Review: Malaysia Airlines First Class A350 (KUL-SYD)

Jyaga approves (4/5)

Malaysia Airlines flight detail

Airline : Malaysia Airlines
Flight No : MH123
Departure City : Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Arrival City : Sydney (SYD)
Equipment : A350-900 (9M-MAF)
Blocked Time : 8h20m
Seat No: 1A

Note: this is a retroactive review of a flight that took place in December 2018. While the hard product remains the same, the soft product and service may or may not be the same today.

Flight Background

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is an airline with a long history of ups and downs and highs and lows. The airline started in 1943 as Malayan Airways, which later became Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) after the independence of Singapore in 1965. In 1972, MSA was divided between the two states, producing two well-regarded airlines – Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Singapore Airlines (SIA). The two continued as rivals, both attempting to realise the concept of the world’s best airline. For Malaysia Airlines, this was the case until the mid-2000s when it was crowned with multiple awards highlighting its service standard.

Unfortunately, following decades of financial struggle, Malaysia Airlines’ reputation eventually slipped, having succumbed to cost-cutting attempts to bring the airline back into profitability. Whilst the airline isn’t what it once was, Malaysian Hospitality (MH) lives on.

Note on Malaysia Airlines First Class

As of December 12, 2018, Malaysia Airlines rebranded First Class into Business Suites. Note that this flight was taken in the very early stages of the rebrand, was booked into F class, and still featured the airline’s First Class service. Whilst the hard product remains the same, there have been multiple reports that the amenities, service, and food and beverage provisions in the present Business Suite cabin are identical to Business Class.


Anticipating the need to clear security at the gate, we left the Malaysia Airlines Platinum Lounge an hour before departure at 22.35. Our flight was full in both Business Class and Economy Class, with many Malaysian holidaymakers going to Australia and many Australians coming home. The gate was overcrowded with passengers, and as is usual with MAS, boarding hasn’t yet commenced even after the printed boarding time has passed. At this point, several Business Class passengers came up to the gate and demanded that they be boarded.

It was only several minutes later when they started boarding, inviting Business Class and Oneworld Elites to board first, as well as passengers travelling with small children (our cabin was interestingly omitted from the announcement). Nevertheless, we still were the first few to board. At this point, the purser had already admitted several Business Class customers. Once I reached the aircraft door and after showing her my boarding pass, I was pointed to my seat. One second later, she clicked and profusely apologised, and offered to take me to my seat (as is standard in First Class).

Malaysia Airlines First Class Cabin

Malaysia Airlines has a small and intimate single-row cabin in First Class, featuring four seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The airline uses the Thompson VantageFirst product, which you’ll also find on China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic as Business Class plus products. The rationale for many airlines using this seat is due to the efficient use of space between the First and Business Class bulkheads. However, that isn’t the case with Malaysia Airlines’ A350s. In fact, I’m not sure why Malaysia Airlines elected to use this seat.

Malaysia Airlines First Class Cabin

Seat Details

The seats themselves did not look like they received much customisation on Malaysia Airlines’ part, apart from the minor trims and seat patterns. As such the cabin looked a bit generic and grey compared to other First Class products of the world. Each seat is equipped with a sturdy and sizeable door, operated with a clasp mechanism by the side of the seat. Note that when closed, there is a gap of about 3 centimetres wide. Whilst the product actually takes a good amount of width, the seat itself looks rather narrow, at about the same width as typical Business Class seating.

Malaysia Airlines First Class (Seat 1K)
Picture from a previous flight

On the side are storage compartments that go the whole length of the seat. Near the seat is a handheld inflight entertainment controller along with intuitive seat function buttons. Inside the compartment closest to the seat, there is a mirror, along with further seat functions that complement the recline. Additionally, the windows are equipped with elegant-looking, automatic shades, similar to what Qatar Airways has in Business Class on its A350s.

Malaysia Airlines First Class Storage

As you’d see later, buddy dining is not possible in this seat, because of how low the ottoman is. Were it a bit higher, it still won’t be possible since a seatbelt is not provided on the ottoman.

Pre-Departure Amenities

Waiting on the ottoman of the seat are the duvet and mattress sheet to be used later during the flight.

There was nobody else in the First Class cabin, except for my travel companion. As such, we had the cabin to ourselves (yay!). Upon taking our seats, we were immediately offered hot towels. The menus and amenity kits were also offered shortly afterwards; the amenity kit was from Cerruti 1881 and featured a gold keychain. The purser courteously introduced herself and her crew and asked how I wished to be addressed.

Cerruti 1881 Amenity Kit (picture taken post flight)

After that, pre-departure drink orders were taken, with myself ordering some champagne. While the menu listed three choices(?!) of Champagne, the one served pre-departure wasn’t any of them. It was interestingly De Venoge Cordon Bleu, which was served in the Malaysia Airlines Platinum Lounge on a rotational basis. As it was brought out, the purser apologised and lightheartedly explained that they are serving that due to customs regulations. A hot towel was also brought out on a plate, which is a nice touch!

The purser also proactively offered the signature Wau Emas mocktail, which I also had. This drink consisted of pineapple juice, pandan syrup, lime, and soda, and it tasted rather funny in my opinion. At this point, I felt that this was going to be a great flight.

Boarding Observations

Interestingly, there was one lady from Business Class who, during boarding, came up several times to First Class to try and use the lavatories. She was stopped by the other First Class flight attendant, who explained, ‘This is First Class’ and invited her to use the ones in Business Class instead. The lady then threw a light tantrum before eventually going back. This later became a pattern throughout the flight, where the same lady would try to use the First Class lavatories only to be turned back… Well, that’s some commitment right there.

Departure from Kuala Lumpur

Boarding was completed around 40 minutes later, and we ended up pushing back 20 minutes after our departure time. During the taxi, the purser came over to take our meal orders. Similar to Singapore Airlines’ Book-the-Cook, I was able to pre-order a meal through Malaysia Airlines’ Chef-on-Call service. I had the Lobster Tails, which was the only dish exclusively available to First Class passengers. The purser confirmed that it was loaded and would be served for supper.

We took off 10 minutes later.

Supper Service

About 15 minutes after takeoff, the seat belt signs were switched off and inflight service commenced. It was during this time that we received our pyjamas. Unfortunately, they weren’t great, due to their design and the scratchiness of the material. At this point, the purser also started serving champagne and warm nuts.

On offer were three Champagnes: a special Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine 2008, a Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007, as well as a Bruno Paillard Rosé. The Joseph Perrier was phenomenal and I definitely loved this, even more so over the well-regarded Taittinger. The Bruno Paillard was surprisingly pretty good too! Very impressive, Malaysia Airlines!

The signature satay was served following this. It came with an ungodly amount of their amazing peanut sauce as well as a rice cake on skewers. As usual, the satay was really good, definitely one of the best appetisers I’ve had on a plane! I might even say I’d fly Malaysia just for their satay. Yum! After mentioning my love for Malaysian food, the purser proactively offered more satay and Champagne! You probably know whether I took her offer or not (hehe).

The exceptional Satay

Next came the lobster tails I had preordered. The dish was served with a side of asparagus and mashed potatoes, both of which were nice. The lobster tails themselves, however, were rather chewy though it was still edible. While it wasn’t great, I have had much worse lobster dishes on other airlines, and this didn’t compare.

Lobster Tails

I finished the meal with both ice cream, as well as a bowl of fresh-cut fruits (for good measure). Apart from the chewy lobster, the meal was excellent!

Cut Fruits
Ice Cream

Inflight Service

The service from the crew, and the purser in particular, was phenomenal. I really couldn’t have asked for a better crew. Everyone was very warm and friendly, yet also very polished and professional.

Following the meal, I headed to the lavatory to change into pyjamas. Before even leaving the seat, the purser came up and proactively offered turn-down service. I agreed, to which the seat was set up with a thin mattress sheet, along with a supplementary pillow. Afterwards, she asked us whether we’d like extra pillows and whether the cabin temperature is good. That’s some incredible attention to detail.


In lie-flat mode, the bed was very comfortable, albeit a bit low. Despite the lack of a proper mattress pad, the seat’s cushioning was excellent and I didn’t see a need for one. Furthermore, contrary to criticism about the seat, I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. I tried to finish the movie I watched when I was having supper, although I ended up dozing off. Since the flight was smooth, I ended up sleeping for 5 hours and woke up just in time for breakfast. Perhaps one of the best aeroplane sleeps I’ve had!


With just under 2 hours left on the flight, I was proactively offered breakfast. Before the food was brought out, I headed to the lavatory to freshen up, at which point the purser proactively offered to make up the seat. Breakfast was served shortly after, during which the purser exchanged several great jokes. How delightful!

To start, I was offered a glass of orange juice and a hot towel. Sadly, the orange juice is the same artificial stuff they serve in the lounges and Business Class. I eventually switched back to champagne.

For the meal, I ordered the traditional Nasi Lemak dish, which is rice cooked in coconut milk, served with stewed chicken, anchovies, and sambal. To accompany, I also ordered yoghurt and some fresh fruits. I additionally requested for some Teh Tarik, a Malaysian pulled milk tea. It was excellent.

Fruit Plate

While I’ve had Nasi Lemak many times before on Malaysia Airlines, this one tasted incredible. There was a noticeable difference in quality compared to the Nasi Lemak meals on regional Business Class flights. Toast and a croissant were also served with a local Coconut Kaya Jam, which tasted very rich and delicious! Whilst the toast was good, the was admittedly croissant was rather stale. Despite that, the meal was, overall, very good!

Toast with Kaya Jam
Nasi Lemak

Arrival in Sydney

As we approached Sydney, the purser as well as the other First Class flight attendants came to our seats and thanked us for flying with Malaysia Airlines. I ended up having a short conversation with the purser about the First Class product. She explained that management felt the need to rebrand to Business Suites due to pressure from people saying that the seat doesn’t live up to First Class. Whilst the seat was narrower than most First Class products (except for British Airways), I felt that the service was outstanding, and what I experienced definitely lived up to First Class in my opinion.

On our approach, we were treated to some great views over Sydney. Despite our late departure, we ended up landing 20 minutes early.

View on approach

After we arrived at the gate, disembarkation was conducted through the door behind our cabin, since only a single jetbridge was available. Whilst the purser was busy handling arrivals administration, the other First Class flight attendants escorted us past everyone to make sure we were first to get off. Whilst this ‘DYKWIA’ moment (yikes) was a bit much, it was a nice final service detail to our flight. We bid farewell to the crew afterwards, and left the plane feeling very satisfied with our flight.


This flight is obviously an example of MH at its high point, compared to the many less satisfying flights I’ve had in Business Class. The wonderful crew members were proactive, had great personalities, and were all very warm. This was very different for instance, compared to another flight I had on the same route in Business Class, where the flight attendant was borderline hostile: During their satay service, I joked about it being so good I might need to ask for more, to which the flight attendant retorted, ‘Cannot, not enough loaded’. What night and day of a difference!

Coming off this experience, I feel that it is truly a pity that Malaysia Airlines no longer offers a First Class service. Should the service be reintroduced sometime in the near future, I’d definitely love to fly with them again. If only this weren’t just wishful thinking (sigh)…

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