(Chaos, confusion, uncertainty – Lisbon, we have a problem when add impatient passengers into the equation. Copyright BJ Thoughts)
The Cape Verde flight passengers started to assemble closer and rumors & assumptions started to fly – some passengers especially those with small children became restless. Someone shouted “It’s Not Fair!!!” and a bunch of passengers joined in.
(Calm before the storm – this was taken just before we took off from Lisbon to Cape Verde)
This is our final leg of the journey from KL to Cape Verde and this time, we changed the airline from Emirates to TAP Air Portugal, flying on the smaller Airbus A320. And given the fact that we have been on transit in Lisbon for the last 8 hours, we were very anxious to get to our next flight and reach our final destination for a hot shower, clean change of clothes and a good sleep on a soft bed.
We lined up at the boarding counter, cleared by the TAP staff after verifying the cabin luggage size and went down to catch the shuttle bus to the plane.
Frankly speaking, the last thing we need now is a missing plane…
(I had to pinch myself when I first heard about the missing plane. I flew MAS on a regular basis and I prefer flying on a Boeing 777 than Airbus. Having a missing plane was something that all Malaysian did not expect to hear on a Saturday morning. The disappearance remains a mystery and a multi country search to date have revealed nothing to date. Image source: http://engtechmag.wordpress.com)
There was another trip scheduled up North last weekend for some religious function. However we did not go alone this time around. We hooked up with my brother in law and his family at our usual stop at the R&R. It was still early in the morning on Saturday and we had a good breakfast to kick-start the day. We then drove in a convoy with my usual “Speedy Gonzales” brother in law in tow and keeping within my speed limits (after all, driving within the speed limit on the highway is more relaxing, safe and fuel efficient than being a speed demon on the highway).
We reached our destination rather early in the morning and my brother in law then overtook me at the toll plaza but then when we reached the house, he was no where to be seen. I called him on his phone but the line was engaged. After a while, I saw him driving up to the car porch, visibly shaken and very upset. He then told me about the MH370 that had gone missing and he knew the crew rather well (you see, he works with MAS). We then spent the whole day glued to the TV seeking the latest news for the missing MH370 (with me gladly forgoing sleeping in the hotel for any positive news on the missing MH370) and him busy with sms-es, whatapps and calls with his colleagues and friends, all for the latest news on the missing plane.
And that is the time, we got a rude wake up call on Malaysian style of crisis management. Whilst foreign news channels already putting up the missing plane as breaking news and providing more insights (CCCTV even had assembled some experts panelist in the newsroom), the local channels – TV1, TV2 and TV3 are still in the lala land and showing programs that has nothing to do with missing plane (one even had cartoon on the air). Thankfully this boo-boo did not last long (perhaps thanks to the criticisms in social medias on how the local news were sleeping on the biggest news of the year) and now we have Astro Awani providing all round news coverage on MH370.
Then as more reports – both official, unofficial and of course, an avalanche of speculations poured in widening the mystery over the missing plane, the level of crisis management by the Malaysians authorities becomes more apparent. It did not go unnoticed in the foreign media. One even mentioned:-
“They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,”
But you cannot blame Malaysia for this. Well, think about it – with relatively very few natural disasters (except for the annual flash floods where crisis management is nothing to shout about – just see what happened during the flooding in Kuantan) and man made disasters (like the Highway Tower tragedy), Malaysia actually have a very few reasons to beef up its crisis management structure and readiness.
Even with this incident of a missing plane – it is still feels like one is in a bad dream. My brother in law said the same thing when he first heard the news. There was no reason to believe that a MAS plane could go missing. There were no initial terrorist threats, the aircraft maintenance level is high and the flight crew is very competent. So the initial fumble up by the Malaysian authorities in dealing with this crisis is highly understandable and slowly but surely, once reality had kicked in, you can see a proper coordination and updates coming through on the incident. In my opinion, the current Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman is doing a fine job handling the crisis despite unwillingly being thrown into the unknown. But that does not mean, there is no room for improvement and the missing MH370 shows we still have a long way to go.
(The DCA chief, Datuk Azharuddin at the center of the crisis and he is backed up by the key people from MAS, the Air Force and the APMM. Image source: The Malaysian Insider)
Don’t get me wrong. The basic crisis management structure is there but by the time they get into the action of a proper crisis management, many days would have lapsed. This often would be compounded by having too many people wanting to take the lead and make decisions and statements which sometimes contradict each other and causes things to be more confusing. The lack of coordination between the various departments and the lack of information sharing is simply sad. Same happened during the Lahad Datu crisis and the same is happening in the current handling of the MH370 disappearance:-
The Malaysian authorities have come under fire following conflicting accounts on the last known position of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it went missing. The New York Times said the authorities had repeatedly said they were doing their best but Putrajaya and the airline had issued imprecise, incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials contradicting military leaders.
The New York Times report said Rodzali’s statement stunned aviation experts as well as officials in China, who had been told again and again that the authorities had lost contact with the plane more than an hour earlier, when it was on course over the Gulf of Thailand, east of the peninsula. The latest information also caused an uproar on Chinese social media sites. “Malaysia, how could you hide something this big until now?” said one posting on Sina.com Weibo, a service similar to Twitter.
David Learmount, operations and safety editor at Flightglobal, a news and data service for the aviation sector, said the Malaysian government seemed evasive and confused, and he questioned why, if the remarks attributed to Rodzali were true, the government took so long to reveal evidence about a westwards flight path.
Take the instance of the flight path of MH370. The Air Force is now coming forward (later denying it but not completely) and saying that the plane may have crossed over the Peninsula to the Straits of Malacca. Before that, it was the case of the 2 impostors (at one point, it was 4 people) and another is the actual people who did not check in. This has not been really settled with both MAS and the police seems to be making conflicting statements.
On the change of flight path, if it is true, is not only unfair to the various countries especially Vietnam who have pitched in their valuable time and resources looking out for any evidence of the plane. It is also unfair to the family and friends of the missing passengers who have kept in the dark on what had happened to their loved ones. It is also shows the state of chaos and confusion that the authorities are in even within themselves. And that is very embarrassing. On the other hand, the shortcomings and loopholes in the national security is just too glaring.
The Air Force said that they did not intercept the plane because it was not classified as hostile (I read somewhere that it is because the plane was flying away from Malaysia but once again, this information is not made known for all). Damn, didn’t these people learned anything from the 9-11 when commercial planes were used in the act of terrorism. Didn’t a commercial plane deviating from its original flight plane without a proper authorisation raised a red flag to those manning the radar station?
What about the 2 Iranians who managed to slip out using stolen passports? It was reported that these Iranians came in to Malaysia using Iranian passport but then exited using stolen foreign passports. Don’t the immigration department kept the entry records to compare? No wonder KLIA have been a haven for drug dealers and carriers and criminals from Iran, Nigeria, Latin America and other red-flagged countries. Someone had kept both their eyes closed for a long time now and let these parasites to slip in and out on a regular basis. Will the incident MH370 disappearance be the catalyst for a real change on how we can tighten the vetting of foreigners coming to country?
Anyway no point to talk about the past at the moment. We still have a plane missing and that should be the main focus for now.
I recall Datuk Azharuddin in one of the press conference as saying that they wish not indulge in speculations but rather deploy a more scientific method to identify and search for the missing plane. I liked the way he stressed the point and kept his confidence up. Of course having contradictory statements coming from his team does not help in stressing the scientific method to find the plane. This lack of information sharing and contradictory statements to the media should stop immediately. All statements should be made by only one person and that person is not the IGP, the military key officers, the Transport Minister and the various politicians who try to make their 2 cents (and their share of the limelight) worth at the time of the crisis. And that person should be Datuk Azharuddin.
And speaking of deploying scientific methods to find the missing plane, the last thing we need now is these clowns (surprisingly endorsed by the administration) to make fun of the whole incident. There is a big difference between praying in silence and making a sick circus show in an international airport and in front of the foreign media. These clowns should be arrested on the spot and thrown into a mental asylum for a long, long time. They have turned a serious search and rescue investigation into a laughing stock of the world. It was basically a show of the middle finger to the missing passengers, relatives & friends in grieve and the heroic search and rescue team from the various nations.
Let’s just hope that the plane could be found soon and we can start to investigate on what had really happened.
(Before I start with the post for this week, I just wanted to say this – if the old man is so concerned with the level of proficiency of English among graduates (no thanks to his own shortcomings when he was the Education Minister and the Prime Minister), why he did not join PAGE and give it the added creditability and force that it needs to push the change of policy (to teach Science and Mathematics in English). He instead joined PERKASA as its advisor and as we all know from how the Ibrahim the clown acts up and down like his backside was on fire whenever the opposition had raised critical issues, PERKASA and its main objective is nowhere close to the realms of improving proficiency of English in this country. Just wanted to get this out from my chest. That’s all)
(Whether it is a private jet or a public abuse of trust and power – such nonsense cannot be tolerated at any level even for a high ranking politician’s wife. Just because it is approved by the Cabinet, don’t these people who fly have some internal conscience or they are just corrupt to the core? They must be counting their blessings that they are not in China. Cartoon source: Zunar @ Malaysiakini)
Let’s get back to the post for this week and as a taxpayer, I am quite pissed off.
As you all know, there are only 2 things certain in life and it is not death and taxes. Oh sorry, let me rephrase it, there are only 2 things certain when it comes to a Malaysian politician – racial segregation and abuse of power.
Still remember Najib’s “pie-in-the-face” reaction when he faced the election results that was worse than Pak Lah’s time and realized that his wayang kulit with the Chinese voters had not worked wonders? He then squarely and conveniently blame it on the Chinese – one sick newspaper even asked “what else the Chinese wants?”. And till to this day, there are still people who is convinced that the Chinese had ulterior motive for BN’s worse performance in the electoral. They may have forgotten that 50.87% of the voters from all races did not vote for BN – that’s more than half of the voters in the country. They may have also ignored the fact that most people were not pleased and had deep distrust with the current administration for some time now – for obvious reasons too – there has not been enough work done curtail the main 4 political pillars in this country namely racial segregation, waste of taxpayers money, double standard enforcement & prosecution and abuse of power.
And it is just amazing to see how some politicians can put up a (very) thick face and trivialize the matter when they are caught red handed on the blatant abuse of public assets:-
Opposition lawmakers grilled Putrajaya on Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s use of the official government jet for a visit to Qatar last week to attend an international forum.
Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) started the ball rolling when he interjected Anthony Loke (DAP-Seremban) during the debate on Budget 2014 at the committee stage, noting that Rosmah had used the jet. “How can the prime minister’s wife use the government aircraft? We want to know the cost involved and how come she is eligible for this,” Azmin asked. In reply, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the Cabinet had approved for Rosmah to use the jet for this particular trip.
His reply did not satisfy the opposition ranks and Parliament turned chaotic with several MPs questioning the rationale of the Cabinet decision. “Isn’t the Cabinet headed by the prime minister? This is a conflict of interest, how can the prime minister give permission to his wife to use the jet?
And the more the opposition grill this deeper, the more it becomes clear that Shahidan Kassim is not only talking cock when it comes to answering serious question in Parliament, he also proving to be a liar. Which is funny because the more these fellows try to cover up the abuse of power and divert the attention, the more evident it becomes to the general public:-
Pengerang MP Azalina Othman, who accompanied Rosmah Mansor during a women’s summit in Qatar, which the prime minister’s wife had gone on in a private jet, admitted that the invitation to attend the summit was extended to Rosmah in her personal capacity and not to the government.
“The invitation was not on a government basis but on a personal basis,” Azalina admitted in Dewan Rakyat today while debating the Budget 2014 allocation for the Rural Development Ministry.
To this, PAS’ Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad criticised the move, saying that a “wrong decision can’t be justified because cabinet made the decision”. “If you want to go, you go on your personal expenses,” Khalid said.
And read here to see the so-called Rosmah’s work for the nation. You may want to keep a vomit bag by your side when you read the so-called “work” for the nation and where we “suppose” to fall to the ground in appreciation and be grateful for it. Apparently she did not go alone either. Still think more than half of Malaysian voted for the opposition for no good reasons? Despite the implied response of the voters in the last general elections, they still don’t get the message, uh? They still think that hard-earned taxpayers money belongs to them and they can spent it as and when and how they deem it fit and they are unanswerable to anyone.
The Government already paying external consultants RM7.2 billion of tax payers money through its noses for work that could be done by civil servants for free. To add further salt to the wound, they have just reduced the subsidy for petrol thus increasing the price to end consumers – with the very excuse that the Government is unable to bear the additional cost. They want to implement GST which many say will impact the lower class of people and soon we also see electricity tariff increase as well. Many more increases likely to be in the pipeline, trust me. And already people in KL are up arms over the substantial increase of assessment rates. All because this Government is unable to curtail unnecessary expenses and channel them based on right priority. Flying some fat ladies all over the world for private functions using taxpayers money is not one of them. We do not need wives of politicians to now waste even more millions of taxpayers money and abuse of public assets for personal trips and make everyone to look very dumb by trying to justify the abuse.
As taxpayers and as one who is facing ever increasing cost of living, don’t you get very angry with this over justification of wrong doing? We are not paying taxes so that politicians and their wives and family members can live a luxurious life and then show the middle finger when questioned! Where is the accountability? Where is the responsibility to the taxpayers?
I won’t say that the Government need to look into this or need to stop this blatant abuse of power and wastage. It will be a futile action – the voice of the ordinary people would remain unheard to those who walk in the corridor of powers. The year in, year out the lack of punishment on the wrong doers highlighted in the Attorney General’s report and a very poor enforcement record when it comes to catching & prosecuting corrupt politicians, speaks a lot for the lack of action. Plenty of opportunities to redeem itself in the area of fighting corruption and curtail of abuse of power have been wasted, intentionally most likely. Not a big surprise given that those who can make a difference are the same people who indulge in and perpetuate the very wrongdoings. The man at the top, obviously too weak to do anything and remains silent.
The only way to stop this blatant abuse of power and misuse of taxpayers money is by a complete change of the Government from top to bottom. A proper spring cleaning if you can call it to weed out the thrash, crap and unwanted parasites from the administration. It also should include those who are lazy and stupid. And once that is done, strict prosecution of the wrongdoers must be done – they cannot be allowed to get away with their past actions. Corruption by public servants and politicians and abuse of powers should be categorized in the same category as high treason and punishment is made very severe. For this, we need to vote in a new Government – the opposition are not perfect but they cannot be worse from the current administration – despite the limitations at Federal level, they already had set a fine example in Penang and Selangor.
Think about it as you eat the overpriced roti canai & teh tarik for breakfast whilst the fat lady goes for another trip around the world on her “private jet”.
(I must admit, Changi is one well managed airport with plenty of signage to ensure everyone knows where to go – provided you know English. Price of items sold at the airport is at the high side though. But I guess the most unsettling thing at the airport is seeing young girls walking around with sidearms – I am sure they are well trained on firearms and tactics but still, it is very unsettling. Image source: http://alicetravelstory.blogspot.com)
Overall, the journey was good – we made it in time for the business meetings with plenty of hours to spare, the meetings itself went smooth and without any major hiccups and I had one of the best coffees ever at a small stall by the roadside.
We were half way through the meeting when I got a SMS saying that the return flight has been delayed by almost one hour. One hour delay was not that bad but considering that we had expected the meeting to finish early and will have at least couple of hours to spare, adding another one hour was not something we readily welcomed. But we were still grateful for the heads-up.
We decided to kill time by visiting the nearest watering hole and ordered ourselves some beers to lose track of the time. The alcohol did the trick but not the final bill – beers were still cheaper in Malaysia. Halfway through our beers, my colleague posed the question – what if the SMS was wrong and there were no delays and we end up missing our flight. Fearing the worst, we finished our beers and rushed to the airport. It was peak hours – we knew that the MRT would be packed but we managed to find enough space to squeeze through and the MRT journey back was smooth.
We reached the airport early and headed to the counter to check-in. It was confirmed that our flight was delayed by almost one hour. Somehow, that was a blessing in disguise – we had an excellent early dinner and check out the many duty free shops at the airport (although many of the items on sale were overpriced).
The delayed flight was rescheduled to departure at 9.15 pm but by 9.20 pm, we did not see the plane at the departure gate. We wondered if there is going to be another unscheduled delay. At almost 10 pm, the plane finally taxied in and it was almost 10.30 pm when we finally took off – after almost 2 hours delayed.
I do not know what the real cause of the delay was but I suspected it to be the bad weather in Klang Valley – I managed to catch the weather forecast. We were hoping to hear the reason for the delay from the flight attendants but other than “sorry for the delay”, no reasons were given. As we were reaching the runaway, the captain spoke but other than “we are 5th plane on the queue and we will be taking off soon”, nothing was mentioned on the delay either.
I guess for others, the fact that the plane arrived and despite the 2 hours delay, the flight is taking off without further delays would have been good enough but if the airline staff had mentioned the reason for the delay, at least for courtesy sake, it would have been, err nice.
It was already bad that the flight was delayed by an hour and it got worse with the further delays before we can finally depart. At least knowing the reason for the delay would have been some relieve to the immerse frustration and anger on the delay. I mean it would have been happier to say that “my flight was delayed because of thunderstorm” than “my flight was delayed but I don’t know why”.
A couple years ago, as I was sitting in an Emirates flight out from Dubai, there was a delay in departure. We have already boarded the plane but the plane was not moving even after all the passengers had checked in and the flight safety drill has ended. The captain came over on the intercom and apologized for the delay. He said that the ground crew had detected something and making another round of check just to make sure that the plane remains safe. We appreciated the announcement but at the same time, we did not welcome the news that there was something not right with the plane.
But then, I guessed the captain detected the same anxiety and came over the intercom again. This time, he said that there no problem but to ensure of the safety of the crew and the passengers, the airline staff just wanted to make double sure that all systems was working well. This time we breathed slightly better. In the end, we reached our destination several minutes early and without any problems.
Flight delays are understandable but the silence as to why there was a flight delay is not.
(Chances of survival in case of a crash. Pick your seats wisely – it may even keep you alive in the unlikely situation. Note the irony of things – you pay more for Business Class but your chances of survival is even slimmer. Image source: Popular Mechanics)
A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.
That’s the conclusion of an exclusive Popular Mechanics study that examined every commercial jet crash in the United States, since 1971, that had both fatalities and survivors.
The raw data from these 20 accidents has been languishing for decades in National Transportation Safety Board files, waiting to be analyzed by anyone curious enough to look and willing to do the statistical drudgework.
In the past, I did not really care much on where I am seating as long as I am in the right plane and heading to the right destination. Some of my friends like to seat in front for a couple of reasons – it is nearer to the lavatory (especially for those who have small storage “tank”), it is easier to disembark (since most of the time, you will disembark from the front) and there is a higher chance of getting the available meal (if they are serving fish and chicken – one of this would run out by the time the meal trolley reaches the back).
But over the years, I find that it is more comfortable seating at the back – there are more empty seats at the back. So, I can put my spare items on the empty seats. Further, with empty seats at the back, I don’t have to worry about reclining my seat and inconvenience the passenger at the back when they are having their meals (something that some passengers at the front don’t think when reclining their seats). Ya, by seating at the back, it takes a longer time for me to disembark but it does not make any big difference.
Disembarkation is pretty fast in modern planes – sometimes they even open the door at the back to ensure passengers get off even faster. The real delay is often encountered at the immigration counters and luggage retrieval areas.
And with most of the crying babies and “hard to handle” kids sitting at the front, it is somehow “quieter” at the back – an added advantage in a 7 – 8 hours flight.
And when it comes to getting your food of choice, it is not really a big problem. These days, I simply log in to the airline website, pick my seat of my choice and can decide to have something different for my airline meals (such as meals cooked for Hindus or vegetarians). This way, you are pretty sure that there is one meal reserved for you no matter where you are sitting. I had special meals for Hindus in my recent flight and I was surprised on how good the meal looked and tasted compared to the usual airline meal which is usually predictable and bland (so much so my neighboring passenger wanted the same meal as mine).
And now with the statistics backing me up, the back seats looks so tempting and safe…
(Been lagging lately due to work and other assignments and holidays)
(The Chennai International Airport’s departure area – brightly lighted and well furnished but the crowd can still give you an headache. Sorry, no photos of the secured areas – the officers looked too menacing and strict)
I kind of have forgotten to do the conclusion for this post, so here is it…
The trip to Chennai came to a quick end for my wife – she did not have enough of the shopping but as far as I was concerned, I was looking for a safe return back to Malaysia. I already was missing the good, clean food and the weather back home.
The hired 4 wheel drive that suppose to pick us early was no where to be seen and I was getting worried. It was almost an hour drive from the apartment to the airport and I had no idea how was the traffic from the apartment to the airport at that point of time. The last thing I need is for us to miss the flight because we got stuck in a traffic jam. Our Indian relative noticed my facial expression as I kept looking out the window for the ride. The uncle (the head of the family) started to make some phone calls and it was not long before, I saw a white 4WD snaking along the narrow lane in front of the apartment.
Getting our luggage down from the apartment was made extra difficult – compounded by the fact we had extra “kilograms” added after several days of shopping (which is why we had extra but empty luggage brought from home). With the minutes ticking away and in the mid of the Chennai heat, we had to bring down the overweight luggage rather quickly – I think we damaged some part of the luggage. We managed to load the luggage into the car and we were off to the airport without further delays.
Chennai airport was still undergoing renovations so the departure area was still a nightmare. We had to park far away from the actual departure entrance and there was no luggage trolley at sight. Thankfully our relatives walked around and managed to find some empty trolleys. Customer service sucked big time – no porters helping out and the crowd outside looks so disorganized. We bid “goodbye” and “thank you” to our host in Chennai who been very generous and helpful during our stay in Chennai and headed towards the check-in gates. I could see a long queue at the very entrance of the terminal – things were not looking too good.
Out of the many security scanners around, only one was working so imagine the chaos. The many lines converged into one and some of the passengers were rather ruthless – despite seeing small children at the queue, they just push ahead, pushing the small children aside and jumping queue. The security guys near the scanners did not do much to ease down the mess. Anyway, we managed to cross over the line without any “bad incidents” and headed towards the MAS check in counters. Once again, we confronted another chaos here – the local MAS staff did not really cared about the queue, leaving us to fight over to get the right line – kind of reminded me of this.
The staffs at the counter looked inexperienced and were facing problems with passengers insisting to check in their overweight luggage without the need to pay for it. The staff also looked lost when had to print out the boarding passes for the passengers who are on transit. Pity the young lady at the front of us who had to transit in KLIA and had to take another flight to Australia. That delay caused us to loose some good seats – we did not get seats in the same row but we managed get at least one seat by the window. We sorted out the seats so that we arranged the window side seat for the “Big Boss”. That made the day for my son even though it was a night flight and he cannot see much once we are up in the air.
With the boarding passes at hand, we headed towards the immigrant checkpoint. From afar, we were given immigrant exit form and advised to fill up in full (the word “full was strongly stressed). So, we did as was advised, but not some of the locals who thought their names will get them through the immigrant with breeze. They had half filled forms and tried to talk their way through.
The senior looking uncle at the gate before immigration counters looked fragile and weak but he amazed us when he stopped some people at their tracks and asked them to fill up the form first. He did not even moved a bit when the stubborn locals raised their voice and tried to use their “connection” powers. They were told to buzz off and come back with fully filled form. We later found out that the old, fragile looking man is the head of the immigration at the airport – no wonder he can stand up to the nonsense put up by the locals. The immigration officers were professional and courteous – they even chit chat with my son as he stood in line to get his passport stamped.
(The “Big Boss” managed to get his seat of choice on the return flight and soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system)
Another round of security – mostly handled by officers from northern side of India and they were very strict about this. Despite the long queue and security check that seems to be taking forever, we appreciated the strict and detailed checking. After the horrors in Mumbai, the last thing we need is some bomb blast by a crazy terrorist in Chennai airport.
The waiting area was jam packed but we managed to get a nice cozy spot. We decided against any purchase of souvenirs at the airport because 1. The price was a nonsense (it was also 10 times more than the normal price) and 2. The “duty free” shop was manned by someone who looked like some drug peddler at some back lane (read dirty clothes and harsh language).
Boarding announcement was rather rudimentary and before we know it, a long line started to form. Good thing was we already anticipated this and stood somewhere at the front of the queue. We had to pass another security checkpoint before we reached our seats – I felt proud to be a Malaysian as the Indian passengers were fast appreciating the clean interior of the MAS cabin and high quality service from the award winning cabin crew. There was some delay before the plane can take off – as usual, some idiots went missing and the rest of us had to wait for them. Then after almost 10 minutes, we were ready to take off.
The big boss soon got busy with the in-flight entertainment system and he rarely slept during the journey back. The flight back home was not that long and the MAS cabin crew service was top notch as usual – pity them having to deal with those Indian passengers who probably taking the plane for the first time. Some of the idiots were so busy drinking away beer and wine throughout the flight and just before we landed, we hit turbulence and these idiots immediately puked on their seats (did they know how to use the disposal vomit bag?). I saw a couple of them, drenched with nasty vomit all over their pants and shoes and thankfully none of them was too near to us – otherwise they would have gotten nasty blow to their head as well. Hmmm, perhaps I should add this to my list here.
That rather messy incident was the conclusion of my very first trip to Chennai (and India) and I must say that it was eye-opening trip. My wife got her shopping done and we all had a great time in time, largely thanks to our Chennai host. And since I have been to Chennai once, I know which pitfalls that I need to avoid the next time around.
(Reserved but for who? Image source: Raw Pixel on Pexel.com)
Uthaya of the famed THR Raaga told this story in this morning radio show:-
He and his wife were invited to a function.
He was required to confirm his attendance and was required his card to the function for the organisers to get his seats. Seats were limited. He did what was required accordingly but when he and his wife arrived and about take their seats, they noticed a large family have taken their seats.
Despite showing the card, the family refused to budge and asked Uthaya to go somewhere else. Uthaya found out that family did not reserve the seats for the children and decided to them along at the last minute. It was sometime before Uthaya and his wife finally got their seats but the mood for the evening was spoilt.
Uthaya asked if anyone else had the same problem. I encountered similar problems in these 2 situations:-
We would normally arrive early (no Malaysian time for us) and get the best seats around and usually reserve for our closest relatives. Anyone who is not familiar to us, we usually would ask them to buzz off. But here is the problem – the people who we reserve the seats for, would usually come in late. In between, we get uncles and aunties who we cannot simply shoo away (they are relatives, not strangers), seating on our reserved seats – at first to chat but later permanently make that seats theirs and they will then refuse to move away. To make things worse; they will call others to squeeze in on the available spaces.
The thick skinned ones would even have the nerves to ask us to seat somewhere else just because they want to have conversation with others (usually other late comers) and the others do not have seats at the front (damn, who asked them to come late?). We usually refuse to move but when it comes to the time to take our food, we usually lose the stronghold on the seats.
I lost count of the times I returned with a plateful of food and my seat is taken up by some old relatives and I end up eating whilst standing. As if there is a lack of humour, very often, I will be asked by the very person who is seating on my seat why I am standing and not sitting down to take my dinner. Thankfully, I would have my mouth full of food to say that someone “stole” my seat.
2. Plane Seats
You know the routine right? You check-in your heavy luggages, get your seat number on the boarding pass (if you are lucky, you can even choose your preferred seats), you get ready for boarding and once you have boarded, you quickly make your way to your seat and sit in for timely departure.
But then again, nothing is too perfect. On my very first flight to Dubai, I boarded the plane and found a big sized Arab seating on my seat along with his friend (who was seating on my friend’s seat). We gave the buggers an angry look and showed our boarding pass but the Arabs after looking at us, gave that “go seat somewhere else” look. I told my friend (in a loud voice) – “it looks like we have idiots sitting on our seats” and that gave a wake up call to the Arabs and they finally moved when the stewardess overhead us, came to investigate and asked them to return to their original seats.
My friends who fly often have encountered the same problem (not all the time but it does happens). One bugger decided that his family need to seat together in a very packed flight so he took over other people seats. There was a big commotion where tired passengers embarked and found themselves without empty seats as stated on their boarding pass.
My friend, Anil had the same problem on his flight back from Iran and the bugger who was sitting with his family refused to move. The stewardess (somehow powerless to argue with this idiot) asked my friend to seat somewhere else but after several times moving, he had enough and complaint about losing his original seat. The stewardess in the end decided to move in him to Business Class for free.
People taking up your seats are akin to queue jumpers who take up your spot in the queue. They may be our close relatives or they may be highly educated person and most of the times, they are nice people but the problem is when they take up our seats, they end up looking selfish, inconsiderate and self-centred.
Kenapa tak ada ground staff KLIA yang jaga untuk memberi arahan! Bodoh babi betul. Buat malu negara. Ada airport cantik tetapi planning macam kat kampung zaman P.Ramlee. Satu hari kamu semua datang ke Changi, saya tunjukkan di setiap cerok di mana penumpang mungkin confuse, ada budak perempuan atau jantan muda berdiri untuk memberi arahan.
(Roughly translated: Why there is no ground crew at KLIA to guide the newly arrived passengers? It is a shame. We have a beautiful airport but the planning sucks big time! Come to Changi (airport) one day and I will show you where at every place where passengers may get confuse, there is always someone to give the right direction)
If you read the whole story by brother Reme, you will understand also why he is pissed off with MAS. Sometimes I wonder whether we have installed the culture of customer care into our daily business dealings. Hopefully MAS will take note of the complaint and will make the necessary changes so that quality of customer service improves. After all, MAS is also our national identity who is also an award winning airline and we are proud of it.
But what catches me is his complaint on KLIA for which an anonymous commenter replies:-
Errr…bukan ke bila kita keluar dari plane ada sign board tunjuk mana immigration / baggage collection. Seingat saya ada gambar train kan on the signboard. So I think it’s pretty straightforward in klia. and why do we need ground staff standing at corners?
Its enough to have a few information counters spread across the airport for those people who can’t read signboards and who don’t bother to do some research on their place of destination. My take is that if you are too stupid to read signboards, you should not be allowed to fly and use airports, let alone go for international travel.
Yes Changi is efficient but based on my traveling experience (and I have traveled quite a bit), KLIA is much better than many airports in capital cities.
I have been traveling quite often over the last 6 – 7 years and let me tell you that KLIA at times can get very confusing for first time travellers (but KLIA is not the only airport that has the problem – even the famous Dubai airport fared even worse). It’s true that by 11 at night, KLIA becomes almost like a ghost town – very few airport staff are seen around and even if you see one, it is most of the time are the foreign cleaners. I usually take the 2 am flight to Dubai, so, you can imagine how KLIA would look like at that hour.
But the thing is it is not that difficult to make your way to the right path leading to the immigration and the luggage claim areas (not only in KLIA). All you need to do is:-
1. Do your homework before you travel.
For those who are planning to travel and may be to arrive in an airport that you are not familiar with, the least you could do is to do some research on it before you arrive.
KLIA is not situated in some 3rd world country and certainly it is not an obscure airport. It has a well defined webpage dedicating to the information and layout of the airport (it even have an interactive map – here). Get to know where the immigration counters, the luggage claim areas are and where to get the taxis and so on UPFRONT before you land. This is because once you have arrived, you are going to be tired, hungry and sleepy and the last thing you need is to be standing like a fool, not knowing where to go and what to do (like the Indian family in bro Reme’s story).
When Bangkok opened its new international airport (the beautiful Suvarnabhumi Airport) and we had to travel to Bangkok, one of the first we did was to do research on the net. Thankfully the airport had a good dedicated webpage and it was good to see where to move around. So, when we arrived, despite the chaos (of a newly opened airport), we simply breezed through and was in our hotel rooms without much delays.
2. Read the signs
KLIA to be fair – is well equipped with proper signs and notices. Unless you do not understand English (which is a big mistake when travelling to this part of the world and I have met people who speak NIL English, flying half way around the world), the signs is more than enough to guide you through. You may get lost momentarily but you will get in just all right.
In most of the airports I have been to, signboards in English are pretty standard and sometimes these signboards comes with pictures or logos to further assist. Even in war torn Kabul, the run down, chaotically managed, high security, suicide bomber’s favourite airport have signboards in English.
3. Ask around
When everything fails – ask someone. It can be your fellow passengers (who may have done their homework or who may have used the airport before), ground crew or the shop assistants at the duty free shops (I have seen even the foreign cleaners showing lost passengers the right way to go). In my recent flight, I noticed more airport staffs were stationed at “strategic” places but it means nothing if the lost passengers don’t open their mouth and ask.
3 simple rules and you will hardly have any problem navigating your way in any airport anywhere in the world. KLIA for an example is an award winning airport and had many good reviews from its customers and although it may not be the best airports around (as claimed by some), it can stand on its own when it comes to comfort and quality (the usually complaints is on the lack of shops). What is needed is some action from the passengers to make their trip less hassle and it is not a difficult thing to do.
Despite the age of the Iran Air’s Jumbo, the landing in Tehran’s newest international airport was surprisingly very smooth but even so, almost everyone clapped when the plane safely landed and that got us worried (clapping means the landing is not smooth most of the time?).
2 days before the departure has been a kind of marathon run on shopping – there were plenty of new clothes and items needed to be bought and that includes the usual packets of 3-in-1 oats and Maggi Mee (the usual suspects for Malaysians traveling abroad). As we are expected to experience winter this time around, there was shopping for winter clothes as well.
(One of the smaller sized jumbo – Boeing 747 SP – it is really, really old)
The flight that we were taking was a direct flight from KLIA to Tehran with a very aging Boeing 747. The flight was not full and we got our seats just nice and right although we did experience delayed departure due to delayed passengers. We left almost 50 minutes late from our scheduled departure.
We already been warned of boredom when using Iran Air – there was no in-flight entertainment and even though there were movies on the large ‘TV’, it was in Persian (we managed to follow the story by using the English sub titles at the bottom).
Iran has been hit with the US led trade embargo and this really shows when one is taking Iran Air – the public announcement system was not working (we hear whispers most of the time), there were traces of aged plane parts (we swear we saw some parts ‘rusting’ away at 12,000 feet), the upper luggage compartment was shaking rather violently during the take off and the seats were old and uncomfortable.
At one point, we even had our doubts on whether we will reach Tehran in one piece. But the pilots were good – they got us through without much incident.
(The chaos before departure – take a look at the seat covers and mind you that it suppose to be clean ones!)
The in-flight service was not that bad – the stewardesses were kind but they don’t seem to be quick in addressing the service call lights. There was one lighted up for several hours and no one seemed to be bothered. Even request for water took some time to be addressed. Despite the rather slow service, in-flight food was better than the rest although there was plenty of room for improvement.
It was about 8 hours of flight – so we slept most of the time. Whenever I had the time, I tried to watch the Iranian movies on the large screen (which surprisingly was quite easy to follow) or snap photos of the passengers or outside the plane.
Landing was smooth and immigration checking was swift and fast although there was some confusion in addressing the ‘surname’ and ‘family name’ part. We got our luggage quite fast and were grateful that it was not damaged. As we pass through the custom checkpoint, there was some commotion and all we saw was an elderly lady being taken away by custom officials.
Other passengers ignored this commotion and continued with their journey. We did the same. We continued to walk and got out from the airport where we changed our money to the local currency rial and instantly became millionaires (1 USD = 9,900 Rial). We now needed a transport out from the airport situated about 50 km from the city.
Taking taxi was a bit tricky. There were 3 of us and 4 large luggage bags (excluding laptop bags, gift bags, etc). Taxis at the airport are unlike the taxis at KLIA – they are about the same size – small. We talked to one taxi driver but after looking at our luggage, he said that we need to take 2 taxis.
We were about to leave and talk to the next taxi driver when he called back and said it can be done – all the 3 of us and 4 luggage in 1 taxi but he said that he needs additional payment. It was not much by our standards, so we quickly agreed. Last thing we wanted is for us to be split out in some foreign country with unfamiliar language. Somehow the driver managed to squeeze all 3 luggages into the small boot and placed one on the passenger seat.
It was a ride of our life! Reaching almost 140 km/h on the patchy, badly built highway with heavy traffic on the left, right and at the front, the taxi driver did not show any signs of slowing down…
Photos – the ageing 747 SP parked at KLIA and the commotion as passengers getting to their seats