I had planned our trip to the Far East a good 6 months ago. The main reason for the trip was to attend my sister’s wedding but besides that I was keen to fit in a few gastronomy detours in between. Having scoured the internet for the best deals, my initial plan was to fly London-Paris-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore. For most people, this seemed like a crazy plan given that there are plenty of direct flights from London to Singapore.
However, there is a bit of method to my madness. First off, the longer route would allow me to earn a few more air miles to upgrade my frequent flyer status for the coming year. Given that we will be getting married next year, the additional status would come in handy in terms of extra baggage allowance and gaining lounge access with partner airlines even when flying cattle class. The other reason was simply because I had found some relatively ‘cheap’ 1st class tickets routing out of Paris with Malaysia Airlines. I would subsequently need to purchase separate tickets from London to Paris which a friend of mine who works for BA kindly helped with.
Alas after having my flights ticketed, Malaysia Airlines would subsequently decide around August to remove the A380 on the Paris-Kuala Lumpur route, which would subsequently be served with their old 777-200 (772) planes, a 2 class plane. My initial contact with the Malaysia Airlines call centre was a bit of a pain with them offering to downgrade my ticket to Business Class and refund me the difference. I am not a snob by any means, but the Business Class seats on the A380 and 772 are two completely different products altogether. The A380 offers fully lie flat seats and plenty of storage space. The 772 seats on the other hand are a relic from a decade ago – seats that are angled flat and just awful to sleep on especially on a 13+ hour flight. I am pleased that with the restructuring, that Malaysia Airlines are looking at upgrading their business class seats.
Anyways, after failing miserably (multiple times) with my calls to their call centre in Malaysia, a helpful suggestion on the Flyertalk forums suggested giving the London office a ring. Getting in touch with them was not an easy task, given that their phone number is very well hidden – it is not published on their website, but with a little perseverance I managed to track down a number. I was put through to a very helpful agent who after consulting with her manager and firing some e-mails off to HQ managed to get my ticket changed to London-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore. Success! It meant that I had to write-off my non-refundable London-Paris tickets but that in itself turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the awful Paris bombings happened during our trip and it would have meant long waits at the Charles de Gaulle airport trying to clear security.
Malaysia Airlines does not offer any complimentary airport transfer, unlike the Middle Eastern airlines (e.g. Emirates, Etihad) but it did not matter as we live fairly close to London Heathrow. We were flying out from Terminal 4 and I decided to pay a little extra for the Heathrow Valet parking service which turned out to be a good idea given that it was pouring it down on the day of our departure. Being able to drop your car off literally at the door step of the airport instead of having to lug your heavy baggage onto the transfer bus of the business parking is a huge convenience let me tell you that!
Checking in was a breeze at London Heathrow with a separate queue dedicated for First Class and Oneworld Emerald passengers. There was only one person ahead of us in the queue, who could not quite find his Oneworld Emerald card and was told to step aside while we were checked in. One of the biggest benefits of flying from Heathrow is that they have priority lanes for security checks. I really dread going through security particularly during peak season as it seems people cannot read – they will walk up to the bag scanners and then and only then will start taking out their items to be scanned instead of having them ready while queueing up. With a short queue through the priority lane, we were done and dusted through security in a matter of 5 minutes and headed straight to the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge.
The Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge is just a short walk from the gate, above the Gulf Air Lounge. Making our way to the lounge, the lounge dragon was no where to be seen so we turned right and headed to the First Class Lounge. We chose one of the comfy looking sofas before one of the waiters in the lounge came up to take our orders for drinks. Not soon after, the lounge dragon caught wind of two vagrants sneaking in to the First Class Lounge and asked to check our boarding passes. After a very careful inspection to ensure that our boarding passes were not printed with a HP Laserjet 1020 printer, she wished us to enjoy the lounge and that she would let us know when boarding for our flight would be called.
The First Class Lounge is only minutely different from the Business Class Lounge. In fact, the food at the buffet is identical and they even share the same bar. However, at the First Lounge, there is a separate a la carte menu you can order from and there are a couple of waiters who serve you.
There is also a small relaxation room with a couple of massage chairs which we didn’t use.
As this is a primarily a food blog, it would be criminal of me not to comment on the food offered. Both of us made a dash towards the buffet and in particular the Nasi Lemak on offer. For such a relatively small lounge – Malaysia Airlines itself only has 8 First Class seats, and there are not going to be many Oneworld Emerald holders flying on other airlines who would be using this lounge – the buffet spread was fairly generous. Alongside their signature nasi lemak, there was also some fried noodles, congee and full English breakfast available. The nasi lemak certainly did not disappoint with additional sambal available if you needed to turn the spicing level up another notch. To wash it down, I of course had a cup of teh tarik.
The lounge has very good views of the tarmac and we could spot our big bird gearing up to go.
Quick trip to the loo before we board our flight… It is going to be 13+hours after all!
As with most airlines, Malaysia Airlines has priority boarding for those travelling on premium seats or with frequent flyer benefits. Thankfully, the airline fully enforces priority boarding which is not what I can say about all airlines – when I last travelled with Emirates, boarding of their A380 was completely shambolic with everyone rushing to the gate when boarding was called. In fact, First Class passengers having their own air bridge to directly board into their cabin. Boarding was an absolute breeze, even if I did get into the Economy queue and we would be off for our latest travels…
Click here for Part 2 of our trip!