CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 at 0900 for my 1200 departure on flight MH003 to Kuala Lumpur. The check-in desks for Malaysia Airlines are located just inside the entrance to Zone F, next to Emirates. The desks for economy, business (Golden Club Class) and first were all quiet, and I was swiftly checked in and given my pass for the lounge. Fast-track security was also quiet and I was spared the random shoe check.
THE LOUNGE The Golden lounge (follow the signs for lounge C) is on the second floor and is accessed via a lift located behind the duty-free area. The 790-sqm space is Malaysia Airlines-branded, although the carrier shares the facility with Saudi Airlines. The business and first class areas are in fact one single room, split by two large potted banana plants (which apparently do actually bear edible fruit), with a bar stretching between the two areas.
There is seating capacity in the business class area for 105 passengers, with 50 in the first class part, and at no time did either lounge feel busy. The cream décor, foliage and water features create a light, calming atmosphere, with other benefits including free wifi internet access throughout, a hot and cold buffet in business class (there is an à la carte service in first), plenty of magazines and newspapers, a business centre in each class, a nursery, a children’s playroom, a relaxation room and showers. (The toilets are shared across both classes and are located opposite the reception area.) There are no departure boards but my flight was called just before 1130.
BOARDING The flight was leaving from Gate 32, which is a fair walk from the lounge, and when we arrived boarding had commenced. I was sitting in seat 6A, which is in the front row of the business class seats, on the upper deck of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft – this section of business class (the other being on the main deck) was around half-full. My coat was taken, drinks, newspapers and magazines were offered, and after queuing on the tarmac we took off at 1225.
THE SEAT Business class seats are in a 2-2 configuration on the upper deck (2-3-2 on the lower deck), with six rows in total (plus two seats by the stairs). As well as overhead bins, there are large storage compartments next to the windows, which I found useful for keeping the various magazines I had accumulated.
The seat itself reclines into its own privacy shell, and is angled lie-flat (nine degrees from horizontal), with a pitch of 58 inches and seat width of 23.5 inches. Features include lumbar support, an individual reading light, a fold-out table, in-seat power (adaptors available where required), and a 10.4-inch TV screen which springs up from the armrest.
In-flight entertainment (IFE) is on-demand, with a fairly good list of new films and television programmes, a choice of around 200 music albums, plus a news section, games, Berlitz language tutorials, destination information, and the ability to send and receive text messages through the IFE at US$1.50 a time.
Business class passengers also receive an amenity kit with socks, toothpaste, moisturiser, ear plugs, mouthwash and a comb. The toilets (which are located just ahead of the front row of seats) also have larger bottles of moisturiser, aftershave and perfume.
THE FLIGHT As soon as the seat-belt sign was switched off, drinks were offered and our lunch order taken. The starter was chicken and/or beef satay, along with a smoked mackerel appetiser, while the choices for the main course included prawn ragout, stir-fried black pepper beef, ayam masak lemak (chicken in coconut and spices), and spinach tortellini pasta with olives and tomatoes. For dessert there was a fruit dish and a blackberry cheesecake. (Drinks and snacks can also be requested during the flight.)
Just before lunch was served, I attempted to turn on my IFE, but the interactive function (which allows the films to be accessed via the main menu and fast-forwarded etc) was not working. The cabin staff attempted to rectify this by resetting the machine several times, but to no avail. Thankfully, there was a spare seat across the aisle from me, so I moved to this one and the entertainment system worked fine. Had this not been the case, I would still have been able to watch films, but without the increased functionality or access to all the music albums, games and other functions. One of the programme choices on offer was the entire second series of the US drama Heroes, so I dipped in and out of half a dozen episodes, in between doing some work and getting some sleep.
Breakfast was served around one and a half hours before landing, with a choice of scrambled eggs, sausage and beans, or Malaysian laksa (a creamy, spicy seafood and noodle soup).
ARRIVAL We touched down nearly half an hour ahead of schedule at 0700, and were disembarked and within the satellite terminal at Kuala Lumpur International airport within five minutes. From here, it’s a short ride on a shuttle train to the main terminal building. The airport is around 45 minutes’ drive away from the city centre, or 28 minutes if you travel on the highly efficient KLIA Ekspres train, which departs every 15 minutes.
VERDICT Aside from the hiccup with the in-flight entertainment, this is a good service with a comfortable lie-flat seating product. The business class seats on the upper deck of the B747 also enjoy a greater sense of privacy, with only four across in each row.
PRICE Malaysia Airlines operates two daily flights from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur. Return fares for early July started from £945 for economy, £3,375 for business and £4,585 for first class. (Fares quoted are midweek to midweek, including a Saturday-night stay.)