6.5.03 A-320 OE-LBO Austrian AL AMS-VIE 12A 08.12-09.33
Photo © Ano Nym
The airplane, a change from the scheduled MD-87, filled up to capacity, there was some mess about double allocations of seats but in the end noone had to be kicked out. The take off and flight felt almost serene, as the weather was stable and cloudless, so I could recognized the Flevoland and east Netherlands before having some high clouds below us.
The service was a breakfast, consisting of a small tray with cuttlery, spreadcheese, butter and jam, a small can of orangejuice and a coffeecup. The F/A's made a few rounds with a tray of different fresh hot rolls; healthy dark ones, white ones and croissants. No hot elements, or fruits, salad or a dessert though.
6.5.03 777-200 OE-LPC Lauda Air VIE-KUL 44 K 11.22-03.54
Photo © Glenn Stewart
The interior of the 777 was quite funny, with fake wooden bulkheads, I guess to give it a more pub / restaurant kind of feeling compared to the more business oriented airlines on which 777s I already flew (UA, SQ, DL). Over the P/A, they offered nicotine substitutes were available to cope with 11 hours without smoking.
The flight was comfortable, a very light load helping. I was at seat 44A, the last row, with an empty seat besides me. The 10 abreast seating is absolutely no problem, it's more the seat pitch what counts. The IFE was fine, with PTVs, games, and a forward and downward facing camera, quite nice to see the take off on it. 90 minutes after take off, a meal was served, european style chicken or beef with potatoes and vegetables, apple pie. Nothing special, neither was a small breakfast kind of snack an hour before landing, I forgot what it was. The routing was like a streight line between VIE and KUL, I only remember overflying New Delhi. I noticed the F/A's spoke english to eachother and of some, their German was hardly better then mine, I wonder why Lauda has foreign crews.
In the middle block, a lady decided to start a little war with the flight attendants by refusing to buckle up during light chops. The F/A's (who had a little attitude as well) let it escalate, by waiting at her seat until she buckled up, like a mother waiting besides a child to let him pick up his toys. She deliberately ignored her and her requests, pretending she was too busy with messing with her earphones. The scene ended up in a long, repeating heated argument "no I don't buckle up, I don't feel any turbulence. If it is SO dangerous, why do you walk around then?" "we ask it for your safety" "If it's so unsafe now, go back to your seat and don't stand here annoying me! You can fall down any minute!" repeated for 10 minutes. The F/A then replied "It's unacceptable that I am yelled at by you like this. I will have the captain informed, he might refuse you to take you onwards to Melbourne or on any future flights" While the passenger was not someone I would like to invite for a birthdayparty, I felt the F/A was also too competitive which led this incident to escalate. Instead of the captain, the purser came while the two F/A's who had the confrontation were not to be seen anymore. The purser was very smooth and friendly and helped the fuming lady to cool. She winked back at me when I smiled at her when she explained the reason of the seatbelt signs again and suddenly the sign went off. No other confrontations were made the rest of the flight, they sort of ignored the aggressive lady (what I would have done in the first place), just handed out the drinks and meals robotically without trying to communicate.
8.5.03 DHC-7 9M-TAH Beryaja Air Kuala Lumpur Subang-Koh Samui 16.41-17.41 (2:00)
Photo © Y. A. Kueh
At every trip, I try to fly in a rare aircraft which I didn't fly yet. Originally planned was the YS-11 of Phuket Air, which was supposed to fly Phuket-Hat Yai, but due to SARS they postponed their YS-11 routes till september, they told me. Then I found in the Dash-7 an OK substitute. Apart from the Hercules, it's the only four engined prop plane built since the 60s. While of course a shadow of the exitement I had when flying the Connie, DC-4, the Viscount, the Electra and the Il-18, it IS a four engined prop so sort of fun as addition in my logbook. Part of the fun was going to the old Subang airport of Kuala Lumpur. The airport was deserted, like a ghost airport, but unlike KLIA old and shabby. It is only used for maintenance, cargoflights (Transmile), government flights (their VIP F-28 and a CN-235 took off in front of us) and a handful of pax flights a day only. The Beryaja Dash 7 which was about to fly us (a light load of 13 pax) today was already parked near the gate two hours before departure. It still had the ex Brymon BA world images colours like on the picture. Actually besides being cheap, they probably decided to keep it as it's quite appropriate, Beryaja is specialized in flying to holiday islands, mainly the Malaysian ones like Langkawi, Pangkor and Tioman, but also Samui. While walking in the rain to the airplane, the pilot started engine nr 3 (on the other side of the fuselage) already. I chose seat 11A. The cabin was very hot, presumably because it has been parked the hot afternoon. Unaware of the hour time difference between Thailand and Malaysia, I was amazed when they announced the flying time would be a little over 2 hours while on the map the distance looks like 700 km/ 400 miles at the most. Quite a long flight in a plane like this. The fairly slow speed of the Dash 7 adds to the flying time.
All pax were still waving their safety cards as fan to cool off, while we waited in heavy rain for some military aircraft. We then were off the ground very quickly (it IS a stoll aircraft) but climbing slowly. We followed the west coast of Malaysia for a while, I think I saw Penang or Langkawi, before turning overland for the final part to the isle of Koh Samui. After 15 minutes, the F/A's handed out pink paper valentine boxes, containing a small tunafish sandwich, a wrapped small piece of cake, and a small container of sweet orange juice, and they handed out waterbottles. It was probably stored inside the aircraft all day without a fridge, as the drinks and food was like 35C/100 F as well, not very nice and in case of the tunafish a little worrysome. After this quick round the two F/A's had almost two hours of free time chatting right behind me on the last row of seats.
The Dash 7 looked OK, I guess it had the same interior as in its Brymon days, even the service trolley and containers still had Brymon inscriptions. There were no windowshades, the seats were dark blue and the interior like any other 80s prop; modern closed overhead racks and so. Even while surrounded by menacing huge cumulus clouds, the flight was very smooth. We approached over see and landed at Koh Samui, being serviced by its owner, Bangkok Airways. The airport was a bit Disneyworld-ish, with open tatched roof shelters, sort of charming. This was the only time I had to do a SARS check. A bitchy ground nurse pushed a thermometer inside my mouth and I had to fill in a health statement. Nothing like this at the other bigger airports I visited on this trip.
10.5.03 ATR-72 HS-PGF Bangkok AW, Koh Samui-BKK, seat 1D
Photo © Arthur Yu
Unfortunately the 717 was swapped for an ATR. I think it has to do with SARS, as the 717 was used on the BKK-Samui onward stretch to SIN while the ATRs usually do the BKK-Samui shuttle and I guess the SIN operation is cancelled. In heavy pouring tropical rain, the Bangkok Airways open minicarts drove the full pax load to the ATR. On the apron were three other ATRs which arrived half an hour earlier. Samui is a mini hub for Bangkok Airways, offering flights to multiple other destinations. While at the beach the day before, I have seen around 10 ATRs taking off... and one 717.
The new airplane (delivered dec. 2002) looked impeccable from the inside. I got seat 1D, the bulkhead and front emergency exit seat. And till now I was no ATR fan, associated the plane with plain and exciteless short haul rattling cattle car transport, as I flew in some worn out ATRs of Binter and KLM Exel earlier. But this flight, the cabin was clean and modern, the seat nice, the plane comfortable, smooth and quiet, the very corteous flight attendants made me change my mind. The plane took off comfortably at 11.01 in between rainshowers. I could see the bay and mountain at Chaweng where I spent two days. Right after take off we were over the sea already, after a while over the clouds. Like the earlier Dash flight, not a single bump while the clouds look intimidating. It was the first flight I had with a full load. The nice F/A's immediately started service, a small meal with cold juice, two croissant kind of sandwiches, one with vegetable filling and the other with sweet contains, some pineapple and other fruit pieces, and coffee or tea. All plates, cups and even the toothstick package has Bangkok Airways logo on it.
All in all I believe Bangkok Airways is doing a very good job, their beautiful inflight magazine discusses its growth plans, they make special airports (like Koh Samui was I think their first, they made it around 1990. Thai Airways can't fly there, Beryaja was the only "guest" airline, not a competitor as they don't fly to KUL anyways), and, being the boss of the airport, their ticket pricings can now be a bit higher than a comparible Thai price. Nearby Surat Thani-Bangkok is around 2100 bt while Bangkok asks 3300 baht for this o/w flight, and then another quite pricy 400 baht departure tax.
At BKK airport, I also decided to investigate Orient Thai Airlines. Another airline unfortunately not in my logbook (yet) as they fly Lockeed Tristar L-1011 ánd the final passenger 747-100 (apart from the Saudi submark 168Bs). I had a difficult time contacting them when still in Europe, their flights (many from Hong Kong and Singapore, so troubled by SARS) were mainly cancelled, and only after asking a few times, I found their office hidden away at BKK airport and had a chat with them. Actually, while they officially only sell tickets thru packages, aimed at people in HKG, I was told I could call or come by anytime when SARS is contained to get a ticket to Hong Kong, Singapore or any other place I fly. On a plan board written by markers you could see the schedule of their aircraft, the pilots etc. Just like a local truck company. So this is good news for within a few months for anyone wanting to fly them. Let me know if any of you flies them and write a report!
14.5.03 A-300-600R HS-TAC Thai AW Int, BKK-HDY (Hat Yai) 13.34-14.43 65K
Photo © Erik Frikke
To avoid high priced BKK-KUL flights, I decided to fly to Hat Yai in the southern tip of Thailand and go overland to Penang. Domestic flights in Thailand are reasonably priced, this 1,5 hour flight was 3100 Baht, around 64 euro. Always the same bad luck; I check in early to get a WINDOW-seat and because I am 6 ft 4, they try to be nice and give me a bulkhead seat without a window!! Luckily the flight was quite empty (1/4rd filled) I could pick seat 65K in the back of the aircraft. The cabin was quite groovy if we were in the 1970s with yellow, orange and purple seats. While I read domestic service was so so, I was impressed with the nice lunchbox meal we got and the multiple drink rounds to refil. The lunchbox contained a cold chicken salad, two small jelly puddings, a croissant with sort of potato filling, water, fruitjuice, tissues, cuttleries and cups for the drinks and coffee service. Little to see outside the windows as it was cloudy, although the approach over the Songkhla Beach and lakes was nice.
16.5.03 737-300 9M-AAE Air Asia Penang-KUL
For the amazing price of 50 Rg (about 12 euro) including all charges I could book this short Air Asia flight a few days in advance, to try the first LCC easyJet style of Asia (well of course many domestic flights in the region can be seen as sort of LC but AirAsia adapted the yield-pricing (more expensive as the flight is more popular) while the traditional carriers have fixed pricing usually. Penang airport was bigger than I expected, modern , nice panoramic huge windows from the long terminal, and almost deserted. As a Chinese populated ICT centre, Penang had lots of flights to Taiwan and Singapore which were mostly cancelled. I checked in early and took a look around. The highlights were the cargoflights of China Airlines, Cargolux and Eva, the pax flights of China AL (738) Lion Air (MD-80) to Medan and Malaysian came with an hourly 734.
It was really like easyJet; no assigned seats, so people cued up early to run for the best seats. No use of airbridge
while plenty were available, probably to keep handling fees down. The plane looked fine, dark blue cloth seats, 25 rows of 6 abreast in a single cabin. I picked 21A as the front window seats were already taken. There were about 70 pax. We pushbacked early at 16.25 and were off the ground at 16.31. After a few minutes, the F/A's came with drinks (3 Rg, around 0,80 euro), and small boxes with cakes/muffin or sandwiches (5 Rg each) for sale, and even red Air Asia polo-shirts which were actually being bought by some.
The weather was great and I was lucky with my left hand seat so I could see Penang and its bridge, the coast, the area, we were only just starting to descent when we flew over Kuala Lumpur, were I could recognize the KLCC, the Petronas towers and other landmarks. Then we passed the airport, turned around over sea to approach it and were on the ground at 17.10.
At KLIA we did get an airbridge, probably as Air Asia now has one side of the domestic terminal. I noticed the airport is a little deserted, quite few movements, passengers, airplanes for the airport this size. SARS is a reason (again many flights cancelled on the screens) but Malaysian friends also told me the airport was built too big (like the new cardboard capital Putrayaya and the Petronas towers) to stand out and as prestige object.
19.5.03 777-200 OE-LPB Lauda Air KUL-VIE seat 41K 00.40-06.02 (11.22 hrs)
I arrived at the airport at around 10 PM to have a look around. A little spooky to be the only one walking thru terminals (I took a detour to check two Il-62s closely, RA-86583 and RA-86539, which were parked near the domestic terminal) but still a modern, spacious and nice airport, if it only were a little busier it would be even better.
I was glad we had a different 777, just because of my tic to try and fly as many different "airframes"... I noticed (maybe I was too sleepy on my flight on LPC) that the main cabin in the middle was 9 abreast, and only the aft cabin (like the last 15 rows) where I was seated was 10 abreast (3-4-3). Do they put the dirt cheap ticketed pax there, and anyone with almost full fare in the middle? The flight was 98% full, I had a lady seating next to me but luckily she changed next to her husband in the middle seat block. Just like on the flight to KUL, hardly any Asians on board. I guess Lauda (just like Condor, Martinair, MyTravel etc) more caters on the local and european passengers, while Asians choose the first tier airlines to go to Europe.
Soon after take off, we got supper, beef, rice and vegetables. Our routing was more southernish than on the way to KUL, over Sumatra, Chennai, Muscat, Van (Turkey) to Austria. While it still was dark and most people sleeping, they switched on the lights while we had another 3 hours ahead of flying, they already started the breakfast service (yoghurt, fruit, muffin and a plate with cheese and ham slices), it might have been nicer if they did it an hour later or so. After the meal, there was 2 more hours when the sun slowly catched us from behind, without service.
19.5.03 Fokker 70 OE-LFJ Tyrolean AW VIE-AMS. seat 8A, 07.51-09.33
Photo © Snorre
A nice interesting indigeneous plane for me, an interesting history as well, as one of the first F-70s it first flew with Sempati a few years. The service and breakfast was the same as Austrian mainlines, wide choice of newspapers, drinks, lots of rolls but no fruit/dessert items. Comparible to Lufthansa's mediumhaul service although LH are slightly better because they can have nice salads, fresh vegetables on sandwiches and chocolates and so. The air was cloudy but the flight smooth, so not much else to report, only the approach was interesting. We turned over Zaandam, my birthplace, quite nice to see the area I lived for 20 years in details.