SIN-KUL, MH 606, Seat 3F, First Class, 737-400 9M-MMU
KUL-BKK, MH 784, Seat 9A, Golden Club Class, 777-200 9M-MRF
I dragged myself out of bed at 0445H to make it to the airport by 0600H. Scheduled departure for MH606 was at 0745H. Pulling up at Changi Airport Terminal 2, where MH flies out from, I noticed that it was teeming with activity despite the early hour. Check in at Row 12 for First Class was pleasant because for once, I had a friendly MH check in agent! Mariam was all smiles as she wished me a good morning and proceeded with the check in formalities.
My luggage was tagged all the way to BKK and was given a Golden Lounge invitation as well. I managed to get a window seat for both sectors and Mariam pointed out that the SIN-KUL sector has a full First Class, with all 16 seats filled up. Hmm... I hope this does not mean watered down service!
The Golden Lounge in Singapore is about 1 size smaller than SQ's First Class Silver Kris Lounge. It is decorated tastefully but it is not as lush as SQ's. However, the simple decor is pleasing to the eye with bright yet cosy lighting, thick carpeting intersected by with marble tiles, large and comfortable sofas with wooden panels creating privacy corners. There is a view of the departure hall below but there isn't a view of the tarmac outside. This must be a curse for all airline lounges in Singapore because the public observation deck obstructs the view. However, I remember UA's Red Carpet Lounge in Terminal 1 having a view of the tarmac. There were only 2 pax in the lounge so it was rather empty. Since it was so early, sandwiches and an assortment of cereal was laid out with the normal array of drinks from the bar.
After filling up my tummy with all I needed, I headed for the main departure level for some spotting. Many SQ flts arrive at this time of the morning from Europe and India, so there were quite a lot of transitting pax. There were also numerous SQ and Silk Air flts departing as well so there was plenty of human movement in the terminal. 3 MH flts were departing within 2 hours (KUL, PEN, KUC). I walked out into the open smoking area so I could spot planes without the tinted glass in the terminal. The humid and warm morning hit me in the face and together with the heavy cigarette smoke all around it was sure a wake up call!
Photo © Tam Hip Wai
I had an unobstructed view of both the E and F concourses. A B734 9M-MMU operated MH606 which was parked less than 400m away from me at gate F30, it would have looked something like that attached picture above. A SQ Learjet was doing circuit training and was doing many rollers on Rwy 02R. A SQ B772 (9V-SRJ) was parked next to the MH B734 at F31. I observed another SQ B772 (9V-SRA) parked at the opposite concourse at gate E4, which was the latest addition to SQ's variation of B777. This model being the -200ER. The rest of the gates were filled with mostly SQ B744s and B772s. Despite the busy tarmac, there was hardly any movement on the runway other than the Learjet doing rollers. Hmm... Where were the SQ A310s this morning?
I proceeded to F30 at 0730H and found the holding area empty. Yikes! Boarding commenced already! Running into the air-bridge, it was jammed within as pax moved slowly to board the a/c. I finally made it to Door 1L of the 734 and Leading Stewardess Jen Woo cheerfully greeted me at the there. Settling down in seat 3F, it was almost impossible for the cabin crew to start the First Class service because pax were still filing in by droves, clogging up the aisle.
Finally, after the aisle was cleared, another stewardess, Kelly Woon, came around and offered me a pre-takeoff drink and a hot towel. Meanwhile, Jen started with the announcements in both English and Bahasa Melayu. 0745H came and went but we were still parked at the gate. Doors were closed at 0752H and oushback occurred at 0756H. All this time, I was prespiring bacause the cabin was a little stuffy ! I also notice that only 11 out of the 16 seats in First Class was filled, makes me wonder what happened to the rest? Thought it was a full flt?
We taxied behind a Silk Air A319 for Rwy 02R. 9M-MMU seems old but it was well maintained within.
Photo © Andrew Hunt
We powered off towards the north over Pulau Tekong and banked left for Johor Bahru. Croissant and apricot danish were offered but I declined, saving my appetite for the Golden Lounge in KUL and the food on my later sector to BKK. After the meal trays were cleared, I took the opportunity to chat with Kelly and Jen in the impossibly calustrophobic confines of the forward galley. The two ladies were all smiley and cheerful, they even allowed me to take a pic of them ! This was the first int'l flt for Kelly, who has been only flying domestically for a year, and today would determine if she would get her promotion to regional / int'l sectors. Good luck, girl! You have done well so far!
A rather hard landing dented the otherwise smooth flight. In fact, the landing was so hard it woke my neighbour, a Caucasian guy in 3A, from his slumber and he let out an audible gasp! I found that pretty amusing. While we were approaching Rwy 32R, I saw a broken Saudi Arabian Airlines 747-300 sitting in the hangar, nose all bent out of shape.
Disembarking at Gate C23, leaving the perpetually smiling pair behind, I made my way to the Golden Lounge within the satellite terminal. With the lounge looking as exquisite as ever, I ambled into the First Class Lounge and sat down at the restaurant for a meal of seafood ragout and sauteed mushrooms - yummy! Admiring the gigantic confines of the largest airline lounge in the world, I could clearly see the tarmac outside and the main terminal in a distance, where all the gates were filled with MH 734s. Several MH 744s, 772s and A330 were parked at the satellite gates for their departures. A Lion Air Yak42 was being towed to a departure gate for its flight to JKT. Two A310s belonging to SQ and Air India were parked side by side.
Photo © Charles Falk
My 2 hr transit came to an end too quickly and I was soon at Gate C34, queuing up for security checks. Operated by a 777-200 (9M-MRF), MH 784 was a code share flight with Thai Int'l thus the flt #TG 4702 was designated as well. The jet gleamed in the bright sunshine and paint looked factory fresh. The security line was very long as it snaked across the width of the corridor and down the opposite end. MH 740, an A330 to Yangon was boarding next to us at C32 as well. After my turn at the security, there was no waiting in the holding area because boarding commenced already.
First and Club Class pax boarded through air-bridge 'A' and that led me to Door 1L. A First Class stewardess welcomed me on boeard and asked me if I knew where my seat was. I nodded and was promptly left on my own to look for my seat. Walking past Door 2L, I found my seat 9A in the Golden Club Class cabin. Stewardess Pauline Chin showed me my seat but her smile was absent (she looks a little like a Chinese version of Laura Linney). Her hair was tightly bunned up and her immaculately made up face made her look like a doll She would gradually warm up as the flight progressed and turn out to be pretty pleasant !
My neighbour today in 9B was a Caucasian guy, who slumped down next to me and slept throughout the flight He was so fatigued he didn't even recline his seat to sleep! He also made it clear to Pauline he didn't want to be disturbed and all he wanted was a blanket. He then dozed off with his mouth open for the duration of the flight. A pre-takeoff drink and hot towel were given out out before pushback - which happened on time at 1000H after the doors closed at 0958H.
A safety video was screened and once again, like my previous flight on a MH B772 (earlier trip rep posted by SQ772: SIN-KUL-BKK on MH), the volume was turned on too low for anyone to hear. I curiously saw many small little black patches on the engine cowling that looked like footprints!
Taxiing towards Rwy 32R, we lined up behind the colourful Lion Air Yak42 while another MH B772 (9M-MRL) crept us behind us as MH 125 to Perth. Flaps were noisily deployed as we taxied for departure. Several knocking sounds were heard from the engine as we thundered down the runway. The "tok-tok" sound continued even after we got airborne and I thought we had some engine trouble. The sound ceased as we climbed to higher altitude but i thought the engines sounded rougher than usual.
Cruising at 39,000ft, our route today took us over Penang, Hat Yai, Songkhla and the Gulf of Thailand. Pauline passed out headsets in the cabin after she drew the curtains behind that separated us from the Economy Class. After I returned from the toilet, I found the menu, opened up to show today's selection laid out on my armrest - nice touch ! Pauline, together with another stewardess, Kan Mai, served my aisle. This were the choices...
Fresh Fruit Juice
Seasonal Fresh Fruits
Grilled Beef Steak: served with Chinese pepper sauce, fried egg noodles and sauteed oyster mushroom
Breaded Chicken Breast: served with coriander butter, sauteed potatoes with chives, sugar snap peas and carrots
Green Prawn Curry: accompanied by egg vege fried rice, sauteed oyster mushroom and carrots
Blueberry Cheese Cake
Bakery Selection: jam, marmalade or honey
"So Mr Soh, have you made your choice for this morning?" smiled Kan Mai.
I chose the beef and as Kan Mai laid out the linen, I asked if a visit to the flight deck would be possible today. She replied that they have stopped that for a while now and she pointed to my plastic knives, that as long as the knives remained plastic, flight deck visits were a no-no She gave me a "I-am-sorry" look and asked if I would like a model of the B772 from duty free, which I declined. Pauline came around later with the breadbasket, smiling more than before which I thought she looked pretty when she smiled. I took a walk in the Economy cabin and noticed that they had some breakfast-kind of meal because I saw many empty cups of strawberry yoghurt.
Kan Mai pushed a nicely decorated silver trolley with flowers and served coffee/tea after the meal trays were cleared. I have always found cabin crew on Malaysia Airlines cheerful and spontaneous when faced with any situation, even in Y Class! This flight underlined that fact further and I couldn't be more satisfied
Descend into a very cloudy Bangkok Int'l Airport (BKK) was smooth. We took a northerly heading past the airport and turned right to head south for the right parallel runway. The suburbs of Bangkok spread out below us into the horizon, emphasising the size of this vibrant metropolis.
Rumbling down the runway with full reverse thrust signalled another end of a wonderful flight with Malaysia Airlines. My neighbour was still asleep with his mouth open, was he dead A turn onto the taxiway brought us in a opposite direction from the way we landed, this allowed me a view of the airport terminal filled with several Thai In'l a/c of various kinds. At the southern end of the terminal parked a Philippine Airlines A330 and a Kuwait Airways A340. I also saw a Royal Brunei B763, with the "Visit Brunei Year 2002" sticker. A sombre looking Qatar A300-600 was next to the BI B763. It was a quiet time of the day with many empty air-bridges visible.
I chatted with Pauline, who was guarding the curtain behind me, while we waited for the doors to be opened. This would be a turn-around flt and after returning to KUL as MH 785, the crew would call it a day. However, for 9M-MRF, she would no doubt be cleaned and readied for another flight, regional or long haul, illustrating the versatility of the B777.
Since we were the only flight arriving at that time (1105H), I cleared immigration in record time. Flying Golden Club Class helped too as we had priority disembarkation together with First Class. I was out of the airport in 20min, a first for me in BKK! Amazing...
But the traffic jam on the highway offset the record by another 1hr30min... Sigh
p/s: I took a total of 106 photographs on my digital camera on this trip. Shots include cabin, cabin crew, food served, planes, planes and more planes... I will try to post them when I can - my first time, you know?