Monday 22 February 2016

Scooting and Storms Pt 3: SIN-SYD TZ 787-9

We were in Singapore primarily for family related matters and eating. As tourists we explored the excellent Singapore Science Centre, Gardens by the Bay and the Large Hadron Super Collider exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. And ate. See the blog for more detail.

Oasis hotel (yet to open)

After the third attempt I finally managed to get Alex to a tesla coil demonstration

The entrance to the Human Body Experience. Enter through the mouth...

Pass by the heart

And exit via the rear!

The donor is currently making a tilt at the White House

Monsters of the Deep exhibition. Kept an eye out for these during our flights after watching the start of Sharknado 2. You'll be pleased to know that I didn't watch the middle or end and thus was excused from donating my brain as well.

It's like the front page of the NT News - a load of croc!

Some interesting aviation science on offer
Dinner at Maxwell Food Court.
The juxtaposition of old and new at Tanjong Pagar/Chinatown

Gearing up for the Year of the Monkey

East Coast - no I wasn't there for plane spotting.
Towards Chinatown

Gardens by the Bay

Flower Dome

Chinese New Year

Cloud Forest Dome


Pitcher plants

Up high




Night show


Marina Bay Sands in the background

We had to queue for an hour before we caught the elevator up to the walkway between some of the trees. Fortunately the light show entertained us for part of the time, but there was a bit of queue cutting going on. A trio of young ladies


In 2011 it was a 5 minute wait to ascend. Took us an hour this time.

ArtScience Museum


The Collider Exhibition

Particles fly in opposite directions down the two tubes.

The Art in ArtScience.

None of us were looking forward to the flight home. Scoot may be cheap, but the cost is the terrible departure times in some directions. Our flight is scheduled to depart at 1.45 AM for a 12.35 PM arrival. It's too late for a late check out, but too early to get a decent sleep in a hotel. It's not a nice way to end a holiday.

Our travelling companions have arranged a late checkout at the Amara until 6 PM. Unable to book a large taxi the hotel sends the five of us to Changi Airport Terminal 2 in two separate vehicles.

Unlike the last time I did this flight back in 2012, Scoot now offer early check in, which we paid for in advance. With nothing keeping us land side we walk up to the early check in desk and check in our roller bag with the big tattooed Filipina attendant.

Mother-in-law and friend are on a separate ticket and behind us in the queue. But the early check in is not early enough for the group of Chinese mainlanders behind them, who try to shove in and crowd the desk to the displeasure of the agent.

We pass through immigration. Yet again. This is getting familiar!

Changi has much to do, but we are tired and just want to rest. Scoot offer their "Scoot-in-Style" service with three hours access to the SATS Premier Lounge plus early boarding (like that really matters). But it's not cheap!

Instead we go upstairs to the Ambassador Transit Hotel and Lounge. Harilela Hospitality, the group that run the Ambassador, are an embarrassment to modern Changi. Their online system is actually manually processed, which means that you may have to wait a couple of days for a response. Their phone bookings are only done Monday to Saturday.

The transit hotel is full, as are the napping facilities at the lounge. So we just have to sit on their regular chairs and try to rest. We can hear the movie showing in the adjacent theatre and I wondered if we would be better off there.

At least the food options seemed okay, though I was game only to try a few sweet snacks. The shower was nice too, though somewhat run down. The seating in the lounge is without adjacent power points too; you need to go to the desks.

The Ambassador Lounge

I sleep a little, the ladies a lot, Alex plays with his iPad and the computers while our elderly neighbour is restless and can't sit still, annoyingly getting up and down and spilling coffee over my (thankfully neoprene) tablet bag.

Google tells me that our flight is delayed by 25 minutes.

I just want to take my shoes off, curl up in bed and sleep while my quiet music playlist sounds in the background. I don't want to fly, but I am eager just to get home instead of being in transit. Eventually it is time to head down to the gate and join the crowd waiting for security to open.
Another Scoot
We are early in the queue but in a later group to board the aircraft. It's Maju-lah again, the 50th anniversary painted Boeing 787-9. I'm happy with row 14 as the window is in a good spot for my head, though I argue with Alex about who will sit there.

Took me a little while to work out what was different - Oh yeah, they use 737s now.

Take note of the luggage in the open compartment

The other two fall asleep very quickly. I doze on and off while we wait and taxi.

Senior first officer David Williams, his accent identifying him as a product of the UK, introduces himself and the rest of the crew. He says the flight should be "fairly smooth". Good, but I have already identified potential areas of turbulence from various weather maps and they cover quite a large area.

I awake from a doze to finally see the rainbow mood lighting in the cabin. Pity Alex is asleep, he misses the show.

Ooh, pretty rainbow

Red alert, no pink alert, no purple alert!

Our take-off is towards the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. The wind has died down now and our ascent is quite smooth. I can see the Moon and stars. I have timed this flight well for a nearly full Moon to light our way.

Somebody else streaking off




 Soon the cloud appears over Indonesia

Flying over

B wakes and complains that she is cold. I call for a flight attendant and purchase a bright yellow Scoot blanket for $15. It's quite large, enough for B and Alex, but quite thin. Next time I must pack the old grey and black Jetstar blankets that got years ago before they started reusing them. I think I'll have to purchase another pillow too. The inflatable ones just don't cut it. More items in the luggage...

Snug as a pair of bugs

There is a lot of high cloud over Indonesia and the seat belt light is switched on frequently. We dodge huge storms flashing away in the night.


More flashes

Without lightning

Another one!

Seatbelt lights on again
I have a love-hate relationship with the storms. I love watching the lightning flash in the distance, to admire the massive and bulbous cumulonimbus from a distance, even to skirt around these mountains in the sky, but am terrified that we might have to fly through them. Fortunately, most of the storms are isolated, not a whole bank, and we can weave our way around them. The crew are not ordered back to their seats. That's when you know to be really worried.

Fortunately I have my previous Jetstar flight back from Japan to reassure me.

I just sit and stare out of the window, not even listening to music. Now and then I doze for a seconds, minutes. Sometimes I post a photo using the inflight WiFi. I'm surprised that I'm not bored. I have things on my tablet to watch and read, but I can't stop staring out the window.

Lights are visible out there. Boats, a town? It's difficult to tell with all the cloud.





There is some respite as we cross the open sea between Indonesia and Australia. I spot wedges of light beneath the dark cloud. Are they cities? No, they are clear patches where the first light of the day is leaking through. Every other window in the cabin is darkened, so in deference to all those sleeping I dim mine. At least with the 787 there is that option.

First light
Sun (light) spots

The crack of dawn

The cloud returns as we cross the coast. I'm not sure when that actually happens, the land below is lost in the swirls and window enforced darkness.

The inflight internet has dropped out so I can't check where we are on FlightAware.

Artificial purple world

I am concerned about the same Big Wet clouds we passed through on the flight to Singapore and indeed embedded thunderstorms are again visible amongst the high cloud. The seat belt sign is switched on again for a while.

One passenger opens an overhead compartment, despite the seatbelt sign. As he pulls his big roller case down a thin laptop bag slides out in an arc and falls on the heads of a couple of passengers opposite. Ouch!

Eventually I spot desert beneath us as the cloud thins. The sun is now up, a bright purple disc even through the maximally darkened windows ahead of me. It's a strange sight.

The filtered Sun

Opening the escape ship from the Nostromo. Is that hunger in my belly or something else?
As you can tell, I need to look out of the window to be able to cope with turbulence. It gives me a sense of control that I can see the cause of the bumps, at least if they are cloud related. Of course, I love to see the full colours of the world outside, but I'm willing to compromise - most of the time - so long as I can look out. So it is with alarm that I hear that Boeing may deliver darker windows that could be under the control of the cabin crew. Fortunately on Scoot the windows were never locked, except to full clarity for take-off and landing.


Less dim

The crew decide to wake the cabin and automatically undim the windows and switch on the lights. It's time to do a sales run!

Hard to tell where we are!




Good morning, can we sell you something?

Peaceful spot


Sand rivers and salt lakes

We are over Central Australia. I see a city below and guess that it is Alice Springs. The nice thing about the now returned inflight internet is that I can call up Google Maps to confirm my observation. It's the right angled railway yards that give it away.

A town, like, Alice (Springs)

The landscape is surprisingly green here, but eventually reverts to red desert.

The big pale salt lakes still have water in them from the rains. Google Maps shows us as over the Simpson Desert. I let Alex know as he did a project on the Simpson last year for school.

Whirls of green


Salt lakes north of Lake Eyre




Alex is upset, having woken up. Bored, probably hungry, then he hits his head. He's sick of the flight. All of us can't wait to land. There's no seatback entertainment either and I think he's tired of his iPad.

I'm listening to some more of the Star Wars radio play.

We fly over the tangled wetlands of the Hunter River somewhere near Nyngan. More that 30 years ago my parents, family and I stayed in a caravan park in Nyngan, me in a two person tent. It hadn't quite been zipped up properly and I awoke to the stench of mouse urine. The land was in the grip of a mouse plague.

The landscape is becoming greener.



Soon after Parkes the skies are clear and the aircraft suddenly starts shaking with turbulence. The captain switches on the seatbelt sign and orders the cabin crew to their seats. So this is it then. Now I'm a bit worried. We've hit the jet stream related clear air turbulence displayed on the forecasts.

We pass over a layer of high cloud with the aircraft still rising and dropping. Then the cloudscape changes, the air settles down and the light switches off. Phew! I can relax for now.


First officer Williams announces that we will shortly begin our descent into Sydney. To the north is a great mass of cloud, more storms, but the cumulus beneath us, sometimes beginning to tower with updrafts makes way for a thin layer of stratocumulus, the landscape visible through the breaks below. I wish that we could descend through that mild layer, but I have no idea where Sydney sits in comparison to our position.

A cloud bank to the north

Get denser

I suspect that it is to the northeast where the clouds thicken to full cumulus and the storm threatening cumulonimbus, a full texture of cotton wool shapes that threaten an exciting descent.

I lose all sense of position as we edge closer and closer to that thick layer, the engines alternately spooling up and down. A thin bald man is still doing tai chi moves near the external door, his morning stretches obviously more important to him than the seatbelt sign lit for landing.

Descending through the clouds

There are a few bumps as we slowly enter the cloud layer, then the next one. Yes, this is the long path into Sydney, heading from its southeastern suburbs all the way around. Eventually we pass through enough that I can see Sydney's north below. We are probably flying over my workplace.

Sydney sighted!

Then we are through into the grey world. Sydney Harbour Bridge and the CBD lie to my left. Alex is excited. Down and down, over Sydenham and Tempe and then we land gently.

Sydney CBD and Harbour Bridge

The Danish diesels

Crossing Airport Drive
Reverse thrust with the control tower in the background

Taxiing now

The journey is over! And for all my concerns the flight was actually a pretty good one.  I was okay the whole flight, sometimes a bit tense, but never in discomfort due to the turbulence.

Farewell Maju-lah

The midday landing during a quiet time for inbound international flights meant that immigration is fast. It was in waiting for our luggage that we get stuck. At least forty minutes before the belt starts moving. With an insurance assessor scheduled to meet with us in the afternoon Alex and B head off home while I waited for our sole checked in bag.

A lady drops her bottle of duty-free Johnny Walker Black Label, smashing it and releasing its sharp odour into the luggage hall.

A quarantine officer wandered around the belt checking our arrival cards. Satisfied with my description of dried fruits and pineapple tarts I am allowed to pass through customs without opening my bag. Then, after a quick meal of breakfast/lunch combined at McDonalds, I am free to go home, exhausted, smelly, ready for a shower and sleep.

My experience with Scoot was better than previously. The 787 is more comfortable and at least they now offer WiFi and early check in. They are certainly better than AirAsiaX, at least in standard economy.

I did miss the seat back screens. At the very least a moving map gives you a sense of location, but there's also the possibility of entertainment. I'm concerned at having to keep hold of both a camera and a tablet during turbulence (and thus the potential for damage or injury), so prefer the hands free seat back option. But it's also the availability of entertainment for the rest of the family. Storing sufficient entertainment can be difficult (Apple not playing nice with non-Apple) and costly.

The meal options did not appeal on this route so I never ordered any food, apart from pot noodles for Alex. I partly put that down to my palate, which is wary of rich flavours during flights (though I have enjoyed many), but the comments from the oldies were similarly negative and they would be more inclined to enjoy the meals.

Crew wise, I had little interaction with the Scooties (sounds like a lice infestation). The so called "Scootitude" was, well, something I still have no understanding of. The crew did their job, but I noticed no special warmth or zing about it.

The pilots were informative and seemed quite proactive about turbulence. Their clear English/Australian accents were much easier to understand over the PA than the Asian accented English of the rest of the crew. It's not so much the accent, which I am quite familiar with, but a lack of projection on their part.

I'm impressed with the 787. It handles turbulence pretty well, softening the sharp drops with its flexible wings and advanced responsiveness. It is now my choice of aircraft.

Overall, contrasting the Scoot flights with my Jetstar 787-8 flights last year, I still prefer the latter. Should be interesting to see what the family thinks come our next trip to Japan.

So, how well did this trip live up to my dreams?

If you've read this far you'll know the answer is no. At one point I even questioned whether I ever wanted to travel overseas again. I think I misunderstood exhaustion. It is not enough just to be exhausted and in need of a rest when the holiday begins, you must know that you can rest, that you are leaving the source of stress behind. With the fear of turbulence it lay ahead with every flight, with family there is not the freedom of arbitrary decisions. Yet without family I might not have faced that fear.

By the time we touched down in Sydney I was no longer quaking at the thought of stepping inside an aircraft cabin. I was looking up and dreaming again.