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First Impressions: Batik Air Malaysia Business Class – Definitely Used To Be Better

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In 2012, the Lion Air group launched Malindo Air, a Malaysia-based airline which responded to AirAsia’s expansion into Indonesia’s market. Malindo Air came out swinging with a proper business class product, personal televisions, and even inflight WiFi, which was introduced in 2015. Malindo even was the launch customer of the 737 MAX, though that was short lived, as business class passengers complained about the aircraft’s one-class configuration (the aircraft was returned to parent company Lion Air, and joined a fleet of 737 MAXs that included the aircraft that crashed in 2018, killing 189 people). In 2022 Malindo fully rebranded to Batik Air Malaysia, in order to offer brand consistency within the fleet.

I remember seeing Malindo Air for the first time a few years back and thinking “wow, they look pretty good”. At the time they were flying to Hong Kong, and I wondered whether I’d get to fly them someday.

Well, on my way to Thailand for a family trip, I finally got to fly Batik Air Malaysia on the short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. My flight certainly felt better than any intra-European business class flight I’ve ever flown, and certainly worth the MYR 499 (HK$815/£83) I paid – though I could tell they used to be a lot better. Most crucially, the airline has horrible operational reliability, as over half of the flights on the day I left (not a particularly rainy one, at least in Kuala Lumpur) were departing over three hours late.

I’ll write a full review of this flight where you’ll be able to follow along with the flight from beginning to end, though I wanted to draw out a few observations in the meantime.

Batik Air Malaysia’s Horrible Operational Reliability

Let’s start with the most important point – don’t fly Batik Air Malaysia on a tight schedule. I was being forgiving as I was flying over Chinese New Year’s, though still was shocked to see that almost every single Batik Air Malaysia flight was severely delayed.

I mean, from the departures board below, 17 Batik Air Malaysia flights are listed. Mine was the flight to Singapore, which wasn’t showing a delay at this time, though ended up being delayed by just over 90 minutes; you can see that out of those 17 flights, one was cancelled, and nine (that’s 53%!) were delayed by 3 hours or more (I checked the flights departing later that evening out of interest, and the most punctual flight left 40 minutes late – that’s the 19:50 flight to Langkawi). This isn’t a weather issue either, since you can see that Malaysia Airlines wasn’t having an issue getting their planes out on time.

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Batik Air Malaysia’s horrible operational reliability

This wasn’t a single-day issue either – on my flight OD805, Flighty is showing that over the last 60 days 30% of flights arrived 45m+ late. I’d say Batik Air was doing especially badly on the day I was flying, but doesn’t generally do well with punctuality, especially as of the past month.

My flight originally was showing to depart on time, though unfortunately there was a last minute aircraft maintenance issue, so we were waiting to get a replacement 737. While we weren’t delayed by a ton, we were waiting on a 737 that was arriving from Singapore – instead of departing Singapore at 12:20 PM and arriving Kuala Lumpur at 1:25 PM, it left Singapore at 7:19 PM and arrived at 8 PM. That’s seven hours late!

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Batik Air Malaysia 737 (or lack thereof)

I also didn’t have lounge access, though this was also because I was on a “business promo” fare. I believe full-fare passengers have access to the Sama-Sama lounge – once again, Malindo Air used to have their own lounge which was open to all passengers, though now even full-fare business class passengers only have access to a contract lounge at Batik Air Malaysia’s hub airport.

Batik Air Malaysia’s Onboard Tech Graveyard

To Batik Air Malaysia’s credit, once I did get onboard, the cabin product was quite nice. I was on a non-MAX 737, which featured 12 recliner business class seats – recline really wasn’t great, but it was nice to see a “real” regional business class product after flying so many segments intra-Europe.

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Batik Air Malaysia 737 Business Class Cabin

The cabin felt serviceably clean, though I couldn’t help but notice that there was next-to-zero working tech at the seat. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue if it was never installed in the first place, though it seemed like they had simply failed to maintain equipment that they did have on this aircraft (or simply chose not to turn it on on this hour-long leg). For example, a TV screen folded out of my armrest, though it stayed off throughout the flight.

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Batik Air Malaysia 737 Business Class Screen

There was also a 110V power port at each seat, though it definitely wasn’t working (and I imagine it wasn’t just turned off for this sector)…

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Batik Air Malaysia 737 Business Class Power Port

This wasn’t a big deal, though these planes fly up to five-hour flights, where I’m sure these things would add up more. To the airline’s credit, they now fly some 737 MAXs with newer business class seats, and those do look to be a bit more well-maintained.

While Malindo Air (back in the day) offered WiFi, and Batik Air Malaysia still advertises it, the only WiFi my phone managed to detect was someone’s iPhone hotspot. Perhaps this aircraft just wasn’t one of the ones equipped with WiFi, though.

Batik Air Malaysia’s Full Onboard Service On A One-Hour Flight

Well, I’ll give credit where credit is due. My flight was wheels-up from Kuala Lumpur at 9:25 PM, and touched down at Singapore Changi at 10:15 PM. This left 50 minutes of flying time, and about 10 minutes were spent at either end climbing up and down from altitude, leaving 30 minutes of actual flying time.

In this time, the crew managed to serve a full hot meal, as well as offer drink refills. There was no choice of meal (the vegetarian option served to the person across the aisle was just two desserts), though I was served a decent hot chicken and mushroom sandwich, as well as a delicious warm piece of pandan cake. While perhaps not the most elaborate meal, I believe Singapore Airlines serves a cold (and sad looking) packaged sandwich on this route, and this looks leaps and bounds better.

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Batik Air Malaysia 737 Business Class Meal

Conclusion: Batik Air Malaysia’s Business Class – Good in the Wrong Areas

On a “scorecard” system, I’m sure Batik Air Malaysia would still score fairly highly. I got a recliner seat on a one-hour flight, a hot meal, and the flight attendants were friendly. There was also a pillow and blanket provided on this short hour-long flight. In terms of onboard service alone, there’s definitely very good value for money, given the ticket only cost £83 all-in.

The issue is that the airline misses the fundamental expectation that I’d expect from an airline ticket – I’d like to get to my destination as close to on-time as possible. Real-time data suggests that the airline almost consistently fails to deliver on that front. That would be my hesitation with booking Batik Air Malaysia in the future, unless I had a lot of free time to kill.

I was also not impressed by the poorly maintained tech in the cabin, from the non-functional IFE, to the broken power ports, to the lack of WiFi (when the airline used to have it). It seemed like the experience was fine once you got onboard, but used to be way better.

Once again, I’ll have a full review soon – here are just my top level thoughts.

Have you flown Batik Air Malaysia before? Am I expecting too much with a punctual operation, considering how cheap my flight ticket was?

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