I had wanted to visit the ancient Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. As my planned travel dates neared, Malaysia Airlines popped an irresistible deal with ticket prices that rivaled budget airlines'. I really couldn't say no to inflight entertainment, a generous 30kg baggage allowance, meals and drinks, and other creature comforts that a full-service airline provides - even if it meant a short transit in Kuala Lumpur in both directions of travel. So I made a date with the national airline of Malaysia for my travel adventure.
After some days of exploring Angkor temples, a floating village, dining on Khmer curries and downing cheap cocktails, it was soon time to trudge back to home sweet home. Malaysia Airlines allows web check-in from 48 hours before departure, so I was able to check-in conveniently at Malaysia Airlines website. It was effortless as the system had stored all the required data from my previous flight. All I had to do was to retrieve my booking and to select my preferred seat.
Please note that once online check-in is confirmed, the system does not allow you to access the online check-in again (hence you will not be able to change your seat, should you change your mind).
Unfortunately, as seamless as the online check-in was, the airport check-in was excruciating! Here's the painful low-down:
There were several check-in desks, with screens indicating 1 counter being dedicated for Business Class, 2 for Economy Class, and 1 for web check-in. However, ground agents themselves disregard the check-in categories and directed all passengers to all 4 counters, resulting in snaking queues for all the check-in counters. I can't complain as I am travelling in Economy Class but I surely wouldn't be pleased as a Business Class passenger to find a long snaking line at what is supposedly a dedicated-Business Class check-in counter.
Incompetent check-in staff
I have to highlight how grotesquely incompetent the check-in agent was at the queue I was in. My whole check-in process took over an hour despite being just third in line for check-in. The check-in agent faced problems in checking-in his first passenger, and spent the next 40 minutes trying to figure out how to check her in, and in the process causing the long queue of passengers to wait (with at least 30 people in the queue). Tempers flared and complaints soon erupted. A lady behind me couldn't control herself and screamed at him. I can't blame her. I usually try to be patient with customer service personnel but it was ridiculous how the check-in agent could disregard and penalize every other passenger in the queue in trying to resolve the lady's ticketing issue. He should have, instead, referred the passenger to his manager or another available check-in agent, to remove the bottleneck and continue to process the other passengers waiting in line. It was definitely not at all funny standing in line waiting (and watching the dazed-looking check-in agent staring blankly at his screen, figuring out his next move), whilst the other check-in queues were being processed rapidly. This definitely left a bitter taste of both Malaysia Airlines and Siem Reap International Airport.
Indifferent ground agents
As much as I hate the check-in agent for wasting the time of all the unlucky sods waiting in his queue, the other ground agents handling Malaysia Airlines were totally indifferent to the passengers' complaints. "The passenger is having problem with ticket", one agent shrugged it off with an unsympathetic reply. Even though, the manager was spotted lingering around the counters, he acted oblivious to the hour-long suffering that a quarter of the passengers endured waiting in line as a result of the bottle neck.
This traumatizing check-in experience certainly puts me off travelling through Siem Reap International Airport again! It was such an awful start to my flight and is really something I don't want to ever experience again!
After the nightmarish check-in, things got on a better note thereafter. Boarding was orderly and pleasant, and via stairs, which offers a nice view of the aircraft as you walk on the tarmac to the awaiting aircraft. A number of passengers took photos of their plane, looking forward to their flight, and putting behind the bad check-in memories. Each cabin crew warmly greeted the passengers as we entered the aircraft. A lone copy of a Malay newspaper was spotted at the entrance. I skipped it.
The aircraft is a Boeing 737-800 which features a Boeing Sky Interior cabin. This aircraft was delivered to Malaysia Airlines on 12 Nov 2013, making it 3 years old at the time of the flight.
As with per standard Boeing 737 layout, a 3-3 seating is configured. LED mood lightings create a relaxed environment, with different colours during the different stages of the flight. Soothing instrumental music was played during boarding and the descent. I visited the rather claustrophobic lavatory at the rear, which only offered basic amenities (i.e. Malaysia Airlines-branded liquid soap). Do watch out for the lavatory doors which open outwards when you are waiting in line for the lavatory.
The leather seat offers a 30-inch seat pitch, and features personal touchscreen entertainment, a 110V AC power port under the seat, and a USB port. It is, for sure, a comfortable product for the regional and domestic flights this aircraft operates on. Headphones were placed on each seat, so passengers could start on their entertainment immediately from boarding. Given the full passenger load, I was thankful the middle seat next to me remained empty after boarding was finally completed.
Malaysia Airlines entertainment system is "Select", and offers a decent variety of programmes, including recent Hollywood movies such as "Independence Day: Resurgence", "The Conjuring 2", and "Mike and Dave Needs Wedding Dates". The system is simple to navigate and is generally responsive. As the national carrier of an majority-Muslim nation, An interactive Quran is also available. I watched "How To Be Single", which featured (only) Arabic subtitles. During descent, an introductory guide to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and a Tourism Malaysia advertisement were screened.
There were a choice of two hot meals - both being Malaysian cuisine. One was fried rice with fish, and the other was chicken murtabak. Both options were served piping hot, which was nice. The meals were packed in meal boxes, which also included mineral water and salted peanuts. On Malaysia Airlines flights, all meals are halal.
The fried rice was quite spicy, and came with generous chunks of sweet and sour fried fish. I liked that the fried rice was made more flavourful and appealing with chopped scallions and diced egg. The bite-sized sweet and sour fish complimented well the rice.
The chicken murtabak (a pan-fried bread with a savoury filling), though looking crisp on the outside, revealed a rather pasty brown filling under the thin layer of crust, with no hint of chicken meat. The potato curry was sweet and I appreciated the little lumps of real potatoes, which breaks the rather artificial space-food-like appearance of the murtabak, which was visually more befitting of NASA space expeditions than international flights. Douching the murtabak in the potato curry did make it palatable though.
Drinks were served when the meal boxes were collected back, with the option of hot coffee and tea, soft drinks, and juices.
Overall, Malaysia Airlines Economy Class catering pales in comparison to its regional rivals. For a similar flight time, its closest rivals Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Thai Airways would offer hot meals on trays, with dessert/fruit and/or appetizer included. Further, alcoholic beverages are available on these airlines for flights of a similar duration. Malaysia Airlines only offers alcoholic beverages for flights above 3 hours. Though I'd give points to Malaysia Airlines for offering hot meal choices despite using disposable cardboard meal boxes, definitely, more can be done to improve the dining experience.
There were two flight attendants working in Economy Class, and they worked very hard with the full passenger load. They offered good eye contact, greeted and assisted passengers with locating their seats during boarding. Special meals were thoroughly checked with passengers (and there were a good number of pre-ordered special meals!) and served quickly. Normal meals were then served, from both ends of the Economy Class cabin. After this was completed, The cabin crew returned to their original starting points to collect the empty meal boxes and offer drinks concurrently. Enroute to the galley, the empty drink cups were collected. One flight attendant then walked through the cabin with a trash bag to collect loose trash. With just two flight attendants to manage the entire meal service in Economy Class and ensure the comfort of the passengers on this full and short flight, it is nice to see how they maintained their smiles and enthusiasm throughout the flight.
In all, the flight with Malaysia Airlines had been very pleasant. The aircraft was comfortable, with good entertainment options to keep passengers occupied, and the mood lighting is well-appreciated. The flight attendants were warm and professional. Dining onboard Malaysia Airlines Economy Class is a simple affair - don't get your hopes too high on sky-high culinary treats. However, what marred the entire experience was the first customer touchpoint during the check-in. Usually, check-in experiences are easily forgettable, I doubt I will ever forget this one, and not in a good way.
Thank you for reading this Malaysia Airlines flight report.
For a full video review of my MH765 flight experience, please see below: