Direct flight connections between Kuala Lumpur and European cities are a rarity. Barring Malaysia Airlines, Dutch national carrier KLM is currently the only other airline flying nonstop between Malaysia and Europe. But the situation back in 2015 was a bit different. In May 2015, British Airways resumed its nonstop service between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur, some 14 years after it was first suspended in 2001. The service was initially operated by BA’s Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, but was later upgraded to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Alas, the service became a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic when it was first suspended, and then dropped altogether from BA’s roster.
I had the opportunity of flying with British Airways on my first trip to Belfast from Kuala Lumpur in September 2015, some 4 months after its return to Kuala Lumpur. It turned out to be a very old-school introduction to an airline that once called itself “The World’s Favourite Airline“.
First posted in September 2015. Updated 14 February 2024. This is a legacy trip report from the previous iteration of the blog and is retained for nostalgia and continuity purposes. Photography quality is unfortunately not up to par with present standards.
Departure from Kuala Lumpur International Airport
The check in process was relatively straightforward. As I had checked in online I only had to content with a quick bag drop and ensuring that my bags were checked all the way through to Belfast. I had opted not to pay the hefty sum BA was charging for seat selection, but there was enough empty seats left for me to select a seat next to my travel partners at the check in counter.
With my goodbyes said, I went through departure immigration and hopped onto the Aerotrain for the short ride over to the Satellite terminal. I hadn’t flown out of the Satellite terminal for a while, so it was with some dismay that I noted that MAHB had opted to gazette more retail within the already narrow connecting corridor to the Satellite gates.
Boarding British Airways flight BA 34
Boarding turned out to be a rather interesting affair for me. KUL’s usual security procedures at the gate were augmented by security officers opening our bags, and swabbing electronic devices for traces of explosives. This is, of course, standard procedure in European airports, and it appears BA had requested its implementation for their flights.
Boarding was called on time, and we trooped down the jetbridge into G-YMMO, a then 14 years old Boeing 777-200ER. We were greeted by the sight of BA’s vintage long haul World Traveller Economy Class cabin, a fixture since the early 2000s. It was like stepping into a time warp.
I settled into my window seat and took the opportunity to take stock of the crowd onboard. The flight appeared to be fully booked, with a good majority of passengers being Malaysian students heading to the UK – September is university season after all. But a fully booked cabin also meant having to play a game of cabin bag Tetris, with both passengers and cabin crew trying their best to find space for various cabin bags in the Economy overhead lockers.
I had managed to slot my cabin bag in a nearby overhead locker, but the Chief Steward soon discovered that my bag was actually stopping the the locker from closing properly. The problem was that there was no space in the locker to re-align my bag, and neither was there any free space in any of the remaining World Traveller and World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) cabin lockers. Thinking quickly, the Chief Steward led me down the aisle to the Club World Business Class cabin and popped the first locker open – it was occupied by a small, flimsy handbag, and had more than enough space for my roller bag.
I must say that the very empty Club World locker made for a stunning visual contrast with the full lockers in both Economy cabins. I’m sure there’s a visual commentary to be found about class differences.
With all passengers seated and buckled, our aircraft finally pushed back from the gate. BA’s old cartoony safety video played on the grainy screens which really reinforced the early 2000s vibe. A quick taxi to the runway later, and we were off into the night skies above the Klang Valley.
Cabin & Onboard Amenities
BA’s old World Traveller cabin is spartan by today’s standards. The cabin of the aircraft was the standard Boeing Signature Interior cabin design with its distinctive curved overhead panels. Mood lighting wasn’t a feature on board this aircraft, as at the time of the cabin’s installation mood lighting was likely to have been found in premium cabins instead. Instead, the cabin was lit in the pale yellow tones typical of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The blue-upholstered Economy seats were laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration, a common layout among B777 operators, and with 17.5 to 18 inches of width and 31 inches of pitch. The seats were well padded and had a thick headrest, which sets them apart from the newer, slimmer Economy seats that airlines seem to love today. Needless to say, the seats were quite comfortable for this overnight flight.
The design of the seats really screamed early-2000s with their thick plastic framing around the tiny IFE screens. The seat back tables were also a big one-piece plastic panel, in contrast to today’s foldable space saving design.
Onboard Amenities – the inflight entertainment
Alongside the old cabin, the aircraft was fitted out with BA’s old IFE system. The interface of the IFE was controlled using the seat back remote control as the screens weren’t touch-capable. In fact, the whole system onboard was probably one of the pioneers in seatback IFE back in the early 2000s.
The screens were very small and had very poor resolution by today’s standards. I suppose they were considered good when they were first introduced. There was a decent selection of content loaded in the IFE system, but I opted for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in all its grainy glory.
I also took the opportunity to glance through BA’s inflight magazine. I found it to be of higher quality than Malaysia Airlines’ Going Places magazine, with a decent selection of quality write ups.
The inflight meal service started off shortly after take off with a pack of Penn State Sour Cream & Cheese flavoured pretzels for each passengers.
British Airways Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow Dinner service
Dinner was then served 2 hours after take off, with my meal of choice being Nasi Lemak with Chicken Rendang (presented as “Chicken with rice” by the flight attendant) with sides of bread & butter, crackers, mini Babybel cheese, a cold pasta salad, and blueberry crumble for dessert. The Nasi Lemak tasted pretty good, as did the rest of the meal.
With dinner service over, I reclined my seat and tried to get some sleep. I guess the old seats were comfortable enough, as I woke up some 4 hours later over Hamburg, Germany.
British Airways Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow Breakfast service
The breakfast service commenced 2 hours prior to landing. I chose the English Breakfast to fit the theme of arriving into England. It tasted alright but not particularly spectacular.
Arrival at London Heathrow Airport (Terminal 5)
Our aircraft commenced its descend into cloud covered Greater London as the breakfast trays were being cleared. It was still very early in the morning with not much of a view, but we could make out the large patches of cloud blotting out the sprawling city lights below as we lined up with the runway for a punctual 5:00 am landing at LHR.
True to the stereotypes about British weather, we had landed in the middle of a drizzle, with the drops of rainwater blocking out my first glimpses of Heathrow. A short taxi later, and we were parked at Pier 5B of Terminal 5.
This was my first flight on British Airways and it was a great introduction to the airline’s consistent standards of service. As of 2024 when I update this post, BA has refurbished its B777-200ERs (including G-YMMO) and installed brand new seats across all cabin classes. The new Recaro seats in World Traveller are now in a mainstream 10-abreast 3-4-3 configuration on the B777.
I would go on to fly BA between KUL and LHR a few more times on their newer B787s, but while the modern cabins were nice to look at, it always felt like they were missing the comfort that the old seats had.