MAS to offer premium economy 

TOULOUSE (France): Passengers flying the Kuala Lumpur-London route will have an option of premium economy seats on Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flights, once the airline starts using the Airbus A380 aircraft next year.

This will be the first time such a seat class is available on the national carrier's fleet.

MAS managing director and chief executive officer Tengku Azmil Zahruddin Raja Abdul Aziz said the premium economy seats are more comfortable than the seats in the economy class.

"It is halfway between the business class and the economy class. There will be four classes (on the A380) - first class, business class, premium economy and economy," he told Malaysian media during the visit to Airbus factory here, on Wednesday.

Among those present to see the final stage of assembly of MAS' first A380 were Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, Malaysian ambassador to France Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Seri Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid.

The first of MAS' six A380 superjumbos will be delivered in April next year, making it among the first 10 airlines in the world to operate the A380.

Tengku Azmil said the plane, which can carry about 500 passengers, will make its first flight to London next summer.

"It is too early to share (but) the products are much better than what we've got now," he said when asked about the cabin's features on MAS' A380.

He said the price of the tickets will be "more competitive and excellent value".

MAS expects delivery of five A380s on a staggered basis next year, while another one will be delivered in 2013.

"I've been assured by Airbus that the delivery will be on time against the revised schedule," he said.

MAS was initially scheduled to receive the A380 in January 2007, but Airbus delayed its delivery thrice.

It is believed that the European plane maker has paid about RM300 million to MAS as compensation for the delays.

In an earlier briefing to the Malaysian media, Airbus' A380 product marketing director Keith Stonestreet said the delays in delivery were due to technical glitch in designs and not the core engineering designs.

He said the matter has already been resolved.

On funding for the A380 planes, Tengku Azmil said MAS is still working on it.

He said there is still time to work on the funding for the A380s as the company is currently waiting for the delivery of other aircraft first.

The purchase bill of six A380s is close to US$2 billion (RM6.1 billion)

Meanwhile, Kong said the delivery of A380s is expected to enhance the airline's load factor and boost tourist arrivals to Malaysia.

"There are currently 51 A380s in operation by six airlines. These airlines are experiencing high load factor, which is over 85 per cent, indicating air travellers prefer to fly on A380," he said.

Kong also said that the government is currently negotiating with a few countries on landing rights.

So far this year, it has managed to secure additional landing rights to Japan and the Philippines.