Malaysia Airlines’ newly acquired fleet of A330-200s could emerge as a lifesaver for the Auckland-Kuala Lumpur route.
Malaysia Airlines has served Auckland with A330-300s since 2015, when it stopped deploying the 777-200 due to a restructuring related decision to phase out the 777 fleet. However, the A330-300 is not an ideal aircraft for Auckland-Kuala Lumpur as the route is up against the aircraft’s range limits, resulting in payload limitations on some flights.
The A330-200 can easily operate Auckland-Kuala Lumpur without any limitations as it has 14% more range than the A330-300, according to Airbus specs. Malaysia Airlines recently agreed to lease six second hand A330-200s for delivery in 2018.
Auckland is served daily and is Malaysia Airlines’ second longest route after London Heathrow. London is now served twice daily with A380s but will be down-gauged in early 2018 to A350-900s ahead of transferring the A380 fleet to a new charter airline.
Malaysia Airlines is leasing six new A350-900s, which have even more range than the A330-200, for delivery in late 2017 and 2018. At one point Malaysia Airlines was planning to use the new fleet of A350-900s for both London and Auckland.
About a year ago Malaysia Airlines earmarked Auckland as the first regular A350 route with service beginning in late 2017. However, Malaysia Airlines decided in 2Q2017 against deploying any of its six A350s on the Auckland-Kuala Lumpur route. Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew told CAPA in Jun-2017 the Auckland market can no longer support the A350 because it has become extremely competitive following the launch of nonstop flights from Emirates and Qatar.
The new nonstop flights to Dubai and Doha have impacted Malaysia Airlines traffic from Auckland to London and India. Emirates and Qatar have been able to attract New Zealand-India traffic despite the required backtracking by offering very low fares.
The new nonstop flights to Dubai and Doha – as well as additional capacity to some Asia destinations – have particularly impacted premium demand. This is an important consideration because Malaysia Airlines will have a much larger premium cabin on its A350 while the economy cabin will be slightly smaller compared to the A330-300. Malaysia Airlines is configuring its A350s with 35 business class and four first class seats while its A330-300s have 27 business class seats and does not have a first class.
The A330-200s Malaysia Airlines are receiving early next year will have 19 business class seats. This could be an ideal figure for the Auckland-Kuala Lumpur market given current premium demand. The A330-200 and A330-300 business seats are both fully lie flat although the A330-200 has a more desirable configuration as all seats will have aisle access. Three of the business class seats on the Malaysia Airlines A330-300s do not have aisle access.
The A330-200 will have slightly more economy seats than the larger A330-300, which would result in almost a 10% increase in economy capacity in the Auckland market while premium capacity declines by 30%. A reduction in economy pitch could dissuade some passengers but both aircraft types are outfitted with modern seatback in-flight entertainment systems in both cabins.
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