Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH)
ETD: 12:10 ATD: 11:55
ETA: 13:05 ATA: 12:40
1:55 hrs (1:35 hrs)
B737-800NG (9V-MGK, 1.2 years old)
I’ll admit – I wasn’t really looking forward to this flight. Having flown Silk Air before (albeit on their older A319-100 aircraft, which is currently being phased out) I haven’t been a huge fan. But they were the best option for me to PNH from Changi as they offered a midday departure from Singapore and an early evening departure from Phnom Penh back (I believe MI operates a triangle route tagged on with Siem Reap on their later departure). Booking was straight forward but the MI website is plagued by the same bugs that their parent SQ’s site is notorious for. I didn’t bother with Business Class on this route given its stage length and aircraft – just wasn’t worth the more than double the money Silk Air was asking for.
Got to Changi 1.5 hours before the flight, checked in at the counter and got assigned an emergency exit row with both the aisle and window seats blocked off – score! Headed to the SATS lounge at T2 which I can access through my Singapore-issued American Express card and had a glass of champagne to start off the trip. Doesn’t matter that it was before 12, it was 5 pm in somewhere (maybe American Samoa, I think?). Headed to the gate around 11:30 and as is customary at Changi, the gate was flashing ‘Last Call’ despite boarding having just started. Cleared security and boarded straight away, was warmly welcomed onboard by the purser. The interior of this brand new aircraft was immaculate – mood lighting was on and the signature Boeing Sky Interior does a lot to create the impression of more space even on narrow bodies. Flight was about 80% full and boarding was done in about 10-15 minutes with the crew on hand being very proactive in assisting with stowing away items. I’m always amazed at how quick flights are boarded in Asia in comparison to Europe and the US.
Packaged cold towels were handed out by the very cheerful crew as were immigration forms and visa on arrival documents for Cambodia. The customary welcome from the flight deck with an advised time of about 1.5 hrs to PNH, basically a very quick hop up the Peninsular Malaysia and into IndoChina. Pushed back and given the time of day we a quick taxi and no wait for departure. About 15 minutes after wheels up the seatbelt sign was turned off and the crew were released to their duties. Given they barely had an hour to conduct a full meal and beverage service they were on their feet right away.
Silk Air Studio was then activated. MI aircraft don’t have any IFE – not even audio ports. Drop down screens show cringe worthy episodes of ‘Just for Laughs’ or Charlie Chaplin silent films. This used to be painful on the longer trips I used to take with MI. The introduction of Silk Air Studio has gone a long way to remedy this problem – but still lags behind their comparable competitor Cathay Dragon who essentially carries the same IFE as their parent Cathay Pacific, even on their A320 fleet. Silk Air Studio is a wifi service that links up your smart phones, laptops and tablets with their online server that features about 10 movies (of which 5 are Hollywood maybe), another 5 or 7 episodes of TV shows and other travel features and Asian programming options. Note: actual WIFI that enables you to surf the internet is not available on Silk Air. Choices are limited and weak.
The beverage cart rolled up and was topped with the full range of soft drinks, wine and spirits which was impressive for a flight less than 2 hours. I asked for some white wine and was given a choice of an Australian Chardonnay or a California Riesling – once again, impressive. Chose the Chardonnay and was given a plastic cup and the entire 1/4th bottle of wine – even more impressive. The charming flight attendant also handed over some water, peanuts and napkins. Behind her was another member of the crew serving up the main meal (I could tell they turned the ovens on just before our take off roll given the smell of some delicious food wafting through the cabin as we took off). On offer today was a choice of seafood pasta or a ground chili pork over shredded egg fried rice. Being in Asia, I chose the rice option and was not disappointed. I’m often left underwhelmed by catering ex-SIN, which is odd given what a foodie nation Singapore is, but this meal was excellent. Packed a punch in spice, was flavorful and quantity-wise very generous. Warmed rolls were distributed from a linen lined basket by the purser. I have to say I was impressed by the teamwork of this crew – they were extremely efficient but were also very jovial and smiles were sincere and abundant. Given that airlines such as United staff their 737s with 3 crew and Silk Air crew the same aircraft with 6 flight attendants probably has something to do with this – but then again MI pulls off a full meal service on a 1.5 hour flight whereas with UA you’d be lucky to get tossed a pack of pretzels and half a can of Diet Coke on a comparable flight.
Just as I was finishing up with my delicious meal, much to my surprise dessert was doled out – ice cream bar cubes from a local Singaporean brand. The meal itself had impressed me but was even more surprised the presence of dessert – especially given the fact that we were now less than 1 hour from touching down at PNH. As the trays were collected the crew offered me another round of wine, which I gladly took. Another 1/4th bottle was placed on my tray with a smile with more peanuts – I couldn’t even finish the wine before it was time for the crew to collect everything and secure the cabin for landing. Throughout all this the crew were constantly in the aisles shuttling back and forth tending to passenger needs and being proactive in their service.
At around 12:15 local time we started our initial approach into PNH, with the mighty Mekong River coming into sight as we descended through some high level clouds. Crew were back in the aisles conducting their final checks before taking their seats for landing. We landed nearly 30 minutes early and had a quick taxi to the gate for disembarkation.
This ended a great short hop from Singapore to Cambodia and as a passenger I couldn’t have asked for more from Silk Air. A brand new aircraft, some great (if not over the top) catering for such a short flight, and best of all an extremely motivated and friendly crew. They genuinely seemed to love their job and enjoy working with each other – this always makes for a great flight.
Overall, Silk Air is a strong option for regional ‘resort’ flying within South and South East Asia and does their parent company Singapore Airlines proud.
Check in: 8/10 – Seamless and easy
Lounge: n/a – Not a Silk Air lounge
Boarding: 10/10 – Efficient as is the norm at SIN
Food: – 9/10 – Great Asian street food fare
Seat: 8/10 – Comfortable and not your generic slimline disaster
Cleanliness of aircraft:9/10 – Brand new and sparkling
Crew: 10/10 – Highlight of the flight
IFE: 6.5/10 – Silk Air Studio is a vast improvement but is severely lacking for some of the 5 hour flights MI does to China, India, Nepal and Australia.
Elite recognition: n/a – Despite being SQ’s baby no Star recognition here.
Flight Timeliness: 10/10 – left early, arrived even earlier – can’t get better than that.
Overall: 70.5/80 – (88%) ★★★★★ This flight blows any full service carrier in North America and Europe out of the water. Silk Air served up a full meal service that was actually tasty and served by a friendly crew on a 1.5 hour flight on a brand new Next-Gen 737. In the US I’d be grateful for a CRJ flight on a regional carrier that was on time on a comparable route. You do actually get spoiled flying regionally in Asia.
A last word on the crew: thank you for a memorable flight!