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December 6, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                             MALAYSIA AIRLINES
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STOCKHOLM TO KUALA LUMPUR
Once the passengers started piling in, and I saw a bunch of European families traveling with kids and babies, I realized my fears were ridiculous. "Fear" really is the worst four- letter word in the dictionary. Malaysia Airlines flies out of a number of European cities (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Rome...), but I took the Stockholm to Kuala Lumpur (KL) flight because it's the only European connection that originates in the U.S. (Newark) and I wanted to experience flying from the East Coast of the U.S. to Asia. (Malaysia's flight out of Los Angeles makes a stop in Taipei before arriving in KL.) I expected this to be a much longer trip than it was. I always thought the quickest way to Asia was through the West Coast of the U.S., but boy, was I wrong. The flight time from Newark to Stockholm is 7 hours, while the flight from Stockholm to Kuala Lumpur is a quick 10 hours, 47 minutes. Not even 11 hours? That's nothing! It's the same time as L.A. to Paris, or L.A. to Fiji. (If you're vague about where Malaysia actually is, check out this world map.)

MALAYSIA AIRLINES
Before this trip I researched Malaysia Airlines (I like to know about a carrier before getting on it for the first time). I learned that Malaysia Airlines has been in business for 57 years. They fly to over 100 destinations on six continents. They're obviously not some rinky-dink airline, but who knew these guys were one of only four 5-Star airlines in the world (according to Skytrax Research). They continually score high marks, including a first place finish in this year's poll for best economy class, and third place for Best Cabin Staff. That's impressive, especially considering the number of airlines in the world. You might be familiar with Malaysia Airlines because they are one of two Asian carriers that occasionally offer the incredible All Asia Airpass (for $999 you can fly to 17 Asian cities in 30 days including your flight to and from the U.S.!). They also offer a Discover Malaysia Pass.

BUSINESS CLASS
Malaysia Airlines flies a Boeing 777 aircraft on the Stockholm to KL route. There are two classes of service on this plane: Golden Club Class and economy. Fortunately, I was in seat 2D, an aisle seat in the center. (The business configuration is 2-3-2; in economy it's 2-5-2). There was no one in the middle seat between me and the American woman on my right, so we had more than enough space. The sleeper seats were comfortable. They're in a privacy shell, meaning they don't recline on the passenger behind. They slide down to a flat bed on a 9-degree angle. I have a difficult time sleeping on planes, but I did manage a couple of hours. I don't think it would have mattered even if I had my California King on the plane. I was so excited to be traveling over parts of the world I have only dreamed about seeing that there was no way I would get much sleep. I kept switching back to the in-flight map on the 10.4-inch LCD touch screen monitor to see what country we were flying over. I hardly even used any of the 350 entertainment options, which included a wide range of 40 movies (from new releases to classics), 60 TV shows (comedies and travel programs), 200 music CDs and 55 video games. They offer the same entertainment in economy, on smaller screens. My only disappointment with the in-flight entertainment was the headset. I expected noise cancellation headphones, but they had the same cheap ones American carriers have in coach. I was surprised the flight attendants collected them before landing as if someone would steal them.

FLIGHT ATTENDANTS
I knew the flight crew would be good because of all their accolades and awards, but I had no idea how beautiful or how well dressed they were. They must hire only good-looking people. All of the women were gorgeous, and the men were very cool. On top of that, they did a great job serving. However, because I had such high expectations I should mention there was a time when I woke up dying of thirst. After waiting 15 minutes (it felt like hours) for someone to come around, I did the unthinkable: I pressed the flight attendant call button. This is a huge no-no in the U.S., because flight attendants give you serious attitude if it's not an emergency. But to my dismay no one came around immediately. When one did, I politely asked for a glass of water. Like a magician, she pulled a bottle from a cubbyhole in my seat back. I had no idea it was even there. What a jack ass I am! Speaking of cubbyholes, I read one of the travel magazines I stored in a seat pocket. It had an article on the best in-flight amenity kits and yes, Malaysia Airlines was listed. I was shocked to see that each one is valued at $62. I now plan to give it to one of my sisters as a stocking stuffer. (I hope they're not reading this story; otherwise they'll fight over it.)

FOOD AND BEVERAGE
The flight attendants continually came around with food, beverage and hot towels. Service began the moment I sat down, and they handed me two menus. The beverage menu had a wide selection of fine champagne, wines, happy hour cocktails, teas and gourmet coffee. The other menu detailed the food service. Because the flight departed at 12:30 p.m. (Swedish time) and would arrive at 7 a.m. (Malaysia time), we started with lunch an hour after takeoff. For starters the flight attendants offered a tray filled with vegetarian samosa, scampi butterfly, leek paj and Indian chicken ball skewers (it doesn't sound appealing, but believe me, it was tasty). Then came a variety of warm breads, and a chicken and mushroom terrine appetizer. My main course was chicken stir fry served with fried rice, glazed bok choy and carrots. The other choices were filet mignon, or Italian mixed potato and vegetable stir fry. Dessert was apple strudel and/or fresh fruit.

BREAKFAST
While most people slept, I worked on my laptop using the 115V power port. The flight attendants had a good variety of hot and cold snacks in the galley (of course, I went up there to hang out with them, and grab some more of their delicious peanuts). An hour and a half before landing the crew came around with breakfast: fresh fruit, juices, muesli, pastries, and a choice of a princess omelet, a plain waffle, or beef rendang and rice (beef cooked in a mixture of aromatic herbs, spices and coconut milk). I went with the latter, because rendang is one of my favorite dishes of all time -- and I was minutes away from landing in the country that created it.

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Pictures From

The Trip

 

Gate Area

 

Malaysia Airlines 777

 

Golden Club Class

 

Plenty Of Space

 

JJ With Frommers Guide

 

Flat Bed

 

Headset

 

Entertainment Options

 

Hot Towels

 

Hungry?

 

Chicken Stir Fry

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