100,000 Bonus Qantas Points - ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
100,000 bonus Qantas Points and $200 back to your new card. Minimum spend. T&Cs apply. Click here. Click here to apply.
Business class is a comfortable way to fly, but if you’re taking a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380 flight, there are many ways you can swap your business class seat for a first class suite.
Whether you have Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles to spend or are prepared to pay for your bump-up, here’s what you need to know to snag a first class upgrade on your next MAS flight.
Malaysia Airlines first class upgrades 101
As is standard on most airlines, upgrades on Malaysia Airlines are all one-class, which means you’ll need to be flying in business class to have a shot at a first class upgrade, while economy flyers can only upgrade to business class, not first class.
(Travelling in economy? Read our Malaysia Airlines business class upgrade guide instead.)
In any case, first class upgrades are only available on Malaysia Airlines’ Airbus A380s – being the airline’s only jets fitted with first class seats – and the availability of upgrades can vary from flight to flight, and may not be available at all on some departures.
We should highlight that even though Malaysia Airlines and Qantas are partnered via the global Oneworld airline alliance, you can’t use Qantas Points to upgrade on Malaysia Airlines: only to book Malaysia Airlines flights outright.
Instead, you’ll need Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles – earned in the air or via credit cards like American Express Explorer, Westpac Altitude Black or St. George Amplify Signature – or money to spend on your upgrade.
Booking an upgradeable Malaysia Airlines business class fare
Not every business class ticket can be upgraded using Enrich miles, and unfortunately the Malaysia Airlines website doesn’t highlight which tickets are eligible during the booking process – but there’s an easy way to tell before you pay for your trip.
When making your booking on malaysiaairlines.com, click on the fare price you’re interested in buying, then click ‘booking details’ to the right:
Then, scroll down until you see ‘Class:’ in the list.
Malaysia Airlines allows points-based upgrades on all paid business class fare types except the lowest-cost ‘Z’ fares – so if the letter here is anything other than ‘Z’ (in our example, it’s ‘C’), the ticket is eligible for an upgrade using Enrich miles.
(Note that flights which were originally booked using frequent flyer points are not eligible for points-based upgrades: only paid business class fares corresponding to the ‘J’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ fare types.)
Should you encounter a ‘Z’ fare, you can consider choosing a more expensive fare type in order to upgrade (but remember, upgrades aren’t necessarily guaranteed), or you could request an upgrade using money, covered further below.
Again, Malaysia Airlines offers first class only aboard its Airbus A380s – usually found flying between Kuala Lumpur and London – so while you won’t be able to upgrade to Malaysia Airlines first class on flights between Australia and Kuala Lumpur, you may be able to upgrade on the longer leg to London if you’re flying the Kangaroo Route.
Upgrading to first class using Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles
How many miles you’ll need for your first class upgrade depends on the type of business class fare you purchased.
On Kuala Lumpur-London flights, passengers booked on the most expensive tickets (being ‘J’ fares) need to part with 85,000 Enrich miles, while those on mid-range business class fares (‘C’ and ‘D’ classes) require 90,000 Enrich miles for the same.
Again, book a ‘Z’ fare, or use points to book your original business class ticket, and you won’t be able to upgrade to first class using Enrich miles.
Upgrades using Enrich miles can be requested via the airline’s website or the Enrich contact centre (13 26 27 within Australia), and if an upgrade is available on your flight, it can be locked in as soon as your booking is finalised.
There’s no easy way to check if first class upgrades will be available on any given flight – so if you’re only booking your business class ticket to upgrade it to first class, we’d suggest contacting Malaysia Airlines to confirm upgrade availability before you make a paid reservation to avoid disappointment.
MHupgrade: bid for first class upgrades
Don’t have any Enrich miles to your name? That’s ok – the ‘MHupgrade’ system allows most business class passengers to bid for a first class upgrade.
Eligible passengers are sent an email roughly 48 hours after making their booking – but even if this doesn’t appear, you can check your eligibility to bid by plugging in your booking details into a special portal on the Malaysia Airlines website.
How much you bid is entirely your call, provided you remain within variable minimum and maximum amounts displayed during the bidding process. Higher bids have a greater chance of success, although at least in the case of upgrading from economy to business class, we’ve had success in offering only the minimum amount.
Bidding closes 72 hours before a flight’s scheduled departure time, and you’ll learn your fate approximately 48 hours before wheels-up.
Buying a first class upgrade at the airport
If you haven’t managed to swing a first class upgrade using miles or money through the airline’s bidding system, you may be able to purchase an upgrade to first class at the airport as a last resort.
There’s no guarantee that this will be offered on your flight, and the asking price may vary every time you travel – but it doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes peeled for signage around the check-in area advising that paid upgrades are available, or simply ask the check-in staff.
Whether the asking price represents good value largely depends on your budget and how much you (or your company) paid for your original business class ticket: but for special occasions or if you’ve never flown first class before, the opportunity could well be one to take advantage of.
When flying from Kuala Lumpur, you can also request a paid first class upgrade via the business class lounge service desk until 45 minutes before the flight’s departure.
(If you’re flying Australia-Kuala Lumpur-London, that’s often the best way to go, as Australian airport staff may not be able to upgrade your KL-London leg before your journey has begun – so make a beeline for the lounge while in transit and ask what’s possible.
However, with so much of the first class service centred around fine dining and top-shelf wine, be aware that your ability to enjoy these may be limited if you upgrade at the last moment, rather than by using miles or the upgrade bid system further in advance.
That’s because most airline catering orders are finalised a few hours before departure – roughly around the time that check-in opens, if not a hour sooner – so first class will have been catered for the expected number of passengers, meaning your meal and beverage orders may get last preference as you weren’t expected to be flying at the very front.