REVIEW: Malaysia Airlines Business Class
Malaysia Airlines has come a long way. The airline has gone through a rigorous restructuring and continues working hard to restore its fame of yesteryear. With a new top management in place, Malaysia Airlines earlier this year launched a brand-new lie-flat business class product on its A330 fleet connecting its Kuala Lumpur hub with Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Australia and Auckland. This review is based on my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Business class passengers are invited to use Malaysia Airlines’ Golden Club lounge. There are two of these at KLIA, one in the main terminal and another in the satellite terminal which is typically used for larger aircraft such as the A330 and longer flights.
I have visited the lounge in the satellite terminal countless times in the past and would say it offers a pleasant ground experience. The space offers terrific tarmac and runway views and a satisfactory selection of food and beverages, including sparkling wine, red and white. Depending on the time of day, breakfast, lunch or dinner spreads will be laid out, typically comprising a few local Malay options as well as Western cuisine.
The lounge tends to get busy, so finding a suitable place to sit to dine and work can sometimes prove challenging. In addition to free wifi, there are plenty of international newspapers and magazines and PCs.
Boarding for the 18:25pm flight was supposed to start early at 17:25pm pm from Gate C36. Since I was arriving on a delayed connection I cannot comment on the exact time. I touched down in KL at 18:00pm, thinking I had missed my onward flight. To my surprise, a Malaysia Airlines agent was waiting for me when I deplaned and told me they were holding the Beijing flight for me. I was impressed.
As soon as I got to the plane and sat down the door closed and we pushed back, right on schedule at 18:25pm. Naturally the crew did not offer me a welcome drink anymore but empty juice and champagne glasses sitting on my fellow passengers’ trays suggested there had been such service.
MH unveiled its new A330-300 Business Class seat. Each of its 15 A330-300 aircraft are fitted with 27 of the new lie-flat product. The seat is 20.6 inches wide and will be pitched at 43 inches, with a fully flat length of 76 inches. Configured 1-2-1 and 1-2-2, 90% of the seats (except 2K, 4K, 7K) offer direct aisle access. Business Class passengers will also be able to make use of increased working space, extra stowage space for personal items, a 16-inch Panasonic in-flight entertainment monitor, and a power outlet and USB port. Neither amenity kit nor pajamas were offered on this flight.
For starters, there was Malaysia Airlines’ signature chicken and lamb satay, one of the things I look forward to whenever I travel with the airline and a dish I always notice the crew taking great pride and joy in serving. Even the menu card read: “Don’t be shy to ask for extras!” Well then, I surely did.
Next was a second round of appetizers, with a choice of chicken and vegetable terrine, pan-seared prawns or tomato cream soup. I had the prawns which were nicely presented on cucumber ribbons but otherwise forgettable.
For mains there was a selection of “General Tso’s Chicken”, grilled beef fillet with mashed potatoes, Nasi Kandar-style Fish Curry or mushroom tortellini. Dishes were fine, albeit on the bland side and otherwise unremarkable. For dessert, there were profiteroles, fresh fruit or Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
The service, while definitely friendly, was inattentive and slow due to an obvious lack of communication and cooperation among the crew members.
Following the lengthy dinner service (it took nearly three hours until the cabin had been cleared), the lights were dimmed and passengers began to unwind. I took the opportunity to browse the IFE, which was adequate but did not boast an impressive selection.
I slept for two hours and woke up as we were staring our initial descent into Beijing. When the crew noticed I was awake they asked if I wanted anything from the “dine anytime” menu which included soup noodles, roast beef sandwiches, cookies and crisps.
We landed in Beijing 20 minutes late, at 00:40am, following repeated circling around the airport amid heavy air traffic. Disembarkation was quick and the luggage came onto the belt 20 minutes later. Unfortunately, given the tight connection, my bag had been left behind in Kuala Lumpur. This certainly was disappointing, but things like this happen and one need not worry if you have good travel insurance that will compensate you for things like this. I was eventually reunited with my suitcase the following afternoon.
There is a lot to like here. The new business class seat is a vast improvement over its predecessor and the catering is now at par with the regional competition. The crew is hospitable but could do with some polishing. Having said that, Malaysia Airlines offers incredibly affordable business class fares from Hong Kong to various destinations, and at that price point minor shortfalls and inconsistencies are quickly forgotten.