There has been much speculation in recent months about the future of Malaysia Airlines’ long-haul routes, specifically those to Europe, after it became known that the airline was planning a radical restructuring and reports that much of its long-haul fleet, including its Airbus A380s, were being put up for sale.
At a press conference today incoming CEO Christoph Mueller outlined in very broad terms some aspects of the restructuring.
It is known that the restructuring will involve the transfer of operations to a new legal entity and approximately 6,000 job cuts.
Christoph Mueller would not be drawn on specific route decisions, other than to say that London was considered a flagship route and would stay.
Furthermore, the airline would seek joint-venture relationships with fellow Oneworld alliance partners.
We would not rule out some form of capacity cut, either through reducing its twice-daily London Heathrow-Kuala Lumpur frequency and/or by downsizing from an Airbus A380.
Published traffic data for this route suggests that a double-daily A380 is excessive.
There is also scope to form a joint-venture with British Airways, which returned to Kuala Lumpur only last week, with mutual code sharing on the route and “back and beyond” routes to from London and Kuala Lumpur, as BA currently has with American Airlines and Japan Airlines.
British Airways has today, 17 September 2014, announced it is to return to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from 27 May 2015.
BA will operate a daily flight from London Heathrow Terminal 5, initially with a four class Boeing 777. This may change to Boeing 787).
Here is the initial timetable:
Flight BA33 Depart London Heathrow 20:15 – Arrive Kuala Lumpur 16:00
Flight BA34 Depart Kuala Lumpur 23:05 – Arrive London Heathrow 05:25
The flight timings work well for the business traveller. BA and others have long argued that expansion at Heathrow will open up routes to the East, so it is good to evidence of this in action.
It’s noteworthy that BA has allocated a peak early arrival slot to this route, traditionally reserved for long-standing “trunk” routes such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Johannesburg, so it’s clearly expected to an important route.
BA previously flew to Kuala Lumpur until March 2001, when flights were suspended as part of wide-ranging review of BA’s route network. BA’s predecessor airlines first served Malaysia in 1933.
Kuala Lumpur is of course currently served twice daily by fellow Oneworld alliance partner Malaysian Airlines which has had some well documented problems of late and is currently undergoing a restructuring. There is no news yet on whether Malaysian Airlinesis to reduce capacity from London Heathrow. As BA and Malaysian do not have anti-trust immunity they would be prohibited from discussing/co-ordinating capacity and scheduling decisions on this route.
There is also no news yet on any codeshares with Malaysian Airlines on regional routes from Malaysia which we expect will be important to sustain the route.
At Kuala Lumpur airport, eligible passengers will have access to the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge. BA flights will depart from Satellite Terminal A.
Finally, for various reasons, new routes to Asia tend to take a while to grow passenger traffic and BA has in the past offered special fares for new route launches such as Chengdu and Seoul, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any special fares when launch date approaches.
Update May 2015: Contrary to our suggestions above, forward bookings have been described by IAG CEO Willie Walsh as being very strong, so we do not expect any downgrading of capacity by BA on this route.