On Sunday, Malaysia Airlines added new routes to their future Airbus A350 network. According to AirlineRoute, Malaysia will be using their new A350 on flights to Tokyo and Auckland from their hub in Kuala Lumpur. These will mark the second and third regularly scheduled routes for the aircraft with Malaysia.
Beginning May 5, 2018, the carrier will begin operating the aircraft on flights MH88 and MH89 to and from Tokyo’s Narita airport — one of Malaysia’s two daily flights between the two airports. The route is currently operated by an Airbus A330 meaning the swap will allow for a capacity increase as the airline’s A350s hold a total of 286 seats, just a few more than the A330, according to statistics released by the airline earlier this year.
On Aug. 5, 2018, after the airline takes more deliveries of the next generation aircraft, the A350 will again take over for the A330 on the airline’s daily flight to Auckland. Those flights currently operate under the flight numbers MH133 and MH132 for the outbound and return legs, respectively.
Although the number of available seats will not increase greatly from the A330, the A350 features an improved business class product, a first class cabin, and in-flight Wi-Fi.
The Asian carrier became the 17th in the world to take delivery of the aircraft on Nov. 30, which they will operate on various intra-Asia routes to familiarize flight crews with the new fleet type. This comes before beginning flights to London on Jan. 15, 2018, taking over for the Airbus A380 on one of two daily frequencies. The A350 will begin operating the second frequency on March 5, 2018, removing the A380 from the route entirely.
The familiarization flights for the aircraft include flights between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, Thailand; Penang, Malaysia; and Singapore, operating five-times weekly until either Jan. 13 or 14, 2018, depending on the route.
“We are very excited to welcome this new addition to our family,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Captain Izham Ismail said. “With its technological advancements, the A350-900 is an important milestone for us on this journey, helping boost our competitiveness on our long-haul flights. The addition of the A350-900 also underlines our commitment to operate a young and modern fleet.”
The airline has a total of six A350s on order, so these three routes will utilize most, if not all, of the aircraft. The maximization of the use of these aircraft may hinder its use on other routes and may be the extent to which Malaysia is able to extend its A350 route network.
“The Government, the stakeholders, the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], and even the citizens of Malaysia are very hopeful that Malaysia Airlines will turn around into profitability soon,” Ismail told Malaysian newspaper The Star. “We are not out of the woods yet. We have lots of work to do, and 14,000 employees of MAB are working very hard to turn around this organization.”
Many in and around the airline believe the arrival of the Airbus A350 helps to symbolize the revitalization of Malaysia’s national airline. While most see the A350 as the best opportunity to bring profitability back to the airline’s long-troubled ultra-long-haul operation, the company itself sees a much larger goal, of which the new aircraft is just a small part.
“The airline’s focus is not only to make money,” he said in a press conference after the welcoming ceremony of the first Airbus A350-900, “but to be the icon of Malaysia, something that Malaysians can be proud of.”