Another one by Ryan...more coming your way
Malaysia Airlines, MH 1143, PEN-KUL, Golden Club Class, 737-400 (dunno e registration… believe it or not?!)
I checked out of Lone Pine Hotel at Batu Ferringhi at 1000H. A rickety Mercedes Benz was my 45min "limousine" ride to Penang International Airport (PEN). I have always loved the old charm of this island. Nevertheless, all holidays have to come to an end. And here am I on the way back to Kuala Lumpur, for a few more days of clubbing and shopping before heading back to Singapore on Singapore Airlines.
I have always like the way PEN looked. The Javanese styled roofs never fails to awe me ever since I was a child. And it still does today, and I have seen it change through different colors over the years from woodish-brown to the current yellowish-orange.
The check in area for PEN is extremely small. I cannot emphasize further about its petite hall. The overall environment is very modern looking thanks to recent renovations. Good job Malaysian Airports Bhd! Only one row of check in counters arranged in an L fashion. Other than Malaysia Airlines counters, there are only two other counters used by Singapore Airlines, and that was all of it.
Since I was there so early, (my flight was at 1320H), the check in agent asked if I wanted to get on an earlier flight at 1210H. I said "ok" knowing that there wasn't many planes to spot in PEN anyway.
After checking in, I proceeded through the "DOMESTIC DEPARTURES" entrance, which was just next to the "INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURES" entry, the difference being the lack of passport control for the domestic one. After the initial segregation of pax, we all end up at the same departure hall.
Proceeding up the stairs to the MAS Golden Lounge on the third level, I found lounges for EVA Air and Singapore Airlines located on the same level as well. Walking into the small lounge, (about one or two sizes smaller than the domestic lounge in KUL), it is similarly decorated like all Golden Lounges. However, instead of carpeting, it was parquet flooring. MAS has squeezed all they could into this mini-lounge. A business center was cleverly tucked away, so was a children's play area (thank God it's tucked away!). If you have read my earlier report (SIN-KUL-BNE on MH), you might remember a reference to a "restaurant" in the lounge in KUL. MAS managed to squeeze a smaller similar restaurant setup complete with tropical sails hung from the low ceiling. Phew! Good things come in small packages, I guess! Same old hot savories filled the "hot snacks" oven while a buffet of Nasi Lemak was served at the restaurant.
The wooden blinds were drawn that blocked the view of the apron. Peering outside, I saw that the apron was empty except for one MAS 737-400 at an aerobridge. As muffled roars filled the lounge, that signaled more arrivals of several more MAS 737-400s. I was hoping to see some other aircraft other than MAS 737s but was sorely disappointed. With nothing much to see or do, I am glad I opted for the earlier flight.
Soon it was time to board and I made my way to gate 13 (Huh? I thought "13s" are a taboo number for aviation?) Looking at the old 737-400 that I was about to board, it looked like it had seen better times. MAS has a total of 50 plus 737s (I am not sure if they still operate the -500s as they have remove the a/c from their website). They are presently the largest operator of 737s outside the US and they have been holding on to this honorable title for more than a decade. However, I wish they take better care of the aircraft on the outside because it looks really sad. As it is, some of their earlier delivered 747-400s and 777-200s are beginning to look just as sad!
I was welcomed warmly by a cheerful stewardess at the door. I settled down in seat 4A and was glad that my window was not scratched like my outbound flight from KUL. An order for lunch was taken, which was none other than more savories! Urgh! But I said "yes" to lunch anyway. Looking at the smiling stewardess, how could anyone say no? She made the savories seem so delicious!
I realised that there were only two other pax in the Club cabin after all pax had boarded. A hot towel and pre-takeoff drink were offered.
Push back was prompt and we were soon taxiing for takeoff. We held at the marshalling point for another MAS 737-400 to land. We then lined up and powered off towards the north. The aircraft had to make a right bank as soon as we got airborne, probably due to some abatement procedures because I saw many houses and Georgetown (city center) in a short distance ahead. This scenic view was augmented by the Penang Bridge, which extended into the hazy distance towards Butterworth. Soon we entered the clouds and there was nothing more to see. Our right turn continued until we were flying southerly.
Lunch was served as soon as we were established in our cruising altitude. Service remained excellent throughout even though the food wasn't very tasty (it is actually not bad but I have gotten too used to it!…).I have flown MAS F and J Class so many times within the last year or so that I desperately wish that they could serve something else. Savories, savories and more savories! And they are the same kind found in the lounge. A variety of meals for Golden Club Class would be appreciated even on short flights like this one. But for MAS, the current financial problem probably has more priority over providing another option for savories. That is understandable.
The cloud cover began to break as we descended for KUL. Over Port Dickson, we took a left turn and coasted in over the mainland. All this while descending, flaps was deployed while miles and miles of palm plantations stretched into the horizon beneath. A change in heading towards a northwesterly direction set us up for a final approach. We then sailed down onto the right parallel runway of KUL.
That was the end of my Penang trip. Now I was back in KL to re-group before I continued my journey again on SQ F Class to Singapore. Stay tuned for that report!
There's always a better way to fly...