Sad: Malaysia Airlines Rethinks 737 Flat Beds

Malaysia Airlines has been through a lot in the past several years. The airline was already struggling financially, and then they lost two of their 777s just months apart. This shocking chain of events caused a lot of people to avoid the airline, adding further to their problems.

The airline has generally been heading in the right direction, though, as they’ve made necessary cuts in terms of their fleet, workforce, etc. I might not agree with all of their changes (like cuts to their frequent flyer program, which seems counterintuitive), but I have respect for the work they’re trying to do.


Malaysia Airlines 737

Malaysia Airlines has been refreshing their fleet. This has included taking delivery of six Airbus A350s. Initially these were intended to replace their Airbus A380s, though the airline never retired those, so…


Malaysia Airlines A350

On top of that, the airline has 25 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on order. This includes 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 10 aircraft, the first of which the airline should take delivery of early next year.

Presently Malaysia’s 737s have a pretty typical regional configuration.

Business class consists of recliner seats with solid legroom, though it’s not that different than domestic first class within the US.

In mid-2017 I wrote about how the airline was planning on upping their game with their Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft. At the time AusBT reported that on these planes Malaysia Airlines would be installing fully flat beds in business class with direct aisle access from every seat.

Malaysia Airlines’ CEO at the time, Peter Bellew, said the following:

“I’m shamelessly copying what JetBlue have done with Mint, which is a fantastically innovative transcontinental product in the US

Thompson are working on the final design at the moment, but we’ll have 16 business class seats in the Boeing 737 MAX 10s… we have the space to do that (although) we’ll probably have to go a bit further back in the aircraft.”

I loved the idea of them taking inspiration from JetBlue Mint, and liked the idea of a door for added privacy. However, even in JetBlue Mint not all seats featured direct aisle access, so it would have had to be an even better product.

Well, unfortunately there’s an update on this front, and it’s not good. At the time that decision was made, Peter Bellew was the CEO of Malaysia Airlines. Just months later he quit, and took the job of COO at Ryanair.

That’s one of the problems Malaysia Airlines has had — they’ve gone through so many management teams, and no management team has been around long enough to execute on any of their ideas.

So with Malaysia Airlines’ first 737 MAX about a year away, what’s the update on the business class product these planes will have? As reported by AusBT, Malaysia Airlines is now rethinking installing flat beds on their 737 MAX aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines’ head of customer experience has said that they are rethinking that plan, and hope to have a final decision by April of this year.

They’re apparently considering introducing a subfleet with flat beds to operate some of the longer flights, but also note that it’s much more efficient to have a single configuration for the purposes of fleet commonality.

So while it’s still possible that they’ll install flat beds on their 737 MAX aircraft, if I were a betting man I’d say with near certainty that they don’t. The reality is that companies don’t become innovative by mistake, so if you’re been talking about a product like this for almost two years and still haven’t decided, chances are that it isn’t happening, since it takes more than a few months to develop a product like this.

The problem with Malaysia Airlines is that it’s very much a “chicken or egg” situation. Malaysia Airlines’ premium cabin yields aren’t good at all — the airline consistently has really low business class fares. Is this simply because there’s no demand for it, or is this a case of “build a good product and they will come?”

Do you think Malaysia Airlines will end up installing flat beds on their 737 MAX aircraft?

Comments

  1. Also copying Qatar Airways I guess……… But I don’t think this will save them. I wonder if it will be a 1-1 configuration or some staggered 2-2 one.

  2. “with direct aisle access from every seat” – I haven’t flown MINT, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I though their rows with two seats did not have direct aisle access from the window seat? In which case, isn’t this going to be more like F on the AA 321T? In which case, that’s even more exciting…

  3. If they’re in discussions with Thompson, perhaps they’re going for the 1-1 configuration of “Vantage Solo.” (See the brochure on) http://www.thompsonaero.com/vantage) It looks like an improved version of the herringbone style, with more privacy and personal space. Regardless of the actual product, an all-direct-aisle access seat product on a narrowbody plane would be awesome to have. 🙂 If only that would happen in the US… :-\

  4. And not even a beer on an up to 3 hours flight…
    I can live dry for a long time , but please let me have the choice…

  5. @GottaFly, ah, I forgot about that. >_< But that's 3-class F and only offered on a smattering of routes. I was thinking more along the lines of a more widespread and available *business class* product. 🙂 I guess technically DL offers all aisle access on some of their transcons when flown by widebodies…

  6. The seats will be Thompson Vantage Solo, similar to Cathay Pacific’s old long-haul business class aka “coffin class.” This is still a long way to go. But another Asian airline will be introducing fully-flat business class seats on their A321neo by early next year, and you will be surprised which airline that is.

  7. I’m flying Malaysia Airlines from Kul to Pvg on the A330 . They have a second flight that operates with a 737. It’s a 5 1/2 hour flight. I checked on their website and seat guru to make sure my flight has the new business class seats.

  8. Not even direct aisle access on regional flights are good enough to get me on board MH. Their crew has some SERIOUS attitude issues – some even worse than US3 crews in my experience. Their neighbours Singapore and Garuda, however..

  9. Thompson released a new ”Solo” Business Class with direct aisle access and herringbone seats. It looks pretty damn good tbh.

  10. Obviously, from a yield perspective, lie-flat for MH makes no sense, but one factor that may work for the argument of lie-flat is the fact that MH’s MAX 8 has to effectively compete most with SilkAir, which is being folded into SQ and moving to an all lie-flat J config in the next few years.

  11. This is the second post in a row that has been a republish of a previous post together with the comments from that post (Al Maha too). Tech issues??

  12. Living in Thailand I fly MH regionally because they have the cheapest business fares around, save Malindo Air. However, they have a bit of an identity crisis and do struggle charging more. Competition is fierce and their labor force senior. On the low end of the market, LCC’s litter KLIA2. On the high end, SQ is right next door, and somehow manage to charge 2x-4x on the same routes.

    This is not the way to profitability: They need to reinvent themselves and invest in their product.

    —JRL

  13. They could have QSuites for all I care and I still wouldn’t fly them. What is a good seat if served by rude flight attendants delivering you bad food with a side of attitude?

  14. Thompson Solo should allow more seats in the same space as planes that would have had the JetBlue Mint style seats or Rockwell Collins (B/E) Diamond seats (ie 757). 33″ pitch is pretty awesome.

  15. @raul

    I just flew MH twice in the last 3 weeks on longhaul biz flights. On each segment, their staff were friendly and accommodating. Sure, not as polished as SQ, but still better than what you would get in the US. I would not hesitate to fly them again if I find myself in that part of the world.

  16. @Ray

    some of the best food and loveliest service I’ve had on a plane was on an MH flight, a recent one for that matter.

    MH can be very very good on a good day.

  17. It is hard to see how putting an one-off expensive luxury product on 737s changes anything for MH. Sure, that woild make for an interesting post, but without additional upgrades to products and services, it probably won’t change minds about the airline. There must be better uses for that investment.

    I’ve flown MH once and thought its current long-haul and regional business- class product and service were more than satisfactory for the price. (Chicken satay galore.) However two months ago while sitting in the deserted Golden Lounge first class restaurant, a lady with an English accent came in visibly upset. She treated the staff like you know what, complained that MH was the world’s worst airline, and finally stormed out swearing when something about the menu failed to meet her expectations. Staff said she had been on a cancelled flight from the previous day. It was a reminder that making a scene won’t improve a bad situation and only makes the one who is upset feel worse not better.

  18. MH is not a premium airlineandb they can’t charge the fares necessary to make flat seats work.
    They have to fix their horrendous ground and call center service and their indifferent inflight crews first.
    Until then, people wanting premium service will continue to fly Malaysia’s real flag carrier, SQ!

  19. I can reliably confirm that Malaysia Airlines is working towards converting their original purchase agreement with Boeing to a firm order for 25 Boeing 737 MAX 8 only. I can also confirm that they will not be installing flat beds on this type, and will stick to a two class config, which is expected to have more seats than on their 737-800s.

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