Malaysia Airlines – A Tale of Two Lounges
On a recent stopover in Kuala Lumpur I had the opportunity to visit any of the OneWorld lounges at KIA so made the most of the time and checked out the two lounges you can use if leaving from the satellite terminal; the Malaysian Golden Lounge or the Cathay Pacific Lounge.
First up the Golden Lounge
Firstly the Lounge is huge, think Qatar huge, so not finding a seat won’t be an issue. It’s one long room so is nicely laid out with a large central food service station. Off to the side is a cafe set up that serves laksa and noodles.
The food is difficult to describe. I visited twice in the same night thanks to a flight delay and it grew on me the second time. The first visit I had the impression the food selection was cheap mass market stuff, think tomato pasta, tubs of rice etc. But when I did a second visit I noticed they had panini cooked to order and an espresso bar. There was also a waffle station. There’s not a huge variety, think one type of waffle, a salad bar of 4-5 items and limited choice of sandwiches but for the size of the Lounge and traffic it does the job. I have to admit to being spoilt by the CX Lounge I visited in between the dual Golden Lounge visits. 7/10
Now this is where Malaysia fails dismally. Now I get that Malaysia is a Muslim country, however they want the foreign connecting traveller so get a decent bar. The bar is off to the side as you walk in and is dark and worn. There’s a significant difference between the bar and the main lounge, I’m guessing one was renovated and the other wasn’t. There’s nothing on the shelves behind the bar or in the fridge, just a few bottles hidden below the bar and no menu. I ordered a vodka soda and not only was the soda flat but could hardly taste the vodka. I wiped the table with a napkin as it looked wet and ended up with a black tissue. Not pleasant. The drink was so bad as well as the environment I abandoned it and went to the CX Lounge for a proper drink. 2/10
The lounge itself is fine, it’s a bit cavernous but then you’re not going to have an issue finding a seat. There’s plenty of charging points as well as flight information screens. It doesn’t feel particularly intimate and more suits a quick 30 minute grab and go I think rather than somewhere to relax. 6/10
The Cathay Lounge
I have to admit I wasn’t planning on lounge hopping but after the disaster with the bar I wanted a proper gin and tonic, so decamped to the Cathay lounge to see what was on offer.
The food selection was significantly better in the CX lounge. It wasn’t that there was more choices but that there was a feeling of more quality ingredients being used in the food. The MH lounge had a feeling that they were catering to the masses. CX had hot dishes such as potato dauphinoise (really good), Japanese chicken curry (excellent) as well as some delcious mini quiches and an assortment of cheese and salad. CX wins on food quality here, hands down. 8/10
No complaints here, self serve drinks! There wasn’t much selection with just whiskey, gin, vodka, rum and a red and white wine but they were all branded spirits and free pour so you could make your own drink the way you want it. Simple but works. 9/10
In fairness to MH, CX has a much smaller lounge which is understandable at KIA. It’s also not a “refreshed” lounge like Bangkok and others with the CX change to noodle bars and wood paneling. It is however clean, comfortable and when I visited quite quiet though your mileage may vary. In fairness to MH they have a lot more passengers to accommodate in their lounge so the size and slight cavern feel is partially understandable. Given similar levels of traffic though I think most would prefer the smaller quieter lounge with less walk to food and drinks. 8/10
In summary the CX lounge definitely wins here, though the reasoning is more complex. It’s not that the MH offering is bad, but the word that sums it up is “budget”. The food quality is not as good and they are definitely catering to mass traffic. Why they have so many people needing lounge access is another issue. Then there’s the issue with the bar which is quite honestly awful. Either you’re a full service airline and want international non-muslim passengers or you don’t. Decide. There are definitely worse lounges around but if you’re expecting luxury and a more relaxed intimate experience this isn’t it. It has more of a dining hall/commissary feel than a business class lounge.