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Malaysia Airlines eyes 30% cost drop from A350s on London route

Malaysia Airlines expects unit costs to fall by around 30% on its Kuala Lumpur-London route when it starts to replace its Airbus A380s with A350-900s from the end of the year.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing at the Airbus Asia Training Centre in Singapore, the Oneworld carrier's chief operating officer Izham Ismail says that London is one the carrier's hardest markets, but there will be major benefits from the aircraft switch.

"The impact on yields will not be as bad, and we will not be as exposed to high operating costs. We expect unit cost to come down by around 30%, as compared to operating the A380," he explains.

Ismail adds that the A380 suffers from poorer operating economics compared to the newer A350, mostly due to the latter's superior fuel efficiency. In terms of passenger revenue, Ismail adds that Malaysia Airlines has had difficulty filling up the aircraft at certain times.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the carrier's six A380s have a total seat count of 494 across three classes: eight in first, 66 in business and 420 in economy. By contrast, the carrier's A350s will carry only 286 seats in three classes: four in first, 35 in business and 247 in economy.

The A380s operate the Kuala-Lumpur London route on a twice-daily basis, which is the carrier's only European destination, having axed services to Amsterdam and Paris in January 2016.

Fleets Analyzer shows that Malaysia Airlines is scheduled to take six A350-900s from Air Lease. The airline tells FlightGlobal that two will be delivered by year end, while the remaining four will arrive in the first quarter of 2018.

Ismail says that the carrier is still working out the other routes that its incoming A350s could be operated on, with that North Asian destinations such as Tokyo and Seoul on the cards.

On pilot training, he explains that the new aircraft will require around 144 A350-rated pilots, most of whom will come from its existing pool of A330 crew.

Malaysia Airlines plans to transfer the A380s to a new, as-yet unnamed, charter subsidiary, that aims to start operating on religious pilgrimage routes from early 2019.

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