Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

Celebrating KLM’s 99th Anniversary – Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur in World Business Class

THE BACKGROUND

Dutch flag carrier KLM recently celebrated its 99th anniversary on October 7th 2018. The airline officially named Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V but commonly known  as KLM was established on October 7th 1919. Since its inception, KLM has continued to operate under the same name, making it the oldest airline in the world to do so.

I have flown with KLM multiple times in the past, including on the MD-11 Farewell flight in Amsterdam on November 11th 2014. Every flight has been a memorable experience, with friendly but professional crew and outstanding inflight services. So when I recently discovered that I would be flying with them on their 99th anniversary, I thought of making it special for them – for all the wonderful experiences that I have had. Read on for more details on how we celebrated this milestone…

I was flying from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on flight KL 810, that continues on to Amsterdam. KLM has fifth freedom traffic rights between KUL & CGK, allowing one to experience their famed hospitality and friendliness without visiting the Netherlands.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I reached the brand new Terminal 3 at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport with plenty of time to spare. Terminal 3 at CGK is quite modern, spacious and bright. Although the older Terminal 2 has more character with its traditional Javanese architecture, it had become congested given the rapid growth in air traffic.

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CHECK-IN

The KLM check-in counters are located at Row C, and as I walked towards them, I could see the 99th anniversary decorations all over. This was after all a one of a kind milestone!

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KLM first introduced its service to Jakarta in the year 1924, so the airport management is obviously happy to celebrate this milestone with them.

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I was flying in World Business Class today, and headed to the Sky Priority/Business Class check-in counter where I was greeted by a friendly check-in agent. As she was working on my boarding pass, I was approached by another KLM ground staff who asked me if I was willing to star in a short birthday video for them. Who wouldn’t? Haha…

After I had my five seconds of fame, I was given my boarding pass along with a special souvenir to commemorate the occasion. KLM always know how to make things special 🙂

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Check-in done, I waved my goodbyes to the friendly staff who wished me a pleasant flight. The excitement was building up and I couldn’t wait to get on-board. I had another hour and a half to go. Time to head to the lounge.

KLM even has a customised lounge invite for Soekarno-Hatta airport. Most airlines print the lounge invitation on the boarding pass these days.

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I cleared security and immigration – rather quickly due to the special Sky Priority access at CGK, and made my way to the lounge. KLM uses its Skyteam partner Garuda Indonesia’s signature lounge at CGK. This lounge is located at the mezzanine floor post immigration.

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The entrance to the Garuda Indonesia lounge but where’s everybody?

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A long empty passage to???

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A look at Garuda Indonesia’s crew uniform through the years. From the 1940s to the 1990s…

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And from the end of the 20th century to the present…

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Children’s play area… but where are the people???

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I was finally greeted at the reception desk by the lounge staff who ushered me in.

Ah! finally I see people… 🙂

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The lounge itself was quite spacious with decent F&B options and a moderately sized seating area. They had these nice Garuda models on display!

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And this very cool popcorn machine…

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I settled down with a beer and some nice fresh popcorn to while away the next hour or so till boarding began.

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While I was sipping my beer, I saw our aircraft arrive from KUL. It was going to be a Boeing 777-200ER today. A quick check on Flightradar24 told me that the aircraft was named Mount Kilimanjaro (maybe an inspiration for a future trip 😉 ) with the registration PH-BQK.

BOARDING

Soon it was time for boarding, and I made my way down to Gate 8 where our aircraft was docked.

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The CGK ground staff had neatly divided the boarding queues by class of travel and boarding zone, and held up placards along with announcements over a loudspeaker.

There was long queue that had formed at the gate, giving me a good idea of the load tonight.

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Soon it was time to board, and I made my way down the jazzy purple lit aerobridge towards the aircraft.

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About to board…

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As always, I was greeted at the door by friendly KLM cabin crew who ushered me to my seat – 4A in the forward Business Class cabin. KLM 777-200ER’s Business Class is divided into two parts – five rows in the forward section and a single row in the aft section.

A view of my seat.

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The Business Class cabin on KLM’s B777s is in a staggered 2-2-2 layout, with the seats near the window angled away from the aisle.

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The seats are full lie-flat, with plenty of legroom with a nice little storage area beneath the foot rest.

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We had an approximately 50% occupancy in Business Class tonight and boarding was quickly completed.

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks, and I chose the champagne of course – to celebrate this special day! 🙂

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THE FLIGHT

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule, and quickly began our taxi towards the runway. The take-off queue seemed shorter than normal for Jakarta and we were airborne in no time at all.

The crew began the dinner service as soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, and menus were handed out.

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There were two options for the main course

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Plenty of beverage options – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic

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No KLM flight is complete without the Flying Dutchman!

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Noise cancellation headphones were handed out earlier

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Nifty little IFE remote controller

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Dinner was soon served. I had chosen the cheese and spinach cannelloni.

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For drinks, I decided to go with Aberfeldy single malt whisky (one of my favourite single malts), along with the Flying Dutchman

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With not enough time for a complete movie, i decided to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. instead. Always good fun on a flight!

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After the meal, it was time to surprise the crew 🙂

As mentioned earlier, KLM has ensured that every flight with them was memorable for me, and today was a good opportunity to return the favour. I’ve clicked quite a few photos of KLM aircraft over the past decade, and I had printed out a couple of A4 sized photos of my favourite – the KLM Orange Pride Boeing 777-300ER during my stay in Jakarta. The intent was to gift one to the cabin crew and the other to the flight crew.

I introduced myself to the cabin crew in the galley and told them that I had a surprise for them to celebrate KLM’s 99th anniversary. Their eyes lit up and they said, “We love surprises”. The smiles became wider when I presented them with this little token of appreciation for all the fantastic experiences on KLM through the years.

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I had clicked this photo at KUL a couple of years ago, and it was only apt that I presented this on a flight to KUL. The blue t-shirt was chosen on purpose to suit the occasion 🙂

And since this is KLM, the crew always had one up their sleeves. This was their gesture of appreciation for me – a nice little comfort bag exclusively made for KLM by the Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau

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Soon we were close to starting our descent into KUL, and the captain announced an on-time arrival for us.

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Crossing over the Malacca straits towards the Malaysian peninsula, a little under half an hour to go before landing. Love these 3D maps!

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And now as per another KLM tradition – the crew handed out the signature little KLM Delft Blue houses to all the Business Class passengers. And as another gesture of appreciation, I was given the opportunity to pick two 🙂

I picked house numbers 43 & 49 to add to my nascent KLM house collection.

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Could this flight get any better???

We touched down five minutes ahead of schedule and taxied towards the KLIA Satellite terminal.

ARRIVAL

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As my fellow passengers got up to disembark, I remained seated, savouring the final moments of this memorable flight.

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I had to get up eventually as I had one more thing left to do.

As I made my way to the forward galley, a smiling captain greeted me. The crew had obviously told him about me. Warm smiles and handshakes were exchanged as I presented him with my capture of the Orange Pride.

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The captain thanked me for the little gift, and told me that he would keep it for display at the KLM crew centre in Amsterdam. WOW!!!

I bid farewell to the captain and the crew and made my way to the terminal. Thus ended one of my most memorable flights in recent times and that too on this momentous occasion for KLM.

Happy 99th birthday KLM, and look forward to celebrating the century with you next year!

Dank u wel en Tot ziens!

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Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

Experiencing Malaysia Airlines’ brand new A350-900 Business Class

BACKGROUND

Malaysia Airlines (MH) recently took delivery of its first brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The aircraft is slated to take over the airline’s long haul routes that were formerly operated by the now retired Boeing 777s and also the ones operated presently by the Airbus A380 (i.e. KUL-LHR)

The A350s will prove to be a cost effective and fuel-efficient alternative than the gigantic A380 and provide much longer range than the airline’s A330-300s. At the time of writing this, MH has taken delivery of a second A350, and both the aircraft are currently doing short domestic and regional hops for crew training/familiarisation.

I saw this as a good opportunity to try out the Business Class product on the brand new aircraft, and promptly booked a flight to Penang (PEN), operated by the A350

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 1140, with a scheduled departure time of 1105. However I received a text from MH a few hours before departure, informing me of a delay in departure. I left home accordingly, and reached the KLIA Main Terminal with plenty of time to spare.

A quick visit to the Anjung Tinjau (Viewing Gallery) at KLIA gave me an opportunity to spot my aircraft docked at its designated gate.

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CHECK-IN

Check-in was quick and the Business Class counter had just one person ahead of me, and I was checked-in in no time at all.

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The check-in agent handed me my boarding pass and invited me to the newly renovated Malaysia Airlines’ domestic Golden Lounge.

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Security check took no more than 2 minutes, and I was soon in the domestic departures area.

A view of the retail area in the Domestic Departures hold.

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The MH lounge was a five-minute walk away, and a smiling MH lounge attendant greeted me at the reception.

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The lounge had a definitely fresh look to it, and didn’t seem too crowded at the time. I quickly found a seat facing the tarmac, and grabbed some coffee and snacks.

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The view from the MH Domestic Golden Lounge.

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The food & drink counter

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As the boarding time approached, I made my way towards the departure gate, which was a good 10 minute walk from the lounge.

BOARDING

Sector: KUL-PEN

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 1140

Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

Registration: 9M-MAB

Seat: 10A

This would be my ride today! Malaysia Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 9M-MAB

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Boarding for our flight was announced at 1130, 30 minutes before the revised departure time, and the huge crowd of waiting passengers queued up almost immediately. I on the other hand, took my own time admiring the brand new bird.

As the queue thinned out, I walked over to the boarding counter. The agent quickly scanned my boarding pass, and I made my way to the aerobridge.

Looked like a full house today!

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Much larger windows on the A350 as compared to conventional aircraft. However, the 787 windows are larger.

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The Business Class on MH A350-900 has a total of 35 seats and is divided into two sections. The forward section is the larger of the two, and is separated from the smaller aft section by the Business Class galley. I had selected a seat in the aft cabin, and I had the whole cabin to myself on this flight.

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The Business Class cabin features a staggered 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 configuration. On the port side, there are single seats adjacent to the window, while on the starboard side, there are single as well as double seats in alternate rows. The middle section has 2 seats in a staggered arrangement.

This should give you an idea of the seating configuration.

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The seat itself is nice and comfy and wide enough for a long haul flight. It of course reclines into a fully flat bed.

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The legroom

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Seat controls

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The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks (apple juice, orange juice, guava juice or water) and I opted for an orange juice.

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The boarding process took around 40 minutes, and we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The doors were soon closed but we waited a few more minutes for pushback clearance.

The Captain on our flight today was a senior Airbus check pilot, and the First Officer was a Malaysian. The MH pilots are currently undergoing checks with pilots from Airbus.

The view out of my window (Seat 10A)

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The IFE system

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Nice little cubbyholes to keep your smartphone and water bottle

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THE FLIGHT

We finally pushed back 20 minutes past noon, and slowly the two RR Trent XWB engines powered up. The A350-900 is super quiet, and even with the engines powered on, you could hear the hiss of the air-conditioning vents.

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A small prayer as we begin our journey

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We began a slow taxi towards Runway 32R, which was the active departure runway, and held short as a Malindo Air 737 began its take-off roll.

Soon it was our turn, and we lined up on the runway. The Trent XWBs spooled up to take-off thrust and we accelerated down the runway. The A350 was incredibly quiet even during take-off, so much so that one can hear the distinct sound of the flaps being retracted.

Our heading today would be northerly straight to PEN.

The Business Class seat in the fully flat position

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I spent the next few minutes chatting with the cabin crew about their experience with this new aircraft. The crew seemed really pleased with it and was looking forward to operating it on the long haul routes. As per the head purser, MH would be operating the A350 on the KUL-LHR route starting Jan 15th.

The crew was kind enough to offer me a tour of the First Class cabin.

The First Class cabin on board MH A350-900 consists of 4 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration.

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Plenty of space in the suite

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Seat & IFE controls

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With the door in the closed position

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I loved the choice of colours used in the First Class cabin; gives it a premium look and feel.

Posing with the cabin crew. They were really courteous and answered all my questions patiently! 🙂

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ARRIVAL

The flight to PEN was quite short at 40 minutes, and the first officer announced that we had begun our descent.

As we descended into PEN, the view outside my window was gorgeous!

We touched down at 1315, nearly twenty minutes past our revised arrival time.

After a short taxi, we docked at the Penang International Airport terminal, bringing to an end this short but enjoyable flight.

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SUMMARY

The hard product on board MH’s A350-900 is definitely state of the art, and looks pretty comfortable for the long haul flights it will eventually operate. Since this was a short flight, I was not able to experience the on board service though. However, MH is generally pretty good as far as the in flight service is concerned.

The food variety is decent, and the signature satay is simply delicious. I hope MH comes up with some special offerings to mark the introduction of this brand new aircraft type. I also hope that the A350-900 brings in some much needed resurgence in MH’s fortunes. Here’s wishing them all the best!

Thank you all for reading.

Trip Report: BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

BOM-KUL – Business Class on Malaysia Airlines Retro Boeing 737

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INTRODUCTION

I was heading back to Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to my hometown, Mumbai for the Chinese New Year holiday. At the time, there were only two airline options between BOM & KUL – Malaysia Airlines (which operated two flights daily) and Malindo Air (one flight daily) Both airlines operate the narrow-body Boeing 737 on this route.

Since then, Indonesia AirAsia X has started a flight to BOM, deploying an Airbus A330-300 on the DPS-KUL-BOM route.

Anyway, I had booked my travel to BOM and back on MH. This report describes my journey back to KUL on Malaysia Airlines Business Class on their Boeing 737-800.

REACHING THE AIRPORT

I was booked on MH 195, the traditional late night departure out of BOM for Malaysia Airlines. This flight used to be operated by MH’s B777-200ERs before the type was phased out in late 2015/early 2016. To overcome this downgrade in capacity, MH has added a second daily flight, which departs BOM at 0225 in the morning.

The late evening traffic on the way to the airport was not too bad, and I arrived at the CSIA Terminal 2 drop-off area nearly 3 hours before departure.

View of the BOM Terminal 2 departures area

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CHECK-IN

The Malaysia Airlines check-in counters are located in Row J, and there was a sizeable queue there.

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The Business Class counter had 4-5 people ahead of me, and it took nearly 7-8 minutes for my turn.

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The check-in process was fast, and took less than five minutes, and I was handed my boarding pass, lounge invitation and the immigration departure card. I was on seat 1F – a bulkhead window seat.

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The aircraft flying me back to KUL was 9M-MXA, wearing the “40 Years of MH” retro colours. Woohoo! A quick check on FR24 revealed that the incoming aircraft was over an hour away.

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Security check was next, and took no more than five minutes. There was a long queue for immigration however, and the process took nearly 15 minutes, before I was released into the Duty Free area.

A view of the BOM Duty Free

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My favourite section 🙂

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The FIDS showing International Departures out of BOM

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Love that ceiling!

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Looking towards the food court area. Plenty of options to eat and drink

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It was now time to head to the lounge to relax for a bit.

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BOM Terminal 2 has a common use lounge called “GVK Lounge” for premium passengers. The lounge is massive, and is divided into two levels – one for First Class and the other for Business Class passengers. At the outset, I was not sure whether having a common lounge was a good idea for an airport the size of BOM. It was possible that the lounge would get overcrowded, especially during the peak international departure times.

However, after using this lounge on a few occasions, I have never seen it being crowded.

Here are a few photos of the lounge.

The ornate entrance! Looks more like the entrance to a fancy hotel!

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The seating area

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The bar

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The quiet zone featuring leather recliners

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The food spread

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I was feeling quite hungry, as it was way past dinnertime.

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The GVK lounge offers its patrons a complimentary 15-minute neck & back massage or a 15-minute foot massage. I opted for a foot massage and after finishing my dinner, headed to the in-house spa. It was pretty relaxing, and I was charged up for the upcoming flight.

As the boarding time approached, I headed out towards the departure gates. We were to depart from Gate 69 that night.

A view of the walkway to the departures area.

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The seating area at Gate 69. Look at those chandeliers!

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BOARDING

Sector: BOM-KUL

Airline: Malaysia Airlines

Flight: MH 195

Aircraft: Boeing 737-800

Registration: 9M-MXA “40 Years of MH” retro livery

Seat: 1F

As I sat down at the departure gate, our aircraft had just landed and was taxiing towards the terminal.

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Here she is, about to dock at the gate.

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We had to wait for another 30 odd minutes before boarding was announced. As is the ritual, families with infants and children were invited to board first, followed by Oneworld premium members. Business Class passengers were asked to board at their convenience.

A view of our aircraft from the aerobridge.

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I was greeted by a couple of MH cabin crew at the aircraft door and ushered to my seat.

The Business Class seats on board Malaysia Airlines 737-800. Pretty standard stuff.

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My seat – 1F

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The legroom on this first row of Business Class

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A welcome drink was offered. There was a choice of apple juice, orange juice or water. I opted for the orange juice.

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Here’s the menu for our flight tonight

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Three main course options on this five-hour flight is not bad at all! The highlight is the appetizer consisting of Malaysian satay. Yummy!

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The beverage selection on the menu. There were no alcoholic beverages listed on the menu although MH does serve them on the flight.

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Boarding was soon complete, and doors were closed. After a wait of another 10 minutes we got our pushback clearance, and we began our taxi towards Runway 27.

THE FLIGHT

The cabin lights were dimmed for take-off and the safety video was played on the IFE screens. Since the IFE screen for the bulkhead seats is in the armrest, a nice little drop-down screen did the job instead.

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Holding short of Runway 27

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After waiting for a couple of arrivals, we lined up on the runway and were airborne after a longish take-off roll.

There were no clouds in the vicinity, and the seat belt signs were soon turned off.

My seat at the full-reclined position.

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The cabin crew then handed out a pair of headphones. These active noise cancellation headphones were a bit on the heavier side but did a decent job of blocking out the noise of the engines and the surroundings. The sound quality of course was average.

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Although this aircraft wears the retro MH livery on the outside, it is anything but retro on the inside. The cabin is equipped with the Boeing Sky Interior and looks quite up to date. Here is a view of the Business Class cabin on our aircraft featuring a total of 16 seats.

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The drinks trolley made an appearance soon and I asked for a beer.

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An appetizer consisting of some delicious Malaysian satay with a lovely peanut dip was served. The satay is a trademark MH offering, and I am glad that the airline continues to serve it.

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The piping hot satay was a perfect accompaniment to the chilled Carlsberg. Just the right environment to pull out the IFE screen and do a bit of TV watching.

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We were flying on a roughly south-easterly heading on our way to KUL.

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Over 4 hours to go.

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Another view of the front row. Two seats vacant tonight.

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I had finished my beer and the lovely satay, and the crew asked me if I was ready for the main meal. A tablecloth was laid out and the crew brought out the meal in a nice little tray.

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“Supper” consisting of a chicken gravy along with dried fruits rice and sautéed vegetables. This was accompanied by a bowl of yoghurt; cut fruits, an assortment of bread along with some “dahi-samosa chaat”.

The portion served was sufficient for this flight.

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The taste was good, nothing really spectacular.

After having my fill, I decided to watch a movie as I find it difficult to sleep on a flight.

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Malaysia Airlines doesn’t hand out full-fledged amenity kits in Business Class on their regional routes operated by the Boeing 737s. Instead, the crew distributed eyeshades and slippers. This is one big improvement area for MH, as SQ hands out mini-kits even in Premium Economy Class on their BOM-SIN flights.

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I finished watching the movie, and tried to fall asleep. I was successful, and only woke up as we were passing over the Malacca Straits.

I freshened up and was listening to some music when our first officer announced that we would soon start our descent into KUL.

The cabin crew appeared with a tray of drinks as people began to wake up. I downed another glass of orange juice.

ARRIVAL

The cabin crew did their ritual of preparing the cabin for arrival as we began our descent. The descent was relatively smooth with only one layer of clouds to plough through.

The sun was just rising over the district of Sepang as we made a 180-degree turn to line up on our final approach to KUL Runway 32L.

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We touched down with a nice, positive thud and a brief application of the twin reversers slowed us down to taxi speed.

We taxied towards the KLIA Satellite Terminal and finally docked at our gate some 20 minutes behind schedule. Not too shabby at all!

It took another 5-7 minutes for the door to be opened, and I thanked the crew and walked out of the aircraft.

A view of the KUL Satellite Terminal. Love that design!

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The terminal was nicely lit up for the Chinese New Year holiday.

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After a quick Aerotrain ride to the main terminal, I made my way towards Immigration. There was no queue at all at the dedicated First/Business Immigration counters, and my passport was stamped within a minute.

A brisk walk later, I was at our designated baggage belt to be greeted by this sight!

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It took nearly 10 more minutes for the bags to start arriving, and thankfully mine was amongst the first lot to arrive.

SUMMARY

It was a typical narrow-body regional flight experience on board Malaysia Airlines Business Class. The seats are your average 737 style recliner seats. The extra width as compared to Economy Class is welcome though.

The onboard service on Malaysia Airlines leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of a comprehensive menu listing all the beverage options is one callout. The service from the cabin crew is average with no personalisation at all. A bit of a letdown here.

The food options are good, and the serving portions are sufficient. The signature MH satay is a big plus!

The lack of amenity kits in Business Class is another big letdown. Other airlines offer mini amenity kits even in Economy/Premium Economy Class on overnight flights.

Even Malindo Air – which is a semi-LCC and is a direct competitor to MH offers an amenity kit in Business Class! Hope MH looks into this aspect soon.

Hope you enjoyed this report on the Business Class experience onboard Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800.

Thank you all for reading!