Late December in 2017, Malaysia Airlines received its first ever Airbus A350-900. It was ordered to replace the Airbus A380-800 which services the London route, but before they deployed the handsome beast into its intended long haul service, it was deployed to Bangkok and Singapore for crew familiarisation for about a month. Since first class seats were technically not for sale for these 2 destinations, it was up for grabs by business class passengers, and I managed to snag a seat for myself on the 2 hour hop from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.
After leaving MH’s Golden Lounge it was just a few minutes walk to gate G8 where the A350 was parked at. Felt exciting to be trying out a new first class product! Even though it was just going to be a very short flight. Hello again A350! I Had such a great flight with Singapore Airlines to Tokyo Haneda in this gorgeous plane 2 months prior to this.
I felt like the weirdo who lingered on too long at the windows taking the same picture of the plane over and over again till boarding was finally announced for business class passengers to board the aircraft. That was my time to go! You could smell the scent of the new aircraft as you walked through the aerobridge, which only heightened my excitement. We were shown to our seats by the lovely crew when we got on board. “Good afternoon Mr Khoo, 1A this way please”. Just after stepping into the cabin and making an immediate right turn, there was my suite 1A! My face was frozen in a perpetual smile, it’s not weird at all.
Now to finally check out my awesome window seat, 1A. A business class ticket, for a first class seat. Now all those hours spent staring at seat charts and taking a gamble that my seat won’t get reassigned felt totally worth it.
The colour scheme that Malaysia Airlines had selected felt pretty nice. I may be a little bias because they’re all my favourite colours. Grey canvas with splashes of navy blue and copper accents. Felt pretty minimalist and classy, though some may say clinical, but I say YASSSSS.
Right after taking a seat, the crew came by to introduce themselves, and offered a pre departure beverage. One guava juice for me please my good lady. It was served with a hot towel and a smile.
Since it was technically a ‘business class’ operated seat, the same amenities were given out in first class and in the business class cabin. A small pillow, and a really thin and light blanket. Not much else needed for a 2 hour flight hey. I thought I was the only person who was geeking out at the brand new aircraft and first class suite, but apparently so were all the other 3 seat mates in row 1. Made me feel a little more sane when I heard the flurry of camera shutters being clicked alongside with mine.
Now let’s explore the hard product on board and get down to the nitty gritty of MH’s prized first class suite. Right after take off when the seat belt signs were switched off, began my quest. First up the seat. In first class, the seats have a width of 22 inches, strangely the same as the seats in business class, but with a bed length of 83 inches, which translates to a staggering 210 cm. A person with a height of 6 feet 9 inches and under would fit perfectly.
Now let’s highlight the entertainment unit, the touch screen remote control is located on the side panels, right above the main seat controls. They were exactly the same handy remote control as you’d find on board the Airbus A350 with Singapore Airlines. The handy touch screen commands the large 24 inch HD screen upfront, which is also touch capable, but it’s located too far forward to reach.
Next up, let’s talk storage. You could store heaps of things around your seat. Alongside the windows, you’d get 3 storage compartments. The most forward compartment is the largest of all, and could easily swallow a briefcase or a small bag. The centre storage has a very slim compartment, that’s because half of the area is taken by up storing the dining table. You could probably slip in a laptop or tablet at most. The compartment that’s closest to the seat houses the power socket, USB & audio ports. It also has a little mirror on the opening flap, and that’s where you’d find a second layer seat controls, to fine tune your optimal seat position, lumbar support, and also controls for a massage function. There is also a vertical tertiary seat control nearby for easy seat manipulation once you convert the seat into bed mode.
There’s also a literature pocket located directly next to the doors in your suite, and right underneath the safety cards and assorted magazines is where you’d find your life vest. The sliding door was kind of hard to operate at first, with some help from the crew they actually had to physically unlock a latch for the door before you can manoeuvre it to allow it to slide shut. Once you get the sliding doors shut, there’s also a secondary way to open it like a regular swinging door. It swings outwards when you lift the metal latch at the top, and push the door outwards. I felt it was much easier to get in and out of your suite this way, rather than lifting and sliding the door left and right forcefully.
The level of privacy you’d get once you slide the doors shut felt nice. It quickly brought back memories of my only other flight that had sliding doors, which would be with Singapore Airlines in their suites on board the A380-800. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of anything with this much of privacy, who wouldn’t? You could take all the silly selfies with no one watching.
The windows on the beautiful Airbus A350-900 in first class are also electronically controlled by a touch sensitive button located underneath each window. The first tap will bring down a translucent sheer like cloth down, and when that’s fully deployed, a blackout shade comes next. At the opposite end of the cabin, there’s also the same 2 windows in suite 1K. In business class, the windows are still manually cranked up and down.
Finally it was time to grab lunch. Malaysia Airlines catering has always been a hit or miss, most of the time being a miss unfortunately for their ASEAN routes, even in business class sometimes it can get really bad. On this flight it was unfortunately a miss. We had 2 option to choose from, nasi lemak or ravioli with artichokes and sliced pear. I stupidly made a mistake of ordering the ravioli, since I already had my fair share of Malaysian delights in the golden lounge prior to my flight, so I chose the western option. It was borderline inedible. After taking 2 bites, I was done with it. The only saving grace was the carbs from the bread basket, the garlic bread and a fusion looking 2 in 1 muffin shaped bread. I ate 3 of those instead.
After having a rather disappointing meal, it was time to visit the first class lavatory upfront. The lightning was beautiful inside, though it was not stocked with all the proper long haul amenities due to this flight being a practice route for the crew. The illuminated circular magnifying mirror in the centre of the large mirror was quite a nice touch.
After popping out from the loo, I strolled down to visit the business class cabin. The seat is almost identical to what you’d find on Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300 fleet. A staggered forward facing seat configuration alternating between 1-2-1 and 1-2-2. The only difference would be the subtle extra width and bed length you’d get on the A350-900. 2 inches wider with a 22 inch seat width, and an extra 3 inches in bed mode at 78 inches long.
With about an hour left before we start our descent into Bangkok, it was time to head back to my suite for the flat bed test. This is a really petty thing to be irked by, but once u get the seat into bed mode, it takes up the floor space completely from wall to wall if you have the doors closed. So whatever you have stored on the ground like your shoes or your backpack, you wouldn’t be able to retrieve it unless you convert the bed back upright, or open the doors and rummage underneath the bed. It was a funny problem I encountered when I wanted to use the bathroom, I had to convert my bed back into a seat to get to my shoes.
Before I knew it, the captain soon announced our descent into Bangkok, and cabin crew came around to distribute immigration cards to all passengers and a premium lane pass for passengers in business class. That short 2 hour hop to Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur sure flew by. Next up was to just watch the downward camera feed from the belly of the plane coming in for landing, which is something I’ve never come across before. I’ve only seen video feeds from a tail view before. A pretty cool perspective, felt like I was watching a drone footage.
With everything said, this short hop did cement my feelings on flying with the Airbus A350, it really is my favourite plane right after the Airbus A380. It was so quiet, the air felt so much better with the higher humidity, and it certainly was spacious. The only downside would be the terrible meal that was catered by MH, they drastically need to improve on that aspect. With the flight already into 5 months of flying to and from London, other routes are now starting to receive the handsome beast as well, such as Tokyo Narita. I’m sure with a proper first class dining/bedding product it will be much better than what I experienced.
The crew was stellar as usual, that’s what I love about Malaysia Airlines, their consistency in their hospitality, I would fly with them again in a heartbeat. Though, with the price of the first class seat that MH commands and miles required for a flight redemption with their Enrich program, you’d get more value out of your miles to fly with its closest competitor, Singapore Airlines, but hey you can’t complain on getting a first class suite for the price of a business class ticket eh?