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Review: Malaysia Airlines’ Tired Economy Class

I’d never really paid attention to the impact of small details on an overall experience until we flew Malaysia Airlines from Sydney to Hanoi on Thursday. The flight was in two legs with a four and a half hour stopover in KL, and we flew economy the first leg but upgraded to business using their “MHupgrade” option for the jump from KL to Hanoi. I always go into an international economy flight with low expectations, but my goodness, this flight proved that even low expectations can sometimes be way too high.

It wasn’t that it was a terrible flight, it just was that the whole experience kind of felt like I’d jumped ten years into the past. The plane was tired, the food was even less palatable than usual, the inflight entertainment system was laughable, and for some reason, they kept playing the boarding jazz music for the first half hour of the flight. It was arguable as to whether the pillows could even be truly called pillows, and the blankets were closer to handkerchiefs than anything else (and weirdly, the pillow and blankets provided on our second leg in business were identical to the ones in economy?). It was a tight squeeze into the seats (and I’m in no way tall, or wider than the average person), and just everything was awkward and uncomfortable and not how you want to be spending nine hours of your life. Also, for a nine hour, overnight flight, no eye-masks or earplugs were provided? I’m not expecting much, but come on!

I chose to fly Malaysia as we were looking for the cheapest option that wasn’t a Low Cost Carrier, but I’m starting to regret not saving a couple of hundred extra and just flying Scoot. It couldn’t have been too much more budget than what we experienced. Even the business leg was tired. I appreciated the noise cancelling headphones and the extra leg room, but I’m glad I didn’t shell out full price for the “experience”.

I’m big on staying loyal to brands when I have a good experience using their product. For example, I don’t mind paying a bit extra to always fly Virgin Australia to the USA because I know that I’ve consistently had excellent service from them. I may be in economy, but the constant availability of snacks and drinks, the comfortable seats, and the top-notch entertainment system (that can be used from the moment you sit down until the moment you’re leaving at your destination, unlike Malaysia!) at least ensure you’re as comfortable as possible. Similarly, flying Etihad to Europe is always lovely and feels like excellent value (plus, ever since they upgraded me to Business on my way home from my last trip I’ve been committed to staying loyal!). A good experience means a repeat customer, and unfortunately, after I complete my flight home next week, Malaysia Airlines won’t be receiving any more of my service.

It doesn’t take much to ensure your product is up to basic comfort levels. I know Malaysia does have a few A380s in their fleet and have some fresh planes coming later this year, but you need to make the most of what you have when you have it. I don’t care if you have shiny new planes coming in the next twelve months if the product you’re giving me today isn’t up to scratch. There’s just too many other options out there for me to stick around for second chances.

Have you flown Malaysia Airlines recently? How did you find the product offered?

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