By: Idries J. Abdur-Rahman, MD, FACOG

 

SOUTHEAST ASIAN ADVENTURE:

I truly believe that travel is cathartic for the body and the soul so we try our best to take at least two family vacations every year, one in the summer (or during Spring break) and one during winter vacation. This winter vacation we opted for Southeast Asia for a few reasons. First, we always try to escape the harsh Chicago winter for warmer climes. Second, we were traveling with my in-laws and my wife (and her sister) wanted to take them to experience a Muslim majority country outside of the Middle East. Third, since we last visited Bali in 2008, I’ve always wanted to return. So, Southeast Asia it was and in particular Jakarta, Indonesia followed by Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and lastly my lovely Bali, Indonesia. So come on along for our 16 day journey through Southeast Asia.

 

FLYING JAKARTA TO KUALA LUMPUR:

There were a ton of options when it came time to book our flights from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur including the Indonesian carriers Lion Air, Batik Airlines, Malindo Air and of course the national airline Garuda. Other options included the Malaysian carriers Air Asia or Malaysia Airlines and then there was the outlier, KLM. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a fifth freedom flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur. Fifth freedom means that KLM can sell seats between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur even though the flight is ultimately destined for Amsterdam routine Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur-Amsterdam. The opportunity to fly a fifth freedom flight combined with the low fare ($50 per person for the one way) meant that flying KLM was a no brainer.

 

KLM JAKARTA-KUALA LUMPUR:

 

We arrived Soekarno-Hatta international airport’s terminal 3 three hours before the scheduled time of departure.

 

With three hours to go, our flight wasn’t even listed on the departures board yet.

 

At Soekanno Hatta airport, you cannot even go through the initial security required to get to the check-in desks until a couple of hours before your flights scheduled departure time. This meant that we had to hang out in the in the pre-departure area for an hour or so.

 

There was a small, covered area outside that appeared to be exclusively for crews awaiting their transportation into the city.

 

Back inside I was chilling (not literally because parts of the pre-departure are were actually quite toasty) when I spotted these crew members.

 

Not sure what airline they fly for but I like the way the uniform and the hijab flow together.

 

Many of the travelers waiting to enter the check-in area were headed to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah pilgrimage. The individual groups could be identified by their name tags and their coordinated clothing.

 

Prayer rooms can be found at airports throughout the middle east and Asia.

 

The Jakarta Airport (transit) Hotel was located between terminals 2 and 3.

 

We passed through initial security about two hours before our scheduled departure time, to find the KLM checkin desks relatively swamped. Despite the long lines, the process proceeded pretty quickly and we soon had boarding passes in hand heading to…

 

gate D2 where…

 

we found PH-BVC, a 2009 build Boeing 777-300 waiting to take us on the 703 mile, 1 hour and 37 minute flight to Kuala Lumpur.

 

Boarding started right on time and we were greeted at the R2 door by two cabin crew members.  The crew do a five day trip, flying Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur with a lay-over in Kuala Lumpur. The next day they fly Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur and again layover in Kuala Lumpur before flying the final leg from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam the following day.

 

By now you know that I have a thing for doors and wings, so here is the R2 door during boarding.

 

We waiting in the large galley between the L2 and R2 doors while passengers cleared the aisle before entering…

 

the Business class cabin which looked relatively spacious.

 

I could definitely see myself spending a few hours here on the way to Amsterdam but…

 

not tonight. Next up was KLM’s Economy Comfort which is more akin to United’s Economy Plus than a true Premium Economy product. Same seat width just a few extra inches of pitch (34 instead of 31).

 

It was just plain ole’ steerage for us tonight but for a 90 minute flight…

 

the space was sufficient.

 

You can checkout the full video fllight report here:

 

After getting seated and settled, I checked out KLM’s in-flight magazine the Holland Herald and of course the first thing that I turned to was…

 

the fleet page.

 

Next up was the safety card. Safety is always first or…in this case second.

 

After checking out the seat pocket contents, I fired up the in-flight entertainment system and went right for…

 

the flight map.

 

We pushed off of the gate right on-time and after a very slow, 20+ minute taxi, the GE90 engines propelled us into the night skies over Jakarta

 

Our route from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur.

 

Despite the long taxi, we were still scheduled to arrive Kuala Lumpur a few minutes ahead of schedule.

 

Up, up and away…Next stop, KL.

 

Soon after take-off, luke warm towels (I’m sure they were intended to be hot) were distributed. Despite being luke warm, they were a nice touch for such a short flight, especially in coach class.

 

Legroom was the unfortunately standard 31 inches but the design of the seat with the magazine pocket above the knees did make the seat a bit more comfortable.

 

A warm snack service followed consisting of vegetable risoles.

 

The taste was so-so but a warm snack on a 90 minute flight is still appreciated by this American who is used to having to buy food even on 9 hour flights from Chicago to Hawaii (yeah, I’m looking at you UA!)

 

After the service items were collected, people kicked back and relaxed for the remaining 30 minutes or so of the flight. These two a definitely chips off of the old block, catch a few ZZZ’s whenever and wherever you can!

 

The in-flight entertainment system had a nice feature highlighting tourist sites of the destination city. We definitely had to see Petaling Street before we left KL. About 15 minutes out, we started our descent into KLIA-Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

 

We landed early and arrived the gate 7 minutes ahead of schedule. Given the sea of Malaysia Airlines tails, I knew we were definitely in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Disembarkation was nice and smooth and all passengers (even those continuing onwards to Amsterdam) had to disembark prior to the crew change. As you can see, KLM is a part of the 3-4-3 777 movement. At least the TV screen are large enough to take your mind off of the misery for a little while.

 

Is it just me, or does the air actually smell better up here at the pointy end of the airplane? Okay, it’s probably just me.

 

The dual air bridges presented a bit of a problem when it came time to collect our gate checked stroller but it provided a nice photo op.

 

Of course I had to check out FlightRadar 24 as soon as we landed.

 

I was kind of surprised how crowded the airport was at this late hour, especially on New Year’s eve.

 

It took a while to get two vans into the city (remember we were a group of 11 on New Years Eve) but eventually we were on the road and heading into the city center.

You can check out the full video flight report here:

Don’t forget to check out part 1 of my southeast Asia adventure HERE.

Don’t forget to check out part 2 of my southeast Asia adventure HERE.

Don’t forget to check out part 4 of my southeast Asia adventure HERE.