Our trip started with an anxiety if we were going to make it on the flight, Singapore Airline Airbus A380 on Saturday 13 November 2010. Just one week prior to our flight, we heard on the morning news that one of Qantas’s Airbus A380 had an explosion in one of its Rolls Royce engine in midair and had to turnaround to Singapore for an emergency landing. Some of the engine debris fell on Indonesian soil. Fortunately there was no human casualty. Qantas took an action and grounded all its A380 fleet. That was the beginning of our week before our plan holiday to Penang, Malaysia.
We watched the A380 with Rolls Royce fitted engines unfolded day after day. Initially, both Singapore Airline and Lufthansa (the only two other airlines with Rolls Royce fitted engines in their A380) were determined all flights were normal and carried out a routine check. Three days prior to our departure in Hobart, we called Singapore Airlines each day to check on the latest news. It was not until the day before we were leaving Hobart, and at work in the morning, that we heard Singapore Airline had cancelled 3 of their A380 – one in Sydney, one in Melbourne and one in London. All 3 flights were cancelled. None other flights were affected including the one on Saturday 13 Nov. Thursday arrived. We left Hobart. We arrived in Melbourne for a two nights stay before our trip to Penang. I called Singapore Airline’s Call Centre again when we were in Melbourne. I was again told our flight on Saturday will go ahead with A380.
We checked into Great Western Riverside Apartment in Flinders Street, Melbourne. Booked a one-bedroom Queen size bed on Lastminute.com website for $195 per night. We had a two-bedrooms apartment instead. It was nice and well equipped. The catch – there was no view of the city or river. All windows had a view of a block of concrete wall in front. We were not too bothered. We had the curtains drawn and we were out most of the day.
We had a lovely Chinese dinner at Crystal Jade in Chinatown. Their specialties – seafood and Chiu Chow style cuisine. We had 4 dishes – king prawn in salted egg yolk, Buddha vegetarian, fried rice with chicken and salted fish, duck fillets with bean curd in Chiu Chow style. The serving size was huge. We had to doggy bag the fried rice and vegetarian dishes. The food was very good, and the service was attentive at times. The place was buzzing with customers, mostly Chinese. It was reasonably priced for the quality of food. Worth going back each time we come to Melbourne.
The next morning, I logon to Singapore Airline homepage to check-in on line for our flights to Penang. 24-hours before departure. I love online check-in. It makes travel less painful. On the top menu bar I saw the heading “news update – A380”. I clicked on the heading. I don’t remember seeing this page the day before. The news was divided into departure dates on A380. I read the sub-heading on our departure date, 13 Nov. The flight was listed on schedule but there was a change in aircraft, replaced by Boeing 777-300. I knew this aircraft is smaller than A380. My impulse told me that I had to be assured we will be alright. We need to make it back to Penang on time for my mother’s birthday on Sunday. I called the Call Centre again. This time I had to wait 20 minutes before being connected to an operator. I spent another 10 minutes on the phone, asked questions about our flight. I was not happy with the responses. with him. It was like scripted. My partner suggested that we were better off inquiring at the local Melbourne’s office. We found out the Singapore Airline’s office was not far from our apartment. We were told at the Singapore Airline office that they were putting two Boeing 777-300 (not just one) to replace the A380. We felt better after being assured by the airline staff.
That evening we went to see the Leonard Cohen’s concert. I have never heard of him until my partner bought his CDs and a live concert DVD last year. My partner would play the music and DVD over and over again. When he heard that Leonard Cohen was coming to Melbourne, my partner shouted us with 2 tickets at $200 per ticket! Ouch! I didn’t realised it was that expensive until I asked him after the concert. It was a good concert except almost the entire show was similar to the DVD live concert at home.
On Saturday morning, the 13th November 2010, we checked out of the apartment at 7:45 am. It was raining. The taxi was on time and waited at the lane in front of the complex. It costed us $60 to get to the airport. We gave ourself plenty of time. Arrived at the airport 3 hours before our flight departure. Went to Singapore Airline check in counters. One of the staff asked to weigh both our hand carry luggage – one was 9.5 kilo, the other 8.2 kilo. We were asked to repack. So we did. We were lucky she did not make us go back and join the queue after repacked and reweighed our bags. We were allowed to queue at the next available counter. We thought the ground staff handled the A380 situation very well. All passengers were checked in to the two Boeing 777-300. Both flights departed on time. Our connecting flight to Penang from Singapore was on time as well.
Our transit time at the Changi Airport was easy and well entertained by the many shops and things to do at the airport. The Changi Airport has to be one of the friendliest airport in the world – there are things for almost everyone.
There are plenty of places to sit and rest. It is green, cheeful and colourful. There are games for children to play. There are free internet almost in every corner. There are 3-D entertainment centre. There is a photo booth where you can take picture of yourself and post on the huge screen on the board. A place to lye down. Lots of trolleys to make your carry bags lighter on your arms and shoulders. Now, why can’t the Australian airports be the same???