MH 51 (Codeshared as NH5859)
Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
ETD: 1620; Scheduled flight time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Distance: 1,014 miles / 1,636 km
Fare paid: MYR359 + fuel surcharge of MYR176 [approx. MYR3.52 = USD1.00 at that time]
Booking class: Q
This was a trip at very short notice, and since internet booking wasn't possible during the last 24 or 48 hours, I went to the airport to buy the ticket, and the counter staff printed out a list of flights departing that day, and immediately I noticed one flight on B777 (the rest being on B734). The section of the printout for this read as follows:
"BKI KUL 21/1620 1850EMH 051 C9 D9 Y9 W9 K9 M9 Q9 LC S9 T1 V9
V CLASS SALEABLE IN MSIA ONLY
From the inventory status, there appeared to be plenty of seats in economy class, and so I managed to secure one in Q Class. L Class was either sold out or no longer eligible. T Class is for frequent flyer redemption, IIRC, and if my guess is correct, for other non-rev also. Not too sure about S and V Class, maybe they needed to be sold, say, 2 weeks before departure.
Trivia: the above appears to show the order of "seniority" of the various classes under Economy, although I was surprised that T, which is likely for non-rev seats, comes ahead of V.
Digressing a little bit: the printout also showed the following:
"BKI SIN 21/1755 2010 MH9113 CC JL DL YL VL 319
KUL 21/2115 2215 MH 610 C2 JC DC Y9 K9 M9 Q9 L9 S9 T9 V9
More Trivia: we now know that on MH9113, which is codeshared and operated by SilkAir (an A319), MH only sells Y and V for its economy class. Wonder whether airlines usually offer fewer booking classes on codeshare flights where they are "piggybacking" on another airline's plane.
Coming back to the point: I deliberately went for the B777 - this one was the "domestic leg" of an international flight, i.e. Osaka - Kota Kinabalu (BKI) - Kuala Lumpur (KUL). Much much more comfortable and interesting than the usual boring B734 (or A320s operated by Air Asia, for that matter), and with higher standard of service.
1545 After some 2.5 hours using the wireless internet at the Starbucks outlet, I made my way to Gate A3, and within 5 minutes, boarding commenced. An ATR72, which had recently joined the MASWings (subsidiary of MH) fleet, was next to our B777.
1600 I settled into seat 35C, and soaked up the refreshing widebody atmosphere. A welcome break from the monotony of narrowbodies. The flight seemed 90-95% full despite the inventory status as shown above. As usual, the pillow and blanket on the seat made things even more comfortable, something not available on their B734s (or Air Asia, for that matter). The legroom was just great after so many trips on Air Asia!
1612 A few off-duty FAs board, and looked for empty seats nearby. One of them was heard saying "...we are paxing... not on duty" in response to a surprised question from one of the passengers. "Paxing?" First time I hear this term.
1617 Low drone quickly turns into a high-pitched whine as the engines are turned on. Welcome announcement by Aily, who mentions that this flight is codeshared as NH5859. Her message is repeated in Japanese by one of the Japanese FAs (employed by MH, not NH, AFAIK).
1620 It was now that the pax across the aisle from me told the FA that she had left her cellphone in the departure lounge, and asked if it can be retrieved. Too late, some 15 seconds later, it was pushback. She got slightly hysterical, saying she had lots of important info stored in it (who doesn't?) But the FAs were magnificent in trying to be of help, asked her for more info re the missing cellphone so that they can relay it to the ground staff.
1623 Safety video comes on. It's a new style, with the FAs shown to be interacting with the people posing as passengers. e.g. the FA was shown telling a little boy "make sure mommy and daddy also have this (the seat belt) on", or "in the event of turbulence [turns to a lady passenger standing next to the toilet door] - Ma'am, can you please return to your seat...."
1626 Begin taxiing
1630 Take off roll begins, and 30 seconds later, we took off.
Another 30 seconds later, the flight data on the video screen showed that the ground speed was 188 mph. And still 10 seconds later, our altitude was 582 ft.
1633 2,827 ft altitude; 206 mph ground speed; Tail wind = 11 mph; 22 deg C external temperature
1634 3,809 ft; 300 mph; Tail wind = 15 mph; 20 deg C
1636 5,828 ft; 338 mph; Tail wind = 12 mph; 15 deg C
1638 11,007 ft; 406 mph; Tail wind = 14 mph; 8 deg C; Distance travelled thus far = 54 km
1639 13,840 ft; 432 mph; Tail wind = 24 mph; 2 deg C; Distance covered thus far = 67 km
1641 17,236 ft; 462 mph; Tail wind = 25 mph; 4 deg C; Distance covered = 83 km
1644 24,370 ft; 495 mph; Tail wind = 19 mph; -18 deg C; Distance covered = 126 km
This time round, the flight data also shows tail/head wind speed and distance covered.
1645 FAs come round serving orange and pink guava juice, and also some peanuts.
1647 29,606 ft; 542 mph; Tail wind = 30 mph; -30 deg C; Distance covered = 172 km
1650 34,404 ft; 551 mph; HEAD wind = 24 mph; -46 deg C; Distance covered = 222 km
Not too sure when the tail wind turned into a head wind; maybe I missed the change in wind direction 1 or 2 readings ago.
1651 The head FA, dressed in a red sarong kebaya instead of the usual green, comes by and tells the pax who left her cellphone behind that the captain had contacted the ground re her problem.
1653 Engines quieten down as we reach cruising altitude at FL38.
1654 37,995 ft; 532 mph; Head wind = 30 mph; -50 deg C; Distance covered = 269 km
1657 37,998 ft; 531 mph; Head wind = 30 mph; -50 deg C; Distance covered = 311 km
1700 37,999 ft; 531 mph; Head wind = 30 mph; -50 deg C; Distance covered = 354 km
Hot light meal service begins. Headphones were delivered to the pax in 36D. I thought music wasn't available on this flight segment.
1703 38,001 ft; 533 mph; Head wind = 29 mph; -50 C; Dist. covered = 398 km
1706 37,999 ft; 533 mph; Head wind = 27 mph; -50 C; Dist. covered = 444 km
1709 37,996 ft; 534 mph; Head wind = 29 mph; -49 C; Dist. covered = 485 km
1712 38,001 ft; 532 mph; Head wind = 31 mph; -50 C; Dist. covered = 532 km
1715 Around this time, the screen stopped showing flight data for the rest of the flight. Judging by the "frozen" state of the screen's display, it was akin to a computer "hanging".
Meal service. On their domestic and certain regional routes, MH had moved to "meals in boxes", away from the "old-fashioned" trays for its domestic flights. They claim this move received very positive response from pax, one of the reasons being that the pax can take it with them off the plane if they don't wish to eat at that time. Unfortunately, the domestic leg of MH51 was not spared. An open-top paper box was offered (can't be taken off the plane, by the looks of it), with the following contents:
HOT ENTREE: Seafood pasta or (oops, forgot what the other choice was.... chicken something)
FRESH FRUIT - papaya and honeydew melon slices
BERYL's BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE
No more warm bread roll/butter or appetizer, compared to 2 years ago (my last flight on a similar route). Plastic cutlery was used, unlike stainless steel 2 yrs ago. Cups for coffee/tea were made of thin plastic, again in comparison to 2 years ago. Heck, even this time round, coffee/tea wasn't offered as a default together with the meal unlike previously - you had to specifically request for it, or else you won't get it! Overall, it had the appearance of.... CHEAPNESS!!! Cost-cutting disguised as a pro-active response to passenger feedback/preferences!
That said, the hot entree was quite tasty, and it so happened the pieces of fruit were sweet and juicy. Somehow, though, it just didn't feel like the good ol' days.
For all that, though, they would not hold back if you specifically ask for it, this has not changed compared to previously. Example: after meal service, I went to the rear galley and asked for 4 packets of peanuts - the FA was magnificent and gave me 7. In fact, the FAs were kept busy giving out drinks, etc. after meal service.
The pax who left her cellphone behind was again updated on the status of what Malaysia Airlines was doing to try to help her recover it. Somehow, I can't imagine those pretenders at Air Asia going out of their way to do something like this.
1803 Captain Mohd Hanifah comes on air and advises that we are now 190 nautial miles east of KUL - we should land at 1840. The message was translated into Japanese.
1814 Engines quieten down as we begin descent.
Unfortunately, the flight display was still frozen, like a computer "hanging", and so I had no speed/altitude readings for the descent.
1821 Some turbulence. I had developed a rather effective method to counter it - sit upright, don't lean against the back of your seat. You'll feel the effect of turbulence less. Only your backside, which is pinned to the seat, will directly feel the shaking. Not your back or your chest, and so it feels less scary. This could also avert vomitting and air sickness (not that I have ever experienced it before)
1833 the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia comes into view on the left as we bank right to make final approach. Port Dickson rolls past below us to the left.
1839 Touchdown. A rather rough one for the B777. We docked at Gate C14, with an Etihad B777-200 to our left. Other visitors that I saw were a Qatar Airways A330-200.
Conclusion: I am biased towards flying in a B777, and so, I'll give this flight a 9 out of 10!