The following trip report features my return flights from Muscat to Penang. The trip report on the flights to Oman can be found here: Penang - Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur - Dubai, Dubai - Muscat. After three wonderful weeks in the incredibly hot Muscat (it was often more than 55°C!!) it was time to head back Penang, Malaysia. This is the third part of this trip report; part one can be found here and part two here.
To travel from one city to another often sounds much easier than it really is in practice. The journey one must undertake is usually far more complicated and troublesome than it should ever have been, but what can one do? As slaves of the so called ‘hub and spoke’ system, we have to mould our journeys to the flights available, even if this calls for a ridiculous number of transits. Unsurprisingly, my routing from Muscat to Penang was no different: Four flights, three different aircraft, five airports and a travel time of more than 29 hours. The following report tells the story of the cumbersome journey from Seeb International Airport (MCT) to Penang International Airport (PEN).
This trip will also be an interesting comparison between the Emirates Business and Economy Class products, because my flights to Oman with Emirates were in Business and the return journey is in Economy. Believe me, the difference is immense! So please grab a coffee (or a beer, depending on what time of the day you are reading this report) and enjoy the long journey.
General Flight Overview
Airline: Malaysia Airlines Systems (MH)
Flight number: MH 1140
Origin: Kuala Lumpur International (KUL)
Destination: Penang International (PEN)
Distance: 201 miles
Scheduled departure time: 10:35
Scheduled flight time: 0 hours 50 minutes
Class of Travel: Economy Class
After a short but relaxing night at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur it was time to hit the road once again. I was inside the departure hall, which was pretty crowded for KUL standards, at 9:30 and proceeded straight towards the Malaysia Airlines Domestic check-in counters.
The shuttle bus stand at KUL in the morning.
The smaller lower levels of the airport give way to the massive ceiling in the departures hall.
The Malaysia Airlines Domestic check-in area is at the far left hand side of the departures hall and it is separate from the Malaysia Airlines International flights. With less than ten people queuing in front of the counters, it was my turn to check-in in less than five minutes.
The Malaysia Airlines Domestic Economy Class check-in area at KUL.
The very short queue in front of the counters.
At the counter, a friendly Malaysia Airlines agent wished me a good morning and asked me where I was going. I told her I was off to Penang and before I could even show her all my documents, she had already printed out my boarding pass and tagged my luggage. She then addressed me by my last name and wished me a pleasant journey. I was impressed. After thanking the agent for the wonderful service I proceeded towards the domestic gates. The entire checking-in process was very professional, quick and efficient. I think the Emirates staff in MCT could learn a thing or two from the kind woman who checked me in at KUL.
The new Malaysia Airlines colors for Economy Class: A mixture of different greens.
The long row of Domestic Economy class counters.
With 15 minutes remaining until boarding, I headed through security and down to the domestic gates. There were no lines to speak of and the terminal was very empty. In order to ensure that I would not reach the gate too early, I slowed myself down by admiring the architecture at KUL once again.
The massive windows and steel supports at the side of the departures hall.
The vast expanse of the KLIA departures hall.
The empty domestic departures section at KUL.
MH1140 was departing from Gate A2 today, which was conveniently located only a few meters behind the security area. Unlike their international counterparts, the domestic gates do not have a secondary security check, so there was no queue at the gate when I arrived. After a pleasant Malaysia Airlines agent verified my boarding pass, I sat down in the waiting hall.
The Gate from which MH1140 was departing today: Gate A2.
The long empty corridors of the domestic area in KUL.
Only a few passengers were sitting in the waiting hall when I arrived, but more people were slowly trickling in. My aircraft today, 9M-MMT, was parked in full view of the waiting hall and I watched as my luggage was loaded into the cargo hold. The Malaysia Airlines 737-400s dominate this part of the airport and unsurprisingly, two other 737-400s were parked at the gates next to 9M-MMT.
Fueling had just been completed and my luggage had been loaded a few moments before.
9M-MMT parked at Gate A2 with another 737-400 at A4.
The beautiful main terminal building at KUL.
Boarding began on time at 10:05 and I was surprised to see that nobody rushed towards the aircraft. In my past experiences, passengers usually charge for the jetway as if their life depended on it. I guess I must have been lucky. After slowly strolling through the jetway, I was onboard MH1140 at 10:10, 25 minutes before scheduled departure.
The Boeing 737-400 is the workhorse of the Malaysia Airlines domestic fleet. However, many of the 37 aircraft are beginning to show signs of their age, as they are used almost exclusively on very short flights, often under an hour. However, all of the 737-400s will be replaced by 2014 with 35 new 737-800s.
My aircraft today, 9M-MMT, was in a slightly better condition that most of the other 737-400s. This was because it had just been fitted with new seat covers to reflect the new Malaysia Airlines branding. The Golden Club Class now had bright red seats and the normal dark blue pillows, instead of the usual purple seats. While this color combination is a little unusual, the colors were very striking. However, the color combination was even more outlandish in Economy Class. The seats came in four different colors: red, orange, green and blue. While I was a little hesitant about this choice of colors at first, the new look began to grow on me throughout the flight. In the end, I thought it wasn’t bad actually.
The cabin view of 9M-MMT showing the new Malaysia Airlines Economy Class color combination.
The new colors of the Golden Club Class seats.
Photo © Kevin Teh
Photo © WingFlex
This 737-4H6 had its first flight in April 1993, making it one of the older 737s in the Malaysia Airlines fleet. The aircraft is owned by Malaysia Airlines. The first flight with the airline was also in April 1993, so the aircraft is more than 15 years old.
A head on view of 9M-MMT.
My boarding pass for MH1140 from KUL to PEN.
As I stepped onboard MH1140, I was welcomed by both a male and female member of the cabin crew. They were friendly and smiling, which was already a contrast from my Emirates crew on the previous flight. As I walked down the single isle of this 737-400, I was surprised by the bright red color of the Golden Club class. When I continued onwards, this surprise turned into astonishment as the new multicolored economy class cabin came into view. This seemingly random arrangement of tones must be one of the most daring cabin color schemes in the sky today. My seat was blue by the way.
My first view of the new economy class color scheme on 9M-MMT.
My seat on MH1140: 19B. However, I switched to 19A during the flight.
Initially, I was not sure what to make of all these new colors. It was certainly more exciting than the old Malaysia Airlines color scheme, maybe even a little too exciting. The new covers were also softer and made for a more comfortable seat altogether. Nonetheless, the layout was still the same and the legroom was sufficient for this short flight.
The legroom on MH1140. Notice the seat in front of me was bright orange.
The last few passengers boarding MH1140.
At 10:25, 10 minutes before scheduled departure, all passengers were onboard and MH1140 was pushed back. As usual on all Malaysia Airlines 737-400s, the safety instructions were acted out by the crew as there are no monitors onboard.
Our neighbour: 9M-MMW.
9M-MMW was also parked at Gate A2, but it was attached to the other jetway.
After a long taxi past the main terminal building, we were ready for departure from runway 32R. There were no other aircraft in queue for takeoff and the little 737-400 performed a powerful rolling takeoff. At 10:23, two minutes before scheduled departure, MH1140 lifted off from KUL and flew in a northerly direction towards Penang.
The symmetrical terminal building with the control tower in the background.
A Malaysia Airlines A330-200 at the main terminal.
A shot down runway 32R before takeoff.
The main terminal complex at KUL during takeoff.
The initial climb was quite rough due to the thick cloud cover, but we soon reached the clear blue skies above. Beneath us, palm oil plantations covered the land as far as the eye could see.
The powerful takeoff was followed by a steep climb to 22000 feet.
The view out the window shortly after takeoff. Notice the aircraft’s shadow over the path.
One of the many new developments near Kuala Lumpur.
The seatbelt sign was turned off as soon as MH1140 had reached cruise altitude and the cabin service began. As usual, some salted peanuts were distributed and a cup of orange juice was served. At least it was not guava again.
The food on MH1140: salted peanuts.
The main highway on the Malaysian peninsular: The North-South Expressway.
The orange juice complimented the color of the seat in front of me.
Not long after MH1140 had reached the cruise altitude of 22000 feet, the decent into PEN began. The crew quickly came around to collect the cups and any rubbish, and the captain provided some information about our arrival. Overall, I thought that the crew was very friendly and professional, but I guess this is something one can expect from a ‘five star airline’.
Notice the patches of dirty water produced by industry on the coast.
A fleet of small fishing vessels in the Strait of Malacca.
The descent was rough once again as MH1140 penetrated the thick layer of clouds covering the land. Runway 22 is usually the active runway for landing at PEN, and today was no different. After a tight right turn, the landing gear was extended and the cabin crew returned to their seats.
The first signs of Penang island as we approached from the sea.
The green side of Penang Island as MH1140 descended towards runway 22.
The relics of the thunderstorm that swept over Singapore and Kuala Lumpur the night before.
After a wobbly flight into PEN, MH1140 landed at Penang International Airport at 11:15, 10 minutes before scheduled arrival. The landing was extremely hard and the proceeding taxi to the terminal was quite rough too. I think all Malaysia Airlines 737 pilots seem to forget they are driving a plane on the tarmac, because they taxi as if they were driving nimble motorbikes.
Touchdown with the speed brakes fully deployed.
The small cargo ramp at PEN.
An Air Asia A320 landing on runway 22 as MH1140 was taxiing to the terminal.
MH1140 reached the terminal building five minutes early at 11:20. Once again, the passengers on this flight seemed very stress-free and no one rushed to get out of the aircraft. I wish this would happen more often, because the usual charge for the exit just slows everyone down anyway.
A Korean Air Cargo 747 and a Lion Air MD80.
Our neighbour: A Firefly Fokker 50.
Welcome back to Penang!
Penang international Airport was completely deserted at this time of the day; in fact, our flight seemed to be the only movement at the airport other than the Air Asia flight that had just landed. Within 2 minutes I had reached the terminal baggage claim area and soon after the luggage arrived.
The very empty terminal in Penang.
The domestic baggage claim area in PEN. It only has one carousel.
By 11:25, five minutes after MH1140 had arrived at the gate 12, I was already outside the airport and driving back home. After seven flights lasting more than 20 hours, my journey to the Middle East had finally come to an end.
The arrivals hall in Penang International Airport.
Malaysia Airlines provided an excellent shuttle service between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The crew was very friendly, the aircraft was clean and the flight was punctual. I believe some people will dislike the new colors of the economy class interior, but I think it is something fresh and interesting. In the end, I guess it is a matter of taste. Overall, I would always recommend flying Malaysia Airlines between KUL and PEN, because they are only slightly more expensive than Air Asia, but their service is superior; for your few extra Ringgits, for example, you get to fly from the main KLIA terminal instead of the LCCT. This by itself is reason enough to fly Malaysia Airlines instead of Air Asia in my opinion.
(2.0) Booking: 7.0
(1.0) Check-in: 9.5
(1.0) Airline Airport Facilities: N/A
(0.5) Boarding: 9.0
(2.0) Seat: 7.5
(1.0) Entertainment System: 1.0
(2.0) Crew: 9.0
(2.0) Food and Drink: 6.0
(0.5) Amenity kits and other freebies: N/A
(0.5) Arrival: 9.0
(1.0) On-time performance: 10.0
Overall weighted score: 7.38
Thank you for taking the time to read the final part of this trip report. Upcoming trip reports include flights to and from FRA and MAN in Singapore Airlines Business Class as well as flights to FRA with Qatar Airways and some short flights within Europe. As always, any comments and opinions are welcome and much appreciated.
Until then, safe flying.