Route: Manila (MNL) – Singapore (SIN)
Class: Business (3-class cabin)
Distance: 1477 miles
Flying time: 3 hrs
Having flown Singapore Airlines a few times before mostly on regional routes especially between Singapore and Bangkok and Saigon, we were not terribly excited about this leg of the journey. After all, it was going to be a nice cap of a long trip, mostly in business class, that took us through the islands of Micronesia. Our experience started at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), the main airport serving Manila, a huge metropolitan area of more than 12 million people. It was named after Senator Begnino “Ninoy” Aquino who was assassinated at, of all places, the very same airport in 1983. The taxi ride to the airport was uneventful one; we always want uneventful taxi rides even though it was boring. The last taxi ride from the airport the night before was quite interesting to say the least. As he pulled up to the hotel entrance, we asked “How much?” and he conveniently pointed to the meter screen showing the number 842 without saying a word. I immediately thought to myself “842 pesos (about $20) for a cab ride to the city center. That’s awfully expensive for the Philippines! I don’t remember paying this much last time.” My partner didn’t buy it. He said, “Really? Are you sure?” At this point, the driver pressed a button and a different figure showed up on his screen. 412. This is more like it. We paid and got out of the taxi. We mentioned what just happened to the hotel receptionist. He was not too surprised and offered to file a complaint against the taxi driver as the hotel keeps a record of taxi arriving and leaving the hotel. We were still a shocked at a brazen attempt by the driver to pull something like that. After all, instead of walking to get a “free” taxi, we got an officially authorized airport taxi. And still. It happened. We decided to let it go. Just another day on the road and another lesson learned. But it seems like every time we go to the Philippines (and by that I mean Manila), there’s a new taxi trick. As lessons learned start accumulating or being passed from one traveler to another and we are all getting wiser, taxi drivers are forced to innovate and come up with new tricks. We travelers are guaranteed to lose every time.
This time there was nothing to report; we arrived at the airport in ample time, in good spirit, and ready for our flight home. First we checked out the Silver Kris Lounge at Terminal 1. Singapore Airlines maintains a system of 11 Silver Kris lounges around the world and 3 at its home base, Changi Airport. All of them have a decent selection of warm food and light snacks, alcohol, newspapers and magazines, and free Wifi. Many of them even have shower facilities. Because SQ flies 4 times daily to Singapore using wide-bodied aircraft (B777-200 and A330), naturally it makes sense to have its own branded lounge here at Terminal 1. It was quite crowded by the time we arrived at the lounge after 12 pm noon. This is only the second flight to Singapore that day. There are still 2 more flights after ours and this lounge is going to be used to capacity. We found bowls of fresh cut fruit with soft drinks in the refrigerator. The alcohol selections were a bit weak. Decent warm snacks included a selection of dim sum and a tomato pasta dish. The view out of the glass windows was not much so I quickly got bored and started looking for something to read. The magazine selection was quite good. As I picked up one of the local newspaper, a big and disturbing headline hit me: Emergency alert issued to US citizens in Metro. It could not have been more specific. One it’s immediate and it’s urgent. Two it’s in the area we were in right now. Three it’s for a small group of Westerners that usually stand out in the crowd. Good thing we’re leaving today. I suppose it’s unlikely anything bad will ever happen but it was going to make us nervous walking around Manila when there’s an “emergency alert” in effect.
This is the first time I’ve been at a lounge where all the seats are taken up. I thought I’ve started moving toward the boarding gate because there was not much to linger. Waiting for us at Gate 6 was a Boeing 777-200. SQ currently has 21 of these in its fleet. Today’s flight, just minutes short of 3 hours, had 3 classes: First, Business, and Economy. In First, there were 12 lie-flat seats but we’re not sure how flat they were. Because this is a regional short haul flight, I don’t think it’s not very flat. Only 1 passenger in First today. In Business, the layout was 2-3-2 and that’s not as generous as Thai’s layout 2-2-2 for short regional routes. The seat was a 20-inch wide recliner, typical of regional business seat. The business cabin was almost full by the time the aircraft door was closed.
As we settled down to our seats, the inflight service started with a smile for a female flight attendant addressing us by Mr. + last name. I think she asked me how to pronounce it, as they often do. She offered a warm refreshing towel, a real thick one, not one of those bare threaded in economy that you don’t know how many people have used it to wipe their faces, fingers, hands, tray tables, AVOD screens, etc. with. Today’s champagne service features Henriot Brut Souveraine that is an elegant blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with some Pinot Meunier for fruitiness and spice. This is a mid priced bottle with a retail value of about $50 including tax. In First, passengers can spurge on Dom Perignon Brut 2003. Jancis Robinson gave it 17.5 out of 20 points. A heat wave in the Champagne region, France in 2003 added generosity to Dom Perignon’s classical elegance. Highly sought after by connoisseurs, this particular vintage 2003 has a retail price of $150 including taxes. If you down an entire bottle of this, which SQ flight attendants wouldn’t bat an eye, you would be well on your way to recover the cost of your first class ticket. As my partner was savoring his glass of less expensive bubbly (properly served in a Champagne flute) and I apple juice accompanied by bags of nuts, a cart appeared in the aisle with heaps of newspapers and magazines. It’s one of the best stocked carts I’ve ever seen. There were at least 6 newspapers and a dozen magazine titles; we were delighted to take a few.