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Jun 28, 2017

What Malaysia Airlines really thinks about its Airbus A380s

Is Malaysia Airlines right about the future strength of Airbus A380s in high volume air transport?

An airliner so big the wing doesn’t fit into the photo

The fate of Malaysia Airlines’ six Airbus A380s has been the focus of much criticism of the giant airliner, but what does it really think about the type’s future?

Runway Girl Network has scored an interview on that topic from the Malaysia carrier’s new CEO Peter Bellew while he was at large at the recent Paris Air Show which might surprise the pro and anti A380 camps, and stir up parallel debates as to how renewable fuel developments will affect airline operations in general.

To go to fuel first, because it is part of a set of issues that make the fate of any particular airliner seem trivial, Bellew thinks renewables will prove so successful that they will have the surprising consequence of keeping conventional aviation fuel very cheap for a long time and give airlines a long holiday from the ruinous prices that threatened their operations early this century.

Bellew says “My own personal opinion is that renewable energy is really at a huge inflection point right soon, round about 2019-2020. You’ll see the proliferation of renewable energy, autonomous cars, electric-powered cars. I think demand will level off for oil, and I think that maybe the next decade will be the golden decade for airlines. I think you could see the oil price levelling off at 30, 35 dollars per barrel for ten years, because the renewables are going to be an unstoppable force.”

His comments about the A380 design in its own right do of course reflect Malaysia Airlines’ interest in seeing their being put into a charter and lease arm of the carrier succeed. Which apparently has been the case even before they are withdrawn from its scheduled network next year.

He says “I don’t think anybody has used the aircraft properly. I think this nonsense of showers and apartments and snooker tables and bars is not what they were meant for. I think they were meant for moving 650-700 people 8-11 hours, and I think we’ve proved the case for that with this charter arm, and I think other people then will probably copy it in years to come, or scheduled airlines will get faith in it again.”

Which, come to think of it, seems to be borne out by Emirates enthusiasm on at least some routes for a reconfiguration of its A380s to a 615 passenger business and economy class format, but which does keep the bar set up for premium fare payers, and doesn’t use any reduced space seat sizes for the main cabins.

Let’s hope this example makes some users of high density economy in smaller jets like the 787 family reconsider their strategies, and put a bit of comfort back into ‘cheap.’

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