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Malaysia Airlines Restructuring Fleet: Selling A380s

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After suffering not one but two of the worst air disasters in history in 2014—one of which still remains a total mystery—Malaysia Airlines has found itself in deep financial straits, and is selling off a major part of its fleet as part of a restructuring campaign.

Though the airline itself has not commented, multiple sources are now reporting that Malaysia Airlines has put all six of its A380s, two 747s, four 777-200ERs and four A330-200s up for sale or lease. That represents a fraction of the airline’s fleet of 150 or so planes, however, it is a major portion of its jumbo long-haul fleet, and demonstrates how extreme the airline’s circumstances are.

Following the disappearance of MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing last March and the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine in July, the Malaysian government nationalized the airline in August in a move to save it from total collapse.

In addition to securing the airline’s $1.5 billion in debt with a $2 billion investment, it also meant cutting about a third of the airline’s workforce, and now the current aircraft sales.

A side view of the A330 seats.
I flew a Malaysia A330 with old-school business class seats back in January.

While this restructuring is eliminating the airline’s cargo fleet, its impact on passenger traffic is less clear. The A380 is the airline’s flagship, and it only took delivery of its first one back in 2012. The aircraft is the only one in Malaysia’s fleet with lie-flat beds in business class, and a competitive first class cabin with semi-private suites. Malaysia currently operates them on heavily trafficked routes to Paris and London. So in addition to the airline’s losses due to the twin 2014 tragedies, this could represent another major blow to the airline’s competitiveness on the world air travel stage.

Still unclear is who might be interested in these aircraft. Qatar Airways or perhaps Etihad, both of whom have A380 orders that are currently being fulfilled, are fingered as likely candidates, but for the moment, everything is up in the air.

Have you flown Malaysia Airlines recently? How was your experience of the airline?

Hat tip: One Mile at a Time.

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