to provide a negative COVID test. We use the prepaid option run by Histopath at Sydney Airport; on a Sunday it has no wait times and takes around 45 minutes; staff print out the report and stamp it.
A sealed hygiene packet containing wipes and sanitiser is available while boarding, and once on board everyone is fully masked, with staff gently reminding people to put them back on after the meal service.
During pre-departure and landing, staff dress in blue PPE gowns, but these are removed once we're in flight. With passengers being asked to restrict movement when on board, the atmosphere on the full flight feels more relaxed. Expect entry and exit rules to change on a whim.
I spend a good 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to check in online the day before the flight when prompted, and eventually give up. On the ground, check in is fairly seamless; the person in front of us begins having issues with their documentation, and straight away ground staff usher us through to other desks so we don't have to wait. Staff are personable, cheerful and helpful, fielding questions about our transit and smoothing over our considerable pre-flight anxiety.
There are 343 economy seats on this flight, mostly in a 3-4-3 configuration, and every one of them is filled. Each seat is 19 inches (48 centimetres) wide and has a 32 inch (81 centimetres) pitch. The seats are a little too firm to be able to sleep, and the fabric is a little scratchy, but given I've worked from home on a comfortable couch for close to two years, it could be that I'm out of practice.
The checked baggage allowance for economy is a generous 30 kilograms for every passenger. We cram our suitcases full with Christmas presents, using every last gram of allowance. Our cabin baggage is weighed, checked and tagged at check in.
Singapore proves it's in the Christmas spirit by playing instrumental Christmas carols, a welcome touch after a cheerless experience at Sydney Airport. The five-year-old is delighted with the promise of unlimited TV entertainment for the duration of the flight, and settles in for back to back sessions of Paw Patrol.
Noticeably, Singapore Airlines have ditched the plastic filled junk in most children's welcome aboard packs for recycled paper packaging, instead gifting him a Frozen-themed snow globe (on our continuing flight to Amsterdam he's given a Star Wars AT-AT Model Kit, attracting the envy of a few adults seated around us).
The high-definition touchscreen entertainment system has a decent selection of movies and TV shows, but it's the two-hours fast, reliable and free inflight Wi-Fi that is the highlight. Paid plans beyond the complimentary time are reasonably priced, and as we're in the middle of trying to buy a home, it's a relief to not be cut off from important emails.
From ground staff to cabin crew, the service delivered by Singapore staff on both this and our connecting flight to Amsterdam is warm and professional, exceeding expectations. Despite being a full flight, the call button barely dings in our cabin as staff are present and attentive, constantly roaming with drinks and snacks. Staff seem genuinely happy to have passengers back on board, and are not just tolerant, but genuinely welcoming of the dozens of small kids on board off to see family.
We've pre booked both a kid's meal and gluten free meal in advance through our travel agent, and both are delivered with no fuss. My gluten-free meal is as reassuringly dull and tasteless as it was in pre-COVID; to be fair, the steamed white meat and plain veggies; bland apple cake and cardboard bread is more a reflection of the unimaginative catering coming out of Sydney, than the fault of any airline (on my Amsterdam leg from Singapore it's a much tastier curry). Staff quickly whisk away trays when we finish which, with a wiggling child, is much appreciated.
ONE MORE THING
Singapore Airlines was one of the few airlines that kept flying passengers into Australia during the pandemic and their reliability is a key reason we chose to book with them. Given the current instability around borders and quarantine for our return flight, we feel more secure booking with an airline that showed genuine loyalty to Australian passengers.
Despite expecting prices to be higher than pre-pandemic, our three tickets to fly in mid-December cost $6,240 ($2080 per ticket) through our agent, a reasonable price for December peak season. International travellers shouldn't expect too much from Sydney Airport at the moment; there are limited food options and most retail shops excluding duty free are simply closed, empty or boarded up. Changi airport, by contrast, had a pre-COVID feel to it with shops and eateries open (to passengers transiting from Australia, though this may change)
With COVID concerns still dominating passenger travel decisions (including mine) and considerable anxiety over Australia's border exit and entry requirements, Singapore's stringent vaccination and safety protocols, genuine service standard and reliability make it a clear choice for those going overseas.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
The writer and her family travelled at their own expense.