Although I didn’t have any options but a taxi when I arrived after midnight in Kuala Lumpur, I was able to try something different on the return journey. A taxi from the Grand Hyatt dropped my off at KL Sentral, where I was able to quickly purchase a ticket and walk downstairs to a waiting train. Next to the Hong Kong Airport Express it was the most seamless airport train experience I’ve ever had. Thirty minutes later I was at KLIA1, the main international airport terminal (KLIA2 is for discount carriers).
I paid ~$80 for an ordinary economy class ticket for the short trip to Bangkok, but as a oneworld Emerald member I thought I’d try out the first class check-in area. This is usually a treat in Asia. Premium check-in for business and first class was through the arch.
After being greeted I was asked to sit in the first class check-in area while the agent took my passport. The business class area was essentially the same, but it had more (less comfortable) seating and was located on the opposite side.
Although I appreciated the agent’s intention, I became frustrated that nothing was actually getting done. There were three other agents crowded around a terminal trying to fix a problem with another passenger. My agent was waiting patiently to the side. None of the other terminals were in use.
Eventually I walked up and asked if I could just get a boarding pass and go. I wasn’t planning to check luggage anyway. At this point she moved to another counter and settled things promptly. I don’t know if the delay was because she thought I wanted to check luggage and that was the only counter where she could do that, but regardless I think it’s an important lesson that having status and using the special check-in area isn’t always important. All I needed was a boarding pass, which I could have obtained from an ordinary counter with the other economy class passengers.
After clearing immigration, I was surprised to see several wooden display cases holding model airplanes. There were also larger standing models around one of the departure boards. I’d heard that Kuala Lumpur was the home of a major retailer of model aircraft, so I guess it’s appropriate to have so many also on display at the airport.
My ultimate destination was the Golden Lounge. Malaysia Airlines operates several lounges at the airport, and since I had heard less impressive things about the first class lounge I decided not to make a big effort to seek out the “best” location. I was not hungry, or thirsty, or even in need of a shower. I just wanted a place to sit before my flight. The regional business class lounge was the first one I saw and closest to my gate.
I was mildly impressed by how many amenities the lounge offered. The water feature at the entrance is a nice touch, and it was busy but not particularly crowded. There was a small buffet and an unattended cook station (where I assume they could make some hot dishes if requested).
There was even a spa in the back, and the bathrooms offered several shower facilities. Everything looked clean and in working order, although the bathroom area is a bit dark.
I just found myself a nice seat with a view of the airport and ordered a couple drinks while waiting for departure. The selection was about what you’d find at a typical U.S. lounge except with more premium spirits. There was Champagne on offer, too.
I asked for Jack Daniels and Diet Coke but was told they didn’t have any Jack. Would Johnnie Walker Black be okay? These days I’d consider myself lucky to find a lounge pouring any Scotch with a recognizable label — even Dewars.
The WiFi was fast enough to call my wife on Skype and get some work done. There were also some Western newspapers by the entrance so I could catch up on events. Some bloggers have given flack to the first class lounge so I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially at a business class lounge that specifically calls itself out as “regional.” Instead this was a pleasant visit and exactly what I needed before a short flight. When catering to business class passengers, I think Malaysia Airlines is doing alright.