Airbus A330-300 (9M-MKD)
23 Dec 2003
I spent 4 wonderful days in KL with a substantial amount in Petaling Jaya. Don’t ask me what was I doing there but it was nice catching up with friends away from the maddening pre-Xmas crowds in the city. The Petaling Jaya Hilton, where I stayed, is a charm of a hotel. The freeway next to the hotel ensures an easy 20 min commute to KL City.
The last 2 days was spent in the city. So proceeding the KL City Air Terminal (KLCAT) in Sentral was the natural thing to do on the day of my departure. With last minute shopping bags all squeezed into my luggage, I was thankfully not overweight (I mean my bags weren’t). The check in lady at the First Class counter was friendly. Lounge invitation, boarding passes and baggage tags all issued within a minute.
I boarded the 1500H train that zipped me to KLIA in 30 min. So I was early… so damned early. But it was no worry at all; I had the exquisite Golden Lounge at the international satellite terminal to retreat to. The departure level of KLIA was bustling when I arrived. Must be the holiday crowds.
Photo © Y. A. Kueh
I wasted no time and headed towards immigration. No need to look for the Premier Lane because the wide expanse was just empty, so I could pick any counter I wanted. The immigration officer strangely asked me how much I paid for the First Class ticket. If it was an attempt to be friendly, I was fooled, as there was no smile whatsoever.
Ah… the lovely Golden Lounge soon beckoned as my train pulled into the satellite terminal. I had more than a few hours to waste so what better way than to spend it here. The reception staff looked genuinely to welcome me back and even escorted me to the First Class section. I never got her name, but this sweet Malay lady even asked if I was interested in an aromatherapy massage, which is a new service provided at the lounge. I declined. Wah piang eh...! RM 120 for only 45 min, no thank you!
It is the largest airline lounge in the world. This fact was underlined even more acutely because I was the only one there. A peep through the glass intervals of the wall into the Business Class section across the shallow water lilly ponds revealed the same emptiness. Not that I was complaining, I could have jolly well pulled off a Julie Andrews running around musing at how "the hills are alive…”
I spent the next few hours surfing the internet and typing my outbound report. You would probably have read it, as it was the one posted earlier.
The view outside was very quiet. Interesting sights included a Merpati 727-200, and an all-white 747-200 that has the MAS titling applied to it. Is it the haj season already? Other than that, the SIA 777-200 shuttle parked at its usual spot at gate C5 just in front of me. Another MAS 747-400 and that was all I saw from where I was. The main terminal held its usual array of 737s from MAS and Air Asia.
Elsewhere at the satellite terminal, there was supposedly an Emirates flight to Dhaka and Dubai as EK 337, and a Cathay Pacific flight to Hongkong as CX 724.
After getting my fix of fags at the smoking room next to the slumber section, it was time to hit the buffet at the bistro. Woah… the menu was rather extensive.
2 trays of extensively decorated bite size appetizers
Soup: Seafood Bouillbase and Cream of Lentil
Spinach Tortellini with Seafood Carbonara, or Marinara
Tomato or Plain Rice, with Chicken Opor or Pajeri Nenas
Pastry tray filled with éclairs, sinful chocolate truffle cakes, blueberry cheesecakes and brownies.
The bar included a refrigerator stocked full of canned drinks, sodas, fresh fruit juices and soya milk. The staff would oblige with orders of coffee, cappacino and the works – and they were extremely friendly as they came and asked if the food was ok, recommended the other dishes offered etc.
Aww man, I could not stop burping after that!
Other than this bistro, parts of the lounge have little food stations where you can munch on the bite sized savouries, which I had got so sick of. Those stations comes complete with a full bar as well.
All too soon, the boarding announcement came for passengers in the lounge flying MH 608. I reluctantly dragged my full stomach out of the lounge and trooped to gate C3. The holding lounge over there was choked full of passengers. A large number of them seemed to be from a tour group from China.
Photo © Joe Corrigan
The A330-300 (9M-MKD) was scheduled to take me back home. And there she was, in her elegant self, posing in the evening sun trying to soak in the last remaining sun rays. When the announcement came to board families with small children only, the rush from the tour group came expectedly as the announcer only spoke in Bahasa Melayu and English. This caused a huge jam at the entrance to Door B. But since I was boarding through Door A, I was free from the ruckus.
Door 1L soon appeared in front of me and a stern looking moustached steward named Akram greeted me with no smiles. I was escorted to my seat at 2K. As I plopped myself down, I realised the seat was a little different from my outbound flight. It was not automated, slightly narrower. I looked back and realised that MAS has extended their Golden Club cabin to cover up First Class as well. So no more First Class as MAS is steadily converting the A330-300s to a 2-class config too. So it’s a full 8 rows of 2x2x2 Golden Club Class on the A330-300s now. This refurbishing project started in Dec 2003.
This is my first taste of the Golden Club seat on an A330-300. Lets just say that it is not worth the money. Primitive as hell, the recline is sad, and the leg rest does not extend much due to the tight pitch. PTVs are notably absent too from this plane.
However, despite the state of the amenities, the crew serving me tonight was simply out of this world. A sweet looking malay stewardess Rashida, appeared next to me “Good evening Mr Soh, what would you like to drink before take off?”
My usual pink guava juice was served while another passenger was shown to his seat next to me by the sulking Akram to seat 2H. At 1915H, Door 1L was closed and the safety announcement was made by the inflight supervisor, Mohd Ariffin. Meanwhile, I surveyed the empty cabin and asked Rashida if it was ok to change seats.
“Oh you have many seats to choose from ya? Sure, no problem…” she smiled
I wonder why did the check in personnel place the other pax next to me when there were so many seats available? So I found myself in eat 6A. I counted only 6 pax in First Class.
1920H: Stewardess Rosalind made herself known to me and greeted me by name, while offering me the hot towel.
The delay was obviously due to a missing pax who finally ran in from Door 2L at 1928H, apologising profusely because she lost her way. Finally the doors closed and we pushed back at 1932H.
MAS is using a new safety video now. It is an update from their previous one as this version depicts PTVs.
1934H: Taxi begins towards runway 32L in darkened cabins.
Take off was immediate because as soon as we lined up on the runway, the engines spooled up and we rotated at 1937H after a 34 sec roll. The northerly heading continued until Putrajaya was abeam us before commencing a left turn towards the coast, and finally southwards towards Singapore.
With the aircraft on a steady climb, the cabin lights came on while Rashida laid the linens on my table in preparation for dinner and took my drink order as well. By 1953H, we were cruising steadily over Melaka at FL210. Rosalind appeared with the tray at 1957H with my guava juice on it “Here you go Mr Soh, sorry to keep you waiting…” The tray held its usual bowl of fresh fruits, an empty plate and a napkin with metal cutleries.
On the menu tonight were chicken drumlets, mini quiche and braised fish rolls. Rashida asked me to try them all, especially the fish rolls because she said they were new on the menu after I commented that I have not seen those before on previous flights.
I was surprised that I could still eat after that feast at the lounge. When Rashida came by and offered seconds, I really could not devour anymore.
2005H: First signs of descend.
Rosalind came by to clear my trays a minute after that and asked if I wanted some more drinks, which I declined. The seatbelt sign finally “pinged” at 2010H and the usual arrival announcement was made. Rosalind offered another round of hot towels as the aircraft levelled at 7000ft over MacRitchie/Bk Timah/Orchard Road and made its way southwards towards Indonesian airspace.
Descending further, the aircraft made another left turn and aligned towards runway 02R. After the cabin was darkened, Rashida walked passed and enquired if I was on my way home. We chatted for a bit and I managed to find out that she has been flying with MAS for 8 yrs since she was 19! She just did the London-Langkawi-KL flight yesterday and here she is doing the KUL-SIN turn around. The cheerful banter continued right up till the pilot asked for all the crew to be seated for landing. She then apologised and disappeared aft.
The view of the city outside was beautiful.
2020H: Gears lowered.
2022H: Touchdown with full reverse thrust.
We vacated the runway via E5 and a short taxi later arrived at Gate F58 at 2026H. This aircraft would turn around as MH 610 that would depart later at 2105H back to Kuala Lumpur.
The inflight supervisor Ariffin and Rosalind was at Door 1L bidding us farewell “Jumpa lagi ya, Mr Soh. Bye!”
There is a reason I keep flying MAS and this is it. Their wonderful cabin crew has worked hard to deserve those awards. As for the sulking Akram, he was thankfully confined to the Economy cabin for the duration of the flight.
Out of the plane, immigration, baggage claim and onto the train home, all within 15mins.
Check in: 9/10… The convenience of the IATA approved KLCAT, or KL Sentral (XKL) is very well illustrated.
Departure: 8/10… While the immigration at KLIA weren’t friendly, they weren’t rude like before. So I hope this is a sign of better things to come.
Golden Lounge (First Class): 10/10… Need I say more? You need to see it to believe it. But I see it getting challenged very acutely by Cathay’s Wing in HKG and Emirates’ Dubai.
Boarding: 5/10 … Poor girl was swamped by the rush of Chinese tourists at the boarding gates (Door B). Hence, the boarding process for Y Class became a pain.
Inflight: 10/10… Since u guys wanted me to give the MAS crew a 10/10, well, I think Rashida and Rosalind truly deserved it in this instance. Very anticipative and cheerful, with attempts to make passengers feel at home.
Arrival: 9/10… Changi cannot be faulted for its efficiency. Priority disembarkation helped to a certain extent but the immigration process was painlessly completed in seconds.
Malaysia Airlines continues to shine like they rightfully should. But the amenities for premium classes on this plane is sorely lacking. While the inflight service more than made up for it, all you need is a lapse in service and you have the makings of a terrible journey.
The Airbus A330 remains my favourite aircraft for aesthetic reasons but the technical aspects pleases me too. The aircraft was cruising very silently and it is simply a joy to fly. Please let this not degenerate into a Boeing vs Airbus war. This is simply my personal view and don't try to talk me out of it.