MAS introduces first A380, explains premium-economy u-turn

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As Malaysia Airlines' second A380 is put through its paces in the flying display at Farnborough, the carrier's first aircraft is now earning money on the Kuala Lumpur-London Heathrow route.

MAS, which put the 494-seater into service on 1 July, has ruled out earlier plans to offer premium-economy seating in its A380 fleet. Its A380s are in a three-class layout, comprising eight first class on the main deck, 66 business class on the upper deck, and 420 economy seats split between both decks.

The airline had originally planned a more spacious "super-economy" cabin in the rear of the upper deck, but this cabin now has 70 seats offering similar leg-room to the 350-seat economy cabin on the main deck. The change enabled around two more rows of business seats to be installed, says MAS group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya. "We took premium economy out because we thought it would be easier for us to sell business class, and we think we can manage the yield better through business class," he said, speaking during the A380's Heathrow debut on 2 July.

One novelty is the MAS policy to discourage economy passengers with children from booking seats in the upper-deck cabin until all the main-deck places are allocated, due to concern that noisy children could disturb business-class passengers seated in front of them.

Yahya says that the A380 will go to a daily frequency on the London route from mid-August when the second aircraft arrives. Four A380s will be delivered this year, and the final two follow in 2013. Their arrival will allow MAS to retire its nine Boeing 747-400s by March next year. Other early destinations earmarked for the MAS A380s include Sydney, Tokyo Narita and Beijing.