First of all, we flew all the way from Bangkok, Thailand to Auckland, New Zealand for $200 (plus baggage fees, but that’s another story) each. So no complaints there. Can you feel the but coming?
BUT, AirAsia is a little bit of a hell airline for long flights, especially if you’re flying through Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived...how shall I put this? A little haggard.
The day started off well. We expertly packed our backpacks and cruised downstairs for a relaxed breakfast at The Atlanta’s restaurant. My favorite restaurant manager, who’d gotten in the habit of hugging me every time she walked past, kissed us goodbye and escorted us to the waiting taxi.
That’s where things started to go wrong. We’d done a fair amount of driving around Bangkok, so I knew what the route to the airport ought to look like, and I had a feeling that this wasn’t it. We were nearly at the city’s other airport when we realized the mistake, and by then we were out of town on the wrong side of a whole lot of traffic. As we sat in gridlock, nervously drumming our fingernails on the window panes, we spotted someone who really knew how to do rush hour: a man napping in a hammock strung up in the open bed of a truck.
We made the check in cut off with minutes to spare, then treated ourselves to iced coffees to relax. A couple hours later, we were landing in Kuala Lumpur, bracing ourselves for a seven-hour layover, almost all of which we spent staring at each other across a food court table.
KLIA’s budget terminal is like being a rat in a maze, except you also have to pay for the cheese.
It's deviously organized so that you spend a lot of money and still manage to board your flight without a single thing to show for it. The second layer of security ensures that you can’t bring a drop of water from the main part of the terminal. So you buy some by the gate, right? Wrong. All they’ll sell you here are frustratingly small sealed cups of water with straws. You don’t even want to know what they’re charging for that. Fine, then fill your water bottle, right? Wrong. They’ve got a few water fountains, sure, but the water literally comes out of them in drops. It would take ten minutes to fill a tiny water bottle. Once you’ve gotten through the fifteen person line.
KLIA’s budget terminal is perfectly designed to force you into buying airplane food and water. Unless, of course, you’re stubborn. Do you know us? We’re stubborn.
We got through the eight-hour flight in a kind of hibernation mode, sleeping in brief snatches between other people’s meal deliveries and the flight attendants’ loud sales pitches. The girl across the aisle, a cheerful Chinese tourist, reveled in the meals that kept appearing before her, pausing to photograph each cellophane-wrapped tray. Immigration forms were distributed, and a sea of cellphones with translator apps emerged to decipher them.
Eventually we dropped through threatening clouds into the tiny Gold Coast airport, where we all filed off onto the tarmac and then stood, bleary-eyed and clutching our carryons, as fat raindrops splashed down. We were then shepherded through a security line staffed entirely by blonde well-rested Australians saying G’day. In the blink of an eye, we were back on our plane, headed finally to New Zealand.
The storm had followed us there, and we landed through sheets of rain. An interminable biosecurity line later, we were out in the lobby, waiting for our Airbnb host to float us home.