We had the occasions to make 2 trips to Australia over a period of 3 months on 2 different Malaysian carriers - MAS and Air Asia. I thought it was opportune for me to feature on the meals offered by the 2 airlines. I realize one is a full service airline and the other is a low cost carrier, and thus it is not justified to make comparisons on the level of services. But food is food - whether it is served in a 5-Star restaurant or a hawker centre. And I intend to do just that - focusing only on the meals onboard and not the other aspects of their inflight services.
Our first flight was to Perth on MAS flight MH125 in November 2011, returning on MH124 about a week later. Flight time each way was about 5 and half hours.
Food services on both sectors were brisk and efficiently dispensed. We were seated quite far from the start of the food service and it didn't take very long before the food trolley arrived at our seat. The food was of course complimentary and had obviously been costed into the air fare. There was a choice of Malaysian or western meal.
On our outgoing flight to Perth, breakfast was served. I opted for the nasi lemak. It was a substantial meal, compactly presented on a tray. The rice was served with a big portion of sambal prawn. There was half a boiled egg. The ikan bilis and peanuts were separately packed in a plastic container. Other items in the tray included a loaf of croissant together with small portions of butter and jam. There was a bowl of assorted fruits. Dessert was a piece of lemon cake. There was also Ferrero Rocher chocolate and a muesli bar. Drinks were a cup of orange juice and coffee or tea. Wines (red and white) were available on request. The quality of food was generally good. However, the rice somehow lacked the santan (coconut milk) flavor and the sambal prawns were hard and over-cooked.
The western breakfast was omelet with a piece of chicken sausage, button mushrooms, a grilled tomato and a piece of hash brown. All others items on the tray were the same. The meal was rather dry. There was no sauce or gravy.
After the meal, ice cream bars were distributed.
On our return flight from Perth, the Malaysian selection was curry chicken and tomato rice, with some bland vegetables. The chicken and rice looked better than it tasted. It was not great. The vegetables were pathetic. On the tray was a bowl of chick-pea which was rather tasteless. There was a hard roll and butter. And a slab of cheese and crackers. Dessert was a piece of chocolate cake. Drinks were water, orange juice and coffee or tea. Again, wines were available on request. This return meal was apparently prepared in Perth. It was definitely not as good as the breakfast from Kuala Lumpur.
The western selection was baked fish and potato and the same bland vegetable. The fish was served with a tomato based sauce. The meal was rather boring. The taste was flat. It was OK if you were hungry, definitely not something to relish. As before the other items on the tray were the same.
Overall, the meals offered by MAS were satisfactory. They were substantial and adequate but not something I would look forward to. It was nourishment in a flight and not gourmet delight.
Our flight on Air Asia X was to Melbourne (flight D7212) on in early February this year, returning on flight D7215 nine days later. Flight time on both sectors was nearly 8 hours. Meals on board were not complimentary. We booked the meals and paid for them when we made our flight bookings on line. Each meal was priced at RM20.
Meal service was accomplished from meal carts by the flight attendants in the same manner as MAS. They were selling their food. Available for sale were the hot meals, cup noodles, sandwiches, tit bits like chocolate bars, nuts, candies, etc, plus hot and cold drinks. Passengers who had pre-booked their meals on line like us, had to show their boarding passes to claim them.
Service was slow. It took some time before the meal cart reached us. This was probably because of the sale transactions. It was also probably because they did not stock enough food items to go around. I saw the flight attendants moving around from one meal cart to another getting stuffs requested by the passengers. This was particularly evident on the return flight from Melbourne.
Like MAS, there was a choice of Malaysian or western hot meals. The Malaysian option was nasi lemak on both the outgoing and return sectors. It was served in a thin plastic container. There was no tray or presentation - just the food container on a paper table mat and plastic fork and spoon. A small bottle of mineral water was provided with the pre-booked meal.
The portion of nasi lemak was rather small. With the rice was half an egg, a small portion of rendang chicken and some sambal sauce. The ikan bilis and peanuts were packed separately. The taste was good. I think it was much better than that served by MAS. The rice was aromatic and and the rendang was quite delicious. This nasi lemak was more genuine and did not taste like it was mass produced.
The western meal on the outgoing flight was Chicken Ala Kiev. It was presented like the nasi lemak, with a bottle of water. The chicken breast meat was fried in a batter and was served with some potato and boiled broccoli and carrots. The taste was not bad too. My only complaint was that it was rather dry - devoid of sauce or gravy. But the piece of meat was quite delicious. Again, I rate this western meal better than that served by MAS. However, like the nasi lemak, the portion was rather small.
On our return flight from Melbourne, while the Malaysian selection was the same nasi lemak, the western selection was different. It was Chicken BBQ. It was a small piece of grilled deboned chicken, served with some potato wedges, some carrots and beans with a dash of BBQ sauce If the Chicken Ala Kiev was small, this serving was even smaller. The taste of this chicken was not as good. Still I think it was better than the fish served by MAS.
Overall, I rate the flavor of food on Air Asia better than MAS. The biggest problem with Air Asia's meals was that they were too small. And there was no side dishes like starters or desserts or bread to fill the stomach. The KL-Melbourne flight at nearly 8 hours was a long one. Such tiny meals were definitely not enough. They did do a second meal service and sale before landing. But by then they had ran out of hot meals. Only cup instant noodles were available. Fortunately we had the foresight to bring along some sandwiches from home even though Air Asia declared that they practise a no-outside-food policy. As far as we were concerned, it was to hell with that policy. The flight to Melbourne landed after midnight. There was no way we could find any food at that ungodly hour after the flight. And we were not prepared to go hungry. Air Asia cannot impose their policy when it cannot even cater to the needs of its passengers.
Between the 2 airlines, without considering the matter of fare and pricing, I would prefer MAS as far as meals are concerned. Air Asia's meals were totally inadequate. MAS' provide full wholesome meals even though they are not as delicious. At least there is no need to resort to cup noodles, chocolate bars and peanuts.