Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I was about 13 years old when I flew in International Business Class for the first time. It was 1987 and it was an L-1011-250 flying from ATL-LGW. My memory of the cabin is somewhat faded but I think it was a 2x4x2 and only slightly more pitch and recline than Y. I remember the amenity kit rather well, a brown leatherette pouch, since I had never seen such a thing before. I remember collecting a few that were left behind by other passengers. The reason I mention this 30+ year old memory is that travel in Business Class has come a LONG way since then. That brings me to the nexus for this adventure. Qatar Airways is a renowned carrier for excellence in Business Class. The latest generation of their J product, known as the Q-Suite, is a evolution in terms of space, privacy, comfort, and entertainment. The goal of this trip was to take a Q-Suite on a test drive. American Advantage is a great program for redeeming miles for QR Business Class so that's where I went. Long story short I booked the round-the-world adventure on 3 tickets, 70k AA miles for LAX-IAH-DOH in QR J, 50k miles for DOH-SIN-KUL-NRT in QR J, MH J, and MH F, and finally 87, 520 Lifemiles for NRT-SFO-SNA in NH F and UA Y.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
OK, things are looking up. The indignity of Business Class travel is behind me and it's time to ascend to greatness to which I am entitled.😉😉😉 Or so I thought…it's all very confusing.
Malaysian Airlines Golden Lounge - Regional
I'm a self confessed lounge rat and if I have access to a lounge, I'm going. So, after arriving from SIN I walked directly upstairs to the Malaysian Airlines domestic Golden Lounge. I understand all of the MH lounges here in their home airport and hub have undergone a refresh so I was excited to visit a few.
An attractive entrance greets the visitor.
There a MH "Regional" lounge and a "Domestic" lounge in the main terminal, and a single lounge in satellite terminal split into Business Class and First Class sections. I visited the regional lounge near gate B2. It's a spacious lounge with a variety of seating and a large central food service area and bar. Some of the lounge staff are clad in kebayas similar to cabin crew.
I spotted a noodle bar and my Pavlovian conditioning was triggered. While there is a choice of noodle dishes there really isn't.
The laksa is prepared to order and there is a humble selection of toppings, likely more for the other soups, but available none the less.
The finished product is a pretty impressive example of Asam laksa considering we're in an airport lounge.
The other food options are of the buffet variety and are quite extensive and impressive.
There are a variety of dining tables around the buffet.
Across form the buffet and noodle station was a bar.
I needed an energy boost so I channeled my inner "bro" persona and consumed a "Revive." Judge away.
Other thoughtful features of this lounge include a family area and his/hers nap rooms.
I was impressed with the lounge but moved on in short order. After all, how can I cleanse myself of this film of Business Class mediocrity if I take refuge in their lounge?
I was directed to a bus rather than the train system for the trip out to the satellite terminal. It only added a few minutes to the journey but it was odd as I saw trains moving on the tracks.
Malaysian Golden Lounge - Satellite
I made my way upstairs to the Malaysian Golden Lounge "Satellite" complex. This lounge has also undergone a renovation since my last visit.
The entrance and check in facilities are handsome with back-lit podiums.
I was directed right to the First Class section. Right away it was apparent that the changes on the First Class side were very superficial. Perhaps new colors on the furniture but the same furniture pieces were in the exact same spots.
The same holds true of the main seating area of the lounge. The color palate is different and the carpets have been changed out. I think the dividers are new too, but I could be mistaken. The colors are warm and inviting and the space looks great. I also think the lighting added to the look and feel of elegance. Also worth noting here are the great ramp views during the daylight hours. The air conditioning is also very effective as it was downright cold in the First Class Lounge.
There is a small buffet in the First Class lounge but it never looks appealing. I don't see any turnover of the food so I would be wary. The self serve drinks seem to be limited to soft drinks, tea, and coffee. I noticed a lounge attendant and inquired about the availability of Champagne. I know I have enjoyed some bubbles on past visits. She replied that, "Champagne is available in the dining room." to which I responded, " I am required to sit in the dining room to enjoy a glass of Champagne?" After some consideration and hesitation she offered to bring me a glass. Of course I'm puzzled. I don't want to violate any cultural norms by consuming alcohol where it is not intended by my host. The whole interaction was odd and I'm not clear on what service, if any, is offered in the lounge. She did in fact return with a glass of Champagne of unknown origin.
There is what I imagine is a private room for what appears to be first class passengers. A lounge attendant was passing by as i was inspecting the door and I asked if I can use the room. He inquired if I was traveling in First Class and to what destination. I replied in the affirmative and informed him that my destination was Tokyo. He then told me to inquire at the front desk. Another odd interaction by a disinterested staff. I never bothered.
Like the regional lounge this space offers a nap area and praying space.
It's very quiet in the lounge and when I venture over to the dining room I discover that virtually all of the guests are taking dinner so I join them. After a brief wait, it's virtually at capacity, I am seated at a two top table with what would be a ramp view were it daylight.
A menu is presented and I request a glass of Champagne. It's a simple menu but I spot a couple if items that pique my interest. I would appreciate a more detailed accounting of the wine, beer, cocktail, and Champagne offerings. They could certainly be catalogued in a separate, discreet list.
The Champagne is poured table side and for dinner I request the Caesar salad to start and the Asam Pedas for the main. The De Venoge Brut was well chilled and very pleasant. My glass was topped up at acceptable intervals.
The salad was delivered first and was well presented. The crouton was stale and the dressing was thinly veiled mayonnaise.
The main dish was served after I indicated that I was finished with the salad and redeemed this concept of pre flight dining. The fish was perfectly cooked but the star was the chili infused and shrimp paste laced sambal belacan served on top. I was so enamored of it that I asked the server if I might enjoy an extra portion of the sauce on the side. This was cheerfully provisioned and I was quite content. It's satisfying for me to enjoy this ubiquitous Indonesian / Malaysian condiment even though I am just passing through. Even the okra was divine in the company of the fishy sauce.
Dessert takes on a more important role for me after taking a meal with such assertive salt, heat, and acid. Unfortunately they had run out of the fruit trifle so I requested the chocolate tart to finish. it was institutional and unremarkable although handsome.
I sought out the shower next and a half asleep attendant was quick to show me to s shower suite. I got the impression that he was happy to have a customer as his station seemed quite slow. The shower rooms are spacious and clean. The room was kept warm which is not my preference but I understand it may be for others'.
I emerged reasonable refreshed and headed down tot he gate for security and boarding. I was welcomed by Linda, the primary flight attendant in first, and shown to seat 1K. The cabin would be 50% full tonight as there was a passenger in seat 1A.
The seat itself is likely the same model as the Delta One Suite but there is a significant difference in that the foot well is open and spacious. The seats are not staggered as there is only one row so your feet need not fit under the side table of the person in front of you. Of course starting out a review of a first class suite by comparing it to a business class seat may not be flattering for the former. I found the space in the suite to be very adequate and I'm a full figured fellow. Waiting at the seat was a small lumbar pillow, a duvet, and a larger pillow. There was also a note from Izham Ismail, the CEO. The note introduced Alex Tan, the in flight service manager.
Alex, the IFSM, dropped by to offer a welcome aboard. He was pleasant enough but rubbed me the wrong way when he would refer to the other flight attendant, Linda, as "the girl."
A closer look at the seat reveals some storage spaces, touch controlled seat and lighting, and a touch screen IFE controller. The basic seat controls are outside and always available but the more precision seat movement controls, massage function, and seat firmness are inside the armrest storage area. The power ports are in the same area. The touch screen IFE controller was INOP when I first attempted to use it by Alex, or as Linda calls him, her colleague, reset the seat and it came to life.
The cabin is rather dull looking devoid of any stylish touches.
Linda inquired about something to drink and I opted for Champagne. The lovely 2007 Comtes was on offer. Refills were offered by both Alex and Linda. Unfortunately the Champagne flute used by MH, while stylish, is low volume. ;)
An amuse of scallop salmon roe and and hot towel were also delivered.
Push back occurred on time and a lengthy taxi ensued. Eventually we were airborne and climbing away from Selangor.
Service started with the menu. The concept is a satay service after departure, a couple of dine on demand options, and breakfast before arrival. I will note they mention breakfast is served 2 hours prior to arrival. Really, in a max 4 person first class cabin? It should be on demand up to one hour prior to arrival. I had availed myself of the MH equivalent of Book the Cook and pre-ordered a grilled lobster dish. It's interesting. and disappointing, that the 5 or 6 dishes on offer were all savory, dinner type meals and none were Malaysian. It's a perfect example of MH having aspirations but failing on the execution. Linda confirmed my BTC selection and asked when I would like it served. I opted to take it before bed and skip breakfast although the full menu was available for breakfast had I wanted to partake.
Crossing the spine of the Malay peninsula.
The amenities were offered after I inquired about slippers. There is a substantial kit and a nice tote bag containing lounge wear and slippers. I excused myself to the lavatory to change. The pajamas are light and comfortable. The lav itself is standard size so it's a tight squeeze to change clothes.
Returning to my seat, ready for satay and Comtes, I browsed the IFE. I was underwhelmed by the selection.
My beverage selection was provisioned with a fruit and nut mix.
The table was laid for the meal service and I took the opportunity to complete the Japanese Immigration and Customs forms.
The satay arrived eventually and it was apparent that things were moving slowly in the galley. It was worth the wait as the satay was perfect in texture and seasoning and the peanut sauce and sambal were spot on. The inclusion of the nasi impit was a nice touch.
While the system reboot fixed the IFE handset the moving map would not display correctly on the handset. It would show in distorted portrait view rather than over a landscape shaped box.
The pre-ordered lobster was served next. This one spent too much time in the oven so the texture was compromised to be on the rubbery side. The presentation was good and I have to think it was an improvement over any of the snack menu items.
After the supper service I requested the bed setup. I was also provided a bottle of water.
The sleeping space was tighter than any first class suite/seat that I have experienced so it was not possible to sleep in any position. I was limited to back or side. There was an adequate mattress cover and of course the air filled seat could be modified to your needs. That said I did nap for about 4 hours.
I woke up about an hour out of Narita and used the lav. I was offered something to drink or eat and I requested a glass of water. There was no offer to stow the mattress pad so I piled it on the empty seat next to me.
At about 45 minutes out I requested a cappuccino but was told that the coffee machine was stowed for the remainder of the flight and I received this terrible instant coffee. This just smacked of laziness and left me with a poor impression of the entire crew and product. There are 2 F passengers and we have 45 minutes, you're not busy stowing the bedding, so make the coffee drink.
Some lovely sunrise views as we approach Narita.
The HVAC system began to leak on approach and water dripped on to the items below. A nice touch.
Lining up for an early arrival to 16L.
The 16L arrival is a long taxi but not so bad to T2.
I take a few daylight pictures as we deplane. First was able to deplane from L1.
A look at the A350-900 from the terminal.
Malaysian Airlines Golden Satelite Lounge - First Class Section
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
Tokyo - NRT
The Ground Service: None offered in transit.
The Lounge(s): The KUL lounges have become a real strength for MH after the renovations. The regional lounge was quite well done with an impressive food spread including made to order noodle dishes. My rating above is for the First Class lounge which, other than the dining room, is still rather disappointing. I have no idea what the service concept is in the main lounge. If I would like a glass of wine or Champagne is the staff there to fulfill that request or do I have to walk over to the J lounge and visit the bar? One staff member reluctantly provisioned a glass of wine from the dining room and the other staff I encountered couldn't be bothered to inform me how the private room functioned.
The Cabin: It's a quiet and private space with only 4 seats that are staggered. The finishes are very plain an uninspired. The suite itself is tight by first class standards. While the bed is long and the foot area is unrestricted the space is narrow. The bedding was first class level.
The Crew: Linda and Alex were mostly aloof and provided the basics. I would think with only 2 passengers it would be an opportunity to be more engaging and provide a more personal and thoughtful service. Not so.
The Food and Beverage: This is an overnight flight but it is still allegedly first class. The satay is fantastic and the Champagne is top shelf. I appreciate the concept of per-ordering a meal but the section was small and they were all western meal preparations (yes there was a Malaysian noodle dish on the dine anything part of the menu). What a missed opportunity to showcase the beautiful Malaysian cuisine. Not only that but Malay curries, stews and soups would fare much better in the reheating process.
Overall: Look out BA First, MH First is a new contender for world's best business class! I suppose Malaysian Airlines knew this themselves as days after this trip the cabin and service concept was re-branded as "Business Suites" offering the same experience at a lower price point. The booking codes remain the same so I imagine the points requirements will not change.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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