Malaysia Airlines will add a new 'Economy Plus' cabin to its Airbus A380s later this year as part of a CEO Christoph Mueller's 'reboot' of the troubled airline.
The economy cabin at the rear of the superjumbo's upper deck – currently the domain of 70 economy class passengers, behind the business class cabin – will be converted into an 'economy plus' zone.
A spokesperson for Malaysia Airlines told Australian Business Traveller that the new cabin would deliver "enhanced space and premium offerings" but specified it would be sold as Economy Plus rather than a dedicated premium economy class favoured by the likes of Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and most recently Singapore Airlines.
This indicates the upper deck could retain the same economy seats as the main deck but with with several of its nine rows removed to provide extra legroom, although the 2-4-2 seating layout would likely remain.
Many airlines – including Qantas, Qatar Airways, Air France, China Southern and Thai Airways – include a small economy cabin at the rear of their Airbus A380s.
This zone is often the pick of savvy travellers due to window-side seating in pairs rather than triples (so there's no middle seat), storage bins for the A and K window seats and a generally quieter and more 'intimate' space than the cavernous 350-seat economy cabin downstairs.
'Super-economy' Mk II..?
Malaysia Airlines originally earmarked the rear of the A380's upper deck for a spacious "super-economy" cabin, but opted for standard economy seating and pitch to allow an extra two rows on business class to be installed.
In November 2015 Malaysia Airlines CEO Christoph Mueller indicated he was reconsidering the merits of a better-than-economy cabin, which would attract higher fares than regular economy seats.
"We are very happy with business class demand, and this gives us the opportunity to increase the revenue per passenger in the economy class" he told Reuters. "The target passenger is in economy class, and you don't want to cannibalise the business class."
Mueller said this week that with the airline unable to find a buyer for two of its A380s, the entire six-strong superjumbo fleet would remain in the skies until at least 2018, after retiring its older Boeing 777-200s and when the airline's first Airbus A350s are slated to arrive.
However, London currently remains the sole A380 destination on MAS' route map.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.