Last year, Malaysia Airlines took delivery of six Airbus A350 aircraft. The new machines were replacement fleet units for the six Airbus A380 they had but really couldn’t put to good use. However, in a somewhat surprising turnaround, we now hear the plan has changed again. Among other things, there will now be a Malaysia Airlines A380 to Saudi Arabia flying, proving there are some wheels turning over at the airline.
After a few years of turbulence
Let’s not pretend things have been easy flying for Malaysia – two disasters within weeks of one another. These weren’t the root of its commercial issues but seeing Malaysia’s representatives flailing around when definite action was needed, was just painful. It’s left its mark and it’s not surprising it failed to find takers to fill so many A350s.
So it was no great disclosure that the new A380s were on the market. But various conditions meant Malaysia was short on interested parties. And this raised the question – what does an airline do with a $445 million aircraft no one wants – or six of them for that matter?
Launching Malaysia Airlines A380 flights
One solution is to just bite the bullet and fly them. Depreciation x loss of revenue x waste of fuel is certainly one objection, but Malaysia may have found a way to offset this. Firstly it announced plans to create a sister business and use the six A380s there. Another alternative, was touted via a wet lease to other airlines.
Then the airline landed on the idea to simply swap planes to take advantage of seasonal surges. This is where the Malaysia airlines a380 to Saudi Arabia and Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah A380 routes come into play. If Malaysia were to use A380s for some Hajj and Umrah charters, it could rake in some much needed revenue. While Umrah is Saudi Arabia is year round, the Hajj is a movable date in later summer.
How many seats does Malaysia need to fill?
Passenger capacity on the A380 varies by seat configuration but it can fly up to 868 passengers at a press, or 544 passengers in Airbus’s recommended three-cabin system. I have no idea what way Malaysia would choose to go on this, but one thing is for sure, flying the pilgrims to Hajj is a money-spinner. People tend to plan when they go years in advance, long before seats go up for sale. Naturally this affects market prices, often sending them sky high.
However, in a final (perhaps) turnabout Malaysia now appear to be using the pilgrimages to offset the cost of maintaining a year round Malaysia Airlines a380 to Saudi Arabia and the Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah A380 route too.
Malaysia Airlines will begin flying the A380 between Kuala Lumpur and Jeddah on October 28th as a daily. And while we don’t yet know if this we run into summer 2019, it’s a good sign.
Malaysia are currently flying A380s to London, Sydney, and Tokyo. So adding two more permanent routes would be entirely feasible.
Featured Image: Airbus