"Welcome, En Azuan. We are waiting for you our only passenger."
This flight actually took place in Dec 2011 when Firefly Airlines was very much at a a growing mode, adding new routes almost every couple of months. I just had to re-share this experience simply because it is quite unique and over the years despite having flown hundreds of flights, I was never able to achieve this bragging right of having a flight to my own once again.
A bit of a background of the flight. The flight was operated by Firefly in collaboration with the Malacca State Government to boost the local tourism particularly medical tourism. The main route that were generating handsome passenger load were between Melaka to Medan and Medan to Melaka, but as Firefly is based at Subang, the 72-seater ATR72-500 has to be flown to Melaka and back to operate the Medan flights.
Knowing that the flights to Melaka and back are available on the website, I purchased the round trip tickets and hope that I was able to achieve the unique milestone of being the only passengers in a flight.
And I failed at the first attempt.
At Subang Airport I was told that while the flight is super empty, there was another Government officer joining be for the flight to Melaka. It was frustrating but I knew there was hope when the ground staff informed that there might be a possibility for me to be the only one flying back later that day although things could change as people do buy last minute tickets.
The flight to Melaka was funny. I recall seeing some weird faces when the gate announcement was made and I don’t blame them as Malacca is actually less than 2 hours drive from Subang and there were 2 guys decided to fly.
The 2 pax enroute to Melaka.
Upon arrival in Melaka (International!) Airport, I thanked the 2 cabin crew with “see you later” as I went on touring the historic city of Malacca while they continue to operate the 2 sectors to Medan and back.
Melaka tour for a couple of hours.
Few hours later, I found myself at a very quiet Melaka airport once again.That is when the unique experience of being the only passenger started.
On the check-in desk was another copy of my boarding pass already printed out. It was also confirmed that there were no other passengers. Finally an additional milestone in my aviation checklist!
“Welcome, En Azuan. We are waiting for you our only passenger”. said the friendly check-in agent. I even joked about asking them to join me for the flight but I was told that all the ground crew drove to Melaka from their base in Subang to serve for these flights.
I had the whole departure hall to myself. Even the aviation security personnel can be seen packing up and shutting down the scanners after the few staff and I were cleared into the hall.
“The aircraft is ready.” was the cue to board the plane instead of the usual announcement. As I walked towards the plane, the lights at the terminal were switched off being the last flight out of this airport for the day.
9M-FYJ was there along with the same 2 tech crew and 2 cabin crew.
“Welcome back Azuan”
So yes that elevated the feeling of being in a private jet. Of course once the turboprop engines started to run, it brought me back to reality that this ain’t some fancy corporate jets but still the same good old regional turboprop aircraft.
Passed the crew some “ole-ole” from my quick Malacca tour and settled down at the last row of the cabin. A quick flight demo was still carried out and for record, the crew were still at their designated seats during take-off and landing.
After take-off it was free flow of snacks (muffin and peanuts) and juices. Unfortunately that’s the only refreshments available on-board.
I took the opportunity to pose around the aircraft and chit-chat with the ladies throughout the flight.
Itwas a short less than 30 minutes flight, even shorter as we were having fun. The 4 crew members made a lot of effort to ensure that this was a memorable experience.
Upon arrival in Subang, I went to personally thank the tech crew for the flight accompanied by the staff.
It was one flight that I will remember for a long time. I’m still in touch with a couple of the crew and hope to get the chance to fly with them again soon.
Fast forward 10 years later, I had flown on some other low-load flights including an A380 with not more than 40 pax but it was never as fun as being the only one. and things have changed with Covid-19. While there is a higher chance to score an empty flight these days no thanks to the travel restrictions, I would love to see good load instead (with adequate distancing) for the sake of the airlines’ sustainability.
Stay safe everyone!