Malaysia Airlines offers both 'business class' and 'Business Suites' on board its Airbus A350 and A380 aircraft, and for most travellers that's a confusing choice. What's the different between business class and Business Suites, and how do they compare?
Malaysia Airlines business class is, well, business class as you already know it: the lie-flat seat, the personal space around your seat, and on the Airbus A350 which flies between Kuala Lumpur and London, a mix of paired seats and some with direct aisle access.
Malaysia Airlines Business Suites is a rebranding of first class, so there's a higher level of comfort and service without technically flying "first class" – you'll also pay less than former first class fares, too.
Considered a clever way to stay compliant with many corporate and government travel policies which which doin't permit first class travel, the Business Suites experience includes upgraded lounge access in some airports, more space on board with sliding doors for privacy, 'any time' inflight dining and more.
Here's how Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class and Business Suites compare, based on a recent return flight between Kuala Lumpur and London Heathrow.
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class vs. Business Suites: price
A first question that travellers will pose, to bring into perspective any differences between business class and Business Suites, is how much they cost.
Using travel dates in late March as an example, a Malaysia Airlines one-way business class fare between Kuala Lumpur and London ranges from 8,870MYR (A$3,000) to 13,900MYR (A$4,700). For the same flights, a one-way Malaysia Airlines Business Suite fare spans from 9,870MYR (A$3,440) to 18,100MYR (A$6,120).
It pays to be flexible with your travel dates and your choice of the two daily flights on this route, because sometimes the price gulf between the two cabins can vary between a mere 1,000MYR (A$340) to a more substantial 4,500MYR (A$1,500).
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class vs. Business Suites: lounges access
Business class passengers on Malaysia Airlines' international flights enjoy entry to the airline's own business class lounges, such as those at Kuala Lumpur and London, and access to the business class lounge of Oneworld partner airlines in other locations.
Malaysia Airlines Business Suites passengers have access only to the airline's first class lounges in KL and London – in other cities where Business Suites may be offered on the A350, such as Sydney, there's no access to Oneworld first class lounges, so Business Suites passengers share the same lounge as their business class colleagues.
(Of course, there's an exception for Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers such as Qantas or Enrich Platinum, who always receive first class lounge access where available as a benefit of their frequent flyer status.)
So how do Malaysia Airlines' flagship Kuala Lumpur lounges compare?
The business class Golden Lounge offers a locally-inspired noodle bar...
... along with barista-made coffee, a sports bar, a relaxation room, working benches, showers, and down by the windows, lots of individual nooks to work or unwind in a little privacy, with power points accessible near almost every seat:
The first class lounge – now titled the Business Suites Lounge – is a quieter and more spacious affair.
Most notably, Malaysia Airlines Business Suites lounge takes the dining experience up a notch with an à la carte dining room offering full table service.
Among the menu choices, you'll find the same noodle dishes as available next door in the regular business class lounge – so you won't miss out or need to 'downgrade' your lounge just to enjoy a bowl – but the rest of the menu is exclusive to first class, including the signature dessert, a tropical fruit trifle:
Again, if your wallet wields a Platinum-grade frequent flyer card such as Qantas Platinum, Platinum One or Chairman's Lounge, Enrich Platinum or Platinum Plus or other Oneworld Emerald tiers, you can retreat to the Business Suites lounge regardless of the class of service you're flying.
As the other major destination for Malaysia Airlines' Business Suites, Malaysia Airlines again operates its own duo of lounges at London Heathrow, which provide upgraded lounge opportunities for Business Suites passengers.
Here, a regular business class ticket gets admission into Malaysia Airlines' business class lounge, with bartender service and buffet dining, while a Business Suites boarding pass or a Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer card provides admission into a separate space (again, formerly the first class lounge), with more extensive pre-flight buffet...
... and a small à la carte menu (I recommend the Banana Boat with a glass of the Laurent-Perrier Champagne).
As an extra tip for those flying out of London Heathrow, Malaysia Airlines' business class and Business Suites flyers can also visit the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge in the same terminal – also offering Champagne and food cooked to order, somewhat of an upgrade if you're flying standard business class, compared to Malaysia Airlines' buffet offering.
AusBT review: Qatar Airways Premium Lounge, London Heathrow Airport
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class vs. Business Suites: the seat
Aboard Malaysia Airlines' Airbus A350s in business class, you'll find seats mostly configured in a 1-2-1 layout, but with a few rows set in a 1-2-2 configuration.
That means most travellers will have direct and uninterrupted aisle access, while still providing a few pairs of window-side seats for couples travelling together. Solo business travellers might want to avoid 3K, 6K and 10K, however, as these seats have a neighbour – and the 'H' seats in the same rows where someone will step over you:
Wherever you're seated, each pod extends into a fully-flat bed of 78 inches (198cm) in length with a seat cushion width of 22 inches (56cm), but don't expect to receive a mattress pad or duvet: merely a sheet that rests over the seat, while pyjamas are BYO:
There's a good amount of storage space around the seat, branching from the table surface beside you through to a cupboard nearby, shelf space on top (suitable for amenity kits), and an extra storage recess down by your legs.
Step forward into the A350's Business Suite cabin to find a single row of seats in a 1-2-1 layout, with noticeably more space around each passenger:
The Business Suites feature closing doors for added privacy...
... although the seat itself is no wider or longer than in regular business class, and plush bedding is again absent, except that you'll receive one larger pillow and pyjamas (not pictured here) come nap time:
Storage space is more plentiful, however, with large cupboards to your side – on top of which, you can keep other items during the flight – more space around your feet, and an extra storage nook next to the seat cushion (with the black lid, below the rectangular mood light):
For added comfort for those who prefer to ride a little cooler, be aware that Malaysia Airlines' A350s don't feature adjustable air vents over the centre business class and Business Suites seats – where there are also no overhead lockers – whereas the window seats have personal air vents.
Noise-cancelling headphones are provided in both business class and Business Suite cabins, although weren't on-par with my own pair – so if you're an audiophile, BYO.
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class vs. Business Suites: inflight dining
It all starts with Champagne – and right now, Malaysia Airlines is pouring Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2007 in business class on flights between Kuala Lumpur and Australia/New Zealand – a drop that'd be impressive to see in first class, let alone business class.
On flights to London, and to Australia and New Zealand once the Taittinger promotion dries up, Champagne Comte Audoin du Dampierre Grande Cuvee NV is the regular drop.
In Business Suites, on the other hand, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005 is the standard – a slightly more mature vintage than the 2007 offered in business class:
Business Suites guests are also greeted by canapés, chocolate and sparkling wine – although not Champagne – on boarding (below), while in business class, the offer is of a beverage only.
To the inflight menu itself, Business Suites offers a full dine-on-demand service with a broader selection of food, in that you can order literally anything from the entire menu at any time, including caviar...
... whereas the service in business class adopts more standardised meal times: generally one after take-off, which is often breakfast for Australian passengers jetting to London...
... and one before landing, with starters (pictured), mains and desserts:
Outside of the regular meal times, there's a smaller selection of food available to tide you over, such as a simple cheese and oven-dried tomato warmed focaccia:
But fear not, Malaysia Airlines' signature satay sticks are served in both business class...
... and in Business Suites, where the presentation is a little more upmarket with the sauce on the side, but both taste great:
For me, the biggest advantage of full dine-on-demand in Business Suites is that you can set your own schedule around any planned work or sleep, and to help you adjust to your destination time zone.
As an example, I recently flew Malaysia Airlines Business Suites from London to Kuala Lumpur aboard MH1 – a mid-evening departure with an early evening arrival – and knowing dine-on-demand would be available, I ate on the ground, stepped on board and went straight to sleep, instead of eating after take-off.
That meant I could order lunch later during the flight at a time better-aligned with where I was headed, and with an onward overnight connection to Australia on which I slept rather well, returned home with minimal jet lag: something that would have been trickier in business class.
- Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class review, Kuala Lumpur-London
- Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 Business Suites (first class) review, London-KL
- Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 business class review, Kuala Lumpur-Sydney
Chris Chamberlin travelled to London as a guest of Malaysia Airlines.