Malaysia Airlines’ turns attention to passenger improvement with new business class seat

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 22, 2016
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 9M-MTD in Melbourne in 2011 (Mehdi Nazarinia)
Malaysia Airlines flies Airbus A330s to Australia. (Mehdi Nazarinia)

Malaysia Airlines’ new business class seats on its Airbus A330-300 fleet represent the carrier’s focus on improving the passenger experience amid ongoing operational and behind-the-scenes changes at rehabilitating the loss-making carrier.

Since taking over as chief executive in August 2015, Christoph Muller and his management team has cut routes, disposed of surplus aircraft and slashed the workforce by about 30 per cent in an effort to turn around the airline’s financial performance.

While ongoing, those efforts have already yielded some promising results, with Malaysia Airlines reporting revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) grew 10 per cent in the three months to February 2016. Load factors were also up in the quarter.

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Malaysia head of sales Laurent Recoura says the new business class seats being installed on the A330-300 fleet is something new and fresh for the customer.

The airline displayed a working model of its business class seat at a function for the travel trade and other invited guests at a function in Sydney on Wednesday, which also featured a musical performance from Australian singer Kate Cebrano.

Kate Cebrano performing at the Malaysia Airlines business launch in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)
Kate Cebrano performing at the Malaysia Airlines business class launch in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)
Malaysia Airlines' new business on display in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)
Malaysia Airlines’ new business class on display in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)

“Now is the time where we need to deliver more new products, because in the eyes of the public sometimes we hear ‘you guys, you’ve been very busy but we didn’t see something for us, the customer’,” Recoura told guests at the function.

“Right now, the message we are sending to the industry and to the world: we are back in the game.

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“We have something fresh and innovative. It’s a very nice product.”

Malaysia Airlines chose Sydney as the inaugural route to feature the Thompson Vantage seat, which coverts into a fully flat bed and is a significant upgrade from the previous angled lie-flat offering. The first flight was on March 23.

The refits of all 15 Airbus A330-300s were expected to be completed by September, with the business class cabin cut from 36 seats to 27 seats in the new 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 configuration. The 43-inch seat pitch coverts into a 76-inch flat bed.

There were no changes to the economy cabin. The aircraft serves Australia, Asia and New Zealand from the airline’s Kuala Lumpur hub.

“The introduction of the A330 Business Class seat will make us more competitive against other full-service carriers and is part of our push to make Malaysia Airlines the preferred carrier to, from and around Malaysia,” Malaysia Airlines chief commercial officer Paul Simmons said in a statement.

“This is the start of an exciting roll-out of new, innovative and personalised products and services that we can’t wait to share with our guests.”

A version of the Malaysia Airlines’ Thompson Vantage seat was also found on airlines such as Austrian, Delta and India’s Jet Airways.

Recoura said the airline was hoping to grow inbound tourism to Malaysia, which has a sizeable domestic market.

“You have seen a lot of adjustments in our network, we’ve cut a lot of capacity in a lot of markets, but what we are doing right now is also putting Malaysia, the destination, in the centre of our network,” Recoura said.

“We have a wonderful destination, it is a great country, we need to make more noise about it.”

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