And the latest airline to (more or less) stop releasing first class award space is…

*Drum roll please*

Malaysia Airlines!

Back in February Malaysia Airlines formally joined the OneWorld alliance, an addition I was quite excited about. Not only do they open up a lot of new destinations and routes to OneWorld, but they are also one of the dozen or so airlines operating the A380, so it was a great new airline on which you could redeem OneWorld miles for first class.

The A380s are actually the only aircraft in their fleet which feature a first class cabin, and they fly them exclusively to London, Paris, and Hong Kong. Even though Malaysia Airlines has the smallest first class cabins of any airline operating the A380, they regularly released 2-4 first class award seats per flight.

Anyway, in the past week or two I’ve noticed that they’ve greatly reduced the amount of first class award space they’re releasing, both close to departure and far in advance. I can’t find any first class award space to Hong Kong or Paris, and it looks like they’re releasing one first class award seat per flight on the London route when the schedule opens. I’m fine with them not releasing a lot of space in advance, but what I find strange is that they’re not releasing first class award space for flights with empty cabins even close to departure.

Here’s to hoping this is just a “phase.”

Has anyone else noticed the same?

Filed Under: Awards, Malaysia
  1. WRONG! The latest airline that stopped releasing F inventory and that actually will affect 100’s of FFers’s…. BA. Pretty serious cant believe there is so little about it yet…

  2. Also, having just watched Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, nothing can shock me any more.

  3. @lucky, were those F class seats available for booking for AAdvantage award redemptions before?

  4. just to clarify: do you mean that they aren’t releasing it to members of their own FF program, or just not to oneworld partners?

  5. @lucky – Thanks! I hope it’s a phase too. I was eyeing the HKG-KUL route, but thought it didn’t require any sense of urgency. Plus, some people on FT claim they were phantom availability and agents were not able reserve those F seats showing up on BA’s site.

  6. They still release F award seats but only to their FF Enrich program. I saw some on CDG-KUL and HKG-KUL route in September (I checked Sept 2nd, 2013).
    You can transfer Aussie Amex membership rewards points to Malaysia FF Enrich but not American Amex MR points šŸ™

  7. I noticed this past weekend that there was TONS of availability on ALL TG F routes (except London). Then it all disappeared at the start of this week. I thought it was just a glitch on the weekend or something but am kicking myself for not booking anything.

  8. @Gene – Wow, I must be jet lagged. No idea why I read Thai instead of Malaysian. Ignore my comment above…

  9. Like most award programs, I guess they want you to HOLD your points/miles so they can devalue them again – before you use them. At the end of the day, most carriers are obligated to have an awards program, but they would much prefer to have your butt at the back end of the airplane. Yep, at least by their accounting, giving up two coach seats for award use is better than even one First Class seat. Expect to see more of this downgrading on other carriers. Even when they do not sell all of their FC seats – and we know that the real costs associated with FC service about probably under 10% of the base fare (probably 5%-7%?), the don’t want free loaders up front. They make enough Coach seats available to avoid any serious claims of non-delivery and they get away with it. Truth told, they just don’t want you up front unless you are paying the real dollars that keep them slightly in the black. And yes, airline margins really are that tight. Anytime they have to refuse a seat to a fare-paying First Class pax, because the seat has been allocated on an award ticket, some poor planner does the $10k carpet dance. The only real surprise here is that availability does not open a bit at the very last minute, even with multiple seats available.
    One always wonders about First Class Catering provisions… While it does not really cost them a lot when compared to the total fare, each head (or mouth) is an expense in real dollars. Try a few models and think about how YOU would cater the flight. We’ll assume a ten hour flight that includes a major meal (some kind of dinner service), a minor meal (breakfast before landing?) and hot service snacks between the two services. We’ll also assume a 8-seat First Class cabin, the airlines standard First Class menus for your flight and the season, (with beverage stocks excluded – because they are easy to adjust). We’ll also assume they usual two or three first course choices, a choice of three entrees, bulk loaded salads and desserts. So how would YOU order catering for the First Class cabin of 8 seats:
    With One confirmed passenger, I’d order:
    With TWO confirmed pax, I’d order:
    With SIX seats filled, I’d order:
    With a Full House of EIGHT, I can take some guesses about what would be ordered, certain not three entrees x 8=24, but close to it. How the heck do they do it? I’ve been in FC seats where I was offered tons of extras (some worth the stuffing, some not) as well as paid FC seats where I was told, “Sorry, that’s ‘not available.’
    You will have to make your own guesses about the real costs of catering for long haul, First Class seats. If flying on a no cost award ticket, I might be a bit forgiving about the ‘sorry, not available response.’ I’ve also flown on paid F-Class tickets (not my $, thank God!), and at that price, typically $8k-$10k or more, I do not expect to hear the words ‘sorry,’ or ‘no,’ during my flight. Five percent of an $8000 fare is $400. Seven percent is $560. One can do a LOT within those catering budgets and I’m reasonably sure that no airline budgets 7%, even when considering fluffy staff and amenity kits. Soooo, with ten hours, eight seats and one, two three, or eight seats expected, how would YOU provision the front cabin?
    Of note: This silly inquiry is not directed toward our Master Poster, Ben, but is open to to all readers. I want to know how you would approach this. Yes, this is certainly a First world issue, but we CAN talk about it. And yes, I acknowledge that any reasonable answers will include some wasted food. I don’t like waste, others need the food and that is simply not part of this question. Again, How would you provision the front eights seats with one, two, six and eight seats occupied, 24 hours before departure? Have fun!

  10. Have to agree with @db – BA’s F space has also totally dried up from N America. Bad days ahead…

  11. I, for one, am shocked, terribly shocked that airlines diminish their F availability shortly after a new way to exploit it is discovered that is descended on like piranhas on a side of beef.

    I mean, really, EK reduced F after a bunch of AS redemptions occur? AS and FI are no longer partners after everyone figures out that an FI miles promo gets you cheap AS F award seats? AV jacks prices up once people figure out you can use it to get into LH F and SQ premium cabins (and those loopholes are eventually closed)? LH closed off F redemptions to US after a ton of cheap miles were generated and burned on LH? MH reduces their F inventory after people find out you can book MH F at Y prices with Avios? Who could have seen this happening? WHOOCOULDANODE?

  12. Good thing I’m already booked on LHR – KUL and KUL – HKG in F for next month on MH.

    When I was planning my trip a about a month and half ago, and my friend wanted to tag along in coach using AA miles. Interestingly, the only availability the AA agents could pull up were F seats at about 6-8 weeks out. J and Y were all sold out. As an alternative, I also tried calling AS Mileage plan for CX Y seats and they were sold out as well.

    I guess it has been a few weeks since I called, but has anyone had simmilar experiences?

  13. @ EthanSF — Yep, both CX and MH are very stingy when it comes to releasing coach award space, oddly.

  14. Hi Ben

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the insights that you are providing, your blog is one of my favorites!

  15. Hi Lucky –

    I am currently booked on my HKG-KUL segment on CX Business…for early Dec 13

    I tried checking for MH 73 (A380) award space release and found nothing. Followed it up by checking expertflyer which showed F8.

    Looks like they are indeed getting stingier

  16. @lucky – just checked the new BA Tool. MH73 (the A380 on the HKG) route is open now, but only for business!

    Do you think it’s worth the time calling in AA to get my CX booking changed to at least the MH Business one first while waiting for First to open up?


  17. @ Steve — Unfortunately MH doesn’t seem to be opening up first class space, but their business class is still definitely better than CX’s regional business class. Do you know if you’re on a longhaul or regional configured CX plane?

  18. tentatively… regional configured… again luck of the draw with possible equipment change but not holding out for it

  19. @lucky – just made the call to get my flight segments changed… I am apparently told by the agent that I am booked in Business for the MH A380 flight but my system is showing up as Fare Class: U, and Cabin class: economy… what is the disconnect here?


  20. @ Steve — Nothing to worry about, that’s a common glitch with American’s website. As long as the fare code shows as “U” class you’ll be in business.

  21. Does the new BA site search for the F availability correctly?

    Not seei anything for the KUL-HKG flight I’m on. Available online on Malaysia’s FFP site, but I’m trying to figure out if that’s a difference in what they release to their members vs partners, or if the BA site is wrong.

  22. @ Tom — It does indeed accurately reflect the space they release to partner airlines… which is very, very little in first class.

  23. @Tom – were you able to get some F class from C.S reps (not via Malaysian)

    @Lucky – I am guessing you were saying that BA’s website is accurate and that it seems like Malaysia is keeping award for their own members

  24. Well, it seems it’s not a phase – I have scoured far and wide over the past week, for every month for the following year, and there just seems to be no First Class availability on any of the A380 flights between LHR/KUL and HKG via BAEC! Very disappointing!

  25. Hi Lucky,
    I think its like the Singapore and United thing, and they require you to ring to find out the availability.
    So sign up to Enrich Miles and look for availability and then call AA and give them the details.

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