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After a quick visit to the Coral Executive Lounge in Phuket International Airport, we made our way down to gate 84, where we waited for about 30 minutes to board our upcoming flight to Denpasar, via Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Airlines notoriously schedules boarding times way too early (an hour before departure), so we tried to plan for it and still got to our gate much too soon.
Award space on Malaysia Airlines for this particular route (HKT –> KUL –> DPS) is pretty easy to find through British Airways and was wide open for the dates we traveled.
This itinerary only set us back 17,000 Avios (6,000 and 11,000 Avios per leg) for Economy Class. Malaysia Airlines operates a 737-800 on both legs of this route, so we didn’t care to splurge for Business Class for 34,500 Avios.
After muscling our way onto a bus, we were dropped off on the Tarmac beside our Boeing 737-800, and queued for boarding through the front boarding doors.
The photo above would have you believe the flight was packed, but it was actually quite the contrary. I’m just of the mindset that no amount of pushing and clawing will get me to my destination quicker than anyone else — so I prefer to let others fight it out while I take photos. Plus, I was in no rush to experience Malaysia Airlines Economy Class again.
Of course, since our leg from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur was virtually empty, it made for great aircraft photos. The cabin crew very kindly allowed me to snag a few pictures while they cleaned the cabin.
The 737-800 features a 2-2 First Class seat configuration and 3-3 Economy Class configuration. Main cabin seats are 17″ wide and offer about 30″ of seat pitch. A little tight, but armrests along the aisle can be lifted using the “secret” lever on the underside near the hinge, which might be a good reason to select an aisle seat.
Advanced seating can be purchased, but after seeing how empty the flight was on expertflyer, we thought better of it. However, exit row seats can be purchased for about $10, which is pretty affordable — or free if you put it against the $300 travel credit on your Ritz-Carlton Card.
After a very quick boarding process, the boarding doors were closed. Flight time would be under 80 minutes, and the pilot let us know that we’d briefly hit a cruising altitude of 23,000 feet before beginning our descent into Kuala Lumpur.
Conveniently, our quick hop from HKT to KUL featured a short meal service which was unexpected. Shortly after takeoff, we were offered a tuna fish sandwich or chicken sandwich, in addition to salted peanuts and water. The chicken with peanut sauce was actually quite good.
For comparison, our leg from KUL to DPS on MH853 was under 3 hours and featured even better meal service. We didn’t think we’d be fed at all, yet ended up getting two meals!
Impressively, seat-backs also included personal IFE, with a retractable remote located immediately under the screen next to a USB port. My remote was jammed in so tight that I couldn’t get it out, but fortunately the IFE is touch-screen, and it didn’t bother me enough to find another empty seat.
There was also one really neat IFE feature that I’ve never seen — or maybe I’ve just never noticed — on any other airline, called PIP (Picture-In-Picture) Mode.
PIP Mode allows you to continue watching a movie while navigating the IFE menu. I think that’s a pretty cool feature when you’re not sure what to watch or are ready to queue up your next movie. I was able to watch the second half of the Lion King (the kid inside me needed to finish it, despite the butchered soundtrack).
We eventually touched down and were pleased to discover we would get our own jet bridge for deplaning.
Once off the plane, we made our way to the Plaza Premium Satellite lounge in the KLIA1 Terminal for a short layover, before connecting onwards to DPS.
Overall, we really enjoyed this Economy Class flight to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines, and were glad we didn’t bite on Business Class. Having seat-back IFE, USB ports, and meal service on an empty flight made it a pretty enjoyable way to travel in coach. In fact, this was probably one of our best experiences ever flying in Economy Class.
I will note, however, that this first leg was much better than the second from KUL to DPS, since the latter did not have IFE or USB ports/outlets, and was a much fuller flight. There’s nothing particularly exciting about back-to-back Malaysia Airlines flights in Economy onboard the 737-800, so we’ll save that review for another time (or maybe never).