Flight Date: 15AUG13—After a super short, but festive 24 hours in Auckland I found myself at the AKL international terminal checking in for my Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore and onward to Tokyo. Check-in was quick and smooth. I was also pleased to find out about the pre-clearance immigration desk located adjacent to the SQ first class check-in counter.
Singapore Airlines don’t have a dedicated lounge at Auckland Int’l. Airport, instead you are invited to Air New Zealand’s International Lounge. The lounge is located one floor above the main terminal along with the Qantas and Emirates lounges.
The lounge was packed but I was still able to locate an empty chair and table. The design theme is eclectic and offers a full buffet area, barista, showers, small business center and a much appreciated ‘cell phone free zone’.
SQ 286 was using Gate 16 which is a good 10-15 minute hike from the lounge area. When I arrived, the gate area was bustling with activity as the passengers maneuvered into position to board. About 10 minutes pass the scheduled boarding time a gate agent announced there was a delay and to kindly wait for further information. Another 15 minutes passed when the agent announced the ‘delay’ was actually to do a missing wing flap that had evidently fallen off the SQ B777-300 somewhere over the Tasman Sea!
I don’t mind a broken IFE system or seat that doesn’t fully recline, but a missing wing flap?! This did not sound good and for all of you out there who’ve been through this airline song-and-dance know, you need to get re-booked on a different airline immediately or they will string you along for hours and then finally decide to cancel the flight—leaving you stuck.
Since this was obviously an SQ issue they promised to rebook me on another carrier to Tokyo free of charge. I pulled out my laptop and began searching for flights to Tokyo immediately; might as well put those travel agent skills to use. Although there was a direct flight to Osaka, it was Air New Zealand’s dreaded B767 service which would have meant 11 hours of agony plus an overnight at Kansai Airport as well. I opted to wait six hours and take a Qantas flight to Sydney and then Narita instead. With this back-up option safely booked, the SQ agent directed me to head back to the NZ lounge and wait to see if they could locate and install a new wing flap in time to make my SIN-NRT connection later that evening.
I really, really wanted to fly on SQ and enjoy their first class cabin on the B777-300 and moreover check-out the first class lounge at Changi Airport as well as enjoy the A380 first class seats to Tokyo. That said, I wasn’t holding my breath and as fate would have it the SQ flight was officially cancelled at 4:30pm.
At this time my Qantas boarding passes were delivered and I moved across the hall to the Qantas lounge instead. The Qantas lounge is divided into first and business class areas; however the business class area is about four times the size of the private first class lounge and in my view better food and drink choices too.
The QF flight from Auckland to Sydney was a B737-800 (sorry guys no photos). The overnight flight from Sydney to Tokyo was a B747-400. I had checked the seating chart online and although it lists the front of the main cabin as business class; this is actually Qantas’ old first class product which they have not yet retrofitted. I asked the clerk at the QF lounge in Sydney if she could switch me to 2K and she obliged, however only after making me sign a waiver as the IFE system was not working in that seat! Not my day or what.
With my seat assignment situated; I took a few shots of the Qantas business class lounge—same design motif as the QF lounge at Auckland—modern 60s look.
Boarding was called so I chugged the last of my wine and headed over to the gate. I flew first on a Qantas B747-400 from London to Singapore back in 2003. At the time I thought it was very luxurious if a bit narrow. Wow. What a difference 10 years make. The cabin looked old and well dumpy: dirt and grime everywhere with scuff marked seats and torn fabric. I bet they plan on selling this plane or sending it to that plane graveyard outside Tucson Arizona as they certainly have decided to no longer clean or maintain the cabin!
Old or not, at least my seat reclined to a full 180 degrees and frankly after all that waiting at Auckland the prospect of some sleep was my main goal anyway. The plane departed at 10pm so I decided I would skip dinner and have breakfast instead.
All things considered the old Qantas first class seat was comfy and I went out like a light waking up just as breakfast was being served. The breakfast choices were: Western or Japanese. I opted for the Japanese meal and wished I’d gone Western instead.
The fish was chewy and really salty, miso soup was cold and the savory egg custard tasted like warmed over glue.
Oh well, I was landing at Tokyo in an hour anyway so I decided to pick up something at the airport instead. I did get a great shot of the sunrise though.
Final Thoughts— What an ordeal. The Singapore Airlines Auckland ground staff should be commended as they handled the delay and eventual flight cancellation with grace. Looking on the brightside: I got to experience both the Air New Zealand and Qantas lounges at Auckland as well as the Qantas business class lounge at Sydney, bought some artwork with the extra time due to the delay, and still arrived safe and sound at Narita airport ahead of schedule. On the downside: I didn’t get to fly first class on Singapore Airlines’ B777-300 or A380 nor did I get to experience the ultra-cool SQ private lounge at Changi either. Service-wise the NZ lounge along with both the AKL and SYD Qantas lounges were great; lots of space, good food and drink choices and nicely decorated. The Qantas food on both the AKL-SYD and SYD-NRT sectors was nearly inedible. Really wish Qantas would step up their game in the catering department. Flight attendants on both flights were friendly and helpful though. Looking forward to actually flying with SQ in the very near future!