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I’m on a quest to fly every A350 configuration to roll off Airbus’ assembly line in Toulouse. As more and more carriers take delivery — including some I don’t plan to fly anytime soon, like Air Mauritius — it seems quite likely that I’ll fail. But I’m at least trying to knock out the more mainstream products, especially those you can book with points.
One of the latest carriers to take delivery of an A350-900 is Malaysia Airlines. The carrier has a total of six A350s on the way, all leased from a company called ALC. Inside and out, it’s all MH, though.
Malaysia has had a challenging few years, following the mysterious disappearance of MH370 on March 8, 2014 and the subsequent loss of MH17 just four months later, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Both events involved the Boeing 777-200ER, which remains one of the safest planes to date, but Malaysia understandably spent a couple years struggling to fill its planes as customers opted to take their business elsewhere.
Come 2018, the carrier is beginning to recover from those heartbreaking losses, and even claims that it’s having trouble meeting demand. So, given the opportunity, I didn’t hesitate to fly on of MH’s latest aircraft, the A350-900, on a recent trip from London (LHR) to Sydney (SYD), via Kuala Lumpur (KUL).
My business-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, forking over a grand total of 145,000 Membership Rewards points for the one-way trip.
There wasn’t any award space on the flights I needed, but had there been, we could have booked this trip for 85,000 AAdvantage miles, plus about $450 in taxes in fees, thanks to the sky-high UK Air Passenger Duty for premium-cabin flights.
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.
Airport and Lounge
My Air India flight from Newark (EWR) arrived early around 10:00am, giving me a nearly 12-hour layover in London. I wasn’t about to spend all that time at the airport, so I made my way into the city, and spent several hours exploring with TPG News Editor Emily McNutt, who also happened to be on a layover on the same day.
I still gave myself plenty of time in the airport, since I knew I’d have access to the phenomenal new Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Terminal 4.
Unlike most business-class lounges, which accept economy passengers with Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status, this particular Qatar lounge is only accessible to passengers traveling in business or first class on a Oneworld airline — such as Malaysia.
My first stop was one of the shower suites, since I’d spent the day walking around rainy London and wanted to feel refreshed before the long flight to KUL.
After a quick shower, I made my way to the super-cool dining area, which consists of a buffet-like presentation…
…and a luxe a-la-carte dining room as well.
I knew I’d be eating plenty onboard, so I kept things fairly light, ordering a glass of rose Champagne and a lobster salad.
I finished off the meal with a hearty serving of lamb chops. Everything was fresh and delicious.
From there, I popped into the Malaysia lounge just to see what was on offer there.
The lounge wasn’t packed, but it was still more crowded than you might expect, given how much more appealing Qatar’s lounge is.
I mean, here’s an example of the spread in Malaysia’s lounge. I certainly made the right choice!
The Malaysia Lounge did offer better views — including a great perspective of the waiting A350.
Cabin and Seat
Malaysia’s A350 offers three products: a four-seat first-class cabin, 35 business-class seats spread between two cabins behind, followed by 247 seats in economy, arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, as is standard for the A350.
Business-class seats are arranged in a staggered configuration — most rows alternate between either four or five seats.
The seats are similar to what you’ll find on many other carriers, including Swiss — both carriers offer “throne” seats, pictured below.
Thrones offer far more privacy than the center and paired window seats, which you’ll want to grab only if you’re traveling with a companion.
I was flying solo, and was fortunate enough to grab 11K, a phenomenal throne at the back of the second business cabin.
My cabin was fairly empty as well, including all of row 11 — I was pretty thrilled with my pick!
My throne offered plenty of storage, including a large compartment to the side.
At first, I was tempted to slide my backpack under the TV, but that area’s actually used as a footrest.
There was a second compartment to the other side, though, along with a lamp and seat controls. Speaking of the controls, I really wasn’t a fan — you can’t adjust the back individually, so if you want to recline you have to use one of the presets, or begin moving into bed mode. It’s not ideal.
The seat was quite comfy as a bed, however. I managed to sleep for more than six hours, which is pretty great.
When I woke up, I was surprised to see two other passengers sitting in my row — they hadn’t been there for the first meal service, and there was a crying baby two rows up, so I can’t imagine they moved back from the forward biz cabin. Self-upgrading economy passengers or friends of the crew, perhaps?
Interestingly, Malaysia’s A350 is the first of the aircraft type to offer a first-class cabin. It’s pretty slick, with sliding doors and a fair amount of privacy, with just four seats in the cabin at Row 1. Only one was booked, so I inquired about an upgrade, only to be told that I’d have to pay $2,440 to move up… no thanks!
Amenities and Entertainment
Shortly after boarding, a flight attendant came by with amenity kits. They were decently stocked, with the usual creams and lip balm, dental kit, brush, eye mask, earplugs and socks.
I also received a pillow and comforter, and I grabbed a second set from the empty seat across the aisle to use as a makeshift mattress pad.
The entertainment system was one of the most modern I’ve seen, but the selection was fairly limited. Since I slept so much, I only made it through one movie — Geostorm, which I certainly wouldn’t recommend.
I left the moving map on the screen the rest of the time, and did a fair amount of work on my laptop.
I used the touchscreen exclusively, but there was also a wired remote.
The provided noise-canceling headphones were actually of decent quality, but I was happier with my Bose set.
The Wi-Fi was surprisingly speedy, and it worked instantly after I logged in using my Boingo account. There was no indication of what Boingo would charge for access, and I haven’t received a bill of any sort, but Malaysia was charging $20 for a 150MB plan had I opted to purchase directly.
Food and Beverage
I was offered a choice of beverage shortly after boarding — Malaysia doesn’t serve alcohol on the ground, presumably to avoid paying taxes.
I went with a refreshing lemonade, which was served with mint.
Then, after takeoff I had a glass of water and some white wine. I wasn’t in the mood for Champagne, but Malaysia serves Comte Audoin de Dampierre Grande Cuvee Brut, which goes for about $35 a bottle on the ground.
As for the food, first up was a healthy serving of satay, which was overflowing with delicious peanut sauce — I just wish there had been a fork to scoop it all up! Honestly, this would have almost been enough for a meal all on its own, but of course there was plenty more to come.
For my starter, I selected the Asian-style duck salad, which was served with my choice of bread. The smoked duck was fine, but this wasn’t my favorite dish.
I took advantage of Malaysia’s “Chef on Call” option, which offered pre-order dishes. Once onboard, a flight attendant asked which I’d prefer to eat first, and since I had just stuffed my face in the Qatar lounge I went with the lighter of the two, a Malaysian chicken dish called Ayam Masak Merah.
Onboard options included beef in black pepper sauce, pan-fried halibut, chicken biryani and a vegetable pie. My chicken was tasty, but I was too full to eat much. I also ordered a glass of Cotes du Rhone.
I wasn’t really hungry for more, but review duty calls! So I got the “selection of British cheese,” which was average at best.
Given how not-hungry I was, I ordered salted caramel ice cream.
Malaysia offers a robust snack menu, including a noodle soup, various hot sandwiches, ice cream, fruit and cheese. I wasn’t hungry at all, though, so I let eight hours pass before the pre-arrival meal.
It was definitely worth the wait! I started with a smoothie, fruit bowl, a fruit danish and something I’d never had before, a condiment called kaya. Whoa!
After that, it was time for my lamb shank. By golly was it delicious! Probably the best entree I’ve had on a plane. So tender and flavorful. YUM! (And yes, I really did just write the words “by golly” in a review.)
I really loved my flight on Malaysia’s A350. It didn’t hurt that my cabin was half-empty and I was flying in an extra-roomy seat on a brand-new plane, of course, but I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed this leg almost as much on the airline’s A330, which I flew to Sydney a couple days later (stay tuned for that review!).
Aside from the seat comfort and privacy, plus the fantastic crew, the highlight for me was the food — the satay and lamb shank were especially phenomenal.
While the carrier doesn’t currently fly to the US, I wouldn’t hesitate to book a trip between Europe and Asia on Malaysia again, especially if award availability happens to pop up. Well done!
Malaysia's brand-new A350 is a great option for traveling between Europe and Asia. Pros: Incredible Qatar lounge in London, brand new plane, speedy Wi-Fi, excellent food, great privacy in "throne" seats. Cons: Limited award availability.
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