Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN
It’s hard to imagine that up until 2008 the SIN-KUL route was effectively a duopoly, with MAS and SQ operating more than 85% of the 200 flights a week (the rest were provided by a hodgepodge of airlines exercising fifth freedom rights like Air India and JAL). Round trip fares were upwards of S$300.
Then Tony Fernandes and Air Asia lobbied hard to get the route liberalized to competition, and in Feb 2008, AK123 carried just over 200 passengers about 50 minutes from KL to Singapore. Tony Fernandes himself attended the media scrum wearing a red T-shirt with “Finally!” emblazoned on it. And why not? It had been a long time, too long, in the making. The original agreement which granted virtual exclusivity on the SIN-KUL route to SQ/MAS has been preserved since 1974.
Fast forward 9 years, and you can get a round trip ticket on Tigerair from SIN-KUL for as low as S$64. Nope, that’s not a typo.
The SIN-KUL route now carries 2.7 million passengers, most of them on budget flights. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that once upon a long time ago, SQ and MAS actually operated First Class on the SIN-KUL route. I wonder what the meal service on that would have looked like…
These days, the highest class of service available on the SIN-KUL route is business class, which I was booked on with MAS today. The inbound aircraft was delayed about 40 minutes, resulting in a similar delay in departure from Singapore.
Priority boarding was announced for oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, MAS elite frequent flyers and business class passengers. In reality everyone just sort of streamed forth in a human scrum, frustrated with the delay
I boarded the aircraft and saw that I was flying on one of MAS’s new 737s. These have IFE and in seat power, along with cabin mood lighting and Boeing’s next generation interior. My colleague, who was on the later 9.15pm flight, got an old 737 which had none of these.
The four rows of seats in business class are plenty wide and are similar to domestic first class in the USA.
Each seat had a pillow and paper thin blanket. Legroom was more than adequate.
I again lucked out in that the seat next to me was empty.
There was an IFE controller in each armrest, although the IFE screen was also touch sensitive.
Seat controls were basic, and manual. You could move the seat back up and down, or you could move the legrest up and down. Both required upper body strength, something I do not excel in.
As mentioned, each seat had a USB charging outlet and an EMpower plug.
The entertainment selection actually isn’t half bad. There were some first run movies with a solid back catalog. In any case, the flight time from Singapore to KL doesn’t even let you finish watching one movie.
There is one forward loo shared by all the business class passengers. It was kept clean and tidy throughout the (admittedly short) flight.
Shortly after takeoff, the drinks cart came around, but in addition to that they also offered a choice of meals. I was amazed that they served any refreshments on this flight, much less hot refreshments, much less something that could approximate a meal service on other airlines.
The chicken with rice dish that I had really wasn’t very appetizing (as you’ll see in the KUL-NRT leg, catering isn’t something that MAS excels at), but I was just marveling at how they managed to do a meal service in such a short time.
True enough, no sooner had I taken 4 bites of the meal than the captain came on the PA and announced the commencement of descent into KLIA.
I was now in MAS’s backyard, and quite eager to see what their flagship lounge would be like. That turned out to be, as you’ll see, somewhat of a disappointment.