29 Nov 2003 MH094 KUL-TPE-SA - California">LAX, Golden Club Class
30 Nov 2003 LA601 SA - California">LAX-LIM, Clase Ejecutiva
3 Dec 2003 LP131 LIM-CUZ, Economy Class
6 Dec 2003 LP131 CUZ-AQP-JUL, Economy Class
7 Dec 2003 LP132 JUL-AQP-LIM, Economy Class
9 Dec 2003 TA026 LIM-GYE, Economy Class
10 Dec 2003 EQ190 GYE-GPS, Economy Class
14 Dec 2003 EQ191 GPS-GYE-UIO, Economy Class
14 Dec 2003 TA028 UIO-LIM, Economy Class
16 Dec 2003 LA531 LIM-SCL, Clase Ejecutiva
16 Dec 2003 LA445 SCL-EZE, Clase Ejecutiva
17 Dec 2003 MH202 EZE-CPT-JNB, Golden Club Class
19 Dec 2003 MH204 JNB-KUL, First Class
MALAYSIA AIRLINES MH094
29 November 2003 1515 hrs . 4 hr 20 min . 11 hr 40 min
Kuala Lumpur – Taipei – Los Angeles
B747-400 9M-MPP 'Putrajaya'
Golden Club Class
Photo © Ian Kirby
I left home and headed to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Upon arrival waited around a bit for my friends to show up. When they did, went ahead for check in at the Golden Club Class counter. The staff was polite, however, she did have a problem understanding whether it was possible to check our luggage through to Lima. In the end, she said yes, but we would have to claim it first, then place it back on the belt. Got my assigned seat 7A.
Proceeded to immigration which took just a second, thanks to the not so many international flights departing at this hour and the new smart chip passport. Headed to the Golden Lounge in the Satellite Terminal. Had some refreshments while looking out at the rather empty KUL. 9M-MPO and another 744 (forgot the reg) were in idle. Watched a few MH and also an EVA Air plane arrive. Also saw CX. Interesting a/c for that day was a Star Alliance Airbus A330, not sure who it belonged to though.
Boarding soon began and before they let us on, passports were checked to ensure all documents were in order. Done with that, boarded the 744 Putrajaya through gate C27. Made my way upstairs and settled down in 6A, I exchanged with my father. Drinks were offered and I chose the orange juice. The FA came around taking drink orders, and we were addressed by name. I took a coke. Announcements were made and we were ready to go. Then the captain came on the PA. He said that there was a mechanical failure with the aerobridge and once the problem is rectified we will depart.
One hour later and the aerobridge finally retracted and we made a quick taxi to the runway (32R IIRC) for take off. Take off was smooth and uneventful. I switched to the two empty seats across the aisle in 6H with my friend coming down from 11A to sit in 6K. Soon the meal service began. FA Aida laid the table linen as she looked at me and said "eh, dah tukar?" (you have changed). I don’t remember the whole menu, so I'll list what I had (which i conveniently don’t remember much as well). First was the famous satay dish. For appetizers some shrimp and the main course was prawn. Desert was ice cream. A Haagen Daaz, which was rock-hard, I might add. I don’t remember the other choices. Service was carried out fast and efficiently.
After the meal service, I started playing with the IFE, which was equipped with AVOD. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean and some other shorts like comedies and cartoons. I didn't enjoy this leg too much because of my friend farting away the entire flight.
Descent into TPE began and touched down more or less on time. Transit time is one hour. Took our transit passes and cleared security. Spent this time sitting down in front of some Duty-Free shop, while the mother's went duty free shopping. We boarded again through the priority gate. This time the aerobridge worked. Took my seat and waited for pushback. The ground crew did that line-up and wave thing, first time i saw that, very interesting.
Took off for the 11 hour Pacific hop to SA - California">LAX. Dinner service was carried out soon after take off, again, i do not remember the menu, but i had the pasta, which was quite delicious. After the service lights were switched off and the cabin was plunged in darkness. I hardly sleep during flights, so thank god I had the IFE to pass the time. Watched quite a few movies, including Sinbad, The Hulk, The Santa Clause 2, Tomb Raider 2 (crap). Played around on the games too, spent at least a few hours on Super Mario. I used to be very good at that game, but after so many years of not playing it, I finally realized that I suck at it now
Played solitaire and then my IFE suddenly reset to the menu. To my dismay, the handset would not work anymore. One of the FAs came by and told me to just use the touch screen instead of the controller. So no more games for me .I decided to watch a movie instead, so I wouldn’t need to use the controller. I picked Tomb Raider 2, which was a disaster, as it sucked bad and i couldn’t stop it nor change the channel without the controller. Gaa~
After the longest and most painful 2 hours of my life I would never get back, it finally finished and I switched to the airshow. Tried to get some sleep but couldn’t. Passed the time by reading. Later, arrival forms were handed out and the FA told me if I had any problems filling out my form, she said I could call her and she would help me. She also handed me a pen to fill it out.
Soon we started our descent into SA - California">LAX. Landing was on time, taxied to the gate, shutdown engines and we were towed in.
The checking out was a nightmare. The immigration officer pulled us over and sent us for an interview. Waited for at least an hour while the officers walked in and out, chatting and yapping. Soon (about an hour to be precise) our names were called. The officer asked why we were carrying so many passports. There were 5 between the 3 of us (my family) and we explained that 2 of the visas were in the old passports. The officer said ok and then tapped on the computer for about 15 mins. She then said she had no idea why we were pulled over. She told us to hold on and scurried off somewhere. She returned about an hour later and told us that she still couldn’t figure out why and just told us to refill our forms and we were on our way. When we asked an MH cabin crew who was nearby, he said that any visa issued after Sept 11 will be picked out. My friend, who saw an immigration officer wearing green rubber gloves, could not help but think of prostate exams
Then the luggage. They were all checked through to Lima. But one of the officers said we could not leave the luggage on the belt and told us to bring it to the left luggage on the 3rd floor (Departures). Went up to the 3rd floor and the officer up there sent us back down and told is the left luggage was downstairs. Went back down and asked the information about it. He said we could not leave our luggage in the airport so we had to bring it with us to the hotel.
Waited for ages for the transfer and by the time we reached the hotel it was 8 (after 1645 arrival). Ate dinner and slept.
LAN CHILE LA601
30 November 2003 1225 hrs . 7 hr 40 min
Los Angeles International Airport – Jorge Chavez Callao International Airport
Photo © Manas Barooah
Arrived at the airport around 9 which was a zoo, thanks to the thousands of Koreans lining up at the doors. Entered the building to find that they were lining up for nothing, just standing there doing nothing. Proceeded to LAN Chile Clase Ejecutiva Check In where a SA / RCSS), Taiwan">TSA Agent asked if we were flying Business Class. I think he didn’t believe us when we said 'yes', he must have asked 4 or 5 times. Our bags taken, scanned and locked by the SA / RCSS), Taiwan">TSA agents, we weren't allowed to touch it already. Check in was done by the very efficient and cheerful Marcelo. He gave us our boarding passes, the lounge invitations, with a map pasted on the back, Priority passes explained everything we needed to know and more and we were on our way. I was assigned seat 9C.
Went through security. Thank god for the priority passes, the line for security was looooooooooong!! We breezed through it all and were done in no time. No body checks, taking of shoes or prostate exams (jk) for me, went through without incident. My friends however is a different story. They checked in separately from us and did not get their priority passes. They went back to the LAN Chile check in counters to get them. Then one of them was stopped even without setting off the alarm. She was quite furious. Antoher friend of mine was told to take off his jacket. He then lifted it up to reveal his stomach. The officer looked embarrassed and said "ermm... Okay, go, GO!". While all this was happening the poor FAs of some airline (don’t know which) were all stopped and they had to remove almost everything (not their uniforms of course) . I felt sorry for them they were put through such hassles and after that they have to work round the clock on long haul.
Anyway, went to the Qantas OneWorld lounge, located upstairs. I noticed the lounges weren't as fancy as those you find elsewhere. Had some Coke and juice, Most of the time i was looking out the window at passing planes. Saw a small prop, Korean 777, ATA 757, American 757 taxi past and plenty of take offs. At 11.40 – 12 boarding was called just as QF 744 was being towed past. Darn. Boarded a bus to one of the mini terminals. Saw many interesting aircraft, highlights were the QF 744 Wunala Dreaming and China Eastern A346. Stopped outside the mini terminal and CC-CQC greeted us.
Took my seat in 9A. I was impressed at the amount of legroom. I couldn’t reach the pocket in front without unfastening my seatbelt . Also, the FAs are SA - Arkansas">HOT HOT SA - Arkansas">HOT!! Sitting at the second section of J is not as nice as the first because of the traffic. Anyway, pre departure drinks were served. I had a coke. Shortly after, we started LONG taxi to runway and took a good 30mins to reach it. Took off and flew south towards Lima. The aircraft was quiet, I could actually hear my friends talking across the aisles at some points in time... Although the engines do sound kinda like a motor boat.
First meal service. The FAs came around laying the table linen and serving the food. Started off with some nuts. Very nice. Then came the salad, which was pretty much the usual stuff. They actually came around with different dressings for them. For the main course I had some kind of pasta, which was not very nice, not as nice as the one on MAS the day before. Desert was some fruits and something else which I don’t really remember. Service was friendly and efficient. Excellent.
Next on the list of things to do: Watch IFE. They have excellent IFE with AVOD. I watched Legally Blonde 2, Hollywood Homicide and Italian Job. Their Audio selection is also good, I listened to Evanescence and I don’t remember what else. Their airshow however, isn’t as informative as that on MH but was still good to follow the flight progress. We flew down along Central America and was interesting to see both the coastlines, so we could see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Flew over the Galapagos Islands and along the coast until descent to Lima.
About 1 and a half hours out of Lima snacks were served, but I passed. The FAs didn’t come out with the trolleys, they asked the pax if they would like to have the snack and if they said yes, they would prepare it in the galley and bring it out. I don’t know what the snack was.
Seatbelt sign switched on and i pulled open the window shutter. The engines were brightly lit. Quite nice. Too bad my camera was in the overhead bin. I was lazy to bring it down.
The lights of Lima city came into view. Slowly we descended and smooth touchdown on the runway and taxied to the terminal. Interesting to see that an international airport such as Lima does not have aerobridges. Anyway, deplaned and cleared immigration quickly. The arrivals hall was a mess with what seemed like the whole of Lima cramped into the shabby looking terminal waiting to pick up relatives, friends, sell stuff or just watching, i do not know, but probably the last one is it.
LAN PERU LP131
3 December 2003 0940 hrs . 1 hr
Lima - Cuzco
Photo © Sam Chui
Tried to beat the early morning rush hour to LIM, but it didn’t work . Arrived and checked in for our flight to Cusco or Cuzco as it is more popularly known. Had over an hour to go before boarding and the domestic terminal in Lima is boring. Visited the duty free shops, but nothing much of interest there. Tried to see some of the planes, but got chased away by security.
After what seemed like ages, our flight was called. We boarded a bus to take us a short distance to our plane, which was just around the corner. I took my seat in 2A. Took off and I immediately noticed the steep climb angle of the A320s.
At flight level short film "Just for Laughs" were shown on the overhead monitors with the sound over the PA. Food was served, comprised of a salami sandwich, biscuit, and an Inca Kola (Which really isn’t cola, but nice anyway). Beautiful views of the Andes.
Descent to Cuzco was interesting. Flew past the airport and made a left 180 degree turn to line up and touch down. Taxied to the gate and I noticed the beautiful backdrop of the mountains and aerobridges .
LAN PERU LP131
6 December 2003 1245 hrs . 35 min . 25 min
Cuzco – Arequipa – Juliaca
Photo © Sam Chui
Check in was done swift and painlessly. We were feeling rather tired and lightheaded, the night before we had just returned from Machu Picchu and the altitude was starting to get to us. Our flight today will take us to Juliaca (which is higher than Cuzco **groan**) via Arequipa.
We headed for the departure hall, which was a mistake, it was hot and not air conditioned. With still over an hour to departure we felt horrible. The plane was due to depart from gate 2. We sat there waiting, as the plane had not arrived yet.
Close to the boarding time, a lady from AeroContinente turned up at gate 2 and moved the LanPeru signs out of the way. The first reaction of my father was that the flight was cancelled. An AeroContinente 732 pulled up at gate 2. We were all confused for a moment. But soon, 2 LanPeru agents came and carried the signs to another gate. It was at the other end of the terminal. Okay, so its not THAT far, but its hot, and the altitude is killing us. 100m seemed like 1 mile.
The plane arrived and we counted about 53 passengers deboarding. The flight was 100% full. Boarding was not done in an orderly fashion and the boarding call was met with the typical rush of human bodies trying to cramp into the single door to the aerobridge.
Greeted by two ABSOLUTELY STUNNING flight attendants. Took my seat in SA)">5A. Sweets were handed out by the lovely Puquita. Beautiful views after take off from CUZ. The mountains near Arequipa including the 3 volcanoes provided a stunning albeit scary view as some of the mountains seemed to reach the same altitude as the plane. As beautiful as the FAs .
This was one of the scariest descents I have ever experienced. We overflew Arequipa Intl in the same fashion as that in Cuzco and approach was similar, but still very when we passed over the airport we were high! The descent was as steep as the take off. Air brakes all the way. Hard left turn, steep and fast as we approached and hit the runway with a big bump. The scream of the reversers filled the rattling cabin as we slowed.
My heart was pounding. Welcome to Arequipa. Transit time is 30 minutes. We continued our journey to Juliaca, about 40% full. Puquita handed out sweets again before departure. Nice views again of the mountains, and upon descent, the lakes around JUL. Touch down was smooth and not as scary as that in Arequipa. Taxied and deplaned. Altitude killing me. Argh!
LAN PERU LP132
7 December 2003 1340 hrs . 25 min . 1 hr
Juliaca – Lima
Photo © Miguel Cano Alva
The check in for this flight was smooth if it was not for Mr DP who we felt treated us unfairly. We checked in with another agent (dunno his name) and got our boarding passes. I was assigned 2A. It was done swiftly, since we had no luggage to check-in. Then Mr DP came and insisted we weigh all our bags, including backpacks. We did so and he insisted we check in 3 pieces of luggage. We were confused because for the past 2 flights we had been carrying them on with no problem but agreed.
Later other passengers filled the terminal. They checked in and Mr DP did not even ask them to weigh their luggage even though they were clearly bigger and heavier than ours (hikers backpacks, yada yada).
We felt it was unfair, but there was nothing we could do, and we were to tired to do it too, what with the altitude and all... Can't wait to get back to Lima!
Entered the departure hall at 1300+. I forgot to take out my metal buckle belt when I walked through the metal detector, so it sounded and one officer started ranting in Spanish. I couldn't understand. I just lifted my T-shirt and shes saw the belt and said SA Czech Airlines">OK. A group called Inkamaru, who played traditional music, greeted us inside. I purchased their CD, which was priced at USD10. The departure hall was packed with people.
Boarding was finally called, again, in no order. The usual rush of bodies piled the doorway and mobile stairs. There was a big traffic jam in the aisle due to stupid passengers who have row number 1 or 2 or 3 but board through the back mobile stairs. Sheesh.
Took my seat and tried to calm down. We took off to some beautiful views again. We overflew one of the three volcanoes near Arequipa. It was beautiful. Descended in to Arequipa, more usual approach, not as scary as the day before. Landed on time and transit for 30 mins before departing to Lima.
Meal service consisted of more or less the same sandwich and cake, again with inca kola. It was good. Finally started our descent into Lima and touched down. Short bus ride to the "temporary domestic terminal" and collect our bags. They came out last. Grrrr..
9 December 2003 0930 hrs . 1 hr 30 min
Lima – Guayaquil
A319-100 D-SA - Arizona">AVW?
Photo © Stefan Welsch
TACA has got to take the cake for absolute WORST check in of any airline! We arrived at LIM to start off our second sub-trip to Galapagos. We were given a choice of AeroContinente, TACA and Aeropostal, IIRC, and we made a big mistake choosing TACA. Tickets and passports were in order, but when handed over to the check in agent, he could not retrieve our names. He went to get the supervisor who also could do nothing. They didn't know what they were doing. After 45 minutes of waiting our boarding passes were issued – All the 7 of us got middle seats. One aisle, No windows. I was assigned 9B, exit row.
Boarding again, not done in order. We boarded a bus for a short journey to the plane which was packed. There was a woman who blocked the aisle because she had gotten a window, and someone was already sitting in the middle. She made the poor passenger come all the way out into the aisle so she could get to her seat. Not only that, after the passenger came out, she started to put her bag into the overhead bin. It must have taken her five minutes to do so. She then stood there, not moving laughing and talking to her friend in the front row. Finally she moved into her seat and the other passenger too. The line got moving and I gave up my exit row to my father and I took his seat in 10B. To my dismay, there were 2 large men in the window and aisle spilling over into my seat. This is going to be a long flight.
Flight time: 2 and a half hours. Take off was smooth, and soon headsets were distributed. I passed. They showed something on the overhead monitors that I couldn’t care less about. Meal service consisted of a sandwich (ham?), a cookie, a bag of chips and a coke for me. The meal was ok. After the meal I reclined the seat (Good recline!!) and tried to sleep. I managed to get a quick nap before i was awakened by the whirring sound of the overhead TVs. Seatbelt sign on, we will be landing shortly. THANK GOD! Smooth descent, couldn't see anything the giant beside me filled up the entire window. Touch down at a heavily under construction airport. Took a bus to the arrival hall, which looked nice, new and clean. Cleared immigration and transferred to hotel.
9 December 2003 0915 hrs . 1 hr 30 min
Guayaquil – Baltra
A320-200 HC-CDZ 'Ciudad de Guayaquil'
Photo © R.Hesse
Today we would see just how much of the airport is under construction. Arrived at the airport and walked through wooden boards and planks to the check in counters, which was semi-open, and shielded from the airside with those construction type cloth thingies (what do you call them?). We could hear aircraft taxi just as if we were standing outside.
Anyway, check in was done for us by our guide in the dimly lit check in area. Our check in luggage has to go through a special inspection by the National Park authorities of Galapagos. All said and done, we got our boarding passes; I was assigned 12B, Exit row. Made our way to the departure hall. Workers in hard hats all over the place, wiring, planks, scaffolds, and plenty of dust. Boarding for all flights were done through a single gate. 2 planes stood outside, a 727 and an A320. The 727 bound for Quito boarded first. We then boarded the A320 HC-CDZ and took my seat.
We departed before the 727 (those who board last go first ). Take off from the gloomy Guayaquil to the sunny flight level. Flight time: 1 hour 30 mins. Meal service started soon after take off. The basic meal of chicken sandwich, some fruits and something else which I do not remember was served. It was a huge sandwich but I finished it all. It was good.
The uneventful cruise soon turned into a stunning descent as the crystal clear waters of the Pacific greeted us as we touched down on a somewhat barren Baltra Island, a former USAF SA - New York">AFB. Nice hut they call an airport . Cleared immigration and paid the entrance fee of USD100. Transfer to our cruise ship and began our cruise through paradise.
14 December 2003 1045 hrs . 1 hr 30 min
Baltra – Guayaquil – Quito
A320-200 HC-CDZ 'Ciudad de Guayaquil'
Photo © R.Hesse
Check-In formalities was done for us by the crew of our magnificent ship, the M/V Ambasador (which I recommend) prior to our arrival at the airport. Upon arrival all hand luggage was searched by the NP authorities (don't want anybody smuggling out wildlife, yah?). Waited around, did some shopping at the nearby stalls before our boarding passes were issued. I got 15A for the 1 stopper to Quito.
Proceeded to departure hall, which was open air and a small table with free drinks (pour your own). I had a sprite. Waited for the plane to arrive, camera in hand. Suddenly heard some shouts and a few officers rushed to one side of the terminal, out of view. A few moments later, her emerged with a huge land iguana in hand. He carried it out of the area. Shortly after that the plane arrived and made a smooth touch down on the runway. Excellent view. Took a long time to taxi to the gate.
Boarding was done under the watchful eyes of an Ecuadorian soldier. They boarded by rows (not bad) and they were very strict about it (they should!) They started boarding with the middle section, rows 10-15. I boarded and got comfortable in my seat for the 1:30hr hop to Guayaquil. Doors closed, and we were on our way. Flight was ok, food was terrible. They served some chicken thing... just... yuck. Short uneventful flight and touch down in Guayaquil.
Transit passengers were requested to remain on board. I looked out the window and taxiing past was LanChile B767-300 CC-CEK. It parked next to an AA757 N622AA. Not many other aircraft in the area except those old and stripped ones.
Passengers proceeded to board and we were soon ready to continue on to Quito. Taxied to the end of the runway and took off with a really steep climb angle. Because of the flat land the steepness angle was really obvious. A short flight without much to say. FAs were not to be seen except for when they brought sweets shortly before landing. Beautiful scenery on approach to Quito, where the sun shone just on our aircraft. Vapour started forming on the wing and the sunlight produced a nice rainbowish colour. Touch down in Quito, which is also under construction.
14 December 2003 1700 hrs . 1 hr 30 min
Quito – Lima
Photo © Manas Barooah
Exited the new looking domestic terminal and entered the unfinished and under construction international terminal where again we faced a long TACA check in. I don’t know what was the reason this time but again it took ages. Boarding passes were finally issued and I got seat 23A. Proceeded immediately through immigration, where my friend got questioned thoroughly as the first page of his passport was peeling.
Sat in the departure lounge chit chatting and people watching until boarding was called, again done by rows, which is a good thing. Again, I could board first, as they called rows 21-26. Settled down and waited for all the passengers to get in as the sun begin to set.
Take off just like the past 8 flights, Normal. FAs came around distributing headsets. I took one and was surprised to see the earpieces were rather small. Used them anyway, and they aren’t good. Didn't bother with the video on the overhead monitors, I browsed their music selection – which also wasn't good.
Halfway into the 2 hour flight, dinner was served comprising of the usual TACA fare: Sandwich, a cookie and a bag of chips. I had a coke for drinks. The sandwich was ok, I didn’t complain, I was hungry, after not eating since breakfast because of the crap they served us on TAME.
Trays were cleared and I looked out the window to see the sun set. The sun was on the other side of the aircraft, and cast a nice orangish-reddish colour on the clouds below. Soon darkness fell and we descended into Lima. Smooth touchdown and taxied to the terminal where a bus brought us for something like a 100m distance to the terminal building. Cleared immigration and was greeted by the whole of Lima – again. Don't these people have anything better to do?
LAN CHILE LA531
16 December 2003 0715 hrs . 2 hr 50 min
Lima – Santiago
Photo © Art Brett
Woke up at four and got ready to go to the airport. Arrived to find the entrance crowded with people. A security guard stood there checking passports and tickets. Only those travelling were allowed to enter, thus the large crowd outside.
Checking in was easy, we got our boarding passes and lounge invites and we proceeded to the immigration. We got through fast, since we had a guy with the Malaysian Embassy to see us off. Got through security and went to the lounge. We were the only ones there. I checked my boarding pass – 8J. All of us were in the aisles this time around.
Had a coffee before they called our flight for boarding, through the preferred passengers boarding line. Sat down in 8J and noticed that some of the other passengers were sprawled out among the other seats sleeping. One of them was in one of our seats, 8D. A tall FA who reminded me of Billy Zane (bald), walked up and asked the man to move. He made a fuss, but moved.
Safety demos showed on the screens, it was the umpteenth thousandth time I've seen it and it was getting old and irritating. Took off and turned southbound to SCL. Meal service started once in the air, with breakfast consisting of Fresh fruits, Cereal or something else, and Omellette or some sandwich. I took the cereal and that's all I had. The FA on our aisle (Billy Zane) was rather slow. By the time he reached me, the opposite aisle had finished.
Trays were cleared, and out came my PTV. It was smaller that the ones in the A340. No AVOD. My flight was not particularly enjoyable, no thanks to the big woman sitting in 8K who insists on getting up every 5 minutes to open the overhead bin and take down her bag. Even when buying duty free she had to stand in front of me, instead of her own seat. She even stood in the aisles blocking the galley passageway thus blocking one of the lavatories.
However, between the constant irritancy of the woman, I watched Legally Blonde 2 on the main screen and a browsed through the channels on the PTV after that. Then we started descent into Santiago. Beautiful view of the Andes on the left hand side of the aircraft. Steadily descended and touched down in Santiago. Mostly 737s and A320s were parked at the terminal, but a few stood out, such as an AF777 and IB342. Deplaned and headed for the lounge.
LAN CHILE LA445
16 December 2003 1520 hrs . 2 hr
Santiago – Buenos Aires
Photo © Alejandro Ruiz Yañez
Started in the marvellous LAN Chile lounge in Santiago. Very big and spacious, with plenty of food and drinks and internet access. I spent most of the time on the internet, catching up with my beloved friends on SA - Wisconsin">MSN Messenger (or friends on my beloved SA - Wisconsin">MSN Messenger ). Had a quick drink and snack before we left the lounge to board the flight. Went through the priority boarding and took my seat in 7K.
Boarding was done quickly, and we waited for the luggage to be finished loaded. The cargo door was just outside my window. Saw an AF 777 taxi out for departure (headed for BA too?) Pre departure drinks were given including some nuts. Soon, the safety video, which we have come to hate was played as we taxied to the runway. Took off and immediately got a beautiful view of the Andes. Took a quick picture before the meal service started.
The meal started off in the usual way with tablecloths being laid. One thing which was different was that the entire course (appetizer, main and desert) were all served at once. I had some beef with potatoes thing which was delicious.
After the lunch I took out the PTV and it was more or less the same as the flight before. I tried to watch Hollywood Homicide (again) but before I could finish we started descent into Buenos Aires. Landed on time and started taxi to the terminal. Saw an LH346 taxi for take off. Parked next to an AF777 (the one from Santiago?), so the immigration lines were pretty long. Cleared immigration and tried looking for the left luggage counter. We spent about 1 hour looking for it before we noticed it was right under our noses all the time. Took a cab to the city.
MALAYSIA AIRLINES MH202
17 November 2003 20:45 hrs . 6 hr 40 min . 1 hr 30 min
Buenos Aires – Cape Town – Johannesburg
747-400 9M-MPK 'Johor Bahru'
Photo © David James Clelford
Left the hotel early at 16.30 – 17.00 for fear of arriving late as we had a long grive yesterday (probably due to traffic). We arrived earlier than expected, though and collected our luggage from the lockers. The check in counters were still closed so we did some last minute shopping at the airport. I bought a few souvenirs for friends.
The check-in counters opened and we proceeded with the formalities. Check-in was done by a friendly Swiss Airlines agent. We had prebooked seats 11H, 11K and 7K. My friend did not pre book his seats but asked the agent if he could get 7H. He said someone had already taken 7H, but said he would try and change it. He put my friend in 6A and told us he would inform us, if any changes, at the gate. My other friend was disappointed he did not get his favourite seat, 17C, as the main deck GCCL cabin was closed, due to lack of passengers. He was put in 6C. The agent handed out our boarding passes and explained that the lounge was the American Express lounge located near to gate 2. We thanked him, and as we were about to leave the desk, there was an idiot standing only a few centimetres behind me looking over my shoulder. The line was so empty and of all the places to stand, the swine decides to stand behind me and see what we are doing.
My friend was very angry at the 'KPC' but was soon forgotten as we paid our taxes and headed for immigration. It was done swiftly and we proceeded to the AmEx lounge. At first we couldn't find it and we asked around and a nice young lady showed it to us. It was in some discreet location near gate 2. We entered and it was really small. Not much food or drinks there either, so we all had a quick drink and went off duty free shopping. Tempted to buy the famous Argentinean beef, which came packed in an icebox good for 24 hours, but alas, it won't survive the long trip back to KUL (plus we were going to overnight in JNB). My friend and I followed our moms as they looked at the cosmetic products and then the liquors. My friend bought a box of chocolates.
After the shopping, we proceeded to the gate, where we saw B744 'Johor Bharu' stand before us with a setting sun to the rear. It would've made a nice photograph, but the double glass windows meant it was impossible to get one . We spent the last few Argentinean Pesos we had left on candy and entered the waiting area. Waited around a bit before boarding was called. Passengers with aid and families with children were allowed to board first. Then First and Golden Club Class passengers along with passengers in the last rows were allowed to board. Again, there just has to be an idiot who tries to slip past but the Spanish man in MH uniform stopped him. Even when he was almost in the aerobridge, he was not allowed to pass.
Went down the long passageway and was greeted by a Mexican FA (had the Mexican flag above her name tag). Went to the upper deck where Ms Jennifer showed me to my seat. The GCCL cabin was rather empty, with what I would guess is roughly 50% full for the 6 hour+ flight to CPT. Newspapers and magazines were handed out, along with the menus and pre departure drinks. The Swiss agent came on board, looked at my friend, and said "Would you still like to change your seat, sir?" He said yes and he sat beside me. In front of us was a woman with a baby (the rest of the family was in economy).
We pushed back and took of on schedule. As we climbed I saw a beautiful sunset, the sun was already down and all you could see was the glow and the city lights down below. Not long after take off, headsets were handed out and I tuned into Freaky Friday. No AVOD on this flight.
Dinner service came next. Jess came around and laid out the table linen and cutleries. The menu was as follows:
MH202 Buenos Aires to Cape Town – Dinner
SA - Arkansas">HOT SAVOURIES
Spicy beef balls, chicken fritters and vegetable pizza
Smoked trout fillet with assorted salad and lime mayonnaise
GRILLED FILLET OF BEEF
Served in beautifully prepared Pizzaiola sauce
COD FISH CAJUN STYLE
Blackened cod fish topped with a flavoursome Cajun cream sauce
NOISETTES OF LAMB
Enhanced with a Peanut Sauce
VEGETABLES SA - South Carolina">AND ACCOMPANIMENTS
Stir-fried egg plant, red capsicum and onion
Honey glazed green beans and carrots
Roast potatoes with herbs
Seasonal fresh fruits and cheese
Jennifer came around with the hot savouries on a tray. She asked which we would like, or would we like one of each. I took one of each, my friend substituted the vegetable pizza for another chicken. She smiled and said he could still have the pizza if he wanted, but he declined. When she came around for a second time, he asked her for more beef balls. They were good.
Next the trays were given out with the appetizers. I had a bit of mine, but not all. They were collected and then the main course was served. I took the lamb which was delightful. Before eating I took a quick picture for Airlinemeals.net . Went on to desert and then trays were cleared. The (what I think is) the husband of the lady in front with the baby came up and sat down for a while. Later, the FA came and told him he'd have to go back to economy, but he wouldn’t budge. The inflight supervisor came and told him to move and he was 'No, no, wait, wait!'. But in the end he did move back.
The idiot who pissed us all off during check in was seated on the opposite side of the cabin, one row behind. As I got up to go to the toilet, he got up and went too. He took the outer lavatory, and as I walked past it, I noticed he hadn't locked the door. Tempted as I was to push it open, I didn't and took the stall beside it. However Jennifer did push it open lol. I missed it all though . I didn’t sleep again, I watched the PTV including Friends, some cartoons and also played chess with my friend who I crushed . The rest of the night was peaceful except for hear and there when the baby would start crying.
Lights on, 2 and a half hours out of Cape Town and breakfast was served. The menu:
MH202 Buenos Aires to Cape Town – Continental Breakfast
Fresh fruit juices
Seasonal fresh fruits
Served with fresh or low fat milk
Jam, Marmalade or Honey
A pretty simple breakfast. Jennifer and Jess came around with the meals. I had an orange juice, corn flakes, a croissant and coffee. The coffee was good and the croissant too. Not much comment here considering it was such a simple meal.
Soon, the captain came on the PA and we started our descent into CPT. The lady in front, who had changed her baby's diaper in the cabin (yes, the cabin) dumped the used diaper on the floor, and as Jennifer came to stow the bassinet, the poor girl had to pick it up. She basically cleaned all the rubbish that this lady had thrown around.
The idiot switched seats to the one behind me for the landing. He knocked our seats while getting into it and kicked my seat a few times as well. Moron. Final approach and a beautiful morning view of Cape Town and the trademark of CPT – Table Mountain came into view. Smooth touchdown earlier than schedule. Transit time was about 2 hours as we arrived early. Taxied to the gate next to BA G-BNLA 'Dreamflight'. KLM 772 PH-BQA 'Albert Pelsman' taxied in later. Also saw SA744 ZS-SA - Georgia">SAV 'Durban' touchdown. We were given a choice to deplane or remain on board. I chose the latter.
The crew packed up and got ready to leave. They could not leave until the fresh crew had boarded the aircraft. So, we chatted to James Bong (Not Bond ) and Jennifer, as Tai and Jess went downstairs. We had an interesting conversation about our trip in South America and all. Later the cleaners came onboard. James B and Jennifer got us some drinks while we waited. When the cleaners left, I took a picture of the cabin. James B saw me doing this and asked if I would like some pictures of the cockpit. I said I would love that. He told me to hold on, as the captain has went downstairs.
So, we talked some more until FO Patrick came out of the flight deck. James B asked if it was possible we visit the cockpit and the FO said yes. Took a couple of pictures and had a nice chat with Patrick about the new security regulations regarding cockpit visits,the LCDs, Airliners.net and other stuff.
Later the fresh crew came aboard and Patrick needed to go downstairs, and apologised to us for cutting the visit short. We said it was ok. The new crew greeted us and asked if we liked a drink. I asked for a coke, and she brought it along with a tray of peanuts. I took one packet and she smiled and said, "Don't be shy, take some more." I took one more. She said "Is that all?" I smiled and said, "Yes, thank you".
The other passengers boarded the flight, and it was still quite empty. The lady in front with the baby brought another friend (from Economy, presumably) to the upper deck. She came, with bags and all, happily sat down and started reading the papers. I didn’t think much of it, but then the FA came and said she had to go back to Economy. She said ok, but didn’t move. The FA came back later and this time she went back. Pre departure drinks were served. Wow, I had so many drinks during pushback I needed the lav badly, but couldn't go until after take off.
After climbing for what seemed like ages, the seatbelt sign pinged off and I immediately got up and headed for the lav. After that, I returned to my seat and let out a sigh of relief. A quick meal for the short flight, we had a choice of hot savouries – Cheese and Phyllo Pastry, Mini Chicken Quiche and Grilled Prawns with Lemon Chilli Sauce. I took one of each. I passed the second round.
The rest of the flight was pretty much uneventful, I didn’t take out my PTV this time. Not long after we started descent into Johannesburg. The seatbelt signs pinged on but there was no announcement. A few minutes before landing, they made the announcement quickly. The FA came to stow the bassinet but did not collect our glasses for the landing.
We touched down with the glasses and all still out. Taxied to our gate next to an EK332 and also ZS-SAJ, the special liveried SAA 743. Also, my friend saw Virgin's A346, I was a bit disappointed that I missed it.
Proceeded to immigration which was done painfully slow before collecting our bags and heading for the Hertz Rent a Car counters and headed off to the hotel.
MALAYSIA AIRLINES MH204
19 November 2003 1410 hrs . 9 hr 30 min
Johannesburg – Kuala Lumpur
747-400 9M-MPE 'Kangar'
Photo © David Morrell - Avid Creations
An overnight in JNB and we reached the final leg of our RTW journey, the trip home. We did some shopping by the roadsides in Jo Burg before heading to the airport. We returned our rented car and headed to the departures level of the terminal. Checked in at the Golden Club Class counter where the SAA agent behind the desk asked if we had prebooked our seats. We had, in 6A, 6C and 7A. He then proceeded to tap in his computer until an African lady in an MH uniform came up. She looked at his screen then up at us and smiled, "You've been upgraded to First Class". At first I couldn't believe it. Then he took out three boarding passes with the big letter F. I was very happy. We were assigned seats 4A, 4C and 4H, behind doors 1. My friends who checked in separately did not get the upgrade. They asked for one, as since their parents were already in First, they would be the only two in GCCL. The man said, "very full". Nevermind. As we proceeded to immigration, we bumped into Patrick, and a few other FAs who served us on the flight the day before.
We headed back to the departure hall and proceeded to the SAA Baobab Lounge. Very big, very nice! They poured the drinks for you, I asked for a coke, which came in cute little cans exactly the size of the regular ones, only half as tall. Grabbed to packets of Lays chips, Sour cream and onion and Lightly salted. Sat down and enjoyed while my friend tapped away on the lounge computer. Lazed around in the lounge a bit then went for a quick whiz in the restrooms before going back upstairs for boarding. Our flight had changed departure gates from gate 4 to 5. We proceeded to gate 5 to discover boarding had already begun, and there was no priority lane for premium pax. We stood in line just like any other.
At the gate, my two friends got upgraded as well, so we were all in First. Hooray! We headed down the single aerobridge through door 1, and as my seat was right behind it, traffic was a major problem. I stood by row 3 and waited for all the pax to board. The FA brought me a drink while I waited. After boarding was completed, I took my seat in 4A. The seats were nice, large, with great recline and footrests. Howeer I found the Golden Club Class seats to be more comfortable. If they made the GCCL seats as wide, with the recline and legrests of the F class seat, I'll be in heaven. Doors were shut. The F class cabin was 100% full, 5 of us were upgraded, and most of the others were mothers travelling with children and the captains children. My guess is they are the crew's families, which got me wondering how many pax actually pay the full F class fare. GCCL was also full. Then the captain came on the PA saying that we are ready to go, but the drivers of the tow truck who were supposed to push back our aircraft were on strike. He said he doesn't know how long the delay would be and that he would keep us updated. More drinks were served as we waited and menus were handed out. Two menus, longer than the GCCL ones with some fruit on it (forgot what, maybe nangka or durian or something, but it was green). Also the beverages menu. Drink orders for lunch was taken.
Watched as SQ 777 departed before us. We then pushed back and taxied out to the runway. Taxied past Air Malawi 733, Nationwide 763, Kulula MD-82, MK340, SA342 and more. Taxiing next to us was an EK332, probably caught up by the strike as well. The EK 332 took off first as we waited for clearance. A 737 of SA touched down before we taxied on to the runway and lept into the sky and began the 9hr 30min flight. While climbing, we had a chat with leading steward Patrick Gomez and Johari, who also served us in GCCL the day before on MH202.
The FAs came around with headsets. I watch Freaky Friday (again). I seem to enjoy that movie a lot… (perhaps something to do with Lindsay Lohan ). Lunch service started off first, with MAS signature dish, the Malaysian Satay. The FA (She provided great service as well, but I forgot her name, I know it starts with an I) asked if I would like the chicken, beef or both, always addressing us by name. I asked for just the chicken. Absolutely delightful after more than three weeks, finally some traditional Malaysian food . Next the FA came around with the bread selection and fruits. Not long after that, Johari came with the appetizers. We had a selection of soups as well as salad. A took the chicken cream soup (which is what it says on the menu, but it wasn't really cream). It was very nice nonetheless. Then came the main course. We had a choice of fish, chicken or lamb rack (not too sure, if I remember right). I chose the lamb rack with a spicy sauce. It was delicious, the best I had, although it was a bit too spicy. I skipped desert as I was already full up, although it looked good.
Trays were cleared except for a glass of water which they refilled throughout the flight. Hit some mild turbulence over Madagascar due to some typhoon or storm or something. But that was only for a short time. Soon the sun was setting and I managed to get a nice picture. Before we knew it, darkness fell and the cabin lights were dimmed. I continued watching various shows on my PTV including League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sinbad, and Johnny English, cartoons, comedies, and occasionally switching to the Airshow. I did not sleep again, I can never seem to do so on flights. The FAs came by at hourly or so intervals refilling water. I must've drank so much, I was a frequent visitor to the lavs .
About two and a half hours out of KUL, the lights were switched on and the cabin began to stir. Breakfast was served at 3am Malaysian Time, that’s early! Started off with a coffee, fruits and some toast followed by orange juice and corn flakes. Later, the main was offered, chicken, eggs or something else (I don’t recall). I had the scrambled eggs. A very tasty and simple breakfast and then trays were collected and cabin lights dimmed again.
Soon, the seatbelt sign came on and the flight was coming to an end . We descended over the coast (or at least I think) for touchdown on 32L on time at about 0618 hours. Taxied back to the gate past the Iran Air 744SP (which appears to always be there, a second home, perhaps?) and OS772 bound for SYD. Deplaned to an empty airport and cleared immigration in no time. Collected luggage and headed home. Saw the OS772 take off from a distance. Journey end. Hope you have enjoyed reading it and that I did not bore you.