KTM Domestic Airport…And the Kathmandu-Lukla flights!

…0615
…0630
…0730
…0745
…0830
…0900
…0930
…cancelled…

This is Yeti Airlines…The “fly on time” airline?

I know the delays are due the weather, but it’s stupid for any airline in Nepal to market themselves based on on-time departures. Flights are delayed due to bad weather way too often, and despite what some idiots in the terminal seem to think, you can’t control the weather. Unless you’re Storm from the X-Men…And, no.

The domestic terminal at Kathmandu airport is ok. One large room with some metal seats. There’s a small snack shop that sells chocolate, cookies, candy, etc. I checked everything in there. Everything. Couldn’t eat any of it. Even the wasabi peas that were the most promising option were ruled out due to wheat in the wasabi. This trek is going to suck if I can’t eat ANY snack food they sell here.

The shop also sold coffee and tea. I got black tea. Helped warm up a bit at any rate. Was a little chilly – the weather delay was due to insane fog outside. The tea was good actually, certainly one of the better teas I’ve tried.

The flight eventually got cancelled, so went to try again the following morning.

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Madness when all the flights got cancelled!

The flight itself was quite short at only 30-odd minutes. Plus, going into the Himalaya, it was as bumpy as you can imagine. So obviously there was no food service. Too dangerous. Been on plenty of flights like this in the past, so nothing I’m not used to. Quite similar to the SCL-MDZ “put your seatbelt on an don’t move for 35 minutes” flight over the Andes really. Racked up quit a few frequent flyer miles on that one!

Also came to the realisation that I probably won’t be able to buy anything gluten free as snacks. The shops are stocked to the brim with snack food, but it is all chocolate, cookies (read: Oreos), candy (read: gummy bears etc.). I checked ingredients on everthing that wasn’t ruled out due to non-vegan ingredients for gluten. Nothing. At all. Really wish I hadn’t raided my gluten free museli bar stash before leaving Kathmandu. I’m sure the regular meals I will get while trekking will be fine, but it looks like I’m screwed for snack food *sigh* I have vegemite, but haven’t been able to find rice or corn thins to spread it on. Going to ask my guide to take me food shopping later. I find it hard to believe this stuff isn’t sold anywhere, even if the prices are astronomical. This is a “price doesn’t matter” issue. I don’t care what it costs, as long as I don’t get sick!

Will write about the return Lukla-Kathmandu flight experience in a follow-up post!

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Malaysia Airlines Business Class KUL-KTM

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu is part of the Malaysia Airlines (MH) regional network as opposed to their “international” network. I think it’s just anything intra-Asia is considered regional. It means a slightly inferior product, but as I was flying business class (the highest cabin class available on this route), I figured it wouldn’t be too bad…

I had made sure to get some breakfast in the Malaysia Airlines Regional Lounge in Kuala Lumpur before boarding the flight, as I wasn’t especially hopeful about getting food I could eat.

I was half right?

Anyway, upon boarding we got offered the obligatory pre-departure drink. Again, the option was long-life fruit juice. I asked for water, however unlike my previous flight, they got it for me immediately when I asked. No hassle. Shortly after take-off the regular drinks trolley came around, and again I went for the Pepsi Light.

Then the breakfast/brunch offering came out.

On the tray was a bowl of sliced fruit, the main meal, and a tapioca and coconut pudding. And a jar of strawberry jam. The fruit and the pudding were fine for me to eat. The main? Not so much.

The main was vegetables, rice and fried eggplant. The vegetables were fine. But the rice had something mixed through it. I could see it, and smell it. It was possibly just some spice mix and perfectly safe and gluten free. Or possibly not. And the eggplant had been battered before it was fried. The batter had seeped through the eggplant as well, so it wasn’t as simple as just cutting off the offending bits on the outside. As usual, when the bread basket came around, nothing was suitable. Which meant nothing to put the jam on.

So while the meal was vegan, I was unable to eat most of it because of gluten. These things happen. And I couldn’t even fall back on my stash of rice cakes, because I’d eaten them on my previous flight!

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The VGML offering…

The rest of the flight was fine though. Mundane. Nothing to really say.

When I got to my hotel in Kathmandu, I ended up raiding my museli bar stash that I’d bought for trekking because I was hungry. I’m sure I can find some more gluten free museli bars in the shops here somewhere. I hope!

Kuala Lumpur International Airport Malaysia Airlines Regional Lounge

Upon landing in Kuala Lumpur from Perth, I had a 10 hour layover. Unavoidable due to the flight schedules on Malaysia Airlines (MH). As such, when I landed, I planned to check out the Malaysia Airlines lounge at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). I had booked a room at the Sama Sama Express Hotel within the terminal to spend my layover so I could have a shower and get some sleep, but I wanted to see the lounges as well.

I’d been informed in advance that the MH Golden Lounge (the first/business class lounge that I should have had access to) in the Satellite Terminal at KLIA had been closed for renovation, so my options for lounge access were either the MH Regional Lounge in the Main Terminal, the Cathay Pacific (CX) Lounge, or the VIP Lounge. I had also been informed in advance that the VIP Lounge at KLIA was terrible, so I avoided it like the plague and decided to check out the MH Regional Lounge and the CX Lounge. However due to being excessively tired (got no sleep on the Perth-KL flight, even with the bed), I decided to just go straight to the transit hotel rather than go lounge hopping. I could do that in the morning!

In the morning, around 5.30am I checked out of the transit hotel and I headed to the Cathay Pacific Lounge. It was locked up and pitch black. It’s supposedly meant to be open at 5am, so not particularly impressed. I plan to hit it up on the way home though, so I will comment on it then.

Upon realising the CX lounge was shut, I just headed straight for the MH Regional Lounge in the Main Terminal. Quite spacious and well set out actually. Plus, there’s a barista! Always my favorite person early in the morning!

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Mr Barista!

I got my long black and I was happy. Not the best coffee I’ve ever had by a long shot, but caffeine is caffeine when you’re up this early! Sadly in the drinks fridge, there was only regular Pepsi, no Pepsi Light. I don’t drink the regular stuff at all. Way too sweet for my tastebuds these days.

The food offerings however weren’t so amazing for me as a vegan and gluten intolerant traveller: sausages, eggs, pastries, breakfast cereals, yogurt…And my worst nightmare – squid and prawn sambal. You have no idea how tempted I was to go against all medical advice and eat it. It used to be one of my all time favorite foods. I didn’t go there though. There was a small platter of fruit out however, so I got a few slices of pineapple and papaya.

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The Malaysia Airlines Regional Lounge food at KLIA…

After my small breakfast I probably could have wandered back to check out the CX lounge in the Satellite Terminal, I just couldn’t be bothered. The MH Regional Lounge was relatively comfortable, and had half decent wi-fi, so I just hung around until my flight was called.

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Watching the sunrise from the lounge…

Malaysia Airlines Business Class PER-KUL

My thoughts on the Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight on Malaysia Airlines?

On booking my business class flights on the Malaysia Airlines website, I explicitly specified a vegan meal (VGML). This was clearly in my booking and was clarified again upon check-in. My VGML was loaded. First hurdle passed!

Still not feeling too great after yesterday’s conference catering fail, so I was hoping the food woudn’t be too much effort for my stomach to deal with.

Not off to a great start when I got to the gate and the MH gate staff said to me:

…this line is for our business class passengers only, the economy class line is over there.

This an incredibly bad assumption to make. The days of business class passengers being middle aged men wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase are long gone. Plus, it’s not like I was dressed badly. Skinny jeans, a dressy singlet top and my trusty Chucks. And I was carrying a backpack. The assumption that I am not a business class passenger because I don’t fit some stereotype pisses me off. There is no stereotypical business class passenger these days. Billionaires come in all guises. I might not be that rich (or rich at all to be honest), but I can afford business class airfares most of the time. You can find cheap business class fares on sale from time to time. That’s how I do it. Either that or I use my frequent flyer miles to upgrade. Regardless, it is really poor form to assume anyone isn’t a priority status passenger.

Anyway, the pre-flight drink offerings were champagne or some sugary preservative laden long-life fruit juice. I asked for water, and had to ask again multiple times before someone got me some. Firstly, I no longer drink alcohol. And secondly, I never drink that dodgy bottled long-life fruit juice. If it was freshly squeezed or something like Daily Juice (comes in a bottle, but made fresh daily) then I’d drink it. But not the long-life stuff. Just because it has fruit in it, does not mean its healthy. That’s like saying pumpkin pie is healthy because it has pumpkin in it. No. Just, no.

After take-off the drinks cart came around. No Coke products ūüė¶ I am admittedly a bit of a caffeine snob. Had to drink Pepsi Light. It’s a little sweet for my usual taste, but it was what was on offer, such as it is.

Shortly after, the appetizer was served. It was some grilled vegetable skewers. Not a bad effort actually. A little soggy, but decent for airline food. They were served on top of a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, which in general is not gluten free (some brands are, most are not), and they couldn’t clarify for me one way or the other. So I just cut off the bits that had touched the sauce (not much) and ate the rest of it without the sauce. Tasty! And clearly just eating the bits that hadn’t touched the sauce was fine, because I didn’t get sick.

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The grilled vegetable skewers…

The main meal tray was placed on my table after a while. Had a small fruit bowl and the entree to start with. And holy crap! We have a winner! The entree was a pineapple, avocado, onion, tomato and chilli salsa. It was good! The bread basket was brought around at this time as well, and as usual had no gluten free option. I had a mini pack of rice cakes in my backpack, so I was fine. My hopes for the main were now raised considerably though! Was crossing my fingers it would be gluten free…

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The epic vegan entree!

Turned out to be fine. The main was grilled/steamed Asian vegetables and steamed tofu with sesame seeds, and steamed rice. Was pretty standard. It was good, but not quite up to the same level of awesome as the salsa I got as an entree.

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The main meal…

The dessert was some jello-type pudding with strawberry and lychees. Had no idea if the jello thing was gluten free or not, and I didn’t want to tempt fate. Also, I hate lychee. Just one of those things I didn’t like as a kid and never got over. But I ate the strawberry! Not the end of the world, the rest of the meal was edible. And I packed a few pieces of gluten free red licorice in my carry-on. BYO dessert!

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The dessert that I was unsure about. Might have been gluten free, might not…

Also including a photo of the standard business class menu just in case anybody is interested.

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The left hand side is for the Kuala Lumpur-Perth morning flight, and the right hand side the Perth-Kuala Lumpur afternoon flight.

So in summary?

  • The ground staff Malaysia Airlines employ at Perth Airport need some customer service training. Badly.
  • No inflight amenity kit? I realise at only 5.5 hours it isn’t a long flight, but it still surprised me not to get one.
  • The vegan food on Malaysia Airlines is actually pretty good, at least based on this flight. Not necessarily gluten free, but I was able to find a way to deal with that regardless. Let’s just hope I haven’t spoken too soon!
  • The customer service and the seats on MH might not be quite up to the same level as some other Asian carriers like Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines. But in my opinion, the VGML food on MH is better. Came as a bit of a surprise to me, but it was a pleasant one!
  • And that pineapple salsa I got as an entree is quite honestly the best vegan meal item I’ve ever been served on a flight.
  • Perth International Qantas Lounge

    I’m through this lounge with some regularity, but this is my first since starting the blog, so I’m starting fresh with my thoughts on it.

    I go through Sydney International more than anywhere, and it’s like comparing apples and oranges, because in Sydney I have access to the Qantas First lounge. There’s no spa or awesome cafe style dining in Perth. It’s just a regular serve yourself business lounge. But hey, at least there’s decent wi-fi? Anyway, onwards with my lounge review…

    I had booked business class flights on Malaysia Airlines, but due to my Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer status, this meant I had access to both the Malaysia Airlines lounge and the Qantas lounge at Perth airport. I had been told that the Qantas lounge was superior in just about every way, but I’m nothing if not curious, so I wanted to check out the MH lounge anyway. You can read about my thoughts on the Perth Malaysia Airlines lounge here.

    After the miserable state of affairs I found in the Malaysia Airlines lounge, I ventured down to the Qantas Lounge. Having been in the Perth International Qantas lounge a number of times before, at least I knew the food and drink offerings would be better!

    The lunch fare was out in the lounge and there was also some hot food out. A tomato and something soup (not gluten free – I asked), and cheese and spinach ravioli.¬†Both great dishes I’m sure, just not vegan and gluten free. Such is life.

    But they also had the antipasto stuff out. Corn thins, crackers, and various deli meats, marinated eggplant, sundried tomato, and various dips and salad mixes. I know from previous experience which things I can eat in the Qantas lounge, so I got some corn thins, some sweet potato dip, eggplant and sundried tomato. And there’s always the fresh fruit bowl and¬†dried banana chips¬†next to¬†the coffee machine. Was a good (late) lunch!

    I stayed in the Qantas lounge until my flight was called typing up this post on the wi-fi and drinking all the Coke Zero I could find. Because I have no idea how easy it’ll be to get in Nepal. I’ll drink Diet Coke if there’s no Coke Zero, but I do prefer Coke Zero. Because yes, I’m just that picky. First world problems!!!

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    The antipasto spread in the Perth International Qantas lounge today…

    Perth International Malaysia Airlines Lounge

    This is my first time flying with Malaysia Airlines internationally (flown with them domestically within Malaysia before).

    In Perth, since Malaysia Airlines is now part of the OneWorld alliance, I have access to both the Malaysia Airlines (MH) lounge and the Qantas (QF) lounge at the international airport – this is due to the fact I booked business class tickets and am also a OneWorld Emerald frequent flyer. On this particular trip I decided to do some lounge hopping and check out both the MH lounge and the QF lounge since it was an afternoon flight and it would give me a good chance to do some comparisons on the food offerings. You can read about my thoughts on the Perth International Qantas lounge here.

    The MH Lounge at Perth International airport is a sad state of affairs. It’s a nice room with a tiny little food and beverage area and the front desk. Not even any toilets – you have to go outside and use the public ones! I basically went in, had a look around, took some photos, got a small plate of fruit and a Diet Coke and then went to the Qantas Lounge at the other end of the terminal. I was probably in the MH lounge for a grand total of 10 minutes. Yes, it was just that sad.

    The food offerings were extremely limited. Some biscuits, muffins, cheese and crackers, fruit, and a few pieces of sushi. The only thing there that I could eat was the fruit. I took some pineapple, strawberry and rockmelon. It was good, but pretty lacking in terms of lounge food.

    PER MH Lounge Food

    The fruit offering in the Perth Malaysia Airlines lounge…

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    The “bar” in the Perth Malaysia Airlines lounge.

    Today’s conference catering fail?

    Had to attend a conference today and as usual, I informed the organisers well in advance that I was vegan and gluten free. Was told that it was fine and they’d sort it out with the catering staff.

    Morning tea I got a fruit plate. Fantastic! Off to a good start!

    Lunch? Not so much. It was some lettuce and tomato (no dressing), some eggplant type dip, rice crackers, and some vegetable curry. Everything looked fine. It was vegan alright. But I’m guessing they put some thickener containing gluten into the curry sauce. Because not 10 minutes later and I’m running to the bathroom…

    Fantastic. Do you know how painful it is to have to sit around at a conference listening to talks when all you want to do is go to the bathroom every 2 minutes?

    Afternoon tea was another fruit plate. I gave it to someone else to eat because I was still sick.

    And then at the end of the day at the conference drinks, I think they’d given up on me because every single thing they brought around as snacks had meat in it.

    Admittedly I didn’t have to pay to attend this conference. But the people hosting it paid a fortune for the catering. I said something to them, and they weren’t impressed by the incident.

    I suppose I should be grateful that it was only an issue with gluten, and not dairy? Still, I find it incredibly frustrating when this happens. Professional caterers should not be making such mistakes.

    ImageThe likely offender…