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.