Tuesday, January 22, 2008

6000km on Tiger Airways

When the Airbus A320-200 took off from the tarmac of Melbourne International Airport, I didn't have too high an expectation of my 6000km journey on a low cost carrier. After all, I paid only 70% of what I usually pay for a return ticket. The flight was only meant to bring me home, so comfort was never the top agenda.

As the Chinese saying goes, a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step (千里之行,始于足下). True to the words - my first journey was to walk some two hundred metres on the tarmac and climb a flight of stairs to get in the plane. When I finally got in the plane, the seat didn't provide much comfort. It was narrow and I could barely straighten my leg. Also not helping was the air-conditioning vent which could only produce some feeble wind, and it's not even cold.

After some routine aircraft safety announcement (which I listened to more attentively than usual), the airplane finally taxied to the runway and with a pause, started to accelerate along the straight path. Despite not being a religious person, I started wishing for my safety. I have an incurable phobia of flying, among many other things. As the plane's nose tilted skywards, my worst fear came true. The plane started to vibrate vigorously for a few seconds. It's the same vibration you get when you used the wrong gear for your car. I thought the plane was going to break apart. Luckily the vibration faded and the plane continued to gain altitude uneventfully.

Flying on a low-cost airway is a bare-bone transportation mode. All you have is a seat that allows an inclination of half an inch, and nothing else. There's no free meal, no free water, no warm towel, no blanket, no pillow, no movies, no games and no radio. Oh actually I did get something free for the journey - two over-enthusiastic persons who chit-chatted from the take-off till the landing - with a volume fighting to outdo the jet engine noise. Needless to say, they won. There were also four free air hostess on board, and they looked rather funny. They were clad in jeans and a plain yellow T-shirt the sort you usually see in Pasar Malam, bearing the feline logo of Tiger Airways. They also had this stylish "belt" which was actually a tiger-striped cloth tied around the waist. Their casual look was amusing.

After a struggle with the megaphoney talk, dry eyes and mouth due to lack of water (yes yours truly is a cheapskate who would not buy drinks on a low-cost airplane when his own ran out) and the lack of entertainment, the plane finally began a slow descent as it approached Darwin (a city in North Australia). The elapsed four hours seemed like an eternity, and by then my body started to protest against the ordeal I put it through. While the scarce streetlight of Darwin came into view, the A320 glided into the runway gracefully. I was pleasantly surprised when the landing gear touched the ground - it's the smoothest landing I had ever had, compared to even the larger 747s. The braking was perfect, and I could feel the plane slow down safely on the runway within seconds. It's very unlike most of the landings I had where the plane felt like an out-of-control dogsled where the driver struggles to hold the dogs back. Instead, the plane's braking was like a sports car with a set of spanking new brakes. Impressive stuff.

I went down to the airport, and to my dissatisfaction, I had to go through the baggage retrieval and check-in process. It's ridiculously cumbersome, compared to most transit flights which would usually arrange an automatic transfer of baggages to the onward flight. Feel free to add in the fact that it's 1 am Melbourne time when I lined up for the check-in counter. After the whole shebang, I finally got to the departure gate where I got some replenishment. I could only buy a couple pack of chips from the vending machine to cater to my grumbling stomach. Okay it's not really their fault, but the only cafe there was selling sandwiches for six dollar each, and I am not really into sandwich.

When it was time, I boarded another Airbus A320-200. This time the plane smelt like an old carpet, the seats looked like it hadn't been refurbished for five years, and no personal drinks were allowed on board (due to the new flight regulations). Off I went for another four-hour flight to Singapore, with an ETA of 3.40am local time. I started feeling sleepy, if that was any consolation.


p/s: To be fair, it's true that "you get what you paid for". It's only that comfort wise, it fell short of my already low expectation. I would recommend anyone to take low-cost airways for their travel on the merit of its price alone, but if you are not too good at, among other things, tolerating sub-optimal condition for more than four hours on a narrow seat, I urge you to think twice.

p/p/s: I forgot to mention that the same vibration during take-off and the smooth landing happened for the second leg of the flight too. I guess it might be something about the A320.

Image Credit: Airbus.com

14 comments:

SilverIsle said...

Gosh. This post scares me lar. But still, what I want is to get home, as cheap as possible, I don't want to pay extra for comfort. =P

Not Ka Lip said...

I would die...I would just die...my cells would apoptose

rj said...

Oh my... I think I could hardly survive the long journey. I tried budget airline during my trip in Europe. It wasn't really a pleasant one either. But what to do, it's cheap!

Anonymous said...

Nice narration of your flight experience. The fare was like 30 percent cheaper? Wow, i actually thought it was more. If this were a long haul flight and if tiger airways were to fly using A320, i actually don't mind paying a more expensive ticket for comfort. Hehe. Cheapo you truly are. :P

WK

youngyew said...

Silverisle: Haha that was what I thought too when I bought the ticket. :D

not ka lip: So are you Ka Lip or not? :D Apoptose.. Hahaha... I think it would cause more necrosis than apoptosis, that condition.

rj: Haha yeah, what to do?! :D

WK: Ya, the fare was only 2100 compared to the usual 3000+ I pay if I were to take MAS. Not as cheap as you lah, NORTHWEST airline. EEW.

sophisticatedsoul said...

Great narration!

I think it was just your unlucky day to have met pilots who could not handle the take-off well enough. I don't remember experiencing any vibration during my take-offs.

My only complaint would be lack of entertainment, and perhaps free food/drinks (considering it's such a long flight). But that was expected and so I bought myself weekend newspapers (thicker edition) to read during the journey.

In the second half of the journey, I could not resist the food temptation anymore and so rewarded myself with in-flight instant noodles and mineral water. The interesting thing is that you pay with AUD and they return your change in SGD. Hah..and in the flight from Darwin to Singapore, I felt I was already home, probably because of the presence of Asian air crew.

Apparently the day I flew was the first day of this Melbourne-Darwin-Singapore flight. That explains the delay in take-off in Darwin. The queue to re-check in was so super long, not to mention we had to spend time clearing immigration some more. That was the first time I found myself still in the airport instead of the plane at the time of take-off.

Anyway, when my friends flew a few days later, the long queue problem has been resolved and there was no more delay. So I am thinking Tiger Airways is actually improving already.

Lack of staff can be a problem too as it is a budget airline. And oh, tell you another interesting thing. We actually met the same air stewardess in our Melbourne-Darwin flight as that we met in Gold Coast-Melbourne flight. Lol.

I'd better stop now. It's such a long comment. Heh..from the way you put it, you are not gonna take this airline again, are you? :P

youngyew said...

Haha yeah it probably is the pilot, but then I think I got two different pilots on the two legs, so it was rather coincidental that the same vibration occurred on both occasions. The plane was different too, if I'm not mistaken.

I did bring my books on board. In fact I brought three books on board wishing that I could finish them. But my eyes were so dry it hurts so much after a couple of hours. :P And I was also annoyed by the two chatters' endless topics on their xiu kiong niece and their friends' son's friend's uncle. :P

In Darwin the queue was still quite long, and the flight was still delayed by half an hour. They had only two counters open for the check-in procedure of more than one hundred people.

Haha regarding your last question: it's a return ticket. :'(

Stanleyyp said...

If it's only 30 cheaper you might as well take commercial flights....

When I took Jetstar I was actually quite satisfactory. Airasia is fine except that it's free seating, hence you will have kiasu-cantonese speaking-uncle aunties queuing up 2 hours before the flight. and the fact that LCCT was designed after a factory does not really help.

Budget airlines in Europe are definitely not as good. But Ryanair offers air tix as cheap as RM70 to Spain. Cheapskates like us just have to bear with it.

and, I did buy a bottle of water on Jetstar. Was thinking that I was the greatest cheapskate in the world but you redefined the word altogether...hehe.....

my fren took Oasis from London to HK. 15 hours, no water, no entertainment- but free toilet and free flight attendants.
Imagine that.....

YP

youngyew said...

It's 1000 ringgit cheaper wor.

I have always been okay with low cost also, but then they were only one to two hours. Take the airbus A320 for four hours and you would understand the agony... :P Most low cost airlines that fly long-haul use 747, and it's much more bearable. A320 is the one airasia uses for local flight.

Haha I am not the greatest cheapskate leh. I still bought something from the vending machine in Darwin. But I drank from the tap. :P :P

Eric Fu said...

Chang Yang, I totally salute you! I would not be fit enough to survive such deprived long haul flight...

Anonymous said...

Eww. eh yee pin, are you sure your friend did not receive any meals service onboard Oasis? Though it's a LCC, i think they still do provide meals. I am not sure though, haven't flown with them before. So can't comment much.

Yeah, totally agree with you though. Chang Yang has indeed redefined the meaning of cheapskates.

WK

wei liang said...

Hehe..totally no frills huh? But my experience with MAS for AS-KL wasn't that good either. The air-conditioning was more like an oven to me. Never tried AAsia before though. Ah, maybe that's just for short trips.

youngyew said...

Eric: Haha no la, it's really not too bad and I seldom complain about transportation even when I took those 6-hour bus rides to and fro KL last time. This time it's a bit bad because of the scare and dry eyes. :)

WK: EEEW

Wei Liang: Yeah no frills. I actually had okay experience with MAS. You probably got a bad plane for that trip. :)

nik kurian said...

gud one man !!!