The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Aerotrain is, according to the initial airport design, the only way to get between Satellite Terminal and Main Terminal Building. It is the backbone of KLIA as the Aerotrain is needed to shuttle passengers from the plane in the Satellite Terminal to where all main activities before and after the flight takes place at the Main Terminal Building including check-in, immigration and baggage reclaim. Simply put, for most international flights, all airport-ish activities are done in the Main Terminal Building, and the plane will be parked at the Satellite Terminal, necessitating the travel between the two buildings whether the passenger likes it or not.
If there is a way for things to easily screw up this simple but compulsory passenger experience, it’s by running the Aerotrain, the only way* to get between the two terminals, on limited services – and that’s what seems to be happening in KLIA on a regular basis.
*There are shuttle buses as an interim solution, but read on.
Landing into KLIA and with the plane parked at the Satellite Building, I needed to get the Aerotrain to the Main Terminal Building in order to clear immigration and get out of the airport.
Arriving at the Aerotrain platform, I was greeted with this.
Only one train was in operation, and the crowd was building up quickly at the Aerotrain platform with the multiple arriving flights.
Moving forward all the way to the front door didn’t help the situation either.
I had wanted to just head down to the bus platform to find if there were shuttle buses to the Main Terminal Building instead, but the train pulled in just as I was about to go down to the escalators.
Should I get a bus which I’m not sure if there will be services on that day (I had wanted to try it on a previous trip but it was not available), and add in additional unknown minutes of waiting for the bus and a longer journey time, or should I just squeeze into the train and get to the Main Terminal Building in 2.5 minutes?
The answer was obvious. Train it is.
The other train was parked at the opposite platform with a queue line over the platform screen doors stating “Maintenance in Progress”.
Moving into the train was a rather slow process, but I’d say these are due to the passengers rather than the design of the Aerotrain system.
I managed to get on the train as the last person through the doors just in time before they closed suddenly without any announcement, audio or visual. Also, the air-conditioning was almost non-existent.
It felt as though I was on the KTM Komuter to Mid Valley from KL Sentral in 2012 instead.
This is the part where I got really pissed off with KLIA after stepping off the crowded train.
The KLIA Aerotrain operates with the Spanish Solution for all stations whereby passengers exit from one side of the train and enter from the other. The doors on the exit side opened first, and due to the crowd, and my body on the entrance door, I did not get out of that side in time before the entry side doors opened. As there were no crowds on the entry side, I decided to just step out of the train on that side and be on my way down to immigration. However, I was stopped by a KLIA staff who said that I could not exit by here and needed to go around the other side as shown in the train. I explained that the train is very crowded and I couldn’t see any signs saying that exit was only on that side. And then came her classic reply, “Even if you don’t see, you also must exit one side.” which to me felt like some logic was missing from that sentence. Do note that there are no gated areas on both platforms. But at least she did not force be to reenter the train and exit from the other side, only to loop back to the same point where she stopped me again.
To KLIA’s credit, there is actually a sign for the exit side of the train. Here’s a picture which I took on my return trip.
This is the sign for the way out of the train.
Wait, you can’t see it? I promise you, it’s actually there.
Here, let me increase the contrast and backlight by a ton for you.
The actual exit sign above the exit door of the train.
And this is the entry side of things. However, even if I were to have roamed my eyes around during the train journey, I wouldn’t have seen this as I was right below this sign, unable to turn much of my head around anyway due to the crowds.
I believe that the sign is supposed to be lit up when the train is at the station, so that people can actually read the words clearly. However, it was probably down, along with the air-conditioning and the in-train announcements.
If KLIA can’t even get people between the plane and immigration efficiently, which is getting more and more frequent nowadays, it’s not very difficult to understand why KLIA has dropped a whopping 10 spots down to #44 in just one year in the Skytrax World’s Top 100 Airports of 2018.
An international airport is typically the first impression that visitors to a country get the moment they step off the plane. I didn’t expect KLIA to portray the Klang Valley public transport peak hour scenario the moment passengers get off the train, even before they head for immigration.
I’m already expecting some comments soon to defend KLIA on this and to tell me that I should have been a good boy and exited on the other side instead, that I’m perhaps causing trouble for KLIA, or I should have taken the shuttle bus if I were so unhappy about the Aerotrain, which I’ll repeat again that I had wanted to try it on a previous trip but it was not available. But isn’t the main and possibly only purpose of the Aerotrain to transport people between the two terminals? The shuttle buses should be just an interim solution (which takes longer than the Aerotrain ride by the way) and not touted as a “more scenic route” as I don’t think that’s what passengers are after when they wish to efficiently get from the plane to immigration and baggage reclaim.
I wouldn’t use the word improve here as the current service standards have dropped instead of being insufficient on its existing capacity. Rather, KLIA needs to actually return back the Aerotrain to it’s stated service standards of 2.5 minutes frequency during peak periods. And with 3 trains in total available, it’s actually possible to have two trains (2.5 minute frequency) to always be in operation while one is undergoing maintenance.
If two or even all three trains are breaking down so regularly, KLIA should just decide on an alternative permanent solution instead.