Tried & Tested

Flight review: Malaysia Airlines B737-800 Business Class

1 Nov 2017 by Craig Bright

BACKGROUND

Malaysia Airlines currently flies two aircraft on its thrice-daily Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong route. The B737-800 operates two flights, while the newer A330-300 operates the other.

CHECK-IN

I was travelling on flight MH432 to Hong Kong (the second leg of a stopover journey from Kuching, the Sarawak state capital). Luggage check-in was done in Sarawak and processed all the way through. However, as Sarawak is considered a different administrative region to Kuala Lumpur, an additional immigration check is required even on domestic flights.

LOUNGE 

Malaysia Airlines is in the middle of renovating its Regional Golden Lounge in the Main Terminal Building of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). I therefore took the shuttle to the Satellite terminal to reach the Malaysia Airlines Satellite Golden Lounge. This is a large open space with a separate bar area – unmanned when I arrived – and hot and cold food stations separated across three “islands” in the main area. Buffet-style food options were available, as was a live soup noodle and laksa cooking station – a highlight.

The location of the lounge is a little awkward, being on the upper floor above the shuttle. You’ll need to walk quite a way around before you get to a lift or escalator, which takes 5-10 minutes.

BOARDING

The “Gate Open” notification appeared for my flight at around 1320 – 40 minutes before scheduled departure. In KLIA, security scanning is done at the gate rather than after immigration, so it is worth heading to your gate a little earlier than normal – particularly if, like me, you need to transfer between terminals, which isn’t complicated but is a bit time-consuming. It took me about 20 minutes to get to my gate (H10) in the Main Terminal. I was aware of time being slightly tight, but on the positive, since most other travellers had already gone through security, my processing time was quite short and I was through by 1345.

THE SEAT

The B737-800 offers an older business class seat product than the A330; most notable is the lack of fully flat seating in the Boeing aircraft. This was particularly missed due to a sharp contrast with my seat, 4D. Being at the rear of the cabin, recline on the chair was negligible, which not only limits comfort but also makes viewing the IFE screen difficult when the seat in front is reclined. The seat itself was not uncomfortable – pitch and width are reasonable for a regional flight at 43 and 23 inches respectively. Each seat also has a neat plug and USB port installed in the armrest.

Malaysia Airlines' B737 Business Class cabin

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

Avoid the back row due to the lack of recline and screen obstruction. If you want extra room for your feet, go for rows 2 and 3 on the aisles, skipping the bulkhead row.

THE FLIGHT

After boarding the plane, I was offered water and juice by the cabin staff (champagne or other alcoholic beverages weren’t offered) followed by a refreshing cold flannel. The plane left the gate just after its 1400 scheduled departure time and took off ten minutes later. Shortly after the seatbelt signs went off, the menu and wine list was offered.

The starter of chicken and lamb satay was excellent, generously smothered in peanut sauce. The three mains were all equally tempting: Hainanese chicken rice, ngau lam mein beef noodles, or blue cheese spinach ravioli. I went for the chicken rice, which wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t typical Hainanese chicken rice: cold, sliced and with a garlic and ginger dipping sauce. This was a whole, hot chicken breast with a different sauce – but it did taste good.

ARRIVAL

The flight landed at 1810, about 20 minutes later than the scheduled arrival time. Though Hong Kong International Airport was busy, I passed through the residents’ fast-track immigration without too much delay. The same could not be said for the luggage, which didn’t arrive until 1905 – though no “bags delayed” sign was ever issued to alert passengers to the hold-up.

VERDICT

Good service, high-quality food and a comfortable, well-appointed lounge help to up the overall travel experience. However, the B737-800 falls short of the A330’s offerings, making the latter the clear choice to fly on when possible.

DEPARTURE TIME 1400

JOURNEY TIME 3 hours 50 minutes

AIRCRAFT TYPE B737-800

CONFIGURATION 2-2

SEAT PITCH 43in/109cm

SEAT WIDTH 23in/58cm

SEAT RECLINE 7in/18cm

Price A return business class ticket in mid-December starts at RM1,666 (US$397) including tax and fees

CONTACT malaysiaairlines.com

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