SECTOR: KUL - LHR
ETD: 23:40 (local) ETA: 05:50 (local)
ATD: 23:40 (local) ATA: 05:20 (local)
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-4H6
DEPARTING GATE: C34
DEPARTING RWY: 14R
ARRIVAL RWY: 9R
ARRIVAL GATE: 334
After just disembarking our flight from Perth I had about a couple of hours to explore Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) before my next flight to London. As I was exiting gate C25 I noticed on the display boards that 9M-MRK, which was the aircraft I flew in from Perth would leave for Tokyo in just over an hour.
My first impressions are that KLIA is very clean and ultra modern compared to the old airport at Subang. Since I had grown up in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in the first 6 years of my life I have had fond memories visiting the airport in Subang with my family and watching the planes from the old observation deck. KLIA seemed to be a lot quieter than is neighbor Singapore at this time of night. I had actually preferred to transit at Changi because of the different traffic to see. But because it was night time photo opportunities are a lot more harder to find especially through glass so I guess it did not matter in the end. And at least I was back in my old hometown (first time since 1989).
My friend and I thought we better find exactly what gate our next flight would be so we could find it easily when it came time to board. The display boards in the center of the satellite terminals showed we would be departing from gate C34. On the way to C34 I was explaining to my friend that Malaysia Airlines had painted one of their 747s in a special livery and we had a small chance on flying on it. She seemed unimpressed until I said it would be big and red like the Qantas Aboriginal one. (girls) I was absolutely gob smacked when we reached the gate and saw (through two sets of glass windows) the red nose of 9M-MPD. The gate was not open yet so a closer look was not possible but I could not wait to be seated in the boarding lounge for a better look.
I left my friend to watch Shrek, which was playing throughout many locations in the satellite terminal to explore. Like Changi KLIA also has each boarding gate closed off and you have to pass security to enter each gate. This sucks because close up views of many aircraft are unavailable. But KLIA have some nooks and crannies allowing some decent views. I saw a Royal Brunei A319 reg:V8-RBP parked in C31, a China Southern A320 reg:B2350 parked in C21, a KLM Asia 747-406M reg:PH-BFC parked at C26 and a Thai Airways 777-2D7 reg:HS-TJD parked at C14. These might be very ordinary aircraft for some but when you live in Perth these are all very exotic. I spent most of my time with the KLM Asia since I love KLM’s old colour scheme (especially on 744s) and I have never seen a KLM Asia aircraft before. I got out my step dad’s tripod and tried to take some decent shots. Unfortunately none of them will ever be A.net worthy but at least I have them for my own viewing pleasure. I had a large group of Indian men look at me whilst taking photos which made feel nervous and thought maybe I am not allowed to do this but they seemed to be more intrigued as to why I found that particular plane so interesting.
I have two main sticking points with KLIA. Firstly the whole terminal felt quite hot and very humid. Yes I know I was in the tropics but it felt like someone had forgotten to turn on the air-conditioning. My second gripe is that there are announcements over the P.A system every 20secs. It gets very annoying and after a while you start to just ignore them. This might explain why my friend and I was the last to board our flight. Just after the KLM Asia 744 had pushed back I heard a boarding announcement for MH2 to London, which was our flight. I looked at my watch and thought they are boarding early as it was 35mins before departure. I went to collect my friend who was still watching TV and we headed to our gate. I was not in a hurry as the time we reach gate C34 it was only 20mins before departure. But as we went through security I noticed that there was no one in the lounge I turned to my friend and said “boarding my a_s” and at that exact moment the ground agents were hurrying my friend and I as fast as possible to board. When we boarded we found out that MH2 had indeed been through the boarding process for quite a while and we were in fact the last people to board. I was shocked that it was now 15mins before pushback and there I was standing in the aisle looking at a full cabin and the cabin crew busily handing out hot towels.
I found my seat, which was 44C (an aisle seat) but gave it to my friend as she was taller and so it would be more comfortable for her whilst I had 44B. After being in a 777 just over two hours ago it amazed me how aged the cabin of a 744 looks and how much roomier the 777 style cabins are. Seated next to me was a nice girl from Adelaide. We all introduced each other but as I was excited about flying on 9M-MPD my mind was somewhere else I forgot her name instantly. I whispered to my friend what it was but she did not know either and we were both to embarrassed to ask her for it again. So now whenever we refer to her we call her Sarah. Apparently Sarah’s MH flight from Adelaide was complete full as well. We looked around and the whole plane appeared to be full of Australians, or Briton’s heading back home. Malaysia Airlines must be doing ok on the Kangaroo route then. The cabin crew also came around with orange juice or apple juice as well. Nice touch I thought and I did need it as it was so humid and hot in the terminal and the cabin was very stuffy.
The captain came over the P.A and gave us the routine route information and informed us that the forecasted weather was fair. Pushback commenced right on time and the safety presentations where shown on the PTVs. Sarah then proceeded to tell my friend and I why she was travelling to London. It was all rather boring and involved her ex lover, cheating and revenge and it all sounded very Bold & the Beautiful. She talked throughout the whole pushback, taxi and takeoff roll (very annoying). I was beginning to worry what was in store for the next 14 hours.
The takeoff roll was long (as would be expected) and we climbed very slowly. Because I did not have a good view out the window it felt like the climb was more of an A340 climb as oppose to one of the mighty 747. I felt no shuddering after take off which some A.netters have described aboard MH744s on takeoff. The seatbelts signed were eventually turned off and the chief purser came over the P.A and gave us information about the meal services and our in-flight entertainment systems. The rest of the cabin came around with headsets and distributed menus. Menus are such a great idea as it is so much easier to decide what you want because you have it all laid out and explained to you plus you also have time to think what you would like as well. It must also be easier on the crew not having to explain the dishes available each time. Another interesting thing about MH menus is that they also have the second meal of the long haul flight listed as well both meals on the return journey. Once we received our headsets I went straight to Tetris on the PTVs. The good news is the Sarah (the girl that would not stop talking) was complete quiet after receiving her headsets and in fact after the dinner service she was out like a light for the entire flight.
We climbed to an initial altitude of 28000ft. Our flight headed straight out over the Straits of Malacca and as we were about an hour into the flight and just North of Sumatra the dinner service began. I can’t exactly remember what I had because I dropped my menu and I never found it. But I do remember that it was some sort of curried beef or lamb and afterwards we had ice cream. I tell you this ice cream on aeroplanes thing is fantastic and a big thank you to who ever introduced it. The one thing I miss though is those tiny little soft drink cans. MH now serves its soft drinks (for meals, you can get cans if you need a drink) from large 2litre bottles and the glasses they pour them into are tiny. Its like one sip and the whole thing is gone, now how am I supposed to keep myself hydrated. I guess the whole bottle versus can thing is that bottles help reduce weight and wastage.
As the dinner service was being cleared away we encountered some heavy turbulence and the seat belt signs came on. As soon as the dinner service was cleared away the lights were turned off to allow us to get some sleep and the only light was illuminated from everyone’s PTVs. The PTVs on 9M-MPD are equipped with Audio Video on Demand (AVOD), which is bloody fantastic. I wish MH would install this feature on all their 777s. With AVOD I was able to fast forward Robots up to the part which I had been distracted by a thunderstorm on my last flight. Funnily enough just as I finished the movie I saw large flashes out the window and discovered we were flying next to a very large thunderstorm. The flashes were so big that it light up the whole sky and the cabin and out the window you could make out little dots in the flashes of light which were other planes flying west with us. It all looked very spectacular and it does explain the fairly heavy turbulence we had. Though despite the spectacular light show outside and the heavy turbulence everyone seemed to be asleep and did not stir. Everyone that is except for the guy sitting in front of me, who was making out with his girlfriend and proceeded to do so for the whole flight.
I switched to flight plan mode on my PTV and saw we were half way over the Bay of Bengal and we had climbed to 30,000ft. I then switched back to movie mode and watched Racing Stripes and Fraiser. I was a little bit disappointed in the entertainment selection for MH as it was end of June and some of the year’s biggest movies such as The Longest Yard and Mr. and Mrs. Smith were not even available, even though those movies had been out for many months. After Fraiser I turned off my PTV and tried to get some sleep, as I would be arriving very early in London. It was really hard as I could not get comfortable and I was hot then cold then hot then cold. Plus I had no pillow as my friend had dropped hers and had stolen mine as she could not find it and I could not steal it back as she was asleep. I got fed up and decided to go for a walk around the cabin to stretch my legs. I woke up my friend and squeezed past and went for a walk. The view looking forward in a dark cabin with PTVs are amazing. Everyone is all watching different things and with AVOD people watching the same thing are on different scenes. I went into the galley and asked for a drink, which the crew kindly obliged. I talked to them for a little bit but they seemed like they were busy and I felt like I was disrupting them so I decided to head back to my seat. I walked past two exit rows and funnily enough those people were fast asleep, I glared at them enviously. I also noticed how loud the cabin of a 747 is in flight. I believe our 777 one was a lot quieter.
I got back to my seat and tried to get to sleep, but the couple in front who kept on making out kept on distracting me. Then every 5mins the flight attendant come over to them held up a certain amount of fingers and then return with a tray with the same amount of drinks that corresponded with the amount of fingers that was shown. The guy behind me realized that I was restless and told me that the best way to sleep was to just keep ordering drinks like he was and that I would eventually fall asleep. Well this did not seem to happen to my fellow Australian as he was getting more handsy with his girlfriend with the more drinks he had. I believe they might have joined the mile high club as I eventually fell asleep.
The lights in the cabin being switched on woke me up I switched on my PTV and according to the flight plan channel we were at 38,000ft and over Romania and we had about two hours before landing. It was just beginning to get light outside. The cabin crew came around with the breakfast meal. Though I did not have my menu with me I remembered exactly what I would have. I had the Nasi Lemak, which was the Chef’s special and is a traditional Malaysian breakfast consisting of rice and shrimp sambal. The other selection was an omelet, which my friend ordered. She seemed to like it but I was always told never order an omelet on a plane. The crew also came around with a basket of croissants and they actually did two rounds as they had a lot left over. Whilst having breakfast I watched the Wedding Date which was very boring and predictable. It actually turned out that a lot of other passengers watched that movie because there was a large group of us in line at immigration at Heathrow that argued that the lead guy was Rupert Everett (which it clearly was not).
After the movie ended I switched back to flight plan mode and saw we were still at 38,000ft and we were now over Belgium. I thought since we were close to landing and it was light outside I should try and find a window seat to take some shots of us landing. But since it was a full flight this was going to prove difficult. But on my midnight stroll I did see a pair of seats right at the back, which were designated crew rest seats. I went to the back of the aircraft to check to see if they were still available and as luck had it they were. I asked one of the flight attendants if I could occupy the seat for landing and she said it was no problem (score). I took of my jumper and put it on the seat in a feeble attempt to illustrate to the rest of the cabin that the seat was mine. I walked back my seat at 44B, collected my things and told my friend that I was relocating to the back and that she was welcome to come with me as there was a spare seat next to mine and if not I would come and collect her when we disembarked. She declined, as she was engrossed in some Tommy Lee movie
My new seat gave me a great view behind the wing and the red number 1 engine and red winglet of 9M-MPD. I had to lean over a lot to look out the window as since I was in the last row of the tapered fuselage of the 747 there was a large gap between my seat and the window. A nice steward sat next to me and the first thing I said was “I asked another a flight attendant if it was ok to sit here and she said yes”. He said that it was perfectly fine for me to occupy the seat as long as I did not mind him doing some paper work. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was doing the paper work for the flight, it looked like a stock take of what was consumed through out the whole flight. I forgot his name but he was very friendly and he asked me where I was from I said KL originally but I have lived in Perth for the last 18 years. He said that he regularly flies to Perth. I asked him what he thought of the spectacular Hibiscus livery that 9M-MPD was wearing and he said that a lot of staff at MH as well as himself did not like it as it looked like an Air Asia plane. He also said that a second 747 was being painted in Subang in the Hibiscus livery. I asked which one and he ask another flight attendant, who was walking by what aircraft was being painted and she replied “PJ”, which he then agreed with. Well they were right about 9M-MPJ being in Subang for a cabin refit as well as a second MH 744 to be painted in a hibiscus livery but they were wrong about which aircraft. As we all know it turned out to be 9M-MPB. I asked him whether or not if MH will change their current livery and he believes they will with the introduction of the A380, which he was very proud, that his carrier had ordered 6 of.
Our discussion was interrupted by an announcement by the captain that we had begun our descent into London. The steward said goodbye as he had work he needs to tend to. I looked out the window and saw we were over the channel and could see the coast of England in the distance as well a lot of cloud. The seat belt signs came on and the cabin crew walked up and down the aisle spraying this disgusting air freshener thing into the air-conditioning vents. They had warned us that they were going to do this before they did it and had told us we might want to cover our eyes and noses as the spray might irritate us. I guess then it can’t be all to good for you. I have no idea what the spray did. It either killed of germs or made the air in the cabin fresher for the next flight as 300 plus people in a confined space for 14 hours could get quite smelly.
London was completely obscured by thick cloud and we circled for a while above the clouds. The view was quite spectacular as you could see many other planes circling with us. I guess we received our approach clearance as we stopped circling and descended into the thick cloud layer quite quickly. There was some mild buffeting which would have been exaggerated by me sitting at the back of the aircraft. We broke though the clouds and there was London or at least some suburbs of it anyway. It is like a completely different world below the clouds. Above is bright and sunny where as below is darker and visibility quite bad. The flaps were lowered and the gear down all rather quickly and the crew finally took their seats. We flew right past the construction mess of terminal 5 as we planted ourselves on runway 9R at 5:20am, which was 30mins ahead of schedule (good on you MH). Landing was ok but when you sit at the back it is always going to feel a little bit swingier. Whilst slowing down I saw a Cathay Pacific 744 which looked like it had just exited the runway thus meaning we had followed her in. Just as we turned off the runway I could see several lights already lining themselves up with runway 9R. Whilst taxiing to our gate we were adjacent to runway 09R and I can tell you that the aircraft that landed after us was a United 772 (in old colors) and what seemed less than a minute a SQ744. Taxiing to the gate was long but we eventually turned into gate 334 (which is a mile away from immigration and baggage reclaim). Out the window I saw the crew bus that would take the crew. Maybe again it was exaggerated by me sitting in the back but it looks like a 747 is a tight squeeze length wise in bay 334 as the edge of the apron seemed rather close and it was hard to believe that another wide body aircraft could taxi past us.
It took a while to disembark, so I talked to the nice steward (who I had sat next to before) as he was sitting behind me for landing. I asked him when he would fly home and he said in about 32 hours. I asked him how he copes with jet lag and he said he had a special friend. I asked who and he started calling out “Johnny, Johnny”. He then proceeded to pull out a large duty free bottle of Johnny Walker. The rear end of the cabin laughed. After a wait of about 10 minutes the economy class section was allowed to disembark. My friend and I were one of the lasts to disembark. Since I had walked all the way from the back I noticed that floor for every single row of seats were disgusting. The floors were covered with, magazines, menus, cups, cutlery, crumbs, cans, food scraps, wrappers, blankets, headphones, paper, tissues, pillows. No wonder planes need such a big clean up crew and lucky this bird had a 6 and half hours before her next flight home. The crew all stood by the aisles and bid farewell and thanked us for flying with them. A very nice touch I found. What followed next was a fantastic week in London followed by a brilliant Contiki Tour. (Keep a look out for my next trip report on Alitalia from Rome to Athens)
GROUND HANDLING: 9/10
KLIA is a fantastic airport. I wish that many other carriers especially QF and BA will use it one day. It is modern and clean and well thought out with much room to expand. I hope one day that KLIA becomes the hub is so badly wants to become. Though looses points for lack of shops as well as lack of climate control. Also even though we were the last people to board our flight and the ground crew hurrying us to board they still had time to ask us where we were from and wished us a pleasant flight. Unlike the Qantas Ground staff at Perth who I saw publicly accost a Chinese man with little English who was late for his Singapore Airlines Flight.
The cabin is looks aged compared to the 777 but it was clean (well to begin with). The seats were fairly comfortable and had good pitch. And the cabin looked attractive. I did not realize that the 747was so noisy in flight.
Skytrax has judged these guys for many years in a row for best cabin crew. The crew was friendly and attentive. They though obviously had a job to do and got down and did it, which did make it hard to hold a conversation during the middle of the night. The steward who I sat next to was funny and was great to talk too. I also saw him talk and joke with other passengers at the rear of the cabin and I really wish I could remember his name because I believe he is a real asset to Malaysia Airlines. But one thing I do not understand though why Malaysia Airlines does not hand out amenities packs in Y class like on SQ and QF. It would of really of been useful and nice especially after such a long flight and feeling very very dirty.
The dinner was ok, but the breakfast was fantastic. If you ever fly Malaysia Airlines and you like Asian food, try the Nasi Lemak. Plus you get Ice cream. MH really needs to consider larger cups for their dinner services
Looses one point for no Will & Grace. But there is a lot of other top rate Comedies available, such as Coupling, Fraiser and Arrested Development. MH seems a little behind in their new release movies compared to everyone else. But maybe because it was the end of the month the entertainment would be upgraded next week and I was just unluckily enough to get what seemed old at the time. However they do get points for AVOD. They also get points for having Tetris, which apparently SQ does not have (according to a friend who just flew with them from LHR to PER)
X FACTOR: 5/5:
The Hibiscus Livery is the best colour schemes going around. Hope Herpa makes a model of it soon. Again the whole Malaysia Airlines package works for me its attractive with good service at a good price. With the new First and Business Class cabins hopefully MH can finally gain the recognition it deserves.
TOTAL 46/55 = 83.6%