Lorna Subritzky flies aboard Silkair's MI413 from Kathmandu to Singapore.
A tired Boeing 737-800, with seating for 162. Silkair is the regional arm of Singapore Airlines.
Class: Having flown into Kathmandu on the same plane, I looked longingly at the Business Class seats (two on each side of the narrow aisle, as opposed to the three in Economy) as I made my way back to the cheap seats with little legroom and virtually no recline function.
Price: I flew courtesy of The Leprosy Mission NZ, but Google says Economy fares start at $575 one-way, with Business Class priced at $998.
Flight time: Five hours, give or take. We were late leaving (by about 45 minutes) which is common for this particular flight, but made up time and landed 25 minutes behind schedule at 5.04am. An ideal flight to nap on if you can in a sardine-like environment — in fact, this is positively encouraged when we are handed packs containing flight socks, toothbrush and mini-sized toothpaste. Sadly no eye mask, though the cabin lights were dimmed.
My seat: Technically 11B — but oddly this had me seated between some honeymooning Aussies, so we swapped and I ended up on the aisle in 11C. This seemed like a great thing until I realised that every time someone around me stood up (and this was often), the narrow aisle meant I got a bum in the face. Not as much fun as it sounds.
Fellow passengers: Local Nepalese, families, couples, young men who repeatedly pushed the envelope with inflight cellphone usage, and tired trekkers like me.
How full: Chocka.
Entertainment: Before flying, download the Silkair Studio app to watch movies and TV shows on your own device. Dropdown screens offer soundless candid camera and gladiator-type shows if you tire of your book.
The service: Flight attendants were busy and efficient. There's not much in the way of pleasantries though — one stood on my seat (which I was occupying at the time) to access the overhead locker without acknowledging me. Food and drink: Surprisingly good. Within minutes of takeoff we were offered juice or beer, with wet towelettes to freshen up; my chicken dinner was tasty and the Chilean pinot noir surprisingly good.
The toilets: Must have been great judging by the number of times I had to get up so my neighbour could go.
Luggage: Generous. Up to 30kg for checked luggage and 7kg cabin baggage — although this was not enforced at all, leading to overflowing overhead lockers.
Airport experience: A study in contrast. Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport is often named among the world's worst and deservedly so: it's dirty and chaotic, and the facilities are almost non-existent, so my four-hour wait there prior to boarding was arduous. We touched down at arguably the world's best airport, Singapore's Changi — the only time I've ever wished my stopover was of a longer duration.