Sydney - Kuala Lumpur
Air Asia X, Flight Number D7 223
Date: Friday 11 July 2014
Aircraft: Airbus A300-343, Reg: 9M-XXJ.
Aircraft First Flight: 16 May 2013
ETD: 1055 / ETA: 1725
ATD: 1102 / ATA: 1735 (8 hours, 32 Minutes)
Class Travelled: Premium Flat Bed
Routing: DCT KAT A576 MACLA N0475F380 A576 KALUG N0469F400 A576 AS A587 ONOXA G326 BLI M635 TPG A464 SJ G579 VJB A457 GUPTA
Time for a short break and no better place to do it than Kuala Lumpur. What's not to like? Cheap shopping, good shopping, my favourite food destination in Asia, great rates on hotels, and Air Asia X on the cheap which I had never flown before. (Despite having lots of regional travel with Air Asia I was yet to try it's medium/long-haul cousin).
I'll let the pictures do the talking in most cases here and just fill in the parts you need to know.
A 1045am departure found me at Sydney Airport at 0800. There wasn't much traffic on the way in so I made good time.
It was a nice, crisp Sydney winter's day.
There is a newish Rydges Hotel at Sydney International that's opened recently and would be good for those with an early departure - such as the 0600 flight on EK
or one of the early CX
flights. Not to mention NZ
flights across The Ditch.
There terminal wasn't too busy today in most sections. Surprising for a Friday to be honest.
There are self-check in machines for a few select airlines of the northern hemisphere in the terminal, but none of these would be of use to me today.
When I booked the flight to KUL
, I noticed that it was $398.00 if I booked it as a return. However, if I booked a SYD
one-way, and then a KUL
one-way this reduced the price to $293.00 return - an absolute bargain!
You can then add-in your seat requests for "quiet zone", exit row, meals, baggage etc. I didn't do this at this stage. I put in for an upgrade on www.optiontown.com
as I'd heard it worked and worked well. My upgrade for the outbound flight was $198, and $129 for the return. If no Premium Class available I would be pretty much guaranteed a spare seat next to me in standard class, so I was fine with that. Because I had put in for the upgrade with Option Town, I decided to hold-off booking flights and seats etc. If the upgrade turned out ok these would be included in the fare anyway, and if not, I could still pre-book them prior to departure. Option Town will let you know between 1-4 days prior to departure if the upgrade is successful, so lots of time to add these in if it turned out I did have to fly Y class - which I didn't, so I also ended up with free baggage (25kg) and included meal.
The check-in area for D7
was very busy for the standard class, but no one was in the Premium Line as yet, so I went straight up, a friendly agent checked my in and gave me the aisle seat - 1(D).
There are 12 Premium seats on the A330 for D7
6 x 2 rows, and "lettered" A,C D,G H,K
No lounge access in Sydney for Air Asia X Premium pax. No problems.
Well... here is what most people would call the Air Asia Lounge at Sydney Airport - Burger King!
A stock-standard CX
A330 work-horse arrived as I was munching on my hash brown. These A330's of CX
really have a high utilisation seeing as they're the standard deployment on all HKG
-Australia services these days.
As with most airports of major cities around the world, shopping is a prime focus. I don't think Sydney Duty Free has many bargains at all these days, so I never buy from here. Moreover, it's almost getting like an Asian market, with "assistants" following you around and asking if they can be of help every 3 seconds. It makes browsing a not very nice experience and you feel under constant pressure to be...well... "assisted". Quite off-putting really.
I realised that I had forgotten my pen so I couldn't fill out my departure card. Luckily, I found a charity selling pens in the terminal - what I great place to set up a charity pen stand! I'm sure they make quite a good amount of donations. It turned out to be a nice pen and supported a good cause too.
The check-in agent had given me a "FAST TRACK" pass, so I got through immigration and security in under 10 minutes. Lucky, as it was busy by this time with lots of people going through in the "normal" channels, and the wait looked quite long.
Lots of colourful Australia souvenirs on display if you're a visitor to Australia and chose to bring home something unique for a special someone.
Here's some of the aircraft that were parked near our gate as I took a walk around the terminal prior to boarding.
China Souther A330
Various Colourful Aircraft
This beauty which won't be around too much longer was heading off to Johannesburg. "Gosford" is a location on The Central Coast about 90 minutes north of Sydney in case you didn't know.
And here was our A330-300. Only just over a year old. Arrived on time from KUL
and rego was 9M-XXJ.
Some of our crew walking to the gate an hour prior to departure.
And a few more of them - they seemed a happy enough bunch.
The queue for boarding was getting quite long, but there were 2 lanes - Standard and Premium. They boarded children, special needs pax, aged and Premium first, so I was on board pretty quickly.
I was met at the door by the Cabin Supervisor Rudi and shown to my seat. I didn't have far to go with it being 1 (D).
First impressions were that it looked very comfortable for a flight of this length. (8 hours 30 minutes).
Here's 1 (A) and 1 (B). A young couple with a small baby got on and sat in these seats. I was worried about the baby spoiling the premium experience with constant screaming and running rampart, but this baby turned out to be very passive and spent the whole flight asleep in the bassinet or watching movies on the iPad his parents brought along. A very good young passenger! (You can also see in the next pic - just behind the seat back - there is a very nice red duvet for each passenger to use during flight. Each seat had one of these and they were lovely and warm. I'm sure that the flight crew on D7
are told to keep the cabin cooler in terms of temperature so they sell more comfort kits and duvets in the Y section! I wouldn't be surprised!)
Obligatory ANet legroom shot - no problem here!
I had these "people" on the bulkhead to look at for the whole flight. This is your inflight entertainment if you forget to bring your own tablet - you can count stars, patterns, teeth, skin blemishes and other such things all the way to KUL
Even the overhead lockers had advertising on them running the whole length of both cabins.
Hot towels were handed out by Rudi and his assistant in the Premium cabin, Sharon.
These were the contents of the seat pocket:
A bottle of mineral water was handed out to us too.
Which neatly fits in the water holder down the side of the seat, here:
Luckily, there were 11/12 in Premium today and I had the spare seat next to me. Nice one. No photos of the take off as I was sitting in a centre seat, but it was a quick-ish taxi out to 34L and then a take-off to the north of Sydney. No bumps on climb-out and we tracked to the NW
of Sydney on our way to KL
. I needed the bathroom and headed off there as soon as the seat belt sign was switched off. It certainly doesn't have any "premium" fixtures, but it was very clean as you would expect so soon after departure.
Time to put the feet up and get the seat into a reclining position. Very comfy!
Sharon came by and asked if I would like my meal now or later. Now was fine by me and it turned out I had "ordered" an all-day breakfast. Not that I remembered ordering this mind-you, but I was happy to take it. It turned out to be quite nice actually.
After eating it was time to catch up on some Game of Thrones, a movie and whatever else was on my tablet I brought along. I don't know if tablets were free for Premium Class passengers. They were certainly renting them out in Y, but I didn't see any come around to us in Premium, nor did I see anyone watching them during the flight. In any case, I brought my own as mentioned, as did most other people. I noticed when I went for a walk in Y that almost everyone had an iPad or Android tablet. People are so much more "educated" about low-cost travel now and seem to come prepared. A sign of the changing times! I noticed it was a very "young" crowd on my D7
flights as well - not to many people over the age of 50 whom, I guess, still like the full-service carriers which offer better comfort - eg 8-across seating on an A330, not 9-across as on D7
Somewhere about the coast of Western Australia I got a little peckish and got some snacks. Cabin Supervisor Rudi said that he was more-than-happy to run a tab for me and collect payment prior to landing in KUL
in case I wanted to order anything else later. A very nice touch!
I talked to Rudi when I was waiting for the bathroom one time, and it turns out he's been with Air Asia since it's inception. The crews used to work both AK
flights, but now they are a separate crew which he said suits him much better and leads to better service consistency. It probably does too.
Anyway, snack time!
There are controls on the side of the seat "capsule" to put the seat into "RECLINE" or "FLATBED" mode. Recline was fine for me on this day flight as I didn't want to sleep.
Very comfy for movie watching! Especially with the comfy red pillow and duvet...
Economy was totally full. Good yields for D7
to Australia then!
As mentioned, most people are well educated about what's included and not included on low-cost carriers these days and pack accordingly!
About 2 hours out of KUL
, Sharon approached and informed me that the second meal I had ordered was ready and would I like to eat it now? ( ! )
Again, no memory of ordering this, but I'll take it. This time, Chicken Rice. And again - not bad either. Not outstanding, but very edible.
Not much else to report on the flight other than the captain and first officer (Indian Malaysian and Chinese Malaysian respectively) came on a couple of times to update us. There were very strong head-winds across Australia today, so our progress was slowed by these somewhat. The flight wasn't bumpy and we descended into KUL
without any fanfare and landed a few minutes late. Sorry - no pictures of the decent or landing as I was in a centre seat as already mentioned. Also, the crew were looking right at me (being in row 1) and probably wouldn't have liked me using my phone to take pics during decent.
We landed and I was first off the plane pretty much, thanking Rudi and Sharon for their attentiveness as I left the aircraft.
One thing about KLIA 2 ... it's HUGE!!!!
This was parked next to us - welcome to Malaysia!
We walked... and walked.. and walked some more! Up escalators, down escalators, up ramps, down ramps, in and out of corridors.... a long, long way to get to immigration!
Anyway, we finally got there. Here are some pics I snapped along the way. The airport looked very new and fresh - as you'd expect having been only open for a couple of months.
Immigration was very easy - no arrival cards needed for Malaysia these days. And then to find out where the bag was going to be.
There were duty free shops on arrival of course.
I arrived about 2 minutes before my bag came out. It was tagged "PRIORITY" - which is normally a great way to make sure it comes out last! - but not today. All good!
Then you go into the arrivals area. My first impression was the lack of money changers there. I had to go upstairs to departures to change money - not happy with that at all!
Then I went off to find the KLIA Express Train into town. You walk through a shopping mall to get to the train.
On to the train and 30 minutes into the city at 160 km/h - very quick and a super-efficient way to get into town!
Here's a few pics of my hotel in Kuala Lumpur - Le Meridien. It was a great hotel! A fantastic rate, and the location is wonderful being right outside the door of the main train station. All point of KL
are easily accessible from here. The staff are lovely and I was very happy here.
And how could you not love a hotel that gives you welcome Éclairs - beats a boring old fruit basket any day!
After 4 days of shopping and eating my way around KL
it was time to head home to Sydney. My Optiontown upgrade came through 48 prior to the flight. As it turns out, Premium was completely full, so I'm surprised it didn't come through closer to departure. However, I wasn't going to argue! On to the train again and out to KLIA2 in 30 minutes.
Since the opening of the new terminal, the train will stop at the "regular" KLIA, and then 5 minutes later at KLIA 2.
Probably the only thing that annoyed my about Air Asia X on this trip was that I couldn't check my bag in more than 4 hours prior to departure. I was meeting a friend at the airport and got there 6 hours prior to my flight leaving. The check-in staff told me that you could only drop your bag 4 hours prior to departure - even as a Premium pax. Considering you could do this at the old LCCT and that you can't here at the new terminal, I found this slightly disappointing.
I've come to the conclusion that KLIA is a huge shopping mall with a few planes added as an after-thought! There is lots of opportunities to spend your money here! A lot of people seem to come here for shopping with no intention to even catch a plane. I guess it's convenient for people who live in the Sepang / southern area. Here are some pics to give you an idea. As airports go it's quite pleasant and doesn't have many hints of "low cost" about it. I was impressed.
None of these were working at this point of time.
More terminal shots:
Note the Tony Fernandes (CEO of Air Asia) "The Apprentice" aircraft, promoting the local version of the famous reality TV series.
I dropped my bag off 4 hours prior to departure. I had to wait a while as there was only 1 counter open for every Premium D7
flight. It wasn't a huge problem, but as I was checking in about 1930, the agent told me because of Ramadan and the fact it was "end of fast" for the day, they were short-staffed.
After checking in, immigration was very fast and I still had just under 4 hours to fill-in before my flight. Again, as on the way in, the walk was long! The gate agent warned me to allow 20 minutes to walk to the gate from check-in, so this place isn't small!
I thought I would go to the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is near the "L" gates. When I found out that it was a 10-15 minute walk just to get to this area I thought "forget it". It seems a silly idea to put the Plaza Premium lounge here when the Air Asia X long-haul flights leave mostly from gates P and Q. In the end it turned out ok.
The departures area was filled with (more) shops, and was quite a pleasant environment to be in.
I had heard that there was a transit hotel within the terminal at KLIA2. What I didn't know was that there was a pay-in lounge attached. The attendant on the front desk was super-friendly and offered to give me a tour before I commited to entering. As I had over 3 hours left, it made sense to wait in here. It was very peaceful, there was food and beverage, free internet, showers and no time limit - unlike Plaza Premium which gives you 2 hours or so. At the equivalent of about $29 it was a bargain. I found the lounge excellent value and enjoyed my 3 hours here and had a refreshing shower and something to eat and drink before boarding the flight. Not to mention charging my devices up. (D7
has power sockets for Premium pax at all seats, but just force of habit that I did this). Here are some lounge pics. It was great! It was also very quiet - it doesn't seem popular with low cost pax!
Nice food and beverage options.... simple, but more than enough to find something you like.
After my time in the lounge, it was a long walk to the gate. There was a LAGS check - as is normal for flights to Austraila - and no Premium lane for this so I waited in line. There was, however, a Premium line for boarding, so I was on board and welcomed by Cabin Supervisor Wendy and shown to my seat in quick time.
I had seat 1 (A) on the way back.
The cabin was full, as I mentioned, and Wendy came around prior to departure and asked me if I would like to have my meal ASAP after take-off to maximise sleep time. A nice thought and good idea!
This was our routing to SYD: MITOS1X MITOS M630 BOBAG P501 ANITO M080F350 B470 PKP N0472F350 L511 MIMIX N0467F370 L511 TARUN N0468F390 L511 BRM G222 PKS H319 TARAL Y59 RIVET
I didn't take a lot of pics on the way home as it was a night flight and things weren't that different to the trip up in terms of cabin. On the way back the aircraft was 9M-XXG and the flight left KUL
on time and arrived in SYD
45 minutes early due to schedule padding and headwinds. However, this time advantage was lost as we had to wait on the aircraft for a departing bird to leave our gate.
I had the Terriyaki Chicken on the way home.
This annoyed me a bit! The whole of Y was in darkness, as you'd expect on a night flight. However, this light between row 1 and the galley stayed on. It wasn't the galley light - that was separate. I asked Wendy about this and she said it needed to stay on "for safety reasons". I'm not sure what these "safety reasons" are. I've been in cabins that are totally dark before at night time - many times. Is this standard on D7
? Surely they could have turned this light off and left the galley light on so that they could go about their business? Mysterious...
We were then greeted by a stunning Aussie sunrise as we flew over South Australia. Just gorgeous.
Followed by lots of cloud cover closer to Sydney. We flew to the south and made an approach on 34 L. No Sydney Harbour views today unfortunately.
Landing on 34L. A very smooth touchdown indeed!
Then a taxi to the gate, and, as mentioned, a long wait for it to be vacated by the previous aircraft.
We finally disembarked, through the immigration "Smart Gates" which are super-efficient, and my bag was first off, so I was aircraft door to my car in about 18 minutes. Excellent!
So, what did I think of Air Asia X in Premium Class and KLIA2?
I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised! Whilst it is in no way comparable to a business class like SQ
etc, for the price it was very good. The flights were on-time, the staff were friendly and courteous and the seat was exceptionally comfortable - which is the main reason I was to fly business - for the comfort. I'm not sure if it's worth the price that you pay if you're booking Premium on the D7
website - unless they have a special on. However, buying a standard ticket and then using Optiontown to upgrade represents a bargain in my mind. A couple of really small issues that I didn't like, but overall I was very happy and thought that the value-for-money using Air Asia X Premium was fantastic. I would definitely fly them again.
KLIA2 was excellent, new, modern and "worked" very well. If you're a shopper, you'll love it! However, the distances are quite long. Some travelators/moving walkways would have been good, but I guess these were left out to keep the costs down. They just need to do something about being able to drop your bags off more than 4 hours early if you're flying in Premium. I know not many Premium pax will be there early, but due to transfers etc some might, and this service should be available to them. Other than that, I was really impressed by the new airport in KL
and it's a huge improvement over the old LCCT. So, a big "tick" to KLIA2 and Air Asia X. I will use you again quite happily.
Thanks for taking the time to read my report.
[Edited 2014-07-26 23:39:55]