Malaysia Airlines’ Airbus A330 fleet is now undergoing a long-awaited revamp to replace the outgoing sloped business class sleepers with fully-flat beds, with two aircraft being refitted every month through September 2016.
That’s when the airline’s entire A330 fleet will feel like new, but will also feature just 27 seats in business class, down from 36 at present.
At the launch of the new seats in Kuala Lumpur, Australian Business Traveller sat down with Malaysia Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer Paul Simmons, to ask whether business class airfares will rise as a result and to see what other amenities business travellers can look forward to in the years to come.
Malaysia Airlines: business class fares
“There’s no plan to push the pricing up,” Simmons quickly counters, adding that “we’re just hoping to improve demand, get our customer satisfaction higher as well and get more people on board.”
Also shared is that Malaysia Airlines typically fills 60-70% of its business class seats on Airbus A330 flights, “so there is room to take (some) seats out to upgrade to a better product.”
To help balance the equation, MAS is utilising a mix of 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 seating in the new layout, giving all but three passengers direct aisle access and all but six travellers uninterrupted access to the same.
“There is a compromise to be had when losing seats,” Simmons continues. “This set-up is flying on Aer Lingus, for example, and if you look at seat maps there aren’t negative comments on these seats.”
Malaysia Airlines: Kuala Lumpur lounges
With new seats often come new lounges, but the difficulty for Malaysia Airlines is that some flights depart from the main pier at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and others from the satellite gates, requiring separate lounges for each pier, rather than one truly flagship facility.
“We’re trying to, where we can, put more flights into the main terminal, but frankly we’re a bit too big to just move everything there,” Simmons explains, “so we’re having to split a bit, but in time we’d like to put more into the main terminal.”
As a result, expansion works to Malaysia Airlines’ current Kuala Lumpur main pier lounges are under consideration, with additional weight given “if a large part of the travelling public moves that way (towards the main pier from the satellite)”.
“We’d need to make the lounges in the main terminal a bit bigger,” Simmons admits.
Malaysia Airlines: inflight WiFi, Chef on Call
‘Chef on Call’, similar to the wider-known ‘Book the Cook’ service on Singapore Airlines, allows MAS’ business and first class passengers to pre-order their inflight meal before travelling – including from up to 20 dishes not normally available from the regular inflight menus:
“It’s something we’re still kind of working on… it’s been around for a year or two, but we’re actually looking to refresh it and make it more relevant so you get a much better range of choices and exactly what you want to eat,” Simmons shares.
But as for sky-high inflight Internet on Malaysia Airlines, don’t get your hopes up any time soon.
Simmons doesn’t share a timeline, instead noting that “it’s something we’re working on… it’s clearly something that we know our customers will appreciate, so we’re looking at it when we can.”
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Malaysia as a guest of Malaysia Airlines
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT