James Cridland

Trip report: BNE-KUL via SIN

I have recently discovered the pre-booking facility in Uber, so walking outside, I saw my driver waiting to take me to the airport. I’m just taking carry-on as well, because I’m only away for two nights, so no fiddling with bags or anything. So far, so smooth.

That smoothness evaporates when I get to Brisbane airport. For some reason, my boarding pass for my SIN-KUL leg quietly refuses to print. “Printing 1/2”, it says, but never reaches the all-important 2/2. I join the Queue of Shame, where I’m given the missing boarding pass.

To the security area, where one security lady is determined to shout at everyone. I do not understand the need to shout at everyone. It does nothing in a slow shuffling line other than to raise stress levels and make it all very unpleasant.

Through security, and my passport again fails the SmartGate, which is not very smart. It never works when leaving Brisbane. It works when coming into Brisbane, and in every other airport, but when leaving Brisbane it’s a shuffle to the back of the Queue of Shame here, too. Others on Facebook tell me it’s something to do with the lighting in the airport. It’s very irritating.

My eight hour economy flight is full, so there’s no Platinum Phantom next to me; but my seat mate is OK. The FA apologises to me that the flight is so full and she has no extra space for me.

The QF51 plane is VH-EBQ. I’ve flown on this four times: three between Brisbane and Singapore, and once between Brisbane and Los Angeles. It’s one with the tiny old IFE screens (not that I care about that) but with no wifi, which what I was rather hoping for. The plane is also 36 minutes late - all to do with cargo being late to be loaded.

Accordingly, I get to Singapore airport and have to power-walk all the way to Terminal 2, where my Malaysia Airlines flight is. I get twenty minutes to do the daily job I normally do in about three hours, sitting at the gate. I’ve flown to KL a number of times and never once have I seen the Malaysia Airlines lounge.

That flight is on time, and I get into KL to discover that Malaysia has a new thing called an MDC, which is a fiddly internet form that I have to fill in before entering the country. It’s a new thing from January, not that anyone’s said anything about it. I discover this when trying to go through the passport gates, and therefore have to go to the back of the queue while Malaysia works out if it wants me in the country. By the time I’ve got to the front of the queue, it has decided that it does.

Grab, the Malaysian Uber, is just AUD$26 to drive me directly to the hotel. In previous trips, I’ve spent much the same to use the train into the city and then a Grab from there. So I treat myself - with a softly-spoken heavily-accented driver who keenly points out that other passengers tell him how good his English is, to which I nod and say “oh, is that right?” which is possibly not the response he was hoping for, thinking about it.

On the way back, I used a Grab with a different driver who had clearly been driving his car from new, had had it for over two years, but still hadn’t taken the protective plastic coverings off any of the internal fittings. I thought I’d left plenty of time, but I hadn’t really; so I walked rather fast and rather late from the lounge to the gate, to discover that actually I’d left my carry-on bag in the lounge, so had to run back, grab the bag, run back to the gate again, hot and (thank you Malaysia) dripping with sweat.

On the way to KUL, I’m treated to a spoken safety briefing - short, quick, and to the point. However, on this flight back to Singapore, Malaysian Airlines decide to punish us, by playing the safety video. Fucking hell. I will never complain about Nestor From The Sydney First Class Lounge again. This is another level of shitness. The safety video is made up of Malaysian Airlines staff doing a song and dance number. It’s very loud. Every single point of the briefing gets a full verse. It’s so, so obnoxiously loud. The passengers sing along too. At one point some footballers start singing about how to apply your oxygen mask. Lots of it is repeated phrases, ensuring it’s even longer than it needs to be. It’s repellent - the worst thing that I have ever seen. It beats the slightly British Airways “casting couch” video with a pervert director passing comment on the women. It is in a different league to the Qatar football one which at least made some effort to be funny. It makes “Hey, Bec!” seem almost quaint, and almost makes me fondly think of the lady who shows us how to exit using the slide “leaning forward with your hands on your knees” by leaning backwards with her hands on her hips. This fucking thing from Malaysian Airlines is water torture. It is at frequencies that evade the noise cancelling headphones. It is the kind of production that, if played to criminal masterminds, would get them to confess to everything after just one play. I hate it with a fucking passion. And I’m back in KL in two months.

If you hate yourself, watch it here

Anyway. I get to Singapore, catch the wrong skytrain to terminal 3, go on it through the shopping centre and see the waterfall thing by mistake, wait for another skytrain, finally get to terminal 1, and make a beeline for the best First lounge in the network, and the welcoming sight of Vivian who makes me feel that she recognises me, even though I’m sure she doesn’t, and get 40 minutes to eat some food and enjoy a beer. What a welcome place.

When Malaysian Airlines printed my boarding pass for QF52 back to Brisbane, my Platinum status didn’t appear on my QF boarding pass. This wasn’t an issue to get into the First lounge, but meant a little bit of embarrassment while getting into the Platinum People Pen at the gate. I fumbled with my phone instead, to wave the app at the Guardian of the People Pen, who only then allowed me into the hallowed area, where the seats are the same and the waiting takes as long but there are fewer people.

QF52 is VH-QPC. I have only flown once on it - doing MEL-SIN in 2022. It has bigger screens, and power sockets. It does not appear to have wifi either. The food is poor, even for Qantas - Singaporean catered, the chicken with rice is not fantastic, and the thing with mushrooms and pastry later on isn’t good either. But, it doesn’t have the Malaysian safety video, so…