Flying on a classic – NAM Air Boeing 737-500

BACKGROUND

The Boeing 737-500 was produced by Boeing as a direct replacement of the Boeing 737-200. It first flew in 1989, and Southwest Airlines was the launch customer. The 737-500 is one of the rarer versions of the Boeing 737 family as only 389 of this variant were produced. It is also hard to get on one of these as only a handful of airlines fly this type today. Southwest Airlines retired their 737-500s in 2016, and so did Lufthansa in the same year.

There are a couple of airlines in Indonesia that still operate this type currently. So, when a trip to Indonesia materialised recently, I felt that this would be a good opportunity to tick this off my bucket list, before they’re gone for good. I booked myself on NAM Air flights from CGK to JOG and back, both operated with the 737-500s.

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I arrived into CGK Terminal 3 on KLM, and after almost an hour long (!) wait for my luggage, I made my way to Terminal 2. I went to the NAM Air check-in counter, where the lady at the desk quickly issued me a boarding pass. As I took the boarding pass in my hand, I casually asked her if the flight was on time. She checked her screen and sheepishly told me that the flight was delayed – this is after I asked her! I then asked her how much was the delay, and she replied coolly – “three hours, sir”  WHAT??? I thought I heard wrong, so I asked her again. Unfortunately her response was the same – three hour delay. For a one hour flight! Incredible!!!

I asked her to put me on an earlier flight if possible, and she asked me to head to the customer service counter. As i approached the customer service counter, I was greeted by this…

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I had to wait for another ten minutes before the agent showed up. I explained my situation to him, and he agreed to put me on to an earlier Sriwijaya Air flight, which incidentally was delayed too! Worse, the flight was on a 737-800!

Opportunity missed! Oh well, I still had the return leg, which I hoped would work out as planned. And, as I landed in JOG, I received an email from NAM Air informing me that my return flight to CGK was rescheduled to 50 minutes earlier!

CHECK-IN

On the day of my return flight, I was nervous as I made my way to the airport. There was no way of tracking the incoming flight, as the 737-500s do not show up on Flightradar24. I reached the airport well within time, and made my way to the NAM Air check-in counter. I asked the check-in agent if the flight was on time, and he replied with, “so far, yes!”. I had more than two hours till departure, which meant that the incoming aircraft had not even departed CGK. There was nothing else to do but wait.

Security check was a breeze and I reached the departure gate area, where I saw this!

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Of course it was not my flight, but the sight of a NAM Air Boeing 737-500 was pleasing to the eyes. Would this be a harbinger or something? Only time would tell!

There’s nothing much to do at the tiny terminal of the Adisutjipto International Airport, except a few cafes and restaurants and a bunch of shops. I wasn’t too hungry but I was lured by the smell of freshly baked bread. I picked up a couple of fresh coffee buns at the “Roti O” outlet along with coffee.

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If you haven’t had coffee buns yet, I highly recommend trying them at “Roti O” in Indonesia or “Rotiboy” in Malaysia.

Our scheduled boarding time of 1935 came and went, but there was no sign of our aircraft. The FIDS screens still showed that the departure was on time, but obviously that would not happen now. Finally at around 2000, I heard the sound of reversers and saw a NAM Air 737-500 slowing down on the sole runway at JOG. Five minutes later, the aircraft arrived at the gate, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally!!!

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BOARDING

Boarding was announced within 20 minutes, which I felt was truly remarkable. As I walked towards the aircraft, I couldn’t help but admire her beauty.

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I felt a mix of joy and relief at finally being able to fly on this exotic little aircraft. Its a feeling only aviation enthusiasts will understand!

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The aircraft was registered PK-NAQ and named “Lomasasta”. It was a 23 year old bird, originally delivered to Continental Airlines in June 1995. The winglets were added much later.

The interiors were of 1990s vintage as expected, but were well maintained. The red & blue seat covers, in line with the company colours added a nice bright touch to the cabin.

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As I sat down, I noticed that the legroom was kinda tight.

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The flight was around 80% full, but the boarding was completed quickly.

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THE FLIGHT

We pushed back at 2025, 20 minutes past our STD of 2005. Not bad considering the three hour delay last time!

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After a quick taxi to the runway, we were airborne and on our way to CGK. As soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, the crew started the snack service. The snack consisted of some cookies and water.

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The square windows on this 737-500

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Safety card on board NAM Air 737-500

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The cabin as seen from the last row. The crew can be seen concluding the snack service.

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The last couple of rows of the NAM Air 737-500. Notice the tight leg room!

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The lavs too were the old fashioned “blue juice” type 😀 Note the old style buttons on the wash basin.

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The sign on the top seems to be a remnant from the Continental/United days.

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ARRIVAL

We landed at around 2145, around 30 minutes behind schedule.

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As soon as we docked, everyone lined up in the aisle waiting to deplane. I was in no hurry of course, as I savoured the final moments on board this classic baby Boeing.

Clicked one last photo of the Business Class seats as I finally made my way to the exit.

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As I bid farewell to the crew, I was smiling, happy to have finally managed to fly on the now rare Boeing 737-500.

So if you haven’t flown on this type yet, get on board a NAM Air 737-500 the next time you visit this part of the world. Do plan with a lot of time in hand though, as delays could mess up your travel plans!

 

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Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

THE BACKGROUND

Dutch flag carrier KLM recently celebrated its 99th anniversary on October 7th 2018. The airline officially named Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V but commonly known  as KLM was established on October 7th 1919. Since its inception, KLM has continued to operate under the same name, making it the oldest airline in the world to do so.

I have flown with KLM multiple times in the past, including on the MD-11 Farewell flight in Amsterdam on November 11th 2014. Every flight has been a memorable experience, with friendly but professional crew and outstanding inflight services. So when I recently discovered that I would be flying with them on their 99th anniversary, I thought of making it special for them – for all the wonderful experiences that I have had. Read on for more details on how we celebrated this milestone…

I was flying from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on flight KL 810, that continues on to Amsterdam. KLM has fifth freedom traffic rights between KUL & CGK, allowing one to experience their famed hospitality and friendliness without visiting the Netherlands.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I reached the brand new Terminal 3 at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport with plenty of time to spare. Terminal 3 at CGK is quite modern, spacious and bright. Although the older Terminal 2 has more character with its traditional Javanese architecture, it had become congested given the rapid growth in air traffic.

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CHECK-IN

The KLM check-in counters are located at Row C, and as I walked towards them, I could see the 99th anniversary decorations all over. This was after all a one of a kind milestone!

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KLM first introduced its service to Jakarta in the year 1924, so the airport management is obviously happy to celebrate this milestone with them.

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I was flying in World Business Class today, and headed to the Sky Priority/Business Class check-in counter where I was greeted by a friendly check-in agent. As she was working on my boarding pass, I was approached by another KLM ground staff who asked me if I was willing to star in a short birthday video for them. Who wouldn’t? Haha…

After I had my five seconds of fame, I was given my boarding pass along with a special souvenir to commemorate the occasion. KLM always know how to make things special 🙂

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Check-in done, I waved my goodbyes to the friendly staff who wished me a pleasant flight. The excitement was building up and I couldn’t wait to get on-board. I had another hour and a half to go. Time to head to the lounge.

KLM even has a customised lounge invite for Soekarno-Hatta airport. Most airlines print the lounge invitation on the boarding pass these days.

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I cleared security and immigration – rather quickly due to the special Sky Priority access at CGK, and made my way to the lounge. KLM uses its Skyteam partner Garuda Indonesia’s signature lounge at CGK. This lounge is located at the mezzanine floor post immigration.

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The entrance to the Garuda Indonesia lounge but where’s everybody?

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A long empty passage to???

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A look at Garuda Indonesia’s crew uniform through the years. From the 1940s to the 1990s…

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And from the end of the 20th century to the present…

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Children’s play area… but where are the people???

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I was finally greeted at the reception desk by the lounge staff who ushered me in.

Ah! finally I see people… 🙂

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The lounge itself was quite spacious with decent F&B options and a moderately sized seating area. They had these nice Garuda models on display!

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And this very cool popcorn machine…

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I settled down with a beer and some nice fresh popcorn to while away the next hour or so till boarding began.

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While I was sipping my beer, I saw our aircraft arrive from KUL. It was going to be a Boeing 777-200ER today. A quick check on Flightradar24 told me that the aircraft was named Mount Kilimanjaro (maybe an inspiration for a future trip 😉 ) with the registration PH-BQK.

BOARDING

Soon it was time for boarding, and I made my way down to Gate 8 where our aircraft was docked.

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The CGK ground staff had neatly divided the boarding queues by class of travel and boarding zone, and held up placards along with announcements over a loudspeaker.

There was long queue that had formed at the gate, giving me a good idea of the load tonight.

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Soon it was time to board, and I made my way down the jazzy purple lit aerobridge towards the aircraft.

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About to board…

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As always, I was greeted at the door by friendly KLM cabin crew who ushered me to my seat – 4A in the forward Business Class cabin. KLM 777-200ER’s Business Class is divided into two parts – five rows in the forward section and a single row in the aft section.

A view of my seat.

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The Business Class cabin on KLM’s B777s is in a staggered 2-2-2 layout, with the seats near the window angled away from the aisle.

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The seats are full lie-flat, with plenty of legroom with a nice little storage area beneath the foot rest.

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We had an approximately 50% occupancy in Business Class tonight and boarding was quickly completed.

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks, and I chose the champagne of course – to celebrate this special day! 🙂

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THE FLIGHT

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule, and quickly began our taxi towards the runway. The take-off queue seemed shorter than normal for Jakarta and we were airborne in no time at all.

The crew began the dinner service as soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, and menus were handed out.

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There were two options for the main course

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Plenty of beverage options – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic

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No KLM flight is complete without the Flying Dutchman!

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Noise cancellation headphones were handed out earlier

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Nifty little IFE remote controller

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Dinner was soon served. I had chosen the cheese and spinach cannelloni.

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For drinks, I decided to go with Aberfeldy single malt whisky (one of my favourite single malts), along with the Flying Dutchman

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With not enough time for a complete movie, i decided to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. instead. Always good fun on a flight!

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After the meal, it was time to surprise the crew 🙂

As mentioned earlier, KLM has ensured that every flight with them was memorable for me, and today was a good opportunity to return the favour. I’ve clicked quite a few photos of KLM aircraft over the past decade, and I had printed out a couple of A4 sized photos of my favourite – the KLM Orange Pride Boeing 777-300ER during my stay in Jakarta. The intent was to gift one to the cabin crew and the other to the flight crew.

I introduced myself to the cabin crew in the galley and told them that I had a surprise for them to celebrate KLM’s 99th anniversary. Their eyes lit up and they said, “We love surprises”. The smiles became wider when I presented them with this little token of appreciation for all the fantastic experiences on KLM through the years.

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I had clicked this photo at KUL a couple of years ago, and it was only apt that I presented this on a flight to KUL. The blue t-shirt was chosen on purpose to suit the occasion 🙂

And since this is KLM, the crew always had one up their sleeves. This was their gesture of appreciation for me – a nice little comfort bag exclusively made for KLM by the Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau

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Soon we were close to starting our descent into KUL, and the captain announced an on-time arrival for us.

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Crossing over the Malacca straits towards the Malaysian peninsula, a little under half an hour to go before landing. Love these 3D maps!

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And now as per another KLM tradition – the crew handed out the signature little KLM Delft Blue houses to all the Business Class passengers. And as another gesture of appreciation, I was given the opportunity to pick two 🙂

I picked house numbers 43 & 49 to add to my nascent KLM house collection.

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Could this flight get any better???

We touched down five minutes ahead of schedule and taxied towards the KLIA Satellite terminal.

ARRIVAL

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As my fellow passengers got up to disembark, I remained seated, savouring the final moments of this memorable flight.

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I had to get up eventually as I had one more thing left to do.

As I made my way to the forward galley, a smiling captain greeted me. The crew had obviously told him about me. Warm smiles and handshakes were exchanged as I presented him with my capture of the Orange Pride.

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The captain thanked me for the little gift, and told me that he would keep it for display at the KLM crew centre in Amsterdam. WOW!!!

I bid farewell to the captain and the crew and made my way to the terminal. Thus ended one of my most memorable flights in recent times and that too on this momentous occasion for KLM.

Happy 99th birthday KLM, and look forward to celebrating the century with you next year!

Dank u wel en Tot ziens!

Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

BACKGROUND

Malaysia Airlines (MH) recently took delivery of its first brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The aircraft is slated to take over the airline’s long haul routes that were formerly operated by the now retired Boeing 777s and also the ones operated presently by the Airbus A380 (i.e. KUL-LHR)

The A350s will prove to be a cost effective and fuel-efficient alternative than the gigantic A380 and provide much longer range than the airline’s A330-300s. At the time of writing this, MH has taken delivery of a second A350, and both the aircraft are currently doing short domestic and regional hops for crew training/familiarisation.

I saw this as a good opportunity to try out the Business Class product on the brand new aircraft, and promptly booked a flight to Penang (PEN), operated by the A350

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 1140, with a scheduled departure time of 1105. However I received a text from MH a few hours before departure, informing me of a delay in departure. I left home accordingly, and reached the KLIA Main Terminal with plenty of time to spare.

A quick visit to the Anjung Tinjau (Viewing Gallery) at KLIA gave me an opportunity to spot my aircraft docked at its designated gate.

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CHECK-IN

Check-in was quick and the Business Class counter had just one person ahead of me, and I was checked-in in no time at all.

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The check-in agent handed me my boarding pass and invited me to the newly renovated Malaysia Airlines’ domestic Golden Lounge.

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Security check took no more than 2 minutes, and I was soon in the domestic departures area.

A view of the retail area in the Domestic Departures hold.

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The MH lounge was a five-minute walk away, and a smiling MH lounge attendant greeted me at the reception.

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The lounge had a definitely fresh look to it, and didn’t seem too crowded at the time. I quickly found a seat facing the tarmac, and grabbed some coffee and snacks.

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The view from the MH Domestic Golden Lounge.

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The food & drink counter

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As the boarding time approached, I made my way towards the departure gate, which was a good 10 minute walk from the lounge.

BOARDING

Sector: KUL-PEN

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 1140

Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

Registration: 9M-MAB

Seat: 10A

This would be my ride today! Malaysia Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 9M-MAB

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Boarding for our flight was announced at 1130, 30 minutes before the revised departure time, and the huge crowd of waiting passengers queued up almost immediately. I on the other hand, took my own time admiring the brand new bird.

As the queue thinned out, I walked over to the boarding counter. The agent quickly scanned my boarding pass, and I made my way to the aerobridge.

Looked like a full house today!

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Much larger windows on the A350 as compared to conventional aircraft. However, the 787 windows are larger.

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The Business Class on MH A350-900 has a total of 35 seats and is divided into two sections. The forward section is the larger of the two, and is separated from the smaller aft section by the Business Class galley. I had selected a seat in the aft cabin, and I had the whole cabin to myself on this flight.

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The Business Class cabin features a staggered 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 configuration. On the port side, there are single seats adjacent to the window, while on the starboard side, there are single as well as double seats in alternate rows. The middle section has 2 seats in a staggered arrangement.

This should give you an idea of the seating configuration.

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The seat itself is nice and comfy and wide enough for a long haul flight. It of course reclines into a fully flat bed.

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The legroom

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Seat controls

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks (apple juice, orange juice, guava juice or water) and I opted for an orange juice.

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The boarding process took around 40 minutes, and we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The doors were soon closed but we waited a few more minutes for pushback clearance.

The Captain on our flight today was a senior Airbus check pilot, and the First Officer was a Malaysian. The MH pilots are currently undergoing checks with pilots from Airbus.

The view out of my window (Seat 10A)

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The IFE system

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Nice little cubbyholes to keep your smartphone and water bottle

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THE FLIGHT

We finally pushed back 20 minutes past noon, and slowly the two RR Trent XWB engines powered up. The A350-900 is super quiet, and even with the engines powered on, you could hear the hiss of the air-conditioning vents.

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A small prayer as we begin our journey

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We began a slow taxi towards Runway 32R, which was the active departure runway, and held short as a Malindo Air 737 began its take-off roll.

Soon it was our turn, and we lined up on the runway. The Trent XWBs spooled up to take-off thrust and we accelerated down the runway. The A350 was incredibly quiet even during take-off, so much so that one can hear the distinct sound of the flaps being retracted.

Our heading today would be northerly straight to PEN.

The Business Class seat in the fully flat position

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I spent the next few minutes chatting with the cabin crew about their experience with this new aircraft. The crew seemed really pleased with it and was looking forward to operating it on the long haul routes. As per the head purser, MH would be operating the A350 on the KUL-LHR route starting Jan 15th.

The crew was kind enough to offer me a tour of the First Class cabin.

The First Class cabin on board MH A350-900 consists of 4 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration.

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Plenty of space in the suite

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Seat & IFE controls

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With the door in the closed position

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I loved the choice of colours used in the First Class cabin; gives it a premium look and feel.

Posing with the cabin crew. They were really courteous and answered all my questions patiently! 🙂

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ARRIVAL

The flight to PEN was quite short at 40 minutes, and the first officer announced that we had begun our descent.

As we descended into PEN, the view outside my window was gorgeous!

We touched down at 1315, nearly twenty minutes past our revised arrival time.

After a short taxi, we docked at the Penang International Airport terminal, bringing to an end this short but enjoyable flight.

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SUMMARY

The hard product on board MH’s A350-900 is definitely state of the art, and looks pretty comfortable for the long haul flights it will eventually operate. Since this was a short flight, I was not able to experience the on board service though. However, MH is generally pretty good as far as the in flight service is concerned.

The food variety is decent, and the signature satay is simply delicious. I hope MH comes up with some special offerings to mark the introduction of this brand new aircraft type. I also hope that the A350-900 brings in some much needed resurgence in MH’s fortunes. Here’s wishing them all the best!

Thank you all for reading.

Trip Report: BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

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INTRODUCTION

I was heading back to Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to my hometown, Mumbai for the Chinese New Year holiday. At the time, there were only two airline options between BOM & KUL – Malaysia Airlines (which operated two flights daily) and Malindo Air (one flight daily) Both airlines operate the narrow-body Boeing 737 on this route.

Since then, Indonesia AirAsia X has started a flight to BOM, deploying an Airbus A330-300 on the DPS-KUL-BOM route.

Anyway, I had booked my travel to BOM and back on MH. This report describes my journey back to KUL on Malaysia Airlines Business Class on their Boeing 737-800.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 195, the traditional late night departure out of BOM for Malaysia Airlines. This flight used to be operated by MH’s B777-200ERs before the type was phased out in late 2015/early 2016. To overcome this downgrade in capacity, MH has added a second daily flight, which departs BOM at 0225 in the morning.

The late evening traffic on the way to the airport was not too bad, and I arrived at the CSIA Terminal 2 drop-off area nearly 3 hours before departure.

View of the BOM Terminal 2 departures area

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CHECK-IN

The Malaysia Airlines check-in counters are located in Row J, and there was a sizeable queue there.

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The Business Class counter had 4-5 people ahead of me, and it took nearly 7-8 minutes for my turn.

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The check-in process was fast, and took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass, lounge invitation and the immigration departure card. I was on seat 1F – a bulkhead window seat.

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The aircraft flying me back to KUL was 9M-MXA, wearing the “40 Years of MH” retro colours. Woohoo! A quick check on FR24 revealed that the incoming aircraft was over an hour away.

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Security check was next, and took no more than five minutes. There was a long queue for immigration however, and the process took nearly 15 minutes, before I was released into the Duty Free area.

A view of the BOM Duty Free

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My favourite section 🙂

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The FIDS showing International Departures out of BOM

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Love that ceiling!

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Looking towards the food court area. Plenty of options to eat and drink

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It was now time to head to the lounge to relax for a bit.

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BOM Terminal 2 has a common use lounge called “GVK Lounge” for premium passengers. The lounge is massive, and is divided into two levels – one for First Class and the other for Business Class passengers. At the outset, I was not sure whether having a common lounge was a good idea for an airport the size of BOM. It was possible that the lounge would get overcrowded, especially during the peak international departure times.

However, after using this lounge on a few occasions, I have never seen it being crowded.

Here are a few photos of the lounge.

The ornate entrance! Looks more like the entrance to a fancy hotel!

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The seating area

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The bar

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The quiet zone featuring leather recliners

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The food spread

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I was feeling quite hungry, as it was way past dinnertime.

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The GVK lounge offers its patrons a complimentary 15-minute neck & back massage or a 15-minute foot massage. I opted for a foot massage and after finishing my dinner, headed to the in-house spa. It was pretty relaxing, and I was charged up for the upcoming flight.

As the boarding time approached, I headed out towards the departure gates. We were to depart from Gate 69 that night.

A view of the walkway to the departures area.

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The seating area at Gate 69. Look at those chandeliers!

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BOARDING

Sector: BOM-KUL

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 195

Aircraft: Boeing 737-800

Registration: 9M-MXA “40 Years of MH” retro livery

Seat: 1F

As I sat down at the departure gate, our aircraft had just landed and was taxiing towards the terminal.

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Here she is, about to dock at the gate.

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We had to wait for another 30 odd minutes before boarding was announced. As is the ritual, families with infants and children were invited to board first, followed by Oneworld premium members. Business Class passengers were asked to board at their convenience.

A view of our aircraft from the aerobridge.

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I was greeted by a couple of MH cabin crew at the aircraft door and ushered to my seat.

The Business Class seats on board Malaysia Airlines 737-800. Pretty standard stuff.

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My seat – 1F

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The legroom on this first row of Business Class

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A welcome drink was offered. There was a choice of apple juice, orange juice or water. I opted for the orange juice.

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Here’s the menu for our flight tonight

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Three main course options on this five-hour flight is not bad at all! The highlight is the appetizer consisting of Malaysian satay. Yummy!

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The beverage selection on the menu. There were no alcoholic beverages listed on the menu although MH does serve them on the flight.

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Boarding was soon complete, and doors were closed. After a wait of another 10 minutes we got our pushback clearance, and we began our taxi towards Runway 27.

THE FLIGHT

The cabin lights were dimmed for take-off and the safety video was played on the IFE screens. Since the IFE screen for the bulkhead seats is in the armrest, a nice little drop-down screen did the job instead.

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Holding short of Runway 27

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After waiting for a couple of arrivals, we lined up on the runway and were airborne after a longish take-off roll.

There were no clouds in the vicinity, and the seat belt signs were soon turned off.

My seat at the full-reclined position.

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The cabin crew then handed out a pair of headphones. These active noise cancellation headphones were a bit on the heavier side but did a decent job of blocking out the noise of the engines and the surroundings. The sound quality of course was average.

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Although this aircraft wears the retro MH livery on the outside, it is anything but retro on the inside. The cabin is equipped with the Boeing Sky Interior and looks quite up to date. Here is a view of the Business Class cabin on our aircraft featuring a total of 16 seats.

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The drinks trolley made an appearance soon and I asked for a beer.

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An appetizer consisting of some delicious Malaysian satay with a lovely peanut dip was served. The satay is a trademark MH offering, and I am glad that the airline continues to serve it.

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The piping hot satay was a perfect accompaniment to the chilled Carlsberg. Just the right environment to pull out the IFE screen and do a bit of TV watching.

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We were flying on a roughly south-easterly heading on our way to KUL.

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Over 4 hours to go.

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Another view of the front row. Two seats vacant tonight.

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I had finished my beer and the lovely satay, and the crew asked me if I was ready for the main meal. A tablecloth was laid out and the crew brought out the meal in a nice little tray.

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“Supper” consisting of a chicken gravy along with dried fruits rice and sautéed vegetables. This was accompanied by a bowl of yoghurt; cut fruits, an assortment of bread along with some “dahi-samosa chaat”.

The portion served was sufficient for this flight.

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The taste was good, nothing really spectacular.

After having my fill, I decided to watch a movie as I find it difficult to sleep on a flight.

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Malaysia Airlines doesn’t hand out full-fledged amenity kits in Business Class on their regional routes operated by the Boeing 737s. Instead, the crew distributed eyeshades and slippers. This is one big improvement area for MH, as SQ hands out mini-kits even in Premium Economy Class on their BOM-SIN flights.

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I finished watching the movie, and tried to fall asleep. I was successful, and only woke up as we were passing over the Malacca Straits.

I freshened up and was listening to some music when our first officer announced that we would soon start our descent into KUL.

The cabin crew appeared with a tray of drinks as people began to wake up. I downed another glass of orange juice.

ARRIVAL

The cabin crew did their ritual of preparing the cabin for arrival as we began our descent. The descent was relatively smooth with only one layer of clouds to plough through.

The sun was just rising over the district of Sepang as we made a 180-degree turn to line up on our final approach to KUL Runway 32L.

MH054

We touched down with a nice, positive thud and a brief application of the twin reversers slowed us down to taxi speed.

We taxied towards the KLIA Satellite Terminal and finally docked at our gate some 20 minutes behind schedule. Not too shabby at all!

It took another 5-7 minutes for the door to be opened, and I thanked the crew and walked out of the aircraft.

A view of the KUL Satellite Terminal. Love that design!

MH056

The terminal was nicely lit up for the Chinese New Year holiday.

MH057

After a quick Aerotrain ride to the main terminal, I made my way towards Immigration. There was no queue at all at the dedicated First/Business Immigration counters, and my passport was stamped within a minute.

A brisk walk later, I was at our designated baggage belt to be greeted by this sight!

MH058

It took nearly 10 more minutes for the bags to start arriving, and thankfully mine was amongst the first lot to arrive.

SUMMARY

It was a typical narrow-body regional flight experience on board Malaysia Airlines Business Class. The seats are your average 737 style recliner seats. The extra width as compared to Economy Class is welcome though.

The onboard service on Malaysia Airlines leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of a comprehensive menu listing all the beverage options is one callout. The service from the cabin crew is average with no personalisation at all. A bit of a letdown here.

The food options are good, and the serving portions are sufficient. The signature MH satay is a big plus!

The lack of amenity kits in Business Class is another big letdown. Other airlines offer mini amenity kits even in Economy/Premium Economy Class on overnight flights.

Even Malindo Air – which is a semi-LCC and is a direct competitor to MH offers an amenity kit in Business Class! Hope MH looks into this aspect soon.

Hope you enjoyed this report on the Business Class experience onboard Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800.

Thank you all for reading!

Trip Report: SQ Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Experience BOM-SIN A380

BACKGROUND

Singapore Airlines had started retrofitting its A380s with its brand new Premium Economy Class (PY) product. During the retrofitting exercise, the usual A380 service to BOM had been temporarily downgraded to a 777-300ER. However, a couple of months later, the A380 was back on the SIN-BOM sector with the new Premium Economy class on offer.

The SQ PY product looked decent from the ads and publicity material I had seen; although the seats themselves were nowhere close to say the Turkish Airlines Premium Economy seats on their 777-300ERs. I had experienced the Turkish PY some time ago and felt that the seats were pretty close to a regional Business Class product. Nevertheless, I was sure SQ would more than make it up with the onboard service.

I had a trip to Singapore coming up, and was contemplating trying out the PY product on SQ. It meant spending around 150 USD more (one way) as compared to a Y ticket. I was not sure whether it was worth it, but in the end decided to try it out on one leg.

I hoped I had made the right choice and SQ would not let me down.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was to fly on SQ 423, the signature overnight departure out of BOM, operated by the A380. This flight has seen a couple of equipment upgrades in the recent years – from a 777-300A to a 777-300ER to the A380 right now.

I left home early anticipating heavy evening traffic on my way to the airport. I wasn’t wrong. What is usually a 20-minute taxi ride in no traffic, turned into an almost 40 minute crawl. Anyway, I reached the airport well in time, and made my way to the SQ check-in counters.

CHECK-IN

There was a longish queue at the Economy counters, but thanks to my Star Gold status, I could use the Business Class check-in counters, which had only 2 people ahead of me.

The check-in process took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass and the Indian immigration departure card.

Next up was security check, which again took not more than five minutes, and then I joined a long queue for immigration. As it is the start of the peak international departures wave out of BOM, almost all counters were open, and our queue progressed quickly. Post immigration, I made my way to the “Loyalty Lounge” to relax for a bit.

After downing a couple of Kingfishers at the lounge, I made my way to our boarding gate.

Our aircraft was parked at Gate 68 today.

There was a sizeable queue of passengers at our boarding gate, which meant that the flight was quite full.

BOARDING

Sector: BOM-SIN

Airline: Singapore Airlines

Flight: SQ 423

Aircraft: Airbus A380-841

Registration: 9V-SKH

Seat: 31K

Boarding for our flight was announced at 2305, 30 minutes before STD, but ten minutes later than what was printed on the boarding pass. From the massive queue that had formed at the gate, I doubted if we could push back on time.

The boarding was sequential, with Suites and Business Class passengers invited to board first, followed by Star Alliance Gold members. With a quick scan of my boarding pass, I made my way to the aerobridge. SQ Premium Economy Class on the A380 is situated on the lower deck just aft of Door #2, and I boarded through one of the two lower deck aerobridges.

The Premium Economy Class features a comfortable 2-4-2 seating configuration.

I had selected seat 31K, a bulkhead window seat in the first row of the PY section. This meant that I had massive legroom to stretch on this overnight flight. The regular seat pitch in PY is 38 inches.

The seat itself was comfy, wider than the standard Economy seat (up to 19.5 inches wide) and the recline is up to 8 inches. There was a wide double armrest between two adjacent seats. This was good, as I hate people hijacking the entire armrest. The rear portion of the armrest is slightly raised and includes a USB charging port and the headphone port.

Each seat also comes with an adjustable LED reading light, which can be moved to any angle that’s comfortable for you.

Small amenity pouches had been placed on each seat. These were limited edition pouches with SG50 themed motifs and consisted of socks and a toothbrush kit.

The boarding process took around 40 minutes, which meant we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The crew passed around the menus for the supper service on this 5-hour flight.

The menu had a distinctive “Premium Economy Class” branding.

Headphones had already been placed in the seat pocket.

SQ offers bulky active noise cancellation headphones in PY. I was keen on trying them out later on.

The IFE system in PY consists of a 13.3-inch full HD LCD screen. For my row of course, the IFE screen was mounted on the bulkhead wall. The position of the screen means that one has to always look slightly upwards at all times in order to view it. A better arrangement would be to place the screen inside the armrests.

Our captain came online made an announcement that we had closed our doors, and were waiting for our pushback clearance, which would take around 10 more minutes. We finally pushed back at midnight, almost half-an-hour post our scheduled departure time.

THE FLIGHT

One after another, the four RR Trents came alive. The A380 cabin is incredibly quiet, and even with four engines powered on, one could easily talk to fellow travellers without raising one’s voice.

We began taxiing towards Runway 27. There were 3 aircraft ahead of us in the takeoff queue and after nearly 7 minutes of taxiing, we turned in to Taxiway N3 and held short of Runway 27.

Now this was interesting, as heavy aircraft and especially the A380 usually departs using taxiway N1, which allows maximum runway length to be used. However, as N1 was currently shut for maintenance, we would depart from N3 tonight. The cabin lights were dimmed and then turned off for takeoff.

After a couple of minutes of holding for a landing, we turned on to Runway 27 and waited. The four Trents were slowly spooled up to takeoff power, and we began our takeoff roll. The sound of the engines even on the takeoff roll is incredibly low. After a 35 second roll; we lifted off into the night sky in the westerly direction.

After a nice bank to the left, we set course in a southeasterly direction towards Singapore.

The cabin lights were turned back on and the crew began preparation for the meal service. The Premium Economy cabin looked pretty full, so the demand seems to be there.

The drinks trolley appeared first, which is how I like. I enjoy having a drink or two before eating the main meal, and hate airlines that serve drinks during/after the meal.

Singapore Airlines serves champagne in PY, so I decided to try it out. It was served in transparent plastic “flutes”, not real glass ones. Fair enough I think. A pack of roasted almonds and cashews was served alongside. A nice touch!

With champagne in hand, I decided to explore the entertainment on offer. Didn’t feel like watching a movie, so I decided to watch back-to-back episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”. Always a favourite of mine on flights!

The main meal service began soon after. There were three meal options on offer – one international and two Indian.

I opted for the international meal, which consisted of apple coleslaw with toasted almond as an appetizer, “Cayenne Pepper flavoured chicken stew” with sautéed vegetables and potatoes for the main course, and an apricot cheesecake for dessert. It looked quite filling for a five-hour flight.

The meal was served with a bread-roll & butter and a bottle of water.

The crew asked for a second round of drinks, and this time I chose the signature SQ Singapore Sling.

After finishing my meal, I reclined my seat, pulled out the calf rests. I cannot sleep on flights, so it would be helpful to at least catch up on a quick nap.

The cabin crew passed around bottles of water to keep us hydrated through the flight. Another nice touch!

The cabin lights were dimmed and slowly turned off.

ARRIVAL

Roughly an hour before arrival, the captain came online and announced that we would begin our descent into SIN in 20 minutes. The cabin crew did a quick round of drinks, offering water or orange juice.

As we began our descent, the rising sun presented me with this beautiful view out my window.

It became brighter as we approached SIN. The A380 is super quiet on the approach leg, and one can barely hear the engines. Soon we lined up on Runway 02L, and made a smooth touchdown, 10 minutes post our scheduled arrival time.

After a longish taxi, we docked at Terminal 3, which is my favourite terminal at Singapore Changi Airport. The exit from the aircraft was quick, as we were the second group after Suites to leave.

As I made my way to the Arrivals area, I clicked a final departure shot of the superjumbo that brought me to SIN.

I walked towards Immigration, and saw hardly any queues at the counters. This would be a quick SIN immigration for a change at least for me.

SUMMARY

It was a good, positive experience for me in Singapore Airlines Premium Economy on board their flagship Airbus A380. There is a distinct difference in both the hard product and the onboard service as compared to the standard Economy Class. The seats are wider, come with fold out calf and foot rests and recline further. The grey-orange upholstery also adds another level of distinction as compared to Y class.

The F&B service is superior with a wider choice of food including the famed “Book the Cook” available for PY. Champagne (even though it is not the best) is served through the flight along with assorted nuts.

Even though it was worth spending the extra bucks for the PY experience, I feel SQ needs to drive it up a notch or two higher. The seats although good, could be made better – especially in terms of seat width and recline. The Turkish Airlines PY seats on the 777s as quoted earlier are a good example. The amenity kits could be equipped better. Eyeshades and earplugs should definitely be a part of it.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into the Premium Economy experience on Singapore Airlines.

Thank you all for reading!