05 Aug 2009
Singapore (SIN) - Penang (PEN)
Less than a month after my hectic 11 days trip to Europe, its off again to the island of Penang in Malaysia for a short food trip. Recently, Malaysia has opened its skies to the budget carriers of both S'pore and Malaysia, resulting in a sudden surge in flights to Malaysian destinations from Singapore.
Taking Penang as example, during this time last year, PEN
was served by 4x daily flights (3x daily SQ
B772 and 1x daily MH
B734). Today, the flights have increased to 10x daily (1x daily SQ
B772, 2x daily MI
A320, 1x daily MH
B734, 2x daily AK
A320, 2x daily TR
A319/20, 2x daily 3K A320), with Tiger adding 1 more daily flight by Oct. Of course as a result, prices dropped drastically, from a $300+ return trip on SQ
to having only to fork out $29 for a 1-way ticket on Tiger. Of course it was boon time for consumers like us! However, premium service airline, SQ
, could not compete effectively using their humongous B772s and thus had to give 2 of their daily flights to regional sister airline Silkair (MI), at the same time codesharing on MI
I had booked 2 different airlines on this trip as Tiger was cheapest on my departure date, while Jetstar was cheapest on the return. My Tiger flight only cost me S$29 tax inclusive, even though it was only booked about 2 weeks before the flight!!
Tiger departs from Singapore Changi's Budget terminal, and so no fancy facilities and no aerobridges, but hey, I might prefer walking up the plane! Checked in about 1.5hrs before the flight and 2 check-in counters were opened for the flight. The queue for check-in was not very long and was done within 5 minutes. Secured a window and aisle seat with middle empty from the unsmiling Chinese national check-in agent. Boarding pass was a "supermarket receipt" type piece of paper. Through immigration with no queues and off into the terminal for a quick bite before the flight. I rather like the fact that Budget terminal does the security checks just after immigration and thus one can actually buy drinks from the convenience store airside and bring onto the flight, unlike the main terminals where security checks are done at the gate.
About half hr before departure, we proceeded to the gate. Not many departures during this time, only a Cebu Pacific to Manila, 2 Tiger flights as well as a Firefly flight to KL
Cebu Pacific A320. One out of the only 3 airlines operating from the terminal.
Our plane at the stand. It was 9V
-TRB, an A319, and also Tiger's newest plane. It was only about 3 months old!
Boarding just started when we reached the gate. Walked across the tarmac to the plane. Ahh, the smell of A-fuel. Initially wanted to take some photos on the tarmac but with security personnel all around, dismissed the idea. Was welcomed aboard by a friendly malay female crew. Further down the aisle, another equally friendly male crew was helping passengers with their luggage. Another female crew, a Korean, was doing some galley work in the rear galley. Total of 3 cabin crew on this A319.
At the gate.
The cabin of the A319 looked really new and clean! Reached our seats and wow, the pitch was actually quite good, about 31-32". In fact it was much better than their A320 aircraft which I had flown on before. Guess this has to do with that their A320s are fitted with 180 seats (maximum allowable) while A319s have only 144 seats (to enable 3-crew operations).
The good seat pitch for a budget airline.
All the stuff in the seat pocket. Surprisingly, Tiger Tales, their inflight magazine, is actually quite an interesting read.
Boarding was completed soon but the captain came on and announced that due to a slight technical problem, we would have a short delay as the technician fix the problem. No problems as the delay was only 15min. Load seemed about slightly more than half full.
Cabin view. The cabin was very new and clean!
While we were waiting, I saw SQ
's A380 depart for Hong Kong.
Also Cebu Pacific A320 leaving for Manila
After about 15min delay, the captain came on again and informed that the fault had been rectified and we would be on our way. The crew then performed the safety demonstration manually. It was interesting to note that all three cabin crew members were immaculately groomed, with the Korean crew having her hair-do bunned up ala SQ
style with not a single stray hair. Announcements also sounded very "SQ-ish" but then Tiger is 25% SQ
owned, so that must have explained it. Even the safety demo instructions came directly from the older SQ
safety demonstration video!! No wonder it sounded so familiar that I could even rattle it off under my breathe.
Taxied all the way to the end of the runway and was number 2 for takeoff.
Very soon after, seatbelt signs were off and we climbed to 37000 feet. Flight time would be 1hr. The captain also came on and warned of some turbulence upon reaching Penang and requested us to belt up at all times.
Through the clouds.
Climbing to 37000 feet.
The 3 very friendly crew then started their sales service.
Firstly, the snacks/drinks cart were pushed out for sales. Sales ended quite fast as not a lot of purchases were made on this short flight. Following that, duty free items were offered. My friend had wanted to buy Tiger's blanket (very cute with Tiger paw prints all over) which was offered in their duty free magazine, but the Korean crew was very apologetic that it was not offered on this flight. In fact, she gave us the (as described as someone) "I-am-so-sorry-your-pet-has-just-died" look that we felt so bad requesting for it in the first place, haha. In fact, the way that the crew conducted their service and how they handle requests seemed just out of SQ
's cabin crew guide book.
A visit to the toilet ensured. The toilet was also very clean and spotless, and surprisingly, the Korean crew even opened the lavatory door for me as I approached the rear galley lavatory! Wow, am I onboard Singapore Airlines or Tiger??
Another cabin view.
As expected, when we were nearing Penang, the weather started to get bad. Seatbelt signs were turned on and the Captain came on and advice everyone to belt up immediately. True enough, we soon started to fly through very rough turbulence. In fact, it was the worst I had ever encountered. We were not only going up and down, but the whole plane was literally being thrown left and right! I was grabbing hard on my arm rest!! Again, our dedicated crew decided that passengers' safety is more important than their own and were still going up and down the aisle checking if seat belts were fastened. Not only once, but the male crew went up down 3 times!! My hero!! I was so fearing for his safety as he was literally grabbing onto the seats to stablize himself.
About to fly through the very turbulent area.
Turbulence only stopped after we were out of the clouds. By then we were also approaching Penang.
Flaps down and final approach.
Landing in Penang.
We landed a bit late, due to the slight delay. Taxiing to the gate.
Selamat Datang Pulau Pinang
Parked at the gate. We were 1 out of only 2 planes at the terminal.
The other plane, a MH
Verdict, Tiger offers a very good alternative to leisure travellers like us to wants to make short trips to regional destinations, especially to Malaysia. Travellers from Singapore no longer needed to pay hundreds of dollars for such a short plane ride when the air fare on Tiger is almost equivalent to the cab fare from airport to downtown. Service is more than acceptable on this flight and for leisure travellers, the lack of a hot sandwich, coffee/tea, newspapers is more than made up with the ultra cheap fare. I can foresee Tiger going to be successful on these short regional routes.
Next up, Jetstar on the return.
My past and future travels - http://www.ba97.com/ba97/calendar/report.asp?handle=ycp81