Bali and Berchtesgaden: Singapore Airlines First Class Houston to Moscow

Introduction
Singapore Airlines First Class Houston to Moscow
International Business Lounge Moscow
Singapore Airlines First Class Moscow to Singapore
Singapore Airlines Business Class Singapore to Bali
InterContinental Bali
Exploring Bali
W Retreat Bali Seminyak
Singapore Airlines Business Class Bali to Singapore
The Singapore Airlines Private Room Singapore
Singapore Airlines First Class Singapore to Frankfurt
InterContinental Berchtesgaden & Surrounding Areas
Le Meridien Parkhotel Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa 747-8 First Class Frankfurt to Washington Dulles
Westin Washington Dulles Airport


We spent the night before the flight at the Sheraton North Houston Airport, where we checked out at 4PM. I knew that Singapore Airlines uses the United Club for their premium passengers in Houston, and I had no interest in spending any time there since a hotel room is much nicer. So we were dropped off at terminal D at around 4:15PM, just a little over an hour before our flight.


Terminal exterior

Singapore’s check-in counter is at the far left of the terminal, right next to the Qatar Airways counter.


Terminal interior

Another first class passenger entered the line right before us, so we had to wait about five minutes before we were helped. The contract worker was super-cheery (and super-Texasy, y’all!), and invited us to enjoy the — and I quote — “Continental Presidential Lounge.”


First class check-in

By the time we cleared security it would only be about 10 minutes till boarding, so we decided to head straight to the gate, given that the United Club is in a different concourse.

Security was a bit of a pain. As usual I politely requested a pat down in place of going through the full body scanner. I was directed to stand to the side, as the agent said “opt out male assist.” That means a male passenger “opted out” of the full body scanner, and they need a male agent to do a pat down, for those of you not familiar with TSA lingo. She didn’t yell loud enough, though, so I’m not sure if anyone actually heard her. I noticed there were several TSA agents just standing around, yet after five minutes I still wasn’t helped. I said “excuse me ma’am, could you please call for a male assist again?” She looked at me like I was from a different planet and said “don’t you be telling me how to do my job.” I said “I’m not, I just notice a bunch of agents standing around over there and I don’t think they heard you earlier.” She then responded with “well how do you know I didn’t call them again?” Um, because I’m standing right next to you and I would’ve heard you call them, unless the TSA has now integrated a telepathy course in their basic training? Rather than tell her that I just said “I do have a flight in less than an hour, so if you could call them one more time I’d appreciate it.”

She ignored me, though after another five minutes the lead TSA agent came over and the agent I had been talking to says to him “make sure you give him a real good pat down, he’s frustrated.”

After that delightful experience we made it to the gate at around 4:45PM, and within 15 minutes first and business class boarding was announced.


Gate

Singapore Airlines 61
Houston (IAH) – Moscow (DME)
Sunday, July 22
Depart: 5:30PM
Arrive: 2:00PM (+1 day)
Duration: 11hr30min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1D (First Class)

At the door we were greeted by the leading stewardess, who directed us to our seats in the center section of row one (and before anyone grills me for using the terms “leading steward/leading stewardess,” please understand that’s the job title at Singapore Airlines and what their name tags say).

The cabin consists of two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, so it’s a fairly intimate cabin. While the seats aren’t enclosed and don’t have doors, I do find the cabin to be very elegant in terms of finishes, colors, etc.


First class cabin


My seat


View from my seat


First class cabin

To make the cabin feel more spacious there are no overhead bins, though there’s ample space under each seat, even for my rather large bags.


Ottoman

The seat also has plenty of storage space. There are huge magazine pockets, and also enclosed storage departments for phones, glasses, etc., in the center console.


Ottoman and storage units

On the right side of the seat are the entertainment and seat controls. There’s also a “pad” of sorts, which can act as an armrest. When Singapore introduced their new first and business class, both products were the widest premium cabin seats in the world. As it turns out they might have been a bit too wide, so they later added that pad so you didn’t feel like you were sitting on something as wide as a park bench.


Seat and entertainment controls

Within minutes of settling in the leading stewardess appeared to introduce herself and offer a pre-departure beverage. I ordered a glass of Krug, though was distraught to learn they only served Dom on the ground. Completely unacceptable (yes, folks, I’m kidding). So I went with Dom.


A pleasant journey indeed!

The leading stewardess returned with Givenchy pajamas, a Kiehl’s amenity kit, socks, slippers, eyeshades, the menu, and headphones. The beginning of every Singapore Airlines flight is kinda like Christmas for me.


Amenity kit and pajamas


Eyeshades, slippers, and socks

I immediately changed into the pajamas, as we did have a 24 hour flight to Singapore ahead of us, and I wanted to be sure I had fresh clothes for when we landed. For those of you that are pajamaphiles I’ll mention that Singapore’s aren’t my favorite. They’re fine, though they’re a bit rough, heavy, and scratchy. I far prefer those on Lufthansa and Swiss, which are my favorites, given how soft and light they are. As a matter of fact I’m wearing a pair as I write this (though it just occurred to me that what I’m wearing as I blog probably isn’t something you guys need or want to know).


Pajamas

Moments later I was offered my first of what must have been a dozen hot towels. I promise not to post any more pictures of towels after the initial one, though!


Hot towel

As boarding finished up, five of the eight first class seats were taken, so it wasn’t too full of a load. Shortly before pushback the leading stewardess also took dinner orders. Unfortunately they had run out of both of our first options, which was kind of surprising given that they had only taken the order from two other passengers. Maybe they cater two of each option and both passengers went with it?

Right before we pushed back the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and advise us of our flight time of 10hr30min, which was an hour under our scheduled block time, so he anticipated that would put us into Moscow early. Unfortunately we had a bit of a delay on departure due to weather, though ended up only pushing back about 15 minutes late.

Our taxi to the runway was quick, and by around 6PM we were airborne and enroute to Moscow.

After a pretty bumpy climb the seatbelt sign was turned off around 15,000 feet, at which point the flight attendants began their “performance,” starting with closing the curtains between business and first class. Before the service started I browsed the entertainment selection to see what I wanted to watch with dinner, and eventually decided on a few sitcoms.


Entertainment system

Dinner service began about 30 minutes into the flight. The dinner menu read as follows:

And since this is Singapore Airlines I’m of course obligated to share the wine list:

Service started with warm nuts and a drink. It’s worth noting that when the leading stewardess took my drink order she asked if I wanted nuts with that, which I of course accepted. She followed that up by asking what kind of nuts I wanted. I think I’m in love!

I also liked the “art” she made of the lemon, whereby she twirled the skin of the lemon.


Diet Coke and warm nuts (notice the lemon “art”)

The service started with the table being set. I know I’ll sound completely nutty for saying this to anyone that hasn’t flown Singapore first class, but the “precision” of the table setting was one of the more lackluster ones I’ve seen on Singapore. Every Singapore flight is a “performance” for the crew, and that includes facing logos towards the passengers, making sure everything is placed symmetrically, etc. The more you fly Singapore first class, the more you begin to notice details like that. I know, it’s the ultimate first world observation…

Once the table was set I was also offered bread, and I chose a piece of garlic bread and a roll.


Bread

For the starter I selected the crab cakes, which were delicious. While Lufthansa frustrates me with how complex they try to make their meals, this was “simple” (by international first class standards) and tasteful. It might have been my favorite part of the meal.


Warm crab cake with roasted corn and beans salad

The next course was soup, which was a small bowl of corn chowder with spiced prawns. It was surprisingly spicy, and had a kick to it.


Corn chowder with spiced prawns and basil oil

The next course was the salad, which was also very good.


Salad of fresh frisee, endive, cos, coral leaves, assorted tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese

For the main course I had requested the sirloin, though unfortunately they had already run out of it, so I went with the kingfish instead. While Singapore usually allows you to “Book the Cook” whereby you can select your entree in advance, this feature isn’t available out of Houston and Moscow.

The entree was the most underwhelming part of the meal as it lacked flavor and was dry. Very dry. I only had a few bites of it, and when I told the leading stewardess I was finished she showed great concern and insisted on getting me something else. I was full, so told her I’d just like dessert instead.


Roast kingfish with potato gnocchi, broccoli rabe, edamame beans, and wild mushroom

My friend ordered the lobster, which he enjoyed.


Oriental lobster in ginger-spring onion with flower mushrooms, leafy greens, and fried rice

For dessert I had a peach parfait with mango sorbet. Now I don’t exactly know what part of my dessert was the “parfait,” though it was delicious.


White peach parfait on meringue base with mango sorbet and raspberry compote

I finished off the meal with some tea and a praline.


Tea and a praline

The entire meal service took about two hours, and we were over Indiana by the time it was complete.


Airshow


Airshow

I was tired after such a big meal, so requested turndown service so that I could get some sleep. I went to the lavatory to brush my teeth, and by the time I returned my bed was made with a bottle of water placed at my seat. Singapore’s first class seats “flip over” in order to go into the bed position, so there’s no way to convert it into a bed or bring it back up without getting out of your seat.


Bed


Bed

I conked out almost immediately, though unfortunately it was more of a snooze than a night of sleep, since I woke up less than three hours later, as we were approaching Greenland. The bed is incredibly comfortable, though. I love how much space there is, though the mattress pad could be a bit more “padded” for my preferences.


Airshow after waking up

For whatever reason I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I decided to watch a movie. I eventually settled on “Friends with Kids,” which was hilarious. Though don’t listen to me, because I’m constantly told I have horrible taste in movies (and music).


Entertainment selection

As the leading stewardess saw I was watching TV she came by and asked if I wanted anything to drink or eat. I order some Baileys, which she promptly delivered.


Baileys

She also brought a snack basket by my seat, which contained some of the items from the “light bites” menu:

I simply chose some berries, a Kit Kat, and Biscoff, which she insisted on plating, much to my amusement.


Snack

After the movie I managed to fall asleep once again for a couple of hours, and woke up about 90 minutes out of Moscow, at which point the breakfast service began. The menu read as follows:

The service began with freshly squeezed orange juice, and was followed quickly by my table being set. The first course consisted of fresh fruit, which had all of my favorites.


Fresh fruit

Then there was the option of cereal, yogurt, etc. I ordered strawberry yogurt. The breadbasket was also brought around at this point, which had several types of danishes, breads, and croissants.


Strawberry yogurt

For the main course I ordered the pancakes. They were amazing, as good as you’d find anywhere on the ground. It definitely ranks as one of my top five airline breakfasts ever.


Griddled buttermilk pancakes with fresh berries, orange mascarpone cream, and honey

About 30 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to advise us of our updated arrival time, which was 1:45PM. At this point I changed back into my jeans and t-shirt, and packed up the pajamas, amenity kit, etc. The menus and headphones were collected, and cabin was prepared for landing.

For the approach I switched to the empty aisle seat, 2A, as I was curious to see what the Russian landscape looked like (answer: not different than anywhere else in Europe, at least around Moscow), and also what kind of traffic there was at Moscow Airport.

The approach was rather bumpy due to some large clouds, though it still looked like a beautiful day outside.


View on approach


View on approach


View on approach

Okay, the coolest (or weirdest?) part about Moscow Airport has to be the airplane graveyard. Right as you exit the runway you see dozens of “parked” planes just sitting on the grass.


Airplane graveyard

The plane types are just so damn cool in Russia for an airplane geek like me, since you see so many aircraft types you don’t see in other places in the world. It’s also kind of funny when you see dozens of airplanes from an airline (like Transaero) that you’ve never really heard of before.


Planes in Moscow


Pulling into the gate


At the gate

As we pulled into the gate I was ready to hit the ground running and get a shower before our 10 hour flight to Singapore.

On the whole this was an awesome flight. And compared to just about any other airline it was an exceptional flight. But compared to the other Singapore Airlines flights I’ve taken the service was a bit sub-par. Yes, the flight attendants smiled and were friendly, but they didn’t quite have the attention to detail that I’ve experienced on other Singapore Airlines flights. For example, on most Singapore flights I’ve taken my bed is “tidied up” every time I use the restroom, while that never happened on this flight. That’s just one small example. So while the service was good by just about any other airlines’ standard, it was by far the weakest of the three flights I took. Though admittedly the other two crews really hit it out of the park, so stay tuned for that.

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Comments

  1. Flying this exact route in a couple of weeks. Are the headphones QC15’s or similar? hoping to leave mine at home if at all possible.

  2. Could you order more than one app? like on CX?
    Lovely TR, but to me it looks like meh. Other than the intimacy, there’s not that much of a difference between F and J then.
    I see an extra soup/appy, an amenity kit, and pjs, dom/krug, and more intimacy. Anything else?

    In fact, the Kway teow is the exact same on the J menu. LOL.
    Like it’s so clear the CX F is much better than CX J, but it doesn’t seem so here with F vs. J on SQ.

  3. And where the seats really dated? The pics you take make it look like old JL F or even 747 F (if you look at the shape and texture of the fabric)

  4. @ LufthansaFlyer — The headphones weren’t branded as far as I could tell. Definitely not as high quality as Bose and they can be quite a bit of pressure on your ears if you keep them on for hours, though I find them just fine.

  5. Funny that LH and SQ are sourcing the same wines in F: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and the chardonnay were also on the LH F menus to and from FRA this month.

  6. These TSA workers who are just idiots are getting more ridiculous every day. Always enjoy a good trip report from ya.

  7. @ Jeff — If they had enough I’m sure you could. In miles the price difference is mild between first class and business class, so I think it’s the food and service that makes first class worth the premium. While the service wasn’t amazing on this flight, it was spectacular on the other two segments.

  8. @ Jeff — Nope, I didn’t find the seats to be dated at all. I think the mattress pad and duvet were a bit better than what I had in business class.

  9. I’m curious–why do you opt-out when it’s so much trouble, and it’s not like a pat-down is that pleasant

  10. On this menu parfait refers to a type of frozen French custard. What we call parfait in the States is a completely different animal, hence your confusion.

  11. @ Mark — I do it on principle because I object to the TSA’s screening methods. The full body scanner is (in my opinion) an invasion of privacy and ineffective, so the more people that refuse, the more it sends a message to the TSA.

    I’m always polite to the agents and use “please” and “thank you,” but opting out is something I firmly believe in.

  12. I realize you accept this as such, but your “problems” on the flight, admittedly small, are definitely #firstworldproblems. It’s been, very unfortunately, about 8 years since I have flown SQ F. All in all, if this is as bad as it gets, sounds like a great trip!

  13. Great report! Funny pic of the gate lice waiting to board! I did have to look up what “snow fungus” was in the soup.

    I wonder if they crew weren’t too excited about flying to Houston and that rubbed off on how they performed. Or I always wondered if FA’s treat pax differently if they are redeeming miles for a flight.

    Every time I see the Transaero tail at YYZ I do a double take to see if isn’t AF.

  14. The #firstworldproblems chirp is getting annoying. We get that everything in life is relative. You can stop now.

  15. Couple of things: First, the TSA agents, especially as evidenced here, are idiots. I doubt it would do any good, but I think that you should file a formal complaint about your treatment (should be able to do that on tsa.gov). Though, knowing the TSA, this probably gets you on some black list somewhere.

    Also, I got different pajamas on a recent SQ flight SFO-ICN. They were black and velvet in material. IMHO, they are the most comfortable item of clothing that I now own.

    I agree with your comments on the mattress, I didn’t find it to be super comfortable, either, and I find it to be somewhat impractical as you may wish to take a nap, then get up, and perhaps nap again later. Seems cumbersome for the flight crew. I also think their pillows could use some work…as hard as it is for me to say, I actually find UA’s pillows in C/F to be more comfortable.

    Thanks as always, for the great trip reports.

  16. Jason,

    That was exactly my first reaction!! Where is the caviar! I do way too little travel in F, and I know I would have been disappointed – almost bitterly!

  17. IAH-DME-SIN is an interesting route…is there that much traffic between IAH and DME, or are most of the people transiting on the way to SIN?

  18. Didnt SQ used to have Krispy Kreme donuts on their snack menu? Also, on available flights, do you usually book the cook, and if so, what do you get?

  19. The plane spotting at DME is indeed terrific. A couple years ago, waiting in the lounge for my return to IAD ( no, this was a real trip, not a DME run 😉 ), there were several people with serious telephoto lenses taking pictures. These guys were like children in a candy store, taking pictures of planes they’d never laid eyes on before. You gotta have binoculars at DME! 🙂

  20. Great trip report! Thanks for posting the wine list – great champagne and red wines, but pretty cheap white wines. Also, Lay’s potato chips? I would have assumed a gourmet chip, Swiss or French chocolates, etc.

    Regarding First vs. Business, isn’t the biggest difference the seat? Or are they similar.

  21. @ UAPremierGuy — That would be exciting if they have different PJs. Velvet sounds awesome. Am flying them again in January, so hope they still have it then.

    @ Jason — Yeah, I was surprised by the lack of caviar and satay (more disappointed by the lack of satay than anything else, though).

    @ wwk5d — I assume there’s a fair bit of oil traffic. For what it’s worth the other three passengers in fist class were terminating in Houston, though in coach it looked like most people had the transit cards and were connecting to Singapore. Going through Moscow isn’t *that* far off the direct routing, only about 10% further, so I guess it makes sense since they have to stop somewhere.

  22. @ Peetyrd — I think they still do on some routes. Oddly enough I think it’s an LA “specialty” for them, as I’ve only ever seen it on their LA route.

    I usually do “Book the Cook,” and usually go with a steak or pasta option if it looks good. Once they take the meal orders of other first class passengers they’ll almost always let you switch your choice if something else looks better.

    @ Mark_UK — Yep.

    @ archiTREKt — Next time!

    @ beachfan — Surprisingly enough that’s the smallest difference, as seats and entertainment are quite similar. See this trip report I wrote about business class:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2011/06/12/four-continents-and-37000-miles-in-two-weeks-star-alliance-lounge-los-angeles-singapore-airlines-business-class-los-angeles-to-tokyo-to-singapore-ana-business-class-lounge-tokyo/

    The biggest difference (in theory) is food and service.

  23. Well, then I have to hope the SQ1 and SQ2 from SFO to HKG go suites class beyond 1q2013! I went out of my way to book LAX-SFO-HKG-SIN to experience first instead of LAX-SIN non-stop.

    While HKG is great, I’ve been there this year and didn’t really need the stopover.

  24. Lucky,i never understood nor most of my european friends why american immigration and security have to be always so intimidating,arrogant and disrespectful,good you stand to her and i hope others will do i wont dare do it,i know with my look and name i will be grilled and miss my flight,reason why i stopped travelling american companies years ago,security pre flight interrogation is hell,i ve been asked once how much money is still available to spend in each of my credit card.

  25. Looks pretty awesome, actually! I just booked SQ1 from SFO-HKG in First, and I’ve found very few SQ F trip reports online. I was shocked at how much availability there was via KrisFlyer miles (transferred in from Amex, naturally heh). I got my first choice of flights and dates, so it’s hard to argue there. Pricing was quite reasonable too, at 70K + $128USD for the one-way. Thanks for the suggestion! 😀

    Any suggestions on seating? Also, it seems like — from your reports — you don’t use Book the Cook. I’m going back and forth on it… any suggestions on what to eat (not the kingfish, I take it heh), and whether it’s worth pre-ordering? Seems like if something sounds really good I should order it, as they may not stock enough :p

  26. I just took SQ-1 on 773 from SFO-HKG yesterday. While the service was good and very attentive, I was not “blown away” by the product itself. I found the bed, once made, to be a bit too hard. The length of the bed was also surprisingly short–I am 5’9″ and my head to toe took up the whole length of the bed. How do taller people deal with this? Sleep diagonally? I ordered the lobster thermidor and had a salad and soup for starter. For the other meal, I had a pretty disgusting burger (“highly recommended” by the FA) and a side order of scrambled eggs (this was probably the only good thing I ate). I was not impressed with the food–it was okay, but nothing outstanding. And the burger, again, was pretty bad. Even if the award space opens again, I don’t think I’d choose to fly SQ F again.

  27. I’m booked on the same flight in F later this year thanks the Great SQ Glitch of 2012… but quite honestly, I can’t say I’m really impressed.

    In the air, I don’ think anyone comes close to ANA F.

  28. @ arcticbull — I didn’t “book the cook” because it’s not available out of Houston and Moscow, unfortunately. I’d go with whichever option sounds good to you. A lot of people like the lobster thermidor if it’s an option.

    As far as seating goes, if you’re traveling alone I recommend one of the window seats in row two.

    Enjoy your trip!

  29. @ Ken Y. — Yeah, the bed isn’t that long so you either sleep diagonally (which the seat is kind of designed for) or bend your knees.

  30. 🙁 sonetimes being shorter does r an adavantage ;). By the way, the seat is so wide it’d fit both my bf and I. Wish that was allowed!

    My experience in premium international cabin includes F on SQ and J on DL, CX and JL. I’d have to rate the JL food the best, followed by DL (maybe a surprise for some) and a tie in third for CX and SQ(F).

  31. Krug, Dom, Cloudy Bay SB, the only one missing was Noble One. Why would you fly F with anyone else? Though QF F does give them a run for the money on the food.

  32. Horse manure. It is just a damn flight people, stop wanting everything and complaing. All that grub on a flight…lol.

  33. Hi Lucky,
    I am thinking about flying this route to Moscow and then fly to Tel Aviv via Zurich next July. I am wondering if I would be able to upgrade from Economy to Business Class. Bases on your experience with this flight would it be possible to upgrade or is the plane going to be too full? I don’t think there should be an issue because how many Houstonians do you hear say I am going to Moscow this Summer or I am going to tour Singapore… Loved your stories! Looking forward to your response.

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