Friday, 22 April 2011

Flight - UK to KL (Malaysian Airlines)

The big day arrived (Tuesday 19 April) and I arrived at Heathrow quite early, 7:00pm for a 10:00pm flight, and that took into account taking the Heathrow Connect at £8.50 as opposed to the Express at £18.00. The Connect takes 25 minutes as opposed to 15 minutes for the Express so it's £1 per minute extra and unless that 10 minutes is vital, personally, I see little point. Malaysian Airlines depart from Terminal 4 which I like much less than Terminal 3 both in terms of layout and food outlets. The design of T4 also leaves much to be desired. Don't think Christopher Wren inspired, think more Kwik-Fit tyre storage warehouse with the exposed pipes and corrugated roofing adding to the "You're in a hangar" experience.

The flight was OK. The aircraft was a Boeing 747 and I suspect these must be ageing a little now as the in-flight entertainment system seems quite dated (compared to airlines like Etihad), but, it does the job. Not a massive range of films I thought for such long flights (12 hours from London to Kuala Lumpur). I had managed to get an exit seat but this was a bit of a mistake. The flight was only about 25% full and throughout the aircraft there were strips of 3 and 4 seats occupied by just one person. Ideal for sprawling out for a good sleep. Unfortunately there were two other people next to me and by the time I got to check all of the empty seat strips were gone. You pays your money and takes your choice :-( Still, I managed to get several hours sleep which was a good thing.

The cabin crew were OK, predominantly male surprisingly and most were friendly and attentive. One of the girls was somewhat surly bordering on quite ignorant I think. Maybe she thought her rather average looks (maybe 5 out of 10 in a night club, at least until the lights came on) elevated her to the status that some of the catwalk super-models seem to bestow upon themselves, or maybe she was just having a bad day. Either way, I decided to leave this particular 'waitress' to her own delusions for the flight. Most people said goodbye to the crew as they left the aircraft but ignored this particular member of staff. I was tempted to give her a good tip like "Don't eat yellow snow" but thought better of it.

The food on board was OK too. Shortly after take off I had a rather nice chicken curry. This was accompanied by a small and somewhat bizarre salad of lettuce, whole sun-dried tomatoes and an eraser shaped liked a king prawn. This was very rubbery but they had managed to impart a prawn like flavour to it. The cheese and biscuits were less inspiring with the yellow square of glutinous material only just resembling cheese. Drinks were served throughout the flight though after the first beer I stuck to juice and water in light of the dehydration from flying. Half way through the flight they delivered a package of goodies which included a cookie, some nuts, a mini imitation toblerone and a small puzzle. The puzzle was a small plastic pack marked 'Peel here'. 20 minutes of attempts to do so left you feeling somewhat frustrated forcing people to resort to biting into the plastic to gain entry. Once the puzzle had been cracked there was another square of glutinous material which, when cold, may have tasted like cheese. The depth of the offering (3-4 mm) coupled with the 30 minutes of handling to get it open rendered it somewhat less desirable. The flight was smooth with little turbulence and about 3 hours before touchdown they served a further meal. I opted for Nasi-lemak, a rice dish with a fiery prawn sambal which was very nice and most welcome, as was the beer I washed it down with.

Just before landing they screen a short film about KLIA, what to expect and how to get into KL etc. from the airport by a variety of means. This is very useful and much better than the somewhat vacuous garbage that they screen when you travel by Etihad to, say, Abu Dhabi where the focus is on clearly how they would like you to perceive the country, pictures of stallions being ridden across the desert, falcons being flown and ever so helpful and friendly citizens who can't do enough for you. Sadly though, that is where it ends and anyone who has been to the UAE will know that the film bears no resemblance to day-to-day life there with what little heritage the place does have (culturally sterile is one of the many apt descriptions I heard) being well and truly buried in sand, building sites, collapsing walkways, backstreet squalor, the conditions endured by the low paid imported labour force and arrogance. But that's another story. They will also announce the baggage reclaim belt that your luggage will be offloaded to so listen out for this just before you disembark

After a very smooth touch down and arrival ahead of schedule we taxied to KLIA which at the end of 12 hours onboard is a pleasant relief. So, my first experience of Malaysian Airlines. Not outstanding I have to say but then few are really and I would certainly be happy to use them again. It is a benefit that they fly direct as these 1-5 hour stopovers would not appeal to me.

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