Malaysia Airlines To Retire All Their Airbus A380, Expects Travel Slump To Last Through 2023

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Malaysia Airlines is the latest airline that has publicly announced the permanent retirement of their Airbus A380 fleet of which the carrier still has six in their fleet.

Malaysia Airlines executives are expecting extremely low travel demand through at least 2023 and are now seeking to finally send all of their A380s to a parking lot.

The Airbus A380 was never a good fit for Malaysia Airlines and the carrier has struggled using it’s capacity every since the aircraft type has entered their fleet.

Since the airline has started to cut back on their international route network, for several years now you could see the A380s mostly parked at Kuala Lumpur Airport which is indeed a sad sight. As of late MH has chartered them out for religious pilgrimage “Hajj” flights to Saudi Arabia.

With the airline burning money constantly management has now decided to pull the plug as an article from Bloomberg revealed yesterday.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd. said air travel demand will remain subdued and it expects a full recovery after the end of 2023, amid a resurgence of Covid cases in many countries.

  • The national flag carrier has cut more than 1,500 jobs and plans to reduce capacity further as part of the restructuring it began in October, Chief Executive Officer Izham Ismail said in a briefing on Tuesday
  • The airline aims to transform into a global travel group as “pure play” airline is not sustainable, Izham said
  • Aviation industry may consolidate as airlines globally contend with travel curbs and targeted lockdowns to combat new waves of Covid cases; domestic travel market conditions to become “worse” post pandemic
  • Malaysia Airlines aims to have 83 aircraft in total by 2025, and the Group looks to break even in 2023
  • Airline plans to retire A380 superjumbos and is exploring ways to dispose them, he said.

The plan the retire their A380 is nothing new. Former CEO Peter Bellew has said as early as 2016 that the carrier is looking for ways to sell them off. Back then they were hoping (dreaming) they could sell them to Chinese operators but that never materialized.

Since then MH has found a variety of ways to utilize the aircraft at least sometimes including using them within Asia on routes to Tokyo, selling their First Class as Business Suites.

I had the A380 a few times even on short routes such as Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok:

When exactly Malaysia Airlines will really phase out the A380 from flying service is something you can just guess about. After all right now there isn’t any major flying activity anyway.

The issues of MH and their A380 fleet surfaced as soon as they received their first deliveries as the carrier simultaneously cut down their international route network such as Paris. At the time Malaysia Airlines got their A380s other airlines had already decided that they would eventually phase them out. Last but not least MH bought six of them with no clear plan how to fill them with passengers, let alone with profitable tickets.

For years Malaysia Airlines sold premium fares at rock bottom prices from most South East Asia destinations. I only booked a Bangkok-Beijing round trip in Business Class for ~ $260 (I covered this back then).

The A380 still remains my favorite Aircraft together with the B747 and some carriers such as Emirates and ANA will continue flying it for at least another 10 years so there’s some hope.

Conclusion

As every other airline Malaysia Airlines has to fight with the impact of the global pandemic but the carriers problems stem from way before Covid-19 ever came onto the scene. The airline has been broke for over a decade and always been propped up by the Malaysian taxpayers through their sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional.

Most recently it was once again put into question if MAS can survive but then they receive yet more money. Now more management speculation about the path forward which won’t be very bright as it seems. Even MH management foresees a dead market for the coming two years. Are they really going to park the A380 for good this time? Time will tell.

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