After four days in Langkawi, I make a move to return home. The first leg will see my flying to KL and then connecting to another flight to Bangkok the same day.
Getting to the Airport
I’m not sure there actually is any reliable public transport in Langkawi, which is why I decide to avail myself of the hotel shuttle to take me to the airport.
At the airport there are dedicated counters for Malaysia Airlines and there is one counter for Business Class passengers. Passengers need to go through security screening before accessing the check-in area.
There is no Business Class lounge at the airport, but instead they have something much, much better: from the public gate area you have excellent views of the ramp. Aircraft tend to park nose in, which means it’s just perfect for people like me to geek out while they await their boarding call.
Boarding for the flight starts rather abruptly without any calls being made.
This aircraft has yet a different cabin interior from the ones of the two previous flights. Apart from the fact that it’s a more modern seat, the covers are in violet (!) leather and the bulkhead is in some bamboo inspired pattern.
There is no service on the ground. I think there simply isn’t enough time for that, given that the taxi time is very short.
The snack is pretty much the same concept as that on the outbound flight. Except that this time, one canapé is with camembert and fruit and the other is with smoked salmon, an olive and a pickle.
Once more, the dessert is an undefinable but very tasty sweet thing in a rather unappealing shade of green.
There’s a bit of a hold up for us to start our descent into KL due to the presence of thunder storms in the area. On the row behind me is an Arab woman with her teenage son.
As soon as the pilot announces that we can start our approach soon, I hear somebody behind my spray and spraying and spraying. And just a short while later a horribly heavy scent starts wafting through the cabin. It’s so bad I have to stink my fingers up my nose and breathe through my mouth. It’s probably a very expensive scent, but it’s just way too strong. One of the cabin crew, who is already sitting on the jump seat, sees me and gives me a questioning look. To which I can only motion that somebody behind me just sprayed themselves. She covers her mouth and tries not to laugh. By the time we land I have a serious head ache…
With social distancing still in force in Switzerland and much of the global aviation industry having come to a grinding halt, I obviously haven’t been travelling at all since the beginning of March 2020. On a positive note, that has given me ample time to make a few changes and update to my blog. In the process, I also stumbled across a few previously unposted reports of past trips. And so, for your reading entertainment, I have decided to add them here.
I’ll start with a trip I took to Langkawi in Malaysia back in 2011. Nonetheless, I will keep to the usual style of writing and use the present tense.
Getting to the Airport
I arrive in Kuala Lumpur the evening before on a flight from Bangkok. The next day I’m on my way back to the airport for the flight to Langkawi. I suppose I might have stayed at the airport, given that it’s quite far out from the city. But then I figured it would still be nice to be able to go into town, which is why I eventually spend the night in KL at the Hilton Sentral Stesen, which sits right above the railway station.
The KLIA Express train is not full at all. In fact, I think every time I’ve taken this train it hasn’t been full. The price for a oneway ticket is MYR55.
Malaysia Airlines and most of the legacy carriers operate out of KLIA1 or Terminal 1. There is also KLIA2, but that wasn’t even open in 2011.
My boarding pass for the flight to Langkawi was already issued the day before when I checked in for the flight from Bangkok to KL, so I can head straight for security.
Strangely enough, no distinction appears to be made between international and domestic passengers as far as the flow of passengers is concerned. Also, there seems to be a general security screening for all passenger, the point of which eludes me. And then there is a second check before entering the gate.
Irrespective of whether they’re domestic or international departures, short-haul flights tend to use gates at the main terminal concourse, whereas the widebodies tend to use the satellite terminal.
The flight to Langkawi is operated by a Boeing B 737-800. An announcement is made for passengers in Business Class passengers to board first, but this is not something anyone ever seems to pay much attention to in KL and the gate staff don’t enforce it either.
The seats on this aircraft are slightly different to those on the previous flight I took from Bangkok. It’s not just that they have red covers, as opposed to the blue ones on yesterday’s aircraft, it also seems to by a different type of seat. It looks more like an old fashioned Economy Class seat but with a wider armrest in between.
While we’re still on the ground, the crew pass through the cabin with English language newspapers and a glass of fresh guava juice.
The flight time to Langkawi is short at only 40 minutes. The service starts with the distribution of scented cold towels that are nice and thick.
Despite the short flight time, the Malaysia Airlines Business Class service includes a small snack, a dessert and some Cadbury’s chocolate biscuits. And they insist on using a table cloth.
The main dish consists of two canapé sandwiches. One is with cream cheese, while the other is with pieces of chicken in a spicy curry marinade and lemon.
I have no idea what the dessert is and when I suggest pumpkin, the crew aren’t sure what that is in their language either but are too polite to say so. One way or another, it’s very good and has a spicy aroma combined with saffron.
No sooner as the tray been removed, we start our descent into Langkawi. What I remember most about this flight is how calm and unrushed the whole service by the cabin crew is.
Langkawi is a fairly small facility and I’m only travelling with hand luggage anyway. So once the doors open, I’m out fairly quickly. The hotel has sent a driver to pick me up. And so I resist the temptation to take photos of my aircraft as I walk across the apron to the terminal.
Getting to the Hotel
In Langkawi I’m staying at The Datai, which is about 40 minutes away from the airport. That’s not necessarily because Langkawi is that big, but rather because it’s a fairly circuitous route and there are no fast roads on the island.
I am feeling surprisingly fresh, all things considered. I woke up at 05:30 on 26 December to catch my flight from Zürich to Paris. And save for two hours’ sleep on the flight from Paris to Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been awake the whole time.
I step off the A 380 that brought me in from Paris and make my way to Malaysia’s satellite lounge.
The Malaysia Airlines First Class Lounge
Location: One floor up from the public area, above the metro station that connects the satellite with the main building. Type of Lounge: Malaysia Airlines First Class lounge. Facilities: Toilets, showers, separate dining area, workstations. Internet: Available for free, password required.
There is a common reception area for the Malaysia Airlines lounges in Kuala Lumpur. The Business Class lounge is to the left of the counter, while the First Class lounge is to the right. Even though my onward connection to Brisbane will be only in Business Class, the lounge dragon still grants me access to the First Class lounge once she has checked the PNR for my trip.
The lounge itself is pretty empty and it seems to me that the place has been renovated or refurbished recently. The toilets look much newer than the last time I was here. Then again, appearances can be misleading…I decide to have a shower to freshen up before the next flight. At close inspection however, the showers look badly maintained and not particularly clean. What can I say? I am a doctor’s son, so perhaps I may be a tad picky when it comes to hygiene. So eventually I decide to give the showers a miss.
I leave the lounge roughly forty-five minutes before departure because I still have to go through security to enter the holding area of my gate. When I arrive at C16, from where my flight will be leaving, the place is a complete mess. A beautiful Iraqi Airways Boeing 777-300 has just pulled up at the gate next to ours. As the passengers of that flight disembark, they are blocking the way for passengers queuing for security for gates C16 and C17.
Eventually, by the time I manage to get into the holding area, boarding for my flight has already started. There is no separate queue for security. There is however, a separate exit to the aircraft for Business Class.
Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2 Seat: The first thing that strikes me about the overall cabin is that it is very dirty. There are even stains of food on the wall paneling and there are crumbs of food all over the place. The seat’s hard shell back is quite low. Consequently, it does not offer much in terms of privacy. But at least there is a divider on every pair of seats. Storage space is also somewhat limited. Pitch: 60 inches. Width: 20 inches. Facilities: USB port and power supply (115 volt). Length as a bed: 75.2 inches. Audio and Video: Touch screen audio video on demand.
As I enter the cabin and reach my seat, there is hardly any room to sit. The space is taken up by a large pillow, a thick blanket and a thin mattress on every seat.
What a nightmare. I really think it is safe to say that I have never experienced such an awful crew in all my life, on any airline. During the boarding process, assisting passengers with their luggage and helping them stow all the blankets, pillows etc. does not seem part of the crew’s job description and they generally have an attitude of could not care less.
There is a large group of Indian businessmen on the flight today and they are, admittedly, behaving rather badly. Nonetheless, the crew are so apparently pissed off with them that they first start ignoring the passengers, then start being rude to them, move on to yelling at them and eventually end up doing all of the above at the same time.
After take-off the vanity kits are distributed. The content is more or less the same as in the First Class kit I received on the previous flight.
Welcome drink on the ground: Guava juice. Hot towel before the meal: Yes, scented. Pre-meal drink: Water. Choice: There are three choices for the main course, but no menus are distributed, so I have not idea what was on offer. I just had the chicken. Type of meal: Good question…
The meal service is a chaotic mess. One flight attendant approaches passengers and asks them if they have already made a choice, which seems just a bit dumb given that no menus were distributed on the flight. When passengers ask what the choices are, the cabin crew roll their eyes and mumble something about ‘chicken, salmon….’. Ah, so much better.
Mixed chicken and beef satay with accompaniments.
The First Course
Something (tuna?) with raw peppers and celery.
The Main Course
Chicken Indian style.
At least the service does not take too long to complete. The trays are cleared away, the cabin lights are dimmed and most of the passengers go off to sleep. And so do the crew. There is one guy among the crew on this flight who spends most of his time sitting in one of the Business Class seats reading the paper. At some point he passes through the cabin, presumably to keep up appearances, sees my empty tray and instructs one of the other cabin crew to pick it up and remove it, rather than simply doing it himself. Another crew member is sleeping on the jump seat, with his legs sprawling across the aisle. I have to climb over him to get to the toilet.
The Second Service
The second service is hardly worth mentioning. It consists of two rather small and bland canapés – one with cream cheese and the other with a strange combination of marinated spicy chicken, tomato sauce and pineapple.
By the time we start our descent into Brisbane it is already getting dark outside. Our approach sees us approaching the airport from the west and then executing a left-hand 270 degrees turn to land in a southerly direction.
The international terminal is deserted when we arrive. Malaysia Airlines hands out express cards for immigration and customs to their Business Class passengers. But the airport is so quiet this evening that the express lane for customs has already closed down.
Getting into Town
Transport: Taxi. Departs from: Taxi rank in front of the terminal building. Journey time: 25 Minutes. Fare: AUD47.- to New Farm.
There are bus and train services that frequently run from the airport into the city and to Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise. But according to Google Maps the journey by public transport to where I am going will take more than an hour. So I think I shall take a taxi, if that is all the same with you.
Good heavens, what on earth was that? I mean Malaysia Airlines, really? As I already mentioned in my previous post, their First Class product on the A 380 is a lot more like a Business Class experience on other Asian carriers, although the hardware on the A 380 is excellent. But this last flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane in Business Class was a complete and utter nightmare. I am aware of the fact that the carrier has been brought under government control in a bid to stabilise the company before moving ahead with privatisation. But to be perfectly honest, as far as I can tell privatisation has definitely put the carrier in a downward spiral it may not recover from. Especially on the last flight it became apparent that the staff’s motivation has reached rock bottom. Paired with the fact that their hard product in Business Class is no longer competitive with the likes of Thai, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Emirates, it seems hardly unlikely that Malaysia Airlines will rise from the ashes the way the Malaysian government is intending. Pity.
Date: 24 July 2011 From: Bangkok To: Kuala Lumpur Airline: Malaysia Airlines Cabin: Business Class Seat: 1D Aircraft: Boeing B. 737-800
Getting to the Airport
I just arrived in Bangkok on SWISS flight LX180 from Zürich. A representative from the airline is expecting me as I get off the plane. She takes my carry-on and bids me to take a seat in some kind of electric golf mobile. After waiting for three further First Class passengers we are whisked away. Our first stop is at the Fast Track immigration counter for passengers whose final destination is Bangkok or who are continuing on a domestic flight. Next stop is the fast track security check at the beginning of the G concourse. I am accompanied through the check, which is very quick – there’s just two of us – and then from there I am taken one floor up to the Malaysia Airlines transfer counter (which is in fact operated by Thai on their behalf). Here I receive a lounge invitation for the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge. To be honest I do find it rather confusing in Bangkok: there’s the Royal Orchid Lounge, the Royal Silk Lounge and finally the Royal First Lounge.
The Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge
The SWISS representative drops me off in the lounge and bids me a safe onward journey. The lounge is rather nice, but definitely too small for all the passengers it has to accommodate. Furthermore, seating is very tight and not very comfortable.
Eventually I manage to secure a seat by the window. Unfortunately it is only when I try to take a photo that I notice there are these pesky dots all over the window. Who ever comes up with dumb ideas like this? So no pictures in the lounge then.
As the departure time draws nearer, I leave the lounge and head for gate D5, the designated gate for this flight. On my way there I come across a Viking and think it might be an old acquaintance from my trip to Beijing in June. Turns out it wasn’t.
Bangkok uses a closed gate system. When boarding for a flight starts, it means that everybody is made to enter the lounge and then when every passenger has been accounted for, the actual boarding process starts.
For sure the Kebaya the females wear at Malaysia Airlines is elegant and a complement to the female figure. But only one ounce too many round the bum or the waist and you’re in trouble.
Upon entering the aircraft I am rather impressed that MH has in fact a dedicated Business Class cabin on the B 737 with a proper C class seat, as opposed to the European system of just blocking the middle seat in a row of three seats that would otherwise classify and Economy seats.
While we’re still on the ground a welcome drink of either orange juice or guava is offered. I opt for the guava, it brings back fond memories of a trip I did with my sister to Fiji many years ago. We used to drink guava juice every day during out stay in Fiji.
Next cold jasmine scented towels are distributed, together with the menu for the flight.
And then we depart.
As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew start to prepare the meal service. First of all, they place a real tablecloth on every tray table.
Dinner on this flight consists of:
The First Course
Green Mango Salad with fresh lettuce, lime and cherry tomato.
The Main Course
Poached Chicken Breast, with rice, garden vegetables and ginger sauce. The meal is rather tasty and in fact quite spicy. Not overly so, but you can certainly feel a slight tickle in your throat as the food goes down.
After the meal the tray is cleared away and I ask for a coffee, which is duly brought to me in a big white mug. Usually on planes they insist on giving you these puny little but very elegant cups with enough space for not more than one mouthful of liquid.
The lavatories are checked and cleaned every time after they are used. Obviously by this time I’m really quite impressed with the level of service provided by MH. When I visit the toilet myself I am surprised to see quality cosmetics there at the disposal of the passengers, even for such a short flight of only two hours flying time. The toilet is also decorated with flowers, which is a nice touch.
The flight attendants on this flight are very elegant, very professional and very friendly. After I came out of the toilet one of them asks me why I’m taking all the pictures. When I explain, she asks me if I want to have my picture taken. To which I reply that I would prefer to take a picture of her and her colleague, a request to which they both agree. What happens next, in my view, shows just how professional these two ladies are: just as I take the picture, a passenger appears from behind the curtain to go to the toilet. Rather that ignoring him for a second while I take the picture, the flight attendants immediately go back into work mode, show the elderly gentleman the way to the toilet and open the door for him. Once that is taken care, of I am able to take the picture. And these are the results:
Shortly thereafter we start our descent. The crew pass through the cabin with more hot jasmine scented towels. By the time we arrive in Kuala Lumpur I am well and truly exhausted. After all I left the previous day and travelled all the way from Athens via Zurich and Bangkok to KL. Fortunately there’s a dedicated arrivals counter at immigration for Business Class passengers, so I’m through in no time.
Getting into Town
I then head down to the basement to catch the KLIA Ekspres, as they call it, to Kuala Lumpur Sentral. Tickets for the KLIA Ekspres can be purchased online on the railway’s website, the trip into town is 35 Ringgit. During my visit to Kuala Lumpur I stay at the Hilton, which is right opposite the main entrance to the railway station, thus in close proximity to downtown and at the same time only one stop away from the airport.
The next day I continue to Langkawi, also on Malaysia Airlines