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It’s not often that you hear of an airline removing its First Class product from sale without changing the cabin layouts onboard its aircraft but that’s exactly what Malaysia Airline has just done.
As of yesterday Malaysia Airlines will no longer sell passengers a “First Class” fare but, as it also has no plans to strip out its existing First Class seating, it is now selling the old First Class seats as “Business Suites”.
Malaysia Airlines Business Suites
The Malaysia Airlines Business Suites are only offered on its Airbus A380 aircraft (8 seats) and on its relatively new Airbus A350 aircraft (4 seats) and both cabins are set out in a 1-2-1 layout.
The only true suites (i.e. a product similar to what you’ll find on Qatar Airways and Delta) will be on the A350 aircraft as these spaces actually come with a sliding door which allows passengers quite a bit of privacy….
…while the suites on the A380 are open to the cabin:
The A350 Business Suite offers:
- Seat pitch of 83 inches and width of 23 inches
- Full-flat bed – 83 inches in length
- Capacitive seat control offering personalised lounge position, independent adjustable leg rest, and massage and lumbar system
- Individual 24-inch IFE with capacitive touchscreen and multi-touch gesture, video handset, widescreen, High-Definition clarity (1080p) with LED backlighting
- Each seat comes with meal and cocktail table, feature light, vanity mirror, console stowage and magazine rack
The A380 Business Suite offers:
- Seat pitch of 89 inches and bed width of 40 inches
- Full flat-bed – 87 inches in length
- Individual 23-inch IFE screen with widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9
- Each seat comes with its personal closet and stowage for coat, luggage, laptop and personal belongings
The A380 suite is the more spacious but it’s also the least private and the least equipped.
According to Malaysia Airlines the rebranding of its First Class cabin as “Business Suites” is down to the “high traffic of business travelers on Malaysia Airlines” and the airline says that it will offer the product at “an attractive price point for passengers”.
Put into regular English this means that fewer and fewer people were prepared to pay for a sub-par First Class product so the airline is hoping that some passengers will pay more for an enhanced Business Class product.
Passengers purchasing the Business Suite product will still get a few benefits that regular Business Class passengers won’t have access to:
- A dedicated check-in counter
- Access to Malaysia Airlines; First Class Lounges
- 50kg baggage allowance
There will be no difference in the service, food, beverages or entertainment options available in Business Class and the Business Suites cabins.
We’ll have to wait and see how Malaysia Airlines prices the Business Suites before we’ll know if they’re going to offer business travelers a true alternative to regular Business Class…but that’s not what I’m most interested in right now.
As a miles and points enthusiast I’m more interested in two things:
- How will this rebranding affect the number of miles required to book the frontmost cabin on the A380 and A350 aircraft?
- How will this rebranding affect the number of miles and elite qualifying credits earned from Business Suite bookings?
I suspect there may be a win and loss here for miles and points fans.
It’s entirely possible that none of the other oneworld airlines will alter their award charts to reflect the fact that Malaysia Airlines doesn’t really offer a First Class cabin any more, and that will leave us having to pay out First Class mileage for an enhanced Business Class product….which isn’t great news.
But there could be a very good flip side to this.
If Malaysia Airlines continues to use First Class fare codes for Business Suite bookings as it is currently doing….
…it’s possible that oneworld airlines like American Airlines and British Airways will continue to award miles and elite credits just as they did when the cabin was called “First Class”.
Here’s what American Airlines will currently credit your AAdvantage account with if you book an “A” class fare with Malaysia Airlines:
And here are the earnings with the British Airways Executive Club (using KUL-LHR as an example):
In both cases flyers booking into Malaysia’s Business Suites would earn considerably more miles, Avios, Elite Qualifying Dollars and Tier Points than if they booked a Business Class fare.
If Malaysia Airlines prices its Business Suites competitively this could be very good news and we may be faced with situations where the extra miles/avios/EQD/Tier Points earned by booking Business Suites will make the increased cost worthwhile.
How useful this rebranding is to miles & points collectors will only become clear once we get a good idea of how Malaysia Airlines plans to price Business Suites on an ongoing basis.
If the Business Suites aren’t really all that much cheaper than the old First Class offering this will be a pointless rebranding exercise for the airline (if passengers weren’t paying extra before they’re certainly not going to pay extra for a lesser product now) and it will be a meaningless change for miles and point fans.
However, if it becomes possible to pick up Business Suites fares at a good price (even if it’s only now and again) this rebranding could result in an economical way for flyers to boost their mileage earnings and make oneworld status quite a bit easier to reach.