... except if you're flying on an airline, like Malaysia Airlines, which allows cheap upgrades!
Dubbed MH Upgrade, MAS allows you to "bid" an amount of your choosing on each individual leg(s) of your flight to upgrade to the next class. 48 hours before the flight if there's space available (and you bid higher than anybody else) - tadaa! You get bumped up. We bid the minimum of SGD50 for the SG-KL legs, and SGD300 for the KL-Sydney legs, which meant paying a total of SGD1,220 return for a business class ticket to Sydney and back - an absolute steal!
Despite being a bargain-basement fare, this ticket comes with the full suite of Biz Class privileges, including 40kg baggage allowance, a separate check-in counter, and access to the Airline's airport lounges. The MAS Golden Lounge in Singapore's Changi airport is practically deserted - which is a plus for us as we have our pick of sofas in the main lounge area plus 'private' usage of the Massage Chair room.
A more business-oriented traveller or high-flying corporate guy might find better usage of the business center - equipped with PC's, a multifunction printer, and an assortment of magazines and journals.
But as hubby and I are on holiday we find ourselves more interested in the food - free flow of soft drinks, juices, hot drinks, some beer and a limited number of dishes. Soup, satay, some fish, vegetables, rice and noodles. The food isn't anything great - if anything it's a lot below par what's on offer in the other Changi Airport eateries.
For the 40-minute flight from SG to KL, we're in the regional Boeing 737-800. This is one of Malaysia Airlines' newest cabins, but it's designed for short-haul and regional flights, so we get a recliner seat (instead of some sort of flat bed). It's plenty comfortable, though - an additional 4" of seat width and 12" of leg room compared to economy. Plus cushioned arm rests and a small table area for cups and glasses.
With only 8 seats in the Business Class cabin, you get a lot more attention from the cabin attendants, so no problems whatsoever in getting as much drinks, snacks and food as you can swallow. The SG - KL flight is really short though; after considering take-off and prepare-to-land time there's barely 10-15 minutes to wolf down whatever's served.
While transiting in KL we also naturally visit the Golden Lounge in KLIA. It's pretty much the same story - sofas, tables, free-flow drinks and subpar food. Oh, and the lounges do supply towels, shampoo and shower gel - hubby went ahead to take a shower and brush his teeth for the heck of it.
Onwards to Sydney, then! We've got the Airbus A330-300 for this leg of the flight. These Business Class seats get a nominal 2.5" extra seat width but a whopping 28" of extra leg room as compared to economy. Plus when you're ready to get some shut-eye it reclines to an angled, 6'3"-long fully-flat bed!
Emphasis on "angled," however. MAS' other premium-airline competitors like Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Emirates, Cathay etc have all started upgrading their long haul Business Class seats to fully-flat, so MAS is perhaps lagging behind a little bit. The angle on MAS' seat means that in the natural course of tossing and turning you gradually slide lower and lower until you need to wake up and 'push' yourself back up the bed. Hubby also thought the TV was a tad bit low for his height (he felt he was "looking down" too much).
Standard amenities supplied: eye mask, mouth wash, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste, noise-reducing headphones for the in-flight entertainment.
Meal time comes around and we're started off with MAS signature Satay (chicken, beef and kambing available), served with liberal amounts of peanut sauce. The satay is surprisingly very, very good (for airplane food standard lah) and we dare say the best dish we've ever eaten while cruising at 30,000 feet.
In-line with other premium carriers, MAS Chef on Call service allows you to pre-order your meal from an extended range of 10-15 "fine dining" dishes. I go with the Omelette with Cheddar Cheese with chicken sausage, baked potatoes, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes ... which turns out pretty bad, actually. Perhaps eggs just don't survive the reheating process that well.
Hubby's Pan Fried Silver Cod with Soya Glaze, with rice and vegetables is much better and pretty nice (again, for airplane food standards).
The best part, though, is the Express Arrival card! For some strange reason Australia immigration has express lanes for Business / First class passengers ... which allows you to skip the sometimes long queues. On our particular arrival time at Sydney the non-express arrivals had what seemed like two hundred or so other passengers.
So there you have it - MH Upgrade - flying Business class at a fraction of the cost. MAS product is falling a little behind its' prime competition but at these upgrade prices there really isn't anything to complain about. Do note that the chances of scoring a successful upgrade are dependant on seat availability so it'll probably get harder and/or more expensive as MAS starts filling up their planes again.
Hope you've enjoyed this trip review and do leave us any questions, etc in the comments below!