I have just returned from a trip home to the UK fron NZ. I've done this journey multiple times but try and see stopovers on the way. This time we travelled via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines. Despite the adverse publicity I was fine flying Malaysia, which is a solid, safe and reliable, if not particularly profitable, airline. We spent a few days in KL so due to the modern inconveniences of air travel even though I didn't get any time to specifically get to do spotting I did get several hours near the traffic at the airport. Here's a review of my experience at KLIA.
My family and I arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (abbreviated to KLIA, though the IATA code is KUL) after departing Auckland on flight MH0132 on August 14, 2015 aboard Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER 9M-MRA. KLIA is nowadays really two almost separate airports which share one of three runways. The original terminal building consists of a traditional terminal box with twin horizontal piers plus a large cross shaped satellite. The former handles Malaysia Airlines domestic and regional narrowbody flights whilst the satellite handles all other international traffic for Malaysia Airlines and foreign non-low cost carriers. The terminal is between two parallel runways.
Two kilometres away from the main terminal exists the new KLIA2, which is the largest low-cost carrier terminal in the world. This huge structure has 80 contact gates and two main piers connected by a walkway over the taxiways (similar to that at Gatwick's North Terminal). KLIA2 shares one of the original terminal's runways but also has its own parallel runway. The primary airline tenants of KLIA2 are AirAsia, AirAsiaX and Malindo Air.
Our 777 arrived into satellite gate 36 and we caught the monorail across to the main terminal building for processing. Upon our departure four days later we again would leave from the satellite. Given the distance to KLIA2 and the usage of specific runways by its traffic my view of it was very limited and restricted to long range shots. This review will focus on my experience at the older main terminal building and satellite.
Also present, for the time being at least, was the MASkargo operation with its A330Fs and 747-400Fs. Other cargo operators I saw were fairly standard - UPS 757s and FedEx A300s. Distant shots of the MASkargo apron were possible:
Pleasantly the terminal structures at KLIA allow a lot of natural light into the buildings necessitating huge areas of windows, which provide pretty good views of the airside areas despite the usual obscuring of much of the glass by lounges and shops. In the main terminal building before you go through security there is a viewing area which although behind glass gives good views of the domestic gates (almost universally stocked with MH's fleet of 737-800s), decent views of one side of the satellite pier and distant views of the runways and KLIA2.
Much domestic traffic and some international passes in front of this area when positioning to the runways or gates. Malaysia doesn't have the best air quality (due to burn offs from deforestation in Indonesia) so the sky is often hazy but this does mean that sun on the windows is less of an issue than it might be. Being behind glass appears a hindrance but it is very very hot and humid outside so the air-conditioning is a blessing! The above shots are nothing special but when taking pictures of individual aircraft you can avoid the annoying reflection issues.
Going through security gives you wider access to the piers though photographic opportunities are not as great as you might hope because each gate has its own secondary security also. This leaves relatively few areas where you can actually get up to the outside glass. Below is a selection of the sort of low quality and obstructed shots that can be achieved through security before travelling to the satellite:
Travelling over to the satellite terminal things improve as it has two levels. Good views of the outside can be gained from several of the upper level restaurants and smoking rooms. The latter are insanely toxic and I felt ill after spending only a minute or two inside! Photo opportunities from the monorail itself are limited due to its speed and juddering. Here's about the best shot I managed from the monorail:
Now none of the photos in this blog are going to win any awards, however it is possible to take much better shots and in part 2 I will showcase some of these photos whilst I discuss the traffic that I saw in my brief time at the airport. Here's a teaser:
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.