LONDON – Malaysia Airlines has today sent its first Airbus A380 to long-term storage in Tarbes at an interesting time when other carriers wish to reactivate the aircraft type.
@myplaneschaser on Twitter got footage of the aircraft departing Kuala Lumpur earlier today, which you can see below:
Data from RadarBox.com shows that 9M-MNC is the first airframe that is being sent over to long-term storage, having operated MH5088 earlier today.
MH5088 arrived in Tarbes at 1512 local time today.
9M-MNC was delivered to Malaysia Airlines back in October 2012. Based on data from Planespotters.net, the aircraft sat eight people in First Class, 66 in Business, and 420 in Economy.
The airframe was withdrawn from use back in February 2020 and subsequently stored in Kuala Lumpur as the COVID-19 pandemic was about to intensify in nature.
Is It A Smart Move from Malaysia Airlines?
With demand increasing for long-haul travel in Asia again, especially as we continue to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an interesting move from the airline to not reactivate the aircraft type.
It’s no secret that reactivating the A380 costs a lot of money, as has been well-examined in the case of Qantas.
Back in October, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce confirmed that bringing back one Airbus A380 into the air takes around 4,500 hours’ worth of work.
On conversion, that is around 187.5 days to bring the aircraft back into service, which will cost the airline a lot of money for six months just to bring the aircraft back into shape.
The Australian carrier took the decision to park all 12 of its A380s back in June 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full effect.
However, of the 12, 10 are coming back into the fleet to help the carrier with the influx of international capacity it has been experiencing.
CEO Alan Joyce said the following regarding the logistics of bringing the aircraft back into service:
“Just to wake up an A380 is 4,500 hours, or two months, of manpower. That’s 10 engineers working for two months in the Mojave Desert – for one plane.”
“They replace all 22 wheels and all 16 brakes and get rid of all of the oxygen cylinders and fire extinguishers. Everything on board the aircraft is replaced.”
“The aircraft is put up on jacks in the middle of the desert. Its gear is tested, and the aircraft’s engines are run in the desert to make sure that they’re all functioning.”
“That’s just to get out of the desert to Los Angeles or to another maintenance facility. When the aircraft is flown out, most of the aircraft then go through 100 days of maintenance on top of that.”
“We will have by Christmas six of the aircraft back by, but we won’t get all 10 of them back until well into 2024. That’s how long this takes.”
So, with that in mind, it’s understandable why Malaysia Airlines wouldn’t reactivate the aircraft type, as restructuring and making money does seem to be taking precedence here.
Focusing on The Short-Medium Haul Instead?
It could be suggested that Malaysia Airlines wants to put its money into the short and medium-haul sectors instead.
Reports from Bloomberg are stating that Malaysia Airlines is looking to double its Boeing 737 MAX order.
The airline already has 25 737 MAX aircraft on order. If this was to be doubled, then total commitments would stand at around 50 aircraft, valued at $2.4bn.
CEO Izham Ismail said the following to the news outlet on ordering more aircraft:
“Our future network requires 50 narrowbody airplanes, so we have still got space for 25″.
“We have to make some decisions by next year.”
Ismail also gave quite an indicator to Bloomberg on what demand is like for the carrier at this present time.
“We don’t have enough airplanes”.
It remains clear that Malaysia Airlines is now beginning to get back to some form of normalcy, especially with the next stage of fleet expansion on the way in less than two years’ time.
From Ismail’s words about not having enough aircraft, this means that the demand is more than clearly present and visible for the airline to take advantage of, but he will need to implement this expansion quickly.
This means that the airline will have to choose carefully how they expand, as if they expand into the wrong places, it could end up becoming 2015 all over again.
To answer the question: Malaysia Airlines sees the MAX as an aircraft they can get behind, especially from the perspective of better efficiencies and lower fares for customers.