The day finally came, we dropped off our second car at the in-laws, and made our way across Nottingham to the M1 for the journey down to London.
Traffic was okay, and we arrived at the Renaissance to drop the car off at about 2pm when we eventually found it!
The shuttle to the airport was £3, but the guy on reception advised us it would be free to get the London Transport bus from the stop opposite – so of course we did that!
STD: 1805, ATD 1805
STA: 13:25, ATA 13:15
Photo © Maartenw
This was to be my first ever flight on a 747, so I had been looking forward to it for months!
I had been advised by a fellow A.netter that the route was to be operated by 9M-MPK today. A search on A.net didn’t fill me with too much confidence but I was sure it would be okay:
Photo © Daryl Chapman
Photo © Daryl Chapman
We checked in painlessly for the flight and went through to the shops airside.
Me waiting in the lounge:
(who is that woman on the right hand side?)
After buying sufficient alcohol to keep us going on arrival we were called for boarding. On arrival at the gate we saw the ship that was to take us halfway across the world – and boy was she huge so close up!
Boarding started an hour before departure – a new experience for me being so early but I imagine it takes a while to board nearly 400 passengers.
The aircraft was about 90% full I would say – mainly with British holidaymakers, a few Malaysians going home, and a couple of Aussies heading further.
On boarding I picked up a copy of “The Star”, as it looked the easiest to handle in the confines of an airline seat! As I walked down the plane there were cabin crew situated every few rows, each one of them saying “Good Afternoon Sir” as I walked past – a very nice touch I felt. Once seated, the crew came round with cold towels which they took again shortly after.
We pushed back from the gate on time, and the F/O came on and started with “Tuan Tuan dan Puan Puan”, which made us chuckle every time we heard it from here on in I’m afraid!
Engines were started, and we began our short taxi to runway 27L. We went straight past an AF A320 and an IB A320, and lined up.
We began our acceleration and were shortly airborne.
We heard the rattling just after rotation, which other A.Netters have described on MH’s 744s, and looking out of the window opposite on the right hand side could see buildings fly past at close range as we took a sharp right hand turn – cool!!
We climbed over the North Sea and over into Germany. Our first meal was served – I chose the stir fried chicken.
The IFE came on, but with not much of interest I just left it on Airshow to keep track of our route.
The sun went down over Germany, and the lights went out shortly afterwards.
We were cruising at FL330, routing over Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, the Black Sea. The captain came on and explained the route, and that there would be a crew change. We were given the arrival cards for Malaysia – a good job the flight was 12 hours, we’d probably need that to fill them in!
We climbed to FL350 north of Iraq, with a noticeable deviation around iraq.
I fell asleep somewhere over Iran after losing miserably at Chess to my wife Rachel!
I woke up 3 hours later, we were overhead Ahmadabad, India, and had climbed to FL370. There was a now a little over 4 hours left until our arrival in Penang, so I took a peek through my window. Opening the blind flooded the cabin with sunlight, so I quickly pulled it too and pulled a blanket over my head to look out of the window. It was extremely hazy over India and so we couldn’t see any of the ground.
We coasted out of India into the Bay of Bengal, and suddenly hit very heavy turbulence. We were being tossed around like cats in a tumble dryer – but this soon subsided as we climbed again to FL390.
As we flew over the beautiful Andaman Islands, the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” came on the radio – quite appropriate for the beautiful landscape below.
We were served another meal – although I decided to pass on the Vindaloo for breakfast and instead opted for the Pasta.
We descended down towards Penang, and the captain came on to explain our arrival for runway 03. We were to fly over Langkawi, over the Penang Bridge and turn right for our arrival.
The seatbelt signs came on, and we turned onto our final approach, giving our first view of Malaysia.
The approach was smooth, and we touched down smoothly onto runway 03 at Penang.
We taxied in past an MH 737-400 and an Air Asia 737, and parked between a Lion Air MD80 and a China Airlines 737.
We deplaned into the terminal, which for a smaller airport coped extremely well with a 747 full of passengers. Within 10 minutes we were in our taxi, heading for the beautiful Mutiara Beach Resort.
After a week at the most beautiful hotel we’ve ever stayed in, we regrettably took the taxi back to the airport for the onward flight to Langkawi.
The taxi ride took about an hour, and gave us a good view of the Penang Bridge as we neared the Bayan Lepas International Airport.
MH1492 PEN-KL), Malaysia">LGK
STD: 1215, ATD 1215
STA: 1245, ATA 1245
Photo © Kun liang
Check-in again was easy, of note was the fact that you had to have your bags scanned by security before you arrive at the check in desk. Not a problem – however there were only two machines, with a huge area all around presumably meaning people could get through without having their bags scanned? Before we were handed our boarding cards the check in agent simply said “Have you had your bags scanned?”!
We headed for departures. Penang is a relatively quiet airport, with only a few arrivals in the two hours we were waiting to board, however the content there is quite interesting, particularly for a Western spotter like myself!
On the ground when we arrived were a SQ 777, MH 734, MH A330, Transmile 727, Air China 738, MAS Cargo 747, UPS 752, and a Pan Malaysian Air Transport Skyvan, 9M-PIH.
While we were waiting to board, an AdamAir 737 landed, as well as an Air Asia 737 and finally our MH 737.
We were called to board through Gate 11. First impressions – the MH 737 is quite comfortable, even for a six-footer like myself! The announcements were in Bahasa Malay and English.
We taxied to runway 04, and after a landing Air Asia 737 lined up. The takeoff was very powerful, but very long in the 95 degree heat!
We climbed over Georgetown, and headed directly overhead the Mutiara for one last view!
The cruise was at 10,000ft, below the cloud, which was a first for me on an airliner!
We were served a choice of Orange Juice or Milo, I chose the OJ. Very shortly afterward, we began our descent through thick white cloud into Langkawi. It got very bumpy and a few screams were heard from the cabin!
We turned final over an island, and enjoyed a smooth approach with a quite firm landing!
We used full reverse thrust and taxied off at the first exit. There were a couple of light aircraft on the apron, and an Air Asia 737 in the “Time” colour scheme was just departing.
Capt Mohammed came on the PA and announced that the lights would go out after engine shutdown, presumably due to having to wait for a GPU? The engines were shutdown, the cabin went silent and very dark.
The curtains between the Y and J class cabin were shut while the J pax deplaned, and then the rest were let off!
As we deplaned, the GPU came racing across the apron from the stand where the Air Asia had just left! A quick chuckle as I figured Langkawi probably only has one GPU!
We walked down the steps, and with no staff to direct us 150 passengers meandered straight across the apron unaccompanied to the arrivals door while a light aircraft taxied past!
Some families queued to have their photos taken by other family members alongside the aircraft – I love this relaxed atmosphere already!
Baggage claim was very quick, and we walked straight out into the arrivals hall where car hire companies touted for business.
We took a taxi ride through the beautiful island of Langkawi to the Berjaya Beach, home for the next five days.
Alas, after five days living in a beautiful chalet in the rainforest, it was time to go home. First stop though was KL, for one night before catching the jumbo back to London.
We were booked on the 2130 flight to KL, but didn’t fancy a 10 hour wait out of the hotel to catch our flight, so decided to get to the airport early to try for an earlier flight.
If we got it – all well and good, but if not all was not lost as we would drop our bags off and catch a taxi into Kuah Town for some last minute shopping. There are several flights a day down to KL from Langkawi, including a 744 on this day in from London so I knew our chances would at best be not bad!
The taxi ride was about 15 minutes, and we arrived at the airport at about 10.30.
The check in assistant advised us that there was a flight at 1230, but it was fully booked so she would have to put us on standby for this flight. We agreed to return to the desk at 1200 to find the result!
We passed the time by reading and eating D’Aim bars from the huge duty free area at the airport! At 1200 we dutifully returned to the desk where another group of 8 people were waiting, like us, to try and catch a flight at a more respectable hour!
We waited nervously, before the check in agent announced “You are all on the early flight”. I have never heard such mass relief in my life!!
MH1447 KL), Malaysia">LGK-KUL
STD: 1230, ATD 1230
STA: 1330, ATA 1330
Photo © M Radzi Desa
We got our boarding cards, and headed straight for the departure gate where they were already opening the gate. Being allocated the last row of the aircraft meant we were the last to check in and the first to board – ace!!
The aircraft was in the old interior with the blue seats. We started the engines as the Air Asia 737 (in time c/s) pulled alongside us.
We weren’t pushed back – we just taxied straight forward and round to the runway. The cabin crew started their announcement which was still taking place as we lined up on the runway! A sense of urgency and increased speed was noticed in the FA conducting the safety briefing, before they all walked fast back to their seats! The captain announced “Cabin crew prepare for takeoff” and we were on our way.
We took off over the sea, before taking a left turn over the island of Langkawi.
We climbed to FL270, and headed for the coast of Peninsular Malaysia. We then turned right and cruised down to KL.
We were served a choice of OJ or Milo again, I took the OJ. The flight was smooth, and we began our descent into KL a short while later.
The captain announced that the weather in KL was very warm and humid.
We took a left downwind giving us a good view of KUL before we turned over the sea for the final to runway 32R.
The landing was very hard – we coasted over the runway, getting a very smooth landing, before lifting off, taking a left bank and slamming back onto the runway on all three wheels at the same time!
Full reverse thrust and we turned off to the left.
The cabin crew announced “Welcome to KL International Airport” with some degree of pride – quite rightly so as I was soon to figure out.
We taxied past our home for the next night (The Pan Pacific) and pulled up alongside an MH 734.
We deplaned into the really spacious and airy terminal, and had a short wait for our bags.
We then took the travelator into the Pan Pacific, which was absolutely beautiful.
The signs “Best Airport Hotel In Asia” were probably very accurate – the hotel was luxurious, friendly, and our room on the Pacific Floor (9th floor) had a cracking view over the apron and runway 32R at KUL!! Never a dull moment as I could sit by the window, watching weird and wonderful aircraft land and depart, while my wife sat
watching soaps on the TV – heaven!
We ate out at Burger King at the airport for dinner – this is the life!
Nevertheless, after a good night’s sleep I was woken by a MAS A330 on full reverse thrust outside the room at 7am. Only 10 minutes before our wake up call – good timing!
A beautiful sunrise awaited us as we packed our bags and called for a porter to take them down to reception for us.
We said goodbye to the beautiful Pan Pacific and made our way into the airport.
Check in was very slow, the New-Zealander on the desk was not rushing, and when it got to us he took 20 minutes. He told us we were lucky to still have a seat as when we changed flights we should have reconfirmed our onward journey – a fact that we were only just made aware of! He allocated us seats 50A and 50B, and I was happy as we would be boarded first and have a good view behind the wing!
We queued for another 20 minutes for passport control, in total we had been in the airport an hour when we eventually got airside! A great airport, let down by the slow speed I think.
We did a bit of shopping, and headed for our gate where 9M-MPK was almost ready for boarding.
STD: 1200, ATD 1210
STA: 1830, ATA 1745
12 hrs 45mins
So here we were – about to board the longest flight of my life so far! Better get comfortable ‘cos there’s no getting out of it now!
We boarded at 11.20 and went straight to our seat. I had a good view of the back of the wing and straight down below.
It’s amazing how the wings of a 744 droop when they’re full of fuel!
We pushed back 10 minutes late, and the cabin crew began their briefing as the engines were started and the cabin filled with the smell of kerosene. Mmmmm….
We taxyed out and were number one for departure.
The take off run was very long, we used almost all of the runway to get airborne. The Pan Pacific flew by my window as we said goodbye to beautiful Malaysia.
It took quite a long while to climb to our initial cruise level of FL320, we were still climbing an hour later overhead Langkawi, when we had a gorgeous view of the hotel we had been staying in a couple of days previously!
We flew overhead Phuket and headed across the Andaman Sea towards India.
The IFE was turned on, I was looking forward to watching “Fifty First Dates” and “Scooby Doo 2”, but my system kept locking and I couldn’t use my handset. The stewardess reset the system 3 times, in the process locking the other 2 seats in our row, so for the rest of the flight I could just sit and watch a rubbish film with no sound on replay – 7 times!! :-(
She offered us to move, but the only free seats were in the middle right at the back. I get claustrophobic when on board aircraft so I need to sit near a window so I can see – this seat was even worse so we moved back to our original seats and resigned ourselves to 12 hours of no IFE!
We crossed the Indian coast south of Calcutta and headed across towards Delhi.
I saw some awesome clouds out of the window
We were served a choice of meals again, I took the Beef Korma.
We headed south of Delhi, and took a massive deviation south and then north again just south of Lahore. I wonder why this was?
We crossed the plains of Pakistan and up into the mountains of Afghanistan.
We flew over Qandahar at FL350, and overhead Iran climbed to FL360.
We then hit the Caspian Sea, which we were overhead for 2 hours before we hit Azerbaijan /Georgia.
Up to FL380 and out over the sea again into the Black Sea, before crossing the coast of Romania.
We flew over Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic and into Germany.
We then went overhead Dusseldorf giving a cool view of the airport:
Finally, we crossed into Holland and over the North Sea. We were almost home!
The coast of England – Hurrah!
We were still at FL380 overhead Southend, so I figured we would probably be holding into LHR. The captain came on and confirmed we would hold due to traffic at LHR and added another half an hour onto our ETA.
The crew came round and sprayed the aircraft with some sort of aerosol spray.
We circled over London whilst descending, dancing round the pattern with a Swiss A320.
M25 Friday Rush Hour:
We finally flew across the north of LHR overhead RAF Northolt, and turned final for 9L overhead Slough.
Touchdown – quite firm but safely on runway 9L!
We taxyed off and past rows of BA aircraft onto our stand at Terminal 3.
There was quite a lengthy queue – seemed like a few aircraft had arrived from Asia within a few minutes – 2 JAL 744s, a CA 744, QR A330s and an Etihad A330. Half an hour later we were on the shuttle bus heading for the disgusting Rennaisance Hotel London Heathrow. After 2 weeks of decent hotels we were bought down to earth with a huge bang and decided to leave after a few hours sleep back to Nottingham, where we were home for 0800 the following morning!
I heard several opinions of MH on our flights. My wife had a really good experience on SQ and says they were better (I’ve never flown SQ so don’t know). A few people on the flight said that other airlines were much better (namely Emirates, Cathay and SQ). Another British couple we spoke to said that MH is the best airline out there. I sit somewhere in the middle.
Well to me – MH were just another airline. They are one of the better ones, granted, and probably just about the best I’ve flown, slightly better than US Airways/Air Canada. The crew were really good, but the seats still get a bit uncomfortable after a few hours. Food was good but nothing special. Given some IFE on the way home I may have thought differently, but that’s just how I found them.
Next time – I’ll try CX or SQ and see what they’re like!
Hope you enjoyed reading this.