by Roger Thiedeman
Route: Singapore Changi (IATA: SIN/ICAO: WSSS)—Langkawi, Malaysia (LGK/WMKL)
Aircraft: Airbus A319-100
Departure time: 1828
Arrival time: 1956
Passenger: Roger Thiedeman
Reservations were made online, and paid for, two months before travel. But the attractive roundtrip fare of SGD110 ($64) was soured somewhat by taxes amounting to an additional SGD78 ($45).
As usual, the baggage screening and security personnel at Singapore-Changi Airport were refreshing to encounter. Without exception they were unfailingly thorough, yet communicated a welcoming and cheerful vibe, not unlike staff at a luxury five-star hotel, or flight attendants in one of the better airlines’ first class cabins.
|PHOTO: ROB FINLAYSON|
Onboard the A319, a selection of newspapers was handed out before departure, along with Malaysian immigration arrival cards. Passenger load in the C12Y106 cabin was eight and 44, respectively. Five women (including a purser) made up the cabin crew complement; they wore smart new uniforms in shades of ‘rustic red’ for the attendant ‘in charge’, and lime green for the ‘stewardesses’. The purser provided a nice, thoughtful touch by switching on individual lights for passengers who had begun reading with only cabin lighting for illumination.
Pushback from the Terminal 2 gate was two minutes early, at 1828, and the safety demonstration was relayed on drop-down video monitors during the long taxi to Runway 02R. There being no in-flight entertainment on this sector, the monitors retracted upward at the conclusion of the demo film and stayed thus for the remainder of the flight.
Seat pitch, and legroom, in the A319 were quite generous for coach class. Pre-meal drinks consisted of beer and soft drinks, a choice of juices, and water. Drink service confirmed an earlier inkling I had that the cabin attendants were not as ‘sharp’ as they could have been. After taking my order for orange juice, the flight attendant then departed without explanation to serve another passenger several rows away. Returning to the drinks cart, she opened a can of 7Up and tried to offer it to me.
Our ‘dinner’ snack was a hot chicken wrap incorporating a diced salad mixed in with the meat. Accompanied by a sealed cup of water and choice of tea or coffee, it was reasonably tasty. But the pita bread wrapping itself was a tad tough, resulting in the structural failure of my plastic fork.
Also plastic, apparently, were the forced smiles of the female attendants, who seemed to be doing only just enough in the niceness department without radiating any genuine warmth. But of greater concern was their unwillingness to dissuadepassengers from violating safety regulations. During taxiing at Singapore, a passenger leapt out of his seat and reached for a bag in the overhead locker, then—whilst remaining standing for at least two or three minutes—fumbled in search of something therein. But none of the flight attendants who saw the man, including the purser, said anything to him about resuming his seat.
A similar incident occurred on the return flight four days later. While cabin crew served drinks and meals, a female passenger blocked the aisle for over three minutes as she rummaged through a large bag she had placed on the floor. A flight attendant merely stood behind the woman, making no attempt to either squeeze past or, more importantly, request her to not obstruct the passage. Is this diffidence and lack of assertiveness a cultural trait? Regardless of the answer, it demonstrated that while the SilkAir girls might be from Singapore, ‘Singapore Girls’ they most certainly are not.
Flight MI 368 blocked on at Langkawi four minutes ahead of schedule, at 1956. Befitting the small but pleasant Malaysian resort island it serves, Langkawi International Airport hosts only scheduled services of Malaysia Airlines (Airways, January 1999), Air Asia (Airways, April 2003), and SilkAir, with an average of four arrivals and departures per day; tourist charters—mainly from Russia—and training flights by Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the Royal Malaysian Air Force make up the remainder of traffic.
The modern terminal building has a spacious, airy feel, with tall ceilings letting in natural light, and a total of 24 check-in counters. Arrival formalities were conducted efficiently, as was departure processing for the return flight a few days later.
Overall impression: As the regional arm of Singapore Airlines, SilkAir gives passengers essentially what they pay for. Cabin service is of the low-budget variety, while standards of courtesy and helpfulness are adequate—but thus far and no further.
The meal on the return (night) flight was—you guessed it—the same chicken wrap. And that’s a wrap.
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