Malaysia Airlines operates from terminal four at Heathrow with check in when I left from Aisle D, close to fast track security. Check in had no line for business class with only one person at the desk next to me at first class. Check in was fast and friendly with just a request to check my onward ticket from Bangkok to Hong Kong on another airline.
Tip: After seeing my bag arrive in the carousel at Hong Kong by pure luck when it should have been tagged to London (long story) I now insist on also having a transfer tag on bag to have a better chance someone spots it and it doesnt end up on the carousel by mistake. The check in staff were a bit confused why I would insist on a transfer tag when it was electronically tagged but I explained why and it was no problem.
Malaysia subscribes to fast track at Terminal four with your boarding pass giving you access, no invitation is necessary. This trip I was in business class so I wasn’t sure whether one world status would also give access to fast track if travelling in economy. Security was reasonably quick with maybe 7-8 people in line. Only one belt was operational so you may want to chance regular security with potentially more lanes open if you see many people going through the fast track entrance.
Malaysia airlines has it’s own “Golden Lounge” at T4 with unlike the Qatar Airways lounge across the hall, access granted to other one world card holders. The lounge is on the third floor with the entrance just before Pret A Manger. After experiencing the lounge in Malaysia on the way out I have to say I feel like something is lacking in MH lounges. For example, the lounge in London is one big space with views of the runway but there was no area to get away from everyone else and find a corner to relax. Additionally there was no power at any of the seats I saw, cue several people wandering around looking for somewhere to plug in. Also rather weirdly the first class lounge was separated by a glass wall which reminded me of a fish bowl where we could watch the inhabitants! The bar was also actually cut in half to provide access to both business class and first class. It’s not so much that the decor is dated but that the concept needs a refresh maybe in the direction other airlines like Cathay and Qantas are going with unified lounges and modern designs.
My first instinct was to be critical of the lounge food but I don’t think that is particularly fair. First impressions are that the selection is meagre, this is particularly true if you fancy a cooked breakfast before your flight. There were some Malay hot dishes of Nasi Lemak and Squid Sambal as well as fried Penang and beef sausage so I don’t know how this selection compares to what a Malaysian guest is expecting but the Western breakfast next to it was pretty poor. One of the metal warming dishes in the photo contained baked beans, tomato, croquette potatoes and scrambled egg, the only problem being they were in small bowls in the warmer and had developed a crust on top. I decided to decamp to the Plaza Premium Lounge for a hot breakfast.
To the right of the hot food were some wraps and sandwiches and fruit and cheese. It was that the selection was bad for a lounge it almost looked like it was being rationed. It wasn’t that the choices for the buffet were bad but the presentation was lacking.
Boarding was through a separate gate at LHR, 6B for business passengers giving quick access to the upper deck of the 380. Boarding was already underway for quite a while when I got to the gate so unsurprisingly there was no queue.
The upper deck of the A380 is spacious and the window seats are the ones to bag with the extra storage units under the window which also make a great space to use as an additional table. The downside to the spacious cabin is that the seating is 2×2 which is irritating when you or your seat mate is trying to clamber over in the middle of the night. There’s 66 seats on the upper deck split into two cabins. Design wise it reminded me of the old British Airways Club recliner (that’s going back a few years) with ample space around the seat but a 2×2 config. It’s a strange set up and one you think the airline would be keen to change to get a better yield on the cabin.
The seat itself was quite comfortable. MH supply a thin pad to place on the seat, I wouldn’t call it a mattress as it’s more like the thickness of a fleece but it wraps over the seat headrest with holes for the seatbelt so it provides a little more comfort. There’s ample space and it does go fully flat so it’s possible to get a good night’s rest
On paper the menu looks good, however a few things went wrong on this flight. Let’s start with the good. MH does a really tasty satay service to start off the meal in J class on their intercontinental flights and damn is it good! Your choice of chicken or beef skewers served with dipping sauce. They’re very tasty and I almost felt like skipping the rest of the meal and just eating there.
Next up was the soup, this was tasty except for the fact it was pretty cold. It seemed to not have been heated thoroughly rather than having cooled down during the service as it was served from a coffee type warming pot.
The main course was a total disappointment. I wasn’t particularly far back in the cabin, I would say in the middle, but by then some main course items had run out. I really wasn’t feeling like the other choices so the crew member mentioned they would see if they could find another chicken for me. I was delighted when they managed to do so, however as people were served around me with their other J class entrees, it was apparent this was an economy meal that she had plated and neglected to tell me that’s what she had done. I have no problem being given that option but when you are leading me to think you have found a J entrée for me then it’s not on to substitute it for an economy meal hoping I won’t notice.
Breakfast wasn’t much better and again there was little choice with my first choice having run out. This time the crew managed to get the same meal from first class, it was identical which says something about the first class meals. Honestly though it wasn’t worth the wait. It was tasteless with overboiled potatoes, really not the quality I expect for J. As you can see from the photo not very appealing. Breakfast was also served with stone cold toast and pastries, crew didn’t offer a choice and simply plonked toast or a pastry onto the tray, so some people got a delicious looking Danish and some had cold toast!
To sum it up MH feels like an airline that needs to decide what it is. We all know the issues they’ve had but if they want to grow their customer base they need to invest more into their product. Crew mentioned cuts had been made which is why meals were in short supply and it did feel throughout the journey from lounge to seat to food that it wasn’t an airline that is passionate about it’s product and customers.