Malaysia Airlines Will Lease 6 Former Airberlin A330s

Filed Under: Airberlin, Malaysia

Man oh man, this airberlin saga keeps getting more interesting. Airberlin used to have a fleet of 17 Airbus A330 aircraft, all of which were leased. With airberlin going out of business, those planes are being returned to the leasing companies. The good news is that it won’t be long before they find new homes — we already know that Lufthansa wants to take over the lease on 10 of those planes for their Eurowings division.

Well, we’re now finding out the fate of some of those other planes, and it’s a bit… surprising. Malaysia Airlines has signed a letter of intent for a six year lease agreement with AerCap for six Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Malaysia’s press releases states that these planes are coming from a “failed European carrier,” so I think it’s safe to assume that these are former airberlin planes. 😉

These planes should start arriving in the Malaysia Airlines fleet in February 2018, and will remain in Malaysia Airlines’ fleet until 2023. Malaysia Airlines plans on using these planes to up-gauge several high-demand medium haul routes. Interestingly they’re viewing this as a replacement for six 737s that they’re having to return to lessors, so that’s quite a capacity increase compared to those planes.

Malaysia Airlines 737

Per Malaysia Airlines’ press release:

The aircraft features are very similar to Malaysia Airlines’ current A330-300 fleet with exactly the same Pratt & Whitney engines. Malaysia Airlines is negotiating a maintenance support programme with Pratt & Whitney. The six aircraft will have a two class configuration, 287 seats with 19 fully lie flat Business Class seats, brand new IFE on all seats and WiFi.

Group CEO Peter Bellew said, “As laid out in the MRP, we are working hard on bringing the airline to a competitive cost position. We also want to rebuild Malaysia Airlines so we can reassume our previous premier position in the industry. The current lease rates are incredibly competitive and we are being opportunistic by leasing them at this point.”

“As I have communicated, we have an immediate need for widebodies to offer more lie flat beds in Business Class on our flights over three hours.  Malaysia Airlines has done an opportunistic deal on super aircraft from a failed European carrier. I am grateful to AerCap for their speed in working with Malaysia Airlines to help rebuild our premium business,” Peter Bellew concluded.

It’s clear that Malaysia Airlines got a great deal on these, so presumably the cost structure here will be low. Furthermore, it’s cool to see that they’ll keep the same interiors that airberlin had, meaning that there will be more flat beds on more short-haul routes, which I’m a fan of.

Airberlin’s A330 business class

Malaysia Airlines certainly seems to be on a better path than they were before, though I can’t help but wonder if they’re falling into the same trap that they did before. For the past few years the goal has been for Malaysia Airlines to shrink into profitability, after they realized they offered too much capacity in too many markets. They sort of wanted to transform into more of a regional airline.

Now they’re taking on six A330s for short-haul flights to replace 737s (which surely isn’t helping their yields, even if they’re getting a good deal on these planes), and they also recently ordered eight Boeing 787 aircraft.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for them and wish them all the best, but it seems like they’re deviating a bit from their previous strategy.

Given what attractive business class fares Malaysia Airlines typically has, I look forward to flying these planes around Asia!

What do you make of Malaysia Airlines leasing former airberlin A330s for medium haul flights?

(Tip of the hat to Ben)

  1. Yeah, likely going to see this plane on KUL – HKG, PVG and some other destinations in China and SE Asia that regularly see the 737.

    Wondering if they’ll refit the interior with their new longhaul J product or just keep what Air Berlin had, which, didn’t seem that bad.

  2. If this a more fuel efficient plane and they are leasing them for a price close to what they paid for the 737 it could be a smart move

  3. How does it work with leased planes and the interior? Since airlines like airberlin installed their own product it would be interesting to know who owns the seats in a leased plane and how is it handled when the plane will be returned etc. Maybe you can post some insights on that @lucky?

  4. Ben, The 737-800’s are currently used for Mumbai (double daily) and Delhi as well as Shanghai and Hing Kong so the A330s will help boost capacity on these routes. It is these mainline trunk routes that Peter Bellew needs the A330s for. These routes were downguaged when the B777s left the fleet.

  5. “Given what attractive business class fares Malaysia Airlines typically has, I look forward to flying these planes around Asia!”

    MH undoubtedly hopes the new aircraft will allow them to discount their premium fares LESS….so don’t get your hopes up. 🙂

  6. I think if they got those A332s, the most likely destinations are medium-hull Asian-pacific destinations, incl XMN, PVG, CAN, HKG, PER, etc.

  7. I had a good discussion with one of my friend who works for Malaysia Airlines yesterday, just hours after this was announced. What many of us didn’t know is that these is that, Peter Bellew and the Malaysia government have signed up new routes to China and they have seen increased in demand than what they could supply (hence AirAsia is taking some of their pie share) on certain routes. Hence, the 6 planes from AirBerlin is serving some of the China-run routes as well as certain Indian-run routes as well.

    Until the airline officially announces it (or an insider mole leaks), we can only truly speculate.

  8. One of the route that we know for sure that MH wants to bring back is KUL-BNE. It used to fly daily and during the restructuring it cuts BNE out completely, a route they have monopoly of. So BNE has gone from daily direct flight to nothing.

    Currently, Malindo has tested the water with a 737 with stopover in DPS, and its proven to be a profitable route as Malindo is planning direct BNE-KUL using A330.

    MH has seen the opportunity and wants to come back to BNE but they don’t have spare plane at the moment. 737 just can’t quite make KUL-BNE so they were looking to get more widebodies. This could explain why they are leading more A330.

  9. Was this a decision made by the Malaysia Airlines CEO? Or some member of senior management freelancing under the auspices of the Malaysian government, with the CEO completely out of the loop?

  10. I live in HKG and have eschewed MH since they changed to the 737 for the flights that suit my work schedule (I think the morning flight ex-HKG is on the A330). So, if the later flight is on a widebody again, I’d book with them.

  11. I want to see a Penang Shanghai direct route. Why shouldn’t there be a marked for this, with so many Chinese tourists coming to Penang?
    Is this flight within the range for 737’s?

  12. @WP well now Shanghai serves KUL 2x daily with a 737 and once with an A330. On top of that you have a truly horrible flight from China Eastern/Shanghai Airlines with a 737. Chances to have this distance on a narrow body are high now and you will still have to transit in KUL. So have it direct on a 737 would be still better.

  13. Being regional carrier is actually a mistake. MAS could not compete with AirAsia as most travelers for short haul destinations would prefer low cost carrier over premium. MAS had done that with that ‘meal box’, remember? they realised they did make money but cutting cost but in the same time they are losing customers.

  14. Just booked a KUL-DPS flight for Jan 2019 and seems the Business Class. 6 Rows 1 – 2 -1 are to remain as Air Berlin configured.

    Shame I was looking forward to a 4k Throne.

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