Date: 13 October 2004
Flight No.: AK330
Aircraft type: B737-300
From/To: Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Sandakan (SDK)
Scheduled departure/arrival: 1415/1700
Distance: Estimate - a bit over 1,800 km
Fare paid: MYR249.99 + 50.00 (date change penalty) + 11.00 (taxes) + 8.00 (admin. fee). Booking was made about 11 days before departure.
I hadn't meant to write a trip report for this flight; in fact I didn't have my notepad and pen in hand for this purpose, and so a lot of the below is from memory. This, BTW, is my first flight on Air Asia. My alternative was by Malaysia Airlines, which would have cost only MYR255 (Supersaver seats still available 12 days before my trip!!), but would have required me to catch their 10.20 am flight. I decided I needed some time for some last-minute shopping in KL, and so chose Air Asia.....
Check-in at KLIA was minimum-fuss - just quoted my reference code, and within a minute the no-frills boarding pass was issued. Spotted a stack of newspapers at the top of the counter, and took a copy of the New Straits Times as I left; was expecting a loud voice coming after me saying "excuse me, sir, but you've got to pay for it.......", but no. So, who says it's "no frills" after all?
Around 1350 I entered the Departure Gate room A6. Ground staff checked boarding passes to identification documents, and soon, I headed towards the seats. Immediately noticed there was no aircraft docked at the gate; if anything, it should have arrived already, since it's now 25 mins before departure.
Waited and waited and waited. Anxiety level increases with every minute. The aerobridge was partially blocking the view, and on 2 occasions, saw Air Asia planes rolling past behind it; thought it was going to turn and come to this Gate, but no. Meanwhile, a Vietnam Airlines A320, EVA Air B767-200 and Gulf Air B767-200 rolled into the Satellite Terminal. Also saw a SQ B777 and a B727 with a pink tail docked there... not sure whose. Also noticed for the first time,
from far off (at the Satellite Terminal), catering trucks with what must surely be the logo of LSG SkyChefs.
Around 1415, a voice on the intercom apologised, and advised that due to some delay on the inbound flight from Phuket, the flight would be delayed to 1445.
Around 1450 or 1455, it finally arrived! The pax disembarked, and soon, I noticed everyone in the room making their way to the doors, as though to board the plane. Without giving it more thought, I followed suit, and, when I was among a mass of humanity, I realised that no boarding call had been made!! Aha, the free-seating policy of AK is a great promoter of "Kiasuism"
(sorry - my friends in Malaysia and Singapore will understand the meaning of this word).
So, we all stood there for what must be some 15 mins. The ground staff were calm, and felt no pressure to let us through.
Meanwhile, noticed a few crew, including a woman pilot and also a Caucasian (both AK pilots), making their way through the doors, and then they proceeded into the aerobridge. Hmmmm, must be our flight crew. But then, no. Not too long after they disappear down the aerobridge, I saw them walking on the tarmac below, heading towards the part of the terminal building below me.
Hmmmm? Do low cost carrier staff have to use low cost exit modes? Interesting to ponder........
Around 1500, another announcement - they apologised that due to some "technical problem", the flight was delayed, and they don't know until when!!!!!! Hugely disappointed, and with a loud sigh, those who took up strategic positions near the door retreated back to the seats. Many handphones were switched back on, and I advised my wife I don't know when I'll return!!! Started wondering whether Air Asia provides overnight hotel accommodation and/or meal vouchers........
And then, would you believe it, about 5 mins later, they invited everyone to board the plane!!!!!!!
OK, at least for boarding, they gave preference to families with small children and the elderly, who went through Door B, while everyone was thru Door A.
Settled in Seat 12D, which is just behind the exit row. Unlike MAS, there doesn't seem to be extra pitch at the exit row and the row immediately behind it. Flight was 75-80% full, and there was no one occupying Seat 12E. Yippeee....... The leather seats were a welcome change from MAS.
Noticed the lady sitting in 11C - she was reading the printout for her booking. Excellent - my eyesight is still good - I saw she had just made her booking earlier that same day, and she had paid RM799.99 (or was it 799.98?) for the fare - there was no indication in that printout that it was for a return journey!!!! RM799.9X for a single trip? Help!!!! Come back, MAS, we love you!!!! [NOTE: MAS' one way from KUL to Sandakan would have been RM488. Can someone confirm whether you'd indeed have to pay such a steep fare if you made the booking at the 11th hour?]
At 1520 the door closed. 5 mins later, pushback and safety demo. Why does the demo life jacket seem worn out compared to the ones on MAS? But that's OK, no marks are given for the safety demo's presentation!!!! These done, we started taxiing.
Took off around 1530. As we rose, could see those "two snails" - the KLIA Transit (airport railway) station at Salak Tinggi.
Apart from the absence of "free" frills like food and drinks, inflight magazine, and also the uniform worn by the cabin crew, it might as well have been a MAS flight. Other frills that you don't get, which are otherwise available (in limited quantities) on MAS flights are pillows and blankets.
But the sandwich and half-litre bottle of mineral water that I ordered set me back by RM6 and RM3 respectively. Rats. My "kiam siap" half rued the fact that I forgot to buy a bottle of water for just RM0.80 while I was at Mid Valley Megamall earlier that morning!! Or a sandwich for, say, RM1.50. I got sucked in by Air Asia's warnings that no outside food/drinks is allowed!!!!!! Which cabin crew could see me if I did it discreetly???? And what are they going to do, kick me off the plane?
Overall, the demand for snacks and drinks appeared to be quite high. But I thought Air Asia should have at least printed its menu and put one in every seat pocket, so that when their cart comes, you already know what's available, and how much.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and with not much to observe, I fell asleep for quite some time. Inflight service? Since you've got to pay for it, I felt there was no need to "assess" it!!
Landed at Sandakan around 1803. Taxiied to a remote bay part of the parking apron, away from the aerobridges. Unlike at KUL, where AK has no choice but to use those aerobridges, at SDK, they push out those rolling staircases - the plus point is that the pax can deplane from both ends. (I read somewhere that Malaysia Airports charges RM85 per hour for the use of aerobridges). The pax of course aren't complaining.
Flight: 6.5/10 2 points deducted for the delay, and the miscommunication re "technical problem". Just pretend the FAs (in their uniforms) don't exist, and you could well be on a MAS flight!!
Service: no rating - since you've got to pay for it!!!!
Overall: OK, especially if you've bought a cheap fare, unlike my RM249.99. Usual is RM179.99, and during promotions could go down to RM109.99, or even RM89.99!! What do you expect when the fare is this cheap??