Malaysia Airlines is emerging from its most challenging period by investing heavily in new aircraft and on-board products, including six state-of-the-art A350-900 jets, Airbus’ latest long-haul airliner which has garnered a lot of praise from passengers owing to its quiet and spacious cabin, and improved in-flight hydration.
The airline is flying the A350s on the double daily from Kuala Lumpur to London. Malaysia Airlines offers multiple daily connections from Hong Kong. The oneworld alliance member has incredibly attractive business and first class fares to London, oftentimes half the price than its competitors.
Following a major upgrade, MH re-opened its Golden Club lounges at its KL hub. 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 and longer flights.
There are a lot of food options here, from the typical hot and cold buffets, to made-to-order sushi, Asian soup noodle and Italian pasta stations. Both spaces offer terrific tarmac and runway views and a premium wine and liquor selection.
Oneworld emerald status holders and first class guests have access to the satellite first class lounge. This space is especially quiet and comes with a la carte fine-dining and private first class suite rooms featuring en suite bathrooms and sofas, almost like a private day room inside the lounge.
Priority boarding was given to first, business class and oneworld status card holders. I was escorted from the lounge to the aircraft. From there, the flight attendant in charge led me to seat 1K, a window seat in the first row. Waiting for me there were: a pair of MH-branded pyjamas, slippers, two pillows, a duvet and a high-quality and useful Cerruti-branded amenity kit. I particularly liked that the kit contained some rather unusual items, including a 50ml bottle of cologne and an MH silver key chain. The on-board service began with a welcome drink of my choice. I had fresh guava juice, one of MH’s signature F&B offerings.
The first class cabin on the A350 has only 4 seats, all with private doors. It is very private in this mini cabin. There were 3 passengers, including myself, so one of the centre seats was unoccupied.
The seat offers almost limitless space. There are two large stowing cupboards that easily fit my carry-on bag, laptop bag, noise-cancelling headphones, water bottle, shoes and other personal items. Each suite features personal air vent nozzles, which makes it easy to adjust ‘your space’ to ‘your’ preferred temperature.
Needless to say, the seats are fully-flat and the FAs will perform a turndown service when you decide it’s time to sleep. This includes placing an additional cover and a mattress pad on the seat. The firmness of the seat cushion/padding can be adjusted through a dial on the control board. I slept very well for seven hours.
Behind the curtain, there are 35 lie-flat business class seats, spread across two separate cabins. Those seats are 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 3K, 6K, 10K) offer direct aisle access. Seat 2K, 5K, 9K and 11K seem the best seats; these are bulkhead seats with extra leg room and are also solo "throne" seats.
The service began shortly after take-off, a first round of drinks was served and meal orders were taken. I ordered a glass of the Champagne Joseph Perrier Josephine 2008, a complex and traditional champagne that pairs well with seafood.
Just like in business class, Malaysia Airlines serves its signature satay in first, with a choice of chicken or beef, marinated with fresh shallots, turmeric, garlic, galangal and lemongrass. The crew more than encouraged going for a second and third helping.
The satay bonanza was followed by a choice of three starters: Tataki of salmon with mango salsa, cream of cauliflower soup or the typical first class appetizer - Ossetra Caviar with the classic accompaniments of blini and melba toast, chopped onion, parsley, lemon and sour cream.
I said I'd sample all three of them, but initially was only served the caviar. The presentation was stunning. The tin of caviar was laid on crushed ice and edible flowers. Next up was a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate.
For mains, there was a fish curry 'Kandar', a red snapper based curry from Penang that's served with yellow, rice, okra sambal and pappadum. Also on the menu: glazed beef ribs with warm potato salad, fennel and carrots; Chinese-style braised chicken on rice and kailan; and spinach ravioli with blue cheese sauce and garnished with caramelized pears and fennel.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the food. It was bursting with flavour and the portions were generous, but quite frankly you could probably find the fish curry, ravioli and braised chicken in business class on other airlines.
Service throughout the flight was heartfelt, although not very polished. Many instances throughout the flight the crew approached me with “Hi Mr….” but then seemed to have forgotten my name. Not a big deal, but it wouldn’t happen on Cathay Pacific.
Breakfast service started two hours before landing. I decided to order freshly scrambled eggs and fruits. Other options included Nasi Lemak, apple pancakes and a dim sum selection. The scrambled eggs were fine, although rather watery and served in a small side bowl. I had espresso to go with the eggs and fruits.
I very much enjoyed travelling on the new A350. I got a good night’s sleep and arrived well rested for a day of meetings in London.
What sets this product apart is the exclusivity of having only four seats in the cabin, as well as the airline’s indisputable hospitality. While not polished to first class fine dining standards, the crew couldn’t have been more genuine and willing to help and please.