On a last-minute trip from Australia to Malaysia, I was given the opportunity to bid for an upgrade. On Malaysia Airlines’ short Boeing 737 sector from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, upgrades could be had from just AU$50.
Having never tried Malaysia Airlines‘ Business Class or lounges before, I splurged $55 on the bid, and my upgrade was confirmed within 20 minutes.
Malaysia Airlines’ workhorse Boeing 737 fleet forms the backbone of the carrier’s regional network. This covers flights within Malaysia as well as across Asia. You’ll also find the Boeing 737 appearing on selected flights between Perth and Kuala Lumpur.
The Business Class cabin is relatively comfortable for the shorter regional flights, and the service is very comprehensive. On flights from Perth though, you’ll want to book an Airbus A330 flight if you can.
The Boeing 737 cabin and Malaysia Airlines’ seats
All of Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737-800s feature 16 recliner seats in Business Class. These are spread over four rows in a simple 2-2 configuration.
The well-padded seats offer 42 inches of pitch – that’s plenty of legroom. They’re also very wide at 21 inches across. By comparison, Economy seating gives 30 inches of pitch and 17 inches of width. Tray tables in Business Class are stored within the armrest, and there’s a shared cocktail table in the middle.
By your feet, there’s a common middle section that can be used to keep extra bags within easy reach. The bottom of the seat also extends out as a leg rest, and footrest can fold out too for additional support.
Entertainment remotes are stored within the sides of the seat. A USB power outlet, universal plug and headphone plugs are all located on the front of your armrest.
There isn’t a great deal of difference between the seats in Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 Business Class cabin. But having said that, there are a few points that fussier flyers will notice.
For instance, row one has no floor stowage. This can be inconvenient, especially on shorter flights, where you want your bag within easy reach. But on the plus side, there’d be nobody reclining into you.
Speaking of reclining, it’s guilt-free in row four. That’s because there’s nobody directly behind, given the bulkhead wall in place. Sometimes, the crew will also start serving meals from the back as well.
Food & drink in Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 Business Class
Service kicks off with pre-departure beverage of either guava or orange juice. On this flight, meal service started at the back of the cabin from a trolley.
Three hot dishes were available for this breakfast flight:
- Nasi lemak with chicken rendang.
- Mushroom omelette with sausage and roasted vegetables.
- Selection of dim sum, including glutinous chicken rice and dumplings.
Bakery options included plain toast, a croissant or a blueberry Danish. On the side, there’s kaya or jam. Crew typically offer more bakery items if you’re still peckish after everybody else has been served.
I’d already eaten nasi lemak in the lounge, and it must be said, aeroplane eggs are rarely fabulous. Given that, I went with the dim sum, which was light, tasty and did not disappoint.
The toast was unusually thick and fluffy and paired very well with the supplied kaya honey.
Alcohol isn’t served on flights less than three hours, including this domestic hop. A morning mimosa could have enhanced the onboard experience even more.
Customer service in Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 Business Class
Cabin crew on this flight are very friendly and efficient. Two attendants are allocated to Business Class, with one taking food orders, and the other doing drink orders simultaneously.
On this departure, they even appear to have memorised everybody’s name in the cabin. That certainly gives the service a much more personal touch on this Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 Business Class flight.
A touchscreen loaded with entertainment content will keep you amused for a few hours. Hardware-wise, it is almost identical to what you’d find in Qantas Boeing 737 Business Class. However, I found the system to be sluggish and insensitive to touch at times.
Content-wise, the selection is a bit more limited. I spot just a few Hollywood titles, some incomplete TV box sets – and the rest is international content.
As you’d expect, there’s also the moving map, which can be customised with different views.
A small pillow and blanket are already on the seat upon boarding. Over-ear headphones are distributed later, but the sound quality is quite average.
The seat pocket has a number of magazines and newspapers as well. No other amenities are provided (nor frankly, needed) for the rest of the flight.
How to redeem points for this flight
With Malaysia Airlines and Qantas both members of the oneworld Alliance, you can book Malaysia Airlines flights using Qantas Points. In Business Class, these short hops clock in at 30,100 Qantas Points + MYR36 (AU$12.10), one-way.
Qantas uses the distance of the flight to calculate the points required. Short flights in Business Class usually cost 20,000 Qantas Points on the Roo’s partners, when the journey is up to 600 miles in length. Unfortunately, this flight clocks in at 603 miles from airport to airport… just three miles into the next reward band, increasing the points required by over 50%. Damn!
But here’s a trick. If you’re travelling from Australia, you can include connecting flights as part of the same ticket. And in this case, as long as you spend less than 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur, your onward flight to Kuching is literally free. Not just pay some extra tax free, but free-free. Here’s what I mean.
A Malaysia Airlines Business Class reward flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur costs 75,000 Qantas Points plus AU$119 in taxes and fees.
But to fly from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur plus Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, the cost is exactly the same. Yes, it’s still 75,000 Qantas Points, plus AU$119. For two Business Class flights, instead of one.
Don’t forget, if you’ve bought an Economy Class ticket with cash instead, then head to the Malaysia Airlines Upgrade website to lodge a bid. Bidding just ~AU$50-90 can see you elevated to Business Class for a domestic flight. And don’t forget, this includes lounge access, increased luggage allowance and other priority perks as well.
Malaysia Airlines domestic Business Class passengers have access to the carrier’s domestic Golden Lounge in Kuala Lumpur. Lounge access is also usually available to partner lounges in Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Langkawi and Penang. Other lounges are available before international flights, too.
Summing up: why choose this flight
Flying Boeing 737 Business Class with Malaysia Airlines is a decent way to travel within Asia. It provides a comfortable experience overall, and it’s very easy to book outright using points or to upgrade from Economy.
There is no denying that domestic flights within Asia can be relatively affordable by Australian standards, especially on low-cost carriers like AirAsia. But if you’re buying a ticket outright, Malaysia Airlines’ intra-Asia Business Class can be a good way to quickly and affordably accumulate Qantas Status Credits. For instance, this short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching would net 40 Qantas Status Credits.
It’s worth pointing out though, that paid Malaysia Airlines flights on many other routes aren’t so generous. A Business Class ticket from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur would deliver only 30 Qantas Status Credits, despite being a much longer flight. Qantas clearly does this to encourage travellers to book its own flights to Singapore, and then beyond with Jetstar Asia.
Overall, I’ve given this flight three stars. This reflects the sub-standard inflight entertainment system, tinny-sounding headphones and lack of alcohol service onboard. All three would undoubtedly be enjoyed on a Business Class flight.