Turkish To Lease Two Malaysia A380s?

Filed Under: Malaysia, Turkish

Literally a year ago today I wrote about the rumor that Turkish Airlines would be wet-leasing four A380s. At the time, the rumor was as follows:

Turkish Airlines is about to sign an agreement to wet lease with an un-named airline for 4 A380. According to sources,  the 4 aircraft planned to enter to the fleet by summer.

THY plans to fly with some China destinations which are not easy to increase slots. At the moment, THY’s biggest aircraft is Boeing 777-300ER with 337 seat capacity. In January THY also started negations with LOT to wet lease Boeing 787’s. According to the plan, THY will open San Francisco route and use the 787’s on this route.

Well, ultimately nothing came of that at the time, though the rumor is finally resurfacing in a more concrete way.

Via Bloomberg, it looks like Turkish Airlines is in final negotiations to lease two A380s from Malaysia Airlines:

Turkish Airlines is considering leasing two Airbus A380 superjumbos from Malaysian Airline System Bhd., giving the rapidly expanding carrier a test run at flying the world’s largest airliner, according to people familiar with the plan.

Senior management will ask for approval from the board in coming days to enter formal talks with Malaysia Airlines, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Malaysia Airlines, which operates six A380s, no longer needs the capacity, another person said.

Malaysia Airlines A380

This would be a really smart move, in my opinion:

  • It allows Turkish to basically “test out” the A380 and see how it works for them, before possibly placing some orders for them
  • It allows Malaysia Airlines to “rightsize” their fleet, after last year’s disasters and poor financial performance

Malaysia Airlines A380 first class

As it stands, Malaysia Airlines has six A380s, which they use (rather inefficiently) for their twice daily Kuala Lumpur to London flights and once daily Kuala Lumpur to Paris flight. Their A380s have way too much ground time as it is, so at a minimum they could operate once daily service to London and Paris with four A380s, and could potentially even do some additional frequencies to London.

Christoph Mueller, the current CEO of Aer Lingus, will soon be taking over at Malaysia Airlines. He’s one of the brightest guys in the airline industry, and I certainly don’t envy his job.

Malaysia Airlines 777

I think leasing off two A380s would very much fall under his business plan. He’s an excellent “crisis manager,” and I suspect his strategy will involve:

  • Drastically cutting down their amount of short-haul flying, given that they can’t compete with the low cost carriers in the market
  • Eventually upgrading their premium class products, if they want any chance of capturing traffic that isn’t originating/terminating in Kuala Lumpur (given that their A330s and 777s feature angled seats in business class)
  • Greatly reducing their footprint and sticking to the markets where they’re actually adding value (which for connecting traffic isn’t very many markets, unfortunately) 😉

Malaysia Airlines 777 business class

If this deal does indeed go through, it’ll be very interesting to see which routes Turkish puts their A380s on, and if they end up ordering any A380s as a result of the lease.

I’ve flown every airline operating the A380 — Air France,  AsianaBritish Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. — so if Turkish leases Malaysia A380s, does that mean I have to fly them as well? 😉

Anyone care to guess whether this deal will go through, and which route they’ll put their A380s on?

  1. Do they paint and refurbish the cabin to match Turkish Air Colors? If so, who is responsible for this bill? Any idea how much “renting” an A380 costs?

  2. This is a smart move.

    MS needs to get rid of the A380s code red.

    MS has also made clear that they will be rationalizing their fleet, and they’ve said out loud that they are considering abandoning long-haul (most if not all) and focusing on regional operations, letting their alliance partners handle long-haul inbound and outbound flights.

    If MS is to survive, this is a very smart thing to do.

  3. “He’s one of the brightest guys in the airline industry, and I certainly don’t envy his job.”

    Is there anybody’s job you do envy?

    “He’s an excellent ‘crisis manager'”

    Maybe we should wait to see if/how he is able to turn around MH before we hand over the accolades. Personally I cannot imagine a path forward that puts me on one of their aircraft. Both their company and their country have taken a huge hit to their credibility. You can get away with running a lousy airline in the lousy US market but in service focused areas like Asia you better be on top of your game if you want to succeed. Even before these disasters MH didn’t seem to know or care how they compared to other Asian carriers and suffered numerous forced cutbacks as a result.

  4. I flew CDG-KUL in MH F late 2014 and the ground services for MH F in CDG were quite poor given F and J passengers didn’t have priority access in the security and immigration lines (whereas other airlines’s passengers did!)
    I do hope TK leases 2 A380s and my guess is they’ll send them to China.

  5. So..how will TK use the MH’s F seats? Will they sell them rather cheap like LH does with some of their old F-Seats? (F-Seat, but just regular C-Service)

  6. @TravelinWilly @Ben – When he said MS had to get rid of their A380s, I was like “I wish they had some”.

  7. Doesn’t surprise me. I flew one of MH’s A380s from HKG-KUL (a real mis-use, but better than sitting on the tarmac at KUL between morning arrival and evening departure to/from LHR/CDG) and it was pretty empty in all cabins, two of us in F (both on awards), a smattering of folks in J/C, and lots of open seats in economy. Even before its unfortunate loss of two 777s, MH was having problems filling its planes. Buying A380s was more an ego decision than a rational business one for this carrier. It has few routes that could sustain such an investment…which was only compounded by its bad luck last year.

    Depending upon the routes TK would put these planes on, it could bring back F as it did when flying Jet’s 777s with the F cabinets…the same ones TG later took over for a while. Or either modify the cabin by installing business class seats, or just offering the F seats to its top tier elites as many airlines do when flying F cabined planes on J/C premium only routes.

    MH is a curious parallel to the fate of its country after the split away of Singapore. That country blossomed and boomed, as did its airline SQ, leaving Malaysia and MH in the dust due to its slavishness to crony capitalism and Islamic obeisance.

    I still have no qualms about flying MH, and have since its unfortunate losses (I was on the same flight that vanished a week prior). It’s crews have been pretty good as I have tired from the ever-present FAs on SQ, so pretty good is all I ask for. As for safety, when my number’s up, it will be up…at 200K flight miles a year who can say otherwise?

  8. Just got off the phone with THY. We are on the SFO-IST-SFO flights in May, in Business. Was given seat assignments in Row 5. I was told there’s a second section to Business class with rows 5, 6 & 7. I was assured this wasn’t Economy Comfort. However, none of the seat maps anywhere depict this second section. I wonder if this is new equipment? Agent said it’s still a 777.

  9. @Veejay
    That’ll be TK’s new 777 (77B) with 7 rows of Business-class. I see them on the IST-ORD as well

    Funny enough TK doesn’t even list 77B on its own website, only way to see Seat Plan is to do a dummy booking

  10. MH should seek “synergies” such as JVs with its OW partners. I’ve flown a few segments on regional MH routes, particularly on a trip into eastern Borneo as part of a Oneworld Explorer award (RIP) with AA. On that segment, I flew KIX-HKG on CX, then HKG-BKI-SDK on MH/MASWings. The MH J product on the A320 was quite nice, and beats anything a US-based carrier offers.

    But if you’re bleeding cash… well, I could just as easily have flown CX on the HKG-BKI route. MH fills some great OW niches in Malaysia, and ought to capitalize on that. Which means not flying the same routes your partners do. Long Haul isn’t MH’s strength, I mean they just don’t have much of anything to the US from KUL. CX offers so many more options that MH is just a flash in the pan, not to mention that HKG is a more optimal connection point than KUL is coming from most of Asia.

  11. I doubt TK will bother attempting F with only 2 planes – its too much hassle and investment. They’d be smarter offering the F seats with J service for a slight premium on the normal J class (say USD500 per flight?).

    I would hate to be in charge of maintenance at TK – they operate so many different aircraft type. If they add A380 and 787 they would have to operate the most different types of any European carrier wouldnt they? A318, 319, 320, 321, B737, B738, B739, A330, A340, B777, A380 and B787?

  12. To understand MH, one has to understand Malaysia. Malaysia is a country that is a racist monopoly, everything is split along racial lines, there is no meritocracy, the chinese and indians that make up the rest of the country are treated like 2nd and 3rd class citizens, starting from school and up to places in university and jobs. So what do you end up with? A country run by monkeys patting themselves on the back and giving jobs to other monkeys. This poor guy taking on the job is not gonna be given free reign to fix whatever problems MH has.

  13. @Ben why are you referring to TK as a European carrier? Are they in the EU? no… just being on the continent geographically does not count in my book, it is a savage little country.

  14. @Jay – Would you consider SWISS to be a European carrier? Because Switzerland is not in the EU. Why does “your book” not classify a country as European unless it is in the EU: Ukraine, Norway, Switzerland, and several other EUROPEAN countries are not in the EU. That would be like saying the USA is not in North America unless it is in a Union with Canada and Mexico.

    Also, what are you accomplishing by calling Turkey a “dirty little country”?

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