Langkawi Int’l Airport – Kuala Lumpur Int’l Airport
Boeing 737-8GP (9M-LCF)
Duration: 1h 10min
18 January 2017
I redeemed a one-way Business Class ticket on MH to spend a little over a week in the beautiful island of Langkawi. Sufficiently sun baked and very salted by the constant sea breeze, it was time to make my way back to civilization. With the MH redemption being an exception, all of my short haul flights within the region have been with the Lion Group of airlines during this holiday. Radiating from Changi Airport where my base is, I had Thai Lion to Bangkok, Malindo Air to Kuala Lumpur and Lion Air / Batik Air to Jakarta.
Sticking to that pattern, I decided to peruse Malindo Air departing Langkawi and a one-way Business Class ticket was my choice for this trip.
A short taxi ride from the resort was all it took for me to be deposited on the steps on this compact little airport. The relentless sun was making me grateful for some shade, but the weak air conditioning within the building made things worse. I was very damp in places I didn’t want and that is no way to travel. The present Langkawi International Airport terminal is really starting to show its age.
Passed a layer of security screening and I arrived at Malindo’s check in counters. Economy line was crowded indeed and they were served by 2 counters. The Business Class side was empty, so empty in fact I was the only one there, so empty in fact there was hardly anyone there – not even staff.
I felt a little foolish standing there after a while and began to wonder if the counter was even opened in the first place. After the agent at an adjacent counter was finished, I waved and asked if there was anyone attending to this.
“Oh, are you in Business Class?”
“No, not really. I just have a fetish of pretending I am so I can get chased away. I get a high from this rejection, you see…”, now THAT was what I really wanted to say.
Instead, I just smiled and muttered a confident “YES” amusing myself with these silly thoughts. Sometimes I feel my imagination of an alternate reality illustrating my inner cognitive churns would make Ally McBeal very proud.
Langkawi being, well… Langkawi, there was no lounge access for me. Although I was told by the agent I would have one during transit in KLIA. That’s fine, I wasn’t exactly hungry anyway because of the extremely lavish breakfast buffet at the hotel earlier on. With just a roller cabin bag, I was easily on my way after receiving my boarding slips of paper for both flights. I was on my way to Singapore after the transit in KUL, you see.
The domestic holding lounge was choked full of waiting passengers. Air Asia was boarding next door, plus the ones from our flight, and the entire hall was full. Despite that, I managed to score a seat right in front and spent the remaining time there checking out my finger nails.
I was tracking our aircraft via FR24 and soon enough, she announced her arrival using very vocal reverse thrusts.
9M-LCF took her time to taxi into position and eventually unloaded a plane load of merry holiday makers. Oh how I wish the roles were reversed and I was there instead! I was actually considering extending my stay before I booked this ticket the night before.
Soon enough, announcements came to pre-board families with young children and for Business Class passengers to board at their own leisure. Elsewhere, other passengers were actively turned away so kudos to Malindo for actively enforcing this.
Boarding pass ripped, and I was allowed pass the counter for my trek out onto the hot sun towards the waiting aircraft. The walk turned into selfie central with entire families posing every few steps out there. I decided to join in the fun and took a few as well.
Made my way up the stairs to be greeted by what I was thought was 2 of the most enthusiastic flight attendants I have ever encountered.
“Good afternoon, Sir!” Mya, was the first to greet me and I immediately recognized her from my previous KUL-ADL flight in Business Class.
“Hey!”, I replied, “I remember you…!”
On cue, that comment started the ball rolling of what was going to be a fantastic flight.
Mirroring what happened on Batik, Mya ushered me into 1A while her colleague stood at the door. Similar to Batik’s A320s, Malindo’s Business Class is configured into 3 rows of 2x2. However unlike the former, Malindo’s PTVs aren’t seatback mounted but are instead deployed from armrests.
“Can I get you a drink? Ice water? Orange juice? Both?” laughed Mya
“Water’s good, please.”
Cold towels followed.
We started chatting after I was served water as remaining passengers took their time on the tarmac going selfie crazy. Topics very quickly covered my holiday so far, her career as a flight stewardess, obnoxious passengers, food places in Langkawi, travel tales…
While Economy Class looked to be fairly full, I was still craning my neck to see if anyone else coming up the stairs would join me.
Soon the tarmac selfie shots died down to a trickle. The stairs also became empty.
“Saya sendiri eh?”, I enquired with Mya if I was the only one.
“Yes, you are!”
That explains the situation earlier at check in why the Business Class counter wasn’t manned!
With boarding all completed and there was still some time left before pushback, Mya’s colleague Suzannah joined in our light banter and my drink glass was topped up at the same time.
“Mr.. err… Wee?” they seemed mystified with my name
“Just call me Ryan”
Meal orders were also taken. Choices were:
- Chicken pizza
- Vegetarian pizza
Soon enough the doors were closed and Mya came on the blower to welcome everyone on board. Flight time to KLIA was 1hr 10mins. Safety video was played as we gently pushed back. In no time, we taxied towards the marshalling point of Runway 21 which was really just…. There.
Take off scenery was superb, being such a clear day for flying.
Being such a clear day, we also had a perfect view of Penang during the journey towards KLIA.
After the seatbelt sign pinged off, I deployed the table from my arm rest and somehow it wouldn’t sit right. In fact, it sort of “collapsed” onto my lap. On her way back from securing the curtains behind me, Suzannah observed that and went ahead to pull out the table from the seat next to me.
“We use this table, ok?” she offered
I was also offered headphones but I declined – figured it would be unnecessary for a flight of this duration. Point to note, they were like the ones given on Batik Air.
Suzannah appeared again with table linens from Batik Air (??) and laid them on seat 1C, followed very quickly with my choice of chicken pizza plated by Mya in the galley. The meal tray consisted of the pizza in a box (within also had one chocolate muffin), metal cutleries and my choice of drink.
Meanwhile, before I could tuck in, Mya came and insisted I should try her special “ice cappuccino”. I couldn’t refuse. It was served very shortly.
With my meal all taken care of, Suzannah then left Mya to her own devices and disappeared aft into Economy Class to assist her colleagues back there. I brought the meal tray onto the wide armrest to awkwardly try to have my meal. Unfortunately, the pizza wasn’t very tasty so I just picked on the toppings. Thank god for the hotel buffet earlier this morning, I would’ve otherwise starved to death on this flight.
In no time, the meal was completed and tray collected, one more round of cold towel – and Mya’s job was done. For the remainder of the flight, she sat in 1C and we continued to chat as if we were longtime friends.
Normally during a day time flight, my eyes would be alternating between the air show and the view outside to see what landmarks I could recognize. But today was different, I had the undivided attention of a new-found friend as we spoke about our lives and our wishes for the future. It also helped we shared the same wicked sense of humour.
Glancing out of my window, I realized we were flying over Kuala Lumpur city center with landmarks slowly passing me by. Time really flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
Soon enough, Mya excused herself to prep the aircraft for arrival, including announcements and galley duties.
The wonderful flight was ending as the nose of the aircraft dipped towards earth to begin the arrival process. Mya appeared with a cold towel for me and insisted I freshen up with it.
The journey south of KL City saw us head all the way to Port Dickson before turning right northwards for an approach onto Runway 14R. A smooth touchdown and a short taxi later, we docked very quickly at the domestic gates of the main terminal building. As we were waiting for the aero-bridge to be connected, Mya suddenly said “Quick! Photo!”…
As with all good things, it must come to an end. I bid my farewells to both Suzannah guarding the curtains and Mya at the door with a sincere hug from her. Now whenever I am in KLIA, I will keep a lookout for them both! Or even better, I look forward to my next flight on Malindo Air.
After exiting from the gate, immigration for transit into international airside was a short walk away. My lounge turned out to be the Sama Sama Hotel Express Lounge at the Satellite Terminal where I spent the next 4 hours watching TV and munching on snacks. CONCLUSION
Continuing with my travels about Asia, visiting my usual joints from the past was necessary. No surprise I ended up in Jakarta partaking in traffic jams and restaurant hopping. On this trip, I used the opportunity to get my butt on Batik Air. I’ve been extremely curious about the Lion Group’s foray into the full-service portion of the airline business. The have certainly tried their damned best with the original Lion Air toying around with a Business Class complete with a fully operational Samba Lounge.
Unfortunately, the airline’s reputation didn’t bode well and the sort of audience they attracted were there purely based on price – not loyalty.
Lion Air Group has a good thing going. Would I have said this some 14 years ago? It all started with their GIGANTIC order of 737s which got everyone scratching their heads. Where the hell are they going to park them? CGK was already operating at capacity and is frequently congested. Lion Air Australia was rejected, so what were they to do?
What to do then? A brand-new airline was created under the parent and out popped BATIK AIR. Whilst the airline was formed riding on Lion Air’s humungous order of 737s, it has since gradually transitioned into an all Airbus A320 operation to further distance itself from its parent. The surplus 737s were subsequently used to start Malindo Air. Would this attempt help in trying to differentiate itself from Lion Air?
Malindo Air was formed by Lion in response to Indonesia Air Asia’s attempt to expand their footprint in Indonesia via the acquisition of Batavia Air – which eventually failed and the later was declared bankrupt and folded. Malindo (which is a play on the words “Malaysia” and “Indonesia”) at one time was in the process of getting rebranded to Batik Air Malaysia – even Flight Radar 24 was illustrating OD flights as such on the app. However, this exercise has since been halted, leaving several Malindo aircraft in a hybrid limbo livery.
Just like Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines have had their territory eroded by the likes of rather strong LCCs. With Lion’s Malaysian foray into the full-service sector (or hybrid model since Malindo’s service model in Economy seems to be LCC-like), MH’s pie looks set to be reduced further. Both Batik and Malindo’s Business Class products are polished and definitely worth a second look. This is very surprising given how young these 2 carriers are. I went with my expectations extremely measured and emerged very impressed.
Batik had very heavy whiffs of Garuda and Malindo of Malaysia Airlines… which isn’t a bad thing. Service protocols from these legacy airlines cannot be faulted and if they can be replicated by an experienced set of crew on a different airline, why not?