This trip report will be my report on flying Malindo Air economy class from Senai (Johor Bahru) JHB to Subang (Kuala Lumpur) SZB, a short-haul domestic route within peninsular Malaysia.
During this Good Friday holiday, I planned a trip with my parents to Kuala Lumpur. With flight from the city nearby my hometown to Kuala Lumpur KUL costing less than US$75 roundtrip, my parents agreed on the idea. However, I needed to also find an economical way to fly, and with the day being the eve of Good Friday holiday, the ticket prices for flights from Singapore SIN was rather high compared with its neighbour across the strait (not that flying from Singapore SIN is inherently expensive, but it seems to be much more sensitive to price fluctuation). Having tried Malindo Air for my previous trip to Kuala Lumpur, I booked the flight supposedly flown by its mainline fleet even though I found their service have some flaws due to the destination airport, schedule, and purported value for money. However, the trip went into a disarray with Malindo concentrating its peninsular Malaysia operation in Subang (Kuala Lumpur) SZB and closing the route, therefore shifting my destination airport to Subang (Kuala Lumpur) SZB. I somehow managed to survive Malindo's fiasco by requesting a flight change earlier directly to the airline, especially since my online travel agent kept informing me that the rest of the flight goers get shifted backward quite a few times.
The trip on that day went into a bit of a mess, especially because I got hit by several delays throughout this trip, turning this plan that I made after the flight changes:
Singapore - Johor Bahru: Public train Johor Bahru - Senai (JHB): Airport bus Senai (JHB) - Subang (SZB): Plane Subang (SZB) - Sepang (KUL): Inter-airport bus Sepang (KUL) - Kuala Lumpur: Airport bus (together with my parents; hoped to convince them to save some money)
Singapore - Johor Bahru: Public train Johor Bahru - Senai (JHB): Private car Senai (JHB) - Subang (SZB): Plane Subang (SZB) - Kuala Lumpur: Private car (rushing to the city due to the severe flight delay, read more below)
The flight itself cost me only RM 70 (US$15), but the domestic transportation to and from the airports cost me as much as the flight itself, which if I opted for all-public transportation within Malaysia could be as low as 1/4 of the cost.
Singapore to Johor Bahru JHB and check-in at Johor Bahru JHB
During the day of the trip, I opted for the train service "Shuttle Tebrau" from Woodlands train checkpoint (WTCP) to JB Sentral train station in Johor Bahru. The shuttle was quite expensive at S$5 (US$3.5), but extremely convenient because I could clear both Singapore and Malaysia immigration in WTCP and therefore exiting JB Sentral as a domestic passenger, besides having to face a smaller crowd due to capacity control for the train services. Saving time was one of my more important priorities, considering that I only took a half-day leave for the day itself and could not afford to withstand too much travel disruption.
My office was so close to the checkpoint (building with slanted roof in the middle) I could have just walked, though I opted for public bus to go to the train checkpoint.
The train station looks rather small with barely any amenity, mainly since it only serves as a checkpoint and has few services - definitely a far cry from Kuala Lumpur's central station.
The train station has a bi-directional Singapore immigration counters and Malaysia immigration counters only for departing passengers even though the facility itself is managed by Singapore's immigration authority and the track and trains are Malaysian, which is quite intriguing. However, due to the low capacity there are very few immigration counters - on Singapore side there are 3 automated immigration gates (which is very heavily utilized) and quite a few manned counters, while on Malaysia side there are only 6 manned counters (only 3 or 4 were open) and several lightly utilised automated immigration gates. This, therefore, created a severe bottleneck causing the train to depart 15 minutes late.
The consist for the shuttle service used the older air-conditioned superior class coaches, the same kind of seats used for the train to the east coast as well as shuttle from JB Sentral to Gemas, which I covered on my previous article. The seats looked quite worn, but with the trip only taking 5 minutes I did not bother too much.
Some views of the Causeway as the train proceeded to Johor Bahru
Since the train was delayed and I needed to buy buy prepaid card for my stay in Malaysia, I only managed to try to hail the 2.00 PM Causeway Link bus to the airport, and since I have yet to buy the ticket he simply asked me to buy the bus ticket from the operator's counter and left. With the next bus scheduled to depart at 3.00 PM, I had no choice but to take a private car to the airport to ensure I arrived sufficiently early to fly. Fortunately for me, on my way to the airport it rained quite heavily in the middle of the journey, so had I chose the bus I would arrive to the airport quite close to departure time. Here are some views of the JB Sentral drop-off point and the trip to the airport:
I then arrived at the airport 90 minutes before departure, therefore allowing me to take some time and work on my report. The airport's retail area didn't look too bad with several shops operating and the acceptable design.
While AirAsia has quite some self check-in machines (they even have two self bag drop counters in the check-in area), Firefly and Malaysia have some rather basic machines behind (not seen), leaving Malindo with web check-in as the only option beside facing the officers.
Since I didn't bother printing my boarding pass even though I had done web check-in (as well as to see their boarding pass stock on offer), I needed to go to the check-in area. The bag check and check-in counter was quite empty and I was out in less than 5 minutes. Even though my backpack was around 8.5 kg, but since it contained my laptop, it was allowed to be brought into the cabin.
Unlike the boarding pass I received at Kuala Lumpur KUL, however, I received a flimsy, receipt-like boarding pass similar to what Lion Air airlines group use in Indonesia. While at least they put some effort into coloring part of it, it is still a huge downgrade from the boarding pass stock they had at Kuala Lumpur KUL.
AirAsia's counters have 2 self bag drop counters, in addition to 4 manned counters. AirAsia is known to be especially stingy for not providing free full-service check-in counters like other airlines for their domestic flight in Malaysia, instead charging RM10 (US$2.5) for that convenience.
Since I found the takeaway lunch I had earlier to be less filling than to my liking, I went to Marrybrown (one of Malaysia's fast food brands) and had their nasi lemak with chicken, which I found acceptable. Most importantly, however, they have plenty power plugs available for me to use while I worked on my assignment.
Around 30 minutes before my departure time I proceeded to the security, which was a breeze (luckily I went in just before the group of students, otherwise it may be worse). It would be tight had I flown on a wide-body plane, however since the flight would be operated by ATR72 30 minutes seem rather ample. The security and immigration area was both in the same room, which is acceptable for the airport due to its lower traffic (however, unlike at Solo SOC or Yogyakarta JOG where immigration was at the international departure gate they would need to otherwise dedicate the whole waiting area for international departure for some time).
Johor Bahru JHB transit area and departure
The airport looked rather gloomy, as seen from the signage.
The airport has a duty-paid store, although it would be interesting how are they changing the price between domestic and international departure, handle the tax refund, or worse, pick all the duty exemption profit. A GST refund office is also inside the store.
Some Malaysian girls and boys sighted, waiting for the flight to Kuala Lumpur KUL.
Malaysia Airlines' 737-800 about to return to Kuala Lumpur. The window is heavily tinted, which although helped to reduce heat made it bad for plane spotting.
Some photos of the waiting room, which quickly cleared as the Malaysia Airlines flight departed. Unlike the public area, there are only a handful of stores in the transit area, making it a rather dull place.
Some parts of the waiting area near gate 1 was under renovation, which didn't look especially inviting. I proceeded to find the nearest power plug (which unlike in the Marrybrown restaurant was quite a tall order) and tried to work on my assignment, only to find the website I needed offline. The internet access in the airport itself is acceptable, though by Singapore standard it would be considered a bit on the slower side.
I took a nap for a while, and after I woke up my flight hadn't even departed. I kept on waiting, until at 6 PM an announcement was made to take the complimentary refreshment from the gate.
The free meal consisted of a Subway wrap with poultry ham and cheese with a bottle of mineral water. While the meal itself was not filling, they have at least fulfilled their regulatory requirement as seen on screen behind the meal, preventing people from suing them. At least this was not in Indonesia, otherwise a riot may have already started (airlines under Lion Air group don't have the best reputation among Indonesian airlines, although Lion Air tend to become the most frequently targeted one).
After I waited for even longer, the plane taxied into the gate at 6.55 PM.
Thanks to the short turnaround time, at around 7.10 PM we started boarding the plane. The boarding process was not that chaotic, and flying on an ATR I got to walk at the tarmac to the plane. On a side note, I never thought ATR72's APU would be as noisy as mainline jets', which became a bit of an issue at Kuala Lumpur SZB.
Malindo is indeed in the same group with Lion Air, but unlike most airline groups Malindo is a hybrid LCC while Lion as the main airline is a LCC.
Flight: OD1212 Plane: 9M-LMS STD/ATD: 16.45/~19.25 STA/ATA: 17.45/~20.25 Cruising altitude: FL160 Load factor: 98% Y (71/72) Seat type: Standard economy class (72Y)
Being the first time I flown on a regional jet, the first impression I got was that the cabin looked a bit on the tighter side, although the cabin itself didn't look tired yet.
The cabin sports 72 slimline economy class seats without any IFE. The configuration is the same as the other ATR planes operated by Wings Air, therefore significantly diluting Malindo's premium brand segmentation (for comparison, Garuda has only 70 seats on their ATR72 planes). The seat itself was quite narrow I kept on leaning towards the window.
Seat pitch at around 30" was acceptable for a short-haul flight, although for a flight any longer than that it would be barely enough. For comparison, I am 5' 10".
Inside the literature pocket at the above part of the seat was safety guide, inflight magazine, buy on board brochure, and airsickness bag.
As there is no screen on the ceiling, the safety demonstration was done manually by only one flight attendant.
The plane soon took off from Johor Bahru JHB, bound for Kuala Lumpur SZB. The takeoff roll was short, but I somehow felt the climb rate afterwards was on the slower side.
After the seatbelt sign was turned off, the crew started distributing the refreshment of the day.
The refreshment turned out to be a full-sized cup of mineral water bearing the airline's logo. While they were rather stingy on the shuttle flights compared with on their mainline operation where I got a cup of orange drink, at least the water cup was full-sized.
As they had a BOB service they needed to do, the flight attendant afterwards quickly walked along the cabin repeatedly (and quite quickly) saying, "Starbucks coffee, curry puff", referring to the RM 10 (US$2.5) Starbucks coffee and curry puff combo they had on offer. Nobody bothered to buy, which led me to wonder the feasibility of the buy on board program.
Afterwards, the flight attendant removed the used plastic cups. They seemed to be in quite a rush even though the cruise phase was quite long, especially when the flight attendant took my seatmate's cup and quickly said afterwards, "Done, sir? Thank you." It was quite pathetic of the crew, to say the least.
As I was seating at the window seat, I did not bother to visit the lavatory, instead discussing with my seatmate, a Swiss based in Kuala Lumpur, on our experiences.
On around 8.00 PM the plane started descending, and due to the bad weather there were several bumps along the way. I noticed that while the bumps itself were more noticeable, the jerking motion itself was quite smooth compared to mainline jets. As the airport was a bit removed from Kuala Lumpur's city centre, there were less views to look on.
At around 8.20 PM the flight landed at Kuala Lumpur SZB. During the landing, the pilot slightly turned the aircraft several times to stay within the runway. Afterwards, during the rtaxi the flight attendant ordered the passengers several times not to use their phone during taxi and to remain seated.
The Kuala Lumpur SZB terminal from the taxiway, which looked rather small.
Deboarding took a while as only the left rear door was used.
Before I deboarded, I asked the flight attendant about the delay, where she mentioned that due to inclement weather at Johor Bahru JHB earlier during the day the flight kept on being retimed, therefore resulting in the 3 hours delay I faced.
Arrival at Kuala Lumpur SZB and post-arrival trip
Some last view of the plane carrying me to Kuala Lumpur SZB.
Before entering the arrival area, we were made to walk all the way along the sheltered, semi-open walkway, which at more than 100 m is considered quite long. Worse, there was Firefly's ATR72 parked nearby the walkway, which APU was quite noisy. Along the way, I also got to see the departure waiting area, which seemed rather dated though functional.
After the relatively long walk, I reached the arrivals area. As I had no luggage to take, I quickly passed through to the exit.
After I exited the arrivals area, I went to the information counter to ask about public transportation to Kuala Lumpur's city centre, however the officer was rather clueless since it doesn't seem to be a popular option among travelers and suggested me to take taxi instead, noting that the public bus service to KL Sentral (Kuala Lumpur's integrated transport hub) was rather infrequent. One of the better ways to go to the city centre from the airport, as I learned later on, would be to take taxi to the nearest LRT (Ara Damansara, Kelana Jaya line) or commuter train (Subang Jaya) station and take the train to the city.
Coupon taxi counters was available, with the budget taxi to Bukit Bintang would cost me RM 45 (US$10). However, I ended up booking my trip using a ride-hailing application as it costed me 40% less at only RM 27 (US$6). Contrary to the banner, however, the airport bus service would only go to Kuala Lumpur KUL, with the service to KL Sentral no longer in operation.
While I was waiting for the car to arrive, I took some photos of the check-in area and the drop-off area.
Bonus: Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by bus
There are 3 main ways to go from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore or back: - Plane (to Singapore SIN for the well-heeled or time-pressed people, via Johor Bahru JHB for budget travelers), - Bus (to various locations in Singapore for people seeking convenience, via Johor Bahru (Larkin) for budget travelers), and - Intercity train (for the more adventurous)
As I have covered plane and intercity train, I decided to try bus. Even though bus services to Singapore are traditionally expensive, I decided to go for Causeway Link (the same operator as the one running the Singapore - Johor Bahru yellow shuttle bus) which offered a very reasonable fare to Jurong East (45 mins to my residence by public transport) at only RM 43 (US$10). The catch? The bus was fully booked quite far in advance (even 2 weeks before departure there were only 3 seats left out of 30, which turned out also mean quite high no-show rate) and it departed from TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, Kuala Lumpur's main intercity bus terminal).
There are 3 ways to go from Kuala Lumpur's city centre to the terminal: - Ampang line LRT (interchange at Hang Tuah station from the monorail or Masjid Jamek station from the Kelana Jaya line to KLCC/KL Sentral, reasonably cheap),
- Commuter train (from KL Sentral / Kuala Lumpur / Bank Negara / Putra stations, reasonably cheap), and
- KLIA Transit (from KL Sentral, the most luxurious, fastest, and reliable, but also the most expensive).
Having tried the LRT, I planned to take the commuter train. As the next train to the station would be estimated to arrive only 15 minutes before the bus departed, I opted for KLIA Transit. The ticket from KL Sentral to Bandar Tasik Selatan station (the train station connected with TBS) cost RM 6.50 (US$1.5) when bought at the counter or RM 5.90 (US$1.35) when bought at the kiosk and paid by card.
The platform dedicated to KLIA Transit was separated from the platform for KLIA Ekspres since KLIA Ekspres travels directly to Kuala Lumpur KUL while KLIA Transit travels to Kuala Lumpur KUL via several stations. Beside the KLIA Transit platform was the KLIA Ekspres train.
The KLIA Transit train was quite acceptable for the short trip to Bandar Tasik Selatan station, and considering that it does not solely cater to passengers to Kuala Lumpur KUL, has no luggage rack.
Bandar Tasik Selatan station - are 3 lines and bus terminal enough to be considered as a transport hub like KL Sentral?
TBS somehow felt a bit like an airport with gated access to the waiting room and its design, although to some extent it still feels like an ordinary bus terminal.
I then exchanged y e-ticket to the boarding pass, printed on a thin bus terminal boarding pass stock.
The waiting area, however, looked rather bland with only rows of seats and a handful of shops.
The bus about to bring me to Singapore has arrived. The seats were rather comfortable at the price point.
A handful of views along the trip:
Immigration was quite fast, and after I cleared the immigration the bus has already waited at the boarding bay. The bus ride was quite fast at only 5 hours 50 minutes including a 30 minutes break at a rest area. Instead of alighting at the mall I was supposed to reach, the bus instead stopped at the bus stop near Jurong East Temporary Bus Interchange, which was more convenient to continue my trip by public train. The temporary bus interchange was indeed bland as it mainly caters local buses, although there are some better bus interchanges around.
Senai - JHB
Subang - SZB
The decision for Malindo to close the intra-peninsular Malaysia mainline operation to Kuala Lumpur KUL turned my trip less smooth than I would have thought. From the lack of timely notification (even I used my Skype credit to call the Malaysia office to sort everything despite their presence in Singapore), severe delay due to the smaller aircraft being more prone to delay due to inclement weather, almost abysmal service, and being rerouted to an airport with few viable public transport option (even though it's closer to the city), this trip was pretty much a letdown for me.
The low rating for them is warranted thanks to their lower quality of service compared with my previous trip with them, therefore making Malindo need to learn from their leading regional competitors.
Some thing done well for the trip: + Acceptable price (between Malaysia/Firefly and AirAsia) + Acceptable check-in waiting and processing time + Large checked luggage allowance still retained (30 kg as on initial booking to KUL, the default for the route would be only 15 kg) + Adequate dining options in Johor Bahru JHB public area (considering the airport size) + Acceptable centralised security at Johor Bahru JHB + Relatively young plane (< 1 year) + Relatively smooth cruise to Kuala Lumpur SZB + Kuala Lumpur SZB being closer to the city centre than Kuala Lumpur KUL
Things that can be improved: - Communication from the airline regarding the delay - Johor Bahru JHB airport transfer frequency from downtown - Lack of self check-in machines in Johor Bahru JHB (but so does all other airlines in Lion Air group, not even Lion Air in Jakarta CGK) - Lack of newspaper offering - Cheap-looking boarding pass stock paper - Shoddy waiting room at Johor Bahru JHB - Insufficient power plugs in waiting area at Johor Bahru JHB - Lack of jet bridge capable of handling regional plane at Johor Bahru JHB - Lack of adjustable headrest - Small seat pitch - Lack of digital entertainment - High load factor - Dining options on board - Unpolished and rushed flight attendants - Not fully enclosed walkway at Kuala Lumpur SZB - Lack of convenient, affordable public transportation from Kuala Lumpur SZB to city centre
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