The taxi, a Proton Saga NGV, arrived in front of my house at 7.50 am, scarcely a few minutes after Siti, my other half, phoned for it.
The ride to KLIA, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, was smooth. Less than 40 minutes later I had completed the check-in. I made good time. The MH704 flight to Manila was at 10.15 am, more than 1.5 hours away.
The Muslim Prayer Room at KLIA departure hall
After buying some Philippines Pesos at the airport’s RHB Bank, I sauntered through a connecting corridor to a men’s room, then to the departure level’s surau, a small Muslim prayer room next to the airport’s post office, to renew my wudhu.
That done, I retraced my steps through the connecting corridor and at the far end turned left towards one of the departure gateways. The requisite presentation of boarding pass and I.D. done, I rode the escalator down towards the immigration hall.
KLIA's distinctive tent-style roof, seen from the floor of the immigration hall
I strode across the expansive floor to the rows of automated passport gates, chose one, placed my passport on the reader and pressed my thumb on the scanner. My picture and other information were displayed on the LCD screen, and several seconds later the barrier to the other side opened. I retrieved my passport and walked to the security area.
Halfway there I stopped to stow my watch, PDA, mobile phone, wallet, pen and luggage keys into my backpack pocket. Satisfied that everything on my person especially metallic objects had been safely stashed away, I put the backpack, laptop computer and DSLR camera on the X-ray scanner conveyor, and gingerly stepped through the metal detector gateway.
A KLIA Aerotrain passing us on our way towards the satellite terminal
The alarm sounded, and a pat down body inspection followed. It was my belt’s buckle. Released, I retrieved my hand luggage and made my way towards the airtrain which would take me across the airfield to the satellite terminal, where the MH704 aircraft was parked.
At gate C3 I found a long queue ahead of me. An airline frequent flyer card was of no value here. So I stood in line and waited for the queue to move ever so slowly forward. A woman in front me was talking animatedly into a handsfree kit connected to her BlackBerry phone. From the snippets of conversation that I could not help overhearing, I gathered that she was a finance person, maybe an accountant.
Just inside the door of gate C3 there was another X-ray scanner and metal detector gateway. I passed this second security check with no drama other than the expected frisking due to the belt buckle.
A scale similar to this one awaited us at KLIA's Gate C3
But then after that a strange event unfolded. The passengers were separated into two rows – one went straight through to the departure lounge. The other row was asked by a stern-looking bespectacled lady, uncharacteristic of Malaysia Airlines ground staff, to each put our hand luggage items onto a decidedly classic analog weighing scale. This use of outdated analog scale at a world-class airport must really had been an ad hoc arrangement. Why, even the traders at Seri Kembangan Selangor Wholesale Markets, where I go every 2 weeks to stock up on wet provisions, use digital scales !
Anyway, I was not in a position to demand a digital scale ! First my backpack. She jotted down the weight. Then my laptop computer bag. She noted it again and then totaled the figures. Then she directed me to a nearby desk where there were a couple of girls in front of me. One of them was arguing with the airline staff manning the desk.
I was not aware of this 5-kg restriction
Apparently the airline was enforcing a 5-kg limit on carry-on luggage. The girl pointed out that she was not made aware of the restriction during the check-in, and that the check-in staff did not weigh her carry-on. If that had been done she would have removed certain items to comply. But her arguments were quietly deflected by the staff who showed her that a notice about the 5-kg restriction was printed on everyone’s boarding pass.
My turn came, the staff checked her computer terminal and told me that since my checked-in luggage did not quite reach the 20-kg limit, she could consider my excess carry-on as part of the check-in luggage. She advised me to put as much as possible into the check-in luggage in the future, so that I would not have to undergo a similar hassle.
Well, that new bit of information would be useful for my future trips. Taking things into perspective, it was not so bad after all, considering that my trips would be mainly around Asia and not beyond as they used to be in the past, I hope.