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Highlights of AirAsia flight AK5271 Senai > Kuala Lumpur August 16, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
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AirAsia logo

Airline: AirAsia (AK)
Date: Tuesday, 05 May 2009
Route: Senai Sultan Ismail (JHB) > Kuala Lumpur International (KUL)
Aircraft: A320-200
Registration: 9M-AHS
Seat: 21D
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).

Booking

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.

GML Line A1

The GML Line A1 bus at Senai Airport

Interior of GML bus

The bus interior was rather well-maintained for an old bus.

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.

Senai Airport

Shops lining up the entire length of the terminal building.

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.

The aircraft

The aircraft taxiing to the boarding gate after a short hop from the capital.

The aircraft

The baby Airbus about to unload its passengers from Kuala Lumpur.

Sultan Ismail International Airport

Sultan Ismail International Airport

The flight

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!

View of cabin from seat 21D

View of cabin from seat 21D

Note the empty advertisement slots.

Close-up of the AirAsia logo engraving at the back of every seat.

Seat pocket contents

The inflight magazine, supermarket receipt-like boarding pass and inflight F&B & duty free merchandise catalogue.

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!

View

Good morning Malaysia

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.

Passing by KLIA's cargo centre and a Malaysia Airlines Cargo Boeing 747.

Entering the land of AirAsia

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)!

View of cabin during disembarkation.

I simply like how they painted the engines!

One of the many AirAsia birds parked all over the place!

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.

Tune Hotel

The LCCT even has its own budget Tune Hotel!

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.

Skybus shuttle

The shuttle bus service to KL Sentral by Skybus

Conclusion

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!

Highlights of Jetstar Asia flight 3K696 Hong Kong > Singapore August 9, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
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Jetstar logo

Airline: Jetstar Asia (3K)
Date: Friday 09 July 2010
Route: Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG) > Singapore Changi (SIN)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: 9V-JSC
Seat: 10E
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

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.

Hung Hom bus terminal

The A21 stand at Hung Hom bus terminal

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.

Lower deck

Lower deck of the Dennis Trident. The luggage compartment is opposite the exit door.

Upper deck

The upper deck

Displays at the front of the bus

Displays at the front of the bus

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.

Tsing Ma bridge

Tsing Ma bridge

Hong Kong skyline

Goodbye Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)

Approaching Terminal 1

Approaching Terminal 1

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!

Terminal 1 drop-off

HKIA Terminal 1 drop-off. I like the fact that it is very wide unlike Changi's which can get chaotic when so many vehicles come at any one time.

The view that greeted me when I entered the terminal building.

The view that greeted me when I entered the terminal building.

Shops and restaurants at the check-in hall.

Shops and restaurants at the check-in hall.

Flight departure information display

Flight departure information display

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.

Basement walkway

The basement walkway connecting to Terminal 2.

HKIA Terminal 2

The smaller Terminal 2 with the distinctive waves forming the ceiling.

Check-in counters

Check-in counters

Terminal 2 shops

Plenty of shops and F&B options from Chanel to Burger King in the public area.

Aviation gallery

There's even a 4D cinema attraction within the aviation gallery.

Aviation gallery

Inside the aviation gallery

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!

Train station

Waiting for the train back to Terminal 1 after clearing immigration checks.

Interior of train

The train served the airport's ferry terminal before stopping at our station.

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!

HKIA Terminal 1 departure transit hall

HKIA Terminal 1 departure transit hall

A huge variety of shops and F&B options available.

A huge variety of shops and F&B options available.

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.

Boarding gate

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.

The flight

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.

Jetstar A320 interior

Cabin crew helping passengers find space for their luggages in the overhead compartments.

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.

Inflight entertainment

The inflight food & beverage menu card, duty-free merchandise catalogue, magazine and safety card.

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!

Chicken ham and cheese croissant sandwich

View of the cabin during disembarkation.

View of the cabin during disembarkation.

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!

Flight boarding pass

Flight boarding pass

Conclusion

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, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Flight Review, Overseas Travels.
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Tiger Airways logo

Airline: Tiger Airways (TR)
Date: Monday 05 July 2010
Route: Singapore Changi (SIN) > Macau International (MFM)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: 9V-TAH
Seat: 10A
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

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

Taxi drop-off point at the 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.

Departure check-in hall

Departure check-in hall
Flight information display
Check-in counters
More food and beverage options are available in the departure transit hall, accompanied by some retail shops and a 7-11 convenience store.

Departure transit hall
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.

Queueing up at the boarding gate

Queueing up at the boarding gate

Display at boarding gate

Display at boarding gate

Flight information display

Tiger Airways aircraft

Passengers queueing in the first row climbing the staircase to board the aircraft.

Passengers queueing in the first row climbing the staircase to board the aircraft.

The flight

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.

View of the aircraft from seat 10

View of the aircraft from seat 10

Cabin view

Loadings for this flight was very healthy. About 90% of the seats were occupied.

Inflight magazine & F&B menu card

The safety guide, F&B menu card, inflight merchandise catalogue and inflight magazine.

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.

Passport

Passport, flight ticket and Macau immigration form.

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.

Sunrise

Sunrise over the South China Sea

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.

Cabin of TR A320

Cabin of our A320 after all the passengers have disembarked.

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

Touching the runway

Smooth landing on the runway

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.

MFM control tower

The short and cute control tower of Macau International Airport.

Macau International Airport

Approaching the airport terminal building. The Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and City of Dreams casino complex can be seen in the background.

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.

MFM apron

Aircraft belonging to EVA Air, Air Macau and AirAsia sitting on the apron.

MFM arrival hall

Macau International Airport arrival hall

Visitor information centre

Visitors' information centre

MFM departure hall

Macau International Airport departure check-in hall

Taxi drop-off

Taxi drop-off outside the departure 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.

Flight information display

Flight information display in Portugese.

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.

Vending machine

Fancy a bottle of drink for $8? In Macau's currency of course!

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!

Coach pick-up bay

The coach bay to the north of the terminal building.

Next post: Day 1: Coloane Island & Macau Heritage Trail (in progress)

Increased coverage for SMRT bus 922 in Bukit Panjang town February 27, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Route Amendment, SMRT.
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Mercedes Benz OC500LE on service 922.

Service 922 will no longer serve the bus stops along Saujana Road, as illustrated above. Photo credit: Muhd Faizal.

SMRT has finally seemed to realise the ridicule in running a feeder bus service half-heartedly – and still losing money in the process – and is instead making a radical change to feeder bus service 922 serving residents of Bukit Panjang town.

The route amendment, to take effect from Sunday 28 February, will see the service cover the whole stretch of Jelapang Road (Greenridge Shopping Centre), Segar Road and Fajar Road (Fajar Neighbourhood Shopping Centre) before looping in the same manner as service 920 at Bangkit Road.

The change will see residents jumping for joy as they now have convenient bus links to places which are previously bus-less or just served by the (still unprofitable) Bukit Panjang LRT system, such as the Fajar neighbourhood shopping centre. Segar Road residents will enjoy a direct link to the market and shops at Bangkit Road as well as the prominent Al-Iman mosque.

The most important question though would be: would the frequency of the bus service, currently at half hour intervals or longer, be improved? That remains to be seen, but what is already known is that one more bus would join TIB737R as part of the 922 fleet and so this should be seen as something positive. Unless of course, this whole route change is yet another half-hearted service “improvement”  aimed at appeasing some quarters (like the MP perhaps?).

Click here for the press release poster.

Even more SMRT public bus services to Resorts World Sentosa? January 24, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Premium Bus, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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Will new SMRT bus service 188R be a reality soon?

Will new SMRT bus service 188R be a reality soon?

You know something isn’t right when SMRT is willing to introduce new route 963R from Woodlands to Resorts World Sentosa, but is not doing so for its other successful HarbourFront route.

Yes, I’m talking about service 188 running from Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Toh Guan to HarbourFront which, like service 963, also has a weekday peak-hour Express variant 188E.

Reliable sources have informed me that drivers from SMRT’s Kranji bus depot (where service 188 is based at) are already learning the route of 188R, which will essentially be something like Express 188E, calling at limited stops along the way and charging Express fares.

Perhaps the company would be using service 963R as a test route to study its demand patterns etc before launching even more routes.

Just what else is SMRT having up its sleeves? All I know is that I’m very excited to find out!

Resorts World Sentosa engages SMRT to run its shuttle bus services January 21, 2010

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Premium Bus, SMRT, Something New, Transport Events.
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Resorts World Sentosa

Resorts World Sentosa

Genting-owned Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) created headlines for beating Sheldon Anderson’s Marina Bay Sands to be the first of the two integrated resorts in Singapore to open for business, albeit partially. As of now, only four hotels as well as a handful of shops including the world-famous Victoria’s Secret lingerie chain have opened their doors to the public. (By the way, the outlet in Singapore is the only one outside the US and Canada, so its hush-hush debut has puzzled many but I shall not dwell further on this here haha.) Its retail strip dubbed Festive Walk, casino and the much hyped about full-fledged Universal Studios Singapore theme park – a first for Southeast Asia – will open in stages once the regulatory approvals have been obtained.

Further headlines were made when it was announced that the integrated resort would be fed with shuttle bus services run by Singapore’s smaller public bus operator SMRT, instead of local giant ComfortDelGro. Adding more twist to the awkwardness is the decision taken by taxi companies Comfort and CityCab (part of ComfortDelGro) to not introduce a surcharge of $3 for all taxi trips departing the resort’s main taxi stop, despite other smaller operators doing the same. This is a complete about-turn from industry practice when the others simply follow the lead of Big Daddy. Whether this will backfire on the company or instead successfully distinguishes itself as the cheaper taxi choice for visitors remains to be seen.

SMRT's SMB 38C is one of the first to adorn an allover Resorts World Sentosa advertisement. It is seen here at the Basement carpark of RWS operating shuttle bus route RWS 8.

SMRT's SMB 38C is one of the first buses to adorn an allover Resorts World Sentosa advertisement. It is seen here at the Basement carpark of RWS operating shuttle bus route RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

Getting on with SMRT, the company has virtual monopoly in terms of public bus services into Resorts World Sentosa at the moment. The main shuttle bus service RWS 8 connecting the resort with VivoCity and the nearest train station at HarbourFront is already up and running, with two more RWS shuttle services as well as one new express service 963R and the extension of current NightRider services NR1 and NR6 set to follow from next weekend. The following gives a summary of the bus services into Resorts World Sentosa:

Bus service Where When Fare
RWS 8
HarbourFront shuttle
From bus stops outside VivoCity, HarbourFront MRT station and before Seah Im Road along Telok Blangah Road. From Jan 20 (Wed)

From RWS:
Daily from 6am to 11.30pm

S$2
– Inbound trip only
RWS 88
City Hall shuttle
From bus stop opposite The Adelphi along Coleman Street (City Hall MRT station). From Jan 30 (Sat)

Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

From RWS:
8am to 11pm

From City Hall MRT:
7am to 11pm

S$2
– Inbound and outbound trips
RWS 68
Outram Park shuttle
From bus stop outside Outram Park MRT station along Outram Road. To be confirmed To be confirmed
SMRT Express service 963R From Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange, calling at selected bus stops along route of parent service 963 in Bukit Panjang, Hillview, Bukit Batok and Clementi. From Jan 30 (Sat)

Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

From Woodlands:
7am to 10pm

From RWS:
8.30am to 11.30pm

CEPAS cards:
S$1.50 to S$2.25

Cash:
S$1.60 to S$2.35

SMRT NightRider service NR1 From bus stops currently served by service NR1 in Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Toa Payoh, Novena, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Suntec City and HarbourFront. From Jan 29 (Fri)

Fridays, Saturdays and eves of public holidays from 11.30pm to 4.25am

S$3.50

– Free transfer to another NightRider service within 45 minutes of alighting for CEPAS card payment only.

SMRT NightRider service NR6 From bus stops currently served by service NR6 in Sengkang, Hougang, Serangoon, Little India, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Suntec City and HarbourFront. From Jan 29 (Fri)

Fridays, Saturdays and eves of public holidays from 11.30pm to 4.35am

S$3.50

– Free transfer to another NightRider service within 45 minutes of alighting for CEPAS card payment only.

 

Another view of SMB 38C on shuttle service RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

Another view, this time of SMB 29D on shuttle service RWS 8. Photo courtesy of Teo Wei Shen.

While the RWS shuttles are contracted to SMRT, I can’t help but detect some form of subtle long-time competition in the works here in the form of RWS 68 and RWS 88. The services connect RWS with Outram Park and City Hall MRT stations, both of which belongs to SMRT. Although the Outram Park interchange station is shared between both SMRT and SBS Transit, the designated pick-up/drop-off point is along Outram Road, which is where the SMRT-managed entrance to the station is. Obviously, it is aimed at feeding more passengers into their train network, or at the very least, trying to reduce the number of visitors utilising SBS Transit’s Northeast Line to HarbourFront station.

But with fares going at $2 one-way for the City Hall and proposed Outram Park shuttles, it is going to be a little difficult for SMRT to convince visitors to stray away from RWS 8 to HarbourFront, which only charges $2 for the inbound trip into the resort. In other words, it’s free of charge for the ride back to HarbourFront.

Regardless, SMRT has commisioned a couple of its newest buses – the wheelchair-accessible Mercedes Benz OC500LE in modified Gemilang bodywork – to work on the RWS shuttles. Some have already adorned full-body RWS advertisements in red, which coincidentally suits SMRT’s corporate colours as well.

Detractors however have criticised at such a move by the company. They claimed these wheelchair-accessible buses should have instead be used to launch more wheelchair-accessible bus services within its network. Indeed, compared to rival SBS Transit, SMRT only has a handful of wheelchair-accessible bus services utilising its fleet of 135 wheelchair-accessible buses. Furthermore, SMRT should focus on improving its basic bus services first before venturing into other contract work such as this.

Yes, their concerns are valid. However, they fail to see that the introduction of Express service 963R and extension of NightRiders NR1 and NR6 into RWS are indeed basic bus service enhancements rather than contract work. The fares charged may be higher, but for those who will enjoy the convenience offered, surely that will be the last thing they will think of. Also, utilising a few wheelchair-accessible buses as a showcase to global visitors surely will leave a better-lasting impression of Singapore which will very much offset the opportunity cost of say, converting one bus route into a wheelchair-accessible one. It is not the case of SMRT maxing out all the wheelchair-accessible buses in its fleet solely for the RWS commitments.

And regardless of public opinion, the fact remains that SMRT has got to boost the bottomline for its lacklustre bus business. After all, it has to answer to its shareholders if it doesn’t perform up to the mark. As such, bus charter work has been a good source of alternative revenue and the company knows this. It managed to beat private bus operators which generally charge cheaper charter rates to clinch charter work for various organisations with the most obvious being the IKEA shuttle services which has been going on for some time. And it definitely aims to keep this momentum going with the Singapore Airshow 2010.

Public bus services aside, at least one coach operator already has concrete plans to launch new routes into Resorts World Sentosa. This is none other than Malaysia’s Odyssey Prestige Coaches which is currently running frequent express coach services between the Grand Copthorne Hotel in Whitley Road to Avenue K and Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur (and which I will be writing a review about soon). Detailed information has yet to be released but its plans have already been made public not only on its Facebook page but also at its ticketing counter in Grand Copthorne Hotel.

Exciting developments are definitely stirring in this coming year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the opening of Marina Bay Sands would yield even more surprises!

Related links:
SMRT official press release
Resorts World Sentosa transport guide