Malaysia Airlines ditch First class or does it?
In a sudden announcement, Malaysia Airlines will stop having First Class and rebrand the cabin as Business Class suites on its A350 and A380 aircraft from today 12 December. Business Suites will be pitched about halfway between First and business class in terms of cash pricing. Malaysia airlines cite the high number of business travellers wanting a better value premium product as the reason for the move. First has not performed well for Malaysia Airlines whereas their business class product is usually full. With many corporate travel policies forbidding first class travel this could be a cunning move rather than getting rid of the cabin altogether.
I would assume that the Avios cost of redemptions will stay the same. The tier point earning will be interesting to see given it is called business class but you will be paying a higher price. Fortunately, TLFL got to fly First just in time – you can read Paul’s entertaining review here.
However, the product will basically be identical in terms of onboard service, food and amenities. Lounges will be rebranded as Business Suites Golden Lounges in Kuala Lumpur and London. These will again stay exactly the same and BA First and Gold cardholders will still have access.
There seems to be an almost permanent bonus offer on BA Avios recently. This one is at the highest level we normally see for bonuses with a 50% bonus no matter how many you buy. You can buy a maximum of 200,000 Avios which would give you 300,000 Avios with the bonus for £3215
As usual, I won’t talk about how much an Avios is worth but look at what the Avios could buy you. We can look at what you could do with a 2-4-1 BA Amex voucher and what you could do for a straight redemption.
If you used a 2-4-1 voucher then for 190,000 Avios you could fly 2 people to Cape Town in First off-peak. 181,250 Avios (including the bonus) would cost £2015 to buy. If you were to buy these tickets they would usually cost around £4000 per person from the UK. If you used buy Avios then it would work out at £1607 per person including around £600pp in fees and taxes. The problem with this is that availability is scarce on the route so there is no guarantee you could use them. If we look at using the Avios without a voucher you could get 2 Club World flights to the US West Coast for 250,000 Avios off-peak. This would cost £2815 for 253,750 Avios.
Most of these prices whilst being relatively cheap for business class from the UK are often available on Ex EU and advance purchase fares anyway. Obviously, if you paid for a ticket you would then get Avios and tier points as well. Overall it is rarely worth buying Avios for a whole ticket but now is a good time to purchase if you need a quick top up for something specific.
The offer ends on 16 December 2018 at 23:59 GMT.
You can find the Buy Avios page and the terms and conditions here.
I have spoken a few times about Air Italy (formerly Meridiana) which is becoming unrecognisable from its former self under the leadership from Qatar Airways who have grand plans for the airline. Qatar now have a 49% stake in the airline. Air Italy are growing fast on long-haul routes and have now announced Los Angeles and San Francisco from April 2019. This adds to the already interesting list of long-haul destinations on offer such as Maldives, Mauritius, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangkok, Miami and New York.
Although you don’t get tier points on Air Italy currently as a BA partner, you can earn and redeem Avios on them through both Iberia and British Airways. If you are struggling to find availability on BA, this could be another option. The positives are that the taxes will be a lot cheaper than from the UK although it does involve getting to Milan. Iberia Plus pricing is a little lower in terms of Avios for some routes so you may want to compare both before deciding whether it is better to transfer over to Iberia to redeem.
Air Italy are using Qatar’s old A330s which have a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. You can read my review of Qatar’s A330 seats here.
To book you should be able to see availability and then book online on ba.com or by phone with Iberia but I wouldn’t necessarily rely on ba.com and it may be worth a call to BA to double check. Air Italy usually release 2 business class seats per flight for Avios.