Part 1 can be found here...
SQ Vs MH | MEL – SIN – BKK – KUL – MEL In C Part 1 (by themit9 Apr 8 2012 in Trip Reports)
Malaysia Airlines could be one of the airlines that got me in to flying about 10 years ago. I would regularly fly them between Australia and Europe in Golden Club Class (Business Class) on the 777-200 aircraft that they still use today. Lots of special memories- the best flight attendants, personalised service, endless drinks, Golden Lounge at KLIA, amazing satay and the list goes on.
When I flew with MH on my birthday in August 2002, I received this card (one for each sector):
It was a nice touch, and just shows the amazing service onboard MH back then. So many awards were received at this time for great service.
I flew them a few years back in Y and was less than impressed, but that’s Y class. I am looking now to see what has changed in 10 years, and to come to a conclusion for this MH Vs SQ report.
Written before the flight to be fair
I have read lots about MH being in trouble over the years, and that standards have slipped. This is shown by Skytrax making their five star rating ‘under review’. For hard product- I can’t see the standard-issue Recaros beating the SQ A380 Business Class seat, the 737-800 seats seem similar to SQ on my shorter hop. For soft product- It’s going to take a lot of work to top the flights I had with SQ on the way here, but if anyone can do it, it would be MH as they are the ‘world’s best cabin crew, and MH is Malaysian Hospitality’. You can’t get excited about Recaro seats, so all they have to really market is the soft product.
From here it’s hard to see them beating SQ, but I hope I am wrong, and that I have two amazing flights with them. Without further ado, let’s go flying...
DAY OF DEPARTURE
After relaxing in Thailand, it had been over three full days without flying. It was time to feed the addiction. I checked out of the hotel, and there was a scary moment when they looked shocked when I asked if my car to the airport was waiting. A bit of checking through the files, telephone calls with heated tones (although the Thai language does sound quite heated in a lot of cases to a foreigner) and apologising and I was told my car was waiting. I went downstairs and it wasn’t- I was told to wait with time ticking by. The concierge said, “no traffic jams today so you will still be at the airport by 12pm.” I haven’t spent much time in Bangkok but wasn’t optimistic. This also happened on the inbound trip to the hotel if you can remember, so next time fly Emirates for the chauffeur service...
The car arrived and with only a few traffic jams to navigate (minimised by some shortcuts) we were soon kerbside at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. I arrived at 12:05pm, flying out at 14:15 so no problems.
The two entries for Malaysia Airlines were closed for renovation, but when I headed in the other door I was right in front of the check-in counter with a very short line for Golden Club Class pax, and not too bad for those in Y. So much so that the traditional ropes weren’t in use and it was just a case of line up in front of the counter of your choice.
Golden Club Class check-in
I waited for one guy in front of me, then was welcomed. There is always an awkward few seconds with eTickets I find where you wait for them to confirm that you are actually on the flight (worst nightmare would be sorry, you were meant to flying yesterday, or worse who are you???)
Signs correct at BKK
The flight was codeshared today with Bangkok Airways (flew with them down to Samui last year- fantastic) and Thai Airways.
I don’t know anything about the check-in process, but why so much typing? I would have thought it would be type in name, enter weight of bags, print boarding pass done. The check-in agent was friendly enough with minimal chatter, and gave me a boarding pass, lounge invite, directions to the lounge on a separate card, premium lane invite, bag tag and the list goes on.
Part of the paper trail, lounge invite is just my boarding pass printed on a Thai piece of paper and MH boarding pass is lacking in colour.
Time check: 12:12pm, just 7 minutes since entering the terminal building. How quickly could I get through immigration and get to the lounge?
I proceeded to the priority lane and there was nobody waiting. Unfortunately it takes a fair while for me to get my laptop out of the bag, get all the electronic devices together, empty my pockets and remove my belt. Luckily my shoes could stay on and I passed through without going off. It then took the same time at the other end to pack everything into my bag. The immigration officers were pretty laid back- is it just me or are they nicer in the premium lane? They were happily joking and chatting with one another, and there was again no line. They joked with me and asked about my travel plans, before waiving me through.
I then walked past the long line of Y class passengers, with the whole immigration process taking just 6 minutes. In my opinion, 13 minutes from being landside to getting airside is pretty good.
Decoration once airside
FIDS encountering some slight technical problems
I arrived at the Royal Orchid Lounge just 20 minutes after getting out of the car. The Royal Orchid Lounge was it for today’s flight. I am no expert of airline alliances, but am surprised that MH would be using Star Alliance. The lounge welcome was friendly, and the lounge was a stock standard offering for Thai which isn’t the best when you consider that this is its home base. I was counting down to the Golden Lounge at KLIA to be honest.
Drinks were good
The bar- didn’t touch the alcohol
The best part- a lounge that actually has an external window. One that I could sit beside and take in the action between drinks. The most notable sight was A6-EDU, an Emirates A380 getting ready for a flight to Hong Kong as EK 384.
The food offering was nothing on Changi, but I still enjoyed the sandwiches, dumplings, pasta and pizza.
Remembering my Changi experience and not wanting to miss a moment of the action of the flight, I left at 1:35pm, 10 minutes before boarding at 1:45pm for the 2:15pm flight. I was walking slowly past the Emirates A380, which was set to leave at 1:45pm. An agent standing at the top of the stairs for the gate searching for last minute pax power walked towards me, “Are you flying to Hong Kong?” The tone was desperate, I said no, Kuala Lumpur (although I wouldn’t pass the chance of flying on the Emirates A380 to a new destination rather than heading home). “Oh, sorry.” I later had a look- the aircraft left about 20 minutes late.
I found my gate, E6.
My documents were checked and I was invited to sit down. I was surprised to learn that our aircraft wasn’t there- this was minutes away from boarding?
Suddenly, there it was, 9M-MXA, the new 737-800 with Boeing Sky Interior.
Minutes later passengers were deplaning and it was surrounded with refuelling, re-catering and baggage staff.
Side note- what is that around the nose- looks like either corrosion (which I know it wouldn’t be), dead bugs or a bad paint job?
I had my doubts about the turnaround, but they made it happen.
The gate area
Passengers needing special assistance were approached individually and told to board, then a boarding announcement came over the PA inviting business class customers and respected members of Enrich or Star Alliance. This was about 8 people, myself included.
Heading for the jetway- no lines
Down the jetway, excitement building for yet another flight at 2:02pm.
Date: 10th April 2012
Flight: MH 789
Route: BKK (VTSB) – KUL (WMKK)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-8H6
Photo © KSK
Photo © Raymond Ngu
Photo © M Radzi Desa
First flight was 06/10/2010, delivered to Malaysia Airlines on 29/10/2010. Age 1.5 years (youngest aircraft of the trip thus far). Features new MH shorthaul hard product and Boeing Sky Interior.
Scheduled / Actual Departure (gate): 2:15pm / 2:14pm UTC + 7
Scheduled / Actual Arrival (gate): 5:25pm / 5:18pm UTC + 8
Flight Time (gate to gate): 2h04m
Video of the new aircraft which actually shows 9M-MXA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHOtc9kNxg8
On boarding, the flight attendants weren’t quite as proactive as SQ. There was an inflight supervisor without a name tag and Silpheny, a female F/A. There wasn’t much chatter as they glanced at my boarding pass and directed me down the aisle with hand gestures. To be fair to them, you don’t really need to be shown to seat 2F on a 737-800. No name greeting.
Into the J cabin and whoever previously designed the MAS interiors (powerful chilli red and explosive bright colours in Y) must have been fired, because the seating was very tasteful with blue leather in J and red leather in Y. Stylish, new and looking good. One of the biggest criticisms of MAS in the past has probably been using the tired old 734s for years, so well done to them.
My seat (taken at KUL)
I preselected my window seat online, and it was a good choice. The seat was very similar to what I had on SQ 970, but the leather made it better. The legroom wasn’t quite as good but still adequate for this flight. As a taller person I’m pretty happy if my knees don’t touch the seat in front.
The legroom shot
The Y passengers started boarding without delay
The touch screen in front of me was a decent size and I put on the moving map, which wasn’t a map.
It turns out that the map only works in the air.
At 2:12pm the doors were closed- it was very efficient and we were running right on time.
Drink orders were taken, and we were given a menu of the offering for today. There was also a cold towel service with really cold towels that were well scented.
The safety demonstration was performed the manual way, which is pretty simple for the 737. We were suddenly moving backwards quite quickly and ready for action. The aircraft taxied like a car- not slowing down or stopping for the turns which felt like they were trying to stay on schedule, or maybe it’s just how it feels when you get off an A380 and B777.
The drinks came around, and I wonder how they would have gone in a full cabin of 16 passengers as there was a lot to do before takeoff. The meal selection was made, then to my dismay they took the menus back. I attempted to conceal the menu in the seat pocket but they reached over into my seat pocket to get it back from me...cost cutting is a nasty thing. Anyway, the menu offered a cashew salad to start, then a choice of fish, chicken or vegetarian for the main meal. Not sure on the dessert. I went with the chicken as it was chef recommended.
Something else I saw in the menu during my 3 minute glance was the beverage list which trumpeted ’18 year old single-malt Glenlivet Scotch Whiskey’ with other types of cheaper, blended scotch. SQ didn’t have 18 year old scotch onboard, so when the post-takeoff drink order came around I asked for Glenlivet. Blank stare. I broke the silence with “Scotch on the rocks” which got acknowledgement. It probably wound up being the cheaper scotch, but if you’re going to have fine alcohol onboard that really sets you apart, at least know about it.
The Boeing Sky Interior is interesting, we couldn’t fully appreciate it in J due to the life rafts in the ceiling.
The galley upfront had two screens, one was dedicated to the Boeing Sky Interior and had a Boeing screensaver (with some futuristic-looking 737s). This was for lighting. The other screen was for everything else, like playing the pre-recorded cabin announcements, boarding music and video. The only other noticeable thing was the overhead lockers had the 787 style.
Inflight supervisor working on the screen- Boeing Sky Interior screen just visible below
My orange juice came and was taken back once finished, and I looked outside to see that we were coming up to 19L. The flight attendant was still taking the last orders for the meal just as we entered the runway, and quickly sat down with the engines spooling up. As I said, this is in a cabin of 8 passengers, how would they have gone with 16?
We departed from 19L, and after the A380 the 737 felt like a rocket launching into the air. We were already heading south towards Kuala Lumpur, and at 10,000 feet the fasten seatbelt signs were switched off.
Immigration cards were given out with a priority card.
The moving map burst into life as soon as we left the runway, and it was the new, high-tech type.
By 2:40pm we were over the coast
The couple in front reclined their seats, quickly turning around and apologising for invading my personal space and promised to put the seats up for meal. I said it wasn’t an issue. Even though the seatback was close there was still enough room and the IFE screen could be adjusted to be viewable.
Post-takeoff drink- scotch on the rocks
Our tables were set for the meal, and it was just a one tray affair which is fair enough given that the 737 galley can’t be that spacious.
Removing the foil...
The cashew salad had about three cashews in it, but was still OK, the main meal was nice except that the potatoes were just a tad undercooked. The menu called this a ‘light meal’ which was an understatement. I just wonder what was being served back in Y- would it be the full snackbox or perhaps the simple bread roll offering?
The inflight supervisor came around with the full bread basket, and without engaging in dialogue gestured at the selection. I went for the garlic bread and got two pieces. Very well done by MH.
The dessert was a traditional Asian pudding- no menu means I’m not sure what. I am not a big fan of Asian desserts but this isn’t MH’s fault. However, it was served on a banana leaf which was a nice touch.
The meal was cleared away about an hour in to the flight. Out the window I saw an island that looked a lot like Koh Samui, or one of the surrounding islands.
The first officer came over the P/A to give some information, but this was already presented on the excellent moving map.
Even when surfing the inflight entertainment interactive section, a small tickertape was going by with key details like ETA. The only thing was that the map wasn’t interactive, but the bigger problem was that there was no headphones for this flight. Why go to the trouble of providing such a good entertainment system but without headphones?
Also, there were lots of messages like this:
And the back
After the meal some passengers were offered drinks, others (including me) were not. Perhaps with the scotch I had already exceeded my quota of allowed drinks?
A Y class passenger came bursting through the great divide to use the forward bathroom- this wasn’t allowed and he was promptly turned back.
With no headphones I was happy to look out the window and read the Temptations inflight shopping catalogue. I was nearly tempted with some of the aircraft models, but I exercised restraint.
At about 3:45pm, one final hot towel service was conducted.
At 3:52pm, we were at the top of descent, and the engines slowed down. A nice pre-recorded announcement was played that went along the lines ‘death for drug traffickers in Malaysia’. We flew past KLIA on the eastern side and then flew the ILS for Runway 32L (I could see KLIA as we intercepted the localiser as it was a clear day and KLIA stands out). This meant a nice smooth approach with a gradual drop in height. We landed on 32L and then vacated on C4.
Once we had slowed to taxi speed on the runway we didn’t stop and went like a car again...love the 737.
We taxied to Gate B4 at the main terminal and pulled in ahead of schedule.
Entering the apron for the main terminal building
Docked next to an older 737-800
We pulled up, came to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign went off. We got our bags, and the aerobridge soon connected. MH closes the curtains between classes as soon as we stopped. There was a line building back in Y.
My seat and the ones next to it
I thanked the crew for a great flight, and then proceeded down the jetway. All was quiet at KLIA with only four flights arriving at the same time.
737-400 next to us from inside the terminal
It was 5:27pm local time, and the clock was ticking to see just how efficient KLIA could be. We were almost the closest gate to immigration, and armed with my passport and priority card I proceeded downstairs. They have dedicated lanes for First and Business Class with the carpets rolled out in welcome. I was through passport control in a matter of seconds after getting my fingerprints read.
By the time I got to baggage carousel A, my Golden Club Class tagged bag was already waiting.
Just 7 minutes since getting off the aircraft, and I was ready to go. I went to the green channel, and there were no staff interested in the people walking through.
My next flight was tomorrow at 10:05am, so I had some time to kill. Luckily I had booked the Pan Pacific Hotel at the airport and followed the signs. I read that there was a golf buggy service, so kept following the signs expecting to find a waiting golf buggy at the next turn. Suddenly I had arrived- the walk was quite short. I proceeded straight to the executive floor for check-in and got a room with a view of Runway 32R.
Pan Pacific Hotel
View of the apron
Foot massage anyone?
IMPRESSIONS OF MH 789
Check-in: Straightforward, short line, no stress
Departure: Immigration officers very friendly, from kerbside to lounge in under 15 minutes was impressive.
Lounge: Good views of the apron, food and beverage offering was basic but it was a reasonable place to wait for a flight. Expected more from Thai at their home base.
Onboard: Nice new plane, Boeing Sky Interior excellent. Staff reasonably friendly but couldn’t go past the team on SQ 970. Seats similar to SQ 970. Touchscreen IFE was great but provide headphones please.
Food and Beverages: Good for a ‘light snack’, but SQ wins this sector, possibly due to having the full 777 galley to work with. Don’t take menus away.
Arrival: Bag waiting at the carousel. KLIA one of my favourite airports. Very efficient, passed through in 7 minutes.
MH provided an efficient and comfortable flight that left and arrived on time. The new 737 was enjoyable to fly in. If an MH flight appeared at the right price, I would fly with them again without hesitation.
AND THE WINNER IS...
This is my opinion only based on what I experienced on SQ 970 and MH 789 on the days I flew with them. Further flights with each carrier may change my view. Others may form different opinions based on the experience.
SQ 970 wins the shorthaul sector over MH 789, even if I give MH a slight handicap due to only having a 737 rather than a 777. The SQ crew were better, the catering was better, the IFE was better (only because headphones were supplied). If the flight had been on a retrofitted SQ 777 and then an old MH 734, the margin may have been bigger.
[Edited 2012-04-13 05:03:29]