Plaza Premium Lounge, Terminal 1, Changi Airport
Our flight from Singapore to Sapporo was scheduled to depart at 0610 hrs. It was a toss-up between staying in bed a little longer or going to the airport early for free supper at the Plaza Premium Lounge at Terminal 1. In the end, the lure of laksa and Hainanese chicken rice was just too hard to resist. That turned out to be a huge mistake!
The skytrain connecting the terminals did not operate between 0230 to 0500 hrs. After checking in for our flight at Terminal 2, we had to walk a really long way to Plaza Premium Lounge at Terminal 1.
The lounge was one of the few which stayed open round the clock, but when we got there at 0345 hrs, a “Cleaning in Progress” sign was planted on the sushi counter and the warm food display sat empty.
We rang a bell for assistance and a kitchen staff said she could make us 2 bowls of laksa. Unfortunately, the laksa she brought us was totally inedible because the coconut-based laksa gravy had already turned sour.
It was hands down the worst lounge experience either of us had ever had. I doubt many, or even any, can top that. The receptionist should have been more forthright with us when we asked if there'd be food as she was signing us in. She had answered "yes", but clearly, she should have highlighted to us that by "yes", she had meant that there'd be a communal bowl of cocktail nuts and some tiny cups of pudding in the drinks chiller.
Luckily, we had entered the lounge by swiping our CIMB Preferred bank cards. Those ATM cards allowed us free access to the lounge. Had we paid to use the lounge, we'd have made our fury known to the receptionist.
ANA Lounge, Terminal 1 South Wing Level 2, Narita Airport
The lounge is open to all Star Alliance Business Class passengers. As we were flying Business with Singapore Airlines that day, we were issued passes to the lounge.
We visited at 1130 hrs on a Wednesday and there were ample seats for everyone. We found ourselves a cosy table at the dining area and helped ourselves to the breakfast buffet spread. There was yogurt, cereal, fruit cocktail, salad and an assortment of finger sandwiches. A full array of beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, were available too.
The star of this lounge though was their Noodle & Rice Bar, which served soba, udon, tonkotsu ramen and rice with Japanese curry chicken. We thoroughly enjoyed the soba with kakiage (deep-fried vegetables) and the tonkotsu ramen. The pork broth of the ramen was so good that we shamelessly ordered a second bowl each.
Massage chairs were tucked at a tranquil corner of the lounge. Surprisingly, they were not taken when we got there. Perhaps, others didn't realise their existence. After stuffing our bellies full, we climbed into those comfortable chairs for a mechanical rub down, and even managed a few minutes of shuteye.
Flight from Singapore to Sapporo via Taipei: Scoot TR892
We had paid S$465.00 each for Scootbiz seats, which included 2 premium meals with alcohol, 30kg checked baggage allowance, movie streaming to your own device and priority boarding. A rather good deal considering that the flight was almost 10 hrs, with an hour layover in Taipei.
When we arrived in Taipei, all transit passengers had to disembark with all our cabin baggage to go through security screening, before returning to the same aircraft. I looked out the aircraft window and noticed dark, stormy clouds rolling angrily towards the airport. The impending storm looked menacing but fortunately for us, the flight was comfortable.
When we landed at Sapporo at 1655 hrs, we overheard the ground staff telling our cabin crew that ours was the last flight out of Taipei to Sapporo that day as all other flights had been canceled due Super Typhoon Maria smashing into Taiwan. We felt incredibly lucky!
Flight from Sapporo to Tokyo: ANA Wings NH2152
ANA Wings NH2152 was due to depart New Chitose Airport at 0745 hrs. We arrived at the airport at 0615 hrs, shortly before the airport commenced operations that day. At exactly 0630 hrs, staffers for the ANA check-in desks bowed to passengers and took their place behind the counters to start processing check-ins.
The 1 hr 35 min flight from Sapporo to Tokyo did not include an inflight meal. New Chitose Airport had plenty of food options, but at that time of the morning, most stalls were closed. We had bought some reduced to clear sashimi and cold soba from the supermarket the night before. We kept the food chilled in our hotel room's bar fridge and brought them with us to the airport for breakfast.
The flight departed on time with the crew on the tarmac bowing and waving to passengers. The landing in Tokyo was perfect as well. No doubt ANA is one of the best in the skies.
Flight from Tokyo to Singapore: Singapore Airlines SQ11
SQ11 was equipped with the 2013 version of Business Class seats. Very comfortable with an abundance of leg room and storage space.
Once we settled into our seats, champagne was brought round to us. After the seat belts sign was switched off, chicken and beef satay with spicy peanut sauce was served as canape. People often rave about the satay on Singapore Airlines, but they tend to be a tad hard and rubbery to me.
Between movies, the friendly cabin crew dressed my table and served me an antipasto comprising of prosciutto with bocconcini cheese, cherry tomato, grilled mushroom, yellow pepper and balsamic dressing. A bread basket was offered and I selected a slice of garlic bread. Not a fan of ham and bocconcini cheese, I picked at my appetiser and left it mainly untouched.
I had selected the "Book the Cook" option for my in-flight dinner. Upon clearing my appetiser, my main course of grilled beef fillet on a bed of spaghetti with pesto sauce was served, followed by azuki bean ice cream with green tea crumble and a fresh fruit platter for dessert. An after-dinner tray of pralines was brought round for us too.
The toilets in Business Class were clean, compact and had a better selection of toiletries for communal use. Always nice to have a squirt or two of the refreshing facial mist.
I binge-watched Japanese movies on board. Before I knew it, almost 7 hours had gone by and it was time to land. I didn't even have the chance to utilise the full flatbed yet! Will have to work harder at collecting more airmiles to redeem more Business Class flights!