Malaysia Airlines took delivery of their first Airbus A350-900 recently and is starting to operate them on regional flights to PEN and BKK from 9/12/17. I booked MH1140 to PEN just days before in a sale and since I don’t have much on hand, a return back on the same night is booked, this time on AirAsia. Anyone that have read my trip reports before should think I am a huge fan of Penang (and MH) since a large portion of them invlolves Penang. MH1140 has a special place in my heart as my first ever flight in Business Class is on MH1140 a few years ago (That trip report is still on flyertalk but the images are now ruined due to the recent Photobucket changes). This time, I will divulge some time to write about the local street food. Unfortunately, budget is a bit limited so I am only booked in Economy. I would also like to apologise for the lackluster quality of the photos as my new phone's camera is lackluster to say the least (changed from S7 to Xperia XZ).
I took the KLIA Transit train from Putrajaya Sentral to KUL qutite early in the morning.
Train Arriving at Putrajaya Sentral
Interior of Train
After obtaining my boarding pass (who would want to have those piddly paper ones from a kiosk for such a memorable flight?), off to the viewing area I went. The A350 is still hiding beside their larger brothers while the gate where MH1140 is going to be departing from is occupied by a 738. My seat (27A) doesnt indicate much as it is also present on the 738. However, a quick check on the OLCI seat map suggests that the A350 is still planned and the load is actually quite healthy.
KUL Terminal 1 Check In Area
After clearing security, I had breakfast at the fast food chain Marrybrown (good choice for travellers in domestic concourse of KUL as it doesn’t charge inflated airport pricing). It has a few seats with tarmac views of the neighboring gate B2.
Marrybrown Fried Chicken
After months of renovation, MH's Golden Lounge in the Domestic concourse is now reopened.
Entrance to MH Lounge
About 1 hour before departure, the A350 is being towed from its parking spot which I am able to spot from the restaurant. I made my way to gate B6 to be greeted by quite a crowd of people trying to take pictures of the A350 as it is towed into the gate. Clearly, quite a few other person bought a ticket for the same reason as me. However, some other transiting tourist have no idea why this flight is of such occasions. There are no celebration at the gate, which is disappointing. The A350-900 in MH's paint job is stunning. It is like the swoosh livery is designed with the A350 in mind.
9M-MAB Towed into Place
Malaysia Airlines' A350 in All It's Glory
Aviation Enthusiast Taking a Look at the New Plane
I also spotted the 4 pilots taking charge of the flight today. It is a familiarization flight for some of them. I also met the pilot who took the plane home from Toulouse who kindly signed my boarding pass and told me to “enjoy the new airplane”.
The flight is delayed by almost an hour as the ground workers have trouble attaching the jetbridge to the new plane.
Failed Jetbridge Positioning
In the end, only the 2nd jetbridge is used to board the plane. Boarding was called with Business Class before the economy cabin is boarded in 2 different zones.
View from JetbridgeMalaysia Airlines
9th December 2017
Passing Thru 2nd J Cabin
The Economy Plus Section with Extra Legroom
Boarding in Process
Seat 27A that I have chosen is actually one of the best economy seat in the whole plane. It has "direct aisle access" as 26A is a middle seat and it has a real window. The A350's window seat are kind of lacking in elbow and shoulder room due to the curvature of the cabin. The windows are at a nice height especially compared to the A320 I flew back later. I also tried out the standard middle seat and found the legroom to be surprisingly decent. The recline is generous (the seat base slides out too).
Seat 27A Legroom
Legroom of a Standard Economy Seat
View of the Wing
The IFE Screen
The Passenger Service Unit (Note the Fancy LCD Seatbelt Sign Display)
Updated In-Flight Magazine
The captain did mention that this is a new plane and take us through some of the specifications of the A359. After offloading the baggage of a no-show, we are on our way, now more than an hour late. The takeoff roll is quiet and we are on our way to Penang.
View After Takeoff
As per the norm, the service consist of a pack of peanuts (which are fantastic) and a cup of prepacked orange juice. I also ordered another cup of water.
The Orange Juice and Peanuts
Extra Serving of Water
The IFE system on my flip out screen is surprisingly turned on. The screen is of an aspect ratio of 16:9 and is relatively large and responsive. I did not spend much time to explore the content so no comments on that. Unfortunately, only the nose camera view is available. Power ports are located below the seat.
IFE Movies Selection
I do find the cabin finishing to be a little underwhelming. It lacks some of the special touches that a premium carrier should have.
Economy Cabin in Flight
View During Descent
In no time, my time on the brand new A350 is coming to an end. We touched down on PEN after a very long flare.
Turning Off Runway 22
Arrival at gate A1
There is again trouble connecting the aerobridge to the plane. The passengers are asked to sit down as the ground workers are trying to use the tug to reverse the plane slightly. After another 15 minutes, the door is finally open.
Bulkhead Economy Row
Extra Legroom Economy Plus Cabin
Vantage Business Class Seat
Passing Through Business Class Cabin
Trent XWB with the Signature Winglet
I took some pictures of the first cabin when I walked pass. The FA noticed that and offered to take a picture of me in the seat, which is a nice gesture that is much appreciated. In the brief 30 seconds in the seat, I can say that the seat (modified Vantage XL with fully open leg space) is long but quite narrow. A lot of the space is taken by the huge console which houses the footwell of the J seat behind.
First Class Ottoman and IFE Screen
Sitting in Seat 1D
Unfortunately, gate A1 is not condusive to photography so this is the best photo I can get at PEN.
And that marks the end of my trip on MH's first A350 commercial flight.
I then visited the AirAsia kiosk to obtain the boarding pass for my return flight. Note the ridiculously long lines for check in baggage for AirAsia.
Self Service Kiosk
The Ridiculously Long Line
I took the bus to the city center (top tip: Always wait for the Express bus instead because the slow one will take the most convoluted route possible) to have some of the more famous local fare. I used to stay here for a few months back in 2015 so it was a refreshing experience to come back to Penang again.
This is just a rough guide on the food in Penang as there is no certain "best -insert name of food here-
" since food is highly subjective.First Stop:
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, Lebuh Keng Kwee.
The Owner is the Guy in White Shirt
I also had Laksa there since there isnt enough time to pay visit to my personal favorite.
Cendul is still phenomenal, Laksa is just decent.Tip:
Instead of waiting in line, grab a seat at the cafe a bit further down the road (which is owned by the stall) and order from a staff. The price is still the same.Second Stop:
Him Heang at Jalan Burmah
The Tambun BiscuitsVerdict:
Always reliable shop that sells freshly made Tambun BiscuitsTip:
Do note that they are closed on Sundays for some weird reason.Third Stop
: Jin Cafe Char Koay Teow, Siam Road
The Stall Oppotsite the Cafe
Char Koay Teow (Translation: Fried Rice Noodles)Verdict:
Ridiculously long wait, taste is not bad but it could be due to the long wait.Tip:
The wait is long because the stall owner only cooks up a few plates at a time. Be patient. Order at the stall and then go find a seat inside the cafe, the workers have phenomenal ability to recognize faces so don't worry about your order being skipped.Final Stop:
888 Hokkien Mee, Lebuh Presgrave
888 Hokkien Mee
Hokkien Mee (Noodles in Prawn Soup)Verdict:
One of the best Penang Hokkien Mee which is drastically different from the one you can find in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Due to the pouring rain, I decide to go to the airport early. I took a Grab (better alternative to Uber in Malaysia) to PEN. The drive to the airport took circa 30 minutes in moderate traffic.
PEN is much emptier compared to what it was in the afternoon. A glance at the departure board returned concerning information. Several AirAsia flights to KUL have been delayed. Luckily, AK6133 that I booked is showing it as on-time. Silver linings at least in a rainy day. A check on FR24 indicates that the inbound AK6132 is well on the way. It is quite common for AK flights late in the day to be delayed since they run the planes with 25 minute long turnarounds.
FIDS at PEN (Note the Delay on AK6129, AK6119, AK6131 and AK6137)
I then had another meal in the Nasi Kandar Line Clear branch in Penang Aiport. This branch is reported to be an imposter but the food is still ok.Encore:
Nasi Kandar Line Clear, Penang Airport
Nasi Kandar Line Clear
Nasi Kandar (Mixed Curry Rice with Fried Chicken)Verdict:
Acceptable, kind of pricey. Is probably not the real deal.
I sat in the departure hall for a while, doing some plane spotting in the process. The inbound flight arrived 10 minutes late. However, with AK's low turnaround time, boarding is completed very quickly.
9M-MLO Operating MH1165 to KUL
9M-AJP Operating AK6133 to KUL
Seat 25A9th December 2017
ATD: 2147STA: 2220
Unfortunately, a small issue with someone's prebooked meal meant a small delay has occurred.
9M-MLM at Neighboring Gate
The door finally closed 30 minutes late. This is a routine short flight on AK. Cramped, but takes you where to go and usually on time to boot.
28 Inches of Seat Pitch
Cabin During Taxi
Bye, Penang International Airport
View of Butterworth after Takeoff
I bought a keychain from the onboard magazine.
BOB Service of Snacks and Drinks
The captain did kindly tell use that we can see the beautiful Kuala Lumpur skyline on the left. However, the tiny camera sensor on my Xperia XZ seems to disagree.
Kuala Lumpur Skyline (Bright Dot in the Middle is the Petronas Towers)
Taxi to Gate at KLIA2 Terminal
Arrival at KLIA2
We arrived at the gate 25 minutes late. As anyone that have visited KLIA2 may know, it is gigantic. I jogged from the gate to the bus stop and I barely made the bus bound for Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) departing at 11 PM.
Jetbus at TBS
In the end, it was a wild and tiring day. Malaysia's A350 is honestly nothing special compared to longhaul aircraft of other regional airlines but it should help MH to be profitable on the LHR flights. It was nice for the FA to let me mess around in the F class seat so that I can claim to be "first few fare playing passengers in the F class seat". The lack of celebration is disappointing although it was to be expected as MH already did the big press event when the A350 arrived from Toulouse. Penang street food is as awesome as I remembered while AirAsia is perfectly serviceable if you want to get from A to B. I would like to have another go on A350, preferably in Business Class in the near future. Thanks for reading.