Malaysia Airlines new business class: 7 things you need to know

By David Flynn, November 4 2015
Malaysia Airlines new business class: 7 things you need to know

The launch of Malaysia Airlines' all-new business class marks the latest step on the beleaguered airline's road to recovery – or a 'hard reset', in the words of CEO Christoph Mueller, the first non-Malaysian to hold that post.

Here's what you need to know about the new seats which Mueller believes will be crucial in making the Malaysian flag-carrier a competitive world-class premium airline.

1. Ready for take-off

April 2016 is when the first of Malaysia Airlines' Airbus A330-300 jets will begin flying with the new seats. Australia and Asia will be the primary markets, and we'd not be surprised to see Sydney or Melbourne as first destinations.

But the airline aims to upgrade its entire 15-strong fleet of A330s by September 2016, a span of merely five months – an incredibly fast and aggressive schedule which underscore's Mueller's drive.

2. A330s only

The new 20.6 inch (52cm) wide seats are intended only for Malaysia Airlines' A330 jets, not the new A380 superjumbos – some of which the airline is looking or lease or sell as it 'right-sizes' – nor the older Boeing 777-200ERs, which will be retired in favour of new long-range Airbus A350 jets from 2017.

3. Finally, fully lie-flat beds

For business travellers, this will be one of the most welcome traits of the new A330 business class.

The current A330 seats are a 'sloping sleeper' design: while they convert to a flat bed, this remains perched at a noticeable angle to the floor, rather than being a fully flat 180 degrees.

In bed-mode, the new seats will measure 76 inches (1.93 metres) from head to toe and be dressed "with plush bed linen".

4. Direct aisle access for almost everyone

Fully flat beds are one hallmark of modern business class seating; another is that each passenger has direct access to the aisle, rather than being forced to step over their seatmate.

Malaysian Airlines' new business class seat doesn't quite go that far: of the 27 seats in the aircraft's pointy end, three will still be one passenger away from the aisle.

That's due to the relatively unusual cabin layout, which alternates one row of 1-2-1 seating with a 1-2-2 row. Savvy travellers will soon learn to avoid those paired window seats (which are likely to be 2K, 4K and 6K).

For what it's worth, an identical staggered layout appears on the Airbus A330s of Aer Lingus (as seen below) and Finnair, which sport the same Vantage seat, designed by Irish seatmaker Thompson Aero, as Malaysia Airlines.

5. Game of thrones

Another quirk of this layout is that at least two of those 27 seats will be highly coveted 'throne' seats, named because the seat itself is positioned between a pair of side tables or shelves.

The business class cabins of both Aer Lingus, Finnair (below) and Swiss also boast a handful of throne seats, and they're the prize pick for solo flyers.

Read more: Swiss business class 'throne' still rules on the Boeing 777-300ER

6. Mod cons and creature comforts

Other treats for the business traveller will include 16 inch touchscreen video panel, AC and USB power outlets plus more space, both for spreading out your work and storing your inflight kit close at hand.

7. But fewer seats to go around

A downside of Malaysia Airlines' new business class: the total number of seats in the cabin will drop from 36 to 27, owing to the shift towards providing more space (and direct aisle access) for these premium passengers.

Fewer seats may not necessarily equate to higher fares, but it will more likely mean less chance of an upgrade using frequent flyer points or bidding with cash through the airline's MHupgrade system.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 129

Any news for their 777s?  Are they still using these aircrafts for their EU runs? 

Will these seats also hav an upgrade?

08 Oct 2011

Total posts 52

They are unlikely to upgrade seats for B777-200ER.  As mentioned in point No 2 above, these are to be retired and replace with leased A350 for long range.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 277

I'm surprised they're only sticking to the A330 - A380 I get they will get rid off, but their 737 seats are aged, and their 777's are in dire need of an upgrade - unless they plan to sell those off too?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

i thought latest report was they were going to keep a couple of a380s, but try to sell two, albeit news on both fronts has stopped.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 371

An airline that has always continuesly changed is schedule. They need to learn from SIA and run a professional airline.


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 7

A much needed upgrade indeed. I did not find business class comfortable at all in the sleeping position. With this news i will be looking forward to testing the comfort value

I did some quick guesswork based on some of the renders/pictures. 

It looks like 6 rows, starting with 1-2-1, alternating with a 1-2-2 config which gives 27 seats all up. 

The killer "throne" seats,  for those of you familiar with the Stübli throne seats  on the LX A343/A333 layout (If I recall correctly these are the even numbered A seats) will be on the right hand side on MH this time - in this case, it appears to be 1/3/5K , with dual storage consoles. If travelling alone, these are the ones you want to be in. 

2/4**/6K on the other hand will be paired up with an aisle seat and be the only 3 seats in the cabin without direct aisle access. 

The left hand side windows will be 6 rows of solos, akin to the QF layout.

1A will have the storage console on the left, and be exposed to the aisle on the right (similar to 1A on the QF333).

2A will have the storage console on the right, and be up against the wall (similar to 2A on the QF333)

The entire new J cabin looks to take up only 11 of the 17 windows between doors L1 and L2 on the A330-300, whereas the current cabin makes use of the entire zone, so the space the 9 less business class seats frees up, doesn't look like it's being reallocated to the business class cabin per se. 

Cristophe Mueller came out and said the layout will be J27Y263 - conveniently 16 more economy seats than the current 247. As a result, it's just a hunch, but I have a feeling the area behind this new shrunken J cabin and door L2 will accomodate these 16 extra Y passengers in 2 rows of 2-4-2. 

Granted, the pics released could be the biggest red herring out there and i could be totally out of whack!

**caveat on the assumption they don't skip number 4

I like the idea of a few pairs of seats by a window. Good option for couples including a pineapple who likes too look out of same. With CX and new QF, its either solo windows or pairs with just aisles

Cheers skip


29 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

I flew in 1K from Luala Lumpur to Auckland (MH131) last week and was quite impressed with the new seat. They had to re-boot my IFE in order for it to work, but once done it worked fine. 

I did not want a meal, but they insisted on setting my tray which was a little annoying as I would have preferred to just have a small plate on the side table area. Take your own noise cancelling headphones as the ones provided were not particularly good.

I slept for about 6 hours and just had fruit for breakfast.

I would fly them again on this route.

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