UPDATE: New bus service AC7 from Yishun to JB December 17, 2010Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Fleet News, Overseas Travels, Premium Bus, Private operators, Something New.
Tags: advance coach bus AC7, johor baru, yishun
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Following the bus service’s no-show on Wednesday and Thursday which left many confused, Advance Coach has clarified that it could not start operating from Wednesday 15th December as it did not receive approval from the Malaysian authorities earlier in the week as expected. However, the company has since received the relevant approvals and would commence service AC7 from today, Friday 17th December 2010.
They added that bus service AC7 will stop at ALL bus stops along the route, including the pair of bus stops outside Republic Polytechnic along Woodlands Avenue 9. Frequency is at 20 to 30 minutes. As with other cross-border bus services, the bus will wait at the post-immigration clearance bus bays for a reasonable amount of time before proceeding on to Kotaraya or Yishun. For further details, refer to the previous post and newspaper article below:
NEW BUS SERVICE FROM YISHUN TO JB
– Service AC7 will run every half hour from Yishun Interchange to Kotaraya Terminal
by Teo Wan Gek
A new bus service from Yishun to Johor Bahru starts today.
It is the third new cross-border bus route to be introduced this year, as part of a bilateral agreement to increase transit links announced in May.
The new service AC7, from Yishun bus interchange to Kotaraya Terminal in Johor Baru, will benefit Malaysian students and workers who travel daily to Singapore, and Singaporeans on daytrips to JB.
Premier bus operator Advance Coach obtained a permit to run the service from the Malaysian authorities on Wednesday.
Its managing director Neo Tiam Beng, 42, is glad for a chance to diversify his business beyond ferrying schoolchildren and workers within Singapore.
“Thankfully the two prime ministers are on good terms. If not, I would not have this business opportunity,” Mr Neo said.
He has invested some S$2 million in the venture and bought 10 new 44-seater buses.
The service will run every half hour from 5.45am tp 11.30pm. The entire journey takes 70 minutes and costs S$2.
When prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak met here in May, they agreed to increase the number of cross-border bus services with the addition of eight new routes, four from Singapore and four from Malaysia.
These routes are to connect Pasar Bakti (Kotaraya II) and Larkin in Johor to the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) integrated resorts, Boon Lay, Yishun, Newton and Changi Airport.
Two of the Singapore services started in September and run from RWS and Changi Airport to Johor Baru.
Express coach operator Transtar Group provides these two services but has yet to break even. Its 22-seater buses are at 40 per cent occupancy.
Transtar executive director Sebastian Yao, 54, said: “The company has been bleeding for three months but occupancy is growing. Maybe in six months or a year, it will hit 75 per cent. I may consider getting a bigger fleet of buses then.”
None of the Malaysian services has begun operating yet.
Mr Yap believes that the Malaysian bus companies will jump in only after their Singapore counterparts build up demand for these new services.
“If it were me, I would do that too,” he said.
To further improve connectivity between the two countries, the two prime ministers had earlier agreed at the retreat to build a rapid transit link between Tanjung Puteri in Johor and Singapore by 2018.
SMRT has been operating service 950 from Woodlands Regional Interchange to Kotaraya Terminal since 2004.
SMRT Buses vice-president Kang Huey Ling welcomed the new service linking Yishun and JB. “We believe the new cross-border service would encourage more travel between the two countries, and this would be beneficial to all companies in the long run,” she said.
Yishun Ring Road resident Edwin Lim, 44, a taxi driver, said he would use the new service AC7. Previously he took a train to Woodlands and transferred to a bus.
He said: “It is so much more convenient and direct now. I am more likely to go to Johor Baru with the new service.”
– The Straits Times, Friday 17 December 2010, page A14.
Highlights of AirAsia flight AK5271 Senai > Kuala Lumpur August 16, 2010Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
Tags: AirAsia, johor bahru, KL LCCT, Kuala Lumpur, Senai airport, Skybus, Sultan Ismail International Airport
Airline: AirAsia (AK)
Date: Tuesday, 05 May 2009
Route: Senai Sultan Ismail (JHB) > Kuala Lumpur International (KUL)
Departure Gate: 4
Scheduled Departure Time: 0925 LT
Actual Departure Time: 1005 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1010 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 1050 LT
Flight Duration: 0H 45Min
As my friends and I wanted to experience a different way of getting to Kuala Lumpur, we opted to fly into the Malaysian capital instead of taking the traditional coach. Even though there are many options available to us from Changi Airport (Singapore Airlines/Silkair/Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Tiger Airways, Jetstar Asia and AirAsia all fly this busy route), we opted to try something different and much cheaper – by flying out of Senai Airport in Johor Bahru instead and landing in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
Naturally, we opted for AirAsia which was then offering seats for only RM9! That worked out to only a maximum of S$25 including taxes, which was quite a steal. Booking our tickets online was simple and systematic and was completed with no hiccups. This included having the option to select seats, pre-order meals as well as buying tickets for the bus ride out of KLIA’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). The downside from flying with AirAsia out of Senai though is the limited number of flights per day – only one morning and one afternoon flight. Getting there from Singapore is also a hassle for those with luggages, but it was not a problem with us as we only had a backpack each.
Getting to the airport
Clearing the immigration and customs at Woodlands and Sultan Iskandar checkpoints was a breeze since it was an early Tuesday morning. We then took SBS Transit 170 direct to Larkin bus terminal where we transferred to GML Line’s G1 service to Senai Airport. While there are other options to get to the airport, including the Senai Airport Express bus by Causeway Link from the Kotaraya Terminal City Lounge, we opted for GML for a more local experience. Initially, we feared not reaching the airport on time due to traffic jams encountered enroute but to our relief, the journey was not as long as expected, taking only an hour end-to-end.
Senai Sultan Ismail International Airport
Sultan Ismail International Airport, or commonly referred to as just Senai Airport, has a straightforward rectangular layout with adequate directional signs which are easy to understand. As we still had time before check-in counters open, we decided to have breakfast at Marrybrown. For a rather small airport, there are quite a number of shops to pass your time away. There’s even ongoing construction works for an upcoming airport shopping mall – part of the grand Iskandar masterplan to transform southern Johor into a successful economic hub worthy of rivalling Singapore. There are separate queues for domestic and international flights, though there’s hardly any scheduled international flights calling at the airport ever since Malaysia Airlines embarked on a strict cost-cutting programme.
There are not as many shops in the departure transit hall, but the whole length of the terminal building provided for an excellent unobstructed location for aircraft spotting and photography. The only problem was that there’s hardly any aircraft there!
While waiting for boarding to commence, it was announced that our flight will be delayed by 40 minutes. As we had taken into account any possibility of a flight delay, we were not adversely affected by the longer waiting time. Afterall, we chose to fly on a low cost carrier and wasn’t expecting much, so it was good enough the flight was not cancelled!
The aircraft finally pulled into the gate and boarding using an aerobridge commenced swiftly after passengers from the previous flight have disembarked, illustrating the extremely quick turnaround time for the aircraft. I was suprised we didn’t have to board the plane using the stairs as expected from the budget airline.
As the plane taxiied to the runway, the flight attendants carried out a manual safety demonstration accompanied by excellent English. Not bad. Takeoff was smooth and the cabin crew began selling food and drinks shortly after. Those who had pre-booked their meals online were served first, but I was actually surprised that they actually bothered to as it has been indicated on the website that the flight is not even an hour long! Surely they can just wait a little longer for the cheaper meals they can get at the airport? I’ve heard of praises for AirAsia’s catering so probably that’s the reason. In any case, the flight was too short to justify a hot meal so that shall go into my to-do list the next time I fly with them.
But what I wanted to witness most was how the flight attendants carry out the usual routine for such a short flight. And boy, did they not disappoint. Everything was done quickly but professionally and always with a smile. They didn’t appear to be rushing despite the time constraints. I guess they must have mastered this all too familiar routine!
Once the food sales were done, the stewardesses immediately walked down the aisle a second time for the duty-free merchandise, ranging from the usual perfumes to AirAsia’s exclusives such as aircraft models. This was followed by the collection of trash by a flight attendant walking down the aisle with the typical black trash bag in hand. And before once that was done, we had to prepare for landing. This has got to be my shortest flight ever!
Landing was smooth but the aircraft had to taxi for quite a while to get to the LCCT, passing by the airport’s cargo centre enroute.
KLIA Low Cost Carrier Terminal
We finally disembarked – in true low cost style by climbing down the stairs onto the tarmac and then walking over to the terminal building. Strictly no aerobridges here. It would be quite a scene if it happens to be raining heavily (even though umbrellas are provided)!
The LCCT building itself is way bigger than Singapore’s Budget Terminal which pales badly in comparison. Singapore’s Tiger Airways flying from Changi also utilise the LCCT. Shops and restaurants in the public area are plentiful, ranging from the common McDonald’s and Marrybrown fast-food restaurants to even watch boutiques! And the crowds are a testament to the success of the LCCT in revolutionising air travel in Malaysia.
As we had booked tickets through AirAsia’s website for the Skybus shuttle bus connecting us from the LCCT to the main KL Sentral transport hub, we proceeded to the “bus terminal” at one end of the terminal building where the bus was waiting for its next departure. The journey took us about an hour or so but comfort was minimal as the airconditioning seemed to have broken down.
Overall, my experience on this short flight with AirAsia is a positive one. The staff were friendly and despite having to rush through their normal routine within the short span of time in the air, still managed to put up a smile all the way. Since it was such a short flight, nobody really took issue with the legroom so I shall leave that for a longer flight. This is definitely a good and cheaper alternative for those who do not mind travelling to Senai Airport. Besides Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia flies to other points in Malaysia such as Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu from Senai. I would certainly not mind trying one of their longer flights in future!
Tags: Chek Lap Kok, HKIA, Hong Kong, Jetstar, Tsing Ma bridge
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Airline: Jetstar Asia (3K)
Date: Friday 09 July 2010
Route: Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG) > Singapore Changi (SIN)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Departure Gate: Terminal 1 Gate 526
Scheduled Departure Time: 2015 LT
Actual Departure Time: 2030 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 2350 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 0005 LT (+1 Day)
Booking tickets online back in Singapore proved to be a simple affair. Unless you are booking many many months before your intended flight, Jetstar’s fares are usually more expensive than Tiger’s. However, many do not seem to mind because Jetstar has somehow successfully marketed itself as the “better and more reliable” low-cost carrier in Singapore. Departing from Terminal 1 instead of the Budget Terminal is an example. So does free seat selection.
Something worth taking note is that since I was flying only one-way, the fare offered for the same leg was in Hong Kong Dollars, which was much cheaper than the fare in Singapore Dollars I would have been charged had I booked a return flight! That translated into us paying less for our Jetstar flight back to Singapore compared to the Tiger flight to Macau.
Getting to the airport
Since we were already at Hung Hom, it goes without question that the best way to get to the airport was none other than the A21 CityFlyer airport express bus service from the bus terminal right next to the main train station complex.
The CityFlyer bus service is operated by Citybus even though the A21 terminates in Kowloon and does not go beyond the harbour into Hong Kong Island where main Citybus operations are based. The fleet consists of double-decker Dennis Tridents which come with unique specifications such as aircraft style seats, retractable blinds for the windows as well as a luggage compartment at the lower deck. Of special mention is the CCTV which is fixated at the luggage racks and whose image is displayed on a screen on the upper deck so that passengers can monitor their belongings downstairs.
Compared to the Airport Express train line which costs HK$100, the A21 charges only HK$33. Of course, the downside is that the whole journey took slightly more than an hour during the peak period as the bus passed through the busy Tsim Sha Tsui and Nathan Roads and some residential estates in west Kowloon before hitting the highway to the airport.
However, it all paid off as the bus reached the final leg of the journey when it crossed the Tsing Ma bridge (also dubbed as Hong Kong’s Golden Gate bridge) to get to Lantau Island. The panoramic views were simply fantastic and allowed us to get a last glimpse of the Hong Kong skyline.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)
Even though the check-in counter for our Jetstar flight back to Singapore is located at Terminal 2, we chose to alight at Terminal 1 to explore the rest of the airport. Terminal 1 is the bigger of the two terminals and has a design similar to Changi’s Terminal 2. Emphasis is on high ceilings and bright open spaces, which together with clear signages, help finding our way around the airport a breeze. Food and beverage outlets occupy strategic locations throughout the departure check-in hall. The alfresco dining options available on the second floor is a novel concept!
To get to Terminal 2, we had to proceed to the connecting basement walkway which is also where the Airport Express train station is located. We were surprised to learn that passengers do not have to buy a ticket before boarding the train, deducing that fares would only be collected upon exit. After spending around 20 minutes queueing to check in our baggage, we proceeded to check out the airport public bus terminal and their own aviation gallery which in my opinion, simply outshines Changi’s.
Prior to the trip, I had checked HKIA’s website to get a general idea of the airport layout, getting puzzled over the apparent lack of aircraft parking lots surrounding the terminal building. As it turned out, after clearing the security checks, we had to take a train which transported us back to Terminal 1 where we would board our aircraft from!
However I doubt passengers would complain (except maybe for those who are late) as the departure transit area at Terminal 1 was akin to that of a massive shopping mall – full of shops and food outlets to satisfy that hunger pang or last minute shopping. Impressive indeed!
Knowing that the food being sold onboard our flight would be expensive, Benjamin took the opportunity to grab a takeaway Burger King meal which was a wise choice as we had to wait for quite some time at the boarding gate. During which, a very faint and muffled announcement was made in Cantonese and English mentioning “Jetstar” but we couldn’t make up what they were trying to tell us or whether it even concerned our flight at all but like they say, monkey see monkey do, so since nobody else was budging, we didn’t bother to as well.
When the boarding gate opened, we were ushered into one of the three airport buses waiting just outside the terminal building which drove us to where our aircraft was parked far far away from the terminal building. This finally answered a question that has been bugging me since check-in: why does my departure gate consist of three digits when most of the others have only two? While this didn’t come as a surprise for me since Jetstar as a low-cost carrier would be expected to cut costs wherever possible, it is worth taking note that their flights out of Terminal 1 back at Changi have passengers boarding using aerobridges.
Since the passengers were transported to the aircraft in batches by the buses, boarding and settling down was carried out more quickly and efficiently. There were four cabin crew members serving us on the flight – one guy and three ladies. Interestingly, two of them were stationed at the bottom of the staircase wearing bright yellow safety vests over their black/orange uniforms welcoming passengers, with the other two aiding passengers onboard. Seconds after the door was closed, the aircraft began taxiing to the runway at around 2030H, some 15 minutes behind the scheduled departure time. In the meantime, the cabin crew carried out the standard manual safety demonstration. Compared to flight TR2902 to Macau, the takeoff this time round was a little rough and vibration was felt as soon as the aircraft was airborne but this quickly dissipated once the speed increased.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the cabin crew began their routine of selling food and drinks followed by duty-free merchandise. Unlike flight TR2902, sales onboard this flight was very brisk that at one point of time, it seemed as if the flight is that of a full-service carrier since almost everyone, myself included, bought food and drinks and had to be served one by one. The only difference in this case would be money changing hands. Perhaps it was because of the more attractive range of food and beverage offered or the fact that most of the passengers (who were obviously Singaporeans) had not had dinner. Compared to Tiger, Jetstar’s F&B menu was definitely more attractive and featured a wider variety of Halal local delights. Thumbs up for that.
My stomach was rumbling then and so I decided to get a chicken ham and cheese croissant sandwich since it looked the most tempting on the menu. On its own, the price was a little expensive. However, for just S$10, I can get the sandwich together with a drink of my choice. Since the set meal was more worth the price than the item on its own, I decided to get the sandwich and a bottle of water. I ordered from the stewardess and paid up first while she got another crew member to help prepare my sandwich which was served five minutes later. It was surprisingly warm and tasted good, more so due to the generous serving of cheese! Plastic cutlery was given together with the meal but I didn’t find them of much use. Though simple, the croissant definitely kept my stomach satisfied throughout the flight!
The lights were dimmed about an hour into the journey. Except for the occasional strong winds which shook the plane side to side, the flight cruised smoothly. After about 3.5 hours, we were already making our descent into Changi. Unlike flight TR2902, the cabin crew did not walk down the aisle to collect any trash from the passengers this time round as they had already done so after most passengers were done with their meals. The touchdown at slightly after midnight was quite rough and the brakes applied seemed a little excessive. We arrived at Terminal 1 almost 15 minutes behind the scheduled time. Nevertheless, clearing immigration using the self-service automated machines was a breeze and before long, I found myself in the Nuance-Watson duty-free perfumes and cosmetics store!
Overall, I had a pleasant experience onboard the flight, barring the rough takeoff and landing. The 31-inch leather slim-line seat was definitely comfortable for my 1.65 frame and I was very impressed with the airline’s food and beverage offerings given its price range – it was definitely better than Tiger’s! The level of service demonstrated by the cabin crew was excellent, especially on this particular instance when one of the stewardesses actually took the time to explain to a passenger in great detail which perfume would be best for the person he intended to buy it for. It really helped diminish the stereotype many have against low-cost carriers that cheaper flights equate to lack of customer service. They also appeared less robotic than the crew onboard Tiger.
All in all, I had a very good first-time trip to Macau and Hong Kong. It managed to satisfy my thirst in getting up close and personal with the many historical ruins and monuments which I have for so long only managed to read about and admire from guidebooks and websites. Seeing the mountains and other spectacular geographical features also made the trip especially memorable, triggering memories of my visit to England years ago. My only possible regret would be not having enough time to shop in Hong Kong’s many shopping malls! And on that note, I vow to return to Hong Kong in the near future, possibly venturing into nearby Shenzhen as well!
Previous post: Day 5: Causeway Bay (in progress)
Highlights of Tiger Airways flight TR2902 Singapore > Macau August 8, 2010Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
Tags: Budget Terminal, Macau, Tiger Airways, TR2902
Airline: Tiger Airways (TR)
Date: Monday 05 July 2010
Route: Singapore Changi (SIN) > Macau International (MFM)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Departure Gate: Budget Terminal Gate 6
Scheduled Departure Time: 0600 LT
Actual Departure Time: 0555 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 0940 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 0920 LT
Flight Duration: 3H 25Min
Only two airlines – low-cost carriers Jetstar Asia and Tiger Airways – now fly direct between Singapore and Macau. Full-service carrier SilkAir used to fly this route, but this was terminated in 2004. In any case that was good news to us since we wanted to explore the Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of Macau and Hong Kong without burning a hole in our pockets. We opted for Tiger as it offered an early morning flight out of Singapore which fit nicely into our plans.
Booking tickets through their website was systematic and straight-forward but typical of low-cost carriers, one has to go beyond the initial stages to really get an idea of the total flight cost after taking into account taxes and various miscellaneous fees such as luggage allowance, seat selection and the most ironic in my opinion – the convenience fee.
For our case, the “Lowest Fare” available was S$60. Taxes and miscellaneous fees added up to S$85 (more expensive than Hong Kong’s!). We chose to select our preferred seats at S$5 per seat, and took up 20kg baggage allowance for S$15. Total cost ran up to about S$150 per person. Of course, to get tickets this cheap, one has to book rather early. We booked ours about a month earlier than the scheduled flight. Booking later would cost double, even triple what we managed to get.
Changi Airport Budget Terminal
Flying with Tiger means flying out of the basic Budget Terminal which had recently undergone an expansion. Since it was an early morning flight, we had no choice but to take a taxi down. After checking in at 0430H (check-in counters had already opened half an hour earlier), we had a quick breakfast at McDonald’s which now occupies what used to be Han’s cafe which in turn had shifted to the middle of the departure check-in hall and morphed into Hanis, essentially the halal-version of Han’s.
After clearing immigration, we headed straight for the departure gate. Unlike the main airport terminals where ample seats are provided for waiting passengers who would then board the aircraft through aerobridges, passengers at the Budget Terminal have to queue up on a first-come-first-through basis, walk out onto the tarmac and climb up the stairs into the aircraft. Compared to my first experience with Tiger to the Indonesian city of Padang years back (Tiger no longer flies there), things seem to be more systematic this time round as passengers were allocated seats upon check-in so there wasn’t much shoving and pushing to get the best available seat.
Three cabin crew members, one guy and two ladies, were on duty for this flight. One of the them greeted passengers as they boarded the aircraft, while the other two stationed themselves along the aisle to swiftly assist passengers in finding space in the overhead compartments for their hand-carry luggage. When all passengers have settled down, the aircraft commenced pushback at about 0550H while the cabin crew conducted the standard manual safety demonstration. After taxiing to the runway, the first TR flight of the morning took off smoothly five minutes ahead of the scheduled time. Of special mention is that unlike my previous flights, the pilot did not pause at the start of the runway. Instead, he drummed up the engines once the he had turned the A320 onto runway 20C and swiftly lifted us up into the sky.
Once the aircraft has made a left bank towards Malaysia and reached cruising altitude, cabin crew began their routine of selling food and drinks followed by duty-free merchandise. A single galley cart was pushed from the rear to the front and back again but sales wasn’t brisk at all. Most passengers who did buy opted for drinks since they were not allowed to consume their own food and drinks onboard the flight. Cabin crew also distributed the Macau immigration forms afterwards. About 45 minutes into the flight, the captain announced that the cabin lights would be dimmed since most passengers preferred to catch a shut-eye during the 3.5 hour flight.
The flight was smooth throughout thanks to the excellent weather. For those who stayed awake, they were treated to the beautiful sight of sunrise hundreds of feet in the air – something one doesn’t get to witness everyday. The only possible downside was the minimal legroom which would be of great discomfort for bigger-sized passengers.
I tried my best to catch some sleep during the flight but the seat which did not allow for even a single bit of recline did not help much. Before long, the cabin lights were switched on again and the captain announced the gradual descent into Macau International Airport. One of the cabin crew walked down the aisle with a trash bag to collect any rubbish generated by passengers and another ensured that everyone had fastened their seatbelts on.
Overall, with the exception of the cries of a baby piercing the silence for the first few minutes, the flight was a pleasant one. The staff did what they had to and given the fact that it was an early morning flight, they did not have anything much to do after the first hour since most of the passengers were sleeping anyway. Nevertheless passengers who required attention were responded to with smiles, even if they may seem a little “robotic”. The fabric seats were not as uncomfortable as I previously thought and the smooth takeoff and landing by the rather new aircraft made everything seemed perfect (for a low-cost carrier that is).
My only possible grouse was the exhorbitant prices for their rather unattractive food and beverage selection but this wasn’t an issue as I just had a filling breakfast back at the airport. Without any form of inflight entertainment save for the inflight magazine, a 4-hour flight onboard Tiger can be daunting for some, so it might be a good idea to have something on hand to keep oneself occupied throughout.
Macau International Airport
Due to land constraints, Macau Airport’s runway is built on land reclaimed over the sea which is connected to the terminal building on Taipa Island by two causeways. That made for a unique touchdown since there was seawater to the left and right of the runway.
Just like the Budget Terminal back in Singapore, we had to disembark down the stairs onto the apron and walk to the immigration counters in the terminal building. Despite reaching our destination up to 20 minutes earlier, we still wasted a lot of time queueing as only four immigration counters were opened! However, had we arrived any later we would have had to wait even longer because just minutes after, passengers from another flight behind ours quickly swarmed the arrival hall.
Macau International Airport’s curved rectangular terminal building layout is easy to navigate. However, except for the airport essentials such as left baggage counters, post office and tourist information centre, there isn’t really anything much.
An interesting feature for Macau International Airport are the official signages in three languages – English, Portugese and Chinese, reflecting the territory’s colonial legacy, embrace of globalisation and acknowledging its roots as part of mainland China.
After examining our options, we decided to just hop onboard the free shuttle bus to The Venetian casino complex rather than spend more time wating for the public buses whose routes we were unsure of. Little did we realise we could have just taken the shuttle bus by Wynn casino instead as it is located just across our hotel!
Next post: Day 1: Coloane Island & Macau Heritage Trail (in progress)