Highlights of Tiger Airways flight TR2902 Singapore > Macau August 8, 2010Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
Tags: Budget Terminal, Macau, Tiger Airways, TR2902
Airline: Tiger Airways (TR)
Date: Monday 05 July 2010
Route: Singapore Changi (SIN) > Macau International (MFM)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Departure Gate: Budget Terminal Gate 6
Scheduled Departure Time: 0600 LT
Actual Departure Time: 0555 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 0940 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 0920 LT
Flight Duration: 3H 25Min
Only two airlines – low-cost carriers Jetstar Asia and Tiger Airways – now fly direct between Singapore and Macau. Full-service carrier SilkAir used to fly this route, but this was terminated in 2004. In any case that was good news to us since we wanted to explore the Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of Macau and Hong Kong without burning a hole in our pockets. We opted for Tiger as it offered an early morning flight out of Singapore which fit nicely into our plans.
Booking tickets through their website was systematic and straight-forward but typical of low-cost carriers, one has to go beyond the initial stages to really get an idea of the total flight cost after taking into account taxes and various miscellaneous fees such as luggage allowance, seat selection and the most ironic in my opinion – the convenience fee.
For our case, the “Lowest Fare” available was S$60. Taxes and miscellaneous fees added up to S$85 (more expensive than Hong Kong’s!). We chose to select our preferred seats at S$5 per seat, and took up 20kg baggage allowance for S$15. Total cost ran up to about S$150 per person. Of course, to get tickets this cheap, one has to book rather early. We booked ours about a month earlier than the scheduled flight. Booking later would cost double, even triple what we managed to get.
Changi Airport Budget Terminal
Flying with Tiger means flying out of the basic Budget Terminal which had recently undergone an expansion. Since it was an early morning flight, we had no choice but to take a taxi down. After checking in at 0430H (check-in counters had already opened half an hour earlier), we had a quick breakfast at McDonald’s which now occupies what used to be Han’s cafe which in turn had shifted to the middle of the departure check-in hall and morphed into Hanis, essentially the halal-version of Han’s.
After clearing immigration, we headed straight for the departure gate. Unlike the main airport terminals where ample seats are provided for waiting passengers who would then board the aircraft through aerobridges, passengers at the Budget Terminal have to queue up on a first-come-first-through basis, walk out onto the tarmac and climb up the stairs into the aircraft. Compared to my first experience with Tiger to the Indonesian city of Padang years back (Tiger no longer flies there), things seem to be more systematic this time round as passengers were allocated seats upon check-in so there wasn’t much shoving and pushing to get the best available seat.
Three cabin crew members, one guy and two ladies, were on duty for this flight. One of the them greeted passengers as they boarded the aircraft, while the other two stationed themselves along the aisle to swiftly assist passengers in finding space in the overhead compartments for their hand-carry luggage. When all passengers have settled down, the aircraft commenced pushback at about 0550H while the cabin crew conducted the standard manual safety demonstration. After taxiing to the runway, the first TR flight of the morning took off smoothly five minutes ahead of the scheduled time. Of special mention is that unlike my previous flights, the pilot did not pause at the start of the runway. Instead, he drummed up the engines once the he had turned the A320 onto runway 20C and swiftly lifted us up into the sky.
Once the aircraft has made a left bank towards Malaysia and reached cruising altitude, cabin crew began their routine of selling food and drinks followed by duty-free merchandise. A single galley cart was pushed from the rear to the front and back again but sales wasn’t brisk at all. Most passengers who did buy opted for drinks since they were not allowed to consume their own food and drinks onboard the flight. Cabin crew also distributed the Macau immigration forms afterwards. About 45 minutes into the flight, the captain announced that the cabin lights would be dimmed since most passengers preferred to catch a shut-eye during the 3.5 hour flight.
The flight was smooth throughout thanks to the excellent weather. For those who stayed awake, they were treated to the beautiful sight of sunrise hundreds of feet in the air – something one doesn’t get to witness everyday. The only possible downside was the minimal legroom which would be of great discomfort for bigger-sized passengers.
I tried my best to catch some sleep during the flight but the seat which did not allow for even a single bit of recline did not help much. Before long, the cabin lights were switched on again and the captain announced the gradual descent into Macau International Airport. One of the cabin crew walked down the aisle with a trash bag to collect any rubbish generated by passengers and another ensured that everyone had fastened their seatbelts on.
Overall, with the exception of the cries of a baby piercing the silence for the first few minutes, the flight was a pleasant one. The staff did what they had to and given the fact that it was an early morning flight, they did not have anything much to do after the first hour since most of the passengers were sleeping anyway. Nevertheless passengers who required attention were responded to with smiles, even if they may seem a little “robotic”. The fabric seats were not as uncomfortable as I previously thought and the smooth takeoff and landing by the rather new aircraft made everything seemed perfect (for a low-cost carrier that is).
My only possible grouse was the exhorbitant prices for their rather unattractive food and beverage selection but this wasn’t an issue as I just had a filling breakfast back at the airport. Without any form of inflight entertainment save for the inflight magazine, a 4-hour flight onboard Tiger can be daunting for some, so it might be a good idea to have something on hand to keep oneself occupied throughout.
Macau International Airport
Due to land constraints, Macau Airport’s runway is built on land reclaimed over the sea which is connected to the terminal building on Taipa Island by two causeways. That made for a unique touchdown since there was seawater to the left and right of the runway.
Just like the Budget Terminal back in Singapore, we had to disembark down the stairs onto the apron and walk to the immigration counters in the terminal building. Despite reaching our destination up to 20 minutes earlier, we still wasted a lot of time queueing as only four immigration counters were opened! However, had we arrived any later we would have had to wait even longer because just minutes after, passengers from another flight behind ours quickly swarmed the arrival hall.
Macau International Airport’s curved rectangular terminal building layout is easy to navigate. However, except for the airport essentials such as left baggage counters, post office and tourist information centre, there isn’t really anything much.
An interesting feature for Macau International Airport are the official signages in three languages – English, Portugese and Chinese, reflecting the territory’s colonial legacy, embrace of globalisation and acknowledging its roots as part of mainland China.
After examining our options, we decided to just hop onboard the free shuttle bus to The Venetian casino complex rather than spend more time wating for the public buses whose routes we were unsure of. Little did we realise we could have just taken the shuttle bus by Wynn casino instead as it is located just across our hotel!
Next post: Day 1: Coloane Island & Macau Heritage Trail (in progress)