1st June 2015 - a D-Day for the entire Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) employees as they start to get to know their fate whether most of them (14,000) may get a job at the new company, to be called Malaysia Airlines Berhad, or being listed among 6,000 who would eventually be laid-off with compensation.
BACKGROUND I was asked by my boss to attend a meeting on behalf of our agency at Shah Alam, the state capital of Selangor, which lies about 30km from Kuala Lumpur. Realising that MAS would upgrade some scheduled domestic flights to larger aircrafts on selected routes, I took the opportunity by booking my return tickets to KUL, all onboard Boeing 777. The upgrade was due to expected surge in domestic travellers during 2 week long school holidays, with parents taking the opportunity to bring their children for a holiday, perhaps a bit further than simply driving.
Flight: MH2641 Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300 Aircraft registration: 9M-MTA (Delivered new to MAS on 4th April 2011) ATD: 12.39PM (Malaysia Standard Time) ATA: 2.47PM (Malaysia Standard Time) Duration: 2 hours and 8 minutes Seat: 30K
THE FLIGHT Since I only stayed at Shah Alam for two nights, I only bring my carry-on baggage containing my clothes, my strap bag where I put my laptop and holding my coat (since I can't fit it into my carry-on baggage). I bypass the check-in counter since I checked-in online the day before and straight into security clearance and got my ID and boarding pass checked. There were no crowds lining up at the security clearance up until I entered the boarding lounge.
I was among the earliest passengers at the boarding lounge.
To my (very mild) surprise, instead of Boeing 777, we would be taking Airbus A330. Though I knew the unscheduled aircraft type change through FlightRadar24.com, as the aircraft came in from KUL as MH2612.
Although I expected my ride to be onboard Boeing 777, but I didn't feel upset. In fact, this was the first time I will be onboard MAS's new Airbus A330. The particular aircraft that took me to KUL is registered as 9M-MTA, delivered as MAS's first of the new A330-300X equipped with new cabin products back in April 2011. It was the first real commitment of the airline to rejuvenate its ageing fleet, in the hope of returning to profitability. But, as we know now even that failed to lift MAS into the black.
Boarding was soon announced. Families with children and business class passengers were given priority boarding. As the last remaining passengers (including me) was allowed to board, I am curious to see the morale of cabin crews after 1st June. At the cabin door, I was greeted by seemingly confident and zealous steward who graciously welcome me on board. At that point, I was thinking, probably that guy is happy that he gets to retain his job at the new company.
The view from seat 30K.
The new inflight entertainment system is the same as the ones found on MAS's Boeing 737-800 fleet.
The IFE console.
The seat pitch is 32.
The IFE is the same as the ones found on the airline's Boeing 737-800 fleet. In last year's report, I lamented on how slow the response rate of the IFE's touch screen. And on this flight, the performance is the same. The movie selection is not limited, but not extensive either. I scanned through the movie titles and all of it have been aired on cable TV. I tried accessing the flight information page, and it took forever for the page to load. I finally gave up on using the IFE.
It took forever to load the flight information page.
Headphones were prepared at each seat prior to boarding.
Pushback and taxi began at about 12.30PM local time.
A Hong Kong registered executive jet parked nearby at MASWings, one of MAS's subsidiary companies. It was announced that the new company will retain MASWings as one of the subsidiaries.
We taxied for take-off at Runway 20. This particular take-off point is very close to a major highway. Since our aircraft was the biggest at that moment, we became the centre of attention from motorists!
Turning towards Runway 20 for take-off.
Holding out first to make way for two aircrafts to land.
Overlooking Terminal 2, the current base of AirAsia, MAS's arch-rival in domestic and regional routes.
Taking off overlooking the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. I could see parasailing activity on the waters below.
We made a slight turn to the right heading towards KUL.
Around 30 minutes after departure, lunch began to be served. There were no menu cards given, so I wasn’t able to figure out the exact way the meals were cooked. By the time the cabin crew reached my seat row, he only simply asked me chicken or fish?
I chose fish…
He seemed to rush to finish the meal service quickly. No obvious smile. I was pondering whether he gets to keep his job or otherwise. I didn’t dare to ask any of the crews though.
Cabin crews serving us customers lunch.
The cart arrived at my seat row.
My meal including a packet of salted peanuts.
A small portion of rice with fish cooked with oyster sauce, accompanied by steamed carrots and broccoli.
A piece of marble cake as dessert.
I have no issue with the main meal, except that the portion is rather small. I sprinkled the salted peanuts in the rice to make my meal more crunchy and satisfying. The marble cake was rather dry. It is obvious that the quality of meal has slowly gone downhill. I used to disagree with using meal boxes into domestic flights to replace trays because it looked cheap for full service carrier. But, I begin to think that boxes can be practical, easy to handle and when I finish my meal, I just put the leftovers back inside the box.
Cruising at 38,000 feet above South China Sea.
We began our descent few miles after entering Malay peninsula airspace.
Speed brake was deployed to increase descent rate. Hazy sky greeted us as we entered Klang Valley, where the city of Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam (my eventual destination) sit.
We moved slowly above the urban sprawl of Klang Valley before turning left for landing at runway 14R.
Hectares of oil palm plantation greeted us, moments before landing at KUL.
Newest airport in the country, KLIA2, the home base of AirAsia. The airport still shares the same IATA code with the original KLIA.
Smooth touch down!
Exiting the runway.
Malaysia Airlines Berhad management thinks that A380s (seen here) may be too big for the operation, with contemplating of selling them to interested parties.
Docked at the gate.
Since many passengers (266 of them including me) were in the plane, I let them passed through me seat first to disembark. I usually among the last ones to disembark so I can get my belongings from the overhead locker without slowing down the traffic at the aisle. With only carry-on baggage with me, I went straight out to the arrival hall. I went to the ATM to get some money, then booked a taxi to my hotel at Shah Alam.
Arriving at the Grand Blue Wave Hotel in Shah Alam, which is just 5-10 minutes' walk to the meeting venue.
The view from my room. On a clear day, Kuala Lumpur skyline can be seen from this vantage point.
On top of the hill is Istana Bukit Kayangan palace, one of the official residences of Selangor's royal ruler. Shah Alam is the capital of Selangor state.
That's it for my trip report! Stay tuned for my return journey.
Kota Kinabalu - BKI
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
--VERDICT-- 1) AIRCRAFT CABIN Taking a domestic flight on-board a wide body aircraft is always a bonus. But, I found out that when I was on-board Malaysia Airlines configured A330, the sense of spaciousness was not pronounced. The seat pitch is rather tight even for a 2 hour flight. The entertainment system seriously needs an upgrade. With the new Malaysia Airlines Berhad coming online starting 1st September, the CEO of the new airline, Christoph Mueller already indicated that Business class on-board Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 would be upgraded, with the aim of achieving higher standards than industry trends. No mention on the economy class though. My wish list since the aircraft is still rather new is hoping the new airline considering to increase the seat pitch, matching those on Boeing 777 (at 34) and entirely new IFE system.
2) ON-BOARD MEAL SERVICE As I mentioned earlier, the meal quality has gone down slowly over the years. I used to get full set of meals like the one I had with Emirates back in January this year, even on domestic flights. But, that went down to being more simpler and contained in a box. During Idris Jala's tenure as CEO, the box design was classier. However, the meal portion is small. I would like it if the portion is increased to twice than it is now. The dessert (marble cake) is very dry, more like a sponge than a dense cake. Additionally, one thing that is missing that should be accompanied with the dessert is the lack of fruit jam spread. So, at least the fruit jam makes the taste of the dessert more enriching.
3) CABIN CREWS In this particular flight, I found that the cabin crews perform their job accordingly (based on a passenger perspective), like giving out meals, greeting passengers during boarding and bidding farewell. Despite the job-cutting exercise imposed by the airline, it was a job as usual with no noticeable stress when looking at their faces. I feel for them really. I made an effort to say thank you or smiling at them whenever I can so to make them feel happier in their job.
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