Tried & Tested

Flight review: Malaysia Airlines A380 business class

19 Jan 2018 by Tom Otley
Malaysia Airlines A380 business class back-row

It’s been quite a few years since I last flew on the A380 with Malaysia Airlines, but this was a good opportunity to compare the carrier’s newly launched A350 business class with this one on the A380.

All our previous reviews are available here: Malaysia Airlines

I actually flew on the inaugural flight of the A380 from London to Kuala Lumpur five years ago and took some photos on that flight which can be viewed on Flickr.

Fast forward to 2018, and Malaysia Airlines is gradually replacing the A380 with the A350 on the London route as deliveries of the new aircraft arrive with the airline.

I flew out to KL on the A350 (another inaugural). To read that review, see

Flight review: Malaysia Airlines A350 business class

I only spent a few hours in KL (all at the airport) and they were all in the Regional Lounge in the main terminal, as the International lounge was still being refurbished. You can read a review of that lounge here

Lounge review: Malaysia Airlines Regional Lounge, Kuala Lumpur

From the lounge, at around 2250 I caught the shuttle train back to Gate C27 and was one of the last to board the 2335 departure to London. At the gate you take an escalator up to board the upper deck, with the majority of economy passengers being on the bottom deck.

I stowed my bags and was offered drinks before take-off – champagne, juices, water. The menu was already at the seat. Amenity bags were handed out, Porsche-designed with Acca Pacca products, socks, eye mask, but no ear plugs – you have to ask for those.

Malaysia Airlines A380 window-seat

The business class window seat on the upper deck of the A380

THE SEAT

Malaysia’s A380 has a capacity of 494 seats with a total of 420 economy class seats across the lower and upper deck. There are eight fully-flat first-class seats on the main (lower) deck, and 66 fully-flat business-class on the upper deck with 70 economy seats towards the rear.

The 66 fully-flat business class seats on the upper deck are in two cabins. The forward cabin has only three rows – six to eight.

There is then a galley and then the larger cabin, which starts with row nine and goes back in a 2-2-2 configuration of AC-DG-HK through to row 17 (omitting row 13). Next is a curtain divider and then the upper deck economy class. For a seat plan of this aircraft, click here.

After flying on the A350 on the way over, the seats look quite old fashioned in terms of both design and fabric, but they have so much space within and around them that they seem isolated from one another – it’s as though they were designed at a more profitable times for airlines, though I doubt that time has actually existed in the last 20 years.

The fabric is a dark blue with small red spots and leather armrests set in grey and dark purple panelling. All seats are forward facing, so if you are in a window seat you will have to step over the person next to you to get out. It made me think that perhaps the price of us all wanting direct access to the aisle is that we have sacrificed some of the comfort and roominess of the seats.

Malaysia Airlines A380 business class back-row

There is a complicated handset with all sorts of controls for the seat and the IFE system – note that there is no touchscreen as on the A350, though at the front that’s not a big deal since you wouldn’t be able to reach the screen without standing up.

I was in seat 10A which is a window seat, but I swopped to 9A on the front row, so risking noise from the galley, but thinking it was worth it because it was a night flight and both seats – 9A and 9C – were vacant.

Power-and-ife-control

Generally, though, the front row (row 9) is the one to avoid, since you are right by the front washrooms on either side. There are at least three washrooms you can use, the largest of which is at the front of the forward cabin. The back cabin has two washrooms, and the one on the right is the larger of the two (worth bearing in mind if you are intending to change during the flight, or are just very large).

MAS A380 side-bins

The side bins on the upper deck of the A380 are a real bonus, and a reason why you should always try to get a window seat – they are deep and large enough to accommodate a small day bag, and give a further sense of space to the seat.

 

The meal service takes place from the galley as well, so it’s quite a busy area, and even the noise of flushing from the washrooms and the tea- and coffee-making can disturb, partly because the aircraft is quieter than most.

Best seat

In addition to the remarks above, I’d avoid 9D and 9G, since other passengers will use your leg room as a walk-through area and wait for the washroom when the flight attendants are pushing trolleys through the cabin. I’d also avoid the back rows since this is quite close to economy class.

All the seats have a privacy divider that can be pulled out from the seat, though you’d have to know it was there.

 

MAS A380 the-cabin

The business class cabin viewed from the rear

The flight

It seemed like we set off promptly, but this might have been because I was working and then slipped my laptop into the side compartment just before the safety demonstration so the time flew.

The drinks trolley came round quite quickly and, shortly afterwards,  satay chicken or beef. The menu was a comprehensive one; the highlights were:

Starters

  • Marinated prawn with beetroot on a bed of seasonal leaves
  • Cauliflower cream soup with a touch of pistou

Main courses

  • Braised beef rib with fork-crushed potatoes, roasted fennel, carrots and a classic demi-glace
  • Ayam Massak Lemak – slow braised chicken in coconut milk and turmeric with steamed rice, sambal tempeh and Ulam Raja (a Malaysian forest fern)
  • Pan-roasted Garoupa with Lemongrass Beurre Blanc, pearl couscous
  • Kung Pao Tofu – stir friend tofu with ginger, cashew nuts and dried chilli served with Shanghai noodles and kai lan

I was tremendously full after being in the lounge and having the satay, so I skipped the starter and had the tofu main course, which was tasty and quite light. For some reason I then had the dessert of Kapiti ice cream (the other choice was chocolate brownie, roasted almonds and raspberry sauce).

Drink

Champagne – Comte Audoin du Dampiere Grande Cuvee NV Bouzy

White

  • Mr Riggs Cold Chalk Chardonnay 2015
  • Wairu River Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough
  • Pikes “Traditionale” Clare Valley Riseling 2015, South Australia

Red

  • Ch Reysson 2012, AOC Haut Medoc, Bordeaux
  • Two Hands Angels’ Share Shiraz, 2014, McLaren Vale
  • E Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2012, Rhone.

Other choices included Carlsberg, Tiger and Stella Artois, Baileys, Drambuie, Bacardi Superior Rum, Hendricks Gin, Smirnoff Blue Vodka, Chivas Regal 12 Years and Johnnie Walker Black Label.

After the meal I then wanted to go to sleep but the preset button on my seat didn’t seem to work for reclining the bed. I went through to the galley and one of the flight attendants pressed the button a few times but he couldn’t make it work either.

He then got an expert, and she lifted up the seat cushion and started to play around with various buttons under the seat, and as well as giving it some expert jerks, rather like an experienced osteopath, and she managed to get the seat into its correct position, straightening the spine of this arthritic seat. If you watch the video you can see her doing it. Real skill there.

I then lay down, put in the ear plugs and the eye mask, and slept very well for a few hours.

I found the seat very comfortable and it had lots of room. I used the spare pillow from the empty seat next to me, so I could lie on my side with enough pillow under my head to make up for the firmish seat cushion, and the thin duvet was more than enough to keep me warm.

Perhaps because I was at the front of the cabin, I was aware of the cabin temperature changing notably during the flight – switching from quite warm to quite cool – although there’s always the chance that might be a series of hot and cold flushes, though I doubt it.

I woke after a few hours and for some reason (greed) decided to have something from the Dine Anytime menu. My only defence is there was still six hours to go and at least I resisted the chocolates (Lindt) and packets of nuts in the kitchen area. Instead I had a lovely bowl of noodles with a side order of chilli. This, along with a bottle of water and another half an hour’s reading sent me off for another couple of hours’ sleep.

Dine-on-demand-noodles

Dine anytime menu

  • Egg noodles in a vegetable based soup with shredded chicken, prawns, bean curd, squid balls and Asian greens
  • Sandwiches – Coronation chicken croissant, tuna and cheese focaccia
  • Ice cream

About 30 minutes after I woke it was time for breakfast. I had a good strong black coffee – there’s a good choice of hot drinks, with many different types of tea and coffee – and then had my second portion of Nasi Lemak in 24 hours. This is a delicious mix of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves served with chicken rendang, onion sambal and traditional accompaniments, which included some nuts and some salty dried fish. I loved it.

Other options included  Spanish omelette – chicken sausage, hash browns and roasted cherry tomatoes; or raisin pancakes with cinnamon apple compote and mascarpone.

Malaysia Airlines two-seats

ARRIVAL

We arrived on time into London Heathrow Terminal 4 at 0530 and there was no queue at immigration, despite the biometric passport machines not having been turned on (immigration officials could be heard shouting “It will be another five minutes”).

I had no luggage so walked to the underground station and took the Piccadilly Line into London.

VERDICT

This was an excellent flight. OK, the seat was broken, but the flight attendant fixed it with brute force and no fuss. The aircraft is a lovely one, and being upstairs, way above the engines, it is very quiet.

In addition, the seats are very comfortable, the service excellent and I love the food. Both flights (there and back) were either on time – this one – or early – the one on the way out. And the lounges at both ends were good.

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