Category Archives: Airlines

Airlines

Skip the game, get the deals: SQ’s Prosperity Tree CNY fare codes

Singapore Airlines has recently launched this new series of Singapore Air games. I’ve written about it before during the Christmas period where they had Santa’s Gift Grab game. I think it’s only fitting to repeat the section below-

The idea behind Singapore Air Games is that various games will be available all the way through April 2017, and that there’s an ongoing leaderboard that rewards those who persistently play. The top 3 scorers when the games period ends on 15 April 2017 will get Krisflyer miles equivalent to their game points scored. Now before you get all excited, note that the fine print reads-

*Free trip is based on round-trip Economy Class Saver award ticket on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights only. Taxes, surcharges and fees are applicable in addition to the required redemption mileage and must be separately paid by the passenger. The KrisFlyer miles will only be valid for 1 year from the date on which it is credited into the KrisFlyer member account of the winner of the KrisFlyer miles, and no extensions will be permitted. The KrisFlyer miles are not negotiable nor transferable, either in part or in full. The KrisFlyer miles must be used in accordance with the terms and conditions of the KrisFlyer programme.

So yeah, don’t get excited.

Now, the main attraction of this promotion to me isn’t about scoring and accumulating points for the leaderboard, it’s about the economy fare deals that SQ gives out to players.

TL;DR here are the cheatcodes that you can get from playing the game that give you discounted economy class fares to selected destinations. The number in the code is the price you pay. I’m going to include in square brackets at the end how much these fares were during the Santa Gift Grab game for comparison. You enter these codes at the booking screen when it asks you if you have a special code.

  • Ho Chi Minh: CNY188S [$188]
  • Colombo: CNY388C [$388]
  • Beijing: CNY388B [$388]
  • Paris: CNY808P [$808]
  • Melbourne: CNY588M [$588]
  • Bali: CNY228D [$228]
  • Hong Kong: CNY228H [$228]
  • Bangkok: CNY188B [$188]

As you can see, all promotional prices are the same as last time. The main difference is they don’t have Manchester this time round ($808 during the Christmas sale). These fares need to be booked by 31 January for travel till 31 March 2017. My pick of the deals? Bangkok and Beijing seem to be fantastic value. Seats are limited, so if you’re thinking of booking you’d better do so sooner rather than later.

Now save yourself time by not playing the game. I mean, look man, I love my games. I think Bioshock Infinite is a work of art, a grandiose exploration of themes like American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, predestination and the illusion of choice, constants and variables and how you building a floating city to avoid the Sodom below might not be the best idea. I love the Last of Us, Psychonauts (it’s really your fault that all the games now are military FPS derivatives), the Fallout series (maybe not New Vegas) etc etc.

I suppose it is unfair to demand something similar from SQ . But couldn’t they at least make sure the game works properly? Here’s my experience playing The Prosperity Tree.

This is the loading screen. I was concerned there was no intro cut scene as this not only reflected corner cutting, it also made it difficult for me to identify with the protagonist of the game.

I was then taken to the launch segment. The premise of the game was explained to me in clear and simple English. I was excited at the epic quest I was about to embark on. Maybe I’d find, on this quest, elusive rare items like saver space on SQ25/26, an SQ website that lets me make online changes to tickets after the first leg’s been flown, or maybe the ultimate rare Pokemon, an op-up!

Or you could just give me these. Yeah, that’s cool too.

Too quickly I was thrust into the heat of battle. I panicked because I felt unready. Don’t most games usually have an in-game tutorial where the first mission’s just learning about your basic moves? How was I supposed to rescue the princess? Which was the jump button? And would the Konami code do anything?

It was evidently too late to think about that as the game began. I gave the tree several half-hearted shakes, swiping my IBM trackpad mouse to the left and the right. I imagine this game would be more fun with a gamepad. The fruits fell. The game told me to quickly click on them to grab them. I complied dutifully and was excited to see what bounty I had gathered.

At this point the whole game hung and refused to reload.

Maybe this is a deliberate glitch, I thought. I mean, it ‘d be like a cool cliffhanger setup for The Prosperity Tree 2- Maximum Overdrive.

I waited 30 minutes in anticipation of an easter egg.

Nope, still broken.

At this point I had given up trying to understand the plot and simply looked for a walkthrough. By which I mean I went to the comments section and took the codes from P, a helpful reader.

Do tell me if you manage to defeat the final boss though.

How to try SQ’s new A380 suites, a.k.a A380 roulette

Singapore Airlines is going to launch its new A380 cabin products in 2017. That much we know. AusBT recently managed to confirm with SQ that the new A380 products will be unveiled “early in the second half of this calendar year”, and that the first new A380 will start flying from October 2017.

Details are scarce about the new product (apart from the fact that it will not feature showers), but given SQ’s history of cabin innovation and the extent to which rivals (especially the ME3) have upped the First Class game, I retain high hopes.

Image result for etihad apartment
Etihad Apartment

I’ve flown SQ suites twice, and each time has been an amazing experience. It goes without saying that I would do unspeakable things to review the new cabin product when it launches (in case anyone from SQ corp comms is reading this). However, those unspeakable things do not include spending upwards of $10,000.

That leaves me with award options. Unfortunately, I anticipate that it will be very difficult redeeming miles for the new Suites product on the A380. This is because

  • The number of Suites is being cut from 12 to no more than 8 (possibly 6 if SQ goes with a single aisle config?). Fewer seats = fewer awards. And it’s not like Suite savers are super easy to find these days…
  • It would not be unlike SQ to restrict saver award redemptions on new cabin products like the tight-fisted Scrooges they are (I hope no one from SQ corp comms is reading this). They did it when the 2006 First and Business class cabin products launched, they did it when Suites launched in 2007. If this new product is truly groundbreaking, it stands to reason that SQ will want to maintain its exclusivity by keeping out the hoi polloi. The only thing that gives me hope? When SQ launched its new cabin products in 2013, there were no restrictions on saver redemptions. Let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson

This leads me to my thesis statement

My best chance to try the new A380 suites product is to bet on which route SQ will introduce the product on, book a suites award ticket now and hope the aircraft gets swapped to a new A380

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. In December. A few times.

Guessing the launch route

SQ currently operates the A380 to the following destinations

  • HKG
  • PEK
  • PVG
  • DEL
  • BOM
  • LHR
  • CDG
  • ZUR
  • JFK via FRA
  • MEL
  • SYD
  • AKL

I am 100% sure that SQ will not launch the new cabin products on a short/medium haul route. When new aircraft types are acquired it’s normal to run them on short haul routes first before deploying them elsewhere so airlines can train as many crew as possible on the new type within a short period. This is why we saw A350s plying routes like CGK, HKG and KUL before being deployed elsewhere. But the A380 is a known entity to SQ pilots and crew. The pilots know the controls, the crew know where the exits are. All that’s different is the cabin product. Therefore there won’t be so much safety and technical training as there will be service training, and that can take place on the ground over in SQ’s training school.  We saw this when SQ launched its 2006 and 2013 cabin products on its 77Ws- they straight away went long haul to LHR. This therefore rules out HKG, PEK, PVG, DEL and BOM.

Besides, there’s no precedent for launching new cabin products on short/medium haul routes. I’ve gone to trace every new cabin product launch since 2000 and here’s what I found (if you like nostalgia, check out my history of SQ’s cabin products article)

2002- Launch of Spacebed: LHR

Image result for space bed singapore airlines

2006- Launch of new business and first class seats: CDG

Image result for singapore airlines business class new

2007- First A380 flight (and launch of Suites product): SYD

Image result for singapore airlines launch suites media

2009- Launch of new regional business class seat: BNE (this doesn’t strictly count as the choice of destinations was limited to those reachable by an A330 aircraft)

Image result for a330 singapore airlines launch business class

2013- Launch of new business and first class: LHR

Image result for singapore airlines new seat launch

2015: Launch of new Premium Economy cabin: SYD

Image result for singapore airlines new seat launch

Based on this, it seems Sydney and London are the two routes that have the highest chance of seeing the new cabin products first. In a way it makes sense- both are large, premium traffic heavy commercial centres, with extensive business traveller media outlets that will cover the launch from their own end.

The rest of the destinations don’t seem to have much going for them. Zurich is too sleepy (sorry, Swiss readers), Paris has lost its shine with visitors staying away, North America almost never gets new cabin products first (ruling out JFK and therefore FRA), Auckland’s A380 is a seasonal route only and Melbourne is, well, Melbourne.

Guessing the right flight

Guessing the route is only half the equation. The other important question is: which flight?

SQ operates two A380 flights to Sydney, SQ221 and SQ231. I ended up booking one ticket on each to hedge my bets.

SQ also operates two A380 flights to London, SQ308 and SQ322. I have a confirmed suites seat on SQ308, but SQ322 didn’t have saver availability. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that if London is indeed the launch route, SQ will pick SQ322 as the first flight.

Why? Think about the optics and logistics of the launch event. SQ308 departs at 9.10am, SQ322 at 11.45pm. Which one lends itself more to a glitzy black tie media event? I can imagine a full dinner and cocktail program with the who’s who of society scarfing down canapes and sipping champagne while eyeing the unwashed masses outside the media area. It is much harder to imagine that amount of glitz and glamor for a 9.10am departure.

It is possible to book an award ticket on SQ322 if you’re willing to pay Standard award rates, but I’m not. Ask me again after the SQ unveiling event and I might change my mind though.

But here’s the other thing- I don’t really care about being on the first route per se. All I need to do is ensure by the time I fly in December, the aircraft operating my flight has the new A380 product. Singapore Airlines is scheduled to receive 5 new A380s. I’ve searched all over the web but haven’t been able to find the exact delivery schedule.

So here’s where I have to guess and play the odds. The more new A380s SQ has in service by December 2017, the greater my odds of at least one of my 3 suites tickets becoming the magic ticket.

Conclusion

Only SQ could create so much anticipation about a product that no one has any concrete details on, much less seen.

As it stands, I now have ~220K of miles and S$810+ of taxes tied up in tickets I may not even use. Am I crazy? Probably. But assuming everything I’ve predicted comes to pass (SQ launches new suites, they’re amazing, they close off award redemptions) then what I’ve done is bought 3 call options for US$45 (if I can’t travel for whatever reason, I’ll just cancel and pay a US$15 fee per ticket)

Of course, it would be highly amusing (on some cosmic level) if I’ve totally misread the launch route tea leaves and the new cabin product ends up launching on some other route.

Like Melbourne.

I need to book a ticket to Melbourne.

Exploring Thai’s latest A350 cabin products

Thai is a confusing airline when it comes to business class because they have so many different seat types across their fleet.

The majority of Thai’s widebody fleet (B747, A330, A340, B772, B773) still has their old business class angled flat product. This is, quite frankly, an awful product to be on for any long haul flight. Angled flat products might have been ok a decade ago, but the gold standard for long haul business class is now full flat 1-2-1. Full flat 2-2-2 is already pushing it, but angled flat 2-2-2….Thai’s fleet renewal can’t come fast enough

Image result for thai business class old

Image result for thai business class 747

Thai’s A380 aircraft have 1-2-1 full flat seats. I’ve not flown these personally but a friend who has says they’re generally comfortable enough. If you’re travelling by yourself, avoid the honeymoon 2 seats in the centre like the plague because there’s very little privacy from your seatmate. I’m not totally won over by the cabin from an aesthetics point of view though.

Image result for thai a380 business class

Image result for thai business class

Thai’s B787s have 2-2-2 full flat seats (they’re similar to the ones United Airlines uses in Business Class- see my review of that seat here). I don’t fancy any configuration that doesn’t have all aisle access (because both the aisle passenger and window passenger at the side are inconvenienced by each other), but it sure beats angled flat.

photo: AusBT

Image result for thai b787 business class

And that brings us to TG’s newest aircraft, the A350. I’m personally very excited about the A350 and am looking forward to flying SQ’s version to Manchester and Houston next year. Thai’s A350 has a 1-2-1 full flat configuration, but I much prefer this to their A380s as I find the finishes more classy (less faux wood and plastic, more privacy for the seats at the side). This is a seat I’d gladly take on any long haul flight.

Thai Airways A350 business class cabin

Thai is currently bedding in their A350s by running them on short haul routes. When they first received the aircraft back in Sept it was common to find the A350s plying routes as short as Bangkok-Chang Mai and Bangkok-Phuket (where one aircraft promptly went on a euphemistically named “runway excursion“). You’d be a fairly lucky man to land a long haul J seat on a 90 minute flight.

Thai has gradually started deploying the A350 on progressively longer routes, as seen below.

Route Departure Arrival Day Flight
Bangkok – Rome 00.01 05.55 SUN, MON, WED, FRI TG944
Rome – Bangkok 13.30 06.05 SUN, MON, WED, FRI TG945
Bangkok – Milan 00.35 07.10 TUE, THU, SAT TG940
Milan – Bangkok 13.05 05.55 TUE, THU, SAT TG941
Bangkok – Singapore 08.00 12.25 Everyday TG403
16.35 19.55 Everyday TG404
Singapore – Bangkok 12.25 13.45 Everyday TG409
21.00 22.20 Everyday TG410

They are still operating the A350 on the relatively short haul SIN-BKK route. I believe that’s in order to give pilots international flying experience with the A350 as the route has sufficient business traffic to warrant the deployment of a widebody premium cabin.  I don’t think this is by any means a permanent arrangement, however, so when I saw on Lifemiles that TG award space from BKK-SIN was wide open, I didn’t think twice about booking it.

I ended up booking the award through Krisflyer for 20,000 miles and $30.40 of taxes (SQ J would have cost 17,000 and $104. Fewer miles, but more cash…) to get home from Bangkok. Having flown the oldest of the old from SIN-BKK, it was now time to try the newest of the new…


My flight was scheduled to depart at 4.30pm. After checking in at BKK and clearing immigration (Thai now has a special lane near Row A for premium cabin travellers that gives dedicated security and immigration clearance), I made a beeline for the Royal Orchid Spa, reserved for Thai J and F customers. I’ve done a detailed review of the first class section of the spa during The Long Way to New York trip report, but this time I’d be doing the business class section.

First and Business class passengers get access to the same spa in BKK. The main difference is the type of treatment they receive. Thai’s airport spa offers business class passengers a 30 minute treatment and first class passengers a 60 minute treatment. As a reminder, here are the options

Touch of Silk (Full Body Oil Massage – 60 minutes for First Class only)

Start your journey with a relaxing Touch of Silk, full-body oil massage. Performed with the unique ‘Thai touch’, this massage will help to prepare your body for your onward flight by increasing blood circulation as well as relieving muscular tension and helping to provide necessary hydration for your skin. On completion of your Touch of Silk massage, you will be left with an overall sense of well-being and total relaxation.

Royal Thai Massage (Full Body Massage – 60 minutes for First Class only)

Thai massage is perceived as one of the most precious of Thai traditional therapies. Royal Thai Massage helps to stimulate blood circulation, reduces edema caused by travelling and reduces body fatigue. With its unique acupressure techniques, expertly applied to your body, you will find your mind relaxed and muscles relieved, following the stress of your journey.

Neck & Shoulder Massage (30 minutes)

The Neck & Shoulder Massage is a great way to relieve stress which has built up from the rigors of everyday life from working long hours at your computer. Using specific techniques the therapist will work to loosen tight muscles around the neck and shoulders whilst simultaneously assessing how much tension is held in the body and how best to release it. You will board your flight feeling more relaxed and a little lighter around the shoulders.

Foot Massage (30 minutes)

Let’s help prepare you for your onward journey, by taking the weight off your feet and giving them a relaxing massage, which they truly deserve. Foot massage is a well-known relaxation therapy to help take care of tired feet. The gentle touch of the therapists hands and the deeper pressure from their fingers, create a sense of overall relaxation and will help to stimulate your vital organs.

As a J passenger, my options were shoulders or foot. I opted for foot.

The business class spa treatments take place in small semi private cubicles (First Class has their own treatment room- you can see how those look here). Here’s mine.

The treatment actually lasted closer to 20 minutes than 30. But it was just as good as any other foot massage you’d find on the streets of BKK. I can’t really say I’m a connoisseur of foot massages though. I’m the kind of whimp who always says “softer”.

After the treatment you’re ushered back to the waiting area and served tea.

There are some light refreshments laid out in the waiting area but it’s really nothing worth hanging around for. It’s mostly prepackaged snacks and pastries.

Craving real food, I left the spa and walked across the hallway to the business class lounge. By this time there was less than 10 minutes till boarding started so I had to make a very quick pass through.

There are numerous buffet spreads set up within the lounge, but there’s only one central hot food area with maybe 4 or 5 hot items.

The selection was somewhat limited, and TG really isn’t doing legendary Thai food any justice at all. I had a plate of very anemic pad thai (yes, yes, I know pad thai isn’t really pure Thai) and a pork cake, the contents of which I prefer not to know. I mean, how hard would it be for Thai to do a really kickass menu of Thai classics?

There are several satellite buffet displays set up elsewhere in the lounge with coffee, light snacks, fruit and cakes.

I chowed down for 5 minutes and started the walk towards gate G2. The signs said the walking time was 12-15 minutes, but because of my superior physique I did the walk in 6  minutes (form an orderly queue, ladies)

Boarding was just about to start when I reached the gate. I love the design of the A350. The plane is so cool it looks like it’s wearing sunglasses.

When boarding started, I bounded down the jetway to try and snap as many photos as possible before the place got crowded (I had fun reading Lucky’s tips on writing trip reports, and how you need to accept that you’re going to be seen as a bit of a weirdo for running down the jetway just so you can get photos of an empty cabin)

First impressions of the cabin were great. This seat, to me, is a much improved version of its A380 offering. The A380 seat has some very unfortunate design elements like the copious use of plastic and Barney-esque purple upholstery. The A350’s theme is more wood and dark purple, which at least evokes fewer comparisons with everyone’s favourite dinosaur.

You can do a virtual tour of the cabin here if you’re so inclined. Here’s what the seats in the centre look like (if you’re travelling solo and unable to get one of the seats at the side, this should be your next best bet)

The seats at the side, as expected, offer the best privacy. There are two types of seats at the side- those with the table separating the seat from the aisle and those with the seat closer to the aisle. Obviously the former is preferable in terms of privacy.

I know some people have misgivings about seats in this configuration because they’re worried about the amount of foot space they’ll have. I’m pleased to report that Thai’s seat has an ample amount of space for feet in its cubby hole. Either that or I have very small feet. And you know what they say about men with small feet, ladies…

Thai is using the newfangled touchscreen IFE system. I’m still unconvinced about the actual utility of having a touch screen, because in practice (1) it hangs a lot and (2) it increases the chances of accidentally brushing the screen and exiting whatever you’re watching.

Thai’s earphones are nose cancelling but look and feel very flimsy. Definitely not in the same league as SQ’s Phitek or ANA’s Sony-branded sets.

Each seat has 2x USB ports for charging. It’s a minor annoyance, really, but due to the setup of the seat and positioning of the side table, if you’re plugging in a USB cable and resting your device on the side table, you’re going to get tangled up when exiting the seat. It’s a small issue, again, but just goes to show how far some intelligent user experience design can go. It wouldn’t have been very difficult to put the USB charging ports on the table, or in an otherwise unobstructed place.

Even the A350 lights are cool. They’re behind clear glass and are activated by a small button over your head.

The crew came around to serve pre-departure drinks. A general point about the TG crew is that they were competent but not really personable. It’s not a criticism unique to TG, I realise that on regional flights SQ crew are more functional than friendly, but don’t expect any additional touches like being addressed by name or small talk. I certainly didn’t feel any warmth from this crew.

All drinks in TG J were served in these really tiny glasses. If you were uncharitable you could call this a cost saving initiative, as those glasses couldn’t have held more than 100ml of champagne. FYI, the champagne on offer was Duval Leroy. It’s not terrible, but not exactly what I’d call an aspirational brand either.

Having had a bit too much champagne before takeoff, a visit to the loo was in order. The A350’s loos have all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a 21st century aircraft. Automatic taps are an expected feature by now…

But I was particularly pleased by the no-touch bins. Just wave your hand over it and it opens up.

The next feature I want on my aircraft is no touch door opening, because the hypochondriac in me hates washing my hands then having to touch the door latch to get out.

TG has Borghese toiletries in the loo for its regional flights.

Pushback was delayed by about 20 minutes, but the captain finally got on the PA and announced the flight details and timings.

We were stuck in a bit of a queue to take off, but I spotted this relic of the TG fleet…

We got airborne before long and were treated to some really nice sunset views  

Linner was served after takeoff. Here’s the food and drinks menu.

I was a bit surprised there was no Western option on this flight, given that most carriers practice having both an Asian and a Western choice on this route. That said, all 3 Asian options sounded equally good.

I wasn’t too impressed by the quality of the meal. It seemed more like an economy class meal plated on business class plates. SQ’s regional catering is definitely superior to TG’s, given that you can order pretty much whatever you want from the BTC menu.

That said, there was a very nice chocolate mousse that came with the meal. The crew came by to serve almonds with the post take off drinks, almost as if by afterthought.

After the meal I tried to test out the bed function of the seat. The seat goes full flat, but as I’ve said before I’m weird in a way that I prefer adjusting the seat to 160-170 degrees because I find a 180 degree sleeping angle a bit uncomfortable on the lower back

This was just a short haul flight so I can’t say whether the long haul experience is any different- I would have liked to get a mattress pad plus a bigger blanket, but the base seat in itself was comfortable enough for a quick nap. My main concern about the seat is that it’s quite firm. Some people may prefer a firmer bed however.

My overall feelings on the Thai A350 product is that it’s definitely a solid enough hard product, one I’d not hesitate to select on a long haul route. Can it compare to top tier airlines like ANA, SQ and EVA? No way. But this is an important step forward for TG and hopefully they’ll be able to raise their soft product to match it as well.