Category: Malindo Air

Malindo Air: Kuala Lumpur – Bali – Brisbane in Business Class

KUL – DPS – BNE 

 15/12/19

After my stay at the Petaling Jaya Hilton (review upcoming), I continued on with my RGN-KUL-DPS-BNE biz ticket on Malindo.

 

I took a Grab car for 55 or 60 ringgit (circa US$15) from the PJ Hilton to KUL.  The lady who drove me was a wonderful conversationalist, and we covered Malay cuisine and spices in addition to relationships in the course of our drive.

 

Upon arriving at the terminal, I went over to Malindo’s check-in desks. The business desks were empty, and the agent soon handed me a boarding card and a voucher for lounge access or credit at a selection of eateries in the terminal.

 

I breezed through security this afternoon, changed some leftover ringgit, had some pre-departure sushi, and proceeded to the Sama Sama lounge, one of the options on my Malindo voucher. If you decided to cash in your voucher for credit at Burger King, you would have faced an enormous queue. I couldn’t believe it, and counted almost 50 people waiting.  I don’t think an airport Burger King meal merits that sort of a wait, but a collective “you do you, bro” is perhaps the best approach. 

Shot of a BA aircraft at the sushi restaurant

Sama Sama is actually a transit hotel located airside with KUL.  Their lobby also contains a lounge, which they offer as an ancillary revenue stream.  While small, anyone who is hungry can opt to partake of the sizable buffet.  My highest praise goes to the superabundance of charging outlets suitable for direct USB connections and international plugs. If your devices are starved on power, this is probably the best option in the airport.

Onboard

Conveniently, a gate change meant that my flight would be departing from a gate much closer to the lounge than originally planned – based on what was printed on my boarding pass.  I went for a stroll and arrived at the gate. After going through security (security is done at the gate), I found a seat in the gate area and awaited boarding.  Our gate was adjacent to a Hajj flight, and we were treated to the sight of the pilgrims queuing for their flight. They were all garbed in white.

The boarding area was rather crowded, though they did board business class first. I stowed my backpack and relaxed. The crew offered us juice or water, and I took water per custom. We departed on time and made for Bali.

A meal service was offered, and while I forget which dishes were offered, I opted for a biriyani – by now solidified as the safe choice on Malindo.  It was fine, but I didn’t polish off everything in front of me (salad, cake, bread, fruit) due to the sheer quantity and my desire not to gorge before sleeping.

Malindo J seating

Upon arrival in DPS, a change in procedure meant that all passengers had to disembark, including those in direct transit to Australia.  This process wasted about half an hour of going through a document check in Denpasar, security, and waiting to re-board.

Upon boarding, I once again found my seat on a considerably more crowded aircraft. Clearly, DPS-BNE delivers the load factor.  For the long haul though, what sort of yields do they get for this route? That’s the question. Given my prior experience with their head office, they might not even know themselves!

I can’t give much of an update on this flight, as I promptly went to sleep ASAP.  I was hiring a car immediately upon arrival, so I wanted to be alert for the drive from Brisbane to my friend’s home in Redlands Bay.To my surprise, we received an amenity kit, pictured below. It won’t exactly steal the thunder from more upmarket offerings on other airlines. 

Amenity Kit

They did offer a breakfast service, though I opted to just have some yogurt, fruit, and tea. Everything on that front was quite good. Tea is a safe choice in the air, and fresh fruit catered from Denpasar will range from “decent” to “excellent,” as one would expect. 

Arrival & Summary

 

Arrival into Australia for e-passport holders from smartgate eligible countries is one of the fastest, most painless entries into a country I have experienced. In the bad old days, long queues could leave you wishing for or thankful for a premium cabin express pass.  In a few minutes, I had my bags and was on my way into a sunburnt land.

 

Summary: A solid trip, through and through. The price was unbeatable, and I enjoyed a fabricated excuse to stop and see how KL had developed since my last visit. I should reiterate from my previous reviews that I do find the J recliner comfortable for what it is. Your mileage may vary, however. 

Malindo Air Economy & Business Class Review: HKT-KUL-DPS

Itinerary: HKT-KUL-DPS (Phuket to Bali via Kuala Lumpur)

Cost: US$306

My friend: “Who are you flying on?”

Moi: “Malindo Air – a.k.a. Lion Air”

“*Googles safety record.* Oh my God, you’re braver than I.”

“It was nice knowing you. :D”

“WHAT MADE YOU PICK THEM?”

“This route is surprisingly lacking in good [and reasonably priced] connections. Malaysia Airlines was substantially more.”

“Does Air Asia not fly this route?”

“It wasn’t coming through in my searches.”

As you can see, I survived. 

Corporate Kakistocracy

 

Prior to departure, I attempted to clarify my baggage allowance.  The short (1.5hr) leg from Phuket to KL was ticketed in Economy (Y), while KL to Bali was in Business class (J). Y gets 25kg (55lbs), and J pax receive an allowance of 40kg (88lbs). A phone call months ago didn’t quite resolve my question.

Late last week, I rang up Malindo.  A fairly competent chap related that the Economy allowance would apply. It seems Malindo uses a “most restrictive” protocol on such tickets.  For a counter-example, BA gives you the most generous allowance. Anyway, I ask about the upgrade cost to business class.  On leisure routes in low season, these upgrades can be a steal. The agent comes back with a quote of 78 Malaysian Ringgit, or US$19.50.  That would be half the cost of buying the extra 5 kg of baggage that I wanted. 

Sadly, the ticketing desk was closed.  Yes, a business with its customer service line open till 10pm is apparently unable to take money after 4:30 pm or so. Call back tomorrow, he bade me. I asked if the same price would apply, which he confirmed. Awesome, or so I foolishly thought.

Another call, more money drained from my skype account. The new agent at Malindo informs that I’d have to go through my travel agent, Orbitz in this case.  Why do I always run into this sort of good luck when I book via a third party?!

Immediately after hanging up, I ring Orbitz. Before I can even tender my question, the agent follows protocol to inform me of the change rules and fees. Unfortunately, the fare rules on file with Orbitz are grossly incomplete (I noticed this when reading the document weeks before trying to find out, myself).  The Orbitz agent needed to call Malindo three times, which stretched the call to the near 1 hour mark. Apparently, there is a change fee of 1000 Thai baht on the ticket (approx. $29.80). Ok. And the upgrade cost?

Malindo has no idea, and they need to fax their revenue management team. I should expect an email within 24 hours.

At this point, I said “Sure, go ahead.”  I knew that I’d have a better chance of receiving a leprechaun riding a unicorn at my front door.  Neither the email nor the unicorn-mounted Sir Leprechaun appeared.

I then tried to buy the extra 5kg, when HSBC blocked the transaction.  Thanks, HSBC.  You annoyed me, but you did me a favor.

I packed two carry-ons and checked one bag @ 20kg.  My carry-ons probably weighed another 15kg together.

With great effort, I tried to give extra money to an airline that stubbornly refused to take it.

HKT-KUL

After such a great start, I proceeded to the airport.  Check-in wasn’t too crowded – 8 people/couples ahead of me. Unfortunately, even “easy” solo travellers seemed to require 5-10 minutes to check-in despite any semblance of complicating factors (tons of extra baggage, “oops where’s my passport?” etc). I feel sorry for the bus load of people who arrived 10 minutes later queued behind me.  Spending 90 minutes watching 3 people scratch their heads to check in a single university student or older couple must have been fun. 

Coral Executive Lounge at Phuket Airport fourth floor
Coral Executive Lounge, HKT

After check-in, I breezed through security and ended up using my Priority Pass card to get into the Coral Executive Lounge on the 4th floor.  A manned bar served draft Singha (my preferred Thai beer), and a small but decent buffet spread featured a pasta dish, Tom Kha soup, ginger fish, and rice in addition to fruit, cakes, pastries, and a salad bar. Soft drinks, coffee, and tea were self-serve. It was a perfect spot to kill an hour and have lunch.

At last, it was time to board.  I realized during check-in that the flight wouldn’t have the light load I initially thought it would. Boarding took place as a semi-organized scrum. In such scenarios, the losers are business passengers and those with young kids/need extra time.  

Malindo Air Boeing 737-800 parked at Phuket airport

I found my seat (6D) and stowed my bags.  In short order, my neighbor, a young American woman from the Bay Area, strikes up a conversation with me. She was on a Thai/Bali holiday now that she had some vacation time. She’s an English teacher in Beijing.  I’ve come to appreciate meeting China-based expats, as I am heading to Kunming for four months in late August.

A beverage and hot snack service was offered on this 90-minute flight to KL. As a non-cheese eater, the choice of a chicken or veggie pizza wasn’t appealing.  Then again, I wasn’t planning on eating anyway after having lunch on the Coral Lounge.

The in-flight entertainment onboard was surprisingly well-executed with high-resolution screens and a cosmopolitan, multilingual selection of content.  Somewhat fitting on an ex-Thailand flight, I watched Anna & the King.

KUL-DPS

 

After a harder-than-average touchdown, we were soon at the gate in KL.  I proceeded to the H-gates for my departure.  While Malindo does have a business lounge, both the Malindo lounge AND the priority pass lounges for KL are located in a satellite terminal.  As I didn’t have a particularly long layover, I continued working my way through A Short History of Byzantium.

Boarding was more organized. Biz and families first, then by rows. Most passengers on my flight were actually bound for Brisbane, by coincidence (I used to live there as a Master’s student at UQ).  Bali was a stop on the way.

The business seat (1A) onboard was fairly low-tech, but it was in rather good condition and was particularly comfortable. For the right price, it would be an extremely attractive option ex-Australia to Bali or elsewhere in SE Asia (both Brisbane and MEL flights are to & from KL via Bali). I realized by the end of the flight that I didn’t even feel the need to recline it, which is extremely rare for me.

Onboard service was quite friendly and responsive.  After take-off, orders were taken for a main course (lamb biriyani or channa dhal).  I opted for a biriyani with water and a Tiger beer. The biriyani was delicious, and the attendant kept my beer thimble (3oz pours) topped off. I might have had an entire can before the end of the 3-hour flight!

My seat-mate was going through wine like a fiend, and prior to disembarkation, I heard the tipsy, rambling tale of her woes arising from a passport with less than 6 months validity and needing to borrow two kilo-dollars (Australian) from her mother to get home, which she found degrading at 50 years old.  Her key mistake: booking two separate tickets from Vietnam to Australia (Hanoi-Singapore, Singapore-Brisbane), on a passport that would be expired in 5.5 months.

For this leg, I opted to watch Interstellar.  The world-building was quite thought provoking amidst the waste I see around me (and am forced to partake in due to a lack of development – e.g. dependence on bottled water for drinking). I could see myself as the grandfather who remembers the profligacy of the past (which is to say, the present).

IFE in J on the Bali leg

I was curious to see how Denpasar airport (and Bali generally) had changed in the 5 years since I have been there. It seems to have improved, as immigration queues were non-existent.  I was also delighted that Indonesia now offers a free, non-renewable/extendable 30-day visa on arrival. Before, it was US$25. A renewable/extendable 30-day visa now costs $35.  As I didn’t plan for more than a month, I went the free route.

Despite an arrival at 9:20pm, I didn’t see my bag until 10:50pm, as mine was the absolute last off the plane. I had walked to the lost luggage desk, as the belt came through with a “finished” sign (and all other passengers were gone).

Summary

 

Malindo’s head office is corporate kakistocracy incarnate. While you will get earnest agents trying to help, their systems and processes are convoluted to an extent such that “Malindoan” should replace “Byzantine” in the dictionary. As least Byzantine complexity could do such wonders as bribing one steppe horde to annihilate another. Malindo cannot even feed revenue into its own coffers.

 

That said, the onboard service was faultless.  I’d be inclined to fly them again, and I have a feeling that they could be a very cost-effective option ex-Australia if you want to buy a business ticket (and don’t mind a narrow-body aircraft).