Malaysia Airlines, Business Class – A 330-300: Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane

Folie1

INTRODUCTION
I am feeling surprisingly fresh, all things considered. I woke up at 05:30 on 26 December to catch my flight from Zürich to Paris. And save for two hours’ sleep on the flight from Paris to Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been awake the whole time.

I step off the A 380 that brought me in from Paris and make my way to Malaysia’s satellite lounge.

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LOUNGE
Location:
One floor up from the public area, above the metro station that connects the satellite with the main building.
Type of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines First Class lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets, showers, separate dining area, workstations.
Internet: Available for free, password required.

There is a common reception area for the Malaysia Airlines lounges in Kuala Lumpur. The Business Class lounge is to the left of the counter, while the First Class lounge is to the right. Even though my onward connection to Brisbane will be only in Business Class, the lounge dragon still grants me access to the First Class lounge once she has checked the PNR for my trip.

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The lounge itself is pretty empty and it seems to me that the place has been renovated or refurbished recently. The toilets look much newer than the last time I was here. Then again, appearances can be misleading…I decide to have a shower to freshen up before the next flight. At close inspection however, the showers look badly maintained and not particularly clean. What can I say? I am a doctor’s son, so perhaps I may be a tad picky when it comes to hygiene. So eventually I decide to give the showers a miss.

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Kind of…

I leave the lounge roughly forty-five minutes before departure because I still have to go through security to enter the holding area of my gate. When I arrive at C16, from where my flight will be leaving, the place is a complete mess. A beautiful Iraqi Airways Boeing 777-300 has just pulled up at the gate next to ours. As the passengers of that flight disembark, they are blocking the way for passengers queuing for security for gates C16 and C17.

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Eventually, by the time I manage to get into the holding area, boarding for my flight has already started. There is no separate queue for security. There is however, a separate exit to the aircraft for Business Class.

CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2
Seat: The first thing that strikes me about the overall cabin is that it is very dirty. There are even stains of food on the wall paneling and there are crumbs of food all over the place. The seat’s hard shell back  is quite low. Consequently, it does not offer much in terms of privacy. But at least there is a divider on every pair of seats. Storage space is also somewhat limited.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width:
20 inches.
Facilities:
USB port and power supply (115 volt).
Length as a bed: 75.2 inches.
Audio and Video:
Touch screen audio video on demand.

As I enter the cabin and reach my seat, there is hardly any room to sit. The space is taken up by a large pillow, a thick blanket and a thin mattress on every seat.

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SERVICE
What a nightmare. I really think it is safe to say that I have never experienced such an awful crew in all my life, on any airline. During the boarding process, assisting passengers with their luggage and helping them stow all the blankets, pillows etc. does not seem part of the crew’s job description and they generally have an attitude of could not care less.

There is a large group of Indian businessmen on the flight today and they are, admittedly, behaving rather badly. Nonetheless, the crew are so apparently pissed off with them that they first start ignoring the passengers, then start being rude to them, move on to yelling at them and eventually end up doing all of the above at the same time.

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After take-off the vanity kits are distributed. The content is more or less the same as in the First Class kit I received on the previous flight.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Guava juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Water.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course, but no menus are distributed, so I have not idea what was on offer. I just had the chicken.
Type of meal:
Good question…
Meal:

  • Satay – mixed chicken and beef with accompaniments
  • Starter – something (tuna?) with raw peppers and celery.
  • Main course – Chicken Indian style.
  • Dessert – fruit.

The meal service is a chaotic mess. One flight attendant approaches passengers and asks them if they have already made a choice, which seems just a bit dumb given that no menus were distributed on the flight. When passengers ask what the choices are, the cabin crew roll their eyes and mumble something about ‘chicken, salmon….’. Ah, so much better.

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At least the service does not take too long to complete. The trays are cleared away, the cabin lights are dimmed and most of the passengers go off to sleep. And so do the crew. There is one guy among the crew on this flight who spends most of his time sitting in one of the Business Class seats reading the paper. At some point he passes through the cabin, presumably to keep up appearances, sees my empty tray and instructs one of the other cabin crew to pick it up and remove it, rather than simply doing it himself. Another crew member is sleeping on the jump seat, with his legs sprawling across the aisle. I have to climb over him to get to the toilet.

SECOND SERVICE
The second service is hardly worth mentioning. It consists of two rather small and bland canapés – one with cream cheese and the other with a strange combination of marinated spicy chicken, tomato sauce and pineapple.

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ARRIVAL
By the time we start our descent into Brisbane it is already getting dark outside. Our approach sees us approaching the airport from the west and then executing a left-hand 270 degrees turn to land in a southerly direction.

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The international terminal is deserted when we arrive. Malaysia Airlines hands out express cards for immigration and customs to their Business Class passengers. But the airport is so quiet this evening that the express lane for customs has already closed down.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Taxi.
Departs from: Taxi rank in front of the terminal building.
Frequency:
Journey time: 25 Minutes.
Fare: AUD47.- to New Farm.

There are bus and train services that frequently run from the airport into the city and to Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise. But according to Google Maps the journey by public transport to where I am going will take more than an hour. So I think I shall take a taxi, if that is all the same with you.

CONCLUSION

Good heavens, what on earth was that? I mean Malaysia Airlines. As I already mentioned in my previous post, their First Class product on the A 380 is a lot more like a Business Class experience on other Asian carriers, although the hardware on the A 380 is excellent. But this last flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane in Business Class was a complete and utter nightmare. I am aware of the fact that the carrier has been brought under government control in a bid to stabilise the company before moving ahead with privatisation. But to be perfectly honest, as far as I can tell privatisation has definitely put the carrier in a downward spiral it may not recover from. Especially on the last flight it became apparent that the staff’s motivation has reached rock bottom. Paired with the fact that their hard product in Business Class is no longer competitive with the likes of Thai, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific or Emirates, it seems hardly unlikely that Malaysia Airlines will rise from the ashes the way the Malaysian government is intending. Pity.

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

Folie1

“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…

Malaysia Airlines, Business Class – B 737-800: Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

logo-malaysia-airlines-MAS

Date: 24 July 2011
From: Bangkok
To: Kuala Lumpur
Airline: Malaysia Airlines
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 1D
Aircraft: Boeing B. 737-800

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I just arrived in Bangkok on SWISS flight LX180 from Zürich. A representative from the airline is expecting me as I get off the plane. She takes my carry-on and bids me to take a seat in some kind of electric golf mobile. After waiting for three further First Class passengers we are whisked away. Our first stop is at the Fast Track immigration counter for passengers whose final destination is Bangkok or who are continuing on a domestic flight. Next stop is the fast track security check at the beginning of the G concourse. I am accompanied through the check, which is very quick – there’s just two of us – and then from there I am taken one floor up to the Malaysia Airlines transfer counter (which is in fact operated by Thai on their behalf). Here I receive a lounge invitation for the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge. To be honest I do find it rather confusing in Bangkok: there’s the Royal Orchid Lounge, the Royal Silk Lounge and finally the Royal First Lounge.

THE LOUNGE

The SWISS representative drops me off in the lounge and bids me a safe onward journey. The lounge is rather nice, but definitely too small for all the passengers it has to accommodate. Furthermore, seating is very tight and not very comfortable.

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Eventually I manage to secure a seat by the window. Unfortunately it is only when I try to take a photo that I notice there are these pesky dots all over the window. Who ever comes up with dumb ideas like this? So no pictures in the lounge then.

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BOARDING

As the departure time draws nearer, I leave the lounge and head for gate D5, the designated gate for this flight. On my way there I come across a Viking and think it might be an old acquaintance from my trip to Beijing in June. Turns out it wasn’t.

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Bangkok uses a closed gate system. When boarding for a flight starts, it means that everybody is made to enter the lounge and then when every passenger has been accounted for, the actual boarding process starts.

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For sure the Kebaya the females wear at Malaysia Airlines is elegant and a complement to the female figure. But only one ounce too many round the bum or the waist and you’re in trouble.

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THE CABIN

Upon entering the aircraft I am rather impressed that MH has in fact a dedicated Business Class cabin on the B 737 with a proper C class seat, as opposed to the European system of just blocking the middle seat in a row of three seats that would otherwise classify and Economy seats.

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SERVICE

While we’re still on the ground a welcome drink of either orange juice or guava is offered. I opt for the guava, it brings back fond memories of a trip I did with my sister to Fiji many years ago. We used to drink guava juice every day during out stay in Fiji.

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Next cold jasmine scented towels are distributed, together with the menu for the flight.

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And then we depart.

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THE FOOD

As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew start to prepare the meal service. First of all, they place a real tablecloth on every tray table.

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Dinner on this flight consists of:

Appetizer

  • Green Mango Salad with fresh lettuce, lime and cherry tomato
  • Bakery Selection with garlic bread

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Main Course

  • Poached Chicken Breast, with rice, garden vegetables and ginger sauce (my choice)

or

  • Stewed Beef with Chili Basil Sauce, with steamed rice and sautéed vegetables

or

  • Seafood Ragout with Saffron Cream Sauce, with sautéed fettuccine pasta and vegetables

I go with the chicken. The meal is rather tasty and in fact quite spicy. Not overly so, but you can certainly feel a slight tickle in your throat as the food goes down.

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Dessert

  • Pumpkin Custard

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After the meal the tray is cleared away and I ask for a coffee, which is duly brought to me in a big white mug. Usually on planes they insist on giving you these puny little but very elegant cups with enough space for not more than one mouthful of liquid.

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The lavatories are checked and cleaned every time after they are used. Obviously by this time I’m really quite impressed with the level of service provided by MH. When I visit the toilet myself I am surprised to see quality cosmetics there at the disposal of the passengers, even for such a short flight of only two hours flying time. The toilet is also decorated with flowers, which is a nice touch.

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The flight attendants on this flight are very beautiful, very professional and very friendly. After I came out of the toilet one of them asks me why I’m taking all the pictures. When I explain, she asks me if I want to have my picture taken. To which I reply that I would prefer to take a picture of her and her colleague, a request to which they both agree. What happens next, in my view, shows just how professional these two ladies are: just as I take the picture, a passenger appears from behind the curtain to go to the toilet. Rather that ignoring him for a second while I take the picture, the flight attendants immediately go back into work mode, show the elderly gentleman the way to the toilet and open the door for him. Once that is taken care, of I am able to take the picture. And these are the results:

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Shortly thereafter we start our descent. The crew pass through the cabin with more hot jasmine scented towels. By the time we arrive in Kuala Lumpur I am well and truly exhausted. After all I left the previous day and travelled all the way from Athens via Zurich and Bangkok to KL. Fortunately there’s a dedicated arrivals counter at immigration for Business Class passengers, so I’m through in no time. I then head down to the basement to catch the KLIA Ekspres, as they call it, to Kuala Lumpur Sentral. Tickets for the KLIA Ekspres can be purchased online on the railway’s website, the trip into town is 35 Ringgit. During my visit to Kuala Lumpur I stay at the Hilton, which is right opposite the main entrance to the railway station, thus in close proximity to downtown and at the same time only one stop away from the airport.

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The next day I continue to Langkawi, also on Malaysia Airlines