Review: I try Malaysia Airlines Business Class to Kuala Lumpur, as the country reopens
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This is our review of Malaysia Airlines Business Class on the Airbus A350-900, between Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur.
With the Malaysian borders now open and welcoming tourists again Malaysia Airlines was keen to get us back in the country – so keen, in fact, that we ended up being the first international press trip to the country in two years.
This was my second time flying Malaysia Airlines and I was happy to return. My trip to Malaysia in 2019 was my first long haul assignment at Head for Points and I had fond memories of both the airline and the country. I was keen to see what, if anything, has changed.
Malaysia Airlines is, of course, a British Airways partner in the oneworld alliance and you can earn and spend Avios – and earn British Airways tier points – when you fly with Malaysia Airlines.
Which lounge does Malaysia Airlines use at Heathrow?
Right now – and until Heathrow Terminal 4 re-opens – Malaysia Airlines operates out of Terminal 2 and uses the Plaza Premium lounge (review here).
As this is a temporary arrangement I won’t go into the details, except to say that there was virtually no queue to check in regardless of cabin class. Even in economy there were only a handful of passengers when I arrived two and half hours before my flight.
Sadly, when, Malaysia Airlines does move back to Terminal 4, it won’t return to its Golden Lounge (you can read my review from 2019 here). This is a shame – it was a spectacular lounge with great views – but with just two flights per day and hefty costs I can understand why it was closed.
Fortunately, Malaysia Airlines will send you to the lounge of your choice – either the Qatar Airways lounge in Heathrow T4 – review here – which has just been refurbished or the Plaza Premium lounge on the floor above. You should choose the Qatar Airways lounge – this is an exceptional business class lounge – up there with the Cathay First lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 unless the refurbishment went horribly wrong – so we aren’t complaining.
Malaysia Airlines A350 business class
The A350 is now the flagship of Malaysia Airlines’ fleet and is used for its longest flights.
The aircraft features four Business Suite ‘First Class Minus / Business Plus’ seats which I reviewed in 2019. The airline rebranded its First Class seats to get around the reluctance of some customers to be seen booking First, but little else changed. The only snag is that these seats cannot be booked as Avios redemptions because they are no longer categorised as First.
Behind this are 35 lie-flat business class seats in two cabins of six and three rows:
Malaysia’s business class configuration features the staggered 1-2-1, 1-2-2 Vantage seat. This is the exact same seat that Aer Lingus has on its A330s and which I reviewed two months ago, albeit with different finishes.
Despite not being the latest model it is a good seat, although your experience can vary significantly depending on the seat you select: anything from a throne seat to a middle pair.
I was sat in 2K, on the front right of the forward cabin in a ‘throne seat’. This is great for two reasons. Firstly, the throne seats offer the most personal space of any seat in the cabin, with side consoles left and right:
And secondly, as this is a bulkhead row, the foot cubby hole is significantly larger than you would otherwise get. Here is my leg room in 2K:
…. versus my last review:
The good news is that eight out of thirty-five seats feature the additional leg room given the spread across two cabins, so you have a one in five chance of getting it.
My seat in 2K also came with two windows:
The seat features a three-point seat-belt for take-off and landing. You can uncouple the shoulder strap during flight:
Throne seats get a lot of storage space – far more than many others – including a little cupboard at shoulder level suitable for something headphone-sized:
There is a mirror on the inside of the door. You can also see the IFE remote, reading light, and seat controls in the photo above. A plug and USB socket are underneath the side table.
Opposite the seat is a 16″ IFE screen, which is a little on the smaller size compared to newer cabins such as BA’s Club Suite but still perfectly acceptable:
For a greater sense of space in the cabin Malaysia Airlines has chosen to install overhead lockers only above the window seats. A side effect of this is that only these seats get overhead air nozzles:
I find that most airlines up the temperature of the cabin overnight so I am always glad to have personal air vents that I can control. On my return flight I was in a middle pair and got a bit too hot – although the crew did lower the temperature slightly after I asked them.
Waiting at my seat was a mattress pad, blanket, noise-cancelling head phones and bottle of water. After take-off the crew came round handing out slippers:
…. and the new Aspinal of London amenity kits:
These amenity kits are a BIG upgrade from the previous stock and get a big thumbs up from me. The contents includes socks, eye mask, ear plugs, mouthwash, dental kit and comb, as well as Payot lip balm and body cream.
What is the seat like to sleep in?
There is no turndown service, but it’s easy enough to make your own bed with the included mattress pad and duvet. It’s quite smart:
There’s loads of leg room if you have a bulkhead seat, as you will have seen above.
It’s comfortable enough to get a decent night’s rest – and I say that as someone who sleeps in the recovery position with my knees sticking out left right and centre. The pillow in particular is very comfortable – not massive but one of the better pillows I’ve used.
…. but are there enough toilets?
Somewhat surprisingly, Malaysia offers just two toilets for its 35 business class passengers on the A350. This is in contrast to Iberia’s four lavatories for its 32 passengers or Finnair’s 46 business class seats.
Whilst this is fine on a day flight, there was a big run on the lavatories in the morning after breakfast on the night fight. Two just aren’t enough on a busy flight, especially when people are changing and brushing their teeth etc.
In-flight entertainment and wifi on Malaysia Airlines
I have to say I was quite impressed with the film selection on Malaysia Airlines, which contained a number of new releases as well as a pretty good back catalogue covering all the major bases.
I ended up watching The Lost Daughter with Olivia Colman, as well as Oceans 11. On the return I watched Just Mercy and King Richard. Some of the films have hard-coded subtitles in English or Chinese, which is a bit annoying.
Malaysia’s A350s are also equipped with satellite wifi and 3G, although you’ll have to pay. Here is the wifi pricing structure:
- Lite Plan: 10MB at 200kbps for $2
- Social Plan: 50MB at 512kbps for $10
- Business Plan: 200MB at 512kbps for $25
None of these are particularly generous or appealing, especially when you consider that Aer Lingus gave all its business class passengers a free voucher for 700MB on my recent flight. Even the Business Plan seems a little light at 200MB.
You can also use the 3G service from Aeromobile which is billed by your mobile network. Finding pricing for this is a challenge as it varies carrier to carrier and they don’t all have clear pricing online, but for Three, the rates are a stonking £6 per MB.
That’s assuming the wifi even works. On my return flight there seemed to be widespread trouble connecting despite the crew rebooting the system several times. This is not a Malaysia Airlines issue but a widespread industry problem. Unfortunately, inflight wifi is not smooth sailing quite yet.
When the flight landed in KL, we were shown a video from the Malaysian Minister of Health looking very trendy in a batik shirt and welcoming passengers back to Malaysia:
You wouldn’t see Sajid Javid (or Matt Hancock ….) doing this!
Food service on Malaysia Airlines business class
On a long flight like this (13.5 hours) the meal service can make or break the experience and I’m pleased to say that Malaysia Airlines exceeded my expectations.
When boarding you are first given a choice of juice, followed by champagne (Bruno Paillard, both normal and rose):
After take-off a second drinks round is made, plus you get a small bag of peanuts. This is also when orders are taken.
At the moment Malaysia Airlines is not providing an inflight menu as a result of covid, but I hope these are brought back as soon as possible. A menu makes life much simpler for crew and passengers alike, as well as setting expectations for the meal service throughout the flight.
Lunch and dinner on Malaysia Airlines always starts with satay, which I still think is one of the best satays I have had, ever. This is brought around on a trolley and served at your seat which is quite fun:
The peanut sauce just hits the spot. Following the satay (and with a fresh table cloth because the satay is a bit messy!) you get a starter and side, delivered on a tray, in this case smoked salmon:
This is followed by the main. On my flight there was a choice of beef, chicken or fish, and I went for the beef cheek:
This meal is actually quite impressive – I’ve had worse on Qatar Airways. Take a closer look and you’ll see why. This is not a meal that has been thrown in the oven and then brought to my seat. From what I can tell, the staff actually assemble this in the galley, which results in meal with far better presentation than you would find if had it been done by the ground catering staff. I was seriously impressed – it puts BA’s current single-tray service to shame.
You are offered a choice of bread with the main, including garlic bread, white and brown rolls.
This is followed by dessert which has again been put together by the cabin crew:
It is very impressive. As I said above, I’ve had worse meals on Qatar Airways flights, which has a very high standard of catering.
The flipside of this is that it is a fairly long meal service, albeit on a 13.5 hour flight this is less of an issue. It is more of a problem for the pre-flight meal (breakfast in my case) which is served a whole 2.5 hours prior to landing. However, this is also impressive.
First up is some fruit, pastry and/or a yoghurt:
This is followed by a cooked main, either egg-based or traditional Malaysian Nasi Lemak:
Hot drinks are served and there’s also a delicious smoothie available in addition to the usual bar cart items.
Interestingly, I do think the catering out of Heathrow is marginally better than that out of Kuala Lumpur.
So, how was my post-covid Malaysia Airlines flight?
All things considered I was very happy. Whilst the hard product is fairly standard – the Vantage business class seat isn’t my personal favourite, but it’s lie-flat and offers a mix of seating for both the solo and group traveller – I was very impressed by the food and service.
If I had to nitpick then I would want to see the return of menus on-board, and looking back at my 2019 flight it’s also clear that the newspaper trolley has been culled, at least for now. Conversely, Malaysia’s business class now features upgraded Aspinal of London amenity kits and a better film selection, so some things have definitely improved in the past three years.
With British Airways having pulled its direct flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines is now the only airline to fly direct to London. Based on my experience last week I wouldn’t hesitate to fly it again.
Later this week I’ll be taking a look at the hotels I stayed in during my trip.