Flight report: Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class LHR to KUL

I recently flew on MH3 from London to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines’ new Airbus A350-900 which is replacing the A380s previously used on the twice-daily London to KL route. This is my review of the trip including lounge access, the cabin and service.

What lounges are available to Malaysia Airlines Business Class passengers in Heathrow Terminal 4?

A business class ticket on Malaysia Airlines lets you into the business class lounges of the One World airlines in Terminal 4, giving you a choice of the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge and the Qatar First and Business Class lounge, which we visited before boarding our flight. The Qatar lounge is only available with a business class ticket (not to economy passengers with status) and is therefore extremely quiet once the Qatar Airways flights have departed- we were the only people there at 9am so it was like having our own private lounge.

Lobby of the Qatar First and Business Class Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4

Lobby of the Qatar First and Business Class Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4

Breakfast is buffet style or a la carte with formal and informal dining areas to choose from. The informal area near the buffet breakfast looks out across the airport from floor to ceiling windows (although the view is not terribly interesting) while the more formal dining area has a darker, more intimate feel.

 

The a la carte breakfast includes a full English with your choice of eggs including shakshouka, other options include foul madamas, porridge, kedgeree and various styles of poached eggs. There are also takeaway boxes for a selection of sweet treats including fruit and nut mix and Lindt chocolates (I might have filled one up…)

Qatar First and Business Class Lounge a la carte menu

Qatar First and Business Class Lounge a la carte menu

The buffet menu includes smoothies, yoghurt, pastries, fruit and other items.

Décor is low key and tasteful with a beautiful area dining area by the buffet station (not all of which is self service).

A large lobby area and fountain greats you when you walk in, giving you a further choice of seating areas when in the lounge. There is also the obligatory business centre for those needing to work.

Breakfast buffet at the Qatar First and Business Class Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4

Breakfast buffet at the Qatar First and Business Class Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4

Showers and toilets are also available for guests, although I didn’t visit these. We unfortunately didn’t have much time to spend in the lounge or to investigate the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge…one for next time!

The plane

Aircraft model: A350-941

Aircraft number: 9M-MAB

My seat: 3G

Boarding

Boarding the A350 is not as smooth as the A380 given the reduced number of sky bridges as it’s a much smaller plane (taking around 300 passengers in the Malaysia Airlines configuration). When we boarded, business class passengers had to wait to board last, after all economy passengers were on board.

This is fine as it gives you more time to hang out in the lounge, but we didn’t know this when arriving at the gate (and I’m not sure whether this is usual) so I was a little frustrated to have to wait and not have the option of boarding when it was convenient for me. We effectively queued at the back of the economy line as there was no separate lane for business class passengers to board.

What’s the layout of the Malaysia Airlines A350 Business Class cabin?

The business cabin is split into two cabins divided by the galley with a total of 35 seats. The 4 first class seats are in a cabin in front of the forward business class cabin.

While the seats are a big improvement on the old A380 business class seats, there’s a real range of configurations in both cabins, which is worth laying out in detail as you’re likely to have a totally different experience based on which seat you pick. I describe them all below in detail with a higher level summary further down.

The left aisle of window seats is single seats all the way along with the seat alternating sides, either next to the window with the table to the aisle side, or the table against the window and the seat to the aisle. The latter offer rather less privacy as the side of the seat is open to the aisle with only a small armrest separating you, but in the former it’s more difficult to enjoy your window seat. The more private seats are 3A, 6A, 8A and 10A.

The central seats are all in pairs, each with the same configuration (except the very last pair in the second cabin – 11D and 11G) but also alternating sides so that the amount of privacy from the aisle alternates between the pairs.

The right hand aisle of windows seats are an extremely mixed bag ranging from the best seats in the house to the worst as they follow a 1-2-1 configuration.

The best seats in the house belong to seats 2K and 9K, which are the throne seats on the right aisle of the plane at the front of each of the business cabins. Both benefit from a huge amount of leg room and a table each side of the seat, which sits in the middle of the configuration. It gives you both a privacy and space and feels more akin to the first class seats, albeit without the ability to completely seclude yourself.

Roomy seat 2K at the front of the cabin

Roomy seat 2K at the front of the cabin

The next most preferable seats are 5K and 11K which are basically throne seats but don’t have the same roomy feel as 2K and 9K due to being behind other seats. These both have the same configuration as 2K and 9K, although I suspect the footwell is well roomy (as was my seat, 3G) as it has to fit between the two seats in front which the true throne eats, 2K and 9K don’t need to.

The rest of the right hand aisle follows a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration so seats 3K and 3H, 6K and 6H and 10H and 10K are pairs meaning neither 3K, 6K nor 10K have direct access to the aisle, which is clearly suboptimal on a 13 hour flight- especially if you are flying solo! I can hardly see the point of flying in business if you need to climb over your neighbour each time you need the loo! If you’re in the H seats you’re being climbed over and also have only an armrest between you and the aisle.

The pairs of seats, both in the aisle and centre, also share a central table with only one seat benefitting from the storage inside, although this seat is always the one with the least privacy and without a dedicated table, meaning that while you have the extra storage (which is pretty limited on the other seat), you are missing your own dedicated table. The central seats at the front of each cabin 2D and 2G and 9D and 9G however have the advantage of increased space so are the best choices if you’re flying in a couple.

The galley is at the rear of the first cabin with the toilets behind the galley, meaning for a quiet seat you should look to select a seat further forward in the first cabin or further back in the second cabin. It means that the front seats in the rear business class cabin are near the toilets and galley, making seat 2K preferable to seat 9K even though they both have the same great configuration.

Where should I sit in Malaysia Airlines A350 business cabin?

In order of preference (for a single traveller) the seats are:

  • 2K and 9K – throne seats in each of the business class cabins with a window view and tables each side of the seat meaning you have privacy from the aisle as well as extra room and storage.
  • 5K and 11 K – window seats with a table both sides of the seat giving you privacy from the aisle as well as extra room and storage.
  • 3A / 6A / 8A /10A – window seats with the table towards the aisle giving the seat more privacy from the aisle.
  • 2D / 9D – this has a huge amount of leg room as it’s at the front of the cabin, it also has a table giving you extra space and privacy from the aisle. If you’re travelling in a pair you should opt for 2D and 2G at the front of the cabin. 2D has slightly more storage space but both are extremely roomy due to their position.
  • 3G / 5D / 6G / 7D / 10G – central seats as part of a pair but with more privacy from the aisle and a dedicated table as well as the shared central table. Note however that there is fairly restricted space in the footwell which you really notice when the seat is laid flat.
  • 11D / 11G – central seats both with aisle access but both sharing a central table -neither with its own side table to give privacy from the aisle.
  • 3H / 6H / 10H– aisle access but with no individual table to give privacy from the aisle and with a neighbour to your right with no aisle access who may need to disturb you during the flight.
  • 3K / 6K  / 10K – no aisle access!

Seat feel and functions

The seat is extremely comfortable, even when laid flat into a bed. It’s sufficiently firm but also soft to give you a good nights rest without waking up to that bruised feeling (I found that the beds on Etihad were a bit hard compared due to the cushioning being thin). You’re provided with a quilted cover for the seat to make it more comfortable, which hooks over the headrest to keep it in place. You also get a quilted blanket and pillow, both of which did their jobs perfectly well.

The seat is adjustable using the console next to the seat which allows you to change the lumbar support, cushion firmness and leg rest . However, it didn’t appear to be possible to recline it independently of the pre-set positions to put the seat into either the upright position, to lay it flat or to ‘relax’, which puts you in a nice reclined position with the footrest up which was pretty comfortable for watching tv. I didn’t really find this problematic as you could stop the seat’s adjustment anywhere along it’s journey into those positions meaning you could pretty much adjust it to whatever position best suited you.

Control panel, reading light, phone storage and water bottle storage available in every seat in the Malaysia Airlines A350 business class cabin

Control panel, reading light, phone storage and water bottle storage available in every seat in the Malaysia Airlines A350 business class cabin

The only criticism of my seat was the width of the footwell when the seat is laid flat. It gives you very little room to move your legs around (basically none). It makes it hard to even turn over on the bed easily to move on your side and you can’t bed your legs up too much. I’m very short (5’2”) so I can only imagine that this effect would be magnified for taller travels. This issue appears to be unique to certain seats in the middle of the cabin where the footwell has to fit between the two seats in the pair in front. 3D next to me had much more space in the footwell, as did 3H to my right.

Other seat features

Additionally the seat area includes a ‘mood light’ which softly lights the footwell and the area behind the seat where the water bottle storage is. Additionally you have the reading light behind the seat which has three strengths (which you can set by continuing to press the button which switches it on). This light is great for reading and concentrated enough not to disturb others in the cabin but I found it near impossible to write using the light as its position meant my hand cast a shadow over my notebook as I wrote.

Alternatively you have the reading light above the seat in the roof of the cabin. For the aisle seats this is probably a good option, but due to the lack of overhead storage bins in the centre of the cabin, the light is far above the seat meaning it is more diffuse than if it was directly overhead and you run the risk of disturbing your cabin-mates due to its position.

Lastly was the weirdest feature- an over shoulder belt, which I’ve never seen on another airline. This came across the shoulder like a car seatbelt and clipped onto a clip on the normal cross-lap belt. Staff required us to wear the belt for take off and landing, which was no problem at all (although it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, especially if you’re short like me), but note that in order to use it on landing you need to have removed your quilted seat cover in order to access it.

How much storage space is there in Malaysia Airways Business Class seats?

This varies greatly depending on the seat you’re in. One thing to point out is that there is no overhead storage over the central seats, meaning there is less storage than you’d typically see, but it does give a wonderfully open and airy feel to the centre of the cabin, which is welcome on a long flight where you can start to feel claustrophobic.

In my seat (3G), I had a small storage unit to the right of the arm which has a little door than opens and locks back in place. It is fairly small but was big enough to take a small handbag (evening bag) and 3D to my left had a larger cubby hole under the central shared arm rest between the two seats.

Additional storage with door, tucked behind my handbag and welcome drink

Additional storage with door, tucked behind my handbag and welcome drink. You can also just see the additional open recessed storage on the top and position of the phone holder above the control panel.

In addition, seats have storage for a bottle of water and a small pouch for a phone, which I found pretty handy in flight. My seat also had a small recessed shelf on top of the cupboard which was handy for stowing a few small items, including my takeaway box of Lindt chocolates and fruits and nuts from the Qatar lounge.

Apart from that there isn’t a huge amount of storage in the seats. I chose to keep my small backpack on the floor during the flight but the only space for it was the gap through which to enter and exit the seat so I did have to step over it each time I got up which was slightly irritating although not too problematic. I needed things, like my laptop, out of the bag during the flight so didn’t want to store it in the overhead bins. In the roomier seats (in rows 2 and 9 and 5K and 11K) you have far more space for leaving small bags and shoes, so this would be less of a problem. Similarly the A seats with the seat on the aisle side would give you more spare to place a bag up on the armrest on the window side, although you’d need to move it each time you got your table out for meals.

Amenities

Amenities are limited to a small bag from Aigner Perfumes which contains a sleep mask, socks, hair brush, toothbrush and paste, refreshing face spray, lip balm and body lotion.

Malaysia Airlines business class amenities kit

Malaysia Airlines business class amenities kit

Entertainment

Business class seats feature a large touch screen tv as well as an individual console stowed in the arm rest of the chair. I found it easier to use the touch screen to navigate, which was very responsive.

A selection of classic films and new releases are available, as well as a selection of Malaysian and Bollywood films. There’s also the usual TV shows, radio stations and games. You also have flight info including an interactive map and a camera on the plane but this is only in the downward position which gives you views below the plane but no option to see other angles like you get on the Qatar and Emirates A380s.

Noise cancelling headphones are also provided which I found very comfortable, especially given I wore them for several hours and delivered good quality sound while cancelling out background plane noise.

Malaysia Airlines business class noise cancelling headphones

Malaysia Airlines business class noise cancelling headphones

Food and drinks

What food will I be served on Malaysia Airlines business class?

On the MH3 10:45 service from London to Kuala Lumpur you are served lunch around an hour after take off and can choose from the menu or can pre-select your mean from the Malaysia business class ‘chef on call’ menu on the website, which you can view here.

Service starts with the satay trolley, probably my favourite feature of Malaysia Airlines business class. They serve a selection of chicken and beef satay (although you can choose to have either or both) smothered in a tasty spicy peanut sauce. I was lucky to get 4 sticks of satay on the first round and was then treated to an unusual second round of satay yielding another 3 sticks. I felt the beef was tastier than the chicken but both were delicious and a great way to start the food service…although I was pretty full after 7 fairly sizeable sticks of satay.

Malaysia Airlines chicken and beef satay

Malaysia Airlines chicken and beef satay

The lunch selection includes a mix of western and Malaysian food. I had the pea soup to start, followed by the Daging Masak Kicap (slow cooked beef in a rich soy sauce with a side of saffron rice and sayur lodeh), which I’d never tried before and was absolutely delicious.

Malaysia Airlines business class Daging Masak Kicap

Daging Masak Kicap main course

I also got to try the lamb biryani, which is available on pre-order, which was also very tasty and a reasonable sized portion.

Malaysia Airlines business class Lamb Biryani

Malaysia Airlines business class Lamb Biryani

None of the food is especially refined but the flavours and portion sizes are great. I was very satisfied and very full (although it didn’t stop me getting some anytime dining to top myself up between meals!).

I didn’t have the dessert but they were offering ice cream (available anytime), a toffee and banana cake and a selection of British cheeses and crackers (also available on demand).

Breakfast is served approximately 2.5 hours prior to landing in Kuala Lumpur (so around 4:30 – 5am local time), but a continental breakfast is available up to 60 minutes before landing for those who wish to eat later. I had the nasi lemak (which they then ran out of!) which was pretty good, but slightly disappointing compared to the other food I had on board- satay was the clear winner.

Can I dine on demand on Malaysia Airways?

Although you can’t alter the time of your main meals, Malaysia does feature a dine anytime menu which includes a noodle soup, sandwiches, nasi lemak, omelette, Belgian waffles and other light snacks.

I had the egg noodles and a fruit smoothie. The noodles are the curly ones like from an instant packet but the soup is light and very tasty with a mix of tofu, chicken, prawn and fish ball and is served with chills in soy on the side.

Malaysia Airline egg noodles dine anytime

Malaysia Airline egg noodles dine anytime

What drinks are available on Malaysia Business Class?

The menu includes a limited list of red and white wines as well as a selection of beers (slightly disappointing: Tiger; Carlsberg; Stella Artois- not a fan of any) and spirits as well as fresh juices and a generous selection of teas and coffees. They also serve my absolute favourite- Milo (it’s a malted chocolate drink for those not in the know).

Here is the complete wine list:

 

What does the flight cost?

This route in business class typically costs around £3,000 during peak season, dropping to around £2,300 at other times of year.

I was able to make use of a business class flash sale for a return business class ticket to Denpasar via Kuala Lumpur (tips for an 8 hour layover in KL coming soon…) which came in at around £1,600 per person which was excellent value. This was fare class Z but I was still credited by full tier points for the trip.

However, Malaysia Airlines rarely have these types of offers available so you’re likely to be looking at the £2,000 – 3,000 mark as you’re paying for the privilege of a direct, twice-daily flight from London.

For BA Executive Club members you’ll get 160 tier points each way on this route.

Conclusion

While Malaysia Airlines hasn’t gone for the glitzy bells and whistles you might expect from a carrier like Etihad, the lie flat beds are extremely comfortable and you are provided with an extra cover for the seat as well as a blanket, pillow and slippers.

I found it extremely easy to sleep, especially as the cabin is dark for around 7 hours of the journey, although I was slightly disappointed with the restricted room in the footwell of my seat, which felt claustrophobic at times.

However, all seats in this business cabin are not created equal and your experience on this flight will be hugely influenced by the seat you pick. All the reviews I’ve seen on this configuration align with my own views- try to get the throne seats 2K or 9K; 5K and 11K are a close second if you’re travelling alone followed by 3A, 6A and 8A. If I had been sat in 3K or 6K I’d be writing an entirely different review!

Food was pretty decent although the wine list was limited and I wasn’t impressed by the champagnes on offer. The satay trolley is a clear stand out on Malaysia Airlines- it’s genuinely pretty good satay and they’re pretty generous with their portions.

Staff were friendly and attentive and my dine anytime meal arrived promptly as did my requests for drinks throughout the flight. Looking forward to my return trip in a few day’s time!

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