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Malaysia Airlines Is Rearranging Its A380s to Carry 700 Passengers

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Ever since having one of the most unlucky years in aviation history in 2014, Malaysia Airlines has been struggling financially. Rather than trying to rebuild itself as a global airline, the Oneworld carrier has decided to transition into a purely regional one. As part of this transition, Malaysia Airlines has been trying to sell or lease most of its long-haul aircraft since early 2015.

Malaysia Airlines has had an especially hard time disposing of its six Airbus A380s. This challenge is being further complicated now that other airlines are concurrently offloading older A380s onto the used aircraft market. So, the carrier has been pressured into coming up with more creative uses of its A380s.

Now, it seems to have a plan: It’ll start using its Airbus A380s for charter flights, in which the planes will be used for “religious pilgrimage traffic.” The high demand on these routes means that the airline is forced to focus more on capacity than comfort. So, Malaysia is planning to retrofit its A380s — which currently have 494 seats — to carry up to 700 passengers in an all-economy arrangement. Even at this capacity, Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew expects enough demand to necessitate “up to 20 A380s to carry pilgrims from around the world to Mecca.”

The bright IFE screens greeted passengers during boarding.
Malaysia Airlines’ current economy cabin was quite a pleasant ride during a recent TPG review.

To most, 700 probably seems like an absurdly high number of seats for one aircraft. After all, Emirates’ new 615-passenger A380 just recently became the record holder for the most passengers. Believe it or not, the Airbus A380 is certified to safely transport up to 853 passengers (and 20 cabin crew) in an all-economy, 30-inch pitch arrangement. Thankfully for the 700 potential passengers, Malaysia Airlines’ current economy experience is fairly comfortable. It remains to be seen if the comfort level is different after the retrofit.

H/T: Air Transport World

Featured image courtesy of Oneworld.

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