Report #6: OD2401 - Probably the cheapest mainline non-LCC flight in Malaysia
This trip report will be my report on flying Malindo Air economy class from Kuala Lumpur KUL to Senai (Johor Bahru) JHB, a short-haul domestic route within peninsular Malaysia.
It has been quite a while since when I wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur, especially since my last trip was about 10 years ago. Combined with my interest on trying Malaysia's intercity rail services beyond the Causeway, I had the following itinerary:
Singapore - Johor Bahru: Public bus Johor Bahru - Kuala Lumpur: Local train and intercity train (overnight, via Gemas by regional train and intercity higher speed train with 4 1/2 hours transit) Kuala Lumpur - KUL: Airport bus KUL - JHB: Plane JHB - Johor Bahru: Airport bus Johor Bahru - Singapore: Public bus
With the trip costing me less than the admission fee to Universal Studios Singapore (even including plane and train tickets), it was quite an easy decision to choose. For this flight by OD, I was charged only RM 51 (US$11.5) including airport fees and 30 kg baggage allowance by using an online travel agency, but even the full retail price at RM 60 (US$13.5) is already quite reasonable since it would be challenging to find any cheaper plane ticket elsewhere. In addition, OD has also moved back to KLIA proper after it operated at KLIA2 for a while.
Travelling to and in Kuala Lumpur
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Travelling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur by bus, while convenient, was out of equation due to cost. Therefore, I connected to Johor Bahru by public buses from Singapore. However, as I later found out it was a rather terrible mistake as the waiting time itself was excruciatingly long compared to Causeway Link (tip #1: in a rush yet went to the checkpoint by public buses? Pay S$1 to take Causeway Link from Woodlands checkpoint to Sultan Iskandar checkpoint).
One benefit of travelling by train from Johor Bahru is that instead of travelling to Larkin bus terminal I only needed a rather short stroll from Sultan Iskandar CIQ complex to the train station, definitely welcomed as the Sultan Iskandar CIQ complex involves much more walking in narrow corridors compared to Woodlands checkpoint.
Due to the electrification programme only reaching Gemas station, I got to experience the old diesel train as well as the new electric train. The old train was not in its best condition, while the new one has seats so narrow I was happy the train was not too crowded that time. Here are some of the photos taken during my trip on the old train to Gemas:
I then alighted at Gemas station for the 4 1/2 hours transfer (and mind you, it was from 3 AM to 7.30 AM). The station itself was ill-equipped to handle passengers from the transferring from the local JB - Gemas shuttle train to the intercity train to Kuala Lumpur / Padang Besar.
There were only 7-Eleven and a small food stall open during my transit.
Some views of the town, which felt very quiet.
The new train itself wasn't too bad, being a rather new higher speed train fitted with AC plugs and reclinable seats.
The interior of the train, sporting narrow seats even my 15.6" laptop can barely fit.
I arrived at KL Sentral station later in the morning.
Since I basically only had a very short 4 1/2 hours stay in downtown Kuala Lumpur (the same amount of time I spent transiting at Gemas station), I decided to visit the National Museum and KLCC, in addition to travelling around by their metro system.
Some sights from Kuala Lumpur's national museum.
As no trip in Malaysia is complete without a visit to the twin tower, I decided to go there for a short walk.
Trip to KUL and check-in
I went to the airport by using the coach service from KL Sentral (the main metro interchange as well as the terminus for several bus services). While the bus may look a bit shabby, at only RM 10 (US$2.3) it surely beats the express airport train service with its exorbitant price of RM 55 (US$12.4). Unlike trips made by airport trains, trips by buses are ineligible for city check-in. Some of the photos were blurred since I tend to walk a bit fast.
Just like at SIN, the buses did not end at the main drop-off area. Instead, buses are terminating at a building shared with one of the airport's carparks and connected with the terminal by an enclosed linkway. Considering the walking distance, it is less convenient for passengers but allows significantly more bus services since terminal size is no longer a constraint (on the contrary, public buses from Singapore SIN are mostly looping at the airport and private scheduled buses are close to non-existent).
The bridge passes through the arrival pick-up area.
It took me only 4 minutes from entering the check-in queue to getting my boarding pass. Despite the large checked luggage allowance for this trip, I decided not to use them since I only had a backpack with me. One thing I really appreciate is that despite being Lion's subsidiary, they still provided a thick boarding pass instead of the thin boarding pass used by Lion group in Indonesia (yes, that includes Batik as well). If you notice the fare code as well, even though it's X class (the lowest booking class in Lion group) unlike others we don't usually call it promo fare due to its prevalence.
The check-in area itself looked pretty acceptable, and while not as luxurious as Singapore SIN it still looked decent enough, and the lack of crowd at the neighbouring Malaysia's premium check-in row also helps quite a bit. Worth a few additional Ringgits over KLIA2? I can still say so.
On the check-in desk, newspapers were provided, which was Malay Mail. I'm not sure how popular it is in Malaysia, but surely upping their offering to WSJ/FT would make them much more upscale. Some people believe in the adage of not judging a reading material by its cover, but since first impression matters I couldn't help but to correlate it with The New Paper (a free newspaper published in Singapore).
Afterwards, I took the opportunity to sample the offering at the food court at KUL, especially to check if there are decent meals at downtown price available and because I still had a long trip to go (including a possibly gruesome trip across the Causeway).
Unfortunately, the meal there couldn't be described as cheap with me spending in total slightly more than RM 10 (US$2.3) for a portion of fried rice with salted fish and iced teh tarik. To add to the insult, they do not provide metal cutlery, instead forcing me to eat with their plastic spoon and fork. With me usually caring even about the substantive feel of the cutlery (KL's cutlery in J won hands down among all airlines I've flown with, let alone with this), I don't think this would be the best cutlery in a food court on landside.
With not much to do elsewhere, I decided to wander around the check-in area. The drop-off area looked a bit dark on the photo, but actually it was around the same brightness inside.
MH requires all economy class passengers departing from KUL to do self check-in with the previously full service check-in counters changed to bag drop counters, although it was not the case the time I flew with them later on.
MH's long-haul staggered business class promotion above the international departures immigration counters - with some reputation on their 777 planes and the severe overcapacity caused by their A380, moving to A330 would sound much more ideal. On the immigration itself, at least it's nowhere as crowded as the one at Sultan Iskandar checkpoint. Not passing the sometimes hellish Sultan Iskandar checkpoint worth some more Ringgits? Not for this time, and definitely a no had you asked me between SIN - KUL and JHB - KUL: SIN's airport fee alone is S$34 (US$24).
Some funny cartoons and WhatsApp reporting service information on the toilet cubicle at KUL - what do you think?
On my way to domestic departure, located at the far left end of the departure area.
An unused playground
KUL transit area and departure
KUL domestic departure area at main terminal is only used by MH and OD (on some flight since it also operates at SZB), with AK utilizes KLIA2. As a result, the security process was rather fast.
Passengers for intra-Malaysia routes are not that much of a captive market segment for luxury goods, so the luxury stores seem to be out of place.
Remaining domestic flights for the day from KUL. There are not too many flights operating that the domestic transit area can be cut into half and it will still be perfectly fine.
I don't think my budget would allow me to visit the lounge at this time, so, well, I'll see you again soon.
Where are gates C/G/H? They are are meant for international passengers. Unfortunately, that means I did not get to visit their satellite terminal or make trips on their APM.
A view of another gate.
As I had some deliverable to manage, I then worked at the waiting area. My flight utilizes an open waiting area instead of the segregated rooms. The waiting area, while carpeted (read: less noise), is seriously in need of power plugs as I needed to end my work as soon as I was close to being out of battery.
This is the plane that was about to carry me on this short shuttle route.
I subsequently asked the gate agent for the load for the day. The agent then informed me that the flight would carry only 92 pax in economy and 4 in business, which may be the secret behind the RM 60 (US$13.5) ticket.
Soon, the flight was ready for boarding. The boarding process was fine, especially with the low load. As I walked along the jet bridge, I understood that the flight would be on a 737-900ER, but for some reasons I felt the door behind the wing didn't look too prominent.
While the plane purportedly provides Wi-Fi and mobile connection, it was not available for the whole flight.
As soon as I boarded, the flight attendant welcomed me on board. I then passed through the business class cabin, equipped with only recliner seats.
Moving backward, the economy class didn't look too upscale with its leather seat and colour scheme. I opted (and got assigned) to seat 10A, which has no window (beware!)
The seat itself at 32" beats MH's 30" on short-haul route, however the lack of AC power supply on OD's seats may make OD's seat equivalent with MH.
OD's entertainment screen was rather acceptable, but since the IFE would be only available after takeoff and turned off again on approach, I didn't get to explore it much. USB plug was available, but as usual it is inferior to a proper AC power supply, especially when it comes to handling larger phones.
What's on the seat pocket? In-flight magazine and in-flight shopping catalogue were present.
Safety card and airsickness bag was available as well, although since there is an airsickness bag writing on it they may as well print their logo on the bag.
Some views on taxi and climb. MI's 9V-SBH sighted on its way back to SIN as our plane was on takeoff roll at 32R.
A view after takeoff from KUL
After the fasten seat belt was turn off, I proceeded with a brief lavatory visit. The lavatory was not the cleanest, especially with water on the lavatory floor and washing basin.
The flight attendants was preparing the refreshment service of the day, which was Marigold orange drink (not orange juice). The drink was not too much to my liking with little orange content and slightly too sweet taste. The offering, while also normal on flights from KUL to SIN (even on SQ), was quite paltry compared with GA offering a snack box with 2 snacks and packed drink on the equally short SUB - DPS.
Wi-Fi was supposedly available on board, but seemed not to be offered due to the flight length.
The low load factor was evident since I was able to move from my seat at 10A to 31A to take some photos. The crew seemed to be a bit rushed due to the flight time. Keep up the load factor (and the low price)! On a side note: this plane has their emergency exit behind the wing deactivated, but it was not a problem since it has less than 189 passenger seats (the maximum certified passenger amount for 737-800 which uses only main exits and two pairs of overwing emergency exits).
Some photos of peninsular Malaysia taken after I moved to 31A. While traveling from KUL/SZB to JHB, try to get the A seats for a better view of peninsular Malaysia.
We soon approached JHB, which means the cruise phase can be said as not too long.
A view during the first final approach to JHB
The plane, unfortunately, turned around on 18.31 after noticing that the runway at JHB was still not vacant.
The plane successfully landed on that 2nd attempt, and we taxied to parking stand 2 at JHB. AK's A320 in special livery was parked beside us.
Arrival at JHB and post-arrival trip
JHB was a relatively small airport, which even means there is no separate walkway for arriving passengers.
As I did not have any checked luggage, I proceeded straight to exit. The exit that was open was the international arrival exit, apparently to keep only one exit open all the time, although the luggage claim carousel used the one for domestic arrival.
I then proceeded quickly to the airport bus ticket counter. The public side of JHB consist of several shops and dining options, which I passed at this time. Compared to its size, however, their retail offering was quite decent.
The bus service to JB Sentral (the local bus and train interchange, connected with Sultan Iskandar checkpoint) would cost me RM 8 (US$1.8) for 45 minutes non-stop ride. However, the bus service would only operate hourly, so plan your arrival very carefully.
The bus itself was only a normal city bus with a small luggage storage area, but was barely occupied.
Continuing my trip to Singapore proved to be gruesome, especially due to the traffic jam at the Causeway and the arduous walk in Sultan Iskandar checkpoint. However, the trip within Singapore was as usual rather efficient. I did not take any photo here due to me running out of battery (must be due to lack of AC power supply on board, I presume?)
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
Senai - JHB
The thought of flying at less than US$15 not on a promotional ticket would be deemed as crazy elsewhere (even in Indonesia), let alone not on an LCC, but they've proven that it's possible. As a hybrid LCC, OD has definitely upped the game in intra-Malaysia and regional routes from Malaysia, competing with the more established MH with competitive price even against AK and equivalent (or slightly better) product. Considering the product offering, it would still be challenging to compete with SQ/GA (I'll need to see on longer routes to truly confirm it), but with OD carving the South Asian market on their regional routes it has already formed a unique selling point for themselves as a regional airline.
The ratings is definitely on the lower side since their offering is not the best, especially considering that OD still has a lot to learn from their regional competitors.
Some thing done well for the trip: + Low price (even lower than AK when booked last minute - must be Lion's pricing strategy) + Main KUL terminal usage (should be way better than KLIA2) + Acceptable check-in waiting and processing time + Large checked luggage allowance (30 kg but only daily flight available from KUL, from SZB by ATR would be only 15 kg) + Proper boarding pass stock paper (compared with Lion Air or even Batik back in Indonesia) + Acceptable centralised security at KUL + Relatively young plane + Acceptable seat pitch (among the better for KUL - JHB/SIN route) + USB port provision (enough for domestic flights, but may be not the case for their longer international routes) + Low load factor + Easy to navigate JHB airport
Things that can be improved: - Lack of decent, reasonably priced KUL airport transfer from downtown - Lack of self check-in machines in KUL (JT as its parent doesn't have one either back in Indonesia, not even in CGK) - Expensive meal in KUL public area (so expensive it mirrors the price in Singapore) - Unsuitable retail options in KUL domestic transit area (luxury stores for a domestic terminal?) - Mediocre newspaper offering (maybe something just slightly more affordable than WSJ?) - Insufficient power plugs in waiting area at KUL - Lack of adjustable headrest - Lavatory cleanliness - Dining options on board - Crews seem to be slightly rushed - IFE availability (only from takeoff to approach, i.e. not gate to gate) - JHB airport transfer frequency to downtown
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