I’m trying something new today. So our travels to and from Kuala Lumpur were long… long… long… journeys. They pretty much deserve a blog post of their own. So I’ll be splitting my usual “Trip Report” into two parts. A “Travel Report” that details the airports, flights, and lounges that I used on my journey. The usual “Trip Report” will exclude these things and instead will solely talk about my time IN Kuala Lumpur. If you haven’t already done so, check out my post on how I travel-hacked my way to KL to get an idea of how I afforded this trip. Just FYI, this may be a really boring post. However, I know that when I was getting ready for this trip, I would have loved to read about someone’s experience on China Southern, the different lounge options, etc.
This was one of the very few instances in the past where the fiancee and I did not have to wake up too early. Our flight was at 1:00 PM, so we got to the airport around 10:00 AM. Because we weren’t traveling with American Airlines this time, we had to forgo the Admirals Club access and used a Priority Pass lounge instead. There is only one at DFW, The Club, which is okay… The lounge consists of multiple rooms for multiple airlines. There is one room specifically for Priority Pass cardholders which was very underwhelming and probably was the worst room in the entire lounge. Food consisted of cookies, pita, hummus, chips, fruits, and other small/cold finger foods. The seating area was very limited and it quickly got crowded. After we left the lounge in Terminal D, we took the Skytrain to Terminal E where Delta departs out of. Unsuprisingly, Delta had overbooked our DFW-LAX flight and were asking people to deplane for $1000, a hotel room for the night, and a rebooked flight the next day. If we hadn’t already had a flight from LAX that same day, I would’ve jumped at the chance!!! Don’t worry, I don’t think anybody was forcefully removed.
Much confusion arose when we got to LAX. First of all, China Southern allows you to check-in online for your flight 24 hours ahead of time. However, we weren’t able to get our boarding passes printed. So after walking to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, we were scrambling to find kiosks that allowed us to print our boarding passes. There weren’t any… So we left the terminal to go to the ticketing counters and to our surprise, China Southern wasn’t anywhere to be found. We freaked out for about half an hour then I contacted China Southern via Facebook message and they told me that their ticketing desks don’t even open until 3 hours before departure time. We arrived in LAX at around 3PM and our flight wasn’t until 11PM… To make matters worse, we were starving and had to settle for a limited selection of airport food outside security. Of course if we had known that the ticketing counters wouldn’t be open, we would have stayed airside and gone to any of the plethora of food options past security. Lesson learned… After a few hours of eating overpriced food and sulking, we got in line for our boarding passes. Beware that there is an official weight restriction for carry-ons with China Southern. We don’t like checking bags (as I mentioned here), but our carry-ons were definitely over their 5kg (or is it 7kg?) limit. Best way to avoid being checked? Hide your bag behind the desks when you’re picking up your boarding pass.
Security was quick and we made our way to Korean Air’s Lounge which is contracted by Priority Pass. Please note that this lounge closes off access to Priority Pass cardholders at 8PM (the fiancee and I spent a good chunk of our time in the lounge seeing people get turned away). Food selection at this lounge was pretty awesome for a domestic lounge! There were noodles, sandwiches, ramen, little sushi rolls, fresh fruit, and some other food items that are escaping my mind right now. They also have really nice shower rooms that you can rent which really came in handy since we just spent the whole day on a plane and in airports.
After a few hours in the lounge, we hastily made our way to board our flight! We were able to snag a couple of economy seats on the upper level of an Airbus A380 where there is 2x4x2 seating as opposed to 3x4x3 downstairs. The seats were fairly spacious, had a storage compartment beneath the windows, and had entertainment systems with remote controls. Shortly after we boarded, we got a meal with two options; meatballs or fish. The meatball was geared towards western palates while the fish was more for the Asian crowd. I personally liked the fish better… We then knocked out for 8 hours and woke up to breakfast. The options consisted of seafood porridge and something else, but we both chose the seafood porridge which was also pretty decent. I then proceeded to watch a couple of movies; Hell or High Water and Doctor Strange. Overall, the flight far surpassed my expectations. China Southern, China Eastern, and China Airlines have reputations for being subpar “budget” options. I do agree with the budget part but I think the amenities surpass legacy carriers like American Airlines, United, or Delta. Our flight attendant spoke limited English but it was enough for us to get by. Please don’t get on a Chinese carrier expecting them to speak perfect English. You’re a jerk if you do… China Southern is China’s largest airline and therefore they mostly deal with Chinese passengers. I don’t expect flight attendants on American Airlines to be able to speak Chinese, heck, I don’t even expect them to be able to speak Spanish. In conclusion, the food was far better than any complimentary meals I’ve received on other carriers, the entertainment system had a diverse selection of movies that included blockbuster hits and Oscar nominees, and being able to sit 2x4x2 for a 15 hour flight was definitely a HUGE plus. If you are traveling as a couple, GET THE UPSTAIRS SEATS IF YOU FLY CHINA SOUTHERN’S A380.
After a long 15 hour flight to Guangzhou (CAN), we were able to relax for four hours at the Plaza Premium Lounge at Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport. Make sure to allow enough time for transfers at this airport because if you fly in from the States, you can bet there will be a long line to get through customs (or is it immigration?) even though you are transferring to another international flight. The airport is pretty run down, gross, humid, and a little smelly but I’m hoping that it’ll improve in the next few years since it’s a hub of one of the largest airlines in the world. The Plaza Premium Lounge (free access for Priority Pass cardholders) was actually a really nice place to relax. They had lounge chairs, snacks, wifi, and even its own dedicated mini-restaurant where you can get a variety of hot food from a small buffet. There were fried eggrolls, fried wontons, a noodle-soup dish, steamed buns, desserts, cold drinks, and more! The “restaurant” can be hard to find though, but just make sure you walk all the way down to the END of the lounge. It IS THERE! Julia and I struggled to find it at first and thought there wasn’t any hot food (there is a small snack bar with sandwiches, fruits, and ramen in the center of the lounge). We stuffed ourselves and relaxed until our next flight. They also have showers and bathrooms inside the lounge, but uh… nah. Another word of caution: it is China, so you will not be able to use Google, Facebook, and many other sites that you may normally use at home.
When it was time for our flight to Kuala Lumpur, we went downstairs to our gate and were taxied to our Airbus A320 via shuttle. The shuttle ride was crowded, unusually long, and uncomfortable. Once we were able to board the plane, we noticed some significant leg room at our seats. It appeared that we had somehow gotten premium economy seats with extra legroom at the front of the plane. So for those with economy tickets in their A320s, try to reserve seat rows 31-34. We were in row 33 ;). After take off, we were given another meal… To say that we had been full would have been a terrible understatement. But I mean… free food! There is no entertainment system on these short haul flights (approximately 4 hours) so be prepared with your own entertainment.
Once we arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, we breezed through immigration (seriously the nicest immigration employees ever) and made our way for the prepay taxi stand which can be found right after the baggage claim. The taxi ride to the Doubletree, near the Petronas Towers, costs about RM85 or $20 USD.
Coming Home: KUL-CAN-LAX-SFO-DFW
Yep you read that right… 3 STOPS before we made it home from our vacation. About 2 days in transit! So we left KUL to fly 4-5 hours to CAN via China Southern. There, we had a 2-hour layover where our flight was delayed… We were worried that we would miss our flight out of LAX! However, the flight was only delayed about 45 minutes and 12 hours later, we arrived in LAX with time to spare before our next flight. We spent about a couple of hours in LAX, mostly in Admirals Club Lounges. Then we flew to SFO and arrived at around 1 AM. We just tried to find spots to lay down and sleep in the airport because our flight out of SFO was at 6 AM… So yeah, a bit hectic… But in the end it was a crazy journey that we will remember for the rest of our lives!
The Plaza Premium Lounges for KUL and CAN are similar and I have already addressed it earlier in this post. The flights from KUL to CAN to LAX were also similar to what I’ve already mentioned. So the only thing I will add is a small review of the American Airlines Admirals Club Lounges in LAX and SFO. In LAX there are a couple of Admirals Club Lounges, one in Terminal 4 and one in the Regional Terminal. The Terminal 4 Lounge is a much larger one that has everything an Admirals Club Lounge usually consists of, including showers. The one in the Regional Terminal, which is a short shuttle ride away, is much smaller but was also much less crowded at that time at night (9-11 PM). We enjoyed cold noodles, chips+hummus, water, and other small snacks. I must say that after being spoiled by the Asian Plaza Premium Lounges, I was not feeling the offerings of these lounges… SFO was much the same, but we got in during breakfast where they had oatmeal, bagels, toast, hard-boiled eggs, and some yogurt. Bleh… Our flight from LAX-SFO was handled by a small American Eagle plane out of the regional terminal. The next morning, we had the pleasure of flying to Dallas in an Airbus A321 which appeared to either be new or newly renovated.
As you can see, we had quite the journey. I would like to note that we flew different airlines for our domestic and international flights. China Southern for international and American/Delta for domestic. This is very risky. Very very risky. In fact, I will think twice about doing it next time, especially during a busy holiday like Spring Break. If I actually got bumped off that Delta flight from DFW to LAX, then China Southern would have ZERO RESPONSIBILITY to take me to Kuala Lumpur on a different flight. If my flight from Guangzhou to Los Angeles was delayed so much that I would miss my LAX-SFO-DFW American Airlines flight, then that’s just tough luck (I would have to eat the cost and find another way to get home). Sure everything worked out and everything was dirt cheap, but I surely had some moments where I was legitimately freaking out. Anyways, thank you for coming with us on our journey to and from Malaysia, stay tuned for a trip report!