Mission accomplished, I’ve finally seen the Petronas Towers. In fact my hotel, the Traders, stands right opposite the towers and offers unobstructed views of them. They look particularly nice by night when they are lit up.
So I guess I might as well leave. For my return to Bangkok I’ve picked another exotic 5th freedom flight, this time in Egypt Air Business Class aboard the mighty B777-300.
Date: 2 September 2012
Airline: Egypt Air
From: Kuala Lumpur
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 10C, aisle
Getting to the Airport
My flight back to Bangkok will not be leaving until 22h00 today. Although I haven’t really got any high expectations of the flight, I am still very much looking forward to it because it will be my first flight with Egypt Air and I am quickly becoming a fan of the mighty Triple Seven.
So in theory, it would be quite sufficient to be at the airport at around 20h30, which would mean leaving central KL at around 19h00. But I want to get to the airport before sunset to catch a glimpse and possibly take a few pictures of the incoming aircraft, which is scheduled to arrive at 18h10.
Just after 17h00 I leave the hotel and head across the park to the KL Conference Centre to catch the Monorail to Sentral Stesen, the main station. It’s about a 10 minutes leisurely walk from the Traders Hotel.
The counters for the flight are still being set up, but there’s already a long queue forming and for a horrible moment I suspect this may end up being the most chaotic check-in ever. But once the counters are set up, it becomes apparent that the Malaysia Airlines ground crew checking in the flight will not be standing for any nonsense and after just a few minutes the chaos has turned into orderly queues.
There is a separate counter for Business Class passengers. The agent types my Senator number into the reservation and issues me a boarding pass and the invitation to the Malaysia Airlines international lounge in the satellite building.
Once I reach the satellite I make a beeline for gate C22 from where my bird allegedly will be leaving, but much to my dismay, the gate is still empty. I hang around for a few more minutes, but nothing happens. And so I head for the Malaysia Airlines lounge instead.
The Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge
I arrive at the lounge and am greeted by a friendly receptionist. She asks me to wait a second while she makes a phone call. Strange. The next thing I know, she hands me the phone and says ‘for you’. Stranger. I take the receiver. It’s the check-in agent from the Business Class counter. He just wants to make sure about my nationality. He explains that if I am from Malta I can get a visa on arrival in Bangkok. If however I’m from Mali, I would not be allowed to travel as I would need a visa. So I explain to him that I am in fact from Malta and not Mali. I feel compelled to ask if he had noticed at all when checking me in that I am in fact a rather pale pinkish colour, pale even by Maltese standards, and would therefore probably be unlikely to blend in as one of the locals in downtown Bamako.
The lounge is huge and has a very high ceiling, giving it the feel of being in a cathedral.
There are various stations with different types of food and drinks. I try the Malaysian dishes and they are very nice and a bit spicy.
The only thing that is perhaps ‘out of cast’ is the toilets, which look kind of old and worn.
One hour before departure my flight already shows ‘BOARDING’. Kuala Lumpur uses closed gates. So basically ‘boarding’ merely means that the gate is open. So I probably still have time. Even so, I figure the load will probably be light to Bangkok so we may see an early departure. I collect my belongings and head for gate C22.
I enter the holding pen and then we wait for about 20 minutes before the actual boarding finally starts. There are two airbridges attached to the aircraft at the L1 and the L2 doors. Given that I am travelling in Business Class, I am directed to use the L1 door. This initially causes some confusion with the security guard manning the airbridge but eventually all is well and I am allowed on board.
I am greeted at the door by a friendly young woman who speaks very good English.
The first row of Business Class, which is also the first row on the aircraft, starts at number eight with Egypt Air.
I am on 10C, which means the third row from the front. There’s another passenger on 10A. Just as I close my seatbelt with a click, the announcement comes that boarding is completed. I look around and there’s another passenger sitting on 11A. But apart form that, the forward Business Class compartment is empty. 28 seats to share between three passengers. So I grab my stuff and move one row forward to the window on 9A.
This seat belt buckle is obviously much older than the rest of the plane. While in the new logo the Horus is merely stylised, on this buckle he is still more bird-like in appearance, as in the previous logo.
There isn’t really much to say about our departure, except perhaps that the Triple Seven really packs a punch. Even once we’re airborne you can still feel the aircraft accelerating.
I cannot praise the crew on this flight enough. They are so friendly and so much fun, truly excellent ambassadors to the country and people of Egypt and their legendary hospitality.
Once I realise I will be able to take pictures without bothering anybody, I embark on a photo shooting frenzy, trying to make sure I capture every detail of the aircraft. Suddenly one of the flight attendants, a middle-aged lady stops me and tells me ‘No, no Sir, you can’t take pictures like that’. For a moment I fear she’s going to do the no-photography-for-security-reasons routine on me. But instead she looks at me and says ‘you have to have a picture of me if you take a picture on Egypt Air’ and laughs. At this the male flight attendant appears and decides to join in the fun. And here’s the outcome.
Later on during the flight one of the attendants actually comes up to me and tells me how nice I am because I have a friendly smile. Shukran Gazilan, thank you very much!
But I digress. Service begins on the ground with a drinks round. There is a choice of guava juice, orange juice or still water. I choose the guava juice and it’s very refreshing. The drinks on the ground are served in plastic ‘glasses’ though.
After that a hot towel is distributed to each passenger. It’s out of paper but it does its job very well. In typically Arab style it’s heavily scented and more over, so hot I can barely hold it! I am also offered earphones and the evening’s edition of the Thai English language newspaper.
As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, one of the crew sets the table with a table cloth of crisp white linen with the Horus logo embroidered on it.
And then the meal arrives.
The First Course
A starter of salmon tartar with dill, capers and lemon rind, served with a slice of papaya, lemon and some greens.
A mixed salad that comes with a light and tasty vinaigrette.
The Main Course
Spicy chicken with white rice and grilled veg with coriander.
A plate of cheddar and camembert cheese, served with a plum, grapes and butter.
Chocolate and pistachio trifle with passion fruit infused sponge cake.
The flight is only 95 minutes. Very soon the throttles are eased back and Horus dips his nose. Our approach brings us in very close to the airport, which we pass due east on a northerly track. We do an elaborated 180 degree left turn and eventually land on the western one of the two runways.
We turn off the runway but the pilot informs us that our gate is still occupied by another aircraft. Subsequently we will have to wait for it to depart, which will be in the next 10 minutes.
Upon arrival I head for the visa on arrival lane, which is pretty empty at this time of day, it’s nearly midnight. Which is a good thing, because Egypt Air does not provide Fast Track passes. After customs I take the underground walkway to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi. I am only staying the one night.
I suppose there really is no point in comparing Royal Jordanian and Egypt Air, apart form the fact that I tried them in short succession on the same route, albeit in the opposite direction. Even so, I must say that Royal Jordanian really is no match for Egypt Air. Essentially it’s the crew’s performance that tips the scale in Egypt Air’s favour. That and the fact that the Triple Seven is one hell of a beast and this example in particular was in mint condition.
Sure the service was more polished over all with Royal Jordanian. But what’s all that worth if the cabin crew can’t even smile or react to you, seemingly because it doesn’t say so in the service manual? Would I fly Egypt Air again? Certainly, any time!