Malaysia Airlines, First Class – A 380: Paris to Kuala Lumpur

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“I have spent weeks in the dessert, forgetting to look at the moon, as a married man may spend days never looking into the face of his wife. These are not sins of omission but signs of preoccupation.”

– The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

INTRODUCTION
I just landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on a SWISS flight from Zürich. The only benefit in choosing SWISS over Air France for this journey is that they operate out of Terminal 1 – which is the same terminal Malaysia Airlines uses.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Hall 5, in the basement of Terminal 1.
Facilities: Airport check-in.
Counters: Dedicated Malaysia Airlines counters, with a separate counter for First Class passengers.

Online check-in is not available for this flight because the trip was not booked via the Malaysia Airlines website. And using the Malaysia App only works if you are a member of their frequent flyer programme. So upon arrival from Zürich I head landside and then three floors down to the Malaysia Airlines counters to check-in for my flight. I have hand luggage only. The agent issues my boarding passes for Kuala Lumpur and beyond, hands me an invitation to the lounge and wishes me a good flight.

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Finding your way around Roissy 1 is not easy. Being a circle, you would think the place would be easy enough to navigate. But perhaps precisely because the building is round it can be quite challenging to find your bearings.

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LOUNGE
Location:
The lounge is located in the main building, before you cross over to the satellite.
Type of Lounge:
ICARE Aéroports de Paris contractor lounge.
Facilities:
A small bar area, there are no toilet facilities in the lounge.
Internet:
Available, no password required.

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The ICARE lounge leaves much to be desired. It is not a First Class lounge, just a very generic, old-fashioned and tired looking facility. There are even a few old Lufthansa seats. But it serves its purpose and the wifi connection is good enough for me to upload the first part of this trip report, covering my somewhat disappointing flight with SWISS from Zürich to Paris.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes and enforced.

Departure for the flight is scheduled for 12:00. The gate opens at 10:30 and boarding starts at 11:15. The A 380 is a big girl. As a result, it takes three gates to board the aircraft. Gate 48 on the far left is for Economy Class passengers on the main deck. Gate 47 is for First Class passengers and status card holders, while gate 46 is for Business Class passengers and Economy Class passengers seated on the upper deck.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Malaysia Airlines has its First Class cabin on the lower deck. There are eight seats on two rows. The seat is large and plush and offers a lot of privacy. Perhaps the seat’s most striking feature is the huge amount of stowage space for small items in the sides. In addition, every seat has its own closet with three hangars. And there is enough space under the ottoman to stow one piece of carry on luggage. For passengers travelling with bulky items, there is also a separate, large locker at the front of the First Class cabin.

The seat has warm colours – red and brown – which give the cabin a very welcoming and cosy look and feel. All in all, the seat is very comfortable, also when extended into a bed.

Pitch: 89 inches
Width: 26.1 inches
Facilities: USB port and power supply (115 volt).
Length as a bed: 87 inches
Audio and Video: 23 inch monitor with audio and video on demand.

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Admittedly, the toilets on Malaysia’s A 380 are nowhere near as fancy and large as the ones Lufthansa has installed in First Class on the A 380. But they are large enough for an averagely sized adult male, okay me, to change comfortably. The toilet is stocked with Aigner cosmetics, including different eau de toilette for men and women.

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SERVICE
There are four cabin crew working the First Class cabin – one female and three males. The purser comes to introduce himself and shakes my hand, which I think is a very nice gesture. The crew are all very charming, friendly and chatty. Their English is really excellent, which already struck me the last time I flew with Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong last year.

In between the hot towel and the welcome drink the female flight attendant comes along with a large paper bag containing goodies for the flight. The bag contains:

  • Pyjamas in my size (L)
  • Decently sized slippers (I wear a size 46 shoe).
  • A decent size vanity kit containing Bulgari cosmetics (Essence de Thé Blanc), a dental kit with Colgate toothbrush, tooth past and mouthwash, socks and eye shades. There are no earplugs in the kit. Shaving sets, more tooth brushes and combs are available in the toilet.

The flight attendant informs me that she will bring the earphones after take-off, once the IFE starts working.

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We take off in a westerly direction. I know I say this every time, but the A 380 really is amazing. Despite its size the aircraft accelerates rapidly down the runway, even though the flight is pretty full today. During the take-off roll the noise from the engines is so quiet that I can even hear a baby crying somewhere on the upper deck!

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Pre-meal drink:
Mineral water and a half glass of Dom Pérignon 2004, which I took more out of curiosity than anything else.
Choice:
Three starters and main courses.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  • Amuse Bouche – Duck magret and melon balls skewer.
  • Starter – Charcoal hand grilled beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce and accompaniments.
  • Caviar – Served with smoked salmon and asparagus, blinis, chopped onion, parley, crème fraîche and lemon.
  • Soup – Cream of potato with marinated chicken and crispy onion.
  • Mixed salad – I skipped that one.
  • Main course – Chicken Biryani with rice and vegetable pickles.
  • Dessert – Fresh fruit, crunchy coffee pastry.
  • Bread basket – a selection of warm garlic bread and rolls.

The meal starts immediately once the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off. The pace of the service is excellent, there are no long waits but there is enough time between the courses for the meal not to be rushed. The crew are very attentive, making sure that glasses are regularly replenished.

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After the meal I have a short nap. The flight attendant sees me settling in and brings me a larger, more comfortable and fluffy pillow and a thick blanket. However, he does not suggest making up my bed. So to be honest, I am not entirely sure if Malaysia even do a turn down service like SWISS or British Airways for example.

I spend the rest of the flight in the cosiness of the warm cabin, lying under my blanket reading. Around halfway into the flight, roughly somewhere north of Karachi, I start to feel peckish again. I think it is time for another dose of protein and carbs. So I order the noodles in a vegetable-based soup with shredded chicken, prawns, bean curd, fish balls and Asian greens from the snack menu. The soup is served with a healthy dose of chilli and crispy onions. And to finish off the meal I have two freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

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SECOND SERVICE
Wake up drink:
Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Choice:
Four main courses.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  • Juice – fresh orange juice.
  • Fresh fruits – melon, grapefruit, grapes, papaya, pineapple.
  • Bread – individual basket with assorted rolls, served with strawberry jam and marmalade.
  • Hot meal – Nasi Lemak – rice cooked in coconut milk and served with fresh ginger, prawn sambal, with traditional accompaniments (dried fish, peanuts, cucumber, boiled egg).
  • Hot drink – Teh Tarik (milky sweet tea).

The second service starts about 90 minutes out of KL. Slowly the lights go on and I am brought a glass of fresh orange juice and a hot towel. Once more the service is swift and well paced. The food is very tasty, especially the Nasi Lemak is very fragrant and quite spicy.

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ARRIVAL
Our arrival and approach into KL is quite spectacular. Below us there are thick clouds with frequent flashes of lightning. It is a spectacular backdrop as we descend through thick layers of cloud towards our destination. And then we land.

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All in all I enjoyed this Malaysia Airlines First Class experience, although it was a bit of a mixed bag. The hardware – the seat – is certainly very nice, in fact it is one of my favourites. However, as far as the service and the food is concerned, both looked and felt a lot more like a Business Class flight, and not even an exceptionally good one. It is the little details that can make a huge difference. And this is where I thought Malaysia was lacking, particularly compared to the competition.

I am still not quite there yet. One more flight to go…

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