May 17, 2004
1115 - 1415
Photo © M Radzi Desa
We left the house a little late at 0840, thankfully Jakarta congested roads seemed to cooperate today. With little congestion along the way, we managed to arrive in CGK around 0925. No other aircraft was visible in the D-gates except SIA Jubilee 773 on gate D1. Our driver pulled the car in front of Check-in Hall 2 T2D where MH check-in counters were located. My dad, who was going to PLM that very same day, bid us farewell and drove off to T2F. As we were already late (we were supposed to meet my mom’s friends at 0915), we quickly went in, passed the security check (which was empty) and found them waiting in front of MH counters.
One of my mom’s friends had already checked us all in, so we only needed to check our bags in. The check-in agent was friendly enough and donned the light green MAS kebaya. After our bags were checked-in, we paid the airport tax and the departure tax. There were six counters for Economy and one for Golden Club and they all seemed to be deserted, maybe it was still to early, CGK passengers are known to check-in at the last minute. The immigration hall was also very empty that morning, so we cleared it in less than a minute.
Then, it was time for my morning latte so I headed to Starbucks while the rest of the group went to the gate. CGK’s apron was indeed very empty that morning. After the SIA 773 departed, the whole D-gates were deserted, and only Garuda 737s were visible in the E and F gates. MH 711 from KUL, a A330-300, arrived around 1000 and to my surprise, parked at gate D6. Gate D7 was written on my boarding pass. I quickly called my mom to let her know of the gate change, sure enough she was still waiting in front of the still-closed D7. After finishing up my latte, I went to the smoking lounge, which was well hidden behind a duty free shop.
Made it to gate D6 by 1030 and found that it was rather full of passengers. Boarding, by rows, commenced at 1047. My seat was 19A, which was directly above the wing, definitely not my favorite place on a plane. Boarded through door 2L, (door 1L was not even opened). Stacks of newspapers, both Malaysians and Indonesian were available for passengers to take at the end of the jetway. I was greeted by Chief Purser Vellasamy, who showed me the direction of my seat. Along the way, Arma, a cheerful flight attendant greeted me. A male FA, Hisyam helped us with our carry-ons. Settled in quickly and noticed that the A333 had shown its age. The interior looked a bit dated, and the seat was the old-fashion one without the foldable headrests, but nonetheless the aircraft was clean and well-maintained. The 34” pitch was truly heavenly. Arma distributed the cold moist towelettes, a far cry from the thick SQ hot towels, Hisyam collected the towelletes back. One thing that I noted, MAS FAs looked more relaxed, cheerful, and outgoing than their counterparts at SQ. Their makeup were not overly done, yet they still look good and presentable.
The load today was really light, probably only about 50% of the seats were filled. Golden Club also looked very empty. We pushed back more or less on time around 1115. The push back was really long and we only stopped after hitting gate E3. We taxied to runway 25L, which was rather unusual. Along the way I spotted a Thai A300 HS-TAW parked on D5, Saudia B743 on D3, and SIA A345 LeaderShip on D2. After waiting for a Garuda 737 to land, we roared down 25L and after a take-off roll of 30 or so seconds we lifted up at 1128. The flight to KUL was going to be 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Being seated directly above the wing meant I was deprived of the action during take-off. We climbed up over Jakarta Bay before making a gradual turn back towards KUL. The service started not long after the seat belt sign pinged off. We were offered a glass of OJ before the meal service started. Second helpings were also offered. The seat had no PTV, which doesn’t really matter anyway on such a short flight, but the least they could do was showing the airshow on the main screen. Instead they screened some uninteresting comedy program, Just For Variety, and nothing else.
Not long after they cleared out the OJ, lunch was served. The choice was spicy beef with noodles and curry fish with steam rice. I chose the beef, which was good despite being rather hard to chew. The noodle was bland and tasteless, though. The meal tray also contained some appetizer of thinly sliced carrots which was horrible and a great cake for dessert. Hot buns were also offered. The service from Arma, Hisyam, Winnie Tang, and Nik Aliza who served my aisle were very friendly. Again, unlike the SQ girls and guys, they didn’t seem to rush with the service, but instead took time with each passenger. The FAs worked really hard too, making multiple drink rounds, and didn’t just disappear into the galleys after the service was finished.
The flight itself was uneventful apart from a few turbulence here and there. We flew westward over Western Java, crossed the Sunda Strait into Sumatra (where I got a great view of the Krakatoa volcano), flew over Palembang, Batam Island, Malacca Strait before approaching KLIA. The captain was also very chatty and came on the PA at least twice during the short flight.
Descent commenced around 1340 local time (KUL being 1 hour ahead of CGK). Chief Purser Vellasamy told us that Putrajaya was going to be visible on the left hand side before we touched down, but I never saw anything but oil palms plantations. Landing was on 14R at 1407, which provided me a nice aerial view of KLIA buildings. Taxi was slow and rather long, along the way, I saw 3 MH 737s lining up for departure on 14R and many other MH planes on the satellite pier, as well as various Air Asia 737s in the Contact Pier, a Saudia 743, a KLM 744, and a Gulf Air 767 in colorful livery. We docked at gate C25 at exactly 1415.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t find KLIA to be deserted. True, many of the gates were empty and most of the planes were MAS’ but there were many people inside the Satellite pier. This being my first time at KLIA, I marveled at the glass jetway and the modern architecture and interior. Checked the TV Monitors, or the FIDS (Flight Information Display System) as they called it in KLIA, for the gate of my flight to BKK and found that the A333 that I just deplaned from, would also took me to BKK. Made my way to the Smoking Lounge beside gate C1 and perused the duty free shop and bought two cartons of cigarettes (which was a buck more expensive than in IN / WSSS), Singapore">SIN). The smallish smoking lounge was packed with smokers, too bad they didn’t have the open-air one like in IN / WSSS), Singapore">SIN or at least built a bigger one. Two sticks later, I returned to gate C25 at 1445 when they were just started boarding.
May 17, 2004
1515 - 1620
Photo © M Radzi Desa
Boarded through door 2L where I was greeted by Mahilais, a striking female FA. The flight looked to be fuller than the flight from Jakarta, Economy load was about 70%, while Golden Club remained empty. Proceeded to 20A, one seat behind my previous one. Another striking female FA, Amanda, handed out the cold towelletes after boarding was done. She was so beautiful I had to take her picture, but she kept on moving, resulting in a blurry picture
Pushback were on time at 1515 and we began our taxi to runway 14R. Again the captain was very chatty and welcome us onboard while we were holding short of runway 14R for an incoming MAS 737 to land. There were 3 other company’s plane in line for take off, a 737 and 2 744s I assumed were heading to JED and TPE-LAX respectively. We roared down 14R and after a take-off roll of 30 or so seconds we lifted off at 1528. The flight to BKK was going to be 1 hour and 50 minutes.
We flew in straight direction after take-off towards the coast of Kedah. We flew over Kedah, Pulau Penang, Hat Yai, Songkhla, the Gulf of Siam, and finally South of Bangkok. Again, there was no airshow on this flight. The same comedy show, Just For Variety, was screened again, which was followed by a Charlie Chaplin silent movie.
Despite the longer flying time, there was no bar service on this flight. A light meal was served not long after take-off. Mahilais and a male FA, Rahman, were in charged of my aisle. Too bad Amanda was serving the other aisle . The light meal choices were Fish with steam rice and Prawn with fragrant rice. Two seafood choices on the same meal, how odd?! The meal was also served in a smaller tray and the main meal was served in a foil container not the china casserole dish as used in the previous flight. I chose the prawn, which despite its appearance proved to be very delicious indeed. Included in the meal were an appetizer of crab meat salad in cream sauce (which was also very delicious) and a chocolate bread, as well as the usual bread roll. Mahilais and Rahman offered multiple rounds of drinks. Again the FAs worked really hard on this flight, roaming the cabin to check out on the passengers even after the meal service ended.
The flight itself was very uneventful, not even a slight turbulence. I was feeling rather sleepy at this point and decided to sleep, since the view outside was covered by clouds anyway. Unlike SQ, MAS doesn’t put pillows on every seat. However, pillows and blankets are stored in several of the overhead compartments, which you are welcome to take or ask a flight attendant for one.
Our very chatty captain informed us that BKK was jammed with traffic so our arrival was slightly delayed. We made landfall over watery paddy fields in the south of Bangkok and made many turns over the city. We finally landed at 1625, BKK being one hour behind KUL. I don’t know which runway was used but it was the shorter one. The runway seemed very short indeed that we almost used the entire runway. For one of the busiest airports in the world, Don Muang sure looked pretty cramped and old, with not much room for expansion. Saw many exotic planes as we taxied past the domestic terminals. Other aircraft spotted were BA and QF 744s parked side by side, SQ 772 9V-SRC, BR 744, and lots and lots of TG birds.
We docked at gate 24 besides another A333, Thai Airways’ HS-TED. Said thank you and goodbye to the crew and deplaned from 2L into an old looking terminal. The walk to the immigration was quite long, thankfully many immigration counters were opened so we didn’t have to wait long. Our bags arrived at Belt 1 and appeared within minutes of clearing the immigration. Just outside customs, there was this unique stand where you can taste many exotic, tropical Thai fruits such as mangosteens, mangoes, longkongs, and rambutans. The area was manned by two beautiful Thai ladies who explained the virtues of each fruit to visitors. I got crazy and brought many rambutans with me (hey it’s free!). We met our guide afterwards and began our 4-day adventure in Bangkok.
Malaysia Airlines does indeed have good products and service. My first two flights on this trip was great. The MAS crew certainly lived up to their reputation. The service was more relaxed and the crew was cheerful and friendly. I can now certainly see why many MAS fans think the SQ Girls as robotics . The only complaint that I have is the lack of IFE. No PTV is okay for these short flights, but at least give me the Airshow!
Thank you for reading this far. Hope you guys enjoy this report. Comments, queries, criticisms are always welcome. The return portion of the trip is coming soon. Stay tune! Also I took many photos on this trip, but my lousy Internet connection at home had prevented me from uploading them. I shall post them here when they’re uploaded on the web.