Monday, May 26, 2014

Firefly, your community airline...

I don’t know what community Firefly is talking about; I certainly don’t feel that I am in any of its communities, except that I use it to commute to-and-fro Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

It is not my preferred choice, for I have hardly any choice really.

“Last minute” bookings can cost a bomb; one way ticket makes you out of poorer by more than M$500, roughly the cost of Business Class tickets on the “regular” airlines. Unfortunately, my meetings are usually the last minute type. And from where I am putting up whenever I am in the country (Malaysia), Subang Airport is just 10 minutes away, compared with an hour or so I have to set aside for the journey to KLIA.

If you miss you flight, too bad; you lose everything. And if you are early and want to catch an earlier available flight, which might be half empty, you have to pay surcharges. SQ will rush you into an earlier flight by every means. Why? They can sell another seat in the next flight.

Tan Sri Low Yow Chuan who built Malaysia's first international hotel (The Federal at Bukit Bintang) used to say this to his staff: A hotel room NOT sold is a night’s revenue lost! Commonsense isn’t it?

* * *

You get to meet people in Firefly you don’t normally get to see in other airlines.

I suppose Firefly’s ATR aircraft are too small to be serviced by Changi Airport’s regular aprons. Since it is a ‘classless’ plane, every passenger – without exception – will have to be herded into a coach to be ferried to the aircraft which is parked elsewhere for boarding.

Ditto at the Subang airport, there is no VIP lounge there, everyone is equal there. You have to queue up like the rest to walk a short distance to board the aircraft.

Amongst them was this on-time shaker and mover in the Malaysian stock market. I understand he was living like a corporate fugitive for a couple of years overseas. He has a attractive travelling companion. His new wife, maybe? I couldn’t help asking myself: What counter is he trying to “mover and shake” next? But isn't Singapore too dangerous a place for this one-time big cat to prowl?

I also ran into the head of our o our many private universities. I even thought part-time at his "university" before it became one. I read that this university has awarded the Supreme Leader of a rogue country up north an honorary doctorate. I don’t think I want to be a friend of his.

A junior of mine who became the custodian of the country's distressed assets after the 1997 financial crisis was also spotted being squeezed into a corner in the ferry coach. This might turn out to be the first and last time he flew Firefly.

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