Having started my term as a national serviceman on 23 August 2011, it meant that I would have much lesser free time. We only get to come out for 2 days during the weekends and it will be back to business from Monday. Speaking of which, I had the impression that we do not get to go overseas during the Basic Military Training (BMT) phase, most of which is conducted in a highly protected island to the north east of Singapore, Pulau Tekong. A good thing about the island was that it is directly on the approach path of SIN when planes come in to land on runway 20C or 20R and you also get to see the planes take off from 2C or 2L. All these daily temptations made me want to fly even more especially seeing the different aircraft types flying low in front of your eyes each day, including a daily Boeing 727 owned by Transmile Air.
A turning point was that I found out I was able to go overseas for less than 24 hours each time, limited to nearby countries like Malaysia or sometimes Indonesia. This good news meant that I have to fly somewhere before the year ends as it will be a long time before I get to fly again. Having dreams of me being on a plane has become normal. However, the dreams sometimes include me missing a flight or forgetting to bring my camera for trip reports or sometimes even forgetting the registration. I guess this is just part and parcel of an aviation enthusiast’s life.
Since I have decided to fly, I had to decide on my destination and the airline next. Various budget airlines fly to Malaysia, alongside with the legacy competitors of Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Silkair. The first step to deciding a destination was to decide on one that I have never been to before. The first destination that came into my mind was Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak. However, flights there were not cheap and the airline offering the cheapest flight was AirAsia, a carrier I have been on several times. The next destination was Penang, a destination I just been to back in June but do not mind being there again.
After lots of searching around, the plan was decided. I will fly to Penang on Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737-400, an airline/aircraft combination I have wanted to do for a long time. On the way back, I will be flying on Tiger Airways’ Airbus A320-200 to test if the airline is as bad as it seems. For both flights, I got seats in the emergency exit row.
Both airlines’ websites were easy to use. MH has a wonderful booking system which allows you to check your flight and fares easily with detailed breakdowns of taxes and surcharges. Tiger Airways had a standard LCC website but it had some problems accepting my MasterCard so I had to use my Visa instead. However, both airlines successfully emailed me my itinerary 5 minutes within the completion of my booking.
Since my flight is at 11.05am, I had lots of time to wake up for breakfast followed by taking the MRT (or the metro, as some call it) to the airport. I left my house at 8.05am expecting to reach the airport at around 9.05am but instead I reached around 9.15am. As I reached the airport, I had to walk to Terminal 2 where MH operates from and walk through the whole terminal to reach the MH counters at row 12, right at the end. Before checking in, I stopped by at the ticketing counter to enquire for a possibility of paying to upgrade to Business Class but was told that I was on a discounted fare so an upgrade is not possible.
Feeling slightly disappointed, I headed over to the check in counter for Economy Class and was greeted warmly by a SIN ground agent and handed my boarding pass to me with a huge smile on her face. SIN has not lost its standard over the years and I hope that the standard remains for many more years to come.
The empty check-in counters
Long row of check-in counters for various airlines
Still my favourite kind of FIDS!
Another view of the terminal
Elevators leading up to restaurants
Holding my first ever MH boarding pass, I proceeded straight to immigration to grab some light bites and find a good place to watch the action on the tarmac and runway. I found this quiet section of the terminal whereby there are some stalls selling various bites and a huge clear window where you can catch the action on both the runway and the apron. This made me very excited and quickly bought my breakfast from a nearby café and sat down.
Right after immigration
Well lit viewing area
9V-SBE which I also managed to catch on my previous trip to BKI
The regional wing of Singapore Airlines
Put your child here while you spot planes!
I had the “healthier choice” meal which consisted of a black pepper chicken wrap, potato chips (not sure how “healthy” is this!) and a cup of Dilmah tea. The taste was ok but the wrap was too peppery. However, I will still recommend this place if you were to spend an hour or two here. Around 40 minutes before my flight, I decided to head to the gate.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 674 – 29OCT11
Origin: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN/WSSS)
Destination: Penang International Airport (PEN/WMKP)
Registration: 9M-MMD (DEL 04AUG92)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-400
Scheduled Time of Departure: 11.05am
Actual Time of Departure: 11.23am
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 12.25pm
Actual Time of Arrival: 12.21pm
Airborne Time: 58 minutes
Class of Travel: Economy
Remarks: This flight continues to Langkawi (LGK)
I will be flying from gate F31 today, a very significant gate in Terminal 2 as it hosted the world’s first Airbus A380 commercial flight from Singapore to Sydney – SQ380 on 25 October 2007. The boarding gate was still nicely decorated with different colours and styles of seating and is definitely sufficient for even a full load of Boeing 737 passengers. However, our flight today was only around 70% full.
As I was queuing to pass my ticket to the agent, my aircraft has arrived. The registration was 9M-MMD, a classic model delivered to the airline in August 1992 and has been with them ever since delivery.
9M-MMD arriving at the gate
Boarding was announced around 20 minutes before STD and the usual process of Business Class and elite members were called to board first before the Economy Class passengers were called by row numbers. An interesting thing to note about the gate was that there were 2 entrances to the jetways, one for upper and one for lower deck. We entered through the upper deck entrance but made a small turn and on to the lower deck jetway. Well, maybe next time!
View inside the gate
View of the plane again – Nice weather for flying!
Signs showing upper and lower deck
I entered the plane and was warmly greeted by flight attendant Jin before I swiftly made my way to my seat at row 14. Row 14 is technically not an emergency exit row but window seats in rows 11 and 12 were removed so seats 14A and 14F has the best legroom out of any seats in the plane. The seats can be reserved for an additional S$10 which I found it pretty reasonable. Do get the seats while they are available as it can go a long way for longer flights and normal travellers would not take the effort to get the best seats in the house. I got the seats even though I booked the flight only 3 days in advance!
Just about to enter the plane
First view of the colourful seats
Looking back to Terminal 2 with a beautiful wing
The seat was pretty comfortable and I do not feel any discomfort despite not leaving the seat at all during the flight. Shortly after settling down, the flight attendant came by to explain the emergency exit procedures to the passengers seated in rows 11, 12 and 14. Another point to note was that I had the whole row to myself which meant a lesser chance of getting frowned upon when taking photos and more space to move around.
A point to give MH credit is that the plane looks brand new despite being 19 years old. There were no random surprises like the tray tables falling out or dirty seats at all around the plane. We pushed back at 11.12am and taxied out to runway 2C for takeoff. Takeoff at runway 2C meant that I would have a chance to catch a glimpse of Pulau Tekong, the island that I will be trapped in for 5 to 6 days a week.
Preparing for safety demo
Planes I’ve been on – 9V-SVM to CAN and 9V-SLG to CNX
Parent and son
SQ will be retiring their 747s next March, enjoy while they last!
Having no delays, we applied full throttles and lifted off Singapore soil at 11.23am. Immediately after departure, it got slightly bumpy and cloudy which meant I was unable to see the island. Oh well, I am in there long enough each week so probably mother nature wants me to get away from that island. After bumping and having surprise drops (which I love) for around 2 minutes, it was perfect weather for the rest of the flight.
Shortly after takeoff
Smaller than usual tray table from the armrest
The wing is just beautiful ain’t it?
Shortly after the seatbelt signs were off, the lunch trolley was out. Reading lots about MH having cost cutting measures and reducing to just snack boxes for short flights, I was not expecting much from them this time round. However, I overheard Jin telling passengers in front of me that there was a fish or chicken available.
Jin approached me shortly after…
Good Morning Sir, sorry to disturb. We are serving lunch now. We have fish curry with plain rice and chicken with briyani rice available. May I know your choice?
I will take the fish, thanks.
After a short wait that seemed like forever, I was handed the rectangular box which consist of a main course, dessert, chocolate and a small pack of mineral water. This seems quite a nice meal for a short regional flight, but I would definitely not be happy if I were on a long haul flight with this meal!
My meal – unopened
My meal – opened
As I slowly opened the tinfoil, the wonderful smell of the curry fish and curry vegetable surrounded the air around me. The fish and vegetables are cooked to perfection and the portion is just nice for a regional flight. Just a small thing though, the meal was already kinda cold when served. I guess they did not have time to reheat it. A few minutes later, another flight attendant approached me and offered me drinks. The sparkling water I requested was not available so I had orange juice instead. When I finished my orange juice, Jin came over and asked if I wanted another cup of orange juice which I gladly accepted. I found this to be a very good service that the flight attendant could remember what the passengers ordered.
My orange juice
As soon as I finished my meal, the box was cleared and the cabin was being prepared for descend. Funnily enough, I noticed that on all my 19 flights this year, I was not served with trays at all in Economy Class while I was served with trays in both Business and First Class. Talk about the irony! However, it would be due to the fact that most of my Economy flights are with budget airlines. ETA was announced by the captain to be 12.45pm which would make us 20 minutes late, but I was sure this will not be the case.
Relaxing after my meal
Closer and closer to ground!
Cabin ready for landing with a guy excited for his vacation
Time seems to fly by so fast and soon I see the runway of Penang airport. By our orientation, I was sure that we are landing on runway 04, like the usual on most flights as it is the only one equipped with ILS, while in the opposite direction runway 22 is not and you have to do a visual approach.
This photo might make you think you are at SXM!
We touched down on runway 04 at 12.21pm local time, still 4 minutes ahead of schedule and much earlier than the captain’s estimated time of 12.45pm. However, the landing was hard, slightly bumpy and the reversers were pretty noisy. Not that I mind, though! We exited the runway and docked at gate 10 where I proceeded on to clear immigration.
Landing and spoilers deployed
Airport fire station
New terminal underway?
Not very busy today with only FY as the other pax flight – It is a subsidiary of MH
Gate 12 where I arrived a few months ago – Used by AK
I did not take pictures of PEN this time round but feel free to look at this report where I did a detailed photo report on PEN.
As usual, I headed off to the departures level and waited for around 15 minutes for the Tiger Airways counter to be open to check in for my flight. Thereafter, I headed on to Coffee Bean to use my laptop and surf the internet before proceeding to my flight back home.
The gate for my first TR flight would be at gate 7, just a few stone’s throws away from immigration which was pretty fast. As usual, the plane has not arrived yet when I reached the gate. There were 2 rows for boarding for TR – One for passengers with boardmefirst purchased while the other for general boarding. As I have reserved a seat in advance, I got eligible for boardmefirst which was indicated on the boarding pass as a blue colour chop with a man running with his briefcase.
TR check in counters
CZ just beside and advertising their Business Class and Premium Economy Class product
Chilling in Coffee Bean
Tiger Airways Flight TR 2427 – 29OCT11
Origin: Penang International Airport (PEN/WMKP)
Destination: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN/WSSS)
Registration: 9V-TAR (DEL 25NOV10)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Scheduled Time of Departure: 2.55pm
Actual Time of Departure: 3.08pm
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 4.20pm
Actual Time of Arrival: 4.11pm
Airborne Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Class of Travel: Economy
The aircraft was 9V-TAR, an Airbus A320-200 delivered to Tiger Airways on 25 November 2010 and had no change of ownership since then which makes this plane just around 11 months old.
Docked at the gate
As I stepped onboard, the Tiger crew gave me a very warm welcome which left a very good first impression of the airline in me. The cloth covered seats were also pretty comfortable and legroom in the emergency exit row was more than sufficient. Shortly after all passengers were seated, the captain came on the speakers and gave us a welcome announcement. He ended his speech with a comment that the safety demonstration will “not be the most interesting thing you’ll hear today but it is definitely very important”. It made me chuckle for a bit!
Fellow passengers boarding
Hot meals for purchase, but not available for this short flight
My view for the flight
Just as we were about to commence pushback, a male flight attendant came by to explain the emergency exit procedures. The crew on this flight seem pretty cheerful and are always carrying a smile on their faces. We pushed back from the gate and taxied to runway 22 for takeoff at 3.08pm, a first for me!
Wings Air arriving from MES - Dedicated to Johannes (luxair747SP) as he loves props
The male flight attendant performing the safety demo – He doesn’t seem too happy!
Friend from home
9M-MMD to the left, the aircraft that brought me here
9M-AQA, the aircraft that flew me BKI-SIN. It was the newest in the AK fleet at that time
Air HongKong Airbus A300
While taxiing to runway 22. I notice several structures are marked with the checkerboard pattern from water tanks to walls. Any reason?
Turning onto the runway
The different orientation means you get a different view. Sure enough, a sharp left turn shortly after takeoff provided beautiful views of Penang and the airport. Immigration forms were handed out shortly after seatbelt signs were off and I did not require one since I am a Singaporean. As I started exploring the seat pocket contents, I noticed that the safety card had a small footnote at the bottom right hand corner stating “9V-TAE onwards” which made me think if there are any differences between 9V-TAA to 9V-TAD that requires 2 versions of safety card.
Shortly after takeoff
Goodbye PEN! See you soon!
Further and further from PEN
Shortly after takeoff
Wing + cloud = Nice!
Seat pocket contents
While I was exploring the seat pocket contents, the BOB service started. I bought a can of root beer which was S$3 just for the sake of it. The normal price on the ground would just cost S$1 on average. As the BOB service was ending, I got the attention of a flight attendant to let her know my intention to purchase an Airbus A320-200 model.
Excuse me, I would like to purchase an airplane model.
Oh ok. Let me check if there’s stock.
-After a while-
Here’s your model.
May I know how much is it in Ringgit?
Let me check.
It will be 59RM.
Ok, I will pay in Singapore Dollars then.
Wing view again
My root beer
New addition to my collection!
She seems quite disinterested in her work while I was purchasing the model. Soon after the duty free service ended, it was time for our descend to SIN. As I continued taking notes for this TR on the flight, my seatmate broke the ice between us.
Why are you taking so detailed notes?
I am taking these notes for writing a report to share with my fellow aviation enthusiasts.
Ah I see. So you take down notes for every flight you take?
I only take notes for my daytrips. Here are some of my trips I flew.
Impressive. So you just fly for the sake of flying?
Yeah, I have done this several times this year.
Wow, that is something I’ve never heard of.
In Penang when he sat down beside me, I found that he looked pretty familiar. Sure enough, after a few minutes I confirmed that he was a “student” on a very famous Singaporean variety show which shows foreigners speaking Mandarin and sharing their various cultures. The show features “students” from various countries like Japan, Korea, Thailand, USA, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan etc. with the host as the “teacher” who teaches them some “very Singapore” stuffs like Singlish and the food we have.
Beautiful view out there!
Sun and sea
Lots of ships, no doubt this is SIN
Since I was chatting with him while we descended, forgive me for the lack of photos for the descend. At this point in time, I found it pretty ironic that I had my first experience on a Malaysian carrier in Singapore and a Singaporean carrier in Malaysia.
Farewell shot to 9V-TAR
We touched down back in Singapore at 4.11pm on runway 20R and made our way back to the Budget Terminal where TR operates from. Disembarkation was quick and soon I was on my way back home on the MRT.
Funny that they put this at the budget terminal. Shouldn’t it be at Terminal 2 instead?
As they say it, MH is really not just an airline code. MH also stands for Malaysian Hospitality. They have proved that although their hard product is not as good compared to their counterparts, their service standards are really second to none. I am really impressed by the service standards onboard MH and the food they provided was also of very high quality which I am thankful for.
As for TR, they being a budget airline and having lots of criticisms coming their way made me worry as they had frequent flight cancellations and delay on top of the complaints. To rub salt to their wound, their Australian counterpart was grounded for several weeks earlier this year due to their pilots receiving inadequate training. However, they managed to leave a good first impression in me but sort of lost their footing on their in flight services. Despite that, I do not mind trying them out again as they have pretty reasonable prices at times (e.g. SIN-SZX for S$233 all inclusive) but I will ensure that I do not have anything urgent to do before or after the trip so as to cope with any cancellations or delay should it occur.
As an attempt to “act like a pro”, I have created my own trip report website hosted by blogspot. Do give it a visit and let me know if there are any ways to improve it.
Flying 5 Star - SQ SIN-CAN-SIN (2009) (by Initious Mar 26 2010 in Trip Reports)
Sardines In A Can - Jetstar Asia SIN-HKG-SIN (by Initious Mar 29 2010 in Trip Reports)
Away We Go - China Southern SIN-CAN-WUH Vv (1/2) (by initious Apr 2 2010 in Trip Reports)
Away We Go - China Southern WUH-CAN-SIN (2/2) (by initious Apr 14 2010 in Trip Reports)
Oldest Vs Newest: Royal Silk Class On Thai (by Initious Jun 13 2010 in Trip Reports)
First On Airliners.net - CZ Shanghai To Shantou (by Initious Jun 27 2010 in Trip Reports)
18 Hours Of Royal Orchid Service: Thai PVG-BKK-SIN (by initious Jul 27 2010 in Trip Reports)
Good Morning Borneo! - Where Silkair Unwinds... (by initious Oct 17 2010 in Trip Reports)
Irama AirAsia! - Kota Kinabalu To Singapore (by initious Oct 24 2010 in Trip Reports)
Great Asia Trip Part 1 - Propping To Luxury (by Initious Mar 23 2011 in Trip Reports)
Great Asia Trip Part 2 - In Love With Emirates (by initious Mar 27 2011 in Trip Reports)
Great Asia Trip Part 3 - The Arabian Adventure (by initious Apr 15 2011 in Trip Reports)
Great Asia Trip Finale - Brothers In Bangkok (by initious May 9 2011 in Trip Reports)
Flying The Orange Star Monopoly - SIN-SWA On 3K (by initious May 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
China Southern SWA-CAN - Do They Deserve 4 Star? (by initious May 21 2011 in Trip Reports)
A Dream Come True - SQ Business Class CAN-SIN (by initious Jun 13 2011 in Trip Reports)
Malaysia Boleh! - To Malaysia With 3K And AK (by initious Jun 30 2011 in Trip Reports)
Flying On My Birthday - The Triangle In SEA (by initious Jul 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
[Edited 2011-11-06 02:42:39]
[Edited 2011-11-06 02:54:36]