Having seen nearly all of KLIA’s main airport lounges, it was a pleasure to receive an invite – thanks to a Malindo Air business-class itinerary – to see something new, ‘The Airport Lounge’ at the Sama-Sama Express transit hotel. It also marked my first airport lounge visit of the new year, and while I was initially hoping to start the new year as I mean to go on, on reflection, if that lounge standard is the basis of the rest of my year, I hope it doesn’t go on like that after all.
While Malindo Air’s ‘voucher’ offers you a choice of outlets where you can spend up to 30RM, only one lounge is on offer. To find it, one must get off the train at the satellite terminal, before backtracking back down towards the C1 gate – one of the farthest reaches at the end of one of the piers of the terminal. In fact, the only hint you’ve arrived is thanks to the one sign for ‘hotel’ just outside. Once inside, you need to either take the lift up one floor or wander up the staircase to the hotel reception, where the exchange can be made; one voucher to sit in what can be best described as a dark, windowless hotel lobby.
It would be a rarity for me to really go to town on any lounge experience; ultimately, I think an airline’s ability to provide any kind of comfortable space where premium guests can rest, eat and drink, recharge their devices and work or entertain themselves is a positive step. But with that in mind, airlines are surely paying lounge operators (like in this case) for this privilege each time, and this seemed like one solid example of definitively not getting value for money.
Since I’m not sure where to even start with this, let me begin with the space itself. It’s effectively a cluster of tables, stools and chairs in a raised hotel lobby, set internally within the building such that there is next to no natural light. The main source of lighting in fact, mostly comes from the neon-bright kitchen that adjoins the lounge, which also seems to serve the hotel guests. There was an ‘All Day Dining’ menu card left on the table, but it was unclear whether lounge guests need to actually pay for these items or not.
The chair I sat at – and actually nearly all of them when I give it some consideration – had absolutely zero places to charge anything nearby, not even so much as a USB port. In addition, my chair was absolutely rock-solid and one of the least relaxing pieces of furniture I have ever sat on – I suppose this may actually have been a wise choice, since the lighting in the room is otherwise so dim that you would surely nod off and miss your flight.
Meanwhile, my main source of entertainment was derived from watching the receptionist unable to decide what to watch next on Youtube on her work PC, although in fairness to her, given how busy the place was (it wasn't), I can easily see how your mind wander during the day. There was one working PC along a bar as well that one could use if they wished to – perhaps the other PC was working, but also, perhaps it wasn’t…
Moving on to the food selection, since I was on a pretty short flight down to Singapore and was confident of not getting much in the way of a substantial meal on-board. What can I say, more disappointment. One of the bowls remained clean and empty the entire time I visited, while the ‘Manchurian Fish’ looked more like fried fish nuggets in some kind of odd tomato-looking sauce. I ended up taking some kind of chicken curry dish and rice. The salad bar, while also extremely sparse, didn’t look too terrible in what was one redeeming factor. Lastly, the ‘bread bin’ (in this case a translucent plastic box) didn’t exactly look especially appetizing either.
So, how would I rate this? You know, to be sure I hadn’t missed a trick, I actually googled other reviews first to be sure this wasn’t just a bad day – and I was almost alarmed to note that a few others mentioned that at a certain price point, it wasn’t bad. What? To recap; it’s a dark, windowless hotel lobby that you are paying to sit in, with very few – if any – charging points, reasonably unfriendly staff, and a very poor food selection, where you need to actually pay more to enjoy something vaguely decent.
Given the choice in future, I would definitely take the 30RM and willingly go get a Starbucks instead – considering I so loved my time at the actual Sama-Sama Airport Hotel a few years ago, this lounge, if you can call it that, seems like an insult to both premium-class paying passengers and the airlines that pay into this operation, who end up delivering a far less-than-premium ground experience to their passengers as a result.