Sometimes you do things that you know aren’t in your best interests, but you try anyway.
On my last day in Singapore I had a ridiculous amount of time to kill. I woke up a bit before lunchtime and decided to head for Wee Nam Kee (275 Thomson Road) to get some Singapore Chicken Rice. Their rendition was pretty damn good, and at under $5 for lunch an incredible bargain by Singapore standards (after lunch I texted a friend who had previously lived in Singapore, told her the price and her response was “$5!? In Singapore? Did you eat in the gutter?”).
I went back to the hotel and still had tons and tons of time to kill before my flight. When I had booked my multi-leg intra-Asia award, the only SQ flight from SIN-HKG with J availability had been a rather late departure getting in to HKG around 10:30pm.
Once in the room, I pulled up the ANA search tool to see if by some chance J seats had opened up on any of the earlier SQ flights to HKG. Everything was zeroed out.
Still, I was tired of sitting around the hotel, so after conferring with my friend in Hong Kong, who also wanted me to get in earlier, I decided to head to Changi and try my luck.
I thought perhaps I would go to the Business Class check-in, then as the agent checked me in for my late flight, ask if there was any way I could instead be moved to an earlier one. I know that since it was an award ticket issued through United, that any changes would have to be made by United and there would have to be availability, but I thought maybe I would get lucky and some agent would do something that wasn’t quite permitted.
I hopped in a cab, noticed that my tooth was starting to hurt and pulled up to Changi about six hours before my scheduled departure time.
I walked into a deserted departures hall, found the SQ J check-in and decided to try my luck.
“Oh, Mr. Sybarite, your flight is not for a long time.”
“I know, I was hoping perhaps you could put me on one of the earlier flights to HKG?”
“Let me check”
“Oh no, this is an award ticket, so you have to call United to change it.”
I tried to convince her otherwise, but she was steadfast, and in the end, I said I would call United from the lounge and see what they could do…however, I knew that would be a total waste of time.
I had gambled and lost, and now I was faced with an eternity in the SilverKris lounge. While there are worse airline lounges one could be stranded in for 4-5 hours, that much time in a lounge is never a thrilling prospect (FlyerTalk sacrilege I know).
I turned left, found the escalator for the SilverKris lounge and settled in with my laptop for the long haul.
I had last been in this lounge in 2009 while waiting on my first Airbus A380 flight from SIN to CDG. It was much less crowded in the early afternoon.
Time passed reasonably quickly, and I suppose I got a bit complacent. My boarding card indicated when the flight would start boarding, and as it was still about 15-20 minutes before the alleged first call for boarding I thought I would grab a bottle of water, start to gather my belongings and then head for the gate.
On my way to grab a drink, I glanced at the board and saw that my flight to Hong Kong was listed not as “Check-in Open” or even “Boarding,” but “Last Call.” Since this was the last flight out to HKG that night and missing it could invalidate the rest of my award ticket, I was suitably panicked.
I tossed my belongings into my carry on and began a full on spring from one end of the terminal to the other (of course the departure gate was basically as far from the SilverKris lounge as is possible).
Security is at the individual gates at Changi, and when I arrived there were still around 10 people waiting to pass through. I realized that “Last Call” had obviously been an overstatement. I had time to pass through security, get a shot of our aircraft and settle into my seat and have a pre-departure beverage before we buttoned up the plane and pushed back. In the future, I would like to request that airlines and airports not attempt to scare their passengers half to death with overly dire flight status updates.
I was in the “A” window seat in the first row of business. For a while I thought I might get lucky and again have an unoccupied seat next to me as I had on my last few TG flights and on the SQ flight from CGK-SIN, but shortly before the main doors closed a guy I took for a businessman sat down next to me and began chatting with his colleague who was seated in the middle seat to his right (2-2-2 config).
The flight time to Hong Kong was perfect for dinner and a movie. I hadn’t seen J.Edgar, so I decided to give it a go. Dicaprio was fantastic as J. Edgar Hoover, but overall I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie. The historical background about the growth of the FBI was interesting, but I would have preferred more emphasis on the history and less on the creepy gay/platonic relationship between Hoover and his #2 in command.
Unlike the CGK-SIN flight, the meal service SIN-HKG was not served on a single tray, but rather as individually plated courses. I suppose there is probably a flight time cutoff below which you get the tray and above which you get a normal service.
As usual, on approach to HKG, I mentally bemoaned the fact that I never got a chance to fly into the old Kai Tak airport and experience that ludicrous approach.
Customs was mercifully short and within probably 15 minutes of our wheels touching the tarmac, I was off the plane, through the border and onto an Airport Express train (I narrowly caught one, otherwise I would have had to wait 10-15 minutes for the next).
Normally I hate taking trains in from the airport, but goddamn if the airport train in Hong Kong isn’t the greatest thing ever. 24 minutes from HKG to the train station on the Hong Kong side. It doesn’t get any easier. I will never take a taxi to/from HKG again (except in the very early morning before the train starts running, when I have no choice).
For the first few nights in Hong Kong, I was crashing on friend from college’s couch before moving into the Peninsula. She told me to exit the station, grab a taxi and tell them “Sai Ying Pun, Dai ee guy.” I obviously don’t speak Cantonese, so this made absolutely no sense to me, but it did the trick and deposited me in front of her building, where she was waiting.
Since I knew I would be arriving rather late, I had come ready for the evening. We both poured tall vodka drinks, changed clothes and took off for the LKF. We closed down a few bars, met up with some of my host’s HKG friends and eventually after my friend fell off a bar stool after “drinking” jello shots from a faux needle, plunger like device we figured it might be wise to leave something in the tank for the next night.