My 5th Flight with Malaysia Airlines - The Terrifying Seat Pitch (?)
Hi there! This is a long overdue report since… Almost a year ago?! Nonetheless, I am sure it's never too late to post a report here; and I sincerely hope that everyone will enjoy it!
First of all, the seat pitch isn't THAT bad. It just got a little bit more uncomfortable than before this time round. After all, it probably do sound a little terrifying if one has to survive on a 30 Economy seat in a narrow body aircraft for almost 5 hours! At that time, I have actually made a mental note, straight after this series of MH B738 flights, not to book myself on one of them again anytime soon; but I guess sometimes human brains are just that fickle-minded yeah…? Another MAS itinerary has landed itself in my email inbox recently - I am actually extremely looking forward to it though, but I shall bring you through the entire story another time.
Today's report will similarly be a very long one, and I do aim to make it as comprehensive as possible so that you can virtually fly with me! There're quite a lot of photos - please bear with me as these one-year-old photographs were taken with either an iPhone 5 or a really-cheapskate-Sa*sung camera. We will get through these eventually as I have recently upgraded my cameras (slightly); I am sure my new Sony RX100M3 and iPhone 6+ will perform much better! (:
Now, let's get back to MH367 - the highlight of this report.
After two weeks in Taiwan, it's time to leave this beautiful island again. I will never get tired of my visits to Taiwan and even before departing the airport on my flight, I was already missing the place. Just for a recap - I arrived in TPE on a MH flight two weeks' ago, and you can view the older reports here:
Taiwan Trip in May, 2014 Flight 1: 09/05/2014, SIN-KUL, MH602, B737-800 (Click Here Please) Flight 2: 09/05/2014, KUL-TPE, MH366, B737-800 (Click Here Please) Flight 3: 24/05/2014, TPE-KUL, MH367, B737-800 (This Report) Flight 4: 24/05/2014, KUL-SIN, MH609, B737-800 (Coming Soon!)
Malaysia Airlines MH366 Aircraft Registration: 9M-MXQ Origin: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) Destination: Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) Date: Saturday, 24 May 2014 Boarding Time: 1435h (UTC+08:00) STD/STA: 1505h (UTC+08:00) to 1950h (UTC+08:00) ATD/ATA: 1514h (UTC+08:00) to 2005h (UTC+08:00) Estimated Duration: 04:45 Actual Duration: 04:46 Flight Distance: About 2,019 miles / 3,250 km
Timelines, such as this one, shall be included in most of my future reports. Hopefully this helps you better visualise the entire flight process - from start to end, as far as possible!
That day, I left home about three hours before my flight's STD. Heading to the airport to prepare for my two upcoming flights that day. MH was offering really competitive and attractive return ticket prices on the Taipei route from Singapore.
My mom decided to treat me to a direct ride on a taxi from home to Taoyuan Airport; this saved us the hassle of having to transfer from a bus to another just to get there.
My grandparents' place is relatively near the airport. So the journey took just about 20-25 minutes. A bus journey however will probably take double the duration, but of course, much cheaper! (Taxi fares in Taiwan, however, are really affordable too)
I was really early and the counters weren't even open yet.
It was 11.30am but the counters open only at 12.55pm - more than an hour later!
Self Check-In wasn't an option too as Malaysia Airlines do not offer this alternative in Taoyuan Airport.
For people like me who prefer a proper boarding pass, these machines will probably always be avoided, anyway.
It's always interesting to observe the flight information on these displays. But many do agree that the Flight Information Display Systems (FIDS) in this airport aren't that good-looking. Do you agree?
Credits however should be given to other areas of this airport. Since the completion of refurbishment works in this terminal, it has began to look nice and refreshing again! The bilingual signage systems in Taoyuan Airport are also well-designed and situated.
Here's a view of the check-in areas. The effects of getting some natural lights into the terminal are actually really good, it's just my cheapskate camera that's making everywhere look so dull and dark…
With such huge font size, I am sure everyone knows where the Information counter is located in this terminal.
That's about all I have for the check-in hall now. Personally, I do feel that it's elegantly built. The interior designs of the terminal may be relatively simple, but it just doesn't feel like a budget airport anymore.
While waiting for both of us to get a little more hungry, we sat around and rested for a while. My mom isn't flying back to Singapore with me that day but I was kinda acting as her transporter / shipper (whatever you choose to name me as)… That explains why I am bringing two checked in luggage with me, along with a fat backpack.
Another aspect of this airport is the abundance of international power sockets - I am presuming this can fit most, if not all, kinds of plugs. All in all, there're just a lot of these that you will never find your mobile devices' batteries flat. Unless, of course, you have forgotten your cables.
Snapped a shot of Malaysia Airlines' and Philippine Airlines' counters before heading to the food court. Both airlines are on my upcoming list of flights in the coming months! The PR flights can even potentially be considered a long-haul journey, when combined.
At almost 12pm, it was time for lunch! I have one more hour to eat leisurely before check in for my flight commences.
Let me show you some photos of the relatively new food court in this terminal.
You will first see another set of FIDS situated in the food court. For an airport, it's really important to have these displays everywhere isn't it?
The ceilings in the basement are not really high. But the warm lightings succeed in removing any kinds of catastrophic atmosphere in this area.
I don't think it's too exaggerating to say that the looks of this airport have transformed almost radically, for the better!
Here's the receipt for my lunch. For an airport, this set of main course with a soup wasn't really expensive.
I would think that the price of this meal (TWD 148, SGD 6.40, EUR 4.30, USD 4.85) is perfectly reasonable! What do you think?
This is Korean food by the way! Bibimbap (???), rice mixed with lots of ingredients, meat, and Korean chili sauce.
When you are scheduled on an LCC flight out of Taoyuan Airport (TPE), I strongly recommend you to fill up your tummy first, here at the food court of TPE Terminal 1 where most LCC flights depart. That way, you probably can save a considerable amount of cash that you'd otherwise have spent for that tiny (and sometimes a little pathetic) box of microwaved aircraft food.
15 minutes before the counter opens, I return to the check-in hall and saw that a long, long queue had already formed up.
Thankfully, I've completed online check-in the day before and found out that the queue here was much shorter!
With regards to the cabin baggage, it didn't seem that the ground staff were too concerned about it. They did not weigh anyone's cabin baggage as far as I'm aware of.
Do you see the man in a hat with a light blue shirt on the left of the photo below? He would be my seat mate for the flight to Kuala Lumpur; he and his wife had a tight connection at Kuala Lumpur and throughout the flight he was rather concerned about missing the connecting flight. (I'll explain more in a while)
According to my brief observations, many passengers aboard MH367 that day were actually bound for destinations other than Kuala Lumpur, just like me. The only difference is that the flight time of my next flight is almost insignificant to their flights - those headed for other further parts of Asia, or Australia, or even Europe!
At that time in May 2014, Malaysia Airlines was aggressively trying to return to their normal state after the MH370 incident affected them so badly. It was extremely unfortunate and saddening that just another two months after that, MH17 went down in Ukraine.
Ever since, it's been reported that MH was struggling hard with maintaining profitability. Many people in the region, including several people whom I know of, will avoid travelling with MH at all cost. In the current period of writing this report, it's been announced (officially or unofficially?) that MH will be cutting routes to Europe and may even be planning to let go of its entire A380 fleet.
That would probably be an appropriate explanation of why MH is now seemingly investing much on their B738 fleet. And almost every single regional destination from Kuala Lumpur will be mainly served by this aircraft type.
No matter what's the plan of this company, I do sincerely wish them all the best and I would like to see them soaring high in the skies again, just like in the past. I guess the least I can do is to support then whem I need to fly - which is why an MH flight itinerary is sitting in my inbox now! (:
I was finally done with checking-in at 1.02pm, after almost 20 minutes of queuing. Looking back at the queue that had became worse over this duration. It seemed that there were quite a few tour groups too.
I headed up to passport controls on Level 2 of the terminal immediately.
The outer area, however, is still a public area, and there are many shops on this level too.
There are also some interesting exhibitions.
I was however just interested in finding this to take the corporate shot. (:
Apart from these free Internet PC terminals. The connection speed and signal of the free wifi available in Taoyuan Airport is amazing too.
This is the wifi login page. I personally feel that it is even better than that of Changi Airport in Singapore.
Currency exchange counters are also available on this level, making it rather convenient for departing passengers.
Here're the boarding passes for my next two MH flights. Note that the boarding gate for my connecting flight from KUL was already printed on the boarding pass, ten hours before the flight.
After chatting with my mom for another half an hour, I said goodbye to her and went through immigration.
It wasn't the busiest hour at that time and I was done with security checks and immigration in just ten minutes.
Let's now head to the right for my boarding gate - A2.
The estimated walking time to gates were nicely depicted here. My gate was at the far end. The C and D gates you see on the left are those that belong to Terminal 2.
The foreign exchange counter airside wasn't opened. I'm not sure if there were more counters in other airside areas.
The Wall of Literature you see here is one of the favourite photography spots in this airport.
There's also a really tiny escalator within the airside area of the terminal.
Turning right again to head to my boarding gate.
Through the windows, I was able to take a shot of Terminal 1's new exterior look! What a good weather for flying isn't it?
Walking pass the boarding gate for a Qantas flight bound for Singapore? No way man. It's a 100% budget airline flight. On a side note, I never thought it is worth it to purchase a Jetstar flight with a Qantas flight number.
9V-JSE was performing flight 3K724 to Singapore that afternoon. It probably just returned to Taipei from Osaka earlier that afternoon, after performing a 5th freedom flight.
It was just 2.10pm when I entered this boarding lounge for the Jetstar flight. There was no one because the flight was only scheduled to depart 2 hours later.
What was I doing in another boarding lounge? Actually, here's a tip for plane spotters who may be visiting Taoyuan Airport soon. In order to take a full photo of an aircraft in Terminal 1 (I'm not sure if this is true for Terminal 2 too), you actually need head to the adjacent boarding lounge for it to be possible.
For example, I was in Gate A4 and this Tigerair aircraft was parked at A3. To get a complete shot of it, it will most likely only be possible from the boarding lounge of Gate A4.
This aircraft is 9V-TAV, another one from home, bound for Singapore as TR2995. Departure for this aircraft was imminent at that point in time and many passengers could be seen dashing across the terminal for their Tigerair flight. It's not exactly 100% true that LCCs will never wait for latecomers. The airlines may rush their passengers but very frequently, I do see them admitting latecomers on to the flights as well. (At least in Asia, this is the case. Do not, however, try your luck the next time. Because you never know what can happen on an LCC flight. You paid the low price, so they are the boss. If they decided to close the aircraft doors and offload your bags, that's it.)
Arrived at my gate at 2.11pm. It was still quite a while before boarding commenced.
The logic for aircraft photograph cannot be utilised for planes parked at Gates A1 and A2, however, because Gates A1 to A3 share a common boarding lounge. It was therefore impossible to get a full view of my aircraft.
The common boarding lounge is huge. Here’s a photograph to show you the number of seats it has.
These “recliner seats” allow passengers to take short naps before flights! Maybe we can call them the “business class seats” of this lounge?
Decoration in the boarding lounge was limited to this tree.
The water dispenser provides cold, warm, and hot water. An extremely convenient facility for passengers. (Compare this to Kuala Lumpur’s boarding lounges, where no water dispenser can be found at all)
One more look at the Tigerair aircraft before it leaves; and this is a shot through two window panes. At this moment, we could hear repeated final calls of the last passengers. It was already 13 minutes before the scheduled departure time and where are those people?!
Here’s a bad photograph of the flight information display at the gate.
Like I have previously mentioned, this is the best photograph I can get for my aircraft.
Operating MH367 back to Kuala Lumpur that day was 9M-MXQ. This aircraft had its first flight on 14 Jan 2014, so at that time, it was a really new plane - just about 4 months old.
Let’s do a little spotting with my camera of limited abilities. A B747 with SkyTeam livery taxied pass. This aircraft is B-18206, and it was operating China Airlines Flight CI521 bound for Guangzhou. Just a short hop away, with a B747!
Another B747 in the airport that day was a Cargolux freighter plane. I wasn’t able to get its identification number.
Yet another B747! This time its a China Airlines Cargo plane.
And it’s China Airlines again! This A340-300 is B-18803. I was unsure of its destination that day.
Ohhhh! Something different! EVA Airway’s MD-90, probably headed to a destination in China (I was unsure as well). This aircraft is B-17913. Had its first flight in November 1996 and was then delivered to UNI Airways before being transferred to EVA Airways in March 2005. Apparently it’s now with Delta Airlines as N304EV, but some online information shows that it is currently stored?
There are still 2 to 3 MD-90s in the fleet of EVA Air Group. I am guessing that they will be retired soon, and I probably would not have a chance to fly on them.
One other China Airlines B747 was on its final approach into TPE.
The poor quality photograph taken by my camera forbids me to zoom in and check out the aircraft's identity though. So it’s just gonna be “yet another China Airlines B747”! Right now, China Airlines still has 29 B747 in their fleet.
It was time for boarding soon. I am sure you can guess from the photograph below that it was not an extremely orderly process. Oh well, as long as I get on the airplane I shan’t complain. There seemed to be no priorities observed as well, despite it being announced over the PA system. I sincerely hope Malaysia Airlines can improve its boarding procedures, the situation was similar for three out of four flights (the flight from Singapore departed from a remote stand / bus gate).
I boarded the aircraft 25 minutes before the STD.
Glad that I was able to take a better cabin photo this time. It was nice to see that I was on another MH B738 with Boeing Sky Interior and individual IFEs.
It took me ten minutes before I reached my seat and settled down. The man (the seat mate that I’ve mentioned earlier) and his wife were already seated in the window and centre seats. After I settled down, I heard him mutter the phrase “this plane has absolutely no legroom” a few times. I was thinking to myself “yes sir, I agree wholeheartedly.
As I have already flown on this exact same aircraft type twice, before this particular flight, I would not elaborate as much about the hardware in this report. May I ask that you refer to the previous two reports for a better idea of this version of MH B738 aircrafts?
We could clearly see from the zig-zag lines below that the taxi took really long that day.
In fact, our captain even made an announcement to inform us that we will be in the queue for about 30 more minutes before reaching the runway, and this was attributed to the single runway operations in Taoyuan Airport. (It’s still the case now in 2015 and works on the other runway will only be completed by end-2015 or early-2016 if I’m not mistaken)
It was nice that the wait eventually was not 30 minutes, but a slightly shorter 23 minutes. We took off from Runway 23R at 3.53pm that day, 48 minutes from the STD.
Many onboard MH367 got worried about their connecting flights at KUL. My seat mate stopped a flight attendant to explain that they had a tight connection ahead to another MH flight. It was nice of the FA to assure him that ground crews at KUL will definitely sort it out, and the next flight will very likely wait for them.
But hey? Ain’t I also one of the passenger with a connecting flight ahead? Why am I not worried at all? That’s because my transit time was a looooong 3 hours and 15 minutes, which probably explains why I already began to continue watching the movie that I paused from the previous flight (the perks of having AVOD IFEs!) while all the rest were worrying about the delays.
The seat belt signs were turned off at about 3.56pm and we flew out of Taiwan towards the sea at about 3.57pm. The aircraft was just about to pass 7,000ft.
I took the opportunity to snap a quick shot of the cabin again, before everyone started dashing to the lavatory.
Sorry for blocking the camera slightly with my finger, I didn’t realise it at all!
But yup, this is the lavatory onboard 9M-MXQ.
It was still clean and tidy, but the flower that I saw previously on MH366 was gone already. I guess it was just by chance that the FAs on MH366 decided to decorate the economy class lavatory as well?
Altitude was about 23,000ft by the time I got back to my seat. We were still climbing.
Paused my movie and enjoyed the flight map for a while. Even though the screens were small, the screen resolution was good!
Flying along the Taiwan’s West coast in the initial phase of our flight.
This time, I was able to remove the remote control as it was not stuck like previously. It helps that this aircraft was only 4-months old at that time, doesn’t it? Really glad that I could recharge the battery of my phone too! (I have 3 hours ahead of me in KUL, don’t forget)
The seat pocket contents are as follows:
We have reached our initial cruising altitude of 36,000ft at 4.20pm, leaving the Taiwanese airspace soon. I will be back! (:
Ah ha! Here’s what I was most looking forward to on this flight - the meal service.
The FA seemed to have forgotten something from the galley and she just left the cart on the aisle! Fortunately nobody thought it was a buffet onboard MH367 that day. HAHA.
My dinner came after 10 minutes! It was just 4.22pm and still a little early for dinner. But I guess the FAs wanted to complete meal service quickly so that the passengers and themselves can both take some rests after that.
Here’s the main course: fried rice with egg and chicken along with some vegetables .
You know what… MH’s catering from Taiwan was amazing as well! Every ingredient you see in the main course was almost perfect in terms of the “airline food standard” I would say.
The appetiser was good too, as the prawns were rather fresh!
Fruits were a little disappointing. Especially since Taiwanese fruits are usually awesome.
And I was getting myself extremely well-hydrated on this flight. (It’s like this always, I prefer to keep myself more hydrated when flying)
A pineapple tart seemingly replaced the more-common breads on this flight. It was nice because it wasn’t too sweet and the fillings did not taste artificial / processed.
Catering wise, MH has performed well again! I was just happily waiting for a cup of hot tea by then.
The Sky Interior mood lighting was turned on after the meal so that people who want to rest can now start to do so.
It was a day flight mostly so I didn’t choose to rest. Continued my movie, and paused it now and then to look at the flight information. At 4.57pm, we were still maintaining an altitude of 36,000ft.
We were flying back to Kuala Lumpur at a faster speed that day! Cutting down the effects of the delay rather significantly. (:
With the mood lighting switched on, it seemed that the resolution of the screen got even better in these photographs! Haha.
I have completed my movie by 5pm and did not want to start another one. After switching the IFE to the flight map, I continued to spend my time watching Korean variety shows.
Here’s the ground speed at 5.32pm - 888km/h - definitely a good sign for us Asians!
The seat pitch might have been a little daunting. Nevertheless, I was still enjoying the late afternoon flight!
It truly looked as though we were in a nightclub instead of a B737 aircraft.
At 6.42pm, the FAs went around to distribute peanuts and drinks. By then, it was the “real” dinner time and I could feel myself getting hungry again. It probably took up some of my energy trying to survive the very-tight-coach-seats yeah. =P
To be fair, a 4-hours flight isn't that long actually. So I guess most people will still be able to tolerate a narrow body aircraft on such flights. Otherwise, MH367 wouldn’t have been THAT full that day!
We were approaching Malaysia, still at an altitude of 36,000ft.
My final destination was just THERE (Singapore, slightly to the south of Johor Bahru). Wouldn’t it be nice to just fly me there, captain? (Just kidding)
At 7.31pm, our co-pilot came onto the PA with the arrival information! Here’s what he said: - Our altitude at about 36,000ft, and ground speed about 840km/h - Kuala Lumpur’s weather: cloudy with a temperature of 30 degree celsius - No time difference between Taipei and Kuala Lumpur
An air steward then followed up with a really short and concise Mandarin translation of the pilot’s announcement.
The descend began at about 7.34pm and the approach route was not very direct.
Personally, I am not a great fan of mood lightings and actually do prefer the cabin to be really just dark - like those night flights on budget airlines. Wouldn’t it be nicer to sleep that way?
Before seat belt signs came on, I made my way to the lavatory again since I kept drinking lots of water and juices - no alcohol this time round. While queueing for the lavatory, I took some photographs of the “worse” seats on this aircraft - the last row.
Not only is there absolutely no recline, the seat pitch seemed to be even more horrendous here. As far as I remember, the entire aircraft was full except for the few seats on the last row. Well, I guess very few will actually be willing to sit here unless they have no choice?
Back to my seat at Row 23 - a row that I frequently select because 23 is one of my favourite numbers. xD
Most people were already seated and prepared for the landing. The seat belt signs would be switched on soon.
Isn’t it true that the seat pitch looks marginally better here, than at the back? (I think I was just trying to convince myself that I chose a better seat)
Final approach at 7.46pm.
The last shot before I had to switch off my phone, featuring the vandalism we unfortunately see on this new aircraft.
And here’s the approach route from FlightRadar24.com.
We landed on Runway 32L six minutes after the STA, which actually was quite an achievement given our rather extended delay back at Taipei.
We then arrived at the gate just a few minutes later at 8.05pm, 15 minutes behind schedule, which really wasn’t that bad after all.
I wasn’t in a rush so I waited for most people to disembark before I left my seat. That gave me a good opportunity to take another photograph of the cabin!
I tried again to take a photo of my aircraft. But given the restricted view and lighting outside, the effect wasn’t too good.
Back at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) two weeks later. At that time, it was my third visit to KLIA. But all three times, I was there as a transit passenger, and I haven't got the chance yet to enter Malaysia from its major airport.
My next flight departs from Gate H10 - the same one that I used to depart for Taipei two weeks ago! Now that was some nice coincidence in place.
Spotting isn’t easy in this airport, especially since one needs to pass through boarding pass and security checks before entering a boarding lounge.
Having three hours to spare in KLIA, I decided to just find a place for dinner and to use my MacBook. Off I go to explore KLIA!
Thanks for reading! I promise the last instalment won’t take too long to be published, as I am also eager to share some of my more recent flights anyway!
This report was completed on 1 May 2015, in Singapore.
— End of Flight Report for Malaysia Airlines MH367 —
Next Flight Saturday, 24 May 2014 Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Singapore (SIN) Malaysia Airlines MH609, B737-800 Coming Soon!
Taipei - TPE
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
Similar ratings again as the previous flights but I have cut cabin comfort by 1 point because it really did feel more cramped up this time round. The crew on MH367 was slightly friendlier. Meal wise, it could have gotten a 10/10 from me again if not for the fruits that were a little disappointing. Entertainment gets a higher point this time round because I was allowed to watch my movie while we were stuck in the long queue for take-off at Taipei - that helped a lot in making time pass faster. Punctuality wise, it wasn't the airlines' fault but I still deducted 0.5 point for the slightly late arrival.
TPE is a great airport and has improved vastly over the past few years. However, it was a little more tricky to get to the airport than to leave from the airport for the city. I guess things will get much better once the Airport Train is up and running by end-2015! Otherwise, I am always satisfied with TPE.
Lastly, this was what I wrote for KUL in my previous FR's summary: KUL has good efficiency in terms of security. Variety of shops and F&B outlets do look adequate too. It's okay to transit there and it won't get too boring if your transit time is just about 1 to 2 hours.
So... A transit of 3 hours was a little too long and I got bored. It'd help a lot if you've got lounge access because many lounges in KUL look great! I probably will get to experience some soon. (:
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