James Cridland


QF51 BNE-SIN, an Airbus A330–200. Quiet newborn baby, being rocked by dad who was keen to say “Shhhhh!” at blistering volume. “Shhhh!” Good thing I have my noise cancelling headphones. “Shhhhh!”

The strangest of things happens as I board. I sit down. Someone shouts my name. I look over. It’s my next door neighbour, who sits down a row back from me (but the other side of the aircraft). I assume he’s hacked my wifi and booked himself on the same flights as me as a strange attempt to get to know me better, but it turns out he’s flying as far as Singapore and then getting out for some work. My wifi password is clearly safe enough for now.

The IFE seems to be different on this plane. It’s a complicated maze of differently-shaped rectangles with an occasional Q+ logo, rather than the more usual iQ system. I navigate to the in flight map — a noninteractive video channel — and promptly turn it off, and watch Netflix downloads to the accompaniment of “Shhh!” from a few rows up.

The WP welcome is grunted out while the FA hands out Singaporean landing cards, and limited to “Mr Cridland, welcome”, while peering at a scruffy dot-matrix printout. Which is probably fine, though randomly inconsistent with other flights.

I ask for a hot chocolate. “We don’t have hot chocolate on flights this short,” said the FA. I immediately demand my money back, and in a high-pitched shout, tell him that I will write to Alan Joyce directly, adding “you’re not just letting this airline down, you’re LETTING YOURSELF DOWN, young man!”. Except I actually just slightly disappointedly sit back in my seat. Meanwhile Dad shushes his way through the flight.

On arriving in Singapore I pop into the Qantas lounge to do a little work. It is fairly packed, as it always is. After getting my work done, I decide to go out of the airport to The Jewel, a close-by shopping mall. It’s very close-by, in fact — it’s literally the other side of security.

I arrive at the immigration line at 6.55pm, and through it by 7.05pm, slightly confused at the internet’s dire prognostication it would take over an hour to get through. I grab a “Changi Love Bite” from the immigration officer, and then I walk straight into The Jewel.

What an astonishing place. The centre is taken up with a large waterfall from the roof. The shuttle train trundles through, almost next to the water. I look awestruck for a bit at it, and take a look around. The shops are global in feel — everything from boring Western brands to exciting Japanese ones. At the top there’s a kind of theme park bit, where you can walk a bit closer to the water and jump on netting in the roof. There are bars and restaurants all over the place, too. I go down to the floor, and walk into the centre part again just as a sound and light show was starting. Astonishing thing.

I then go and have a Japanese meal at Muji — given the meals were named after The Jewel it’s probably fair to assume it’s the only Muji café in existence. It’s a bit dull, to be honest, but very nicely done. Then, I go up to the top again, and sit at a craft beer place having an IPA from Hong Kong. I’d very much recommend The Jewel for a place to pass the time. Really very marvellous.

Back inside the airport, I wander over to the British Airways lounge. Less crowded and rather nicer, I stay in there until I’m the only one left, then decide I’m a bit self-conscious being the only one there, and wander about the airport for half an hour to keep myself awake until it’s time to board.

QF1 SIN-LHR, on an Airbus A380–800 VH-OQG. I’m in the best economy seat on the plane — 33K, upstairs, with nobody behind me.

The captain on the tannoy starts by telling us the name of the aircraft — Charles Ulm — and explaining who Charles Ulm was and why he was deserving of having an aeroplane named after him. This leisurely start to the journey masked, of course, a delay due to congestion for takeoff, but even so, quite interesting to hear.

Although, on restrospect, not that interesting, since I then went to sleep and slept ten hours straight, waking up for breakfast.

Interlude: “Your plane serves great coffee too”

The location of the Lantana truck in the safety video is in front of La Bodega Negra in Old Compton Street, with the Palace Theatre in the background; but they are a long-established Aussie café in Charlotte Place, with two relatively new outlets in the City and in Southwark. No sign of Bec though this morning.

They serve a mean smashed avo on toast, and a flat white coffee which is uncommonly strong. But after an 18 hour flight, it hits the spot.

Back again

On the way back, on walking into the Qantas lounge in Heathrow, I was taken aside by the front desk, and asked if I wouldn’t mind changing seat — from 33K, the best economy seat on the aircraft. I was very concerned at this. They wanted to switch me to… 33A, which is also the best economy seat on the aircraft. So I didn’t mind that much, though would have been nicer if they’d have switched me to a little further up the aircraft. “We wouldn’t normally ask, Mr Cridland”, said the man. It turned out there were a couple who wanted to fly together.

QF2 LHR-SIN A380–800 started with getting onto a plane which was astonishingly hot. Really hot. LHR was congested, and we had to wait fifteen minutes — not ordinarily very long, but very long when in a temperature that was hotter than the surface of the sun — before the plane could finally push back and the air conditioning could finally be turned on. I nearly melted into my shirt.

Still, the top-deck economy enclave was buzzing with WPs. The two blokes in front of me were excitedly talking about a recently-opened lounge they’d been in, and Bob, the man in property research sitting next to me, attempted to involve me in conversation. We had a nice WP welcome which was along the lines of “Welcome back Mr Cridland, you’re changing to the Melbourne flight in Singapore aren’t you, well it goes from gate 23 and is on time at the moment” which was very good and actually a helpful WP welcome, and I wish they all did that. For Bob, they gave him a choice of the wines from the premium cabin (by which I suspect they meant premium economy). Bob was “spending a night in Singapore”, and I don’t want to cast aspersions, but my seemed very excited about it.

I asked for the “macaroni cheese”, which I can report back was actually penne in a tomato sauce, and therefore nothing like the promised macaroni cheese. If I was in a restaurant I’d have queried it. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

Out at Singapore, and to a Singaporean toast place for Kaya toast and runny eggs. I may have access to all the OneWorld lounges, but for AUD$5, you can’t beat a thick sugary coffee, buttery sweet toast, and a possible risk of salmonella.

The QF lounge was uncomfortably full, as ever. It is being extended, and The QF First lounge is being built a short walk away, so SIN will be a good place to be at some point, but it definitely isn’t quite yet. Of perhaps interest to beer afficionados, the Little Creatures IPA is being joined by a new Little Creatures tap — Dog Days, which is a 4.5% “session ale”. The tap and badge was a new addition over the past few days, though it was covered with a “not in use” sign, carefully dymo-taped onto an envelope covering the tap handle.

QF36 SIN-MEL, another A388 (which I learn is the shorthand way of writing A380–800), is a sensible temperature, much to my delight.

After a meal (the prawn salad, because I clearly haven’t lived dangerously enough after having partially-cooked eggs), I ask for a hot chocolate. I GET a hot chocolate. With a marshmallow. Life can’t get any better than this.

The plane landed early, but — surprise! — there was someone there to meet the plane, so we got off early as well. Take note, Sydney!

I don’t think I’ve transferred from international to domestic in Melbourne before. It’s an oddly-signed experience, but doesn’t involve a bus, so that’s a benefit. And, once back through security and into the lounge, the person making the coffee asked how everyone’s weekend had been. The reason why? She’d caught a salmon, and was, it would seem, happy to tell everyone about it. I guess I would, too.

A wifi-enabled plane awaits, so I’ve found a seat with some power to recharge all the things.

Next: JetStar business to Bali.