Retracing Orient Express: Budget to Paris (SIN – KUL – ORY)

Retracing Orient Express [22 October 2011 to 7 November 2011]

Part I: Prologue
Part II: Budget to Paris (SIN-KUL-ORY)

SIN – KUL – ORY

Purchase

There wouldn’t be this trip if not for the cheap KUL-ORY ticket on AirAsia X (DJ) bought last November. It cost me only 614 MYR (~261 SGD) and included 2 meals and 15kg allowance of checked baggage. Three months before the trip, I bought the SIN – KUL ticket on AirAsia (AK) for 52 SGD (0 for the ticket, 32 for taxes & fees and 16 for baggage). There would be a layover of three hours at KUL LCCT which should be more than safe enough for the connection.

Pre-trip

I did my OLCI as soon as it was available (seven days before the flights). AirAsia had started to charge for counter check-in at the airport but my tickets weren’t affected since my tickets would bought before September. I got a pretty good seat on SIN-KUL; didn’t mind the aisle seat 17D as it would be an evening flight without any view out of the window. I wasn’t so lucky with KUL-ORY sector, getting a middle seat 20J in the 3-3-3 configured Airbus 340. I was contemplating about paying for a seat selection before realizing that I couldn’t do that after check in. Nightmare awaited on the flight then.

SIN

I arrived rather early for my flight at Changi T1, thanks to a lift from my brother.

Departures for the night

AK 720 for KUL

The check-in area was rather deserted.

Home of AirAsia in SIN

Last minute purchase

I dropped my baggage at one of the counters and my backpack was definitely within the 15kg allowance.

Light traveler

With plenty of time before boarding I wandered around the land-side area.

AirAsia

Unlike many airports which don’t allow non-passengers to enter (ie DEL), SIN doesn’t mind having many non-flying members of the public to visit its shops and restaurants.

Queue for food

I also visited the viewing area but the light conditions and mirrors didn’t allow me to take any good photographs of the planes. I would make do with a shot of the air-side.

Air-side

No trip report is complete without a photograph of the boarding pass.

Self-printed boarding pass

I couldn’t decide which was worse: self-printed boarding pass or the ones on thermal paper.

The immigration control was painless and I was in air-side in no time.

Another busy evening at SIN

There were some interesting facilities in T1 which I didn’t notice before.

Fish spa anyone?

Post on wheels

There wasn’t any queue at the security at gate D47 because I was early.

I also got to see my ride arriving.

My ride to KUL

Blurrier pic

What I like about AirAsia is that its flights depart and arrive in T1 which is way nicer than the Budget Terminal used by TR.

Aerobridge

AK 720 SIN – KUL

Route: SIN – KUL
Flight no.: AK 720
STD: 9:20
STA: 10:30
Time taken: 1h10m
Distance traveled: 196 miles / 313 km
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Registration: 9M-AHA

The load for the flight was decent with around 80% of the seats filled. No empty seat besides me but I would just bear it for 45 minutes.

View to the front

View of the back

Legroom shot

In-flight sale

What was on offer?

Hmmm will there be free munchies for me in the 2nd flight?

Although the plane was only four years old, its wear and tear were visible.

Rough edges

The washroom wasn’t properly maintained and I found trash in it. Probably there wasn’t enough for the crew to clean it during the short turnaround in SIN.

Like my earlier flight to BWN in August, I noticed a crew with Filipino flag on her nametag. Yet another trainee from the new AirAsia Philippines.

Tune

We landed on time but the plane had to taxi to the furthest end of KUL LCCT. I was suspecting that 9M-AHA’s next flight would be a domestic one.

SCRAMBLE!

Layover at KUL LCCT

It was a long walk from the plane to the immigration controls at the other end of the terminal.

I doubled my pace and was lucky enough to be ahead of the passengers arriving from DEL on DJ 173.

Although I was among the first to pass through the immigration, my luggage was already waiting for me at the belt. It must have arrived during my long walk between the plane and the belt.

KUL LCCT was a familiar place although it took me some time to locate the baggage drop for my flight.

Spartan KUL LCCT - not crowded at all

Paris-bound

There wasn’t any queue because I was early. The check-in agent was friendly but upon seeing my non-EU passport requested me to produce a return ticket.

I explained that I wouldn’t be flying back from Paris and would be continuing to Germany by train. She seemed unsure what to do and consulted the list of countries in the Schengen area. She showed me the list and asked if I had any air/train ticket out of these countries. I responded by showing her my ticket confirmation for the train between Budapest and Bucharest as well as my itinerary for my flight home from IST. I wasn’t sure if it was sufficient for the authorities but she managed to key in the data and I was free to go.

Feeling a little peckish I decided to get some fried chicken from Marrybrown.

Sinful

After supper I decided to find the AirAsia merchandise kiosk.

It was outside the terminal building

Nothing caught my fancy and I decided to go to the air-side early.

The Plaza Premium Lounge located beside the security check had a banner which caught my eye.

Interesting offer for those passing through KUL frequently

Strangely the Malaysian immigration didn’t want to have my fingerprints scanned. It was the first time for me since the rule was introduced earlier this year. Could anyone help explain why?

By then the airport was winding down as the only flights left for the night were mine to ORY and 5J 502 to MNL.

Empty gates

Shutters down

I grabbed a bottle of water from the cafe at a princely sum of 4.15 MYR

Cafe Expresso

Some passengers were huddled around the power points to charge their electronic appliances for the loooooong flights ahead.

Free WiFi doesn

This report wouldn’t be complete with my self-printed boarding pass.

2nd boarding pass of the day

Passengers are now able to purchase fly-through tickets (in my example SIN-KUL-ORY) and need not pass through Malaysian immigration. While the arrangement is definitely more convenient (no queue for immigration controls, collection of baggage or check-in at counters), I wasn’t sure how one could stay sane for more than an hour of waiting at KUL LCCT. The air-side facilities are really limited and it gets really crowded during the day.

Close to boarding time a queue began to form at the gate. There were more European passengers than Asian ones; the ratio was probably three was to one. AirAsia X seemed to appeal more to the Europeans than Asians.

T18

MH encroaching in AK

There was an additional security check at the gate area officials asked each traveler about his/her purpose for traveling. It hadn’t occurred to me before but luckily the guy questioning me was quite friendly. Was this additional check due to the destination being Paris? I’ve no idea though.

Boarding

KUL – ORY

Route: KUL – ORY
Flight no.: DJ 2012
STD: 01:20
STA: 09:00
Time taken: 13h40m
Distance traveled: 6,506 miles / 10,470 km
Aircraft: Airbus A340-300
Registration: 9M-XAB
Name: Xcalibur

While waiting to board the plane I managed to snap a photograph of Xcalibur, the plane which would bring us to Europe.

Xcalibur

When I reached my seat 20J, 20H was already occupied by the father of an Indonesian family (found that out at the queue for French immigration control later) and the rest of his clan were seated across the aisle while 20K was vacant.

Leg space in 20J

Both of us heaved a sigh of relief when the captain came on to the PA and announced that boarding was completed. I commented to Mr 20H that it was a lucky day for both of us before moving to seat 20K for the rest of the journey. The load for the flight was pretty good, I estimated that it was 80% filled and there weren’t many empty seats around.

While waiting for the plane to be air-borne, I decided to see whether there were any differences in the seat pockets between AK and DJ’s planes.

Bigger plane definitely

Korean menu

Got to admit that PSP will be a nice form of IFE

The departure time came and went but we were still on the ground.

Cabin while waiting for take-off

Thankfully the delay was only around 20 minutes and so and we were in the air by 1.50am local time.

Bye KUL

Around an hour into the flight the crew started to do the first round of meal service. Those who pre-booked (me included) were served first.

Nasi Lemak

Tadaa

Complimentary water

AirAsia’s nasi lemak was good as usual (although a little too salty) and after the meal I decided to turn in.

I hadn’t bought any comfort kit but decided to see my zip-lock bag of clothes as a cushion.

Necessity is the mother of invention

I woke up several hours later when the crew was doing the second round of BOB. My pre-paid meals wouldn’t be served until the breakfast service which was 2 hours before landing though.

Lovely sky outside

Unable to go back to sleep, I watched some Top Gear on my Ipod to kill time.

The cabin after 12 hours

I didn

As promised breakfast was served around two hours before landing.

Briyani was definitely a weird choice for breakfast.

Chicken Briyani

Sedap

The food was surprisingly good for inflight catering but both meals were a little too salty for me. The portions weren’t big either but luckily I wasn’t particularly hungry.

After the meal I went to the washroom (as well as to stretch my legs) and took the opportunity to snap another photograph of the cabin.

Just a few more hours to go

I was getting kinda restless when the captain came on the PA and announced that we would be descending and landing in ORY soon.

Above the clouds

Landing video to be added

We landed on a glorious morning in Orly. While taxiing I got to see ORY-based birds.

AF

Regional birds

CityJet

OpenSkies of BA

I also saw some Corsairfly planes but couldn’t take any good pictures of them. After a pretty long taxi, 9M-XAB was parked beside a Tunis Air plane.

We needed to pass through the Premium seats to disembark and of course I had to get a picture.

Premium class

Cool air hit me as soon as I exited the plane. The temperature was around 10 degrees, quite a big change from the barmy 30 degrees in the tropics

Thanks for the ride

Thoughts

Considering how little I paid  (around S$320 in all), it was hard to find any fault with the flights. The SIN-KUL flight was a typical AK one; brought me from point A to B cheaply. My first time on AirAsia X was a pleasant surprise. Although it was my longest flight to date (~13 hours), it didn’t feel quite as long. The seat was pretty adequate for my size and the meals were good as usual. I couldn’t recall anything much about the service which meant that they didn’t do anything wrong (or exceptional either).

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