(A preliminary word of warning : my Flight Reports are always long, and the length of the introduction of this one may set a record on this website)
The purpose of this trip was to meet several unrelated friends living in Singapore. That, and Mrs. Marathon repeated wish to visit the city-state was the motivation for this trip, at a time when our summer vacation had already been decided.
A senior Flight Reporter suggested me to have a look to the fare on flights to KUL, linked to SIN by LCC flights, and cheaper than flights to SIN. It was an interesting option, because Mrs. Marathon did not like the idea of a flying that far for one week only, for jet lag and Y travel reasons, and Malaysia provided an ample supply of sights to supplement the ones in Singapore.
It was early February and QR was running a promotion for couples valid until Valentine Day. By the time we had the green lights from our managers for taking vacations at an unusual time of the year, the promotion was gone. It was not a huge money saver: the fare only went up 60 EUR / PAX.
It is a considerable understatement to write that Mrs. Marathon was moderately enthusiastic when I told her that the lowest fare with an acceptable schedule was on Oman Air. “You really want us to fly on that airline?”. She did not know about the humorous acronym behind WY’s name’s (On Most Airports Notify Allah In Rescue), but she meant it.
There was a rather positive Flight Report on a WY long haul (apart from the catering, but we don’t fly for dining). The credibility of this website was enough to overcome her worries, and on 26 February, I bought us two round trip tickets for 518 EUR each. WY’s website was well designed, had no hidden fee trap, does not use IP tracking (an apparent urban legend in France), and allowed choosing our seats in a 2-4-2 cabin which was then completely empty apart from the blocked crib seats. I chose myself a window seat on the side opposite to the sun and not over-wing for picture taking purposes, and the adjoining aisle seat not too close to the galley and toilets for Mrs. Marathon who likes being able to move around during night flights, because she cannot sleep much on a Y seat. What more could I want, eight months ahead of time ?
That was on February 26th: the next day, the fare went up to 578 EUR, and to 628 EUR on March 1rd. That day, I changed manager too, but like with an airline’s luggage allowance, the OK for my vacation in November remained valid.
Eight months passed and at the very last moment, I found at the bottom of one of WY’s e-mails that there was a procedure for confirming the legitimacy of the credit card that I had used, but I had all the data to do it right away, and I could also have produced the credit card at the airport (I once did that for a CI flight).
Leaving on a Friday night required leaving your office early when it is nowhere near CDG. Good news, my meeting that afternoon was cancelled, and bad news, my wife had an unscheduled and longer than expected one.
The OLCI was no problem, only that Gmail rated my BPs as spam, but not those of my wife. It took me some time to realize that, but I eventually had both of them printed. A one hour margin to drop our luggage seemed enough and I targeted ETD-2h in the airport. No problem on the way, there was no incident on the train ride (apart from the bad luck of having a slower omnibus train). It was 20:56, i.e. 54’ before the check-on would close when I took this picture of the FIDS at the exit of CDG Terminal 2’s train station.
The flight was confirmed on time.
There was a long walk through the rather empty Terminals C and A, apart from a row of Emirates staff, each holding a panel with the name of a passenger – possibly F passengers to be limousined to their final destinations.
We arrived at 12:05 at the check-in : it looked a little crowded, but there were actually only five or six passengers in the line in the foreground for the checked luggage drop-off.
I have not taken a picture, but that was where I discovered that Flight WY132 was going to stop over in Milan. I did not remember seeing that when buying our tickets and my only thought at that time was that it would be a short night to MCT. Wrong conclusion…
Because a staff passed around distributing hand luggage tags : we had three (a laptop bag and two very small daypacks) and she did not wince (“it’s OK, you are reasonable”) and then asked “aren’t you the passengers for KUL”. Yes we were, and that changed everything: “The plane is going to make an unscheduled stop in Milan to pick up passengers whose aircraft has a failure. You would make it too late in MCT for the connection, but we have a solution, come at once with me to the sales counter”. There she was going back to the check-in counters after dropping us at WY’s tiny sales counter.
There were already passengers for DLH ; a staff asked hurriedly our passports, types for a long time on his keyboard, and comes back : "Sorry, we had a fallback solution for you on Etihad, but you came too late: they just closed the flight’s check-in”.
It was the only same day reprotection available, and we waited a long, very long time until the case of Indian passengers was solved. The said passengers were very vocal in their discontent. The only WY uniform I saw that night was here on the right – maybe the local WY manager but I forgot her title on her lapel badge.
Time passes while the terminal empties. I understood why our hand luggage had been rated “reasonable” when I overheard a staff exclaim: “Can you imagine that this passenger has a cello, did not buy a seat for it and refuses to place it in checked luggage!”. I remembered a cello professor who had to buy two tickets each time she was invited to give master classes and concerts in Taiwan.
There was nearly nobody left at the check-in counters.
There was something eerie in watching the departure of Flight WY132 on which we had valid BPs and passports and had been at the check-in in due time, and frustrating in watching the departure of Flight EY038 on which we could have been reprotected.
Do you remember the much shorter ORY-NCE flight where I had done all possible mistakes to miss it?
We could have taken off that night… - Had Flight WY142 not had a technical problem - And if Flight EY0138 had been closed a few minutes later - Or if we had made it to the airport earlier - If we had had a through train to the airport - Or if my wife had had a less busy day in her office - Or if WY had tried to reach us in time.
There are days when you accumulate the cannonballs without fixing them yourself to your ankle (see the referenced ORY-NCE Flight Report to understand the self-deprecating joke).
“On Most Airports Notify Allah In Rescue"… and CDG was one of them
In the meantime, I took a corporate screenshot, since wifi internet access is now free and unlimited in CDG.
We had rejected the proposition of boarding our flight and being set up in a hotel in MCT in order to wait for 24 hours the next flight to KUL. I knew that an EU citizen could have a visa on arrival in Oman, but we did not feel like killing time in a city (or possibly at the airport, for from the city) that we knew nothing about (other that there were sights, but had not prepared for them).
I suggested to the staff to at least reschedule us on a direct flight the day after. It took time, and when she came back, the supervisor was obviously less than happy to find out that we were going to have a direct flight. “How did they know?”, my wife overheard. Sure enough, flying WY, with or without a hotel night in MCT would have been a lot cheaper for them, but we would have arrived much later at our final destination.
Mrs. Marathon was unhappy to hear that there availabilities on the MH flight, because she did not place much trust in that airline. I was a lot more interested, because I knew that it was operated with an A380 that MH was struggling to fill, and that MH was considering closing that line due to their financial woes. The MH flight also landed eight hours before the AF flight in KUL, and would save most of our first day of vacation. An interesting footnote to this already vintage report is that both MH and AF have been discontinued this line : there is no direct CDG-KUL flight anymore as of posting this.
Bad luck for me, relief for my wife : there was a computer problem and there was of course no Paris MH staff on duty to help. Maybe we could have asked them to call MH in KUL, but we had enough of it, and settled for AF which wasted a full day of vacation. (I did not it then, but was to have chance to fly MH on the KUL-CDG route before it closed). We were to eventually receive a compensation for that lost day of vacation: WY played it slow, but fair, and the AF flight also credited some unexpected airmiles on our FB accounts.
There was nearly nobody left there, apart from a regular three-man military patrol. We had spent there exactly two hours to not depart.
And we took the train back home, riding an equally empty and slow train..
So far, this was the introduction of the FR !
The report of this flight begins the next day on the RER platform,
This time again, we had a slow train, but also a considerable margin, since this was a Saturday and we had no time constraint.
Arrival in CDG’s station : is the FIDS out of order?
No, only one side was switched off ; the other one was working.
Our flight was expected on time that day too, and the one towards Milan at the same ETD was going to be late.
Since I had been unable to check in on line (I assume the system had a hard time managing this reprotection), I preferred not wasting my time on these machines which had not recognized me the previous summer when I had a perfectly standard ticket.
Check-in Zones 4-5 in Terminal E, and the machines there do recognize us. It was alas no surprise that the only remaining seats were the worst ones in the plane: Seats 23F and 23G in the middle of the central four seats of the dense 3-4-3 layout of the 77W. There were a few isolated seats here and there, all in the central block, and only one was an aisle seat.
When you are the 289th passenger checking in, there is not much hope for decent seats…
The temperature at our destination was going to be around 30°C, which helped staying within the 20kg checked luggage allowance.
The landside toilets were spotless, all the more than metallic speckles in the tiles sparkled everywhere.
Going through PARAFE automated passport and fingerprint reading booths, but there was not much waiting at the manual immigration counters.
Visually, the architecture of Terminal 2E is a success.
Internet access, for a hefty fee
These video games were abandoned (and maybe out of order)
A bistro corner… without a bistro
And the end of the terminal, the only place where some limited plane spotting is possible.
Terminal 2E has apparently been designed to maximize natural lighting and minimize plane spotting.
The access to the jet bridges keep the passengers away from the windows…
… and a honeycomb adhesive works wonders against automatic focusing.
… but if you shift to manual focusing mode, you can record your plane’s registration number.
A gentleman in an immaculate business suit came up to us with a survey about the CDG Express project : Mrs. Marathon took this opportunity to go to the toilets while I answered the questions.
He had no reservation about my taking pictures of his tablet: this survey was a series of simulations of the choice of means of transportation (CDG Express or not), according to various hypotheses of fare, frequency of trains, associated services (in town check-in, newspapers….), from the preferred subway station I had declared.
(In case you don’t know, CDG Express is the lingering project of a through train line on dedicated tracks to be built all the way to a new station next to the present Paris-East station located downtown. They should have built it at the time CDG was designed, and it is now too late to build it at an affordable cost)
Night was falling in Terminal 2E.
These were the three LH flights out of CDG from this terminal that night.
… and the program for our flight (in French, sorry).
The internet access was of course available in Terminal 2E too, and this was the current corporate screenshot.
Boarding started, with passengers in a very orderly line.
Mrs. Marathon’s Silver FB status (which had less than six months life expectancy) gave us access to the Skypriority line. I was not very hopeful, but asked if there were any free (and possibly better) seats, but the plane was going to be full in Y.
The jet bridge towards the plane
Refueling was not over yet
Going through the Y+ cabin, which seemed not have been full
And the Y cabin
An overhead luggage bin in open position during the flight
Three seats next to the window, but we had middle seat in the 3-4-3 layout.
The most useful item on the seat was the blanket : it was going to be 32°C at destination, but I had not prepared for an ice cold ventilation. I made a mental note to bring winter headgear next time I would fly AF, but in the mean time, I jury-rigged one which saved me from starting my vacation with a bad cold. Weather conditions inside the plane improved gradually later, but unrelated to the FAs, that was a really frigid welcome.
The cloth of the seat in front of my wife’s was not very clean
The so-called Horatius test failed at my seat : there was a leftover tissue deep in the seat pocket. Cleaning had been sketchy, despite this being AF's hub.
The IFE screens were famous for being among the lowest available on the present market in size and resolution. There were possibly the top of the line when F-GSPB started her career in April 1998 with AF, but they now look terribly outdated (other airlines still have overhead CRT screens, though).
The maximum reclining of seat is neither good nor bad for Economy .
The seat had lateral head supports , which held it correctly, making our inflatable head support useless (I’ve had flights where these supports would not stay in place and the head would inevitably fall aside). It was an appreciable plus.
The seat pitch would have been decent …
… with a 34cm distance between the seat limit and the magazine pocket with its contents …
… only that there was this damn seat support, with a plastic continuation which made it impossible to set a foot comfortably there, and created three hand luggage places for four seats.
And since this was a 3-4-3 seat layout, it was narrow, very narrow between the armrests. This support in the wrong location and the insufficient width of the seat were the cause of the terrible comfort of that seat : this was short haul LCC comfort in a long haul legacy carrier.
The safety card, both sides
A FA distributed the headphones (with an eye mask and a refreshing mini-towel), and also red and white amenity kits to selected passengers (maybe FB Elite ?).
I had the impression that the passengers on the left of the aircraft had a good view of Paris during the take-off, but when you are at seat 23G, this is all the view you have. The take-off was delayed half an hour because of the unloading of a missing passenger (not one of our neighbors left or right, unfortunately!).
The safety demonstration was bilingual French / English, with a sign language interpreter, all on the IFE screens.
The view of the Y cabin from the rear, going to the toilets once the seat belts sign has been switched off.
The toilets were clean and simple
The toilets of course had the traditional female baby care pictogram. The Paris Airports Authority had just launched a three-year program to make ORY’s and CDG’s baby care rooms accessible to men too (not only from the pictogram point of view – some are inside the ladies’ rooms), but this cultural revolution has yet to reach AF.
No smoking, and no disposing of your syringe anywhere (drugs addicts are not the only ones to use them, people with diabetes too).
This door between the two Y cabins is not that of a toilet, but the access to the crew’s rest area.
A rest area that I assumed to be below deck, because I could not imagine seven people in that volume.
The advantage of an IFE screen on the bulkhead is that you can have an eye on the airshow while looking at something else. The problem is that both screens are postage stamp - sized (or Gameboy, or smartphone, depending on your generation).
The other problem is that the airshow is of the same generation as the postage stamp / Gameboy / smartphone sized screens, with single loop program like a non-AVOD movie.
… with from time to time satellite view having a distant relationship with the plane’s route (does a CDG-KUL flight enter the Benelux airspace?)
Meanwhile, like in August, the Euronews channel was unavailable.
Since we were on each side of the aircraft, we were served by two different FAs : my wife by one in the left aisle and I by another in the right aisle. The left aisle FA spontaneously proposed champagne for starters that my wife refused. A FA showed me later the bottle which had been used in the galley. He had forgotten the other brand served on board and humorously assured me that he would wake me up as soon as he had remembered (all the crew members seemed to have this kind of humor; I liked it).
The FA did not offer me any, but we did not mind, because we only wanted tomato juice and apple juice, respectively.
Ten grams translate into seven salted olive taste chips, including a broken one.
Better not try to place your full plastic cup into the cup holder, because they have not been designed for each other.
My neighbor took wine ; we took non-alcoholic drinks .
By the way, this was the menu:
Mrs. Marathon chose the chicken and liked it
Visually, there was more sauce than meat.
My wife had chicken, but I didn't, because there was none left in my aisle. The FA went to the rear if there was any left, but “despite her sobbing pleas to her colleagues”, she could not get any for me. (This is my best translation of her original expression, said with mischievous eyes which had obviously not shed a single tear, but I liked her kind of humor).
So I had “multigrain risotto with Parmesan cheese”, which in French was more cautiously named “risotto-like creamy” (façon risotto). It was indeed a lot more cream than risotto, and it had a bad after taste than the coffee dealt with efficiently.
I did not get the hot meal that I wanted, but I received two pieces of bread (not warmed up), from each aisle.
The cup was very far from being full, which was maybe the reason why it was very strong coffee, since the quantity of instant powder was the same.
There was a limited set of drinks in the rear galley. I did not see the snacks, because I was stuck in my seat, nor the ice creams which had probably been distributed while I was sleeping.
PBE = Protective Breathing Equipment (I did not know the meaning before that flight), i.e. a smoke protecting hood : this cupboard was in front of the rear galley.
The FAs started the duty free sale, with limited success. A FA on that flight told me that the African lines are the ones which generate the most duty free sales on board. The cabin was then set in night mode, and it was high time to try to sleep.
Yes, I did sleep. A lot more in cumulated hours than I expected, maybe because I had not had enough sleep before that vacation : seven hours and twenty minutes elapsed between my two successive pictures. But that was sleep of a much lesser quality than hoped, because I really did not have enough lateral space, and not even enough space in front of me (I tried to no avail to sleep the Chinese way, the head on the tablet, but that was impossible, because the front seat was to close, even though it did not recline much). I was actually exhausted when I arrived at destination and the next two days have been an ordeal.
We were already there when the lights were switched on again :
Mrs. Marathon left most of her breakfast on the tray, but I ate all of mine (and maybe some of hers too), because we would have to do with that food until dinner time in Malacca, several hours away from KUL.
The IFE ceased operation during the descent.
Landing on time in KUL : the plane had en route recovered its initial delay. Going through the Y+ cabin
.. and through the J cabin
… and it took me some time to find my wife, because she had deplaned by the left aisle and the second door, whereas I had been through the first door. A view of the people mover to the immigration.
The inside of the people mover was splashed with advertising.
The AF 77W seen through the not so clean windows of the people mover
A KLM aircraft in the distance
And a MH 747
We had wasted some time to find each other after leaving the aircraft, but there was nevertheless very little waiting at the immigration which was very efficient. On the other hand, the luggage delivery was only starting when we reached that room, 25 minutes after deplaning, and our own emerged another 20 minutes later, among the last ones.
A staff was straightening the suitcases when they arrived and was collecting the trays containing the backpacks and other special pieces of luggage.
The last step was a longish line for buying a voucher for a long distance taxi to Malacca, our final destination of the day.
And a very very long wait for the taxis which arrive one at a (long) time.
The number plates of these "limousines” start with LIMO
This is the end of this flight report : the "flight experience” lasted forty-one hours, “landside to landside”, from the non-checking in on the Oman Air flight which I did not report here.
Not only we had traveled in an aircraft which was less comfortable than planned (a 777 in 3-4-3 vs. an A330 in 2-4-2), but we had to forget about a lazy and long first night at destination to recover from the travel, in order to squeeze the original two days into a single day of visiting Malacca, of which this bonus is a synthesis.
This Twin Pioneer, a STOL plane which was operated by the Malaysian Air Force is my only aviation pretext in this bonus.
Malacca is dominated by the ruins of St Paul’s Church, where St François of Salles was a priest for a long time. He was initially buried there, until his remains were transferred to Goa, India.
This replica of the Flora del Mar, a Portuguese ship which sank in the Straits of Malacca, is actually a building containing an interesting Naval Museum : Malacca was at its apex what Singapore is today, i.e. an East-West shipping trade hub in South East Asia.
Malacca’s historic center is small enough to be visited on foot, but the threeshaws are a popular option, at a fixed official 40 MYR (10 EUR) hourly rate. They all have an incredibly kitsch decoration, with two thirds of them on the Hello Kitty them, with an apparent competition on which would have more pink color, roses and hearts. I can’t imagine anything more 可愛い (as the young Japanese girls would say) or 可愛 (as their Taiwanese counterparts would say).
These vehicles had a noisy sound machine running on car batteries, and a lighting to match their decoration. (The overhead butterfly was to protect the passengers from the intense sun rays).
There is also the Doaremon version
And the Smurf version (a Belgian comic character)
Let’s go back to a more historically inclined culture, with the Chinese quarter and its typical low houses.
Any Taiwanese, according to his passport or his heart, would feel a moment of emotion in front of the architectural style of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, which is typical on both sides of the Straits of Taiwan, and especially in Taiwan’s Kinmen Island.
With these roofs with rising ends, covered with剪黏 jiannian (ceramic shard 3D mosaics) statues.
This engraving in the temple represents the dream for an elephant by Queen Maya, which announced the birth of Siddhartha, who was to become Buddha.
Flower shaped candles
And the alter to Matsu, a goddess protecting sailors who is particularly honored in Taiwan.
Another obvious stop in my visit was at this modest temple dedicated to Guanyin 觀音, the Buddhist goddess (Bodhisattva, more accurately) of mercy.
Students left candles here with their prayers of success at their exams.
A change of faith with the prayer room of Kampung Kling Mosque, dated 1748.
And the Javanese style Kampung Hulu Mosque, dated 1728, which makes it the oldest in Malaysia, and was built at the instigation of the Hollanders who controlled the city at that time.
This traveler’s tree (Ravenala madagascariensis)marks the end of this bonus; now is the time to conclude on the flight experience proper.
Paris - CDG
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
The flight in this report is now part of history : AF has discontinued its CDG-KUL route, and the cabins of its 777 fleet are being gradually revamped in the Best & Beyond program.
Quite frankly, flying long haul in an AF 777 was not what dreams were made of. It was like a small car by a good car-maker: it is reliable and easy to use, but it is always too small and technically outdated. When they grow out of their student and financially struggling first jobs years, most people think seriously about upgrading to something better.
The 3-4-3 layout of AF’s 777 was the major problem, and that other airlines have the same high density layout was not an acceptable excuse. The seat was too narrow even though I am thin built, and the aisles were narrow too. AF made the explicit choice of densifying their Economy cabins at the expense of passenger comfort. It was high time to modernize the IFE screens and they do, but the 3-4-3 layout will remain the rule.
That OLCI did not work due to the reprotection and that we had to do with some of the worst seats in that layout compounded the issue. Last, not least, a balaclava should not be part of the required accessories for flying.
The food on board was not a disaster, but nevertheless below my expectations for an Economy flight. There is usually some food in the rear galley in LH AF flights, but I was stuck in my seat and this was not an SQ flight where FAs pass around to bring the goodies to the Y passengers. The above notwithstanding, I liked the friendly tongue-in-cheek humor of the FAs and found them well above average.
The ground staff in CDG was OK, the machines delivering the BPS were working and the staff at the luggage drop off was courteous and polite.
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