Malaysia Airlines is bringing its Airbus A380s back to London

By David Flynn, December 12 2017
Malaysia Airlines is bringing its Airbus A380s back to London

EXCLUSIVE | Malaysia Airlines will once again fly its Airbus A380s to London as the airline reconsiders its ambitious plan to hand over the superjumbos to a new subsidiary dedicated to Islamic pilgrimages, with the double-decker jets being used to boost capacity during periods of high demand across the international network.

This will include mid-year flights to London along with Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney and Melbourne, along with ‘ad hoc’ charters to Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah and Medina airports to cater for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca.

The London A380 flights will see twice as many first class suites available for sale or points-based award bookings compared to the Airbus A350s which they will temporarily displace.

A prelimary listing on Malaysia Airlines' website shows the superjumbo shuttling between Kuala Lumpur and London between July 20 and September 3, 2019 as flights MH2/MH3.

On other routes currently served by two-class Airbus A330 jets, the superjumbo’s first class suites will be treated as business class seats and made available through advance seat selection to top-tier frequent flyers from Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich Platinum and Gold tiers and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents (including Qantas Platinum and Gold frequent flyers).

The airline is also understood to be weighing up the merits of a refresh for the A380 if it is to remain flying as Malaysia Airlines’ flagship, with the 2-2-2 business class cabin (seen above) possibly upgraded with the modern Vantage or Vantage XL seats as used in the airlines’ Airbus A350s (below).

Uncertainty over the fate of Malaysia Airlines’ A380s has swirled around former CEOs Christoph Mueller (2015-2016) and more recently Peter Bellew (2016-2017).

Initial attempts to lease or sell outright all six superjumbos failed, leading to ‘Project Hope’ – a scheme to reconfigure the double-decker aircraft to a mostly-economy layout (with a small business class or premium economy cabin) run by a subsidiary charter airline serving the Hajj and Umrah market.

Spealing with Australian Business Traveller, a spokesperson for Malaysia Airlines maintained that that "Project Hope is still very much on track providing charters to Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah and Medina airports to cater for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca. However, we will be deploying the A380s opportunistically during peak periods to high traffic markets."

"The reconfiguration of the aircraft will be done progressively and in the meantime we have looked into maximising our assets during super peak seasons."

Malaysia Airlines still intends to pull the Airbus A380s off the Kuala Lumpur-London route in early 2018, replacing both of its daily flights with the smaller but more cost-effective Airbus A350s. The A350s will also fly to Tokyo and potentially Osaka.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 266

At Malaysia Airlines HQ "Anyone know what's going on?"

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 345

Typical MAS, no certainty anymore.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 87

There's a reason MAS are nicknamed "Mana Ada System" - Malay for "where's the system?"

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Aug 2017

Total posts 23

Every airline that has the A380 is stuck with them.

Have to try and make the most of them in their respective networks.

12 Aug 2017

Total posts 76

It is such a pity. The A380 is loved by passengers over the B777 but they just haven't been loved by the airlines.

16 Dec 2017

Total posts 9

As the airlines only love those metals which torture pax mostly, eg 737max

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 59

god Malaysia airlines desperately need direction and strong leadership, their decision making is in shambles

18 Oct 2011

Total posts 11

I do agree that advanced seat selection is given to Enrich Gold (or any other equivalent to oneworld Sapphire) BUT it is not for FREE on MH. They charged you for it.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1090

Great to see the A380 is staying with MH. It would've been strange giving over precious LHR slots to the A350s. The A380 also enables them to maintain and grow capacity into other restricted ports such as MEL and SYD where gate slots in peak periods just don't exist.

You do have to wonder about MH's decision making processes however. They seem to be forever rethinking their plans; surely fleet planning is more concrete.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644


"It would've been strange giving over precious LHR slots to the A350s. The A380 also enables them to maintain and grow capacity into other restricted ports.."
Ever since MH took final 380 delivery in 2013, I don't think they ever lack fleet capacity for growth and those "restricted ports" lacking slots hv not suddenly became more restrictive only during the last 4yrs.

The real problem was MH had way more vacant capacity than they knew what to do with them. Various incidents just totally decimated mkt demand to fill those vast MH capacity over the past 4yrs regardless of how precious those LHR slots are. The 359 replacing 380 fleet plan for LHR-KUL was hatched when MH knew they wouldn't survive a) 380 flights @ avg 50% load factor and/or b) nearly full 380 flights @ unsustainable avg fare level yr round.

Luckily, mkt demand seems to hv returned to MH and must be trending positive(e.g. forward booking data). This might hv reached a tipping point very recently where projected load+avg fare level can now @ least break even with the 380 fleet yr round.....the alternative of re-configuring 380 cabin into hi-den set-up for religious charter is not cheap either.

My only question re this latest MH fleet plan is:
What will happen to the leased 359 x6 fleet @ MH? High lease rates for these will certainly generate poor yield if deploying them only on sectors not longer than SYD, MEL, NRT, ICN, etc. These birds need to work on 12~14hrs sectors in order for their lease to pay off.

04 May 2015

Total posts 271

Can u try spkng English 1ce in a whyle? Honestly, it's not that hard.

16 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

Confused ! Opening para says Malaysia Airlines will continue to fly its Airbus A380s to London. Last para says Malaysia Airlines still intends to pull the Airbus A380s off the Kuala Lumpur-London route in early 2018. ??

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2556

The A380s to London will be dropped for A350s from early 2018, but the A380s will return to London mid-2018 on a seasonal basis to provide extra capacity.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 444

Christ what a mess. Would they not reconfigure even 2 of the A380s into high density for religious pilgrimages? Do they really think spending the money updating J seats on planes they can’t fill is a good use of their limited money? They don’t need more capacity on certain routes in peak times. They need more frequencies with smaller planes with industry standard products which is exactly where they were going with their A350s.

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 39

I recently flew both the A380 and A330 on overnight flights and found the A380 seat much more comfortable for sleeping. The A330 seat is way too narrow around shoulders and footwell too cramped. MAS please don't upgrade A380 unless adopting Vantage XL (not the A330 Vantage seat).

13 Dec 2017

Total posts 4

I say this is a good idea, why downgrade to a smaller plane when you are hitting >75% load factors on an a380? Good idea to upgrade some of the major a330 routes to the brand new a350, open up new routes with the remaining a350s, order new 330neos and 787s and bring the passengers back to KLIA (in need of some serious upgrade!). Retrofitting the A380 is a must, it's already very dated so bring in the new seats please and thank you!

I believe if they can capitalize on profitable routes, start with quality over quantity in terms of routes and on board experience, be bold in upgrading their current product and brand as well as customer experience it'll all work out well and we'll see MH coming back in the early 2020s.

None of this bothers me. After 40 years as a loyal customer, I have no intention of flying with them again. They have hit rock bottom.

I used to be a loyal business class customer of MH & travelled the KL to London on a regular basis, however the continuing bad call centre atitude to clients, delayed flights, one of 20 hours....I now take the shuttle to Singapore and fly from there just got too much hassle trying to communicate with them, the final blow was being diverted to a cal centre in Manila.

And since when in business class, can you not have a glass of Champagne!....that caused my wife to also desert

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 222

Flew on MAS 380 to London a couple of years ago in Y and after the second of the incidents they suffered. Almost empty and had acres of space. Being a day flight it was superb to see the landscape below. They are a solid airline and hopefully can get back on track.

Flew KUL-LHR in F a few years ago and thought it was a pretty decent experience...

Qatar Airways

06 Jul 2016

Total posts 45

I've had good experiences on MH in last 3 yrs. But I'm amazed that for an airline in need of more pax, they rarely offer truly competitive fares from UK to SE Asia. Usually, when I check, they are more expensive than SQ, but they're nowhere near that quality level.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 135

This has now been refuted by MH, the Hajj flights will apparently still go ahead, even though the A380 will indeed go seasonal on London, Sydney, Seoul etc

16 Dec 2017

Total posts 9

For those tempted to book a biz class tickets in order to "taste" those MH giant's first class seats on routes other than LHR, think twice (or more times)! MH is definitely not a trustworthy company!

My two frds and I have reserved first class seat for certain a380 long haul flights (jed, nrt and icn) on three occasions in J bookings (as mh didnt sell first class apart from lhr flights), seatmaps on first section were widely opened when we booked but all of us encountered last min "cabin close" and kicked back to the dated J section. We all feel were cheated as we purposely book our trips for a380 f. Its kinda bail and switch.
Whats worse were that, both their call centre and online cs chose to lie that those seats would be restated once olci windows open, and then keep silient after we noted its a lie 48hours before the flight. Their airport staff also looked no surprise at all once we were at the port when we expressed our disappointment about seat changes. Couple of days later after the flight, theyeven dare to raise such issue proactively with an attitude that "u r welcome to complain, by reaching us thru email.... Blah blah"!
The only amasing time was in the air! All crews inflight treated me so well, they even let me stay in my original first class seat until first meal ended before bed time(as the whole cabin was assigned as crew rest area that flight) after knowing my story.
Overall MH is just hopeless, especially their horrible cs, incapable hotline staff and poor attitude ground staff. Together with all the mess of such "bait and switch" arrangements. I feel so sorry for their cabin crews as they are so amasing but have to work with those horrible person on ground.

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