Amazingly low fares from the United States to the People’s Republic of China have been readily available for the last year or so. These fares make China a great jumping off point to explore the rest of Asia. On this trip, I booked a cheap business-class fare from Las Vegas, Nevada to Beijing and continued on the Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur in business class on Malaysian Airlines. The Malaysian Airlines ticket cost $675 round trip.
I think that is a good deal but near the top of the price range I’d pay for intra-Asia business class. Economy would have been even cheaper, but the prospect of enjoying business class on an airline I’d never flown and the additional American Airlines elite qualifying miles and dollars generated by flying a Oneworld partner a long distance on a cheap business fare was too much to pass up.
This post reports on the roundtrip flight on Malaysia Airlines A330-300s between Beijing (PEK) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Malaysia Airlines’ home base.
Malaysia Airlines A330-300
Malaysia Airlines’ (MH) fleet consists of Airbus wide-body aircraft (A380-800s, A350-900s, and A330s) and Boeing narrow-body aircraft (737-800s). Of the 81 jets in the mainline fleet, 15 are A330-300s.
Following the MH 17 and MH 370 disasters, Malaysia Airlines no longer operates 777s. In 2014, MH 370 disappeared on a flight from KUL to PEK. Lasgt year, Malaysian Airlines became the first airline to install a satellite tracking system that ensures MH knows the location of all of its flights at all times.
Malaysia Airlines operates three versions of the A330-300. My flights were on a version with 27 business-class seats in one cabin. Most seats have direct access to an aisle. These seats are 20 inches wide, have 60 inches of pitch and convert to a flat bed that is 75 inches long.
This is the seating chart from the MH website:
The business cabin consists of seven rows of seats positioned just behind the flight deck and forward galley. Each row has five seats, except that Rows 1, 4 and 6 have four seats.
The seats appear to be Thompson Vantage seats and the arrangement reminds me of Finnair’s A330 business class.
On the flight to Kuala Lumpur my seat was 2A, a window seat on the port side.
On the flight to Beijing, I was fortunate to reserve seat 1K, a window seat on the starboard side. This seat has two consoles and a large foot well. Dual consoles give this seat a footprint as large as that of two seats side by side.
Row 1 is a bulkhead row. That means the size of the foot well is not restricted by the size of the console of the seat in front.
Like the Captain’s Seats on Finnair A330s, single seats with dual consoles (1K, 4K, and 6K) are the best seats on this bird.
Seat controls, video remote, reading light, USB port, and headphone connection, and a small open storage are clustered near eye level just above the console. An A/C outlet is located on the front of the console. Seat controls are easy to understand and operate. The seat moves easily and quietly to the desired position.
A storage compartment that is ideal for shoes, blankets or pillows is located in the console.
Another enclosed storage compartment with a vanity mirror is conveniently located on top of the console with the tray table.
Malaysia Airlines didn’t supply much in the way of amenities on these flights. It only provided a pillow, small blanket and headphones that didn’t have much noise-cancelling ability. Passengers did not receive slippers and an amenity kit. While the amenities were disappointing, I was pleased that Malaysia Airlines lets passengers check in online up to 48 hours before departure and receive boarding passes through text or email. MH also sent emails and texts about the minor delays in boarding and departure. MH provides WiFi only on A350-900 aircraft.
Each flight lasted about six hours and covered a great-circle route of 2,733 statute miles.
Malaysia Airlines provides meal service, a snack and Malaysia Airlines’ famous Malaysian Satay service on these flights.
Service actually starts before departure with a selection of beverages and hot towels.
In the air, service begins with beverages as the plane reaches the initial cruise altitude.
Malaysian Satay, chicken, lamb, or combination thereof, follows the beverage service. Flight attendants are generous with the satay and smother it with peanut sauce if asked. On one flight, I spilled some of the sauce and stained the white linen. The flight attendant noticed and replaced the linen without being asked. That is a small example of the type of service that is standard on Asian full-service airlines.
Here are the beverage menus from the flight to Kuala Lumpur:
The champagne and white wine offerings were slightly different on the flight to Beijing. Here is that menu:
Malaysia Airlines also serves a wide selection of tea from China, Japan and the West as well as coffee, soft drinks, juice and water.
Going to Kuala Lumpur, flight attendants serve a snack shortly after the late night departure. I had the tuna sandwich. This was a Dine Anytime dish. I could order at anytime up to two hours before arrival.
The flight to Beijing was an evening flight so the crew served dinner first. I ordered the entree on the MH website. The head flight attendant confirmed my order before departure.
For the appetizer, I picked smoked salmon with a spicy glass noodle salad over the other choice, carrot and ginger soup. The noodle salad was very tasty.
My entree was lamb shank with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Interestingly, this was not on the menu. Hmm.
Ice cream in a container for dessert.
Before arriving at Kuala Lumpur, I enjoyed another Dine Anytime dish, egg noodles in a vegetable soup with shredded chicken, shrimp, fish balls, bean curd and Asian vegetables.
The food was delicious, and the service was casual and efficient. The service was not the best I’ve had in business class in Asia but it was still better than service on airlines in the United States and Europe. Service on Asian airlines seems natural and unforced rather than trained behavior.
The options for in-flight entertainment (IFE) were more than adequate for six-hour flights although not as good as the newest systems. MH calls its IFE product Select 3000i. Select 3000i includes movies from Hollywood and world cinemas in a variety of genres, 300 TV shows, 500 albums, and radio channels. IFE is available in 14 languages.
Business class has three bathrooms – one for every nine seats. Two are located by the galley at the second boarding door and one just behind the flight deck.
To partially make up for the absence of amenity kits, Malaysia Airlines places a few amenities in the lavatories in business class.
I think that the seats, service, food and beverages made these flights an excellent value. Seats with dual consoles have more personal space than any other business-class seat I’ve experienced. Unfortunately only three of 27 business-class seats have that feature. If you can get one, a comfortable, quiet and productive or relaxing flight is pretty much guaranteed. Malaysia Airlines also gets high marks for online check in and entree selection, accurate and timely text and email messages regarding any delays in boarding, and the satellite tracking system that ensures MH knows where all planes are at all times. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly this airline again when a good fare pops up.
Next is a review of the Golden Lounge, Malaysia Airlines’ first-class lounge at KUL.