This was my first trip on Malaysia Airlines and my first international flight out of India on a narrow body in eight years.
Why not fly Bangalore to Singapore direct instead of the roundabout Bangalore – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore? I am a oneworld frequent flier and Malaysia Airlines is a member of the alliance. The other option would have been a longer sets of flights via Colombo on Srilankan Airlines.
Bangalore (BLR) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL).
MH 105. STD 10:05 STA 16:45. All times local. 31-March-2016.
Boeing 737-800. 9M-MXH. Seat 14C.
I reached the airport around 07:30.
The departure hall was half-full thanks to the first wave of domestic flights already having departed. Malaysia’s check in desks are about midway through the check in hall, more towards the east of the hall and the international side of the terminal.
Holding oneworld status, I got into the business class line and was behind only one other passenger who was at the counter. For some reason I had to wait for over 35 minutes. The business class desk is also used as a payment desk for excess baggage or for any other issue. The economy line was also amazingly long. I did not see a single employee of the airline at or near the desk and the airlines uncaring attitude shows immediately. The contract ground handler Air India-SATS (Singapore Air Terminal Services) staff appeared to be horribly flustered and overloaded, with no noticeable presence of Malaysia Airlines staff.
By contrast the Oman Air check-in just adjacent, which was also running check in for a 737, was efficiently checking-in sending passengers on their way.
While in line, I met a gentleman from France who had no check in luggage and had printed out his boarding pass and gone straight to immigration. Only to be sent back to get a “proper” boarding pass from the airline.
I also saw a couple of ladies who were trying to cut the economy line and push their way through to the counter.
When I finally reached the desk, the check in agent was horribly flustered and apologized profusely. I felt bad for her since AI-SATS had basically put her in a horrible position and dropped way too much work on her head. My bags were quickly tagged as priority and I was handed my boarding card and lounge invite.
Immigration and security check took about 10 minutes each, after which I headed to the Plaza Premium Lounge.
With the flight being full, I expected bin space to be at a premium and left the lounge early so that I would be at the gate when they called priority boarding. However the gate agents had different ideas, they just opened the gate without any announcement and allowed everyone to board in whatever haphazard manner they felt like. Now with my OCD any deviation from the norm just rubs me the wrong way, so this boarding just left me irritated.
Again the two badly behaved women passengers from the check in desk pushed aside a queue pole and cut the line.
Seat and Cabin
I had paid for selecting the emergency exit row while booking. Malaysia follows a standard configuration for the 737 with the economy in a 3-3 configuration. The aircraft was equipped with Boeing’s sky interior which with it’s larger bins was definitely a boon to passengers on this flight. With my luck, I was seated next to the two passengers mentioned above.
The seat is a standard 17 inch seat, the leg room in the exit row is more than enough. However each seat has a IFE box under it which eats up leg space and I think would be uncomfortable in a standard seat. Malaysia uses a leather upholstery on their aircraft.
The IFE system was good. It featured a selection of new releases and a good selection of regional content. The system also had a moving map. The screen was a good resolution and touch screen. Each seat is also equipped with a USB port, which I assume is to watch your own movies, because the port would not charge either my iPad or iPhone.
While starting a movie, the IFE plays about three to four minutes of ads which is exceptionally irritating.
Warning!!, both rows of exit seats on Malaysia Airlines’ 737’s do NOT recline.
Push back and take off were right on the dot and the aircraft quickly climbed to it’s cruising altitude. There was turbulence through the entire flight so most of the time the seatbelt signs were on.
About a half hour after departure the crew began the meal service, the crew offered two options a non veg – Chicken Masala curry with steamed rice, or a vegetarian biryani. The meal service was accompanied by a drink service.
I took the chicken option which came with some veggies, rice and a roti (bread). It was also accompanied by some desert and a chickpeas and black-eyed peas salad. Out of the all the food the rice and chicken were the only good parts – the chicken was flavorful and paired well with the rice. The pea salad was flavorless while the bread tasted almost rancid. The dessert was a powdery flavorless blob. Suffice it to say most of my tray was returned uneaten.
The trays were collected reasonably fast and the flight proceeded normally. Throughout the flight even though the crew were efficient and attended to all the passengers requests, the service was very cold. Any request was attended to by a sharp irritated “Ok” or “All right”. It felt like the crew would rather be anywhere else but on that aircraft.
As we approached Kuala Lumpur, the crew began collecting headphones 40 minutes before landing. Since I carry my own headphones, it didn’t bother me, but I could see passengers around me visibly irritated by the early collection.
The aircraft landed on time and taxied to a gate quickly.
Kuala Lumpur to Singapore Changi (SIN).
MH 607. STD 19:25 STA 20:25. All times local. 31-March-2016.
Boeing 737-800. Seat 14C.
After leaving the lounge, I walked up to my gate which was close to the lounge. (Read our lounge review). Kuala Lumpur follows a system of doing security screening at the entrance to the holding area for the gate. The board over the gate showed the flight number, scheduled time and destination. After going through screening and reaching the holding area, I found out my flight was 35 minutes late, which I found ridiculous considering I had asked the lounge agent while leaving if the flight was on time and he assured me it was.
When boarding finally began, it was called in a sequence with business and frequent flyers being called first. The cabin on this aircraft was relatively worn out but functional. The flight took off soon after boarding. A few minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew distributed orange juice and a packet of peanuts.
The rest of the flight proceeded normally and landing at Changi was smooth.
Both my flights on Malaysia Airlines were average. The airline has a decent hard product in place but now needs to work on it’s catering, ground service and service.
Both the air crew and staff on the ground at Kuala Lumpur were cold and brusque which ruins an otherwise efficient operation.
This flight was the cheapest option between Bangalore and Singapore on my travel dates, however I would definitely not repeat it. I would like to try the airlines long haul service and see if the service issues are confined to the regional routes or is it a general problem for the airline.