This is the final post in my Japan trilogy. Unlike most should-be-trilogies today, I haven’t blown this out into a two-part extravaganza. Oh, and no zombies or werewolves either. If you haven’t seen them, read the first post on booking the trip and flying up to San Jose. Then read the second on my ANA flight from San Jose to Tokyo.
I can’t say I was ready to leave Japan after what seemed like a very short week, but at the same time, I was really looking forward to the flight home. We used our miles to book two seats in the vaunted Suites class on the Singapore Airlines A380 back to Los Angeles. It lived up to the hype.
Not wanting to miss out on any of the Suites experience, we decided to get to Narita early… too early. Apparently the ticket counter doesn’t open until 3 hours prior to departure and we needed to check bags, so we had time to kill. After wandering the vast mall outside security, stopping to listen to some lounge singers in the check-in area, and then paying a visit to the big and awesome observation deck, the counter finally opened. Apparently the huge sign proclaiming Star Alliance First Class check in doesn’t apply to Singapore, so we were a bit turned around. Singapore’s check-in is at the other end of the hall.
Though there were lines in coach and Business, there was no line for us. We had our boarding passes right away and were told to go through the Gold security line. Once through, we slowly made our way down toward the gate area for our flight which wasn’t exactly a short walk. Of course, we didn’t stop there. We went straight into the ANA Suites lounge which Singapore uses.
I probably should have done my research, but I hope this lounge wasn’t the best one ANA had to offer. It had ample seating, light appetizers, a place to order more substantial food, and a little cubicle work area. But it didn’t feel like anything special. In fact, it felt a lot like the Business lounge I visited with two exceptions. The Business lounge was much more crowded, and it also had no windows. At least the Suites lounge had a nice view as the sun began to set.
A half an hour before departure, we walked down to the gate and with the coach passengers lined up, we walked right through our dedicated line. But then, when they scanned my boarding pass, it buzzed me and said “unable to board.” Uh oh. The agent pulled me aside with a very apologetic look. It turns out that in my seat, one of the armrests wouldn’t stay up entirely. They wanted to apologize and offer to move me to one of the two open seats before I got on board. I told them I’d rather sit with my wife in the center section than move to one of the two empty seats on the side. She was fine with that but apologized again. We walked down the boarding gate to our dedicated jet bridge for Suites Class.
May 30, 2015
Singapore 12 Lv Tokyo/Narita 715p Arr Los Angeles 125p
Tokyo/Narita (NRT): Gate 45, Runway 16R, Depart 7m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 154, Runway 24R, Arrive 2m Early
9V-SKM, Airbus A380-800, Standard Singapore colors, 10/12 in Suites, largely full in back
Seat 3C, Suites
Flight Time 9h31m
We were greeted by a couple of crewmembers at the door and taken back to our Suites. Naturally we were swarmed by people asking to take our coat, give us drinks, hand out newspapers, and of course, apologize to me for the armrest issue. Here’s a photo of that awful problem.
It was such a minor thing, I couldn’t believe they made such a big deal about it, but I must have had 5 people apologize along the way.
The Suites are impressive, to say the least. There are 4 in each row, with one on each window and then two in the middle. We chose the two in the middle together because the boundary between the suites comes down to form a mega-suite. Ours had been lovingly (or spitefully, how should I know?) prepared by H. Tomori.
The seat wasn’t littered with amenity kits and blankets at all. Those were hand-delivered at different times. I couldn’t get over how big the TV was, but also how far away it was from me.
Meanwhile, my wife started off with Dom Perignon and went for the Krug later. I’m not much of a champagne person, but she was really enjoying herself.
We finished boarding a few minutes early and taxied out to the runway for a long wait while traffic cleared. The Captain came on and told us it would be a relatively quick flight but he expected it to be bumpy during the last half. That’s not fun.
We took off and service began right away. My wife and I had both “booked the cook,” meaning we pre-ordered our food, but I didn’t want to eat yet. My wife did and enjoyed her lobster thermidor. I watched a movie.
We can talk about the seat and the food all day, and there are plenty of reviews out there that have done just that. But to me, the service was far and away the most incredible thing on this flight. Beyond the never-ending flow of armrest apologies, there was one thing in particular that really stuck with me.
Regular readers of the blog may remember that I get irrationally anxious when the weather’s bad or when there’s turbulence. One of the crewmembers came by and must have noticed I seemed anxious. I explained the story to him, and he didn’t skip a beat. The turbulence wasn’t much at this point, so the seatbelt sign was off. I had asked him something about business class, and he immediately offered to take me on a tour of the aircraft, clearly trying to help take my mind off the impending bumps.
At the end of the tour, I asked him if he’d give me any updates on expected turbulence when he got them and he assured me he would. It turns out that the first half of the flight was rather bumpy while the back half wasn’t. But when the seatbelt sign went on each time (it happened a few times in the first few hours), someone came right to me and told me how long it was expected to be on for and assured me that it wasn’t a big deal.
Was this necessary? Of course not. Was it outstanding attention to detail with an amazing effort to please? It sure was. To me that’s the best way to describe the extraordinary level of service on this flight.
After my wife finished dinner, we decided it was time for bed. So I went into the gloriously oversized lav while they made our bed and changed into the very comfy pajamas they handed out.
When I got back, the beds were nicely made and the barrier had been removed. This was effectively a double bed. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, but I did manage to get about an hour or so before waking up. Then I was starting to get hungry so I moved over to the empty window seat and the flight attendants began the service.
I started with the caviar and wasn’t planning on drinking. But the flight attendant suggested that I might like a little chilled vodka to go with the caviar. How could I say no to that? It was delicious.
That was followed by a salad and then the beef sukiyaki. I did a little research online to find which dish to book, and there were a lot of recommendations for beef sukiyaki when departing from Tokyo. I was not disappointed.
By this point, the sun was coming up and my body didn’t know where I was. I was asked if I wanted dessert, but I couldn’t do that. The flight attendant asked if I might like a little fruit and that did sound good. I expected a little bowl with some cut fruit, but no. She brought out a huge basket of fresh fruit. I grabbed a banana. I was ready to go watch another movie back in bed at this point, and that’s when I had my “holy crap” moment of the absurdity of this whole thing.
Yes, that’s me holding a nice cup of English Breakfast tea in bed while watching a movie… IN THE SKY. This was just so decadent.
It wasn’t long before they had started serving breakfast, but I was pretty full. I knew my wife would want it, but she was asleep. The flight attendants politely stalked her, walking by to see if she’d wake up in time to eat. It was completely unobtrusive from my point of view. We started getting closer to LA, and I decided to wake her up. The flight attendants swarmed. I know I keep calling them flight attendants, but a couple of them were, of course, legendary Singapore Girls. Singapore certainly knows how to pick ’em.
At this point, the crew turned our beds back into seats. My wife ate while I continued to watch movies. It wasn’t long before we were coming down the coast and descending in for a slightly bouncy landing. (My wife actually started feeling airsick, though that could have been the Krug talking….)
This was a textbook example of excellent service. The physical product was great, of course, but the service made all the difference. I was in a happy daze as we made our way through customs and immigration (thanks, Global Entry). This was the perfect end to a great trip.
If you missed it: