It was early morning – for a Sunday – and an enthusiastic crowd had gathered at Gate B8 at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on October 23, 2016. There were four friends who have holidayed together for six years, and counting; families headed back home after their vacations; and aviation enthusiasts who made time specifically for the flight.
You could say they were the chosen ones: these passengers were the first to fly Singapore Airlines’ new non-stop route from Singapore to San Francisco on the A350. They were welcomed with a slew of celebratory treats in the gatehold room prior to the inaugural flight.
It was a special flight indeed as the passengers were to fly on the 10,000th Airbus plane, which was delivered to SIA a mere 10 days ago.
These special passengers started arriving at the gatehold room from 7.30am, where they were greeted with champagne and also a sumptuous buffet spread featuring Singaporean and American favourites.
Guests were serenaded by a two-piece band as they mingled and took polaroid pictures with the cabin crew. VIPs, including Mr Campbell Wilson, Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice-President (Sales & Marketing), and Mr Calvin Phua, Deputy Secretary (International), Ministry of Transport, were also present.
Mr Wilson shared in a speech, later during the event, that the flight – at 15 hours and 45 minutes – is the longest one among the Airlines’ offerings. Come 2018, however, the A350-900ULR variant will be used to re-launch non-stop flights between Singapore and the US cities of New York and Los Angeles.
Singapore Airlines’ first A350-900 went into service in May and the aircraft type is now being used for Amsterdam and Dusseldorf flights, with more destinations to be added as additional aircraft enter the fleet.
Many passengers, such as Leong Choy Fong and her travelling companion Weena Ong, were happily surprised by the celebrations at the gatehold room. “When we booked our tickets three weeks ago, we thought the flight was one of the regular direct flights offered by SIA. But when we walked into the room today, we were definitely thrilled to find out that we’re among the first passengers to experience this route with SIA,” said Ms Leong.
Others such as IT consultant John Wong said the direct route is a “strategic” one. “Singapore and the US are technology hubs and for those in the business like myself, it is now much easier and faster for us to travel between the two countries,” said the aviation enthusiast, who shared that he has been on a few inaugural flights.
Indeed, convenience was another attractive factor cited by parents travelling with young children, such as San Francisco deli owner Misoo Shin, who had spent five days each in Hong Kong and Singapore. She shared: “When we started our holiday, we travelled to Singapore via Hong Kong. It’s so nice to return home on a direct flight, which is easier on all of us, especially since my kids are aged five and two.”
In high spirits
Well, the children in the room certainly had a fun start to their trip – they were wowed by an energetic lion dance performance by a troupe made up of talented cabin crew members. Other activities for the day included a fun quiz segment and a photo opportunity where passengers could pose with cabin crew for a polaroid picture.
Three lucky guests, whose San Francisco city guides, distributed earlier to all passengers, spelled “You Won”, received 10,000 Krisflyer miles and S$350 KrisShop vouchers. Facebook user Auzan Syaidi, who had earlier won premium economy tickets in a social media contest, was also on the flight.
The goodies didn’t end at the gatehold room. Those travelling on Business Class on the route were the first to experience a new dining concept. The new menu offers customers the flexibility to select their meals, from all-day breakfast to a three-course meal, specially created by chefs from Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel.
Meanwhile, boarding time approached and passengers found additional “luggage” – a goodie bag – waiting for them. It contained commemorative collectibles, including a certificate, a passport holder, a batik luggage belt, as well as tea towels featuring San Francisco’s iconic cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Safe travels and see you in San Francisco!
– TEXT BY ESTHER AU YONG
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.