Report #34: KL809 - Economy vs business: KL CGK-KUL edition
This will be my report on flying on KLM business class from Kuala Lumpur KUL to Jakarta CGK, a short-haul international flight within SE Asia, on board their Boeing 777-300ER. This is the first installment of the 12 series of my great (or graduation) Indonesia aviation tour, which I hope you will enjoy as I publish them in the next few weeks.
Here are the 12 parts of the trip:
KUL - CGK on KLM 777-300ER business classYou are here
As part of me chasing the inaugural SUB-KJT flight I needed to reposition to SUB. However, I decided to make a few twists to accommodate my plan to do a comprehensive review across GA's intra-Java/Bali network (even when that still excludes their AT7) and as a result decided to fly to Jakarta instead. Further fueled by my positive experience with KL in J on SIN-DPS and DPS-SIN as well as revenge of the lost Delft Blue I decided to reposition by bus to KUL and then take KL on J from KUL to CGK.
Even after factoring possible OTA discount I calculated that it would be cheaper buying directly by KL, which costed me RM612.1 (US$153) one-way, a fair price given KL would charge $380 (US$284) one-way for SIN-DPS (they price their SIN-DPS roundtrip much cheaper than one-way for each segment while for KUL-CGK both prices are the same).
I opted for the bulkhead seat at the small second business class cabin, which should provide me with ample foot cubby.
Trip to KUL and check-in
Typical of my trips starting at KUL, I opted for the Starmart bus which costed me only S$9 (US$6.75), a decent value for the reposition.
The bus was pretty standard as far as international bus goes.
However, this time the legroom was on the tighter side, and it didn't help that my laptop backpack need to be with me while being a double decker bus there was no overhead bin.
I then opted to have breakfast nearby the Malaysia branch of the bank I use in Singapore (note that I had virtually no cash when I arrived), which was flatbread flooded with chickpea curry and half-boiled egg.
After that breakfast and having my nasi lemak breakfast at the usual place, I returned to KL Sentral for my bus to KUL which costed me RM12 (US$3). During my ride I also happened to check my last exam results which was just released and officially determined this as my graduation trip.
I then reached the bus terminal and from there it's a walk down the corridor to the terminal building.
A view of the arrival kerbside.
I then arrived at the departure floor, which was quite crowded. At that point I asked the airport staff of the opportunity for early bag drop, and since he said that there was none of it for KL I decided to carry my bags as carry-on.
Fortunately, AF/KL also use the self check-in machine so I was able to get my boarding pass early.
My boarding pass and trip summary.
After I retrieved my boarding pass I then proceeded to the international departure.
I proceeded to the immigration, which was fast and I was done in < 1 minute without using the priority lane.
After that it was followed by a quick customs check.
KUL transit area
I went to the transit area.
First I decided to go to MH's regional lounge, though to my dismay KL passengers may only visit the satellite lounge. For more review of the regional lounge, read here.
I then decided to go to the satellite terminal using the people mover.
The view mainly consisted of MH planes.
As it was still in the morning, the satellite terminal was still quiet.
I then visited MH's satellite lounge.
When the time came, I went to CI's lounge.
I went to the reception, passed my boarding pass, and afterwards denied entry. I then looked up on SkyTeam's website and showed him that SkyTeam business class passengers may also access any SkyTeam carrier's standard lounge, to which he still refused and told me that apart from the elite/premium passengers on the CI flight SkyTeam elite members may also enter. I then used Skype to call China Airlines' Kuala Lumpur office, only for them to acknowledge that SkyTeam business class passengers alone cannot enter the lounge.
Lounge test #1: Malaysia Airlines Satellite Golden Lounge
I entered the lounge and after showing my boarding pass and passport I was let in.
As a business class passenger I was invited to the business class section instead.
The bar had yet to see any guest in the morning.
Is it just me after visiting the Golden Lounge for a few times, or does the place feel very familiar?
Some reading materials were provided.
The lounge was still particularly quiet so I opted for the seating by the window.
The corridor to the nap room and lavatory.
After I showed my mobile boarding pass I received my kit and went to the toilet, which was clean.
I went to the shower room, which was also clean.
The shower room also came with its own toilet and washing basin.
Cost-cutting spotted: instead of handing miniature version of the soap and shampoo they now used dispensers (body lotion are still available in the small packaging).
The nap room, which wasn't particularly comfortable but still beats sleeping on a sofa. I ended up sleeping there for around 1 hour after I got fed up with CI's lounge.
Let's get to the dining offerings: the lounge was fitted with the cold and hot selections area.
Their cold selection in the morning included yoghurt, salad, and fruits.
Cereal was provided.
As usual, their hot buffet selection was on the more limited side - this time it was so limited they put the chicken cooked in red sauce on two separate dishes.
Soups and breads were provided (I didn't take a photo of the rest of their breads selection, but needless to say I skipped them).
A section was dedicated for waffle and coffee. Later on after my nap I would opt for some cappuccino, which would become my staple for a sizable part of my trip, but at least it wasn't as jokingly bad as the one in GA's lounge (more on that on another installment)
A sampler from the hot buffet offerings, which tasted pretty decent.
The noodle bar as usual featured the Peranakan-style design.
I had the sheer misfortune of having Sarawak laksa on all my previous visits to the Golden Lounge, so the opportunity to try the nyonya curry laksa seemed to be an interesting prospect - or was it?
To my dismay I didn't especially like the curry laksa, especially due to the noodle, and somehow preferred the Sarawak laksa.
I went the bar, and as usual ordered mimosa, knowing that their sparkling wine wasn't particularly enjoyable on its own.
Even until in the afternoon the lounge was still quite quiet.
My friend alerted me of PK's 777 coming to KUL, though the one deployed to KUL had her livery stripped.
The family room.
Lounge test verdict and departure
Apart from the less than stellar hot food selection, MH's lounge proved to be comfortable enough to spend quite a bit of time in. In terms of the service, while the staffs weren't as proactive as those in QR's lounge, some people, especially those wishing to mainly work in the lounge, can find that better as well.
For CI: And I thought your J lounge in KUL should be accessible for SkyTeam carriers' J passengers as well?
I proceeded towards my waiting gate.
The plane had arrived from her long trip from AMS.
Security took me a while as there was no priority security line.
Just like most of my other ex-KUL flights, ticket check was done right after security.
Thanks to the high load factor (and KL's economy-heavy configuration)), the gate was quite crowded.
The plane of the day would be PH-BVG, named after the Wolong park in China.
Boarding was slightly chaotic, but priority was still enforced.
I entered from the door 1L, was welcomed on board and afterwards walked to the right aisle.
Afterwards I walked further to my seat in the second cabin.
My home for the next 2 hours or so.
Seeing that I took photos of the seat, the purser asked if I would like to have a photo of me taken in the seat - who am I to say no?
At the front of my seat are the IFE, which was responsive and touch-sensitive, and open storage area.
The most prized item: wide foot cubby. I had some problems with it on my SIN-DPS flight and back earlier, so this was a much-needed upgrade.
A literature pocket is placed beside the middle armrest.
An IFE remote control can be found as well, which was quite responsive.
On top of the armrest, just behind the drinks table is the seat control, which offer a decent number of possible adjustments.
A table can be found as well, which was quite sturdy.
The contents in the literature pocket were pretty standard, except the airsickness bag which came with Delft Blue design, apparently also exclusive for business class.
The outside armrest can be adjusted by pressing a button.
The outside armrest when collapsed.
A noise-cancelling headphone was provided, which worked quite well (at least in cutting out the 77W's sheer engine noise, but the sound wasn't particularly bad either)
Note that the headphone has 3 pins.
Beside the seat USB and AC charger as well as headphone plug can be found as well. Note the 3 plugs as compared to only 1 in economy.
A reading lamp and basic seat control can be found at the seatback.
As the load on the second business class cabin was low there were few luggage to put on the overhead bin.
Customs form were then distributed.
Welcome drink was soon distributed, and as usual I opted for champagne.
Selfie test: me on the seat.
I then visited the economy class cabin, which looked cramped (note that I would be there for the DPS-SIN segment, but let's keep it for another part of the series).
A view of the outside, featuring OD's 738.
I looked through their classical music selections, and while it was still respectable I couldn't help but to notice some cutbacks.
However, one thing I absolutely love from KL's IFE is that it allowed me to rewind musics, something quite a few IFE don't offer.
We soon pushed back. Also note the large engine located nearby, which made me use the headphone most of the flight.
A safety video was played.
The pushback car moving away as we prepared for departure.
EY's 333 and a few other planes.
388 overload: there were not only 1, but 3 of them in one photo.
JT's 739 and BA's 789 could be seen as well.
Watch the take-off video here:
We climbed in no time.
A housing project in development.
We then passed the cloudy weather and climbed further.
After the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off, the flight attendant started the meal service by giving out hot towels.
The hot towel was fortunately still steaming hot and moist enough.
The view during cruise.
Table linen was then provided.
The table linen sport KL's logo all over it.
We started cruising over the Malacca strait, with Sumatera island in sight from my side.
The flight attendants at L2/R2 galley were bus preparing the snack service for economy class. Note that their service for the flight needed to be at a breakneck pace as I reviewed on my CGK-KUL flight earlier in economy.
The general menu and wine menu were distributed. Note the slight difference in the cover colour despite the same design.
Contents inside the general menu.
Contents inside the wine menu.
KL used only one trolley per side, which made the service dragged.
It took me 20 minutes to get the meal, with everything on one tray. As I was among the last to be served they had run out of the beef option so I was stuck with the chicken option, which they tried to get from the other trolley (on a side note, why is it that the Indonesian menu tend to be chicken - as I've had on my KL flight from SIN to DPS and back?) Bread was also provided from the bread basket where I was allowed to take some myself.
The dining set was designed by Marcel Wanders.
As usual, the tray cover came with KL logo all over it.
Dutch-style shoe-shaped salt and pepper holder was also provided - not that I'm a fan of it.
Nonetheless, I loved just how substantial the silverware felt as well as the design.
My main course was then served.
I felt peckish and ate most of the appetizer first, but anyway ….
The early dinner consisted of: Appetizer: Palembang-style otak-otak fishcake with cashew sauce Bread: Bread basket Main course: Mediterranean braised beef with stewed vegetable and zucchini or halfway cooked rendang chicken with rice and pickled vegetables Dessert: Nutmeg cake Drink: Water / coffee / tea / milk / fruit juice / cocktail / wine / champagne
To start, the otak-otak was quite juicy and flavourful, if not for me mistaking it for pempek gone funny (note that both are technically fishcake, with the latter being much more popular). The peanut sauce reminded me of some street snacks while in Indonesia, in a good way, and also helped to differentiate it from pempek. The main dish was unfortunately a letdown with the small amount of side dishes (i.e. both meat and vegetables) and that the amount of sauce in the chicken was on the smaller side, although regardless the chicken was still flavourful. Bread was nothing memorable, and I liked the dessert as it has a pleasant nutty taste (note that I particularly don't like peanut, but this one didn't leave the unpleasant feel on the teeth) and has the right sweetness. On overall, it was an acceptable short-haul business class meal.
It was only after I started writing this review that I noticed they also brought the same dessert wine I especially enjoyed earlier (they put it in the alcoholic beverages section instead of together with the white and red wines), so I opted for their Flying Dutchman cocktail instead, which I enjoyed.
Before the meal (a testament to just how long it took for the meal to come) I went for the lavatory visit, which was clean.
As usual, the toilet featured Zenology amenities.
If there's one testament to how serious KL is with their Delft Blue marketing, this is: lavatory with Delft Blue wallpaper, exclusive for business class lavatories.
Laptop test: I tried to work for a while on my laptop, which the table was capable of supporting.
I then put the seat to a bed, which was comfortable.
There's more than enough space for my feet as well, which is always a plus.
The pillow was also filled with duck feather, which was plush.
Despite the short distance and relatively low ticket price, this flight is also considered to carry World Business Class product (as opposed to Europe Business Class) by KL standard and therefore a Delft Blue was also provided. What's best to pair the Delft Blue? Another round of KL's signature drink it is.
The rear and side of the house.
Some views during cruise.
As the sun started to set we descended towards CGK.
During descent the fight attendant also offered chocolate, which again was shaped like the houses on the Delft Blue.
We were then welcomed with Jakarta's hazy weather.
Landing was uneventful apart from the loud engine.
However, as we landed on runway 25L we needed to pass through all the terminals, starting from the cargo terminal. Note JT's 333 and FedEx's 752.
Afterwards it was a taxi above the airport train track.
Then we taxied past the terminal 2.
JT's 333 bound for Saudi Arabia.
We finally reached terminal 3 where KL moved after arriving at terminal 2 for a while.
We then reached our gate.
A thank you video was shown on loop.
One view of the galley.
After I bid farewell to the crew I then walked down the aerobridge and then the corridor to the arrival corridor.
See you on Saturday!
Arrival at CGK and post-arrival trip
As I reached the arrival level I was directed to the main arrival area.
It was a walk down the narrow corridor for all arriving passengers.
Afterwards it's an escalator down to the arrival floor proper.
Heat monitors were installed, with the results shown on the screen.
I then reached the immigration counters. On the left side are a row of automated gates, all of which were closed (on a very serious note, why are the gates always available on departures yet seldom so on arrival?)
As I went to the manned counter, the officer checked my passport manually and immediately stamped it. I then said, "So fast?", to which she said, "Don't get happy first - I'm still not done yet", while afterwards scribbling something on a paper and put a few characters on top of the passport stamp before she cleared me.
I then went to the luggage claim hall - note just how much walk I needed to endure in the new terminal.
The luggage claim area was rather quiet.
I then went to the customs screening area, where the customs officer would take the customs form and direct you either to the screening area or straight out.
The screening area is located just beside the mirror.
After the arduous walk I found myself at the kerbside.
If you have the money, you can get picked up right at the arrival kerbside, including on luxury cars.
On the other hand, that happened not to be me so I decided to take the people mover to the airport train station.
After the people mover ride I took the short walk to the airport train station.
I opted for the train service to the city, which costed me Rp70.000 (US$5). Considering that downtown Jakarta would be very messed up on the days leading to the Eid holiday, this made much more sense.
Malaysian Airlines Golden Satelite Lounge - Business Class Section
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
Jakarta - CGK
KL offered a particularly good value for money for the KUL-CGK route with access to MH's lounge in KUL, spacious seats, decent dining offerings, and of course the elusive Delft Blue. In terms of the airports, KUL was particularly fine and didn't have any glaring issues apart from the lack of early bag drop, while CGK was to say the least not up to thhe expectations with long walks and unusable automated gates.
Given the chance (and perhaps the need to bring a lot of luggage) I would be more than happy to fly with them again on the route.
Some thing done well for the trip (airports): + Self check-in provision at KUL + Relatively short walking distance at KUL + Decent lounge offering at KUL
Some thing done well for the trip (on board): + Reasonable price (RM612.1 (US$153)) + Spacious seat (and also foot cubby for bulkhead seats) + Acceptable dining offerings + Extensive IFE offering + Extensive Delft Blue-themed design + Delft Blue provision
Things that can be improved (airports): - Lack of early bag drop for KL at KUL - Dingy people mover at KUL - Denied access to CI's lounge at KUL - Lack of priority security at KUL - Excruciatingly long walk at CGK terminal 3 - Unusable automated gates at CGK
Things that can be improved (on board): - Slow meal service - Ran out of one meal option - Slightly uncomfortable headphone - Loud engine noise
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