Once inside the terminal we were early for check in but then noticed the KLM self-serve check-in kiosks and decided that would be just the ticket (excuse the pun). We had already checked in online but this would print our boarding passes for us. So we followed the on-screen instructions and voila! - done. We only had to drop off our bags at the collection point and we'd be set.
Uh-uh - nothing's that easy! The boarding passes had printed the original seats that had us sitting ten rows apart for the final leg from KL to Perth. As there was a KLM rep sitting at the check-in counter ready to accept baggage drop off, Alex approached and tried to explain what had happened. The rep ended up completely confused; I think the whole thing involving Twitter and Alex's explanation of "stuffed up" did it. Anyway, I stepped in and managed to say what had happened in fewer words which she then understood. It took a little while but she was able to switch the seats and we ended up with the ones we actually wanted. An annoying hiccup but I have to say that as we got the outcome we wanted and she was very accommodating that we can't complain about KLM's customer service. I can however complain about their Twitter responses as we had been led to understand that they had already remedied the error before we arrived at the airport. Travelling can be stressful enough without having to deal with all that.
The upside to it was that by the time we had finished sorting that out it was just a few minutes to her opening the baggage check in so she put our bags through. Mine was 2kg over weight but she put it through anyway, which is fair enough as Alex's was 5kg under.
Freed of the suitcases we were ready to go through security and then to the departure area and begin the long wait. It was 1pm and the flight was due to leave at 4.15pm. That's a long wait at any time but in a boring airport it's an invitation to experience exponential boredom! To make matters worse as soon as we checked the departure board our flight was already tagged as "Delayed" and would not be leaving until 4.45pm.
It was a long, long few hours and a late start just meant that it would be that much longer before we set foot in Australia again. The best we could hope for was to gain time on the journey to bring us back on schedule. In the meantime we sat and waited
At last we were boarding but it was after five when we were finally cleared for take off and winging our way to Amsterdam on the first leg of a journey that would take more than 25 hours.
Once again we had no time to spare at Schiphol. We landed, checked the departure board, found the gate for our flight to Kuala Lumpur, crossed the airport terminal and lined up to go through security and into the waiting area. At least this flight was on time.
Once on board we had the very annoying experience of two Dutch guys, with no consideration for anyone else, who stood in the aisle next to our seats and proceeded to chatter loudly and animatedly (totally oblivious to their impact on other passengers as well as crew) until the minute the plane actually began to move away from the air bridge. Finally one of them took his seat behind me and the other disappeared to his own seat, fortunately on the other side of the plane. By that time I was ready to do murder; I can't imagine my reaction if the two of them had been sitting together and continued their conversation for the duration of the flight!
What can I say about the flight? It was a long haul, tiring and mind-numbing exercise. The next 12 hours merged into a blur of eating, sleeping, watching movies I would usually avoid and overwhelming fatigue. The guy behind me had taken off his shoes and sprawled out with his feet stretched out right beside my seat - utterly charming behaviour and again with no respect for anyone else. My only defence was to turn away, pretend he didn't exist and keep my eyes closed for most of the flight.
Four hours out of Kuala Lumpur the lights finally came on and the end of the most gruelling trip I have ever endured was at last in sight. I had watched "Brave" twice (once just as a soporific when I needed to go to sleep), tried "Man of Steel" but gave up after about 20 minutes, "Skyfall" lost me after less than half an hour and finally I watched "Young Victoria" with Emily Blunt, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Dragging through the last hour I watched the Flight Information, seeing the animated plane crawl towards Kuala Lumpur while being continually informed of the temperature, speed, time to destination and various other data of mild interest to the air traveller eager to disembark at the next port of call.
Kuala Lumpur! Only another 5 hours of flying time to go.
We went through the usual process; trudging through the terminal, finding the departure gate (only the furthest possible one away from where we landed) and registering, with a fading heart, that this flight was also going to be delayed. Instead of 3 hours kicking our heels in KL airport it was now to be 4.
Let me tell you, there is nothing to do at KL airport for 4 hours! We looked at shops, we visited the tropical garden, we sat and we waited - and waited. Already tired from so many hours in the air, I was fast losing the will to live. At least there was free WiFi but even that was not enough to bolster our spirits for more than a few minutes. As usual, we had no cash funds so couldn't even get a drink while we waited.
At this point I have to make a comment on the toilets at KL airport; they truly were the filthiest and worst maintained toilets I have seen since Barcelona in 2006. In spite of the cleaner swiping a mop sporadically over the main area the floor was wet and dangerously slippery and the stalls themselves were awash. Paper was all over the place and generally the toilets themselves were not very clean with evidence of people having stood on the seats. Thumbs down for Kuala Lumpur airport administration!
Eventually we shuffled into line to be processed through security and be allowed into the gate lounge area; still not going anywhere but a psychological step forward at least. Another wait and then onto the plane at last but still we didn't move away from the air bridge. An announcement from the captain informed us that we could not leave as we were waiting for the baggage to be transferred from a flight from Heathrow which had been delayed getting in. After another ten minutes the plane finally began to move and the last leg of the trip had begun.
What can I say about another five hours on a plane, other than I survived the ordeal and was able to walk away, with spirit shattered but mind still intact, at the other end. Sleep, eat, watch a movie, wait. I did manage to sit through "The Heat" with Sandra Bullock, and grew to enjoy it although I wasn't fussed at the beginning but after that I just kept the entertainment touch screen set to the Flight Information channel and watched the little animated plane crawl towards Perth belying the fact that we were flying at around 950 km/h.
At best I would say that Malaysian Air was average; KLM was okay but not very comfortable and the service wasn't exactly sparkling either. In fact, at times, the KLM crew on the flight back were quite disorganised. I would not choose to fly with either again unless there was no other option available; certainly any itinerary with two stops is to be avoided at all costs. No wonder really that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines have scooped the pool with their mid-point stop in the Middle East. For anyone doing the long haul from Australia to the UK it just makes sense.
At long last we were making the landing approach at Perth international airport. It was about 1 am. The upside was that we were off the plane and through immigration in reasonable time, had a short wait for our bags (having to undergo the usual "trial by resistance" to get through the pack of passengers glued to the edge of the baggage carousel), and then walked straight out into the arrivals lounge without being detained at customs. It was now October 5th. We had left Glasgow on the 3rd.
After another wait for our lift (International airport, Jayde, not Domestic) and a minor drama involving one certain illegally parked car, airport security and police (which I won't go into here) we were on our way.
Once home and left to my own devises I started putting things away, opening mail (as you do at 1.30 am), putting clothes in the washing machine and deciding that as the suitcase was already half-empty that I might as well continue so I could put everything away and not leave a mess for later. By 4.30am I was feeling a tad light-headed and finally crashed into bed - which I had to make first - and was asleep in moments.
Endnote: A rude awakening from a deep sleep came at 9am when Alex breezed in and reminded me that we had some dogs to collect from the boarding kennels. Back to the real world!