Review: Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class (LHR-KUL)

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

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I’d never flown with Malaysia Airlines before this flight so I was very interested to see what the airline was all about…..especially as the airline has been going through some pretty tough times over the past few years.

My trip was taking me from London to Kuala Lumpur and on to Auckland with only a few hours in KL. I had booked my Business Class fare with American Airlines AAdvantage miles before the horrendous devaluation so the two legs were costing me just 60,000 AAdvantage miles. The same itinerary now would set me back 85,000 miles (42% more).

After a little over an hour spent in the First Class area of the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge at Heathrow T4 I headed on over to Gate 6.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

With a scheduled departure time of 21:35 First and Business Class passengers were called to board at 21:05 and I was soon getting my first view inside the Malaysia Airlines A380.

The Business Class cabin on the Malaysia Airlines A380 is on the upper deck of the aircraft and is split into a mini-cabin (at the very front of the aircraft) and a larger cabin slightly further back.

I was booked into seat 10K towards the front of the larger cabin.

Boarding + 10 mins: After two-thirds of the cabin was seated flight attendants came around with a choice of pre-departure drinks –  apple, orange or mango. Surprisingly there was no champagne to be seen.

I chose the mango drink.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Boarding + 18 mins: Very unexpectedly champagne was brought around – I don’t think I’ve ever been offered double pre-departure drinks before.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Shortly after the champagne service the flight attendants came around with a choice of newspapers. 

At this point I had a chance to take a look around the Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class cabin.

Malaysia Airlines doesn’t offer all-aisle-access seats in its A380 Business Class cabin and the seats are set out in a 2-2-2 formation.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

At 22″ the seats felt nice and wide and the person seated next to me in the aisle seat didn’t feel too close.

There was more than enough legroom to get past my seat mate when his seat was upright….

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

…..but once his seat was in a reclined position I would have to climb over him if I wanted to get out.

Seat 10K has 3 windows and, under those windows, are 2 large storage bins.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

That’s lots of storage for the window seat but I couldn’t see all that much storage for any of the other seats.

To give you an idea of how much space you have to store things if you have a window seat, one storage bin was more than enough for everything I thought I may need during the flight and I still had plenty of room to spare…and a second bin should I need it.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

That’s pajamas, 15″ laptop, wash bag, and various accessories for the laptop all in one storage bin.

There is further storage space under the IFE screens ahead of the seats….

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

…and this is where Malaysia Airlines places the amenity kits and headphones before passengers board.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

The amenity kits Malaysia Airlines use are by Porsche Design…..

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

…and contain the usual array of things you find in most airline amenity kits:

As well as the amenity kit there was a pillow, a slightly padded fitted sheet and a regular blanket waiting for me on my seat when I boarded….

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

There was a menu in the magazine rack in the centre armrest but, at first, I thought it was from the previous flight because the first page I opened up (randomly) showed KUL-LHR. I soon realised that menus for both directions were in the same booklet.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

The seat was very comfortable to sit in but I was interested to see what it would feel like when it came time to sleep – it has been a few years since I flew in a business class cabin with this kind of layout (i.e. where I have someone right next to me and no access to the aisle without going past them).

Boarding + 23 mins: The cabin crew brought around hot towels and there was an announcement indicating that our flight time was expected to be 12 hours and 25 minutes.

Boarding + 35 mins: The aircraft doors were closed and passengers were asked to switch all devices to airplane mode.

Boarding + 39 mins: We pushed back and the safety video played.

First impressions of the screen weren’t great – the picture looked grainy – but that just turned out to be the video we were being shown.

As we were taxiing to our runway I was typing notes into my iPhone (in airplane mode) and one of the flight attendants came over to ask me to switch phone off completely for take off.

I didn’t bother arguing as that would have been pointless but I didn’t understand why that was necessary.

Boarding + 1 hr: Take off

Take off + 6 mins: The seat belt signs were extinguished and I decided to take some time to explore the entertainment system.

Te IFE seemed old fashioned…not least the remote which looked at least a decade old:

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

The system itself was clunky and as out of date as the remote control –  you have to use the up/down/sideways arrows on the remote to move a cursor around the screen to then select what you’d like to do or watch.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

When wanting to scroll through the TV comedies I had to scroll through all the episodes of one series before I could see what was on offer next…I have no idea at what point that seemed like a good design idea to someone.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

The in flight entertainment offered a reasonable choice of options with TV, movies, music and kits shows all covered.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Adequate but by no means impressive is probably the best way to sum up what was on offer.

The Malaysia Airlines A380 doesn’t offers wi-fi but it does offer reasonable power options if you need to charge your devices.

There’s a USB port towards the front of the centre armrest….

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

…..and there’s a universal power port under the centre armrest too:

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Take off + 18 mins: A flight attendant brought out the white linen table coverings.

The table comes out of armrest and seemed small (compared to recent flights on Etihad, Cathay and JAL)

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

It was also not very versatile as I couldn’t push it away from me very far….but it did hinge 90 degrees.

Take off + 27 mins : Drinks and a packet of mixed nuts were served

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

I had ordered a 2014 Burgundy wine which was fine if not amazing.

2014 was a pretty good year for Burgundy whites so, if I’m honest, I was hoping for a bit more from the wine….but then that may have been the altitude messing with my taste buds

Take off + 35 mins: The airline’s famous satay skewers were served.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

I had a combination of chicken and beef and they were great – every bit as good as I had been led to believe by those who had told me about them in advance of this flight.

If I had to pick a favorite it would be the chicken but the beef was still very flavourful.

At this point I decided to see if there was any way I could watch my own shows (on my MacBook) while having dinner.

No chance – there was nowhere to place the laptop once the tray table was being used for dinner.

This is what’s great about seats like the reverse herringbone on American, Finnair, Cathay etc….there’s room for an iPad/MacBook/laptop on one side while you use the table for the meal.

I settled down to watch a bit more of the entertainment provided by the airline and two other things stood out.

The headphones were pretty basic….

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

….and I had to play around with the headphone jack before I could get stereo sound.

Take off + 45 mins: The cabin crew came around the cabin to take meal orders so I had a quick look at the menu.

I had completely forgotten that I’d pre-ordered the “chef on call option” via the Malaysia Airlines website a few weeks ago and I couldn’t even remember what that option was!

Take off + 1 hr 3 mins: Dinnerware brought out, tables set and I was asked my choice of starter. 

I chose the Salmon Gravlax which was served immediately.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Salmon Gravlax Starter

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Salmon Gravlax Starter

The salmon was very nice and the two-tone bread that was served with it was warm soft and very good.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Salmon Gravlax Starter

Take off + 1 hr 17 mins: The main course I had ordered ahead of time was served….and it turned out to be lamb biriyani.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Lamb Biriyani Entrée

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Lamb Biriyani Entrée

I had chosen well. The biriyani was very nice indeed – great spicy flavor (good for taste at altitude) and the lamb was nice and tender.

Take off + 1 hr 35 mins: The remnants of my main course were taken away and I was asked if I wanted desert.

I chose the chocolate chilli tart with whipped cream and, once again, it was served straight away

I was loving the efficiency!

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Chocolate Chilli Tart Dessert

Take off + 1 hr 45 mins: My table was cleared away and gave up on the IFE.

Take off + 1 hr 55 mins: I used a lull in cabin service to get changed into my Cathay Pacific pajamas that I had brought with me (no pajamas offered in Malaysia’s Business Class).

Next I tried to make the bed….which isn’t easy when you have another seat right next to you which is already in lie-flat mode.

(Tip: if you’re in the window seat and want to bother putting the base sheet on the bed, make sure you do this before the passenger in the seat next to you has made their bed)

The seat controls are in the centre armrest and are pretty self-explanatory:

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class

It wasn’t long before I gave up trying to fit the bottom sheet and I settled for simply lying down with the blanket over me. The blanket wasn’t bad at all.

The bed wasn’t quite long enough for my 6ft frame and my feet didn’t really have a comfortable place to go.

The seat made a comfortable enough bed base but compared to a lot of other Business Class seats there really wasn’t that much space to move.

If you sleep on your back you should be fine (as long as you’re not too tall or too wide and the same goes for sleeping on your side….but there’s little chance of a comfortable rest if you like to sleep on your front as there’s very little space around the head area.

Having said all that I did get a little bit of sleep.

Take off + 10 hrs 35 mins: About 2 hours before landing one of the flight attendants noticed that I was awake (I had been working for a few hours) and asked if I’d like to choose some breakfast.

I ordered scrambled eggs, salmon and potato cakes with an espresso.

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Breakfast

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Breakfast

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Breakfast

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Breakfast

Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class – Breakfast

The espresso was nice but the same can’t really be said for the rest of the breakfast.

If I didn’t know that I’d ordered scrambled eggs I’m not sure I would have guessed what was on the plate….add to that the fact that the whole meal was served lukewarm and didn’t exactly make it appetising.

The fruit salad and mini-muffins were ok but the main meal was one of the worst I’ve had in Business Class for a good many years. It was appalling.

Take off + 11 hrs 25 mins: I decided to beat the rush for the restrooms so I got changed out of my pajamas and watched some TV

Take off + 11 hrs 55 mins:  The flight attendants came around to collect headsets and, somewhat unbelievably, the menus!

I’d already put mine in my carry on and stowed it in the overhead bin (to scan and publish in the blog) so I just pleaded ignorance as to its whereabouts and the cabin crew moved on.

I know Malaysia Airlines has been in a bit of trouble these past few years but, even so, recycling menus seems a bit cheap…..but it did explain why my seat-mate’s menu had stains on it (which he had pointed out to the cabin crew shortly after boarding).

Take off + 12 hrs 5 mins: As we descended through the clouds the seatbelt sign was illuminated and passengers were asked to turn all electronics off.

At this point the in-flight entertainment was switched off in favor of a tail-cam….but the tail cam was so dirty that you really couldn’t see anything at all.

Take off + 12 hrs 25 mins: After taking exactly the amount of time we were told the flight would take we landed in Kuala Lumpur and, five minutes later, we were parked p at the gate.

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • The IFE is out of date and, at best, average
  • Breakfast was abysmal
  • I’m only 6ft tall (so hardly a giant) and I found the bed to be on the short side
  • Unless you’re in a widow seat there isn’t much room around your seat to store much.
  • The fact that the cabin doesn’t offer all-aisle access is poor but, to be fair, Malaysia Airlines is in good company with this (Emirates, Lufthansa and BA are just three of the better known airlines that also fail to offer all-aisle access Business Class cabins across their entire fleet).

Positives:

  • The crew were very friendly and efficient
  • The seat (in upright mode) was comfortable and felt spacious.
  • Great storage space if you have a window seat
  • Dinner was very good
  • The Porsche Design amenity kit was nice
  • The satay skewers were fantastic

Bottom Line

There wasn’t too much that was average about this experience – I really liked the space around the seat and the seat itself in upright mode but I really didn’t like it at all in lie-flat mode. I really liked dinner but breakfast was an abomination. The service was very good while the sub-par head phones and the IFE weren’t good at all.

I really haven’t had many flight like this one recently.

I’ll be flying in a Malaysia Airlines A380 Business Class cabin again in a little over a month’s time so I will be interested to see if the experience is the same (the seat issues will still be there but I wonder if Breakfast will have improved?)

Would I fly Malaysia Airlines’ A380 Business Class cabin again? Yes – as evidenced by the fact that I’ll be flying it again in a little over a month’s time – but I’m flying it because of a great fare and not because I desperately want to repeat the experience again.

This is a great example of where price plays a big role – I wouldn’t choose to pay for Malaysia Airlines’ A380 Business Class cabin if I had the option of the likes of Qatar Airways, Etihad or Cathay Pacific at the same price point….but, when the Malaysia Airlines fare is substantially cheaper, then the negatives are outweighed by the savings.

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