Patrick Coyle flies Christchurch to Singapore aboard Singapore Airlines.

The plane:

A Boeing 777-200ER, 14 years old. Venerable workhorse of the SIA fleet. It's been wearing a track between Christchurch and Singapore for a while and is looking a bit tired inside now.

On time: Yes for departure but no for arrival at Changi. This Christchurch flight arrives about 5pm local time in Singapore, which coincides with the local thunderstorms. We had to hold south (over Bataan Island for about 30 minutes) and when we landed had to wait an additional 45 minutes to get our bags due to the ground handlers not being permitted on the apron while there is lightning about. All up we left the airport at about 7pm.

Class: Economy.


Seat: I purchased a "preferred" seat, 50C, for about an extra $100. This is two rows back from the over-wing exit and because of the toilets beside this exit there are only two seats in row 49 so this seat has nothing in front of it. Plenty of leg room.

Price: This was a last-minute booking for work so it was a tad pricey $2100 return.

Entertainment: The Kris World system is a mixed bag. There is plenty of choice from new release movies, classics and those tailored to the Asian market. The biggest gripe is the audio quality. You are issued with ear-bud type headphones that don't really cut it. The ambient air noise in the cabin along with the crude volume set-up on the IFE makes listening tricky.

Service: as always with Singapore airlines, the Singapore Girls (and guys) were efficient and generally attentive. Hot towels on departure and before arrival. Any reasonable requests seem to be quickly sorted.

Food and drink: I had ordered a special meal due to a shellfish allergy and, so it seemed, did quite a lot of others - probably due to quite a few requiring halal, vegetarian etc.

These are always served first, before the rest of the meal service. Which is fine except that you don't get a drink to go with it as you do with the main meal service. We special meal folks were well finished before the drinks trolley turned up. You would think the airlines would consider this. Anyway I had a pork red curry, rice and green beans. All very tasty (and a tad spicy, so it would've helped to have a drink as well with it). Otherwise meals were average.

How full: There only seemed to be about five or six seats free throughout the whole cabin. Business Class was chocka when I walked past. The seat beside me was kept free, possibly because of the preferred seat thing I'd paid for.

Toilets: People must be taking this recommendation of keeping well hydrated seriously as there was a constant queue. They were consistently being kept clean though, which was appreciated due to the constant use.

Luggage: 30kg

Fellow passengers: As you would expect mostly were Singaporean locals, Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese. Also quite a few Germans; both individuals and a large group of middle-aged couples who had spent a fortnight in New Zealand. A couple of them caused a bit of a ruckus at the toilets by not queueing up and sneaking in ahead of others waiting.

Airport experience: Christchurch is pretty efficient and has plenty of seating around the departure lounge. Changi, being consistently voted the best airport in the world, generally lived up to its reputation, even for arriving passengers. Customs and Immigration are very efficient.

Would I fly again: Of course - this is Singapore Airlines. If you are heading for Europe or Asia out of the South Island this is really the only choice, and has been for 30-odd years.

Within the last year or so a couple of other Chinese carriers have started flying into Christchurch, so there is now a bit of competition. I hope they retire these old 777s sooner rather than later. If Emirates bring an A380 into Christchurch maybe SIA will match or even use a new A350. The South Island deserves it.