Malaysia Airlines is now considering of launching a premium economy class. The option would help to attract long-haul business travellers as one part of a broader strategy to try to help it exit years of losses, its chief executive said in an interview on Friday to US news agency Reuters.
The airline, which introduced a new business class seat last week, will make a decision in “a couple of months”, CEO Christoph Mueller told on the sidelines of an industry event in Bali.
“We are very happy with business class demand, and this gives us the opportunity to increase the revenue per passenger in the economy class. The target passenger is in economy class, and you don’t want to cannibalize the business class,” said Mueller.
Mueller, an experienced industry executive, was hired to push through restructuring at MAS in May after national investment firm Khazanah took it private late last year as part of a RM6 billion programme that also cut the airline’s workforce by a third.
“We have to prove every quarter that we are on track, and only against the delivery of certain targets is the funding provided,” said Mueller, referring to progress in his efforts to turn the company around.
Introducing premium economy seats – usually wider and with more leg room than in economy class – would allow MAS to compete more effectively for business passengers against its rivals. Cathay Pacific, Eva Air and Singapore Airlines already have a premium economy class in the region.
All MAS aircraft currently operate in a two-class configuration – business and economy – except for its Airbus jumbo A380s, which also have a first class option. MAS considered premium economy for the A380s in 2012, but decided against it in favour of additional economy class seats.
The fate of the airline’s A380s remains uncertain. The airline has unsuccessfully tried to sell two of the four-engined jets, and industry sources say it could also try to offload the other four in the coming years as it reworks its fleet plans.
Mueller said that while it is too early to talk about retiring the A380s, he would “never say never” to the option.