Think of flying to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore and immediate thoughts are to search for a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
That was precisely what I thought when I was trying to book a trip to the Malaysian capital this week. I was surprised when someone told me that it’s better to fly to Subang to get to the office in Petaling Jaya. Subang is only about 15 minutes away from my meeting venue compared to the 45 minutes’ journey from KLIA.
I went online, did some research and booked a flight on Firefly. The price was comparable to a Malaysian Airline flight to KLIA.
When I arrived at Changi Airport on Wednesday, I was in for another surprise. Instead of boarding via an aerobridge, I had to take a bus to the parking bay where I was greeted by as ATR 72, a twin-engine turboprop aircraft.
It brought back memories of days long ago when I hopped onto a military C130 aircraft for a joyride.
The single-aisle aircraft reminded me of the domestic flights I took in the US. When I looked around before boarding, I realised that I wasn’t the only one intrigued. Several of my fellow passengers were whipping out their smartphones and taking photos of the plane.
With such a compact feel, I was bracing myself for a bumpy ride as the sky was cloudy with light rain. Thankfully, the take-off was smooth and I managed to see more of Changi Airport than before as I was allocated a window seat. I usually pick an aisle seat but seeing that the flight was just a little over an hour, I decided that seating doesn’t really matter and it’s not worth paying to pick a seat.
The seat was simple with no in-flight entertainment but I was impressed by the branding on the seat belt. I’ve taken flights on many airlines but this is the first I’ve seen — OK, maybe I didn’t notice in some of the rest.
In-flight service included a snack and drinks. Fifteen minutes into the flight and the crew offered soya bean drink or mango juice and peanuts or curry puff. As I wasn’t hungry, I chose mango juice and peanuts.
Before I knew it, it was time to buckle up and prepare for landing — not that I unbuckled my seat belt in the first place.
Overall, the flight was smooth, stable, comfortable, and pleasantly quiet. I was expecting it to be louder than conventional jet but think it’s quieter.
The aircraft parked at the gate and it was only a short walk from the gate to the immigration counter, baggage claim and customs.
Subang Airport or Subang Skypark, now called Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, used to be the main airport for Malaysia until KLIA took over in 1998. One of my first trips overseas was to Genting Highlands and I vividly remember landing in Subang.
Today’s Subang reminds me of a smaller Don Muang Airport, which has been replaced by Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
A friend picked me up from the Arrival driveway — nearly everyone else was taking a Grab vehicle. The trip to my meeting venue was short, very short — under 10 minutes.
My meeting itself was just a tad longer at about an hour.
After a quick lunch, I headed back to the airport for my return trip. Everything was a breeze — check in, immigration clearance and customs check.
On the second flight, I picked the curry puff for snack. The pastry was tasty and came with a couple of chicken bits. As it was pre-packed, it wasn’t crispy enough. There again, it’s a nice touch for a short haul flight — much better than the mainstream airlines.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of flying on the turboprop aircraft and through Subang Airport. It’s something I’d like to do again if the opportunity arises.
The sad thing is that Firefly has been reported to be shifting to Seletar Airport by the end of 2018 as Changi Airport wants to focus on purely mainstream jet aircraft.