Malaysia Airlines recently started selling seats in first class on their A350-900 (running until March 30, 2019) service from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. While this isn’t great news for One World Platinum members looking to snag a free upgrade from business to first, it certainly works out well for savvy points collectors/buyers in Australia.
How I Booked This Flight For US$932
Since Malaysia Airlines is a One Word airline, you can redeem a first class ticket using miles/points from any of the other One World frequent flyer programs. While the natural conclusion would be to use Qantas Frequent Flyer points, it’s by far the most valuable.
Enter American Airlines AAdvantage points. Even though the US carrier has devalued their program over the years, it’s still far more valuable than Qantas Frequent Flyer and for a good reason. This particular flight cost me 50,000 AAdvantage points and $95.51 in taxes. That’s a bargain when you compare it to what Qantas (or Malaysia Airlines) charge for the same itinerary. For the same ticket, Qantas is looking for a cool 95,000 Frequent flyer points and $111.91 in taxes.
Unless you’re already familiar with AAdvantage, you’re probably wondering “how the hell can I get my hands on some AA miles in Australia?!’.
Luckily for Aussie based points connoisseurs with no access to US-based credit cards, American Airlines AAdvantage sells miles for cold hard cash. Even better, they have some excellent sales throughout the year which allows you to take advantage (pun not intended).
During the last Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale I bought a small fortune of AAdvantage miles to supplement my travel plans for 2018/2019. The total cost for my ticket on Malaysia Airlines in first-class therefore was ‘only’ US$932 + Au$95.52 in taxes (the US$932 was for 50,000 points which is all you need)
The AAdvantage award chart offers further opportunities to get even more value out of your redemption. For example, you can tag on a first-class flight (if not available, business class) from Kuala Lumpur Singapore, Hong Kong etc.
If that’s not good enough for you, for an extra 10k miles you can tag on a first class flight to Japan or Korea, that’s 60k miles in total for Sydney – Kuala Lumpur – Seoul.
Anyway, you get my point by now. Buying AA miles at the right time can open up some excellent arbitrage opportunities.
Note that you need an account that’s 30 days old before you can buy any miles so if you think this might be of benefit to you in the future, open an account today.
Booking the actual flight
Most One World redemptions are bookable online through the AAdvantage website, however, for some reason, Malaysia Airlines didn’t show up. I already researched availability through the Qantas Frequent Flyer website (which does show Malaysia Airlines) so I knew the award space was there.
To book, I called the friendly AAdvantage call centre in the US and simply made the booking over the phone. They even waived the booking fee for me (usually $25 when booking over the phone).
Malaysia Airlines A350-900 First Class Sydney to Kuala Lumpur
After a quick check-in and expedited security clearance thanks to the Express Path available to premium passengers in Sydney, I headed up the escalator to the Qantas first class lounge for a bit of relaxation before the flight. Unfortunately, the spa was fully booked, but that’s not a huge issued considering what else is on offer at the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney.
Around 40 minutes before departure I asked the gate agent for pre-boarding so I could take some pictures of the empty cabin. As it turned out, the 2 middle seats got filled last minute which meant I wasn’t the only person in first class anymore.
Business Class Cabin
Boarding through the middle door, I turned left into the business class section and was ushered to the small first class cabin by the purser.
The Cabin & Seat Design
Considering most airlines don’t have a first class cabin in their A350’s, Malaysia Airlines has done what other airlines should have done and included 4 seats at the front to design a mini-first class cabin.
While it’s not comparable to any first class suites found on the A380’s and the 777 (Singapore Airlines new A380 first class suite or Emirates new first class suite on the 777-300er), it’s kind of a unique product due to the space constraints on the A350.
The Malaysia Airlines A350-900 XWB first class cabin is specially configured Thompson Aero’s Vantage XL business class seats. I say specially configured because although the seat is the same as in business, the cabin certainly isn’t.
Malaysia Airlines has managed to fit in a narrow but spacious first class seat with sliding door for added privacy and plenty of stowage space on the side of the seat (i think they could have reduced the storage area width and added a few more cm’s to the actual seat).
Unlike the business class seats which although perfectly comfortable, do look a bit drab in blue and silver, the first class seat colour palate is outstanding.
The powder blue seat has a beautiful diamond pattern cloth material + leather headrest and is offset by rose gold accents lining the cabinets and control panel.
The back wall is also made of cloth and in a darker steel blue colour; creating a perfect contrast. Once again the rose gold is present in the form of a build in mood light. If you’re into design, this first class cabin is going to make you smile.
Seat + Bed Comfort
Even though the seat is the same size as of those found in business class, it’s completely overhauled and made out of an air bladder which can be pumped up or deflated using the control panel. This allows you to make the seat softer or firmer and it makes for a really comfortable bed.
For sleeping, Malaysia Airlines crew will make your bed with a seat cover (it’s not a mattress topper) and add an extra feather down pillow. As a self-proclaimed pillow expert, I can confirm this is the best pillow I’ve ever had in first class.
Food, Drinks & Hospitality
Shortly after takeoff, the crew commenced the dinner/lunch service. As an aperitive, I opted for the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of ‘Blanc de Blanc’ but this is an excellent drop, and during the remainder of the flight the crew made sure that my glass never went empty. I did also try the Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvée Rosé which is also excellent.
After some nuts and champagne, it was time for the Malaysia Airlines signature satay. Although the satay was delicious, I think Singapore Airlines still does it better.
On the Sydney to Kuala Lumpur flight, caviar is on the menu. Malaysia Airlines serves Ars Italica by Calvisius which is an Oscietra caviar produced in Italy.
The presentation was beautiful, but I would like to see them include a traditional mother of pearl spoon (which costs nothing but would add to the presentation value). I realise it’s an urban myth that stainless steel cutlery affects the taste of caviar but the pearl spoon is the proper way to serve it, and after all… it is first class.
After the caviar, the crew brought our a palette cleanser of coconut sorbet before my main meal which was slow cooked lamb.
The lamb was cooked to perfection and still pink on the inside; outstanding.
The dessert was a bit uninspiring, and the ice cream I ordered was just a small tub. Zero points for presentation here.
Malaysia Airlines IFE
One downside about my flight was the in-flight entertainment offering, although the system is excellent and the monitor a perfect size, the movies on offer was a rather small selection. You know you there aren’t many new movies to watch when you settle for “The Meg” ( a stupid shark movie for those that don’t know).
Malaysia Airlines First Class Amenities Kit & Pyjamas
Malaysia Airlines has a rather generous amenity kit for first class passengers. The kit is by Cerruti and comes with a 25ml bottle of perfume.
Skincare products are by Payot Paris. The kit also has the regular dental kit one would expect and even has a fun golden Malaysia Airlines key-ring.
The pyjamas provided to first class passengers are excellent! The quality is very high, and the pyjamas themselves are very comfortable.
Right now it’s my new favourite set of airline PJ’s which will be worn around the house extensively.
Malaysia Airlines A350 First Class In Conclusion
The A350 first class product is indeed unique and not something that should be compared to the flashy first class suites other carriers are designing. I think in a category of its own, they are outstanding. Ideally, I would have liked a slightly wider seat, but regarding comfort, I have zero complaints.
A comfortable private seat paired with genuine service and good food make for a winning first-class experience in my book.