London Heathrow – Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia Airlines MH007
21st December 2002
Boeing 747-4H6 registration 9M-MPA ‘Ipoh’
Scheduled Departure / Arrival times : 2130 1740 (next day)
Actual Departure / Arrival times : 2145 1730 (next day)
Seat : 53C
Having booked our flights to travel to KL for a long overdue family reunion a good 4 months ahead, our UK-branch of the family found our journeys to Heathrow that night an absolute nightmare – the Saturday night before Christmas. Even having booked so far in advance no Golden Club Class seats were available but none of us minded the fact that we were all in Economy Class for our trip. Due to circumstances, a family member who was due to arrive on a United Airlines flight from Washington DC that morning had had to cancel their trip altogether so we had a ‘spare seat’ in our group.
I was last of the group to check-in and found Terminal 3 that night to be horrendous. I had difficulty getting through the lines that had accumulated behind the Qatar Airways and Emirates counters which in effect blocked off the island for Malaysia Airlines. Wading through the lines, I found the rest of my family and was warned that we were all separated but in nearby rows. I joined the queue for Malaysia Airlines who were checking in both MH1 and MH7 that night.
The agent at check-in was apologetic for our separation but she reiterated that the flight was actually overbooked and we had all booked our tickets through different agents who had pre-assigned our (different) seats at time of booking. She did however change my brother’s seat to be allocated behind me instead of being in a separate cabin altogether. The service however was without much of a smile and the stress of having two overbooked flights departing within an hour of each other was certainly showing.
After check-in, we proceeded through security, which was surprisingly quick but found the Departures area bursting at its seams with on-going refurbishment work and hoards of Christmas travellers. Being Amex cardholders, we were all ushered to the Servisair lounge to gather our thoughts and catch up on family matters, but there was a queue to get in and once in, there were no seats in the miniscule excuse for a lounge. We took turns to sit on one sofa that we had hovered around like vultures waiting for it to be free, whilst some went to shop for last minute presents or grab a bite.
We left the lounge early to find our gate and security searches were carried out at random prior to boarding MH7. The call for boarding was made swiftly and the usual boarding by class and rows began. By the aircraft door, there was a newspaper cart and we grabbed a selection of UK and Malaysian newspapers between us. As we found our seats, the combined stress and excitement, meant some people couldn’t quite decide who to sit with (typical family nightmare) and I stressed that it didn’t matter – ‘Just grab anyone (as we can always swap later)!’. A stewardess noted my call and smiled – ‘Don’t worry sir, you guys can take your time’ - a nice, warm welcome that made us smile at least. Once seated, we were waiting for some late arrivals and the crew began distributing warm towels. Menus followed shortly and the usual welcome announcements were made by the Flight crew and Purser. Annoyingly, the 'muzak' playing was oddly wishing everyone a Happy Hari Raya (Muslim new year), which was over, and not Christmas carols that they had played on previous flights with them.
Picking up a slight delay thanks to our late boarders, the doors were shut and push back commenced as the Safety Video was screened. We joked as my brother pointed out that the ‘Captain’ who introduces the video looked so cheesy, he shouted as the video started,
‘Hi! I’m Troy McClure, you may remember me from such films as ‘Airport’ and ‘Airplane 2’’ (from the Simpson’s),
to which those who had heard in the cabin burst out in laughter.
Taxiing pass MH1, we made our way to the runway and joined the queue to depart. A Singapore Airlines 747-412 Megatop roared pass followed by a British Airways 747-436. A small bmi A320 then departed as we took our position and swung round on to the runway. A Lufthansa and Swiss flight stood next to us as we roared down the runway, lifting off after what seemed a long run – presumably as we were indeed ‘heavy’ that night.
Lifting off into the wintry London night, the 747 shuddered for a second or two, something I have noticed with many flights on MAS 747s – does anyone know why? Seat belts remained on as we climbed above the rain clouds that night and some minor turbulence meant that there was no bar service after take-off. Instead, the cabin crew went through the cabin with trays of water, juice or beer. Headsets were distributed and Malaysian Immigration forms were distributed.
The Video system was switched on but there were problems as some seats didn’t seem to work as the meal trolleys started their SLOW journey through the cabin. The Video system was reset and restarted several times before running for a good 30 minutes before someone pointed out to the crew that we were watching the ‘Flights out of Malaysia’ programme. Having caught 30 mins of ‘XXX’, the system was once again switched off and reset much to the sigh of the whole aircraft!
Dinner was served and being in row 53 – I realised that I was the last row to be served as both carts coming from the rear and front were going to meet at my row. Being last though, I was still offered a choice of 3 meals as they hadn’t run out of any choices. I chose the Malaysian option – ‘fraid I can’t remember what it was but it was certainly tasty and came with the usual MAS ‘Enjoy your meal sir’. The couple next to me commented to me that they were impressed with MAS so far and said that they had never had such nice ‘airplane food’. I smiled knowingly as I had come to expect excellent food on board all MAS flights. The red wine that was served together with my meal (many Asian airlines still serve their alcohol from full bottles – something I always like) however, was not to my liking, being a Bordeaux but I was quite tired, frustrated by the Video programmes, hungry and thirsty.
Tray collections were swift and the purser came back on announcing that there may be some weather ahead of us and to try keeping our seat belts on especially if we were going to sleep so they would have to disturb us. No apologies however were made about the Video system. Lights were dimmed and everyone on board began to settle in for a good nights sleep. A stewardess came through asking us to shut our blinds as the sun would be rising halfway through the flight and everyone seemed to comply as the cabin was plunged into darkness until about 2 hours out of KL.
The route tonight would take us over Frankfurt, Bucharest, Samsun, Tabriz, Tehran, Delhi, then south of Kolkata before overflying the Bay of Bengal and finding Langkawi as our entry point into Malaysia.
Watching, the Third Lane (Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson) and having a quick go at Othello on the PC Games, I reclined my seat and fell asleep only to awake at various times owing to turbulence. Quite a few awoke at a point over Delhi as we rocked but turning behind me many simply snored (my family included) through the flight.
2 hours to run into KL, I awoke to use the toilet and freshen up before the ‘great rush’. Door 5L had its shade pulled up and I looked out over India as I waited for a toilet to become available. On entry to the toilet, all the toothbrushes had disappeared from the drawer so I went back to the galley to ask for one. The steward apologised and took a stack back to the toilet and restocked the toilets.
Picking up some magazines on my return from the rack by the toilets, the lights were switched on and a ‘Good Morning’ announcement was made. Orange, Mango and Apple juice was passed out to waking passengers and the smell of breakfast filled the cabin air. I opted for the ‘Nasi Lemak’ and it came complete with Shrimp Sambal which was quite spicy but fantastic. My neighbours couldn’t decide and played safe by ordering one of each ‘Nasi Lemak’ and ‘Omelette’ and shared. They were surprisingly complimentary about the Sambal but were quite bemused by the fact that Malaysians had curry for breakfast as we chatted for a minute or two about their coming holiday in Langkawi. The Duty Free trolley came round behind the clearing trolleys and I bought a jar of their Macadamia nuts (for my parents – ahhh!), as the rush for the toilets began in earnest. I then noticed that some of the passengers who were on my Jetlink coach from Brighton were also on the same flight as the ‘Welcome to Malaysia’ and ‘Arriving at Kuala Lumpur’ videos were screened.
Flying over Ipoh and heading due south over Kuala Lumpur, we headed out towards the Straits of Malacca for a sharp turn over Port Dickson to glide in to a controlled silky landing. We arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule and parked at our gate a few minutes later despite our delay at LHR. The airport was quiet at that time of the afternoon with a few company aircraft parked at the gates and an Emirates 777 awaiting departure for Dhaka and Dubai.
The satellite terminal was quiet with most of the traffic being made up by our arriving flight and the departing Emirates flight. Immigration was swift and bags arrived about 5 minutes later.
Kuala Lumpur – London Heathrow
5th January 2003
Malaysia Airlines MH007
Boeing 747-4H6 registration 9M-MP? (can't remember but I remember thinking it was a newer addition)
Scheduled Departure / Arrival Times : 0910 1515
Actual Departure / Arrival Times : 0930 1445
Seat : 44C
Waking at 5am, we were driven to KL Sentral near our family home in Bangsar to check-in for our flight back to London after our reunion. On this return trip, only my brother and I were travelling as we had to get back to work on Monday. Getting a little confused by the new layout of KL Sentral, we eventually found the City Air Terminal Check-in counters for Malaysia Airlines. There were a few others checking in early that morning and my mum bumped into an old colleague who was working there. He told us that they have been very busy at the CAT and hopes that it will be expanded soon to cope as Air Asia plans to open check-in desks also.
Once again, seating arrangements were a problem but at least there were only 2 of us to accommodate and we were able to switch our seats to sit together. We sneakily asked for an upgrade but she apologised and said she wished she could but First and Golden Club were already full and the flight was 38 overbooked. She also said that the seating arrangements were a little more difficult as there were lots of transit passengers who had been assigned seats the night before as they left Melbourne and Sydney.
After checking-in we proceeded to the KL Ekspres counter and bought our tickets for the next available train. Saying our goodbyes to our parents we proceeded down the escalator to wait for the next train which arrived after about 5 mins. Impressed by the design and layout of the KL Ekspres trains, we were whisked at some incredible speed through South KL and through PutraJaya to arrive at the Basement level of KLIA in about 22 mins.
Proceeding straight through to the Immigration and the Departure Hall, I noted that the Check-in islands were buzzing that morning. Taking the Aerotrain through to the Satellite Terminal, I noted 2 chartered Air Asia 747s for the Hadj season, a Lionair MD82, a Singapore Airlines A310, an Air India A310, a China Southern A320 and B757, a China Airlines A300-600 and several MAS aircraft. Of particular interest, I managed to catch a glimpse of the Air Macau A320 that calls in twice weekly now (which was late).
We queued for a coffee and Danish at Delifrance and began our last-minute duty-free shop as the Satellite Terminal was exceptionally busy that morning. I didn’t bother venturing into the Newsagents to pick up any magazines as it seemed too crowded and the queues at the Duty-Free shops would make you think that they were giving the stuff away for free. I had a peek into the Plaza Premium Lounge but that too looked quite busy and besides we didn’t have much time before boarding so we went straight to the gate and waited there since it was quieter.
Security checks were made at the gate, which began to fill as I noticed a passenger disagreeing with a member of MAS’ ground staff – who seemed to then lose his temper. Poor show once again with MAS’ ground crew at KL. I think it was about seating arrangements and the MAS staff member shouted – ‘Look sir, the flight is very, very full! There is nothing I can do until you are all on-board the aircraft so please join the queue and board first!’
We sat looking at the nose of our aircraft and noted that there was a piece of paper stuck to the windscreen of the cockpit. We joked with some of the other passengers that perhaps those were directions for the pilot to find his way to London. Boarding was swift with the usual passengers with children and young families first and there were indeed many young families travelling that morning. Finding our seats, the cabin crew were welcoming and efficient in getting us ready for take-off. With so many children on-board, priority seemed to have gone to settling these passengers, which is very commendable of the cabin crew.
Coats and bags of shopping were all stowed away by the crew but there seemed to be one or two double seating arrangements. The ground staff came on-board and seemed to sort the problem quickly although no one got upgraded – so they must have just been misassigned. Doors were shut and we pushed back quickly. I noticed a Cathay Pacific A330 pulling up by a gate near us as we begun our taxi to the runway. The same Safety Video and usual announcements were made and the crew got to their seats hurriedly.
Ahead of a China Airlines A300-600 we turned on to the runway and once again our take-off run seemed a long one as we lifted off again to a slight shudder. A passenger behind me noted the same thing and said to his neighbour that his previous flights from Melbourne had done the same thing. A slow climb gave us a lovely view of the coastline as we trundled over the Straits of Malacca again to get above the clouds.
With seatbelt signs switched off, the crew began distributing menus and headsets. A crew member then came through the aircraft with Landing Cards for UK Immigration. Two minutes later, another crew member did the same and was bemused by the fact that no-one needed one. As she passed me whilst walking up the aisle backwards, I pointed out to her that her colleague had just done the same and she burst out laughing exclaiming ‘So THAT’S why!’. She thanked me and returned to the galley. Drinks were served on trays – again a choice of juices, water or beer – but no bar service.
Shortly after, the captain came back on the PA system and he seemed to love keeping us to date. Having welcomed us on board before pushback and introducing his team, he came back on to tell us of our planned route in quite a lot of detail and who would be flying which sections and who will be landing at Heathrow. He also went on to thank us for flying Malaysian and that he and his team would try their best to make us feel at home throughout the long flight.
The Video system was set to run and brunch was served efficiently. I chose the Chicken Korma, which was lovely and it seemed to be a popular choice. The accompanying Chardonnay was also nice and crisp. The two passengers I mentioned earlier who were behind me began talking. They both seemed impressed with the service on MAS and that made me feel a little proud, I must admit – despite not being Malaysian anymore.
After Brunch, we were asked to draw our blinds to dim the cabin so we could rest on-board. Many passengers seemed a little upset by this but nevertheless complied. The cabin lights were dimmed and I must admit – I fell asleep for a good 4-5 hours.
As I awoke to a kid kicking my chair, I started to find things to do and watched ‘K-19’ and bits of other films. I also played a few games and finally worked out how to use my control pad with some competence. The CNN Live news update service was also working and it was at this point that I thought, the Newspaper cart by the door on boarding was missing – so I went on a hunt for a newspaper.
I found a copy of the New Sunday Times on the rack by the toilets at the rear and read for some time before venturing to the galley to grab some snacks and drinks. The cabin crew were really pleasant and asked if I had enough to keep me going. A stewardess seemed absolutely knackered as she sat down by the galley and gestured to me as she pointed at her shoes mouthing ‘Thank You’. We exchanged smiles as she sipped her water.
The crew worked hard throughout the flight as I noticed the amount of young children and teenagers on-board all fighting to keep that bell ringing. Never once, did they not smile or make anyone wait for long. My brother and I noted as we were arriving, that MH8 and MH4 must be one of their longest nightmares, as being dayflights, most passengers don’t sleep for long so they were on their feet throughout most of the flight with trays of refreshments.
With 2 hours to run into London, the Captain came back on the PA, announcing proudly that we were ahead of schedule. He commented that we would begin our descend over Amsterdam and hoped that we had managed to get some rest on-board. He was quite jovial and told us that the ‘boys and girls’ were doing their best and preparing us with some lunch as he spoke. Lunch was then served and this time, I had the Noodles which again was delicious whilst my brother opted for the Roast Beef (I feared it being difficult to attack given the plastic knife but he didn’t have any problems on that front). The customary ‘Enjoy your meal’ also came with a ‘Are you two flying back to study in the UK?’ from the Steward – to which we both laughed since we are both ageing rapidly and had left University many, many years ago now! The steward seemed a little embarrassed as his Purser came down the aisle wondering if everything was OK. Incidently, this same Purser kept insisting in all his announcements that this was a code-share flights with Virgin Atlantic and kept calling it VS5208??!!
Refreshing myself prior to arrival, the Pilot came on (again) to warn us about the weather in London and adviced us that we would need to put on our winter woollies before arrival as it was a nippy 2C on the ground.
Swooping in over West London, we touched down smoothly and taxied to our gate at Terminal 3. Despite their obvious tiredness on their faces – they continued to smile and seemed to give that last burst of energy to say goodbye. I noted that one of the stewardesses also made a point of wishing many Malaysians ‘See you again soon, ya’ in a very informal fashion which seemed very genuine. Many of the children disembarking also seemed to have collected a variety of MAS toys and souvenirs.
Immigration was surprisingly quick, perhaps due to our better arrival time, but MH8 cleared relatively quickly as compared to the Air China flight, which we were separated from. Bags arrived quickly and I was back at home in Brighton later that afternoon!
Another two great flights with an airline that seems to be ’Going Beyond Expectations’. Food that is still served heated in ovenware and drinks come in real glasses. Genuine in-flight crew that love their jobs and love looking after people - and it really does show! Seats were comfortable with ear-wings, footrests, excellent recline in economy and lumbar support. Looking forward to many more future flights!