Depart: 0800 (Actual: 0805)
Arrive: 0855 (Actual: 0845)
We arrived at Penang Bayan Lapas international airport 1 and a half hours before our flight to KUL, after an 0540 from our hotel in Batu Ferringhi. On the way, a lightning storm was occuring, which worried me slightly as we didn't want any delays, despite the 95 minutes stopover time at KUL.
We lines up for check-in. The line was short, though we took quite a while to move to the front. Once we made it, check in was swift and we were assigned seats 21ABC on our Boeing 737-400. We then went through security, and to a food outlet for a hot chocolate each. We were soon sat at Gate 11, waiting for our flight to board. On the ground was a Cathay B777-300, a Thai A310, another MH 737, an MH A330 departing for KUL, and MAS Kargo B742 and a Korean Air Cargo B744F. Also, on the business ramp was a Saudi Gulfstream 4 (HZ-MF5) being fueled and loaded.
We were called for boarding 15 minutes before departure. The interior of the 737 was clean, and the seats very comfortable. I took seat B, agreeing with my brother he could have the window if I could have it on the KUL-MAN sector, on which we were assigned seats 58GHJK. To our left, an Air Asia 737 bearing an 'Asia-Pacific Airline of the Year 2003' decal on the front. We pushed back, and were soon taxiing to 04. A rolling takeoff was performed, on reduced power it seemed, and we were soon in the air and climbing.
Soon after the seatbelt signs were switched off, orange juice and chocolate milkshake was brought round, though they had run out of milkshake by the time the steward reached our row. We were soon descending into KLIA. The descent was smooth, with very little turbulence. We approached 14L once again, and made a smooth landing, the captain holding the nose of the aircraft up for quite a while. On taxi, I saw 9M-MPA at C16, and was struck by the horrible vision of it being our aircraft. 9M-MPB, the newest Hibiscus, was parked on a remote stand behind it, so there was hope yet.
After leaving the runway, we taxied to the C gates of the main KLIA building. The load was about 70%, so we were soon in the airbridge and walking to the immigration counters for international departures. We were processed quickly, and boarded the next Aerotrain to the C gates. At the C-gates, I found a departures monitor, and was releived to see our gate was C14. Later, I saw MPB being towed onto C14, which made me very happy - AVOD entertainment is a must-have for a 13 hour flight, especially during the day.
After a coffee and a snack, we made our way to C14, where the flight was open for people to move into the lounge area. We put our bags through the X-Ray machine, and I watched as my camera bag came under close scrutiny - not for the first time.
Depart: 1030 (Actual: 1115)
Arrive: 1635 (Actual: 1650)
I knew we wouldn't be leaving on time when at 1015 we were only just starting to board those in need of extra assistance. Later, rows 41062 were boarded. This is where one problem of KLIA exists. Because everyone has their boarding pass checked prior to entering the departure lounge, no-one checks them during boarding, so row assignments were ignored. This caused even more delays as queues built up along the aisles and the air bridge.
I took my seat, and looked out of the window, to be greeted with a great view of Boeing plastic panelling. Seat 58K does not have its own window, meaning I had to either lean forwards to get a view out of the window in front, partically obscured by the seat in front, or move my head through 120º to see out of the window behind me, a large amount of which was obscured by my own seat.
Thankfully, we did indeed have AVOD on this refurbished 744, though it wasn't activated. Piped music was playing through the cabin, which prevented any interaction (though on this flight the system was not activated).
The cabin was very warm, with insufficient air conditioning. The captain apologised for this, stating that it was the airports fault for not providing a suitably sized air conditioner, and said we would be waiting a further 10 minutes, this being at about 1045. In the event, we sat in the heat for another 30 when we finally pushed back and started the engines, enabling the air conditioning system to work properly. I think most poeple had sweat patches down their backs! The crew brought round ice-cold napkins as opposed to hot ones, which was excellent refreshment, though only for a short while.
After pushback, we taxied to 14R. We were number one, and immediately lined up. We performed a slow takeoff roll, finally rotating beyond the touchdown zone of runway 32L. During the slow climb, I wished I had a window so I could have taken an overview of KUL. As it is, my camera never left it's bag, which is a shame as there were some nice photos to be had over Europe.
Service started with the usual orange juice, as well as some packs of peanuts. Cups of beer were brought round too, instead of full cans as on the SYD-KUL leg of my flights. The AVOD system was also switched on, though it took a while to warm up. I started off selecting some tracks for my jukebox function, to listen to later (the usual eclectic mix - U2, Queen live, some tracks from the Madagascar film soundtrack, the Killers). I first of all watched an episode of Parkinson, with Will Smith, which was very funny. During this, the meal was served. I opted for fish with fired rice. This came with a prawn cocktail starter, which was nice though could have done with some dressing. As usual, the meal was very nice.
I then watched the film 'the Longest Yard' (which follows exactly the same storyline as the 2001 UK film (staring Vinny Jones) 'Mean Machine', just with a different kind of football. They even called the team Mean Machine. The director actually directed both films, presumably to appeal to both nationalities, and also wrote the screenplay for the '74 version), which I enjoyed. I then watched an episode of 'My dad's the Prime Minister', played a few of the games and then watched 'Herbie: Fully Loaded', which I thought was pretty rubbish.
About halfway into the flight, cruising at FL380, a 'snack pack' was brought around, either a sandwich or a pack containing cheese and crackers, a Mars bar and some peanuts. I opted for the cheese and crackers. The only problem was the cheese was unsliced and so it wasn't particularly easy to place it on crackers. After this snack, the flight ran out of Pepsi, so I was drinking 7-up for the remainder of the flight.
I played a few more games, including Hangman, crosswords, solitaire and mini-golf, and watched some more TV as the flight dragged on. I ran out of things to watch, and so put on my jukebox selection, switched the PTV to the iXplore moving map and read.
with 2h30 remaining, a third meal was brought around. I chose lamb, which was quite spicy, and came with rice. There was also a Feta cheese salad, and a delicious dessert which had a chocolate topping, cream centre and a vanilla custard base. Around this stage the neighbours in seats in front and behind me opened their window blinds, just as we passed over Germany. I again cursed my luck at not having a proper window, as we flew over Templehof and Tegel.
We flew over Groningen and the North Sea, then flew over Humberside and Doncaster-Sheffield Airport. The descent was very smooth. The descent took us over the pennines south of Leeds. At this point I can't pinpoint out flight path, as the piped music was put on, knocking my PTV out of action (freezing it with an 'Announcement in Progress' message). However, it seems to me we flew over the city of Manchester, and then west towards Preston. We turned over a disused airfield I took to be Samlesbury, and then flew over the Pole Hill (POL) VOR, with a view of Bolton and Horwich. We then somehow made it to the ILS for 06R, with Jodrell Bank on our right, as well as the rather posh region of Cheshire. The landing was smooth, and my first on 06R. I could see large numbers of people on the banking that makes up the south side, and assumed that the AVP was packed as it usually is on a sunny summer Sunday. We left 06R at the first exit, about two thirds of its length along, after using just brakes and idle reverse to slow down. We crossed 06L after a departing BA 757 to LHR, and taxied to T2 past the B pier, rather than past the maintenance hangars as I would have expected.
We were guided into stand 210 by hand. We seemed to park in an odd location, as we stopped several times before moving slightly and stopping again, which was odd. To our left was an Alitalia MD-80, which left once we had parked. An Air France ERJ also arrived, and a KLM 737 departed while we waited to disembark.
As we left the plane, there was a bit of a traffic jam in the airbridge, not sure why. We then moved into immigration, where we were through very quickly. Then, moments later I got a huge shock. Baggage from our flight was already on the belt - which in T2 is almost unheard of. Someone must have given Servisair a kick up the arse, as normally it takes ages even if your flight happens to be the only flight at the time. Our small bag was off the plane very quickly; sadly our large two were much later.
We went through customs, with my brother panicking we'd get stopped for our fake Rolex's we had bought in Penang (quite good fakes as they go - they haven't yet stopped at any rate), but this fear was unfounded as there wasn't a single customs officer in sight. Seeing as Malaysia isn't really a drugs hotspot they probably weren't too bothered!
As we arrived in the arrivals hall, I pointed out to my dad that he finally had got his wish of his name on a sign in arrivals (denied in Penang by a late driver), thus rounding off the holiday on a high!
Opinions (Over the entire MAN-KUL-MEL-SYD-KUL-PEN-KUL-MAN legs):
Throughout, they have been excellent. They fully deserve the awards for economy class and their staff, as they were always attentive, happy to help and always smiling. The food was delicious and varied, and always tasted fresh. Aircraft were clean and well maintained inside. The entertainment was excellent, especially the 3000i system which I was lucky enough to have for 3 of my 4 long haul flights. Legroom was decent at 34". All in all I couldn't fault them, and so in my opinion deserve a 10/10 grading. They will certainly feature in any long haul travel plans I have in future!
A great airport, clean, easy to navigate, light and airy and with a good selection of food and drink, though it is limited in the airside domestic area. Immigration always had plenty of staff on hand, as did check-in. A great airport to transfer through, though they lose marks for providing poor air conditioning on the ground for MH012, and the lack of decent coffee vendors in domestic. 8/10
Only a short flight, but there was still an entertainment programme on large screens. Staff were friendly, though on such a short flight it is difficult to rate them. 8/10.
My first impressions were not good - the international pier had very few windows, and was quite dull, though it was dark at the time. However when we flew domestic during daylight it was much nicer. 7/10
A nice airport, bright and airy, plenty of amenities, though not enough windows to view movements. 7.5/10
I hope you have enjoyed my reports - comments and suggestions are welcome. My next report will be MAN-MUC-MLA-FRA-MAN, later this month.