Malaysia Airlines has dismissed a report that it has scrapped plans to reconfigure its six Airbus A380s to an all-economy layout and hive them off as a separate unit to focus on Islamic pilgrimage flights.
"[The establishment of the A380 subsidiary] 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 airline tells FlightGlobal.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that all six aircraft are scheduled to be parked by the end of the second quarter of 2018. Thereafter cabin reconfiguration will be carried out by Airbus "in a progressive manner", adds Malaysia Airlines.
Malaysia Airlines had previously said that it will cease operating the A380s by "the third quarter of 2018" and put them in a separate unit.
FlightMaps Analytics shows that the carrier currently operates the A380s solely on its Kuala Lumpur-London route.
After reconfiguration, each of the six A380s will have around 700 all-economy seats, an increase of 204 from the current 496.
Malaysia Airlines adds that the widebodies will still be deployed "opportunistically" during peak periods to high traffic markets such as London even after Q2 2018, as the carrier "sweats the assets while the aircraft are undergoing reconfiguration".
Malaysia Airlines' comments follow a report from Australian Business Traveller, which said that the carrier has shelved plans to set up the A380 subsidiary and that all six aircraft will remain with Malaysian flag carrier.
Former chief executive Peter Bellew had previously said that the first Umrah flights are expected to commence by January 2019.
The move to set up the new unit follows a previous, apparently unsuccessful, effort by the carrier to sell or lease the six aircraft.