Two lessons I learnt: one, you must get to the airport on time and two, always allow for the unexpected to happen.
Okay, so it was mostly my fault that I missed my AirAsia flight back to Penang on Sunday night. I did not provide for the inevitable delay. My fault? Sure. When I jetted down to the KLIA-LCCT on Saturday, I had timed that it had taken the bus (booked through AirAsia when I purchased the flight tickets) about 50 minutes to travel from the LCCT to KL Sentral.
However, I had failed to take into account that the bus would not leave immediately when I boarded it. I was lucky that upon arrival at the bus terminal, the bus had moved off almost immediately because it was already full. That lowered my guard and gave me a wrong impression.
Therefore, on Sunday, I had also assumed - wrongly - that the bus from the KL Sentral to the airport would also be shoving off soon after I boarded it. But it did not. About 10 minutes passed. I glanced at the signboard on the wall and it said that the bus would depart at 8.15pm. The time came and gone. The bus still didn't move. The bus company's gang of drivers were still outside chatting away. Obviously, they were not concerned. In fact, they couldn't have cared less whether their passengers had a flight to catch or not.
Finally, the bus left the station at 8.35pm. It was 20 minutes after the scheduled time. By the time it arrived at the LCCT, it was 9.35pm and my flight was at 9.50pm. All the time in the bus, I was feeling anxious whether I could make it to the check-in counter.
No, I didn't. The AirAsia counter staff said the counter closed 20 minutes before flight time. The passengers were already boarding the aircraft, she said, and there was nothing more that could be done, save to reschedule my flight. There's another flight later at night, I asked hopefully? No, she answered, the next flight would be at 6.50am the next morning. What to do except to fork up extra just to have my flight to Penang changed?
So the lesson to learn when travelling the Penang-Kuala Lumpur route. From Bukit Mertajam it looks quite safe to leave the house before boarding time. However, you'll need about three hours in Kuala Lumpur. Where KL is concerned, always expect the unexpected. There's less efficiency around.
Oh yes, there's Lesson Number Three. Forget about buying bus tickets online when you book your AirAsia tickets. The few ringgit you save will not be worth the hassle of missing your flight. And actually, there are plentiful of alternate bus services plying the two directions. Just pick and choose the bus that's moving off soon. You need not travel by AirAsia's recommended bus service which after all, is not even operated by them. Skybus is only a third-rate bus company that AirAsia ties up with. (I'm still smarting, see? So I'm entitled to write them off.)
By the way, the check-in hall at 9.35pm was a strange sight to behold. Normally filled with travellers, this time there was nobody at all in the big hall. Lights were dimmed and in the far corner of the hall, all I saw was one solitary AirAsia staff trying to complete her work for the day. She was the one that rescheduled my flight to Monday morning.
So what could I do after that? I didn't want to go back to the city centre, find a place to stay and then come back again to the airport at 4am. However, I had almost nine hours to kill before my flight. I tried the Tune Hotel nearby but sorry, all rooms were fully booked. No choice but to return to the terminal. No choice but to spend the night there. Luckily, McDonald's was open round-the-clock. I chose the most comfortable seat I could find and settled down for the night. As this was the first time (and hopefully the last time too) I had to overnight at an airport terminal, I was prepared for trouble. If anything were to happen, like being robbed, I was prepared for it.
To my surprise, nothing like that happened. There were policemen outside the terminal and .... people kept coming into the fast food restaurant. So most of the seats continued to be filled with people. People eating away, people surfing on their notebooks and of course, people sleeping or trying to sleep at the tables. Once I realised that, I was able to relax.
My watch showed 11 o'clock. 3600 long seconds passed and then it showed midnight, then 1am, 2am all the way to 6am. I surprised myself by not being able to sleep. Perhaps it was the cup of coffee I took. Incredibly, I was wide awake from 10pm when I settled down into the restaurant until I reached home slightly after 9am on Monday morning. My only companion was a paperback book to keep my wits about me while I waited for the grass to grow and the paint to dry.....