Whole Day on the Plane: A Review of Malaysia’s A330 Biz to Sydney

Mar 23, 2018

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To The Point

Malaysia’s refreshed A330 offers a comfortable ride, especially if you score a “throne” seat. Pros: Comfortable seat and bedding, dedicated air vents, friendly crew. Cons: Mediocre food, no Wi-Fi, all seats are not created equal.

This February, I had to make my way to Sydney (SYD) to join TPG for our flight on Singapore’s brand-new Airbus A380. There are plenty of one-stop options from New York, but to keep things interesting — and to knock a few new products off my reviews list — I decided to route through London (LHR) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL), reviewing Air India’s 787 business class and Malaysia’s new A350 before finally boarding the carrier’s refreshed A330 en-route to SYD.

Booking

I wasn’t specifically looking to fly Malaysia’s A330, but pairing the flight with my leg from Heathrow to KUL added $800, and there weren’t any more appealing nonstop alternatives from Kuala Lumpur.

As I outlined in my A350 review, this biz-class ticket from London to Sydney cost about $2,900. TPG took advantage of the 50% Pay With Points rebate offered by his Business Centurion Card, so the one-way trip cost us a grand total of 145,000 Membership Rewards points.

Since I flew on a revenue ticket, as an AAdvantage Gold member I earned 16,018 Elite-Qualifying Miles, 2,136 Elite-Qualifying Dollars and 14,950 redeemable miles — including the flight from London as well.

Airport and Lounge

After a brief stay at Le Meridien in Kuala Lumpur, I took the KLIA Ekspres train to the airport.

While it’s since reopened, at the time of my visit Malaysia’s main business-class lounge was closed for renovation, so I made my way to the airline’s regional lounge, instead.

With the main lounge closed, this regional variant was fairly crowded at 7:00am.

There were a few seats available, but the nap loungers were full — not that I had enough time for a snooze, though.

I’m not sure what the views are like from the refurbished lounge, but they were pretty spectacular here!

The food spread didn’t look fantastic, and the buffet line was very crowded during my visit.

After a few minutes, I took the train out to the main gate area, where I made my way to the Cathay Pacific lounge. Although I don’t have Oneworld Sapphire status, I had access to the lounge as a Oneworld business-class passenger.

I had a much better experience at Cathay’s lounge — there were only a dozen or so passengers there, so I had my pick of seats.

The food spread was similarly underwhelming. I’d eat at the hotel or save your appetite for the flight — don’t count on getting stuffed at any of KUL’s lounges.

Soon enough, it was time to board our A330-300 to SYD.

Cabin and Seat

Malaysia recently updated the business-class cabin on the A330s it uses for flights to Australia, and it’s a big step up.

This version of the carrier’s A330s offer staggered seating with a peculiar configuration that alternates between 1-2-1 (rows 1, 4 and 6) and 1-2-2 (rows 2, 5, and 7).

Since the seats are staggered, some window seats offer more privacy than others. Fortunately, there was one window-facing seat still available, 2A, so I snagged that just after booking.

I would have much preferred one of the throne seats (pictured below), but unfortunately all three had been reserved by the time I booked my flight.

My seat was just fine, since it was right up next to the window — in addition to 2A, 5A and 7A offer similar privacy, while 1K, 4K and 6K are coveted “throne” seats. So get one of those if you can!

I really did like the seat overall, though I wasn’t a fan of the shoulder strap required for takeoff and landing, and my elbow kept bumping the recline control, moving me forward every so often.

I was also surprised to see how dirty my seat was — it seemed to be dirty, at least, but a flight attendant insisted that the “dirt” I picked up with the wet towel was actually some of the paint used when constructing the seat.

I was thrilled to find overhead air vents, though, which made it easy to keep my seat cool throughout the flight.

Amenities and Entertainment

While I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be getting an amenity kit on this leg, a flight attendant delivered one shortly after boarding. The hard-shell Porsche Design kit was a nice step up from the version I got on the flight from London.

There was also a pillow, mattress cover and comforter, despite this being a daytime flight.

The entertainment system was a slightly older version of what I experienced on the A350, although it was still fairly responsive.

The programming selection was limited, though, and I couldn’t figure out how to remove the Chinese subtitles.

There wasn’t much I was interested in watching, so I flipped on the moving map and went to sleep.

You can control the IFE using the touchscreen, as I did, or via the standard wired remote. There’s also a USB port and three-prong headphone jack, along with a universal power port.

One area where Malaysia really needs some work is with the biz-class headphones. They’re pretty awful, and I gave up using them after a minute or two.

Currently Malaysia’s A350 is the only aircraft to offer Wi-Fi, so I didn’t have connectivity on this leg of the journey.

Food and Beverage

I had a fantastic meal on my flight from London, so I was expecting great food out of the airline’s hub, too. There was one issue, though — I had overdone it at the hotel breakfast buffet earlier in the day, so I really couldn’t stomach the idea of eating anything else at that moment.

I didn’t want to miss out entirely, though, so I asked to try the starter, which consisted of yogurt and fresh fruit, along with a smoothie.

That was it for breakfast — I asked to eat my entree prior to arrival, instead. So I went right for the Scotch.

Later in the flight I asked for some ice cream, which was one of the two desserts listed on the menu. The other was a caramel cake with caramel sauce — so I requested some of the caramel sauce on the side to eat with my vanilla ice cream.

I slept for a few hours before waking up to some delicious smells — the crew had just begun serving the pre-arrival satay. I requested a mix of chicken and beef, both of which were outstanding. As I mentioned in my A350 review, I just wish there had been a utensil to scoop up the extra peanut sauce!

I pre-ordered my entree, just as I had done on the longer A350 leg from Heathrow. In fact, Malaysia’s site prompted me to make my picks for both flights at once.

My cod was decent, but not nearly as good as the lamb on my London flight.

Onboard, the options included a steamed grouper filet, a mushroom omelette, dim sum or waffles with bananas, strawberry and mascarpone. Note that those are normally served just after takeoff, though — aside from some snacks available throughout the flight, the satay is all you’ll get before arriving in Sydney.

Overall Impression

A TPG reader recently “banned” me from using the term “perfectly fine” in flight reviews, but that’s exactly how I’d describe this Malaysia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. Nothing stood out one way or another — with the exception of that delicious satay — but I wouldn’t hesitate to fly MH’s A330 again.

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