Malaysia Airlines is now flying the Boeing 737 MAX, with the jet slotting into an extensive fleet modernisation plan for the Oneworld member.
25 of the next-gen MAX 8 aircraft – which Malaysia Airlines will market simply as the 737-8 – are on the books for delivery through to 2026 and will primarily serve domestic and short-range international routes.
The first Malaysia Airlines takes wing from this week, initially on domestic hops; it’ll be joined by two more by the end of 2023 and another six across 2024, with the remaining 16 arriving across 2025-2026.
Visiting Kuala Lumpur for the 737 MAX’s debut, Executive Traveller stepped on board the jet to give travellers some insight into what they can expect as Malaysia Airlines’ 737 MAX fleet becomes a common sight in the skies.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 business class
First up, and as previously reported, the 737 MAX jets carry the same new business class and economy class seats as the carrier’s upgraded Boeing 737-800s.
Malaysia Airlines describes the new interior design as “a progressive step towards the future, with a fresh and premium cabin ambience that features a single colour: the trademark Malaysia Airlines blue.” And yes, it’s very blue indeed.
Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 business class recliners retain a conventional two-by-two layout, with 12 seats across three rows (which is four seats and one row less than the older 737s).
Our tip: while a boarding pass showing Row 1 typically holds brag value, that’s about the only reason to sit there.
This first row of seats is quite close to the bulkhead wall, with no real room to stretch your legs.
Instead, at least for anyone of average height, your feet must remain planted flat on the floor (uncomfortable)...
... because if you’d rather stretch your legs a little, your feet will be jammed up against the bulkhead (also uncomfortable).
And that’s before you swing up the seat’s leg rest, which removes most remaining legroom from the equation.
The business class seats in row 2 and row 3 are the better places to be, albeit with a caveat on which seat in those rows you choose.
Window seats 2A, 2F, 3A and 3F offer relatively unfettered room beneath the seat in front of you.
However, a support strut intrudes somewhat into that space below seats 2C and 3C...
... while under seats 2D and 3D this strut is bang in the middle, so your feet must nestle in either side of it.
Common to all 12 of Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 business class seats are universal AC outlets plus USB-A and USB-C ports.
There’s a fold-down tray holder for your smartphone or tablet, although if you want to charge the device at the same time the cable will need to dangle down to the power outlet at the front of your seat.
With its recent catering woes behind it and some eight new suppliers in place, Malaysia Airlines also used the Boeing 737 MAX 8 launch to showcase some of the meals it says business and economy passengers can expect.
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 economy class
And speaking of economy class – which is the reality of most short-range travel around Asia – row 4 is the prize pick.
This is the first row of economy behind business class, with Boeing’s ceiling-mounted Sky Divider serving to separate the two cabins.
As this slim partition doesn’t extend all the way to the floor, it leaves a swathe of space between the front of the economy seats and the rear of the business class seats.
And that in turn unlocks the most legroom of any seat on the plane.
Malaysia Airlines will of course sell this row at a cost-extra option on top of your regular economy booking, along with the 737’s two emergency exit rows (14 and 15).
The remainder of the 737 MAX’s 162 economy seats are a tighter fit.
Standard among all Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX economy seats is a fold-down device holder.
This is conveniently located adjacent to a pair of USB-A and USB-C power outlets.
By now you’ll have twigged to the fact that no seats on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 MAX sport a video screen: instead, content from the MHstudio entertainment system is streamed over WiFi to each passenger’s own smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Malaysia Airlines says the lighter seats plus lack of screens and partitions all contribute “to more eco-friendly flying” by keeping down the weight of the 737-8 and in turn reducing fuel consumption.
Each of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 MAX jets also adds inflight Internet access, which we understand is free to all passengers.
That’s not just free text messaging, or free only for members of Malaysia Airlines Enrich frequent flyer program – that’s full inflight Internet access for everyone.
The author travelled to Kuala Lumpur as a guest of Malaysia Airlines.