Hello and welcome to another Flight Report!
This will be FR number 5 of 8 covering a recent trip to China and India and will see me fly from Shenzhen to Kolkata via Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. Now, have you ever done something that you thought was absolutely genius at first but turned out to be a really terrible (and stupid) idea? Yeah, these two flights are exactly that. I booked these two flights from Shenzhen to Kolkata for only CN¥1500 (€200) with seat selection and checked baggage. This is a really good price flying out of Mainland China (as most options are at least double that) and saves me from having to cross the border to Hong Kong again (which was my original plan). It also gave me 15 hours in Kuala Lumpur, which was more than enough to explore the city. Yes, it's a double red-eye but I've done way worse than that before. So all's good… right?
Yeah… no. It turned out the biggest problem with this itinerary was something I haven't even considered prior to embarking on this journey - the arrival time into Kolkata. A lot of the time I don't think about the arrival time, thinking that there'll always be taxis (or other modes of transport around), especially in a city the size of Kolkata. Sure, there were plenty of taxis around… except none of the drivers had any idea how to use Google Maps and don't speak English. It basically resulted in me walking up to a driver (phone opened on Google Maps) and them babbling some stuff (which I obviously couldn't understand) before leading me to another driver, who had the same reaction. It happened a few times before I eventually found another passenger who could understand me (luckily) and he got me into a 20-30 year old British designed yellow taxi (do search it up if you don't know what I'm talking about) with the assurance that the driver knew the address of the hotel (he didn't) and that I most definitely won't be scammed (I did). Looking back, it was probably the most Indian 'welcome to India!' experience you could ever get and really set the tone for the rest of my time there (except I didn't get scammed again… well almost).
So that was the tale of how my Air Asia Adventure ended. But anyway, this FR will be about the start of that: the first leg from Shenzhen to Kuala Lumpur. There isn't an FR on the 2nd leg because I thought that these two flights would be very similar (it wasn't, but for a reason you'll likely not expect) and that flight was 100% in darkness whereas this one gets a morning approach/landing into KUL at least. Having flown on LCCs in Europe and Canada, I'm really curious on what the LCC model is like in Asia compared to them.
From 2023, I aim to offset all of my CO2 emission from flights. All emissions are calculated using the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator and I will be funding projects approved by The Gold Standard. The CO2 output for this trip is:
Total for 2023 (so far): 3296kg
We'll start this FR in front of Shenzhen North Railway Station. Why did I come here when I could've gotten a taxi from the hotel? No clue but I do love the atmosphere of these huge squares in China (they absolutely come alive at night) - it's one of the few things I miss living in the UK and why I love taking late night walks whenever I could there.
But back to the FR, the taxi took around an hour to get from the station to the airport and here's the drop-off area.
In my last FR I mentioned how huge this airport is and that is no truer than the check-in lobby.
And of course there's huge Chinese flags hung from the roof - they do love their flags here (especially in Shenzhen - they've got flags poles hanging from almost every street lamp).
International departures tonight. It's in Chinese but you've got destinations like Bangkok, Singapore, Paris, Johannesburg etc.
There's also some shops here but it's all closed this late at night.
Check-in along with security/passport control took around 30 minutes in total. It's alright but I have to mention how confusing check-in is. There were absolutely no signs for Air Asia (the departure boards also didn't update and only showed the zone). I sort of guessed and joined the only line that was forming and only after a while did I find a staff member and confirmed that I was (luckily) in the right queue.
Anyway, here's the departure area.
Another photo of the international gates. These two photos (above and below) form the entire international departures area at SZX (yes, really). Considering how huge the airport is, there's only like 10 gates for international departures (there may be more bus gates but I'm not too sure).
There's like a total of 2-3 restaurants and 3-4 duty-free shops available and around half of that was closed this late at night. In all honesty, I think this really puts into scale how huge domestic air travel is in China. For context, SZX is the 26th largest airport in the world (by passenger statistics, 2019).
the terminal reflection the apron.
Flight time today will be around 3 hours 30 minutes and here's our route:
Sadly no photo of our plane as it's night (and it's parked in a really awkward position at the end of the terminal).
Boarding started around 20 minutes late.
Usually, when you first enter an aircraft, the first thing that you notice is probably the crew greeting you or the trolleys lined up along the galley. No, not this time. The first thing I noticed (or rather, smelt) was a really weird and musty smell that can only be described as spoilt milk (or blue cheese). I feel like there must be something going on with the A/C Pack because the smell is actually originating from air coming from the A/C - it was consistent throughout the cabin and lasted (with the same intensity) for the entire flight. It made the flight unbearable at times (imagine waking up at night to the smell of that) and even now I can't think about Air Asia without thinking about spoilt milk…. I do hope you're glad you can't get smell from photos haha.
But anyway, here are the seats on this A320. It's super comfortable compared to the ironing board seats often found on other LCCs and even full service carriers in Europe these days. It also reclines, which is a nice bonus (especially for a night flight).
Seatback pocket and tray table.
The legroom - it's quite tight. This'll be a very uncomfortable 4 hours for anyone over 6ft.
First views out of the window.
We pushed back around 15 minutes late and here's a photo of the airport terminal.
On takeoff roll…
… and takeoff! Bye bye China, see you in a year! ;)
We basically took off, flew over Macao and into the darkness of the ocean.
After this photo I tried to go to sleep (while attempting to ignore the smell of spoilt milk). I (thankfully) succeeded and went to sleep for 2 hours, which is the most I'm gonna get from this flight.
But anyway, now that I'm awake, we may as well have a look at the contents of the seatback pocket, which includes:
- An air sickness bag
- A safety card
- And Air Asia's buy-onboard (BOB) menu.
There's a very good selection of hot meals for RM17 (€3.50). Yes, you can buy a hot meal for €3.50 on Air Asia. The quality is about the same as what you'd get on a long-haul flight on a full service carrier (I got the chicken biryani on my 2nd leg to Kolkata).
It's a really good BOB menu at incredibly cheap prices (from a European POV).
Cruising over Vietnam - no idea what that city is, it's somewhere near Ho Chi Minh.
But finally, some sunlight as we approach Malaysia.
Starting our descent into Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
First views of land.
On final approach - the weather in Malaysia doesn't look promising today.
Welcome to Kuala Lumpur! Despite our delay, we arrived 15 minutes early.
The windows fogged up almost immediately after landing, which ruined all the photos.
Ahhhhhh… fresh air!!! Anyway, Terminal 2 is used exclusively by LCCs, with Air Asia being the largest carrier.
The walk to baggage reclaim took around 10 minutes.
And it took an additional 30 minutes to go through passport control - most of the arrivals this early are from India and China, whose nationals are all required to have a visa to enter Malaysia, slowing down the process.
But finally, here we are at baggage reclaim. It took another 5 minutes of waiting for my bag to arrive.
Is it just me or is KLIA T2 incredible confusing? Like I walked out of arrivals and straight into a shopping mall? There's a tiny arrivals area and connected to it is just a massive mall with tons of shops and restaurants. It completely caught me off guard since I wasn't expecting anything like it. It also took me another 15 minutes (and a lot of looping around) to find the train station - it's hidden in the middle of the mall and the signage is really confusing (maybe it's because there's a ton of different paths thanks to the mall).
Anyway, I'll end the FR here. I have 15 hours here in Kuala Lumpur before my next red-eye flight to Kolkata (and the location of that hilarious tale in the intro). My next few FRs will cover domestic flights within India - thanks for reading and see you there!
I don't even know what to rate this flight haha. I'm sorry Air Asia but there's no way I'm rating that flight any higher than a 4.5/10. This is one of the very few times where the actual flight experience wasn't decided by the airline's product but with the actual cabin/aircraft. The seats are really nice and comfortable, it also reclines, which is an added bonus. The only downside is the below average legroom but that's kinda expected on a LCC. BOB menu is really nice - there's a lot of selection (including hot meals) at incredibly good prices. All in all, I'd absolutely recommend Air Asia (if the price is right and you don't mind the legroom). Sadly I don't think I'll ever be able to fly them again - the absolutely vile smelling cabin just ruined the entire flight (it's honestly impossible to ignore or get used to) and that smell will always be the number one thing I think of whenever someone mentions Air Asia.
Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport (SZX) - A huge and modern airport... with a tiny international section. There's almost no selection for shops or restaurants (especially that late at night) but honestly I'm just thankful there was a restaurant open at midnight so I could at least get some food.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) Terminal 2 - Not the most efficient (or cleanest) but it's alright. Plenty of shops and restaurants thanks to the mall next door but in all honestly it made the whole place really confusing (at least for me).