When Ground Services At An Outstation Surprise and Delight

A while back, I was planning a mega-trip to Southeast Asia, and had to decide on a one-way flight which I couldn’t quite fit into the rest of my itinerary. From Phuket (HKT) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), I was basically between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines. With the help of a few readers, I ultimately decided to go with Malaysia Airlines.

I’m an Executive Platinum member with American Airlines, which also makes me oneworld Emerald. Airlines within the alliance have different approaches to status recognition in terms of the soft product. For example, I almost always get a singled-out welcome on Cathay Pacific flights, while I have never experienced anything different when flying British Airways. For the most part, that’s not a big deal at all—I really care most about lounge access, priority boarding/check-in, and in some cases, the baggage allowance that come with the status.

Well, I just flew my $59 flight from to Kuala Lumpur, and was able to use Malaysia Airlines’ Business Class check-in section at Phuket airport. My ticket was in Economy, and I was actually asked to produce my Executive Platinum card in order to access that section. It’s the first time I actually recalled ever being asked for it, but I was able to pull it up via the American Airlines app on my phone quickly.

Phuket is an outstation for Malaysia Airlines, and they operate just two daily flights to Kuala Lumpur. I wasn’t expecting much for a oneworld Emerald at a pretty small outport, flying a 1-hour flight, but their ground services really surprised me…in a great way. 

Malaysia Airlines Check-in Counter at Phuket Airport (HKT)

Malaysia Airlines Check-in Counter at Phuket Airport (HKT)

My friend had a flight to Bangkok earlier on the same day, so I got to the airport a bit early. Unfortunately, the check-in counter only opens 2 hours before scheduled departure time. I was able to get in line before that, but it was actually a bit awkward, since the agents had all arrived. It got to be somewhat of a staring contest…they were all ready to go, we the passengers were all ready to go, but everyone was kind of just waiting for that magic t minus 2 mark to arrive. But once it did, the service got really good.

I was immediately helped, and the agent added a “Priority” tag to my checked bag. The agent also confirmed my seat preference, and offered me a lounge invitation.

I turned around, and immediately a gentleman in a black suit extended a handshake. He introduced himself, took my luggage, and said that he would be escorting me. Escort?! For a one-hour flight? From an outport? OK!

And when he said escort, he meant it. He pushed us past everyone in the immigration line, and eventually took me off to the side to the Diplomatic/Official Passport line. He motioned the immigration officers taking a break to open up the counter, and I was through in no time. Right after that, we went through a separate security line from everyone else, so I literally went from the check-in counter to airside in less than 3 minutes.

I was going to bid farewell to the escorting agent, but he insisted on bringing me to the lounge. Malaysia uses The Coral First Class Lounge in Phuket (which is furnished a lot like the Coral Executive Lounge in Bangkok-Don Mueng I’ve reviewed before). We took an elevator up to the Lounge, and he took care of all the formalities with the lounge attendant. He proceeded to “find” me a table in a quiet corner, and asked if he could show me around the lounge. The lounge wasn’t very big, and only had about 50 seats or so. Still, he walked me to the buffet area, and told me to “please relax and enjoy some food,” before heading out.

Now, I am unaware if this was something that airlines commonly provide to customers departing from Phuket. But from the look of it, Malaysia Airlines was the only airline offering it to their premium customers. Even though I held an Economy ticket, my oneworld Emerald status essentially got me super fast tracked through immigration and security.

Most airlines don’t even provide services like this at their home/hub airport, and those that do usually only offer it to First Class passengers. Needless to say, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the ground services Malaysia Airlines has in place in Phuket. Good job, Malaysia Airlines!

Does anyone know if Malaysia Airlines does this at other outstations? Have you ever experienced ground services that really surprised and delighted you?

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