Malaysia Airlines Goes Dry On Shorthaul Flights

Filed Under: Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines is on the very slow road to recovery, following the disastrous year they had in 2014, when two of their 777s crashed.

Malaysia Airlines is under the leadership of one of the most brilliant “crisis” airline CEOs out there, Christoph Mueller. And overall they’re making positive but difficult changes — they’re doing huge layoffs, greatly reducing their route network, retiring planes, introducing a new business class product, etc.

In general it sure seems like they realize that their best chance at being successful is to emerge as a smaller airline with a focus on quality and service. Which is why their policy change as of this year is puzzling.

Via SQTalk, as of January 1, 2016, Malaysia Airlines is “dry” on flights of three hours or less. Malaysia Airlines hasn’t served alcohol on flights within Malaysia for a long time, though they’ve still served it on regional flights to other countries in Asia.

Malaysia-Airlines-Lounge-Kuala-Lumpur - 43

For example, on my recent flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bali I had a couple of gin & tonics, which was part of their fairly extensive alcohol selection.

Malaysia-Business-Class-737 - 35

Becoming more “dry” is a curious move, as the airline is presumably hoping to improve service to attract customers. I suppose there are two possible explanations for Malaysia no longer serving alcohol on flights of under three hours:

  • It’s a cost cutting technique, given Malaysia’s financial situation
  • Malaysia is trying to “compete” with the new Malaysian Shariah-compliant airline, which just recently launched; many have been pushing for Malaysia Airlines to be Shariah-compliant, though it’s odd they’d only eliminate alochol on flights of under three hours if that was the explanation

My guess is that it’s a combination of the two. It’s likely a cost cutting measure which they can now better justify than ever before, given the new airline which just recently launched in Malaysia.

But it’s a bad decision. If Malaysia Airlines truly wants to succeed, they have to look beyond their home market. Presumably they’re hoping to transport passengers traveling between other countries, like from the Europe or Australia to destinations in Southeast Asia other than Malaysia. Not being able to offer a business class passenger on a connecting flight a glass of wine is pretty bad, given that virtually all other airlines in Southeast Asia don’t have a similar policy.

Bottom line

I’d be curious about the rationale behind this decision. My guess is that it’s a cost cutting measure which is being justified in the name of complying to “local” standards. Otherwise they’d presumably also cut alcohol on longhaul flights.

What do you make of Malaysia Airlines’ decision to become “dry” on flights of three hours or less?

  1. Seems like an awful idea. I can’t blame them for wanting to comply with religious customs but am with you that limiting it to the short flights is contradictory.

    Not that alcohol availability will dictate the choices of most flyers, but if the flight cost and schedules are similar I think i’d rather fly Thai, Singapore, Garuda or Vietnam for short haul flights around SE Asia.

  2. I think I’d rather go get drunk on TG or SQ. Not that many people in their home base can fund their recovery in full. If compared to how much they price their tickets vs the PPP of an average Malaysian, I can say that most would go fly from KLIA low cost, Air asia.
    So regardless, it wouldn’t work.

  3. I really think it’s more a cost cutting measure. Almost half of Malaysia isn’t even Muslim. Serving alcohol is more expensive in most cases than soda.

    On a side note, not too sure how brilliant their crisis manager is. A brilliant manager probably wouldn’t allow for the while “no hold luggage” PR disaster they went through recently.

  4. Personally Im happy they are going dry. As a non-drinker, having to sit next to a drinker and smell his alcohol breath (or even the whiff from his glass) is off-putting for me. He may enjoy his drink, but I dont enjoy his drink. I like how airlines have made our skies smoke free. Now lets hope for an alcohol-free sky. Those who want to gorge let them do it in their own homes. I dont need to smell it.
    Here’s hoping more airline go down the dry route.

  5. I flew SGN to KUL in business on Jan 2nd. Much to my surprise I wasn’t able to get a glass of red wine. I asked when this started and was told a “while ago”. I was sure I had a drink on BKK to KUL im December but put it down to my general level of confusion after NYE.
    My view is that it’s 100% cost cutting which makes thier regional business class a little bit less appealing.

  6. Lucky, I need to correct you, there is another crapt airlines i.e. Royal Brunei is also completely dry both short & long hauls. It’s not making profit since operations.

  7. I have just learned about this the hard way, on four regional flights on MH. Next time I will take Bangkok Airways.

  8. Much to my surprise KUL to PNH on Jan 3rd Business class 737-800 no booze! I was like WHAT! She said yes dry all flights 3 hours and under. Funny because 4/4 of us all asked for a wine or drink. I will fly Air Asia now or Bangkok Airways. I will not fly MH anymore due to this change. If they REALLY want to go dry. Then gut the lounges also at KUL! Enjoy that MH bye!

  9. @ HT. I believe people in life enjoy choices, just because you don’t drink does not mean that other’s should not be allowed or not given the option. You might enjoy something I don’t, does that mean I don’t want you to enjoy it anymore just because I don’t like it.

    I don’t like Kids, So I don’t have any, there are plenty of screaming kids on planes, what do I do, I just deal with it.

  10. I’m Gold in MAS and used to fly them 2 or 3 times a month. I have stopped it. There are better alternatives like Garuda, SQ and Thai, and even LH and KL. Old planes, not too clean, mostly those awful 737’s. Nah, they have lost it.

  11. Cost cutting is one thing, but I also believe there may be more to it. There’s seemingly a lot of political (and to a degree religious) involvement with the airline and alcohol is just one area which is being focussed upon.

    I guess they have a stronger argument to maintain alcohol on long haul flights to accomodate international/western travellers, where as local and regional flights do not have quite the same impact.

  12. Only alcohol addicts will need a drink for a three hour flight. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing – the majority of their customers are from their home base. It may not suit you lucky, but you’re not their primary market

  13. Hate religious fuckers that push their beliefsite onto others. But they hate others push their beliefs onto them.

    Hypocritical losers

  14. I don’t think their best choice in the short term is to focus on anyone outside Malaysia. I live in Indonesia, and basically anyone I who comes to me and asks for cheap flights, even the mention of MH makes them gag. Basically, with my friends and family, there are two untouchables – Malaysia and Lion Air. I understand that MH is almost totally not at fault for their two accidents (while Lion is more than deserving of its reputation. Like seriously), but no one seems to want to take the airline unless there’s no other choice. For Malaysians, it pretty much is, while for other Asians, we have our own airlines, and there’s no good reason to take Malaysia anymore, especially since their long haul route network is being cut down and short haul, regional and budget airlines are getting the attention (and money). So I think this is a smart move on their part, to attract marketshare at home, where they need to focus for now to grow again, and to cut costs.

  15. @ H.T. It’s a beverage, not nail polish. In the immortal words of Sgt. Hulka…”Lighten up Francis.”

  16. This seems like an awful and stupid idea.
    I can’t blame them for wanting to comply with religious customs but am with you that limiting it to the short flights is contradictory. The impact will be on selling MH as a product for further connections in SE Asia

    I think i’d rather fly Cathay, Dragonair or Vietnam for short haul flights around SE Asia.

  17. It’s always amusing how there are so many alcoholics flying (yes, if you NEED a drink on a short haul flight you’re an alcoholic). You don’t see the same on trains, buses and cars.

  18. @Callum,

    No punt, but where to you gather your belongings and prepare for a bus-ride with 3+ hours,
    No we are not alcoholics, but we have been educated by the legacy carriers that a Bloody Mary is often more the compulsory drink in the Morning – either than Coffee.

    I have been working the “back-end” of this business for close too 18 years, and the cost of a soda vs. the cost of a miniature bottle of booze is not towards your liking. The big suppliers of “Bottled booze” tender, and find the market as a great place to market their products, so the airlines pay close to zero (less than USD 0,50) pr. miniature bottle – Coke and Pepsi are tougher than that….

    Happy Hour folks,

  19. Wouldn’t have flown MAS anyways due to status (SAS Gold Star Alliance forever) and knowledge from travel that anything via changi is cheap. I would go out of my way to fly SQ cause you know their old planes are on their way out and MAS is a carrier with a question mark hanging over its head plus the fact that you get your money’s worth with SQ.

  20. Are we going to see dirt cheap biz class fares once they drop alcohol?

    If they r selling regional biz class fares at economy rate without alcohol, i applaud them. If they r selling biz class fares $50 cheaper without alcohol, gd luck!

    It seems that MH is still ran by people sitting in ivory towers.

  21. I can’t think of a single business, especially an airline, that has downsize to profitability. Simply just doesn’t happen. As far as no alcohol . . . another mistake since SELLING alcohol in economy class virtually pays for all the other soft drinks consumed on most flights.

  22. I was just about to book BKK-KUL-MNL R/T in Business when I decided to check if they still serve Champagne in Business and in lounges. Needless to say I was stunned to find out about this new dry policy. Forcing a Moslem Prayer down everyone’s throat in the inflight safety video was already incredibly insensitive from an international airline serving customers of countless different faiths.

    Malaysia is not an island. They need to compete with other regional operators. With this decision they will alienate a large number of customers and further aggravate their dire financial state.

    I find it difficult to believe this to be a decision made by C. Müller but I certainly hope he will get to read these comments. Interestingly enough the MAS website has no ” Contact ” option available. They are obviously not interested in what their customers think.

    It goes without saying I did NOT book the MAS flight after all.

    As to those fatalists claiming the desire to enjoy a glass of wine or champagne together with a good meal makes one an alcoholic I can only say that such an intolerant and judgmental mindset is behind a lot of the recent violence and hatred the world has seen in the past few years.

  23. Just came off flight MH794 from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket and confirm that the flight was dry and the flight attendant confirmed that all flights now have no alcohol served on durations of less than three hours. Furthermore there were no menus (presumably as they will have to re-print them without the wine list!). What a downgrade in service and not at all what Christoph Mueller was promising. Plus the cabin was dirty and food very average indeed.

  24. I spent a few hours in the much-diminished MAS F lounge last night. The lounge staff (FAs on furlough?) were friendly and chatty and kept my champagne glass full. The assam laksa was quite good (no more lobsters!) Every one of them asked me where I was headed (BKK), but not one mentioned my flight would be dry. I paid 60 bucks for a standby upgrade, not so much for the booze, but c’mon, it’s an international flight. I was not a happy camper when the FA (with a pained look on her face) informed me the flight was dry. TG and SQ still serve, even in economy. I asked the FAs the reason for the decision. The official line was “We do not know, please complain.” And I was handed a comment form and a business card with a customer service number. Poor MH. What a disaster!

  25. BKK>KUL>DPS>KUL>BKK no booze in December in Business. Sure made the strip search for suspicion of drug smuggling upon arrival in DPS less appealing.

  26. yep, jumped on the KUL to BKK Business in Jan and asked for a wine as I always do….and oh sorry no wine, no alcohol….WTF!!! Its business class you idiots, don’t burn your best customers with crap like this or you will go under, there are a few of us supporting you, don’t do this, please reverse this ASAP.

    While you are at it the KLAI Golden lounges are shocking, they are not a business class lounge, the food is horrifically bad and the cheap wine is discussing….and the shower….and the service….and god its all bad.

    You cabin service is good, please reward your people for there good work, the fight from KUL to ADL is great.

  27. Just flew BKK – KUL in business class and was more than a little surprised that MH will no longer provide me with even a glass of wine to accompany my meal!

    It’d be outrageous in economy class, but absolutely ridiculous for this to happen in business class! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

    The biz cabin flight attendant received negative comments from the majority of biz passengers & clearly seemed uneasy & embarrassed at having to break this news to her passengers.

    Remember, there’s plenty of other choices out there Malaysia Airlines & with the exception of Royal Brunei, NONE of them have this alcohol free policy. A stupid, short sighted move MH – something you need to remedy promptly.

  28. Really stupid call from management, I feel for the poor staff have to deal with the pissed off customers. In December there was alcohol BKK to KUL but when I returned in Jan it was dry and the staff were really embraced and most people were asking why this stupid idea was been implemented. MH, if you really want to upset your customers then continue with this, I will look else wear now, plenty of options. In fact if you really want to increase your customer base then you need to put on more wine options and better quality sparkling wine, and the lounges are of a very poor standard with the cheapest wine that can be purchased. Please reconsider this or you will end up gone from the skys

  29. Flew BKK to KUL on 2/3/2016. Had I known MAS had gone dry would never have booked them. Food awful and plane 20% full. This aspect of the re-branding is a disaster. They need to change this policy immediately as this will cost them dearly.

    I for one will never fly them ever again. TG must better option on this route.

    The idiots that dreamt this up should be fired.

  30. Just booked SGN-MNL in business. The best and cheapest options for me was CZ or MH. As CZ are 100 usd cheaper and get very good reviews in e.g. SKYTRAX, the choice was easy despite I loose out One World miles by forsaking MH. In China Southern one is full pampered in business. If MH was not running dry I would have preferrred them at equal fares.

  31. What a bad experience with MAS after flying with them for so many years. New training for MAS is : sorry .. We don’t have this or we don’t serve this anymore. The steward or stewardess are practising to reply the same answers almost everyday. What a shame to us.
    Food served in a paper box not being well managed. I had diarrhea after taking the chicken served with rice .. Suffering 🙁
    Cost cutting is needed but there are many way to implement. Can do it staged by stages.

  32. Flew MH69 TPE-BKI (Taipei to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia) last week in J and no alcohol available. Flight blocked at 3.5 hours. A “full” breakfast served in J on the flight, which departed 8a and arrived 11:30a. Although the Teh Tarik (hot milk tea) was awesome, not having opportunity for a drink was a bit strange, though not a surprise given this post.

    So appears that MH is dry on all (?) regional flights, not just those under 3 hours.

  33. not surprising…all flights headed this way…its a religious based airline now…based out of the “Saudi of Asia”. It doen’t matter if they get more customers or not, it’s state based and this is what the leader are been bribed to do.

  34. flew DPS – KUL last week in Y-class and saw red and white wine bottles on the trolley, but did not have any as I was expecting to get some in the lounge (I am enrich GOLD) and later onwards on my connecting flight to BKK. Did not have any wine at the lounge as I was more craving for a decent Latte and then was very surprised and annoyed that there was non wine on the KUL-BKK leg.

    It seems to already backfire, though, as they offer ridiculously low BUSINESS CLASS fares out of Thailand (Promo til May 29, flights til June 30).

    HKT – KUL – MNL -KUL – HKT for 6700 Baht – that is cheaper than flying economy on AirAsia
    BKK – KUL – DPS – KUL – BKK for 10500 Baht…… no comment

    indeed those religious Clowns now get what they deserve….

  35. I love the airline apart from this. However, the gap is somehow made up for in their generous lounges.

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