Avios Redemption University – Lesson 11 – How to save Avios flying to Asia with Malaysia Airlines

EDIT:  This article has NOT been updated to reflect the Avios changes which took place on 28th April 2015.  A revised version of the article will be published on Head for Points in late May.

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them.  Click here to see the other articles.

Malaysia Airlines joined the oneworld alliance in September 2013.  This means that it is possible to book flights with them using your Avios points.

Malaysia offers a decent option for getting to Kuala Lumpur, and from there you can easily pick up a connection (either for cash on a local carrier like Air Asia, or on Malaysia with Avios) to elsewhere in the region.  Here is the Malaysian route map if you want to look at the options for connections.

If you want to go to Singapore, which is just over 100 miles away, you can even get a bus – there are plenty of local operators – or a train.

Malaysia also flies to Australia and New Zealand, so this strategy can help you get down to that part of the world with lower taxes.  (It also flies to the Maldives, but that is a very expensive trip in Avios compared to flying directly on BA from London.  It would give you an interesting ‘two centre’ holiday however.)

From Heathrow, they are flying brand new A380’s with impressive business and First Class seating.

Malaysia A380

You may remember this fascinating post from last year where I looked at redemptions which are excellent value for money because they fall into ‘sweet spots’ in the Avios pricing chart.  Malaysia Airlines has two such redemptions.

Let’s remind ourselves of the Avios pricing chart:

Avios bandings

Let’s put this into practice where Malaysia Airlines is concerned.

London to Kuala Lumpur is 6,593 miles.  A return flight in Business Class will cost you 140,000 Avios points plus £483 tax.

However, Malaysia also flies to Kuala Lumpur from Paris (with A380’s) and Amsterdam (with Boeing 777’s).

Paris to Kuala Lumpur is 6,492 miles.  That just pushes it into the cheaper pricing band.  A return in Business Class will cost you 120,000 Avios points – 20,000 per person fewer than ex-Heathrow – and the tax is just £322.

Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur is 6,363 miles.  This means that your Business Class seat will also be 120,000 Avios, and the tax is even cheaper at £270.

Starting and ending your trip in Amsterdam rather than London will save you 20,000 Avios and £213 of tax per person!  If you live outside London, flying to Amsterdam from, say, Manchester rather than to Heathrow will not even extend your travel time.

You will need to get to Amsterdam, of course, but that will only make a dint in the saving.  You would, of course, also need to build in a decent gap in Amsterdam in case your inbound flight was delayed.

Whilst you can’t use an Amex 2-4-1 voucher for a redemption on Malaysia, they add a lot of extra flexibility for trips eastwards from London.  And if you do head out to Kuala Lumpur, I can recommend the Four Seasons Langkawi if you’re looking for an excellent beach resort.  Some people, if staying for a week, mix in a few days at The Datai down the road.

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  1. darrenf says:

    and if you really have the time and inclination, it’s worth nothing that SIN-SYD is 3908 miles, just inside a lower band as KUL-SYD is 4088. I flew CDG-KUL / SIN-SYD on with avios just this February!

    • Richie says:

      I can greatly recommend the night sleeper train between kul and sin . First class is about £30pp which includes a twin cabin, shower and food. See seat61.com for details.

  2. Anon says:

    Sheraton Langkawi is 1/2 decent too, good 1 night stopover on way to Ko Lipe via 1hr fast ferry.

    The routes via Amsterdam are very interesting, esp. for us north of Watford…

  3. Phillip says:

    It’s also worth noting that, if you include a Thai stop over with Malaysian, the return flight via Kuala Lumpur can benefit from minimal charges. For example Phuket-Kuala Lumpur-London one way in business is 79,000 and £12, compared to the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur at 70,000 Avios and £128. This is similar to flights with Sri Lankan from India to London via Colombo, where the fees are as low as £3, compared to flying directly out of Colombo with higher taxes. If only there was any availability.

  4. Phil says:

    I did LGW-AMS-KUL in business only last month and took advantage of the low taxes and sweet spot. Connections on BA were fine to catch the Malaysia leg. I was flying on to Cambodia with Air Asia for an extra £50. I think the new KLIA 2 opens shortly so the hour bus or taxi journey to the low cost terminal should make it even easier

    • KLIA 2 is opened (new LCC terminal). It takes only 3 mins by KLIA Ekspres from the Main Terminal building where MH flies into (and pretty much all other airlines). Otherwise you could grab a sort taxi ride. You could practically see KLIA 2 from Main Terminal but you could definitely not walk there.

  5. Waribai says:

    Thanks for this. There is the slight elephant in the room regarding safety of the airline!
    Haven’t stayed at FS but did stay at the Danna a couple of years ago and that is a great property too and the marina next to the hotel had some good restaurants. I think it also has the best stretch of beach on Langkawi but even then it’s not great compared to some of the beaches on the East coast or on Borneo.

    • Bsuije says:

      Update on The Danna from a couple of weeks ago – there’s now a building site nearby (for a butterfly park, I think) which ruins the peace and quiet you might have been looking for when you booked this hotel. It’s a real shame to be honest, because the hotel itself is absolutely wonderful!

      • Worzel says:

        I’m not surprised to learn this Bsuije- there appeared to be quite a bit of construction going on generally when we visited Langkawi 18 months ago.
        Waribai, you mention a comparison with beaches on the East Coast and I wonder whether you might give a couple of brief “pointers” – I appreciate that I might be straying slightly OT but hope others won’t object.

  6. We’re off to KUL next year, but only for 3 nights before we head off to Bali (DPS). The MH flights from KUL to DPS cost only £23 in taxes, for 2 people in business!! So I’d highly recommend this for people going to Bali (think it was 20k Avios each too).

    We happen to have chosen a slightly crazy routing to get there. LHR-AMS on BA, then AMS-HKG-KUL on CX. Then MH from KUL-DPS. And finally, DPS-DOH-LHR. All to save Avios and taxes!

    Why didn’t we fly MH all the way from LHR, or even AMS? Especially considering the new A380 on the LHR route? Because they freaking installed angled-beds on it!!!! WHY??? I just don’t understand the logic, on a brand new plane. Totally unbelievable. I’d have been happy to pay the additional taxes if it was a proper lie-flat seat, and avoid all the connections. But my wife just wasn’t keen on not having the proper bed on such a long flight. Plus, I’ve never flown CX and am very keen to – so MH’s loss! And I’m sure I’m not the only one who would avoid their A380 for this reason (along with the elephant in the room that Waribai mentions – although I can deal with that).

    • Phillip says:

      I would agree that CX offers the much superior product. And, B787 on Qatar on your return from Bali.

      MH’s business class on the A380 is a bit “strange” in that it is designed and marketed as 180 degree flat bed, but there is definitely a “kink” to it. That said, I wouldn’t call it an angled bed!

    • darrenf says:

      I flew MH’s A380 in J – having read all the reports of the seat being angled – and found it very comfortable and any kink barely noticeable. I certainly didn’t slide down.

  7. Richie says:

    Is there a similar trick for hkg on cathey? I guess it’s more miles?

    • Use Great Circle Mapper and input, say fra-hkg in the box. It will pull up the distance. Then try other starting points for Cathay.

  8. Froggitt says:

    OT I know, but how about a post next week on what I could do with all my VS FC Miles. Or is a VS flight all I can do 😀

    • Ironically, you can book MAS flights! Other airlines are listed on the FC website. You need to call to make the booking, others have posted be about it, so may better contribute.

    • Virgin has their list of partner airlines online. Booking is painful by all accounts. Best bargain BY FAR is Air China in First or Business to Beijing for very few miles.

      Can also move to Hilton at 2 to 3 or IHG at 1 to 1.

      Virgin gift vouchers are £50 for 12,500, valid against lots of Virgin companies.

      Space trips via Virgin Galactic are also available!

      • I’ve booked MAS three times now via Virgin, using FC miles. No problem at all – call centre is very helpful, got exactly the dates I wanted (first trip all done on the first call, second and third trips took a couple of calls to firm up (they had to request it then confirm 24 hours later), third trip couldn’t get First but no problem getting Business instead). 145k VS miles for LHR-KUL-LHR in First, 115k for Business. (Another sweet spot for VS miles looks like Air New Zealand LHR-LAX return for 70k miles in Business, incidentally).

        As an aside, I would say that MAS A380 economy is one of the best there is – very comfortable seat, decent IFE, good service and pretty decent food by economy standards. And competitive prices for a direct flight.

        No qualms whatsoever re safety.

        Raffles – don’t know whether this might make for an article, but it would be interesting to know whether there are any ways for those of us in the UK to collect MAS Enrich miles, other than by flying with them, especially as once a year or so they do a half-price redemption sale…

        • Malaysia is a partner with the International Dollar (or Euro) Cards issued by Amex. Their MR scheme has different partners and MAS is in there. And, even better, at 1:1. More here – https://www.headforpoints.com/2013/07/16/50-bonus-on-your-entire-amex-membership-rewards-balance-when-you-get-an-amex-idc-card/

          MAS is not an SPG partner which is the obvious one to try.

        • Bingo! 😉

          Thank you Raffles!

        • Alan says:

          Although just to highlight (as you do in your article) that SQ are also an ICC partner – 1:1 ratio for them made a Suites class redemption a no-brainer compared to flying BA!

        • Alan says:

          Re. NZ LHR-LAX That’s great value on a very nice product – sadly I’m assuming the availability is as poor as it was when previously booking them via bmi?

        • I haven’t actually booked the NZ option so far – but I did enquire a month or so back. They had one seat available for my dates, but I needed two… :-/

        • 145K sounds good to me. Am surprised and will look into it. I think Malaysia (MH) is all about service. Casual friendly but professional enough, typical of Malaysians. Some may not like it, but they did win Skytrax’s World’s Best Crew probably 6 times..more than any other airline… Average hard product compared to EY, EK, QR, CX or SQ. I may seem bias as a Malaysian, but I’m all EY for a very long time 😉

          Another thing – MH A380 is really different to 777’s in nearly all aspects. Everything is better. So it’s probably worth flying through Paris instead..

  9. Unfair criticism of MAS safety record, it is actually very good, MH370 is a unique event and could have been any airline.

    A great use of avios on MAS is for regional flights – KUL to PEN is 4500 avios and £1 in tax and if you have Cathay gold status you can use the oneworld benefits (i.e. lounge access). Also similar can be done with Cathay, whose business class product is excellent. If booking a regional flight then do try and check the cabin configuration as in the case of Cathay they fly a mix of long haul and regional business class cabins on the same routes, one quick check is to see if the CX flights has a Premium Economy in which case the plane will be fitted out for long haul and therefore have the long haul business seat.

    When MAS bought their A380s it was a bit of an attempt to keep up with the neighbours (Singapore Airlines, which used to be part of the same airline as MAS), however MAS have major financial issues and opted for what, I think, is the cheap option in terms of kitting out the cabins.

    MAS A380 First – the hard product actually aint all that great, the cabin somehow feels cheaply done and the IFU system is very slow and with a bad controller, comes as a bit of a shock after being used to Emirates ICE (even in economy). However the cabin crew service is excellent, the food great, and when you are the only ones in the cabin who can drink alcohol then the 2 bottles of Dom Perignon which they opened just for us made everything seem even better!

    • Phillip says:

      +1 on MAS’ safety record. I would not hesitate to fly them as far as safety is concerned regardless of the recent incident. Of course, without knowing exactly what happened, we shouldn’t speculate, but I personally feel comfortable that whatever happened is not representative of the airlines’ operations.

      • Agreed. Until we know what happened on that flight, I wouldn’t worry about flying them.

        You should be more concerned about flying a Boeing 777 (not, for a second, that I am suggesting you should be, I am just making a comparison) – it is far more likely that this is down to a major plane failure than any crazed suicidal pilot.

        • callum says:

          What makes you think that? Although I agree this shouldnt affect your view on their safety, my guess is the opposite.

        • Because it makes no sense. The pilots were randomly assigned the flight and had not asked to be together so they could not have conspired on anything. The plane clearly travelled a long distance from where it was meant to be before crashing into the water, or it would have been traced. The logical solution would be a massive pressurisation failure which instantly killed everyone onboard but allowed the plane to fly on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

        • Martin says:

          Which is what the speculators all suggest, chances are we’ll never find out.

        • Agreed. Anyway, just off topic, I flew CX HKG-SIN in January in business 20k Avios £28 and then used 1st class train Singapore to KL for £12 which was well worth it for the sights so obviously KL to Singapore by train is worth a look too.

  10. Ben E says:

    I’ve got the Avios Lloyds 2-4-1 voucher too… I guess that would work with Malaysia?

    • No, for 2 reasons.

      First, the Lloyds voucher can only be used at avios.com and all they can book is BA, American, Iberia, Flybe, Aurigny and Monarch.

      The 241 is also restricted to only a subset of those, not sure which off top of my head.

  11. Leonid says:

    Hi Raffles,

    I never checked but Russia’s S7 (part of One World) should be very cheap for taxes for all flights departing from Moscow. This should be good for connections eastwards, ex., to Asia. Flight to Moscow itself can also be very cheap with just GBP 35 in taxes.

    • My wife is flying S7 next week as it happens – I’m looking forward to her report! She is not desperately keen to put it mildly.

    • sandgrounder says:

      You would need to change in Siberia as well to get to the Far East- there are flights to S7:s Eastern hubs from PRA and FRA aa well though off the top of my head. Very low taxes.

      • sandgrounder says:

        Sorry PRG….

        • Leonid says:

          They seem to have direct flights from Moscow to Thailand, South Korea and China with no changes in Siberia. Taxes used to be GBP 40-60 or so a few years back.

        • sandgrounder says:

          ? I’m not seeing in on their own website or the oneworld network map- but I may well be missing something. I often do!

  12. What an amazing tax avoidance trick! Eh, not like public services need the money or anything.

    • Almost choked on my Starbucks when I read that, on my apple ipad, bought via Amazon 

      Rob best be careful or he will end up in front of a parliamentary committee (he’s also got an affiliate link to Amazon, just sayin)!

    • Alan says:

      LOL – I think you perhaps misunderstand what happens to these ‘taxes’ – most of them go to the airlines themselves for spurious charges such as ‘fuel surcharge’!

    • mrtibbs1999 says:

      Rather daft comment to be fair. It is avoidance of “fuel surcharges”, Ahem I mean “carrier surcharges” that is most beneficial and generally the big win in these cases. Also, APD is a stupid tax that costs people in this country jobs that they would have if it wasn’t cheaper for tourists to fly to other EU countries!

      As to the public services needing the money. Have you any idea how much is wasted on utter folly. Maybe you could use your ranting to sort that out first?

  13. I want to book a trip to Namibia. Is there a good strategy that you know about using Virgin or Avios?

    I wish I knew about this Malaysia airlines. I’ve just booked a trip to New Zealand using cash, but it was so cheap that I can’t really complain 🙂

  14. Jonathan says:

    Let’s say I won’t to get to Cambodia or Vietnam from Europe. Is it better to book the MAL with Virgin points or Avios?

    • Phil says:

      Hi Jonathan,
      I did LGW-AMS-KUL then Air Asia to Phnom Penh with Avios and low taxes in business..last month. However, I noticed that Qatar also go to Phnom Penh. So you can also use Avios via Doha. Not sure on Virgin use though. Any help?

      • Jonathan says:

        Hi Phil. Did you book AMS as a stopover to avoid the huge UK taxes or you had to go via AMS regardless? Was it the LGW-AMS-KUL with Malaysia Airlines?

        • Phil says:

          It was LGW to AMS with BA and then to KUL with Malaysia. booked it to avoid the taxes…which was worthwhile…would recommend but you will need some connection time…I took the 7.40am flight from LGW and that was plenty to catch the midday flight. Business of course and you get to chill in the lounge…

  15. Rich. S says:

    Remember, a very easy way to get to Amsterdam is the Stena Line rail and sail deal overnight.
    The train departs London Liverpool street in the evening for Harwich where you catch the largest ferries in Europe to Holland. The combined ticket includes rail travel from London and the greater East Anglia area to anywhere in Holland, overnight smart cabin with dux mattress, without the stress of flying.

  16. Kathy says:

    I just realised that it’d take me less time to get to Amsterdam from Southend than it would to get to Heathrow from here. Mind you, I’d have to fly Easyjet….

  17. OttoMH says:

    There are some bargains around.. and with much better carriers that BA. I managed to bag a bargain £92 tax one-way J from AMS-HKG on CX. When I booked it was the old herringbone 340 layout but has been swapped for new business 777.

  18. Edward says:

    To book with Air Asia or Malaysia Airlines with Avios how do you book it? Is it via the Avios website?
    And is there a calculator for knowing the amount needed?

    • It is via the ba.com website, not avios.com. Flights will show automatically if available.

      If you want to know pricing in advance, use the Great Circle Mapper website to work out the distance between two cities and then look up the mileage in the chart above.