A few months ago Qatar Airways published an incredibly deal for flights departing Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and as I had to book a trip to Europe anyway I took advantage and ticketed a flight from Vietnam to Germany.
As I am not living in Vietnam I had to position there first and booked a separate flight with Malaysia Airlines for this. I have flown this route and carrier countless times and reviewed it here, but this flight presented me a very special and very outdated aircraft.
I am not a big fan of Malaysia Airlines (MH), which has nothing to do with the 2 fatal crashes in 2014, simply because I think most of the times the pricing is way above what the product is worth. Also especially in 2017 the product has been cut quite drastically, meal service quality in-flight downgraded a lot, no alcohol is served on flights below 3 hours and multiple items are often out of stock. Regardless I do not actively go out of my way to avoid MH and often ended up flying them simply due to the convenient schedule.
This flight would depart on the afternoon leaving me with enough time to clear immigration and check-in in Ho Chi Minh City for my flight to Doha. As Malaysia Airlines Regional Lounge was undergoing renovation on the date of my flight I spent some time before departure in Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, since I reviewed this lounge before and nothing changed since then I won’t do so again now.
Business class on Malaysia Airlines short haul flights is normally a solid but uneventful event with decent recliner seats, IFE with enough variety but rather small screens, power sockets at each seat and average catering with good service. When I entered the gate and caught a glance on the plane that I would be boarding shortly nothing hinted that the experience would be any difference.
Boarding was uneventful and quick as usual, but right after entering the plane I noticed something was off. I was walking into what must be Malaysia Airlines oldest Boing 737. The seats looked like they could be around my age and were really worn and dirty. Cabin cleanliness in MH has never been the best, as is maintenance in the cabin but it was never to the point that I felt really uncomfortable about it. This time I was.
The seats were probably quite comfortable when they were installed back in their days, today it was just really worn out and I could feel elements in the padding that I do not believe were supposed to be felt (or there).
While the seats had the same size as Malaysias current business class seat they (understandably) lacked all modern features like a USB and power socket. Also in many seats reclining did not work or the tray tables in the arm rest was stuck. As a comparison this is how most, possibly all other, Boing 737 in Malaysia Airlines fleet look like.
Given the age of this cabin there was also no inflight entertainment system installed. While I don’t necessarily need one on a flight of less than 2h it is always nice to have if you did not bring your own entertainment, or Netflix randomly logs you out after take off.
One positive aspect of this flight was that the overhead bins seemed much larger than on the 737s I am used to, maybe it isn’t true but I thought they were really spacious.
The service during the flight was standard as on all other MH flights and nothing to write home but also nothing to complain about.
I was quite surprised in a negative way that a cabin so old is still flying on scheduled flights for Malaysia Airlines, I have been in this exact plane type with the carrier at least 50 times, 20+ of those on this same route and I never had a plane with these seats before. Given that Malaysia is struggling with its brand and does not really offer competitive pricing either they should at least have a top notch product, they do not and planes like these don’t make it better at all.
It is worth noting that Malaysia Airlines recently changed their reservation system which they did take as a welcome excuse to once again devalue their Enrich program drastically, rendering it basically worthless compared with loyalty schemes of other airlines in the region. The switch also caused ongoing problems with their website and apps as well as messing up countless bookings. As I am also effected by this and had the pleasure to deal with their support that basically replies with a random text not addressing the issue once, then ignores everything after that.
As mentioned earlier I never was a big fan of Malaysia Airlines but I would fly them. I think I am now at a point where a worthless frequent flyer program, subpar catering, outdated product, overall bad value for money and a highly incompetent customer care made me change that into I will try to avoid Malaysia Airlines in the future.