Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is still looking into the possibility of cancelling its 2005 order for six Airbus A380-800s if there is a further delay in the delivery of the aircraft.
According to MAS Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Azmil Zahruddin, the airline is not happy with the delay. The A380s were originally supposed to be delivered on a staggered schedule, starting March 2007 and ending in 2009. Due to programme delays, the start of deliveries was deferred first to January 2011, then to the first half of 2012.
“We will not rule out anything at this stage, as it is very frustrating,” Azmil says.
The airline had made plans to deploy the aircraft on services to London and Sydney – the carrier’s ‘gold mine’ – replacing the Boeing 747-400s currently utilised for both routes. MAS is in the process of phasing out the 747s. From a fleet of 17, four have already been sold to an unidentified airline and three more leased to start-up carrier Alwafeer Air in Saudi Arabia for five years. Alwafeer wants to lease another three aircraft.
MAS Chairman Munir Majid adds that the airline board’s stance on the issue is clear: the carrier will not tolerate another delay.
The airline has already received 329 million ringgit (US$102.8 million) in compensation for the earlier delay, and is now in talks with Airbus over further compensation. The airline has a contingency plan in case it decides to cancel the order, but there is no plan to swap A380 orders for the new A350 twinjet.
MAS sees the Boeing 777-300ER as a potential replacement for the A380, although it does not have as much seating capacity as the latter. The airline sees the A350 and the 787 Dreamliner as meeting a different requirement and wants to evaluate the two types alongside each other.
“We want to be certain that, should we decide on the A350 in the future, it will be the right aircraft for the carrier,” Azmil says.
Thai Airways International late last year asked to cancel its order for six A380s or swap it for Airbus A330-300s, but was turned down by Airbus. However, the manufacturer allowed Thai to defer the start of deliveries from 2010 to October 2012.
Separately, MAS plans to acquire new long-haul aircraft seating 300-350 passengers to replace its aging fleet of 17 Boeing 777-200s. According to a MAS official in Kuala Lumpur, the carrier will choose between the Airbus A350-1000, the 787 or the 777-300ER.
“Detailed evaluation will only commence at the end of this year and a decision is expected to be made by the second quarter of 2011,” the official said.
MAS is expected to place an order for 20-25 aircraft, with deliveries starting in 2015-2016. With Boeing unable to offer further 787 delivery slots before 2019 due to its order backlog, the evaluation looks like a straight choice between the A350-1000 and the 777-300ER, which is a proven aircraft that is also capable of operating non-stop between Kuala Lumpur and London.