I decided on Malaysia Airlines (MH) to take me from Melbourne – Hong Kong and then back again. MH is well known for their stellar service and reputation as being one of the world’s few five star carriers. With their fleet being renewed very quickly Melbourne is fortunate enough to get the new A330-300 flying in twice daily.
Leaving Melbourne today may have been a bad choice- it was the only thunderstorm in months and it was happening today. The roads were chaos, but luckily I arrived nice and early for MH 148- thanks to someone else travelling to LA earlier in the day who I rode with. A two hour drive saw me arrive at Melbourne Airport at 10:30am.
The old-style departures board
Panorama of the scene- click to view full 12.3MB image
Qantas First check-in area behind the honeycomb doors
I changed some money and just took in the atmosphere, and before long, signs of life were visible at the MH check-in. It was 11:15am,some 3.75 hours before take-off.
The staff began their team meeting and I joined a couple of others in the line. One person in the Business Class (J) line with me turned out to be in Economy Class (Y), so it was just me waiting, while the line for Y started to grow.
Check-in opened and I was checked-in efficiently. I was told the flight was full and was given a boarding pass for my Hong Kong flight which would be at 7pm the following day after a very long layover of 22 hours (classified as a stopover I’d imagine).
The paperwork- boarding pass, express pass, lounge invite, departure cards, and passport
In less than 10 minutes I was through security, immigration and even managed to power walk through the mandatory duty free without being tempted into parting with my cash.
Wallet intact, once airside, the first thing to do was get some snapshots of the scene.
Qantas A380, with Virgin Australia 777 behind bound for Los Angeles- all flights were running late due to the earlier storms
Singapore Airlines and Emirates in remote stands
A United Airlines 747 was pulling in, before being turned around for Sydney
It was actually quite busy- this seemed to be because aircraft were not landing in the earlier thunderstorm and were just arriving from diversions. I think every flight was delayed due to late arrival of the inbound aircraft. I said a quick hello to the member of the family also traveling today who was waiting at the gate lounge, their flight also delayed.
Next destination- the Golden Lounge. I was looking forward to seeing how MH stacks up for a lounge in an outstation.
The boarding time on my boarding pass said 1:45pm, 75 minutes before departure. This is a ridiculous attempt to get everyone to the gate in time and I think all it does is create annoyed passengers. At MEL the boarding time used to be 1 hour before, now it’s 75 minutes. This issue would in my opinion show itself again soon- more on that in a moment.
At 2:10pm (25 minutes after boarding was scheduled to start according to the boarding pass), I left the lounge and the lounge attendant (who was extremely helpful and friendly) informed me that boarding was still about 30 minutes away. I can’t say I was surprised.
SQ A380 had been moved to the gate
I checked out the duty free shopping to compare prices for actioning requests from others- I don’t buy in to the hype.
Departure gate moved to gate 6. Note the cabin staff for the flight at the desk.
Aircraft taking me to Kuala Lumpur today was 9M-MTF
Now where things start to get interesting, looking online the aircraft made an unwanted trip to Adelaide due to weather and hadn’t got in until 1:30pm. I was still confident that we could leave on time, but a P/A announcement came on at 2:30pm announcing that boarding wouldn’t be until 2:55pm (1hr 10 minutes after ‘scheduled’ boarding). In Asian airports the gate lounges are separated by walls, but in MEL it seems to be a free-for-all, and as such, there were airport staff putting up queuing ropes and shifting passengers out of different areas that they wanted kept clear. Somewhat disorganised.
Passengers were getting obviously annoyed at all the waiting, a trade-off for the early advertised boarding time. A line was forming even though staff were trying to get everyone to sit down and relax. Of course I’d done enough of that in the lounge thanks.
Passengers needing assistance and kids were moved to an area ‘inside the ropes’ for priority boarding, and then boarding began for them. Suddenly, someone burst through the ropes with a Y boarding pass trying to cut the line with “I am an elite member”. The staff were not happy as nobody had been called for boarding apart from those needing assistance, but they somewhat entertained his request until the computer revealed that he was only Enrich silver which I don’t think gets you priority boarding in any capacity. I was happy when he was pushed back outside the roped off area to wait with everyone else.
Finally boarding began, and with no predefined lines, it was a little bit of a free for all, but they distinguished a line for J passengers and the staff member again held back a Y pax with ‘elite membership’ to let me in first. Well done- I think parting with a lot more money or miles for a flight entitles one to receive a little bit more treatment than loyal flyers who have decided to pay less.
Let the games begin
I was allowed into the jetway- finally boarding at 2:55pm- a long time since leaving home at 8am.
Date: 27 November 2012
Flight: MH 148
Route: MEL (YMML) – KUL (WMKK)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-323X
View Large View Medium Photo © Zengqingyi
View Large View Medium Photo © George Canciani
Quick facts: First flight was on 05/01/12. This aircraft is 0.9 years old. It’s test registration was F-WWKO.
Scheduled / Actual Departure (gate): 3:00pm / 3:33pm UTC+11
Scheduled / Actual Arrival (date): 8:20pm / 8:44pm UTC+8
Scheduled / Actual Flight Time (gate to gate): 8h20m / 8h11m
I was directed to my seat- which was 1A making it easy to find
I have already judged the new MH A330 in a previous report (which will be appearing on this blog soon), so not much needs to be said. A little bit more wear was visible since April (even though this aircraft was newer) and some grime had built up in the hard-to-clean spots, but the cabin was still fresh, bright and airy. The walls are a clean white instead of the old-style beige.
View from 1A
About 60 seconds passed, and then, welcome drink time. It was a shame there was no guava juice, apparently this is only on flights from KUL. I’m guessing too expensive to buy in Australia and too expensive to dead head from KUL.
Panorama- ignore the chopped kebaya floating in mid-air, such is life when your photo subject isn’t still. Click for 11MB file.
Hot towel number one for the trip- first of many. I like the scent they use.
Newpapers were offered, so I tried to look the part of Mr. 1A with ‘Financial Daily’
There were 3 topups of my welcome drink, but it looks like the glasses used have really shrunk, even since April. I would love to see them side-by-side against the 2001 welcome drink glasses.
There was a sense that everyone just wanted to get out of here with the delay, and the doors were slammed shut at 3:20pm.
I was grateful to have the seat next to me free, and with 17 pax in J today everyone could enjoy 2 seats to themselves if they wanted. Y on the other hand was pretty full as I discovered walking through later. It’s great to see MH doing well on this route when many years ago they sent the second flight on a KUL-SYD-MEL-KUL route.
Amenity kits and the standard-issue noise cancelling headphones were offered- have they cut back on the slippers?
Our new departure time meant conflicting traffic I believe, so we sat at the gate for another 15 minutes. The safety video started to roll, and it was good to see that MH had updated the video, axing the previous ‘safety with children’ edition.
The new video goes in the average category, but after seeing it on a few flights, it grew on me a lot. You can see someone else’s filming of the new video on a 737 here:
Pushed back onto taxiway uniform- Thai 777 departing for Bangkok in the distance, while the late Singapore Airlines flight SQ 238 was just about to pushback after us
Tug leaving us
Today’s duty runway was 16. Sitting in seat 1A right over the nosewheel let me feel every bump of the taxiway.
After waiting for more traffic, the red lights between us and the runway threshold were extinguished and it was time to go and leave all the problems behind.
Shortly we were on top of the clouds- I love this part of flying- finally seeing the blue skies
The MH Select entertainment system is excellent and hard to fault- except of the bad editing of films due to censorship- lots of ‘holy shirts’ and ‘holy spit’ (could they be more creative with the subbed words???)
The best bit is putting on some music through the noise cancelling headphones while watching the landscape slip past below.
The noise cancelling headphones even blocked out the screaming infants in my row (due to the bassinet facilities on the bulkhead- the perks of row 1).
Soon we were racing towards KUL at 830km/h, and on climb to FL360.
The beverage service began promptly
Orders were taken for the lunch/dinner light meal. Let’s look at the menu.
And for those interested, the beverage list
I decided on the chicken curry for the main event (dropping SQ terms in to this MH report)- you can’t go wrong with Malay food on MH I’ve found.
To start, a scotch and coke (JW Black) with premium nuts- or so the pack said.
Next- the world’s best airline signature dish (Skytrax 2012)…MH satay
It was the usual chicken and beef combo
The satay really needs no review- it never changes and is excellent. For the first time ever when flying MH no seconds were offered.
Meanwhile below we were abeam Bendigo and heading towards the outback. The landscape is very familiar on these afternoon flights to Asia.
Legroom shot albeit washed out- fully extended
Next came the rather interesting appetizer on a tray with the fruit plate- it was a Crab Timbale with aioli, cucumber potato salad and tomato salsa.
The tomato salsa was visible, but the rest just tasted like potato salad…not that that’s a bad thing but the crab and aioli were a fraction light on. Amend the menu to say ‘potato salad with tomato salsa’.
MH is having identity issues as everyone would well know with about 3 different logos and 3 different liveries going around at the moment. There was no evidence on this flight that the logo had changed at all, except in one short clip about ‘Change for Charity’.
Around came the bread basket- I opted for garlic and this was outstanding
It wasn’t dried out and the garlic butter to bread ratio couldn’t be beaten
Still keeping an eye on the landscape below which was drying out and emptying
Next up, the chicken curry. Again it’s hats off to MH as this meal was flawless.
Flavour was good, generous with the chicken and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. More bread was offered, it was cold (fine for most breads but less desirable for garlic) by this time but this is to be expected and most airlines don’t do seconds so you won’t hear me complaining.
Getting cloudy past Broken Hill
Now for the fruit- all 4 pieces were enjoyable
And dessert- the ‘Summer Delight’- some vanilla mousse with pistachio sponge and raspberry jelly. It wasn’t what I’d naturally jump at on a menu but another flawless dish that wasn’t stingy on the pistachio.
Tea and coffee was served- a fraction late due to the weather but things were calm now. People say the MH mugs look cheap but I like the full-sized coffee mug. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, just let me enjoy my airline coffee and don’t restrict me to three mouthfuls a la SQ. Where was the cheese course? I can’t recall if MH did/does this or not but cheese is a nice way to end a meal (slot it in before or after dessert, it doesn’t worry me).
Water was distributed to stay hydrated throughout the flight
The meal was over- every dish excellent. I could now kick back and watch some TV programs, with the moving map on next door’s screen.
The screens were a little bit too far away from the actual seat and there was an issue was glare, so it was a relief when the virtual sunset began. I think this is only a problem in row 1, as in other rows the screens are much closer. It was 5:30pm, around 2 hours after take-off. I liked that the meal wasn’t rushed and there was a break between courses- it’s a day flight and we’re not going anywhere- let’s savour the moment.
The duvet-style blanket
It was time for a walk. Out of the seat shot.
Business class feature wall
Decorative lavatory touches
Unlike some, I like the faux wood. It’s not quite as orange as on EK.
A short time later the ice cream in the form of a Weis bar was offered
It was a little solid but soon started to thaw.
I was really impressed by how free-flowing the drinks were on this flight. The cabin staff continued to come around offering more refills. The cabin was today operated by two stewards, a male inflight supervisor (who is rarely seen in the cabin on MH) and two stewardesses. One steward was extremely friendly and was striking up conversation about my trip and giving plenty of helpful advice about KL. It’s amazing how often you feel like you get to know the crew on an MH flight. They knew who just wanted to sleep and who was up for a chat. The other male steward was friendly but doing most of the galley work and wasn’t seen. The two female stewardesses were interesting- the first was a typical MH F/A- all smiles and addressing me by name on every encounter. The second was a little more reserved- not always smiling but often making jokes with a dry sense of humour and very efficient. I think it was a great mix and everyone was able to show their personality. All-in-all nothing was too much for the crew and they were very helpful and answered call buttons in seconds. This is why MH won the 2012 Skytrax award.
After watching some TV I tuned into ‘Ray Romano live at Carnegie Hall’ and relaxed for a bit.
A steward saw this and offered to help adjusting the bed to make it more flat. Pushing the ‘ZZZ’ button on the control panel isn’t the best- you need to make adjustments yourself on the individual controls. It’s an example of where the soft product on MH comes in to save the shortcomings of the hard product.
More of a walk- interesting temp sensor on the door
And back into Y.
Impressions of Y were that it was a full flight and things were tight but I think the seats seemed good and hard product solid.
Back to J
By this time we’d passed Uluru and were heading into WA and towards the west coast. We were 3 hours in.
All the lights were hit and left only a trance of the dark blue night sky
And we were over the coast an hour later
A ping of the call button, and my mid-flight Baileys was delivered. It would be nice to see more drink runs during the middle of the flight as they do on SQ- not everyone is comfortable with pressing the call button all the time.
Around 2.5 hours before landing, the sunrise sequence began
The seatbelt sign came on with the promise of more turbulence. With the lights coming on I couldn’t see the harm of opening the window shades and was surprised to see that we were in IFR conditions.
Who doesn’t love the extended sunset of westbound flying?
Working through the sunrise sequence
The cost of Java I believe…could be Bali
Over the Bali sea
It was scotch and coke time to kick off the meal.
What’s on offer in the menu?
I was promised a pie would be delivered shortly to go with my plate of lettuce/rocket
I opted for the chicken over the spicy pumpkin pie
It’s amazing flying over the sea in clear skies and a sunset, but interesting at the same time when you think that the beautiful landscape outside would instantly kill you if you were on the other side of the window
A sign of a great business class flight is having 3 or more drinks on the go at once
And the sun leaves us behind
Cabin panoramas are difficult to pull off due to the bouncing aircraft and lighting issues- click for the full file 12.6MB
With the meal complete, there was some time to zone out for the rest of the flight. The lights wouldn’t turn off with the flight attendant trying different buttons triggering a sunset, then a sunrise, then full lighting before she gave up and came out from the galley apologising for the fault.
All too soon we hit top of descent and another great MH flight was just about over. Headsets were collected, and the stewardess came by picking up menus. She searched under the duvet and through the pile of items on the seat next to me for mine whilst I kept a blank facial expression- sadly the menu had already made it into my carry on bag.
With the headphones gone MH took over the screens to play some promotional videos- but not before the usual ‘death for traffickers’ announcement. First up was a song about Malaysia.
Somewhere in Malaysia
I think they dropped the ball a bit on this one- if you want to sell me Malaysia tell me about it- you don’t need to sing a tacky song. When I thought the song was winding down they went into one more full-voiced go at the chorus of ‘Malaysia truly Asia’ with the lyrics appearing on screen for those wanting to perform a little karaoke. The song was a real turn off, but I’m told by marketing experts that if you don’t like an ad it just means you’re not the target market. Was it necessary to blast over the PA system?
Next came the Asha Gill video about KLIA. Finally the screens were returned to the moving map, it was lights out and cabin crew were seated for landing.
There were interesting lightning strikes as we passed through. At about 8:40pm local time we hit earth with a shudder, landing on Runway 14L. You could feel that it was a tough approach with seemingly changing wind conditions.
Thanks for flying MH– I’ll fly with you anytime if you can operate flights like this.
Passing some MH metal as the windows fog up
We pulled into gate C25 and the cabin lights came back on.
I was off within seconds after thanking the crew for another great flight.
All quiet at the satellite terminal
Immigration was easy, thanks in part to not having any forms to complete and getting the orange tag for priority
My bag was one of the first off, and by 9pm local time I was through customs.
KLIA is one of the most enjoyable airports to use in the world for me and they have to be again commended for making things easy. It’s interesting when going through customs and seeing the staff more interested in reading the newspaper than checking for illegal trafficking.
Following the signs to the KLIA Ekspres was easy and there were plenty of staff on hand offering information. You buy the ticket at KL Sentral.
Onboard the KLIA Ekspres
With lots of time to kill before my flight at 7:20pm the next day I had booked a hotel near KL Sentral in Le Meridian. Somewhere simple to crash for the night, and this did the job.
I had made it to my room in less than 1hr20mins after touchdown. It’s all too easy in Kuala Lumpur. With the time approaching 2am back at home I was ready to crash. Read the report on Le Meridien.
IMPRESSIONS OF MH 148
Check-in: Efficient and friendly, well done to the team at MEL. They even opened early.
Departure: Late due to weather (so not MH‘s fault). More info earlier would have been nice, and boarding a fraction chaotic.
Lounge: Best outstation lounge operated by an airline I’ve been to thus far.
Onboard: New A330 offers a solid product. It’s comfortable and new. The crew was MH at its best.
Food and Beverages: Couldn’t be faulted really.
Arrival: KLIA efficient and the whole process was easy and flowed
Overall I think this flight was MH at its best and there weren’t many things to pick out for criticism. MH. If MH can offer this on all flights- a brand new aircraft, reasonable seating, great catering and excellent crew while getting its financial house in order, they could rise from the ashes once again and become a force to be reckoned with.
Watch the flight video
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