Follow along our evening flight from Kuala Lumpur (KUL/WMKK) to Hong Kong (HKG/VHHH) with Malaysia Airlines in Business Class. One of the interesting things about this flight is that it is operated by the older A330-300 aircraft with Malaysia Airlines, which are being replaced with the new A330-300 aircraft with lie-flat seats. The aircraft running this route had their first flights around 1995, and were considered old a long time ago. Let’s see how MH fares on this route- can the Malaysian Hospitality shine through despite the ageing fleet and hard product? Let’s go flying.
For this evening flight, my journey started at KL Sentral Station. One of the real perks of flying MH and Cathay Pacfic (CX) is that you can check in right at the train station with few lines. Getting rid of the bags early before the near 30 minute train trip to KLIA is always a good thing.
MH ticket office here
I checked my bags in at the station with a rather unfriendly check-in staffer at the First counter as Business was closed. A new boarding pass was issued giving me two boarding passes, one issued here and the other issued in MEL the day before. The check in for the flight the day before gives an sequence number of 6.
The KUL boarding pass
Or the MEL boarding pass
You never seem to have to wait for the KLIA Expres, and today was no different- the train was ready to leave as I got to the platform and was very quiet. After an uneventful 27 minute trip I arrived at KLIA.
Scenes of the terminal
Panorama- ignore the chopped up bodies due to movement Click for full file of 12MB.
By 3:45pm I was airside. What was interesting about the first security check point was the lack of interest by staff who were playing on their phones rather than watching the monitors. Anything could have been in my bag…
Also, KLIA needs priority screening for those with the orange card providing fast track immigration.
There was lots of time to kill before the flight, but KLIA is a great airport, and it starts with having two airside lounges to try, along with great shopping options.
Soon it was time to leave the lounge and head to the gate. A line met me when I got to gate C2. I was slightly annoyed about the lack of line for J- this was the first line of the trip so far. Also, this system doesn’t seem to work as they try to feed a whole aircraft full of pax through one x-ray machine and one metal detector in a short window. Other airports don’t seem to need screening at the gate (except Changi and Schiphol)?
My ride to HKG as the sun sets- 9M-MKJ
Gate holding area
Boarding was called- but only for kids and special needs pax, but that didn’t stop some people. In MEL the first line they read out is ‘PLEASE REMAIN SEATED’ and I think this could work here. They started calling Y by rows, but I think it became a free-for-all.
Meanwhile J could board through door A…you can see the line building on the other side of the glass
I would appreciate an answer as to why they only use one aerobridge on the new A330, but on the old A330 you get two?
Date: 28 November 2012
Flight: MH 78
Route: KUL (WMKK) – Hong Kong (VHHH)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-322
View Large View Medium Photo © mutzair
View Large View Medium Photo © Rayner
Quick facts: First flight was on 21/11/1995. This aircraft is 17 years old. Its test registration was D-WWKJ.
Scheduled / Actual Departure (gate): 7:20pm / 7:17pm UTC+8
Scheduled / Actual Arrival (date): 11:05pm / 10:50pm UTC+8
Scheduled / Actual Flight Time (gate to gate): 3h45m / 3h33m
At exactly 7pm I was onboard. I was preparing myself for the explosive chilli red seats, and made an interesting observation. The photos of the seats are much worse…in real life, while a calming blue might be better they were actually OK…almost nice. Not sure why the photos make them look so horrible- maybe under the hues of cabin lights everything looks better. The cabin was immaculate, and wear and tear wasn’t too bad. The bulkheads were the MH 777 style with ‘palm trees’.
The aircraft was interesting…it brought back memories of the old days of flying…where the cabin lights flicker- they don’t go through sunrise and sunset sequences. For a 3 hour trip I was content.
View from my seat
Leg room view- not sure what the underseat box is given the lack of AVOD
The seat pitch is noticeably less- on the new A330 you get 3 windows per row (and a little more), where here you get two. This is noticeable when the passenger in front reclines- when you get up you’re pretty much standing over their head. It’s a reminder of why these seats went out of fashion, but I think these seats were absolutely fine for the nature of the flight- 3 and a bit hours to HKG.
About 5 minutes after sitting down it was time for a guava juice
Next came the newspapers, with the story on the front page being especially relevant to today’s flight
While all this was going on there was a minor issue in seat 1G ahead. The person assigned there was not happy as they don’t like sitting in the middle of the aircraft. “I’ve never been assigned to the middle before so I didn’t think of doing a seat allocation”. Unfortunately the cabin staff found all window seats to be taken, and I found myself sending telepathic messages to the leading stewardess “please don’t ask me to move or put this person next to me” as lines such as “I am flying business class” (Stewardess- “everyone is flying business class, this is the business class cabin”) and “I always fly business class and am an Enrich member” (welcome to the club) were coming out. I couldn’t see things ending well, but kindly Mrs. 1K saved the day by opting to move to the middle. I think the crew handled this situation very well. I take the time out to do seat allocations to pick where I am comfortable sitting (window, alone, preferably not in row 1) so why can’t everyone?
“Hot towel Mr MD?”…alright, if you insist
Moments later at 7:15pm doors were closed, and it was time for departure. We pushed back and watched the safety video. This was the same new one, which showed all the seats and features of the new A330. Since the last flight it has grown on me, and apart from some bad dubbing, it now goes in the ‘very good’ category. The old aircraft meant lots of crackles and lines going through the video- at what point does this become unsafe?
Out we headed to the runway passing some interesting action on the tarmac.
MH A380. Odds are it’s bound for LHR at some stage.
We were just behind an LH A340 (last flew on one in Y back in 2000) and passed the EK A380 (counting down to that experience)
Without delay we arrived at Runway 32R and took off into the night.
This was the view for most of the flight
This was the first time since pre-1999 of flying on a widebody without airshow, so I could only imagine what we were passing below.
The climb seemed very long, but soon the fasten seatbelt sign was off and we began to settle down for the cruise. It was now 7:45pm.
This aircraft was a blast from the past in more ways than one- haven’t seen the old-style “stripy” blanket in J for a while- although I understand it’s the Y standard
As this was an old aircraft, AVOD let alone personal screens hadn’t been invented at the time of construction (maybe some slight hyperbole), so the compromise was the Select media player. Before you complain think of Y- who gets the main screen movie as decided by MH.
I’d seen it in pictures and was underwhelmed but in real life it gets the tick of approval- of course it’s no replacement for a real screen, especially in turbulence, but what you have is a functional handheld unit loaded full of enough content to keep one entertained for the 3 hour cruise. The thing that struck me with it compared to consumer electronics was how robust it was- it felt like you could throw it against a brick wall.
It came with a handy stand that fitted perfectly onto the cocktail table- as long as you don’t have a seat neighbour. Luckily loads were so light everyone had at least two seats to themselves if they wanted.
This safety message doesn’t beat around the bush- but finally a solution to paused entertainment during lengthy announcements in 3 languages with lots of urms and ahhs.
The music was a little annoying- you couldn’t put on a track and then go and browse the movie selection. You couldn’t even browse other tracks on that album as it would cause the music to stop. The headphones weren’t noise cancelling but were a tier above Y headsets.
By 8pm, it was time for a casual meal service to begin, so let’s see what’s on today’s menu.
The remainder of the menu was exactly the same as the previous sector. It was an oriental themed meal tonight (maybe it was a feature month, or maybe this was always on offer).
Basic control unit
Table out for the meal
First up- drinks. Why not try my first ever bloody mary?
Well that’s off the bucket list, not sure if it will quite be on the favourites list though
Next up- what else in MH J?
What impressed me was the old-style shell dish for the hot towel that they used to use on all flights back in the early 2000s- the aircraft was like a time machine
For the second time ever on MH (first time was last flight) no satay seconds were offered. I think the other aisle got some more, but the message appears to be that satay uplift has been drastically reduced as this was in a lightly filled J cabin. Either that or satay is now the crew meal.
I didn’t read/take in what the starter was on the menu, so I was tasting blind. The first item tasted like ham, which surprised me for an airline with halal catering. Turned out to be duck. The next item was a tomato stuffed with something strange- it was like tasteless slimy tentacles. According to the menu this was jellyfish- first time for everything and possibly the last for me. Last up- the mango. I don’t think you could complain about the starter as it was exactly what the menu promised.
The bread basket came round and I had the usual
A bit overcooked on the sector- had the consistency of croutons. Still edible.
The salt, pepper and butter
Every so often the IFE unit pops up with a reminder to pause it during announcements, and to not let it become a weapon during turbulence
Panorama of the cabin during the meal- any issues are due to aircraft bounces. Click for the full version.
The seatbelt sign came back on and we had to get strapped back in due to turbulence. It was light so no dramas.
The main- tea leaf chicken
Presentation was a Y meal dressed as J, but that’s MH on these sectors now. The chicken was great and went well with the dipping sauce.
The rest was fine, although I decided to pass on most of the big pieces of spinach.
On to the fruit plate- you can’t stuff these up and they didn’t.
Dessert was a green tea cake
Between the green tea icecream in the lounge, tea leaf chicken and green tea dessert I was starting to get tea-ed out but it the dessert was still flawless.
Coffee and tea wasn’t served- probably due to the seatbelt sign still being on. The meal all over at 9:25pm, nearly 2 hours after takeoff. Where did all that time go?
Time to chill with the Select unit for what was left of the flight
The cabin after the meal
Passenger service unit
The main screen movie came to an end and what came up on the screen was a reminder of the age of the aircraft…and a trip down memory lane to analogue TV
At 9:55pm the seatbelt sign was finally turned off, so I could get up and explore. Duty free came by- I’ve never seen anyone buying duty free onboard but someone must to make it worthwhile.
I went down to Y first to get a snapshot…here I think the seats did look as bad as the pictures I’ve seen and it really is a poor colour combination for a 5 star airline.
I couldn’t go down the back much further as I was blocked by people buying…inflight duty free. Blows my previous thoughts out of the water.
With the lavs occupied, probably due to the seatbelt sign coming off I was able to look around the galley with a lone crew member consuming the remains of the satay from the oven.
IFE controls from what I could gather
In contrast to the faux wood
Back to the sharp end, in search of the free lav up the front
I was surprised by the striking similarity between this and the new A330- I guess not much has changed in 15 years in some aspects.
Back to my seat, it was 10:05pm. Without airshow we could have been heading due south for all I knew, but the captain announced 10:50pm as landing time.
Thoughts on the crew- not quite up there with the standard set by MH148. Some great touches but a little impersonal and lacking in warmth. However they did what was asked of them as efficiently as possible then retreated to the galleys. I liken it to the experience on MH789 earlier this year. I think to see MH at its best you need to be in long haul business or first.
New Age Renditions of Coldplay
Always time for inflight tetris- thought I was doing OK until I remembered I was only on level 1.
I could feel the engines powering down and the descent starting, but the cabin remained unaware. Late into the piece it was flight over and Select units were collected. The P/A was way too soft when the leading stewardess made an announcement, so a male F/A, probably in another spot took over. Is this a safety issue on an old aircraft?
Despite ‘cabin crew seats for landing’ being called it was a mad rush to get everything set for landing. Once the headsets were taken back a video started on immigration in Hong Kong. It was played 3 times- once for each language. There were a few interesting lines, and I thought it was quite amusing how smiley the immigration offers discovering contraband were, and the passengers seemed equally happy to be getting a fine. We were well into the ILS approach to Runway 07L when everyone sat down and the lights went out.
Roughly on time we landed on Runway 07L, then braked quite hard to get down to taxi speed before taxiway A7- not sure why they wanted that on one in particular…perhaps other traffic behind us requiring an immediate vacation?
We were thanked for flying MH, and arrived at gate W47.
Hong Kong airport (my first time) was somewhat mind blowing- huge distances, and lots of floors. It was a long walk that kept on going.
An interesting point is no immigration express line. I could see a crowd about to converge on the line so I power-walked to get in first. It was all smooth and my bag had arrived before me, priority tag respected.
WATCH THE FLIGHT VIDEO
IMPRESSIONS OF MH 78
Check-in: Check-in agent not very friendly but a great service to be able to check-in at the railway station.
Departure: KLIA easy to pass through, but security at the gate could be reviewed to shorten lines.
Lounge: Two to select from and both to a high standard. It’s rare to find a lounge I don’t want to leave but this was the case here.
Onboard: Aircraft old and tired really needs replacement ASAP. But immaculate and what was offered for J was adequate for the flight. Chilli-red seats were OK, but not sure about Y. Crew did everything they had to but where’s the Malaysian Hospitality?
Food and Beverages: Meal excellent except the main a little too much like Y with big pieces of spinach just clumped together. Tea and coffee would have been nice once turbulence relaxed.
Arrival: Lots of walking but Hong Kong was efficient and organised, immigration easy and my bag beat me to the carrousel.
I think the fleet renewal is underway meaning these old A330s are on their last legs (no pun intended). For this flight an updated A330 would have been just the ticket. It would be nice to have the crew offering a fraction more on these shorter flights. A couple of holes but MH got me to where I needed to be on time and in comfort so I can’t complain, the service just wasn’t dazzling.