18 Apr 2020



It was meant to be a 3 week holiday and quality time with the kids in Christchurch New Zealand. Then Malaysia announced the MCO and all my friends said that I was in a great place and should not come back as the Malaysia situation was bad. Then my Travel agent calls me to say that Malaysian Airlines have cancelled the flight on the 31st and she then put me on the 7th April flight. I was not too fussed and looked at it as a blessing as I had an additional week with the kids with good food and alcohol.

Then on 24th March, New Zealand Government decided to announce a Level 4 lock down, which really meant that the only so called services which could operate were supermarkets.  All domestic flights & over land travel would be suspended.

I was one of 130 odd Malaysians with the exception of those based in Auckland, we stranded in the north & south island. Thereafter the other announcement came when MAS cancelled the flight on the 7th and there was no confirmation when I could leave New Zealand. Knowing the plight of many Malaysians, the New Zealand Malaysian Business Association together with the  Malaysian High Commission spearheaded by Her Excellency Nur Izzah Wong Mee Choo immediately set up chat group for Stranded Malaysians and began engaging the New Zealand government in respect of Malaysians and tourist in general who could not get home.

MAS then decides to introduce limited flights into New Zealand and when I was on the phone with my travel agent, trying to get me on a flight home where in MAS wanted to charge me an additional RM 2000-00 one way to get home. As I was to ‘bite the bullet’ and fork out the additional money, I coincidentally received a text from HE Mee Choo, who said that Air NZ would be reinstating limited flights and ask for my current MAS tickets. Within 30 minutes of me sending her my tickets, I was re-issued with new tickets at NO extra cost for the 11th. With all the confirmations, on Air NZ and MAS, there was still anxiety as to possible cancellations and re-timings of flight and I still had to follow up with MAS and Air NZ as all things were good to go as hotels needed to be booked in Auckland for the transit as the NZ Civil Aviation Authority locks the airport down and there is no food and drinks at the airport or hotels. So dinner and breakfast had to be packed for the 15 hours transit in Auckland.

Upon our early arrival at Auckland Airport, we were informed that our flight was delayed yet again and we might only leave on Sunday the 12th or Monday the 13th as there was a tyre issue with the MAS plane! This begs the question….. How did the flight even was allowed to take off from Malaysia raises many questions about MAS and the Malaysian Civil Aviation Authority due diligence on plane’s worthiness?

With the 2 hour lay-over, it gave me chance to meet other travellers who were trying to get back to Europe, many had travelled on Emirates, British Airways, Singapore Airlines to New Zealand and were subsequently informed that their flights were cancelled and there would be no refund but only given a credit for a future travel. Many of whom then had to re-book their tickets on MAS to London paying as much as NZD 9k for 1 way travel.

I will digress here a bit and touch on the Malaysian Airlines efficiency… MAS has its English language call centre in Fiji whilst the Malay language call centre is in KL. Throughout my dealings with MAS it was very obvious ‘the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing?’ As I was dealing with the call centre in Fiji and my Travel agent was dealing with the call centre in KL and both of us were receiving conflicting messages which went like this …..MAS Fiji – no flights till May, MAS KL – we have limited flights in April. MAS Fiji – we will give you full refund as we cannot confirm your return, MAS KL – you have to burn your ticket and re-book. At this point I has resigned myself to being in New Zealand for at least 6 months which I was not complaining about except that I had run out of my Ipoh coffee, which was apart from work was my burning issue to get home. As a consumer, we are at the mercy of the airlines and being sent from ‘pillar to post’ in such a crisis. It would then take the persuasive power of her HE Mee Choo to get things done. This I am eternally grateful to her.

Reaching Malaysia at 10.20 pm on 11th April 2020, it was a breezed through immigration and the health screening, we boarded our bus at 11.45 and we only left the airport at 1am. Thinking we would be brought to a hotel in KL we were dropped off at the Klana Resort in Seramban at 2am.  

I have no complaints about the facilities- nice big room with all the amenities you would expect from a 5 star hotel. I also have a balcony which I can sit outside which is a major plus! Good WiFi which is now allowed me to set up my temporary office for the next 2 weeks to help my clients with their HR issues. For the past 20 years, I have always wished for a time of solitude where I can lock myself away for a week to read and do some writing and to hear myself. I guess I have got my wish and a bonus of 2 weeks and I cannot complain.

My only criticism of the whole lock down is the Government over dependence on the use of plastics and as such I am dividing my trash, washing down the containers they send the food in and collect all the plastic bottles and at such time at the end of 14 days, they can be sent for re-cycling. I hope all Malaysians do the same while in quarantine.

Yes, I am glad to be home all said and done. My heart felt appreciation goes out to Her Excellency Mee Choo and her team at the Malaysian High Commission, NZMBA ( I hope I got it right?) Dave Ananthna, Pam & Shane for your tireless work using the time difference to deal with all the flight issues. No amounts of Thank you’s will suffice for this, for your time and dedication.

What this experience has taught me:-

  1. Try to fly your national carrier as much as you can
  2. Use a Travel Agent, they are the ones who have the inside scoop on flight changes etc and can assist you
  3. Register with your Malaysian High Commission/ Embassy, you never know if you will ever need them.

Until then, watch this space for my experiences in quarantine.

Ernest Balasingam

Ipoh, Perak.

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