Flight No: MH8 Kuala Lumpur – London Heathrow
STD: 0900 ATD: 0910
STA: 1510 ATA: 1540
Aircraft: Boeing 747-4H6
Registration: 9M-MPO ‘Alor Setar’
Seat No: 28C
Arriving at KL Sentral at 0645 for check-in proved to be a breeze yet again. I had telephoned MAS on their 1-300 number a couple of days earlier to alter my seat from the original pre-assigned one at booking (which would was next to the main toilets) and was re-assigned 28C to my pleasure. The check-in clerk however then picked up his telephone and called KL Airport, as my details came up on his computer. ‘Could this be an upgrade?’ I thought to myself, and indeed it was supposed to have been but he apologised profusely that a Golden Club Class seat was unavailable for him to upgrade me. Presumably there was a marker by my reservation for an upgrade if available. I accepted his apology with gratitude and didn’t mind since 28C was a pretty good seat anyway.
I proceeded directly down to the KL Ekspres platform and a train arrived on schedule a few minutes to 0700. The ride was swift, comfortable and rather peaceful with the lush scenery of south KL whizzing pass as the sun began to rise. Arriving at KL Airport, there were porters greeting passengers on the platform waiting to assist passengers with heavy luggage and ensuring that lifts were waiting. Once upstairs at the main Departure Hall, the check-in area was humming with activity, but I strolled pass the queues and proceeded directly down to Passport Control, which had rather long queues for Foreign Passport holders. Thankfully, my Malaysian Passport meant I could be served without delay as the majority of Malaysians now use the Automated microchip barriers, which negates queuing. My passport having been issued in London however, is still of the old format without the microchip technology, so I had to have the old traditional stamp on departure.
Once again, early mornings seem to be a rather busy period for KL Airport and it was nice to see it buzzing with arrivals from Europe, Australia and India, and passengers queuing at the Transfer desks and the Aerotrain for arrivals. With enough time to do a spot of Duty-Free shopping, I picked up a few newspapers (having remembered that MAS tend not to have papers that early on a Sunday morning for their departing flights) and made my way to gate C32 where 9M-MPO was awaiting its passengers.
The queue to enter the gate was long and with China Airlines boarding from the opposite gate, MAS decided to form 2 queues for MH8 using C31 security facilities as well, to speed boarding. Once sat in the holding lounge, boarding began by rows and being in row 28 was the last group to be called to the aircraft.
Once on board, I settled quickly into my seat, which was located 3 rows behind our boarding door (2L) and next to the forward Economy galley under the stairs leading up to the Upper Deck. There were a few late arriving passengers into the aircraft and as soon as the doors were shut, the (mostly male) cabin crew began their take-off routines. The safety video was played and during our short taxi, a steward came and knelt by me, whispering to ask if I was a Medical Doctor. I whispered my retort and asked if there was a problem on board. He smiled and said they were just checking the passenger list in view of SARS and apologised for being unable to upgrade me as there were no seats available!
Photo © Alexander Kueh
Taxi was quick and I caught a glimpse of a company 737-4H6 taking off further down our runway – I’ve noticed that they (737s) seem to do that quite often at KUL, ie. Not taxi to the start of the runway but start their takeoff roll further down runway 33R. We swung on to runway 33R ourselves and sped past a company 777-2H6ER and a Cathay Pacific A330, before rotating quite a far distance down the runway. We seemed to have used most of the long runway – and once again – no juddering was noticed.
Photo © Lee Archer
Hot towels were handed out with headphones and a quick round of Mango Juice (there you go Ryanair!!!) followed. A steward pointed out to his colleague that there were many requests for the New Sunday Times (so they must know that the lack of newspapers on their early flights was a problem) and he asked if there were any spare from up-front. I smugly kept my copy firmly in my grasp! The breakfast carts rolled out quickly, as the airshow showed us leaving the coast of Malaysia. Our climb had been rather steady and we had been treated to excellent glimpses of Southern KL and Port Klang out on the left, that rather clear morning.
I seemed to have waited forever for my breakfast to arrive and indeed we were the last 3 to be served. There were no menus for this flight, which was unusual but the crew repeated the choices to each row they served. A choice between the Omelette and Nasi Lemak was offered. I plumped for the Nasi Lemak but the steward apologized saying that he’d run out but will phone the rear to find one. He added that this was a really popular choice this morning and they had been taken by surprise (as ‘MH8 tends to cater more to ‘Western palates’ with a large proportion of transit passengers from Australia’). I said I would gladly have the Omelette but he reassured me that they’ll find me a Nasi Lemak. He then gave me 3 warm croissants ‘to keep you going whilst you wait, Dr.’, but ‘Shh – between you and me ok, otherwise I’ll run out of these too!’
A while later, I was still without my main course but had tucked into my Chicken Salad and croissants. A passing stewardess walked pass and I asked her about my meal – to which she looked astonished and apologized pointing out to her colleague (who I’d watched for the last hour loading and unloading trays of food into the ovens), ‘Eh, Dr. belum makan’ (the doctor hasn’t eaten in Malay). My goodness, I felt a little bad as they then frantically searched for a meal and started discussing that they should offer me one from Golden Club, but they had run out too! Alas, looking in the oven was a tray of omelettes to which I said I would gladly have – so they passed one, sheepishly. The mushroom omelette was OK and came with a chicken sausage, grilled tomatoes and a hash-browns.
Coffees and Tea was served with seconds as trays were cleared. I settled down to ‘The Ring’ but realised that I had already bought that DVD in KL, so channel hopped to find, ‘Welcome to Collinwood’ (which I can recommend). Other films I managed to catch was ‘Sweet Alabama’ (which I enjoyed so much – I watched it twice!) and a few short documentaries and that sitcom with Tea Leoni (playing a journalist – can’t remember the name though).
Our route today would take us over India and Southern Pakistan before we started to hug the Iran-Afghanistan border – with 9M-MPO constantly banking in keeping with the border. This route was far more Easterly than our flight out last weekend which overflew Tehran… perhaps due to the fact that Iraq had fired a missile into Kuwait on Friday. We weren’t asked to close our shades unlike most daylight flights from Asia and many passengers were rather curious to the wonderful view of the Iranian countryside as we headed North towards Russia.
A few catnaps and I decided to refresh myself prior to lunch. I wandered through towards the rear of the aircraft and found a stewardess chatting to an Australian couple by 3L and another passenger who sat next to her on the crew seat. He was with his daughter (who was about 6) and she seemed transfixed by looking out of the window on the door. Picking up a toothbrush from the galley and a quick glass of OJ, I waited for a few minutes in the aisle for a toilet to become free, but just before I nipped in, a steward jumped ahead of me and said ‘just a minute sir, I’ll give it a quick clean’. So a spotless toilet greeted me and I returned to my seat with Time and Newsweek, nabbed from the magazine rack, under my arm.
Lunch was served with about 3 hours to run into London and this time the steward came to me first and offered us a choice between ‘Steak, Coriander Chicken or Lasagne’ – ‘you get served first this time, Dr’, he joked and as he served me, he noted that I was reading an article written in Malay in ‘Going Places’ (their inflight magazine) and then exclaimed, ‘ah, now I know you’re Malaysian!’ I confirmed this and he said that ‘it’s often difficult as we get a lot of Singaporeans and passengers from Hong Kong nowadays on our flights to London’. ‘Enjoy your meal, Dr.’
The chicken was superb, whilst my neighbours’ Steak looked even tastier – moist, slightly red and thick. Lunch was accompanied with potato salad, a roll, an odd-but-curiously-more-ish sweetcorn pudding(!). The red wine was a French Syrah – which was a marked improvement from their Christmas cellar (see previous reports) – and three glasses went down rather smoothly.
Cruising over Amsterdam, we made our preparations to land at Heathrow. A cloudy Essex coast greeted us as we headed towards London with good views of North London and the airfield itself before turning left to line up for a soft landing – a little later than expected. A long taxi to our bay in Terminal 3 misled a few passengers who began emptying their overhead lockers. Two announcements by the crew to remain seated were ignored, until some of the crew got up and told them to sit back down. I noticed another MAS 747-4H6 parked at the terminal and decided that this must be a delayed MH003 which was still receiving its catering supplies.
Photo © Jason Taperell
On disembarkation, a SAS plane parked next to us, and I made a swift trot to the Immigration desks. Being one of the first at the Baggage Belt, I noticed just how full the flight had been as the rest of the flight eventually made their way to the belt. Luggage reclaim was a little slow and judging by the tags, indeed there had been a lot of passengers who had transferred from MH132 (Sydney). The arrivals area at Terminal 3 was its usual nightmare with crowds waiting to meet arriving passengers. Once at the Central Coach station however, to my luck, the next bus for Brighton was ready and waiting. I was home in just over 2 hours later.
btw - as a post-script - the whole 'Dr' business was a little tiresome throughout the whole flight but I guess you have to give them kudos for addressing me 'correctly'.