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12:24 AM

MAS rethink on A380?

Posted by hOtspUrz


S&P says it understands that MAS has broached the idea of swapping the A380 for smaller wide-body aircraft to avoid up to US$300 million in penalty if it were to cancel the order

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) may be considering replacing its order for six Airbus A380 superjumbos with smaller wide-body aircraft such as the A330 or A350, according to a Standard & Poor's (S&P) report.

"We understand that MAS has broached the idea of swapping the A380 for smaller wide-body aircraft such as the A330 and Airbus' upcoming A350 to avoid a massive penalty of up to US$300 million (RM1 billion) if it were to cancel the A380 orders," S&P Asia Equity Research analyst Shukor Yusof said in a report.

According to a source familiar with the situation, MAS is looking to buy as many as 18 A330s, with the option to buy another seven.

"MAS recently sent its technical staff to Toulouse (France), where Airbus is headquartered, to evaluate the smaller wide-body aircraft," the source told Business Times.
When contacted yesterday, MAS chief executive officer and managing director Datuk Tengku Azmil Zahruddin dismissed the S&P report as unfounded.
"The fact is, we have said that we are planning to replace our wide-body aircraft. Currently, we are evaluating various options to ensure that the aircraft complement our fleet replacement strategy.

"At the same time, we need to match the new aircraft to our network growth plans, especially for key markets such as South Asia, China, Australia and the Middle East. For these key areas, we want to offer our customers increased frequencies for added convenience and better connectivity," Tengku Azmil said through e-mail.

"In the meantime, we continue to evaluate our options on the wide-body aircraft," he said.

In his report, Shukor said that MAS was having second thoughts on the operational viability of the A380, the first of which is scheduled for delivery in 2011, due to the current economic recession and a decline in air traffic.

Recent reports on launch customer Singapore Airlines' inability to fully maximise the yields on its A380 were also said to have given MAS cold feet in proceeding with the purchase.

MAS ordered the A380s in late 2003 through Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd, a leasing company owned by the Ministry of Finance.

MAS currently operates 14 A330-200/300s with an average age of 13 years.

"If the swap were to take place, MAS would likely phase out its entire fleet of Boeing wide-body aircraft comprising seventeen 777-200s and thirteen 747-400s," said Shukor.

MAS already has an order for 35 narrow-body 737-800s, with another 20 on option, delivery of which will start in the fourth quarter of next year. However, these planes are more for regional flights.

"A re-fleeting of its aircraft would be a major step for MAS considering that the 777s and 747s have been the workhorses for MAS and many other successful airlines. MAS will have to carefully consider whether the A330s or A350s can serve the airline as well as the Boeings did," Shukor told Business Times over the telephone from Singapore.

He said that while cancelling the A380 orders was an option, it appeared to be the best in the long run, even if costly for MAS.