It's my pleasure to present to you another of Ryan's trip reports. Read the part when he requested for an upgrade in a fake thai accent and you will realise that it can actually be quite hilarious.
This report is witty in its play of words and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I am sure you would too. Your comments and votes will be appreciated (Ryan said that he will reciprocate a 5 star vote with many more reports...
MH 783, BKK - KUL, 777-200 (9M-MRK), Y Class
MH 627, KUL - SIN, 737-400 (9M-MMG), Y Class
This is the return trip of the earlier report I posted (SIN - KUL - KUL on MH). Since the response I received for that report was nothing less than welcoming, I decided to write about my return portion too!
I had a little drama in the taxi on the way to the airport. The taxi driver refused to turn on the meter and I kicked a big fuss out of it. I made him stop the cab and started bargaining with him. I ended up paying an equivalent of US$10, which was way below the normal taxi fare if he was to turn on the meter. The wonders of Thailand never fail to amaze me.
Anyway, after a 30min speedy ride on the elevated airport freeway, I saw tails of aircraft poking out into the sky from beyond the flyover which meant we were arriving at the airport. Bangkok International Airport (BKK) looks run down within and its high time for a changeover, for Terminal 1 at least! Terminal 2 was renovated more than 2 years ago and it looks suspiciously like Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1. Hmm… I wonder where did they get the inspiration? The domestic looks like a miniature Terminal 1, just as run down but many sizes smaller. I wonder why did the authorities not continue with the renovations of Terminal 1 and the domestic terminal?
I was at the airport at 1415H, way before MH 783's scheduled departure time of 1700H. I know that BKK would be busy at this time of the day, hence the viewing gallery would be a plane spotter's heaven.
I proceeded past security to the check in counters. The wooden check in desk looks old and really needs to be changed! Looks a little like the ones used in the old Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur. The check in agent looked nonchalant as she tagged my baggage to Singapore. I asked her of there was any chance of an upgrade (I know… cheapskate!). She then turned to her supervisor and started speaking in Thai. The supervisor, who was chewing on something, sauntered over and asked if I was paying for an upgrade. I wondered if that meant a bribe? Of course I said "no" and she just shrugged…
"Solee Sir, you no peh, you no upglade."
Fine… I left the matter alone. As I was still pondering over the bribe (was it or wasn't it a bribery attempt?), I forgot to ask for a window seat. Yikes! True enough, the check in agent put me in an aisle seat on both MH 783 and MH 627! See what happens when you get distracted at check in? I felt "solee" for myself.
I decided not to kick up a fuss and be an ugly-Singaporean (it was bad enough asking for an upgrade) so I proceeded to pay for my airport tax and headed up to the viewing gallery. I had to be careful not to use my camera because the gallery looks out into the military-side of the airport compound. And wow… the airport was surely busy!
I saw the splendid new and shiny SAS A340, the contrast of the dark blue tail, dull gray fuselage and blood red engines never fail to get my attention. I thought the old SAS color scheme was excellent as well, and together with Air France, I believe they are the forerunners of the Eurowhite scheme. A Vietnam Airlines A320 taxied to its gate looking tired and beaten. The fuselage had seriously tarnished paintwork and the entire worn out image was topped off by a few obviously blurred / dirty windows and a non-conformance beige colored nose cone. There are many arrivals from Europe at this time and a Finnair MD11 (from HEL) proved this, together with BA and QF 747-400s from LHR and FRA respectively.
I observed, for the first time, an Aeroflot Il-96 taking off and boy was that aircraft slow, probably due to the fact that it was fully loaded! It used up more than the normal length of the runway for takeoff during its roll. I could hear the four engines scream for power as the fourteen wheeler clawed for speed. The Airbus-inspired designs were obvious on the Il-96 from the shape of the nose to the slight upward tilt of the last 10 or 11 windows on the fuselage. The Il-96 has the shortened fuselage of the Il-86 and odd-looking winglets, really looks like the stubbier cousin of the A340, whose sleek and smooth profile remains unparalleled.
Two Indian Airlines aircraft parked side by side (an A320 that later departed for CCU, and an aging A300B4), together with a Lauda Air 767-300, which was pushed back soon and left for err… HKG, I think. A China Airlines 747-400 thundered down the runway to HKG - TPE but this was soon replaced by a company A340 that arrived soon after. Looks like passenger loads for TPE - BKK vv. sectors are really filling up the planes! A cute looking Phuket Air 737-200 quickly took off behind the CAL 747-400 (no wake turbulence?) followed by a PB Air F28.
Meanwhile, from the other runway further away towards the RTAF airbase, aircraft were landing with enough space in between for take off from the parallel runway nearer to me (take off and landing cannot happen together on a parallel runway separated by just a grass strip, as in the case of BKK). A SQ 747-400, ANA 777-200 and various Thai Inter flights (777-200, A330, A300) landed in quick successions. Lined up on the taxiway for take off, I saw a Thai Airways A330 and A300, SQ 777-200 and Indian Airlines A320. A Turkmenistan 757-200 sneaked in from nowhere (I did not see it land!) and parked at its gate just below me. I miss the Swissair MD11 as they normally arrive at this time, but we all know that the great airline is no longer flying today. Drowned by its financial debts. *SOB*
Phew! How's that for aircraft movements on a normal day at BKK? Wait, there's more…
I decided to proceed to immigration and do more plane-spotting from the departure hall that is more comfortable with cushioned seats. I found a good spot but I had more than a few people sleeping around me. Other than the planes I mentioned earlier, I saw a Cathay Pacific 777-200 taxi to its gate and my departure aircraft 9M-MRK arriving from KUL. From beyond, a Bangkok Airways ATR 42 slowly rolled down the long runway, probably on a late afternoon flight to Koh Samui, followed by a few more Thai Airways 737-400s, one ATR 42 and a 777-300.
Woah… that was a lot of aircraft movements so I hope I gave you an insight into how busy BKK can get.
The security lines were long at the start of the concourse leading to my departure gate 26. I actually remained in the departure hall watching the planes until the final call for my flight came over the PA. Thus, I did not have to wait in the holding area and I just walked into the aerobridge, and straight into the aircraft.
I was assigned aisle seat 14H, next to window seat 14K. With a pretty light load, we pushed back on time and joined the line queuing up for departure. I stretched my neck in an attempt to look outside, and managed to catch a glimpse of a few Thai Airways fuselages zoom pass the window either landing or taking off. From the shape of the windows I could tell they were either A300 or A330, and 777-200 or -300. I WANT MY WINDOW SEAT!
We took off in a southerly direction parallel to the highway that brought me to the airport, and remained that way for the remainder of the flight. The expansive suburbs of Bangkok stretched beyond the horizon, or so it seems but it was more like smog limiting the visibility. Just before we rotated, I saw the bright white El Al 777-200 parked at the gate - exquisite looking aircraft with blue strips streaked around the fuselage. With no window seat, and no entertainment, I could only look forward to the meal service. Once again, like the outbound flight, the main cabin screens were turned on with a news program but no headsets were given out. Can anyone explain why does MH do this? I thought the era for silent movies was over already?
Dinner choices consisted of Chicken with Potatoes, or Fish with Rice. I chose the fish (a little bland but the tomato-based sauce took care of that) while my neighbour declined any food. I, ever the friendly one, asked him if he didn't like airline food. He replied that he had eaten because he arrived at the airport early to look at planes. What? Am I hearing things? Another plane freak! Eddie, a Turk living in Saudi Arabia, is an aviation buff like me. He was on his way back to Jeddah from Nakhon Ratchasima via BKK and KUL. So a new friendship was forged and I am still in touch with him via email.
My footrest creaked and could not get into a comfortable position so I was better off with it stowed. Reclining the seat after dinner, I chatted with my newfound friend for the remainder of the flight about what else, but planes. When he found out that I was an air traffic controller, we discussed generic air traffic procedures, as he wanted to learn about why planes did certain routines. We were so engrossed in our conversation that I didn't observe the in-flight service, like I normally do.
Somehow, the 1hr 45min flight felt like 5min when have good company. Landing in KUL was smooth and as soon as we disembarked, we headed for the transit lounge. I had a transit flight to Singapore while Eddie, to Jeddah, also on MH. We had a lot of time to burn so we spent the entire duration chatting excitedly about more planes in the lounge and I never went spotting for the first time.
Time flew by quickly and I bid farewell to Eddie after exchanging email addresses. I had to take an Aerotrain to the main terminal because boarding of MH 627 was at Gate A10. 9M-MMG operated this flight and a surprise was in store for me.
This particular 737-400 has a new cabin! Yeah! MH is finally in the process of refurbishing their 737-400s and this is evident in 9M-MMG. Even though the seats are the same, the fabric has been changed. The armrests are also changed to newer ones, giving the cabin a fresher look. The F Class cabin now has dark blue seats (almost looks black), and Y class had shamrock green (I think) for the first half of the cabin and gray for remaining half after the emergency exits. I could make the comparisons because I flew out from Singapore on 9M-MQJ with the old cabins.
I took the aisle seat 9D with the two seats next to me empty initially. But soon, a lady trooped down the aisle with her friend and occupied the two spaces. She had trouble putting her bags in the overhead compartment because it was full. I got up to help her, as the spaced-out stewardess standing a few rows away was more interested in adjusting her kebaya. After moving the baggage around, I managed to help her squeeze her bag up there. No "thank you" was offered and she just sat down to continue chatting with her friend. Did I board a Rude Express flight to hell? Sigh… she was holding a red passport with gold lettering which could only mean one thing - Singaporean!
After pushback at 2245H, we lifted off into the night and made out way to Singapore Changi Airport skimming along the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Coasting in over the state of Johor, we did a JB - Sinjon approach for rwy 02L. The bright lights of East Coast shimmered as we descended into Changi after a 40min flight and we thumped down hard on the runway, and with that signaled the end of my journey from Bangkok. I realized that landings on 737s are always hard with a distinctive thump, which can be worrying.
We taxied for disembarkation at F concourse, one of the two finger piers in Terminal 2. Numerous SQ 747-400s, 777-200 / -300s and A340s were taxiing for their overnight long hauls. From the window across the aisle, I briefly saw an all white 747-400 that flew with Ansett Australia before the airline's demise. Now looking sad and forlorn, it stood on a disused taxiway next to the fire station with the no.1 engine missing. Only the colors of the blue wingtips gave clues about the previous owner (not that I could see in the dark but I saw the aircraft in the day on my outbound flight from Singapore). An Air France 777-200, no doubt bound for CDG, taxied behind the long line of SQ jets. Several Silkair A320s and A319 rested at the gates waiting for another working day to begin tomorrow.
A direct flight from BKK - SIN takes two hours, Flying through KUL took me six hours including the transit but I am not complaining. I have always enjoyed airports and will continue to do so.
Look out for more reports as I write about my return journeys!
There's always a better way to fly...