Sunday, 27 October 2002
Seat: Free seating (1C)
Photo © Kok Chwee SIM
This was my first trip on Air Asia. I booked my ticket last few months and I got the cheapest ticket for this sector, which cost me around RM 200 for a round trip. This was even less if I travel on MAS for just one way ticket. However, due to the change in my holiday’s time table, I called up the booking center and changed my flight again from 2 to 9 November. . Pity me as I was charged another RM 105 penalty. It was due to there was no cheapest seat left on the day so I have to purchase a little bit expensive ticket. This caused my ticket price for this sector weren’t the cheapest.
It was a wet Sunday morning as the taxi drive arrive and pick me up to the ERL Express Rail Link) transit station at Bandar Tasik Selatan. I wasn’t on the ERL express which took off every 15 minutes but I rather took the ERL transit which available every half an hour. At 0710 the train arrives and it’s quit funny when I found out that I have to push a button on the door in order to open it. Weird? I thought the door should open automatically. Funny eh? The train ride was smooth and enjoyable with the picturesque scenery of the Putrajaya and the oil palm plantation. There were small monitor mounted on the wall in the train, updating you with the stock index and some travel tips in Malaysia.
I arrive at the KLIA at 0740 after 30 minutes sharp ride on it. I proceed to the departure hall island C for Air Asia passenger check in. The counter hasn’t opened yet, which will only open 2 hours before the flight. Plenty of time to do some plane spotting and I directly went to the viewing deck.
Photo © Andrew
A Singapore Airlines B777 9V-SVB just landed as SQ102 on runway which I don’t know what the number it was and followed by plenty of MAS B737. Can anyone tell me which runway is which? What I can figure out is that aircraft kept on landing on the runway same side with departure gates A on MTB while aircraft depart using runway same side with departure gates B. As I continually do the plane spotting I noticed there were 2 MAS fleet rest at the apron, B777 and B747. I wonder why there aren’t on the air? Plenty international carrier park at Satellite Building like Thai’s A310, Lions air, JAL cargo and many more that park on the other side which can’t be seen from the viewing deck. Many aircraft depart too on the runway I mention where most departures were. So I left the viewing deck and went outside the MTB where most cars dropping their passenger and proceed to the end 5th level of MTB. That was the best place I’ve ever been to do the spotting where most of the airplanes just rotate in front of you though it was a distances away while the departure gate Bs just on your right. I stand there watching plenty of aircraft took off such as MAS A330s, plenty of MAS B734s, MASCargo B742, Cargolux B742, Thai’s A310 or A300 (not sure), China Airlines A310, South China Airlines B737, LionAirs Yakolev and finally the SIA B77 that I saw it landed and hour ago. Gosh! I couldn’t believe that I’ve stand there for an hour without releasing it. So many aircraft departed within an hour. Wow!
My tummy starts making noises, so headed for brunch and wondering around the airport again after brunch. There’s lots of Chinese tourist in bound and out bound to China I guess? There I quickly went to check in at island C as the time was 1115H. To my surprise there was no common check in counter. There were only 2 counters opened. The TV monitor seems to be not working for the Air Asia check in counter; instead they put up red plastic board sign saying, “CHECK IN FOR AK 748 TO KUCHING” the AK748 was removable types and can be replaceable with other board which make me believes that save them a lot of money. Check in was horrible as long queue form as I reach there to check in for AK748 to KCH. Red carpet laid down in front of the counters. Only one counter caters pax to KCH on AK748 and the other for pax to Labuan on AK730. Problem occurs as pax in front me have overweight luggage and they have to settle their payment before can get their boarding pass. From what I heard from the other pax, Air Asia charge RM 15 for every kilogram. My blood start to steam as the check in agent wasn’t serious in their work. Can you imagine chit chatting with fellow colleague while check in pax. I’ve waited for about 15 minutes before my turn.
Air Asia doesn’t have any ticket for their pax but each of them given a reference number, so no fear of getting your ticket lost eh! Told the agent my reference number and present my IC and done. My boarding passed issued. It’s quite a cheapskate boarding pass, a piece of rectangular green in colour paper. I guess the thickness is about similar to 80g paper? Check in at gate A2 and no seat assigned as its free seating for all Air Asia flight. Time is getting more precious and quickly did some final shopping and rush to security check in at domestic security check. The gate was very isolated and located at the very edge of the MTB at the side where departure gates B were. Proceed to gate A2 within 10 minutes after security check and the gate was locked, I wonder why. I joined fellow pax sitting outside the gates and at 1215H, Air Asia ground staff came and opened the gate and all pax rush into it. I joined them and settled down at a sit closest to the door towards aerobridge. A group of 3 cabin crew arrived with a captain. Still I noticed that the aircraft hasn’t arrived yet.
Photo © Jos Van den Broeck
After 5 minutes 9M-AAD with the TIMECEL livery just landed and parked at the gate A2. I’m so happy as I believe this was one of their latest fleet. But later I found out another aircraft just landed with new Asia livery, the red one parked at gate A2 as well. Gate has 2 aerobridge and can accommodate 2 aircrafts. Passengers disembarked and the new cabin crews quickly take into action to prepare for the next flight. All Air Asia flight will make a quick stop before fly again to next destination which is around 25 minutes. Then a ground staff announces to start boarding for pax to Labuan on AK730. To my surprise again and disappointment, pax to Labuan will be on board the 9M-AAD the one with TIMECEL livery. Darn! This mean we’ll board 9M-AAA to KCH, a rather old aircraft in their fleet I guess. At 1250H sharp, boarding for pax to KCH on AK748 commence and I quickly rushed to get my boarding pass checked and boarded the air craft. I manage to get front seat as it was free seating and it has better legroom to stretch my leg.
Leading Stewardess Suhaila with fellow crews, Steward Rizal and Stewardess Rosmawati welcome the pax onboard and reminded pax it was free seating flight. I met Mr Lee, which seat next to me and we had a good chat during the flight. A ground staff rush in and told Suhaila that there was 72 pax only on this flight. Rosmawati start to count pax and all pax was onboard as she told Suhaila. Standard welcoming notes addressed to pax and then the captain came to the PA system announcing that ATC has ordered the aircraft to remain at the gate probably for another 30 minutes. Ouch, not another delayed! 9M-AAD has taxied to the runway. Maybe what Odie has mention in his previous report was true. KLIA got their traffic congested? He he he. Not dare to comment here. But that’s gave me chances to observed the cabin. Same design as in MAS B737 fleet but its shorter I believed, with total up to 26 rows of seats. Seats cover was in blue colour with no head rest. The seat pitch disappointed me the most. It was very small for big size guy like me. I don’t know what their seat pitch was but surely it was the smallest I ever seated on before. This caused my leg kept on pushing the reclined button and without realizing it I was in reclined position. Luckily the pax behind me doesn’t mind. He he he.
Suhaila was busy with her paper work and kept on changing the tape that playing songs though the PA system. Now I know where the song in the aircraft came from. There as a small tape player just mounted on top of the wall un top where the cabin crew seat was. While I’m observing the cabin crew at work, I’ve chatted with Mr. Lee which I find out he was on a business trip to KCH as a consultant with the local electricity company there. Then came my worst night mare was I found out MR Lee was an Anti MAS person as he told me stories how he disappointed with the service while he on board MAS flight especially the ground staff. He also told me that’s why he chose to fly Air Asia this time. Ouch again! What a day having such kind of person seating next to me. I wonder will he tell me more of his horrible stories while we’re flying then but luckily he didn’t. At 1315, another ground staff rush in again informing that the ATC has cleared for AK748 to depart. She rushes into the cockpit and came out again to close the lL door. Then she went to the PA system to announce “cross check and armed all doors”. Ok, now I know what does it means. What she did was cross check the small window on the door with a bright orange colored tape and armed the doors to a clip on the floor. I guess this was for during emergency where when door opened, a slide will be form out of plastic thingies which I don’t know what it was called.
Then she was on the PA system again making standard announcement to prepare the pax for departing started by apologizing for the delayed. Safety demo was done manually by Steward Rizal and Stewardess Rosmawati while we taxied to the runway (where the most aircrafts depart). On 1332H, spool off engine and speeds towards the runway. As I expected, my leg push the reclined button again and I was nearly ‘thrown’ behind while in reclining position. Luckily my big buttock prevents me to be ‘thrown’ backward. Now I understand why the seat has to be upright while departing. Hmm...
Seat belt sign off soon after take off and Suhaila rushed to the back galley to prepare the cart with for in flight sales while Steward Rizal goes on PA system to announce the seat belt sign off. Some thing different I notice in this ‘no frills’ airlines were there were advertisement regarding Air Asia new destination which were the first in Malaysia Aviation history where Air Asia will fly directly to Tawau (TWU) from KUL, non stop as well as Kuala Terengganu. No menu for the item that were on sale. I browse trough the pockets and found no table or papers or chart showing what is on sale. Well, that doesn’t bother me much as I didn’t plan to buy anything from them as I know the price will be very very much high up that normal You know, that’s the price we have to pay to enjoy meals 30’000 feet’s above the sea level, that what Mr. Lee told me.. Suhaila wand Rosmawati then pull out the cart and kept on shouting “Excuse us please, thank you! Excuse us please, thank you!” and reach to the front sit. Sale started and Suhaila asked me if I would like to have anything from the cart but I declined. I peep on the cart and there plenty for snack and drinks on sell like chocolate bars, sodas, mineral water, muffins, cakes, pastries, and so on. Gosh making me hungry while typing this report while thinking of it. Mr. Lee chose a plum juice which cost RM3 per bottle (Just a small bottle for RM3, which normally cost RM 1 at normal stores). Extra RM2 is the price for the service, I guess? Suhaila seems to be friendly and cheerful in promoting their products. Around 15 minutes , she and Rosmawati already at the rear seats and then disappear into the rear galley for few minutes. She re-appears to gets her stuff from the front galley and took out some thing looks like ‘Nasi lemak’ packed in paper. Aha! I believe she’ll enjoy her lunch then together with Rizal and Rosmawati at the rear galley and will be disappear throughout the flight. My guess was partly correct as she really disappeared into the rear galley and didn’t how up until 30 minutes before landing at Kuching International airport.
The journey was uneventful as the seat pitch limited my movement on board while Mr. Lee dozed off throughout the journey. Went to the lavatories and its quite similar to MAS lavatories except the products use in the lavatories are really making me feeling this was really an airlines that trying to cut cost as much as possible. The hand soap was in an “Enchanteur brand” but the content was not the product as seen from outside. It’s sort of like hey use the bottle to put other brand of hand soaps. Wow! “no frills” airlines huh! The rest was eceptable.
30 minutes prior to arrival, the aircraft started to decent and seat belt sign is on. Suhaila came back and sat on the cabin crews seat and come to the PA system to announced that we‘ll going to arrive at Kuching International Airport and asked to put sit up right, return the table to original position and off all electronic devices. The all cabin crews walk around to prepare the pax for landing as Rosmawati started to distributing immigrations forms to all non- Sarawakians pax. This is to avoid the pax to wasting their time to fill up form while arrive at immigration check point. Since I’m a Sarawakian, so there’s no need for me to fill in the form. Mr. Lee declines it as well since he brought his passport along. The Captain asked cabin crews to be sitted and obediently Suhaila quickly rush to the front crew sit and put on her seat belt. Flap deployed and aircraft going lower and lower as part of the Kuching city can being seen from the windows and makes few turns before touched down at 1505H. Reversed thrush deployed and we slowed down the runway as Suhaila makes announcement again that we landed safely at Kuching International Airport without any script on her hand. It amazed me as I ask her, “Wow, you did it without script?” “Well I used to it already after 6 years flying it Air Asia, you know!” she said jokingly. Exit the runway and taxid to gate 6 to disembark the pax. Arrive at the gates and engines shut down. “Cabin crews, disarmed all doors and cross checked, Thank you” she announced and she opened the door.
She wishes me good bye and I disembark the aircraft and head directly to the immigrations check point. Showed my identity card to the officers and few key in to be done and off I go through the immigrations check point. Went down the stairs and arrive at the luggage claim area. I waited quite some times and my luggage among the first few to come out. I left the arrival hall after bid good bye to Mr. Lee and here I am, back to the land of the hornbills.
Overall it was quite a normal flight to me which could be better if there was an inflight meal. The seat pitch was killing me. Never will I choose front seat any more as the arm rest can’t being raised, which can increase the seat pitch. Service was ok.
Sunday, 27 October 2002
I rushed to Malaysia Airlines ticket counters which was next to the check in counters and bought a 50% discount student standby tickets back to Sibu (SBW). I quickly rushed again to the check-in counter 5 to report myself to the check in agent and ask me to come back later at 1600H after my name jotted down in a list of paper. I know if I can get a seat on the flight back to Sibu at that time (1600H), it will be an Fokker flight so I purposely not to came back at 1600H because my luggage was around 20kg and Fokker flight only allows 15 kg. instead I came back around 1645H to try my luck on 1730 flight which as a B734. When arrive at counter 5, many pax was there already crowding the counter, mainly the confirmed ticket pax that wish to change their flight to any as earlier flight as possible. This forced the check-in agent went mad and shouted “Please don’t crowd the counter. All pax to BKI please come back at 1800H. The flight MH2822 is closed. Any more confirmed pax to Sibu? If not student stand by…” he shouted. My heart is pumping hard, fast and stood behind the crowd listened carefully to the announcement. Hopefully I can get a seat this time. If not I’ll going to arrive at Sibu late a night as the next will be on 1850H on MH2278 using Fokker 50.
At last my name was announced and I quickly rushed to the counters after few bumps here and there at the pax’s legs crowding the counters. I showed my ticket and put my luggage on the conveyer belt and my boarding pass issued. I look at my watch, it was 1615H already. Quickly rush to the departure gate B for domestic departure and put my knapsack into the X-ray machine and my boarding pass checked. As Ryan mention before in his report Kuching to Manila, pax to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and etc are consider International flight as pax has to go through Immigrations to ‘check out’ from Sarawak, but in my cases I was flying within Sarawak, so no need to go through immigration. The waiting lounge shared by the pax bound to other destination even though went trough security check at different gate. Makes few calls before off my handset and soon boarding commenced through gate 5 at 1725H.
Sufficient amount of news paper stacked out side the door and I grab a copy of Strait Times as a middle aged lady greets me at door 1L with, which I didn’t read at all. Proceeds to seat 11b, which is emergency seat. Put down my knapsack under the seat and noticed by one of the stewardess and ask me don’t put it there and I insist on that I’ll put it under the sit in front of me. But she stressed that I can’t do that. So I’ve to surrender my knapsack to her and she put it in the overhead compartment for me as she smiles to me while doing that. I apologies as I really didn’t remember their names already. Sorry!
Photo © Ian Moy
9M-MMX has its seat in old cover and the interior seem to be faded and looked tired. 2 stewardesses serve the first class while 2 stewardesses and a steward serve the economy class pax. The seat pitch was certainly bigger that 9M-AAA as I settle down comfortly. The pax kept on flowing in and it’s 100% pax load, mostly children and parent which on the way back to works after the weekends. The boarding was smooth as the door close and the cabin crew were ask to armed all doors and cross checked (can anyone tell me why they are doing this?). Push back commences at 1730H and welcoming notes addressed followed by safety demo done manual as usual. We taxied to the runway and the engines spool off and speed down the runway. The aircraft rotate just in front of the terminal building and lifted off.
Seat belt sign off soon and drinks of OJ serve to all pax. It’s quite similar to the flight from SIN to KUL I guess. On board I met another new friend, Mr. Wan which is a custom officer one the way back to Sibu after given a talk in a seminar at Kuching. We chatted all throughout the flight and I found out his a very nice person to chat to. While the drink was serve I wish to put the steward to a test by asking for peanuts and a can of sodas since he look a bit “soft” type or I would rather call him a “sissy” (excuse me for being rude) and he looks new. But I forget about the idea as I was carried away by the chatting with Mr. Wan. I believed many would agree with me that if some one was chatting with you throughout the flight, you’ll feel the journey would be very short ( tough it was only 35 minutes flight), just like what I felt that it was just a while ago the aircraft lifted off and now its has touched down. I even didn’t really it was descending and cabin crew was preparing to land. At 1800H, 9M-MMX touched down at Sibu Airport 5 minutes a head the schedule and taxied to the end of runway before exit the runway and parked at gate 2. Most of the pax get up and open the overhead compartment event before the aircraft parked properly at the gate. It didn’t shock me caused as a Sarawakian, its typical Sarawakian that they didn’t cares about their safety. Door opened and when the pax disembark I join in the line and the middle aged lady bid us good bye and see you again. I went down to the ground floor where the immigration counter was (which was closed) and behind the counters was luggage claim area. The immigration counters only open when there is pax arriving outside Sarawak such as direct flight from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) or Kota Kinabalu (BKI). Got my luggage and exit the arrival hall.
But my journey not ended yet. I have to travel another hundredth of km back to my hometown, Sarikei by road. What a day? Overall it was a pleasant flight after cramped my buttock on the Air Asia small pitch seat. Service was ok. Tell you the truth; I was carried away during the chatting as I can’t make any further comment bout this flight.
Thanks for reading.