Don Mueang Airport vs KLIA2 Review
However, in this review, I would like to emphasise on the current budget or low cost terminals that have changed travel rapidly in the last decade, and it will focus on the Don Mueang International Airport and KLIA2, Malaysia’s budget airline airport.
|The Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.|
Review of the Don Mueang International Airport vs KLIA2
|The new terminal two of Don Muang International.|
Since September 2006, all major airlines moved to the new international airport, and Don Mueang closed shortly for some renovations, only to reopen back in March 2007. Since then, the former airport was known as the low cost carrier airport of Bangkok.
- September 2013 to May 2014 – Three billion Baht renovation for Terminal 2.
- December 2015 – Completion of Terminal 2. Passenger capacity increased to 30 million a year.
- December 2018 – 38 million passenger capacity achieved.
- 2018 to 2024 – 38 billion Baht expansion plan, includes Terminal 3.
|Nok Air is one of the airlines that flies from Don Mueang|
What Airlines Fly To Don Mueang Airport?
- Malindo Air
- Nok Air
- JC International
- Thai AirAsia X
- Thai Lion Air
- Tigerair Taiwan
|Don Mueang International Airport, outside.|
Comparison of Don Mueang Airport and KLIA2
With that I assumed that our budget terminal would also be on par or perhaps better than other countries. Yes, Malaysia Airports has been trying hard to make the airports world-class over the last decade.
|The distance of both airports, using Google Maps.|
Distance to the Airport
|The main drop off area of KLIA2. Photo by www.klia2.info|
Arriving at the Airport
One thing I always notice is the urgency of people that get dropped off at KLIA2. Sometimes, the entire family and neighbors want to tag along, and they spend a good ten minutes saying their goodbyes at the drop off areas.
|The drop off area at Don Mueang International Airport.|
Don Mueang Airport – The main highway runs pass the airport and turning in is hassle free. When you arrive at the terminals, there is only one main road for vehicles to drop off passengers, and it is constantly monitored by airport authorities.
The great thing about this drop off area is that people get dropped off, and the cars dropping them will move on. If they want to say long goodbyes, they will usually park at the airport parking.
Authorities are extremely strict at the drop off areas in Bangkok, wherelse in KLIA2, they may or may not be there, and this is a loophole for locals taking advantage of the system.
|One of the check in counters at KLIA2.|
Check-In Counters at the Airport
If you have been here before, you will know that you need to walk at least half a kilometer inside before you arrive at the check in counters of the departure terminal.
Honestly, this concept does not work for a budget terminal, but I do not blame the airport designers for trying to be different, and in the end, it shows how passengers are always rushing to check in for their flights.
There is no direct drop off to the departure hall of the airport, hence please take not of this flaw.
|The distance from where you get dropped off and the check in counters.|
Don Mueang Airport – The minute you walk into the airport door, the check in counters are located just meters from the main doors. All you need to do is find out which row your counter is and head straight there.
|Even how busy or stressed, the Thai AirAsia staff know how to maintain a pleasant smile.|
The only set back I found is that due to the popularity of the airlines, come of the check in counters can get crowded. But the airlines have overcome this with fast and efficient staff that keep the momentum moving, to avoid jamming up the areas.
|Gateway KLIA2, the main shopping mall before the airport terminal.|
Shops Layout at the Airport
|When your gate is right at the end, you tend to hurry and will not stop at the retail shops along the way.|
Honestly, how many times have you actually stopped to look at some of the shops, and if your gate is at the other end, you just tend to worry about reaching your gate. This results in the retail shops not doing well at all.
Those retail outlets nearest to the departure terminal tend to be the ones doing well, as after checking in, you can then explore the mall, provided you are not rushing.
|How some of the restaurants and fast food shops are laid out conveniently.|
Don Mueang Airport – Somehow, I find the departure area being very straight forward, where when you first arrive, you will be greeted by the check in area. Only after checking in, you will start to see the retail lots, and this is how an airport layout should be.
|The perfect layout for passengers as they head to the boarding gates.|
|The automated passport gate for Malaysians at KLIA2.|
Passport Control at the Airport
|The kind of sign you do not want to see when you are coming home to Malaysia.|
For local Malaysian, there are passport gates, which are meant to make passengers go through much faster and smoother. But often at times, they passport gates may not be all fully functioning, which can create really long lines.
|Asean lane at the immigration counters. Photo by www.chiangraitimes.com|
Don Mueang Airport – There are two entry points to the immigration checks for passengers, and I have to say AoT again, thought ahead for this. One point is for foreign travellers, and another entry point is for local Thai and Asean country citizens.
Another plus point is that they have a dedicated lane just for PRC travellers, where the officer manning those counters are Mandarin speaking staff.
This all makes perfect sense as it divides the majority of China travellers and the general other country travellers. I simply call this thinking ahead, and not making matters worst.
|A security check towards Gate Q at KLIA2, this is after the first check.|
Often, they are seen chatting away, laughing and treating it like a casual fast food job. There have been times I notice how they treat passengers in a harsh manner, especially when the passengers do not know about the security check procedures.
There are also times, I see some of them on their smartphones. Wow, how did this behaviour become part of their jobs. Often, I find that they have a very ‘sempoi‘ or laid back attitude, versus ten years ago when there was a little more professionalism involved.
Yes, they do talk, but they keep it to a minimal, and are constantly paying attention to the passengers that are undergoing the security checks. I think at most airports around the world, certain positions require strict professionalism, rather than a casual fun job.
|Often at times, passengers are seen rushing through the duty free to get to their gates on time.|
Duty Free Area at the Airport
Have you wondered why? Simple, the duty free selection that we carry are pretty limited. Meaning, the choices are not on par with other international airports.
For example, chocolates are one of the things that I personally avoid. Why? Because most of the chocolates have a short expiry life, and are usually sold with promotions like buy two, get one free.
The duty free at KLIA2 is conveniently located as passengers have to walk through to get their luggage, and this is at the international arrival hall. But due to the poor selection, passengers rather buy duty free from the departing country than buying it from KLIA2.
|Well laid out duty free section in the international departure area.|
Don Mueang Airport – Their duty free section is conveniently located just after your screening check, and the area is huge and well lit, and inviting. Probably due to the market research on what travellers want, or what is in trend.
Promoters are seen all over, and ready to attend to customers, while products are world class, with great selections, from perfumes, to liquor, to local snacks, chocolates and cigarettes. This is exactly what travellers want to see when they travel.
|The lively duty free section of Don Mueang Airport.|
|At KLIA2, if your gate is J22, then good luck walking there.|
Boarding Gates at the Airport
Honestly, have you ever been given Gate J22? That is like the end of the airport, and they expect passengers to walk over 700 or 800 meters.
|Gate J layout map at KLIA2. Just look at the number of gates in one area.|
As for design, yes, it looks nice on paper, but for functionality sake, it does not help at all, namely if the passengers are elderly. Moreover, you really need to find which wing your gate is located, and then find your way there.
The airport authorities may claim that they have a buggy service for elderly and disabled, but if you have been travelling as long as me, you will know that at times, there are no buggies available. Or you will have to wait over 20 minutes for one.
Don Mueang Airport – Their gating system is well planned and extremely functional for passengers, meaning that after you exit the passport control, you are in the main boarding walk area. All you need to do is find your gate which is either left of right.
|An aerial view of the main departure gate system at Don Mueang Airport|
At most times, when I exit the passport control and security checks, I am in the main departure area, and I just need to walk about a hundred or two hundred meters to my main gate. And once I go into that area, the gates are broken up into six or eight boarding gates.
Not only that, each of the main gates have their own convenient shops or cafes, selling coffee, soft drinks, snacks and quick bites. This is what passengers want, and the best part, at affordable prices.
|This is just one of the many photos I took at KLIA2.|
Cleanliness at the Airport
KLIA2 – Airport cleanliness has always been one of my top criteria whenever I visit any airport, especially if it is a modern style airport, and for KLIA2, I have to say when it first opened, it was very clean.
However, over the years that I have been using the airport, I noticed that a lot of areas are neglected, and this simply shows what the airport management is doing. It is an eyesore and imagine first time visitors to Malaysia seeing the dirt and stains.
Well, not only KLIA2, but even KLIA, the national airport is also similar. I mean, yes the floors are clean, but it is the walls, glass and other areas that seem to be overlooked. Is it because the airport management has cut back on the cleaners?
Just take a look at the photo above, and it was taken along the walkway from the international arrival towards the main terminal building. Areas like these are visible by passing passengers, and it is such a shame to see that no one did anything about it.
The best part is that I hardly see cleaners around, and if there are, they are usually the foreign contract cleaners. I have a feeling that the contract budget was cut, hence the company only provides a limited number of cleaners.
An example to maintain the cleanliness of an airport on a daily basis, you require a workforce of 50 staff to do so, but with certain budget cuts or just trying to save some money, there are probably only 20 workers doing the work of 50 people.
|This was after I reached the baggage area of Don Mueang. It looks spotless.|
Don Mueang – Because Don Mueang is an old airport, the original terminal building looks old, but somehow they manage to keep it clean. But when you compare the new terminal two, it is such a modern look and feel, with bright white lights and extremely clean.
Every now and then, I see cleaners pushing their cleaning carts, and often working solo and doing their work as supposed too. I tried to find fault by looking around for any areas that were dirty along the main path that passengers use, but I was surprised that I could not find any.
Conclusion – Vote to Don Mueang Airport again, and this is probably due to the airport management strict procedures of keeping an airport clean. Staff are all local, and not seen chatting or lazing, and some might conclude that there is an oversupply of local workers there.
|The outdoor smoking areas on both wings of KLIA2, with a great view.|
Smoking Room and Areas at the Airport
KLIA2 – This section had to be included because I am a smoker, and there are also many smoking travellers all over the world. But for KLIA2, I am quite sad that the airport management does not view this as a passenger service or facility inside the main terminal.
Outside the airport, the smoking area is found at both wings of the main terminal building, which is located outside. The area is huge, and open aired, which is also great for the view, and if it rains, you cannot utilise this area.
Yes, there are only two smoking rooms located inside the airport, one at the local domestic departure hall, and one more at the international departure hall. However, good luck if you want to locate it, as it is hidden away from general view, and with little or no signs.
|The international departures smoking room at KLIA2 in horrible condition.|
Not only that, they do not have adequate signs to show where the smoking rooms are located at, and you will end up having to ask someone. When you find them, just take a look at the condition of the smoking rooms. Dirty, unhygienic, and there is not even a monitor for the flight details.
For some reason, the airports in Malaysia are the worst in terms of smoking rooms. Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand all have proper smoking rooms that are clean, and with good ventilation systems. Why are we so different? If you do not want to encourage passengers to smoke, then do not sell cigarettes in the airports.
|The smoking rooms are conveniently places at each main gate area in Don Mueang|
Don Mueang – The smoking rooms outside Don Mueang are clearly indicated, and one look, you will see signs pointing to where you can smoke outside the airport. They have allocated a number of area for this, and have even provided chairs to sit down.
Inside the airport, there are smoking rooms at each gate, making it convenient for smokers to just pop in and have a cigarette before the flight. Yes, every main gate area has one smoking room. And the best part, the airport cleaners are constantly in and out, making sure the place is clean.
Conclusion – KLIA2 does not deserve any credit to this part as for years, they have neglected the smoking rooms inside the airport, and are one of the worst in the region.
They have it there for the sake of having it, but do not upkeep the rooms. So, Don Mueang gets the vote because they do care for all passengers, smokers or non-smokers.
|Outside the Don Mueang International Airport|
First and foremost, we are one of the emerging countries in Southeast Asia for aviation and air travel, with award winning airports and airlines, but when you look beyond those, you tend to see how we are lacking in many areas.
Yes, there is so much room for improvement, but with our laid back mentality of ‘if it is not broken, don’t fix it’, we will fall further back, and other up and coming countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos will overtake us.
|KLIA2 only look good in terms of architecture, but for functionality, it lacks in many ways.|
Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport has clearly showed how efficient and traveller friendly they are, wherelse, our KLIA2 is nothing more than just a fancy lifestyle airport that is truly not passenger friendly at all.
We tend to always have a vision, but never will manage to fulfill it, and at many times, things are done half hearted, or just plain mismanagement of everything.
When an issue arises, we are quick to point fingers at others, which is one of our worst traits in any business. Maybe if things cannot change, the local airports should be managed and operated by a private entity? If we never try, we will never know.
I only hope that our KLIA2 airport management bucks up, and be on par with the other airports in the region, or we will never move forward, especially with our backward or laid back thinking.
If you would like to comment about my Don Mueang Airport and KLIA2 review, please leave it below in the comment form. Again, this is a very personal review after years of being an air commuter, utilizing these two airports.