21/02/2006 - 21:00

Malaysia upgrade from the ground up

21/02/2006 - 21:00

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Malaysia Airlines is undertaking a $250 million makeover to redefine its 747-400 and 777-200ER fleet.

Malaysia upgrade from the ground up

Ever wondered what a first class airline seat costs? Not the fare you pay but the actual seat?

Ask some friends and you will get answers such as $20,000 maybe even $30,000 but the real number is a staggering $170,000 each.

That number is made up of $140,000 for the seat and $30,000 for the In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system.

Business class seats are about $120,000 each and economy class seats are a bargain at just $20,000.

Two critical elements in that cost are the requirement for the seat to withstand a 16G (gravitational force) impact and the punishing landing that the IFE system has to endure twice a day – for years on end.

These are the hard numbers that Malaysia Airlines is paying out for a first class and business class makeover of its Boeing 747-400s and 777-200ERs.

The $250 million upgrade will enable the airline to recapture its position as one of the world’s leading carriers.

However, despite having a somewhat dated product for the past four years, Malaysia Airlines staff has been named Skytrax Research’s (UK) world’s best cabin staff.

Under the banner “An Experience Redefined”, the cabins of 17 Boeing 777s and 17 Boeing 747s are being progressively refurbished with the latest technology, wrapped in futuristic styling and some innovative design in cabin comfort.

More than 3,000 crew members are also being trained under the program, with new service delivery modules focusing on increased interaction with passengers.

A key element is that staff is being encouraged to think beyond standard routines and procedures and focus on personalised one-on-one service and customer engagement based on sound product knowledge.

In first class, the airline is installing lie-flat beds, while business class has nine-degree angled flat beds.

First class, as one would expect, comes in for some lavish treatment, with such things as electronically controlled window shades and stylish new silverware and dinnerware giving a feeling of quiet elegance.

The airline has also learnt from others by providing more room for the companion seat for dinner and a larger, more robust meal table. If you just feel like a chat over a glass of champagne, there is a smaller cocktail table.

The airline has also added mood lighting, which uses more than one million shades of colour to simulate day or night to help passengers adjust to time changes.

Adding to the experience is a complimentary limo service at airports in London, Manchester, Dubai, Australian cities, Los Angeles, New York and Paris.

But for even more style, Malaysia Airlines will arrange helicopter transfers at London, Nice and Paris.

Aside from all the bells and whistles, the airline has added a new IFE system for all passengers. The new system has 350 entertainment options including 40 movies, 60 short features, 200 CD titles, 45 video games and 10 interactive multiplayer games, as well as SMS and e-mail facilities.

For the B777-200 aircraft, the reconfiguration involves converting the three classes (first, business, and economy) to just two classes – business and economy. There will be 42 business class seats and 247 economy class seats.

The B747-400 will still have three classes (first, business and economy) but fewer seats to enhance passenger comfort.

It will have a configuration of 12 first, 41 business and 306 economy class seats.

Perth passengers can take the new aircraft every Sunday and progressively through to all services as the fleet is reconfigured, which will take a further 12 months.

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