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Malaysia Airlines joined oneworld on Thursday, meaning you now have more options for your American Airlines AAdvantage miles and British Airways Avios to, from, and through Southeast Asia.

courtesy of Google Maps

An unaffiliated airline joining an alliance is always a good thing for us because our miles have more uses, and usually the new airline will have incredible award availability, at least until it adjusts to having more people snapping up its awards.

Where Malaysia Airlines Flies

Malaysia Airlines flies from its Kuala Lumpur hub all over Asia and Australia. It also has four flights to Europe–Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, and Paris–and one flight to the US–Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur flight flies via Tokyo in both directions. The entire route is operated by the same plane, so there is no worry about missed connections. The journey takes 21:40 heading west, and you land two days after takeoff. The journey takes 18:05 heading east, and you land the same day as takeoff.

What Planes and Premium Cabins does Malaysia Airlines Feature?

The two main longhaul jets in Malaysia Airlines’ fleet are the 777-200 and A380.

The 777-200 flies the Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur route as well as Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The 777-200 plane will disappoint people looking for luxury. There is no first class–just economy and business–and the business class seats are angled lie flat.

This photo is from Malaysia Airlines’ page on its 777-200s.

The angle of the photo seems to be designed to disguise the angle of the bed, but look at the bed in relation to the windows, and you can see this would be quite an uncomfortable angle for sleep.

I would generally pass on flying this business class cabin unless it was the only option available.

The A380 flies from Kuala Lumpur to London-Heathrow and Paris-CDG. The A380 has a more luxurious configuration. First Class suites have fully flat 7’3″ beds according to Malaysia Airlines’ page on the aircraft.

The rest of the suite sounds pretty incredible too with the same jumbo-sized 23″ screen Emirates First Class has, and single and double suites for people traveling alone or with a companion.

Its business class seats also claim to be fully flat beds, though I can’t verify that elsewhere. This seat map and this review make me think the seats are angled lie flats.

The menus for both premium cabins look incredible, and include the option to order your entree in advance.

Where do I Search for Malaysia Air Space?

I search for oneworld space in three places: aa.com, ba.com, and qantas.com.au. (Here’s where I specifically search for each oneworld partner’s space.) For Malaysia Airlines, the choice of search engine is easy. Of the airline sites I use to search oneworld space, only ba.com displays Malaysia Airlines space.

ba.com search result

For me, that makes ba.com the best place to search award availability. BA.com is an easy-to-use search engine. Sign in to your BA account, then click Spending Avios under the Executive Club tab.

Along the left side of the next screen, click Book Flights with Avios.

I’ll do an example search of Adelaide, Australia to Kuala Lumpur–a new route open to your American and British miles.

The one thing I recommend is selecting the highest class of service you might want. If it’s not available, you will always be offered lower classes. But if you search economy, and it is not available, you will not be offered business.

In this case, I requested first class even though the airplane operating the route doesn’t have first class. As you can see the results are returned showing business class with a note explaining first class was not available.

On ba.com, direct British Airways flights are returned first–there are none on this route–followed by direct partner flights, followed by routes with layovers. In this case, since Qantas–the biggest Australian airline is a oneworld partner, there are routes with Qantas and Malaysian flights.

If you ever want to know more info about one segment–its duration or aircraft for instance–click the flight number.

Clicking the MH0138 of the direct flight shows the flight time as 7:30 and an A330 as the jet operating the flight. For more information on what business class in like on a Malaysia Airlines A330, I would google “Malaysia A330.”

Other Ways to Search

Interestingly Expert Flyer–a paid service I explained how to use here–shows Malaysia Airlines economy award space and business and first class upgrade space.

See the letters in parentheses, A, I, and S? Those are the fare codes for first class upgrades, business class upgrades, and economy awards according to Expert Flyer. According to an American phone agent, the fare codes we want for award space are:

  • P = First Class Award Space
  • U = Business Class Award Space
  • X = Economy Class Award Space

That means Expert Flyer search results should not match up with ba.com or what an American Airlines agent can book.

My searches indicate that economy class space does not line up. Expert Flyer usually shows nine award seats in economy, while ba.com usually shows fewer.

Business upgrade space and business award space do not match up for every airline, but on all the searches I performed, business upgrade space displayed on Expert Flyer and business award space displayed on ba.com matched up perfectly.

Calling in to American, I could book the same business class space too, so Expert Flyer is an option to search Malaysia Airlines business space if you prefer its functionality to ba.com and you understand that its results might not always be accurate.

First Class Upgrade space on Expert Flyer didn’t match up with anywhere else. And I couldn’t find any First Class space on ba.com or with an AA agent. First Class might be off limits to American Airlines and British Airways miles at the moment.

How’s the Space on Key Routes

To me the most important routes for my likely needs are:

Los Angeles <-> Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur <-> London

Kuala Lumpur <-> Paris

intra-Malaysia

All of these routes had phenomenal space. I saw business and economy space on almost every longhaul route I checked–usually 4+ seats.

And intra-Malaysia had at least two economy class seats on every flight I checked.

At least for now, Malaysia Airlines space is wide open. That may change as miles-collectors take notice of that and American Airlines agents learn to route customers on Malaysia. Consider beating the rush.

Relevant American Routing Rules

If you haven’t read the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards yet, now is the time. I’ll highlight a few relevant rules.

Stopover Rule

Since stopovers on American Airlines international awards must occur at the North American international gateway city, if you are flying between your home airport and Kuala Lumpur, you have only one stopover option–Los Angeles. In either or both directions, you can stop in Los Angeles since it is the gateway city both directions. (If you live in Los Angeles, you can get a free oneway both directions.)

That means you can’t get a free stopover in Tokyo en route to Kuala Lumpur, and you can’t get a free stopover in Kuala Lumpur on your way somewhere else. If you want multiple stops in Asia, look into Avios awards, United awards, or cash tickets on Asian low-cost carriers.

Published Fare Rule

If you fly Malaysian from the US to Asia, Malaysian must have a published fare from the starting airport of your journey to the final airport. I do not know on which routes Malaysian publishes fares. You can search on Expert Flyer–How to Use expertflyer.com–or ask an American Airlines agent.

Transiting a Third Region

American Airlines makes you fly directly between your starting and finishing region. If you don’t do that, you are charged for two awards instead of one. There are a few exceptions. One relevant exception is that you can fly from the US to Malaysia (Asia 2) via North Asia (Asia 1) on one award.

One relevant problem is that you cannot fly from the US to Asia via Europe. Nor can you fly from the US to India via Asia.

Relevant BA Surcharges

British Airways adds huge surcharges to its longhaul award redemptions. If you have enough Avios in your account to make a booking, you can click the little “i” in your booking price window to see the size of the surcharge. On an economy flight intra-Malaysia, there is no surcharge.

But on a business class roundtrip between the US and Malaysia, there would be $750+ out of pocket in addition to 200k+ Avios.

The standard Avios advice applies: use Avios for short, direct awards. Don’t use it for long awards with stops, especially not in first class.

How to Book

Avios Awards

You’ve found the space online, and you can easily book online. If you have trouble, call 800-AIRWAYS to book.

AAdvantage Awards

To book an American award that involves travel on Malaysia Airlines, call AA at 800-882-8880. The agent I spoke to was already competent in booking Malaysia Airlines. If you have trouble, tell the agent the Malaysia fare codes listed above. If you still have trouble, hang up and call back.

You can always put your AA award on hold for five days. You will be charged $25 per person for ticketing over the phone, and there is no way around it.

Recap

Malaysia Airlines joined oneworld on Thursday meaning we now have more options with our American Airlines and British Airways miles to, from, and through Southeast Asia.

The good news is that award space is incredible in economy and business class on Malaysia Airlines, first class looks fantastic, and the awards are easily searchable on ba.com.

The bad news is that the business class bed in angled, first class award space is not available, AA’s routing rules make certain Malaysia redemptions tough, and BA will gouge you on longhaul Malaysia flights.

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