Abode of Peace [13 – 14 August 2011]
Despite being a weekend, I had to wake up at the usual time to make the 9.45am flight.
To reach the airport I first had to travel for three bus stops to Tampines Ave 1 where I would cross the road and catch bus 27.
While waiting for my second bus, my travel partner S sms-ed me that he had boarded 27 at his place. It turned out that I would take the one ahead of him.
About 30 minutes after stepping out of my front door, I alighted at the Airport Police Station stop.
It’s actually the closest bus stop to the Budget Terminal (BT) and we would not need to go through all three terminals before taking the shuttle bus from T2.
Once S arrived around five minutes later, we crossed the expressway (using the underpass of course) and walked towards BT.
Like every other terminals in SIN, BT was filled with travelers and their friends and families.
S asked me why AirAsia chose to advertise in BT which it didn’t fly out of. Probably because it targets the same segment as TR?
As our flight still had some time before departing, the common check-in row was assigned to it (as well as to the other flights leaving around the same time).
After checking in we just hanged out on the landside for a while. Since I didn’t fancy anything from McD’s I got a 2 SGD sandwich from Han’s instead.
The plastic seats landside weren’t very comfortable thus we decided to go air-side early.
I had some problems with the automated gate (just kept giving me the message “Processing…”) and the immigration official beckoned me to try the other one. No issues with the second one luckily.
I went to check out the FIDS while S preferred to chill at a comfortable seat.
No prize for guessing whose turf it is.
Then I window-shopped a bit in the shops. Was genuinely surprised that 7-Eleven is selling a 500ml bottle of mineral water at 2.30 SGD.
After browsing through the shops I found myself drawn to the computer terminals
After surfing some Facebook, I went to find S who had saved me a seat.
The first of my boarding passes:
At boarding time we made our way to Gate 10. The queue at the gate seemed to indicate a full flight.
After boarding we noticed that one of the crew was actually Korean. Just couldn’t help but wonder whether she was recruited for Incheon Tiger Airways, a joined venture with Incheon Metropolitan City which never materialized.
My seat 19F was located just behind the wing.
It could definitely do with a paint job.
Actually Tiger Airways was in a partnership with SEAir. SEAir leases aircraft from Tiger Airways and operates the flights with its own pilots and crews. However Tiger Airways continues to market and sell the seats on the leased aircraft. This collaboration was kinda controversial and SEAir’s competitors in the Philippines had complained to the aviation authority.
While waiting for the rest to board I checked out what was inside the seat pocket.
It turned out to be quite a good read but I didn’t have time to finish it during the short flight.
There was some other undesirable content in the seat pocket as well.
In the meantime boarding had completed and our plane pushed back almost on time.
While waiting for our turn to take off, I spotted an Air Mauritius A330 arriving in SIN.
Around 20 minutes after our scheduled departure, it was finally our turn to take to the skies.
Within minutes we were already in the Malaysian airspace.
The captain came on the PA and provided us with some information. The flight time would be around 35 minutes and the crew managed to do one round of BOB sales. I didn’t notice anyone buying anything though.
About twenty minutes into the flight, the captain came on the PA again and informed that we were descending into KUL.
The taxi to the terminal seemed as long as the flight from Singapore.
En-route was the cargo terminal.
Finally we reached KUL LCCT. Despite the slight delay during departure, we arrived almost exactly on the scheduled arrival time.
A curious point is that although AirAsia X doesn’t fly to USA, 9M-XAC is painted with Oakland Raiders’ livery. This former Air Canada plane is one of the two A340s that AirAsia X uses for its flights to Europe and could be the one which takes me to ORY in October.
Despite our best effort to beat the crowd, we were still caught in a long queue at the immigration.
Ever since Malaysia introduced the scanning of fingerprints at their checkpoints in June, it had taken much longer for foreigners to enter Malaysia. I already had a bad experience one month earlier at KUL main terminal where I took more than an hour to clear immigration.
It wasn’t so bad this time round as we were out on the landside 40 minutes after stepping off the plane. Traveling without check-in luggage definitely helped.
Although I had checked in online earlier, I didn’t print out the boarding passes. We thought that we could do it at the self check-in kiosks.
We ran into some issues as the 2D barcode (e-mailed to us after we checked in online) only printed out S’s boarding pass. One of AirAsia’s ground staff attempted to help us but it yielded the same result. We were then directed to check in row R29 to get mine printed.
With our boarding passes in hand (finally), I thought that it would be a good idea to take advantage of the weaker MYR and get some lunch at KUL.
However the McD’s at the airport charged a premium for the location (probably due to the concession) so my meal of cheeseburger and coke (7.30 MYR) wasn’t as cheap as I expected.
Less than 90 minutes after entering Malaysia we were stamped out again.
Comparing LCCT to the seemingly under-utilized main terminal which I used a month ago, it felt overcrowded and claustrophobic. AirAsia desperately needed bigger facilities for its ever-expanding operations (especially AirAsia X’s) but the target completion date of KLIA2, the new low cost terminal, has been delayed till October 2012. I wondered what kind of impact it will have to the expansion of AirAsia group.
The passengers were invited to board around half an hour before the scheduled departure and I realized that our plane was the one painted with the Team Lotus livery.
I managed to get S to give up 15A for me.
There were plenty of empty seats on this flight and between the two of us we had three seats.
None of the hot seats (with yellow covers) in front of us were taken.
I also noticed the cabin crew stationed closest to us had a Filipino flag on her name tag. Future crew of AirAsia Philippines undergoing training at parent company perhaps?
Some of the sightings during the taxi:
By the time it was our turn to take off, S had fallen into a deep slumber.
S woke up when the cabin crew was distributing Bruneian embarkation forms. He groggily asked me “We had taken off already?!” before going back to sleep again.
It was cloudy outside for most of the flight.
Time to check out the seat pocket.
The BOB menu:
Besides food there were other merchandise on offer on board as well.
AirAsia’s Travel3Sixty announced the good news.
Skytrax is fast losing its credibility as even Hainan Airlines is rated a 5-star one.
The PDF version is actually available on AirAsia’s website.
The sky remained cloudy as we flew over South China Sea.
I noticed that an elderly lady had invited herself to one of the hot seats. As they were emergency row seats, there was a sign which explicitly stated that no elderly (as well as children) could sit in them. However the cabin crew didn’t take any action to her as the passenger was fast asleep.
Good customer service or safety violation? I couldn’t decide.
The captain was on the PA requesting the crew to get ready for landing when I got my first glimpse of Brunei.
Not traffic congestion as at KUL or SIN so we were poised for an on-time arrival.
The cabin crew did make the elderly lady return to her seat during landing.
After a short taxi, the plane arrived at Gate 8.
It turned out to be the furthest gate from the immigration controls.
Could it be that AirAsia managed to get the airport authorities at BWN to lower the charges and in return its flights would always get the furthest gate? Point to ponder.
Ahead of us in the immigration controls were some Gurkha soldiers in desert fatigues. I believed that they were part of British Military Garrison Brunei and their commander seemed to be a British officer.
All looked ready to fight any enemies anytime. It was no wonder since one Gurkha could take out 30 Taliban insurgents on his own.
Just ahead of us in the queue was a Bangladeshi man and a roving Bruneian immigration official asked to see his visa. As the Bangladeshi man had a letter of employment, he was directed to a different counter (apparently for foreign workers entering Brunei). The immigration official seemed to be in two minds whether to approach my friend S who was of Indian descent.
In the end he chose to leave us alone and we were stamped into the country without any questions asked.