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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Offbeat Travelogue: 4 aircraft changes, 3 airports, and 2,902 km later...

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Walski had one of those odd days yesterday. Travelling comes with the territory of work that he does. But yesterday, Walski had an out-of-the-ordinary role - Walski became a courier to deliver a tender package, which didn't make the Friday afternoon deadline mentioned in the last post. And no, certain people have not been whapped on the side of the head. Yet.

Anyway, the day started like any other... leave the house, get caught in traffic... except that Walski's morning drive was to KL International Airport (KLIA), instead of the office. The destination? Miri, Sarawak - to deliver tender documents for a project that his company's bidding for. Deadline - 3pm.

And surprise, surprise (not)... the flight was delayed by half an hour. Which was no big deal, really... since the flight was a direct one, with a short transit in Kuching International for about half an hour, before continuing to Miri. By Walski's calculations, he would arrive just before 2pm, giving him ample time to get to his cutomer's office by 3pm.

In any case, the delay at KLIA was due to aircraft malfunction - not once, but twice. So, that alone accounted for 2 aircraft changes - even before the start of the journey. And a travel delay... albeit a minor one, all things considered. Or so Walski thought at the time.

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhat a 2,902km trip looks like on a map

Then we get to Kuching, only to find out that once again we had to change aircraft. Apparently the one we flew into Kuching on wasn't 100% either. Which probably accounted for the terrible vibration whenever the brakes were applied (on landing).

One thing about air travel that Walski has come to grips with (having travelled by air so much) - better safe, and slightly delayed, than sorry. Or dead.
(more of the 2902 km adventure in the full post)

Incidentally, the flight to Miri that Walski was on is the one that Walski calls the Kangaroo Flight. The final destination is Kota Kinabalu, via Kuching, Miri and Labuan. Hop, land, hop, land.... What would be a 2½ hour direct flight takes about 6 hours total (including stopovers). And Walski had the misfortune to actually have to do the entire trip once a few years back.

One of the oddities that visitors to Malaysia will find is that there is immigration control between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak/Sabah, and even between the two states. Walski won't get into the history of this, but for a frequent traveller to these parts, it is a hassle.

"Hi, I'm from Sarawak. Which country are you from?"

Anyhow, because of the aircraft change in Kuching, the trip was again delayed, this time by about 20 minutes or so. By this time, Walski was getting a tad worried - by the time of arrival in Miri, there would only be about 25 minutes to get from Miri airport to the customer. Cutting it close, to say the least. In retrospect, perhaps flying in one day earlier would have been better. Hindsight, they say is Vision 20-20, eh? Pun intended.

So, Walski arrives in Miri, rushes to the taxi counter to get the coupon, grabs the first available taxi, and makes his way to the customer's office. Fortunately, what Miri folks call traffic jams are nothing but minor congestions by KL standards. And yesterday, Miri road traffic was very cooperative. Air traffic, on the other hand, wasn't.

By the time Walski arrives, it's just a minute before 3pm. Phew... made it just in time. So, with tender submitted, Walski gets back into the taxi (which was asked to wait 10 minutes), and it was back to Miri airport.

Needless to say, the flight back to KL (non-stop, this time) was delayed. By about half an hour. You're probably wondering which airline, right? Walski won't say, except that it is not the one that enables everyone to fly (and experience flight delays). Figure out the rest...

What's a little worrying is the number of times they had to change aircraft. Which indicates that either maintenance was not done on time, or the aircraft were starting to show their age. The aircraft throughout yesterday's adventure was the Boeing 737-400. Yeah, similar to the Adam Air one that crashed in Indonesia on New Year's day. But one thing that Walski will say is that the airline he travelled on yesterday does not compromise on safety. Which is a good thing. And it has an impressive safety record by international standards to show for.

According to Boeing's report "Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents", between 1970 and 2005, the B737 has one of the best safety records, measured by a very low rate of accidents per million departures (p. 17 of the report shows a comparison chart). All in all, the bird's pretty safe. It's usually the operators that we should be worried about.

You should, by now, know which airline Walski's talking about. If you've been paying attention to the hints along the way, that is.

Image taken from Boeing, hosting by PhotobucketJust in case you didn't know what a 737 looks like

So, 2,902 km later, Walski's back in KL, a record-breaking 2 hours in Miri total - the shortest trip ever to the "Resort City" (or as Walski calls it, the Last Resort City). All in a day's work, so to speak. Playing courier is an expensive exercise, but in this case, the tender value more than compensates for the added cost of getting the package there on time.

It wasn't the best of days, nor was it the worst of days... it was just the kind of day that lies somewhere in the tepid gray area between boring and mundane. The silver lining is that Walski managed to read about a third of the book he's currently reading - about how the world is flat. But more on that once he's finished the book... It's a must-read book, though, and an eye-opener in many ways.

So today, it's back to the office, and to explain to the boss why Walski had to become an over-paid courier for a day yesterday... and no, the boss probably doesn't read this blog.