Hi, this is a flight report on Malaysia Airlines A332 (ex-airberlin) and also my first trip report! I'm rather intrigued to share this since there are plenty of reports of this bird in J, but it is hard to find one in Y.
Under ex-CEO Peter Bellew's direction, MH returned some B738 back to the lessor and took a lease of 6 of A332 from AB when the latter ceased to operate in September 2017. MH is still in deep financial trouble, so getting these aircraft was quite a deal for them. This A332 is envisioned to up-gauge some of high-demand routes operated by B738 from their Kuala Lumpur's home base e.g DPS, DAC, BKK, TPE, or some domestic routes during holiday seasons. Later on, MH also use this bird to replace A333 on KUL-AKL route.
The first of which, registered 9M-MTU (ex D-ABXC), was delivered in March 2018 and the last one 9M-MTY (ex D-ABXE) was delivered in December 2018.
MH A332 (ex Airberlin) seatmap, taken from malaysiaairlines.com
I won't go into detail how the ground experience was since there was nothing worth mentioning and there are bunch of writings already on the net regarding CGK T3 and KUL. However, let me just say that while I found CGK T3 is modern and neat, it is missing the charm that the old T2 has. For a country with rich cultural heritage, I found the airport missed an opportunity to showcase the diverse and unique culture of Indonesia.
The spacious yet rather bare terminal.
The ride for the day is presented by 9M-MTU. This 13 year-old aircraft had flown with Eurofly (subsequently Meridiana) for 7 years before ended up with Airberlin in 2012. Now dressed in Malaysia Airlines standard "swoosh" livery, the newly painted skin sure makes the aircraft look younger.
9M-MTU at CGK T3. Emirates, Saudia, and Garuda B777W are seen on the next gates.
The boarding was supposed to start at 15:20 and the flight was to depart at 15:45. However, boarding did not start until around 15:50 and the flight is delayed for about 30 mins.
Quick snap of the Y cabin. The seats are in 2-4-2 configuration and still bear Airberlin's colour.
Normally, MH operates 7 daily flights to/from KUL-CGK in B738, although at least since October 2018 I notice that one of the flights has been up-gauged to A333/A332.
The load factor of today's flight is very low, with about 2/3 of the seats in the front section of economy and 1/4 of the back section are occupied. I bet if they swap today's equipment to B738, we could still have some unoccupied seats.
The Y cabin from my seat at 45A. Notice the empty cabin
The 30" seat pitch. Not too bad if you're an average height (I'm 170 cm).
What's inside the seat pocket. "Going Places" inflight magazine, safety card, "Temptations" inflight shopping catalogue, and air sickness bag.
You may notice that the IFE screen is pitch black. Yes, the IFE on the back section of the Y cabin did not work and the crew said they "don't know how to rectify the issue yet." One of the crew members is apologetic - she approached everyone seated on row 36-51 after distributing headsets on the front section and offered us to move to any empty seats on row 14-33 if we wanted to enjoy the IFE. I declined the offer though, since the passengers on the front cabin have occupied most of the pair seats on each row and also I'd rather listen to music on my phone or read the inflight magazine for this short flight.
The crew then proceed to perform manual safety demonstration. I could sense that the crew are not used to perform manual demonstration anymore since all other aircraft on MH fleet are already equipped with IFE, even the remaining non-Boeing Sky Interior B738 have dropped down screen to play the safety video.
It is also worth mentioning that Malaysia Airlines "strictly" enforced their passengers to switch off all electronic devices during take off and landing. The crew roamed around the cabin during pre-departure final check and I saw them asked the passengers to turn off the phone in front of the crew.
I put the word "strictly" in a loose sense since I found MH are not consistent with their own rule. On one of my MH domestic trips, the outbound flight crew played the stern sounding pre-recorded announcement to turn off all devices and when they saw me still holding my phone, the crew came to me and said "I told you sir, you MUST turn off your phone NOW!" However, on the return flight, the crew could not care less and did not even check if the passengers still had their mobile phones switch on.
Since the flight was quite empty, I just tucked my phone in the seat pocket since the crew will be able to see anyone with their phones on their hands. Two of the flight attendants jumpseats are situated in front of row 36 and are facing the rest of the cabin, so I don't want to mess around with the crew now.
Shortly after, we began our push back and took off from runway 25R. CGK is not too busy at this time of the day so the taxi didn't take much time. If you fly out at around 19:00 though, the taxi can take 30 minutes to an hour.
View from the runway. We were queuing behind Lion Air B738.
When the seatbelt sign is switched off, the crew announced that meal will be served in 20 minutes. I used this time to visit the lavatory. As seen on the seat map above, the Y cabin has four lavatories situated in the middle of both Y sections. Unfortunately, the lavatory number one on the left alley is out of service, and seemed like lavatory number four on the right alley as well. So I entered the lavatory number two.
This is where you could see how old this aircraft is. While the lavatory itself is clean, there is many noticeable cracks around the toilet. Seen on picture below is a cracked toilet seat cover which was fixed using a clear duct tape. I also saw a crack on the toilet seat itself but did not feel comfortable to take closer photo of the loo.
See the crack there? Duct tape fixes all!
When I returned to my seat, the crew had started the meal service. Today's choices are Chicken Curry with Rice or Fish Pasta in Oyster Sauce, and I picked the former. I also ordered along a cup of Coca Cola and a cup of water for the beverage. Kindly note that there is no alcohol served on MH flight with less than 3 hour flight time.
Now, MH isn't known to serve the best meal in the air among Southeast Asian airlines and so my expectations with the meal was already low. MH meals are bland most of the time, safe for their satay in long-haul business class and their Nasi Lemak, which is available on all morning flights out of KUL. However, I must praise MH for getting back in the game by offering more complete serving on their international short-haul flights after years of serving their "snack box" meal.
The chicken curry with rice, served with a roll and butter, fruit cuts, red velvet cookie, signature salted peanuts, and a small cup of water.
As a comparison, this is what MH used to offer on this route with their "snack box", which is roughly the same package of main dish, sans the roll and the fruit . The utensils were also the the cheaper kind of thin plastics. Nowadays, I noticed that MH only serve this on domestic flight from West to East Malaysia.
The details of the food: The main dish, fruit cuts, red velvet cookie, and a pack of salted peanuts.
Taste wise, the main dish was decent, but still incomparable to what GA can offer on the same route. The roll and the fruit were great, but the cookie tasted too oily.
Soon after the crew served the row in front of me, we entered turbulence area and the seat belt sign stayed on for the remainder of the flights. The flight went through very bumpy ride and it almost spilled my drink. However I salute the crew (especially the female members) who could withstand the turbulence and continue serving food and beverages for the remaining passengers.
The crew serving food and beverages despite turbulence
The remainder of the journey was marred by turbulence. With no IFE available, I just put on my earphone and listen to music from my phone while looking outside the window, which was nothing but thick clouds.
Soon enough, the captain announced to prepare for landing. The crew then reminded us again to switch off electronic devices over the PA, but this time the crew didn't care much even though I was clearly had my earphone on and holding the phone on my hand. Talk about consistency!
The weather outside was still rough and visibility was rather poor. However, as we descended even further, the sky cleared up a bit and we could finally see the sunshine among the scattered clouds in the sky.
To give you the idea how the weather looked like from my window.
We further descended and the captain instructed the crew to be seated for landing. I believe we were just in a short distance southeast of the runway and we were already several hundred feet away from the ground when all of sudden we entered a zone of thick clouds with thunderstorms and poor visibility. We were just this close to land and I could (barely) see the runway from the window when all of sudden the aircraft accelerated and went up again in a steep angle.
The unexpected take off in the gushy wind took everybody's surprise, even for the cabin crew who clearly tried to maintain their composure. When we reached higher altitude, the captain then made the announcement and apologised for the missed approach due to bad weather, and then they would make a go around before commencing the descend again in 20 minutes.
We were already close to the ground when a thunderstorm hit us back…
…and then we were up again!
The cabin remained quiet in that 20 minutes, which was rather surprising to found out that there was no audible scream or visible panic among the passengers. Perhaps they were all too stunned and just speechless? Or did they just stay calm and submit to their faith? Only God knows. Fortunately, we just had to take one go around and the airplane landed smoothly.
Upon disembarking, I checked on Flightradar and found that at one point we were at as low as 300ft above the runway and within the next minute we climbed up to 2000ft+.
The screenshot from the Flightradar showing the go-around path. Noticed that we were already at 300ft above the runway before the captain aborted the landing and climbed up again.
Jakarta - CGK
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
This flight will certainly go down as the most memorable one for me due to the missed approach and I must commend the captains who successfully averted the situation and landed the aircraft safely.
The IFE situation is baffling since MH has had the plane for almost a year now and they also use it to fly as far as AKL, which is 10 hour flight from KUL. 10 hour without IFE is not what one would expect from a carrier who claim to be "on track to the five star rated." Dear MH, get your feet straight and fix the IFE!
Moreover, the lavatory is really sad. It may not matter as much for short flight with low load factor, but then again remember that this is also the same aircraft that MH use to up-gauge high demand route and also to fly medium haul e.g PVG or TPE and I couldn't imagine how the toilet queue is going to be. I'm not sure about the remaining 5 of the A332, I imagine it would not be much better - but I might be wrong.
Food are okay, but there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the taste.
The cabin crew are mostly professional and kudos for maintaining their composure throughout the turbulence. However, the service feels indifferent and bordering cold. MH service is consistently inconsistent and sometimes we have to expect the unexpected or vice versa. On some flights you will have very warm and smiling crew, while on others they just seem to want to quickly wrap up the service.
Still, I would fly MH on economy again as they often have promotion and when the price dropped, they offer the best overall value for the money. However, I will avoid flying on their A332 for at least another 6 months from now and would prefer the B738 at all times, even with the older, non-BSI ones. I still have hopes for MH to rebound and be the great airlines that they used to be. It may still be a long shot, but I would like to see how they play their cards.
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