Malaysia Airlines rebrands first class as Business Suites

Malaysia Airlines rebrands first class as Business Suites

EXCLUSIVE | Malaysia Airlines is exiting the first class market and will rebrand its Airbus A380 and A350 first class cabins as an upgraded version of business class dubbed Business Suites.

This change is in name only, however – Business Suites passengers will enjoy the same meals and drinks, inflight amenities, pyjamas and Malaysia Airlines lounge access as they would in first class, although pricing will be pitched halfway between business and first.

The Oneworld member offers first class on only two jets in its fleet. The Airbus A380 superjumbo have six spacious ‘open suites’….

Malaysia Airlines' Airbus A380 first class

… while the newer Airbus A350s include a four-suite cabin with privacy doors.

Malaysia Airlines' Airbus A350 first class

AusBT review: Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 first class

Malaysia Airlines will officially launch its new Business Suites class on Wednesday December 12, and is prepared for the inevitable confusion among passengers.

“A lot of people will think this is business class” because of the new product name, admits Lau Yin May, Malaysia Airlines’ Head of Customer Experience, “but from a product perspective it’s literally the same product and service that passengers enjoy right now in first class.”

“The same seats, the same cabin, the same food and beverage, the same service… everything remains the same, it’s just that we have renamed it Business Suites.”

Why Malaysia Airlines is axing first class 

Which begs the question: why change the name at all?

“We realise that with the recent economic situation a lot pf people have moved away from first class, and a lot of corporate passengers now have the limitation of not flying first class (due to) corporate policy, so we want to cater to that market and open it up,” Lau tells Australian Business Traveller

In other words: passengers seeking a better-than-business-class experience can fly in what is ostensibly first class but book it under the more innocuous banner of Business Suites.

Malaysia Airlines Business Suites: different brand, same seat and service

Lau says that Malaysia Airlines' Business Suites fares will be priced halfway between its current average business class and first class rates, which will also provide an opportunity to upsell business class passengers into first class – albeit under another name.

AusBT review: Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 business class

“We realised over the past years that there is a lot of demand for our business class and it’s always full, especially to London,” Lau says, “so why not open up that first class product and offer them that premium experience?”

At the same time, Lau rejects claims that Malaysia Airlines’ first class is not competitive with the latest first class suites of its competitors and that this has been reflected in low passenger numbers.

“I think essentially it is not that. There was more of a ‘push’ factor from business class where demand was too much and we couldn’t really meet it, especially for the London route,  so we wanted to open up the product of first class to be accessible by business customers.”

Malaysia Airlines wants to narrow the upgrade gap from business class

Lau is also aware that ‘business suites’ is both a generic term for the new generation of business class with privacy door, such as Qatar Airways’ Qsuites and Delta Air Line’s Delta One suites, as well as Oneworld partner Qantas using Business Suites as the name for its latest Airbus A330, Boeing 787 and soon Airbus A380 business class seats.

“I think there will be some confusion within the consumer market in the beginning,” she allows, “until people experience it and realise that business class is business and Business Suites is more premium than our business class.” 

How much Malaysia Airlines Business Suites will cost

Malaysia Airlines' intends to price its Business Suites halfway between the current average business class and first class rates.

Australian Business Traveller costed a one-way trip from Kuala Lumpu to London in mid-March 2019, and here's how the fares stacked up:

  • Flexible Business Class – MYR12,168 (A$4,050)
  • Business Suites – MYR14,747 (A$4,910)
  • Flexible First Class (as available pre-Dec12) – MYR21,303 (A$7,090)

That's an appealingly small delta between business class and Business Suites when you consider the improvement in the seats alone, especially on the Airbus A380.

Interestingly, the second of Malaysia Airlines' two daily Airbus A350 Kuala Lumpur-London flights – MH2 – showed two of the four Business Suites selling markedly less than business class, at MYR16,247 (A$5,405) versus MYR19,090 (A$6,350).

Malaysia Airlines says that Business Suites fares have the same flexibility as when they were first class, as they occupy the same fare codes( A, F and P). 

Malaysia Airlines Business Suites: lounge access, frequent flyer points 

That premium positioning will include access to Malaysia Airlines’ first class lounges at Kuala Lumpur and London, with KL's First Class Golden Lounge being renamed as the Business Suites Golden Lounge to reflect the airline's post-first era.

AusBT review: Malaysia Airlines first class lounge, Kuala Lumpur

However, Business Suites passengers won't be admitted to the first class lounges of Oneworld partner airlines such as Qantas when Malaysia Airlines' A350 and A380 jets fly between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur (unless of course they also hold Oneworld Emerald-grade frequent flyer status).

From a points-earning perspective, Business Suites passengers will earn the same number of Enrich Miles as did first class (again, under the same A, F and P fare categories), although how Oneworld partner airlines classify Business Suites earning rates under their own frequent flyer schemes remains to be seen.

Redeeming frequent flyer points on a Business Suites trip will require fewer points than today’s first class but more than business class, as a reflection of the revised pricing scheme.

The cost of upgrading from business class to Business Suites has also beed reduced, compared to first class: a business-to-first upgrade between Kuala Lumpur and London currently requires 85,000 or 95,000 Enrich Miles depending your ticket category, but business-to-Suites will be just 70,000 or 80,000 Enrich Miles.

Where you can fly Malaysia Airlines’ Business Suites

Malaysia Airlines rosters its six Airbus A350s onto the flagship Kuala Lumpur - London route, along with services to Tokyo/Narita and Osaka and, based on seasonal demand, Sydney.

Although the Airbus A380s are primarily used for Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca, they also appear on popular routes such as London and Sydney to satisfy increased demand during peak seasons.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

17 comments

  • Melbzone

    henry_168

    8 Dec, 2018 03:58 pm

    Is MH bringing their A350 to Melbourne? They have recently started SYD - KUL. Any idea guys?
    No member give thanks

  • Mal

    Mal

    8 Dec, 2018 04:01 pm

    Well this certainly qualifies as an interesting move! I wonder how many travel managers will fall for the "Business Suites is business class" line and not notice the same booking codes as first class?
    No member give thanks

  • alyopsis

    alyopsis

    8 Dec, 2018 04:30 pm

    Agreeing with Mal. I can see what they are trying to do but will it work ?
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  • AsiaBizTraveller

    AsiaBizTraveller

    8 Dec, 2018 04:52 pm

    This is a creative solution to a first class product that's simply not competitive, especially on the A350s, and which is not selling from what I can see. It's a surprise they are not changing anything but the name and the price though. If MH can convince business class passengers to buy up to Business Suites or if this lets some business travellers sneak their way into what is otherwise first class, good on MH.
    No member give thanks

  • Dan Ho

    djtech

    8 Dec, 2018 07:21 pm

    There was economy, business and first. Then, economy, premium economy, business and first. BUT NOW, it would be economy, premium economy, business and premium business!

    Smart move to SCAM companies into buying first class. Not sure it that works but ok. Their first class is uncompetitve and now that seems a bit more fair. I welcome the discounting of the first class product!
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  • xtfer

    xtfer

    8 Dec, 2018 11:27 pm

    Now, if they would just rebrand Business to "Economy Suites", I think this might work...
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  • boonsiong lim

    lbs890213

    9 Dec, 2018 03:47 am

    Can I assume , if I redeem from one world partner , Mile required still first class amount .
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  • Aidan

    Aidan

    9 Dec, 2018 10:34 am

    This will be very comfortable option from Australia to KUL. The pricing now more aligned with what is offered.
    Good move I say, who doesn’t want cheaper first class opportunities?
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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    9 Dec, 2018 11:40 pm

    So this is basically just a rebranding exercise?
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    10 Dec, 2018 06:06 am

    This would be appropriate for Qantas to do also. Their a380 "First" class hasn't kept up with the times, and recognizing that with lower fares and a new name would be more indicative of the actual product.
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  • Adam T

    AT

    10 Dec, 2018 09:20 am

    Vast vast majority of corporates (unless you’re C level) top out at business class, and I’d be surprised if ANY travel manager approved “Premium Business” period. With booking classes really reflecting First this is a hard sell, and my bet is corporate booking tools return “out of policy” response.
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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    10 Dec, 2018 01:58 pm

    Honesty in marketing! Qantas could learn from this.
    No member give thanks

  • jskf01

    jskf01

    10 Dec, 2018 06:23 pm

    How do we check if a particular flight is utilising the A350 on a particular date? Have relos flying in Jan so was wondering
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  • Roy Chen

    durnvase

    11 Dec, 2018 01:25 am

    How will partner airlines award redemption work ? Counted as business class such as 40,000 one way SYD-KUL ?
    No member give thanks

  • jjj aaa

    jjj

    11 Dec, 2018 04:02 pm

    I'm booked on a first class flight SYD - NRT via KUL using points, does this mean I won't have access to the Qantas Syd F Lounge? I have already been ticketed in "First" cabin and class "P"... I will check the redemption rates tomorrow and report back here.
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    Aidan

  • Aidan

    Aidan

    26 Dec, 2018 08:22 am

    Let us know how you go, it’s a good question..
    No member give thanks

  • jjj aaa

    jjj

    26 Jan, 2019 01:24 am

    Sadly, upon using the MH manage my booking, my ticket is now classed as Business Suites - will have to try my luck at the F lounge on the day...
    No member give thanks

Guest

18 Feb, 2019 09:56 pm

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