Gosh! I never imagined I would be writing an article with this title so soon!
I mean, it just seems like it was yesterday when the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” took to the skies! It’s been less than 14 years since the A380 first flew and it has been in service for just over 12 years!!!
But it *IS* true. Airbus today (February 14th 2019) announced that it will deliver the last of its largest passenger aircraft in 2021, thus effectively pulling the plug on the iconic double-decker A380. The fact that the Boeing 747 – the original Jumbo jet that first flew in February 1969 is expected to remain in production (as of now), and that the Airbus announcement comes barely 5 days after the Boeing 747 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight just makes the whole thing quite ironic.
If the Boeing 747 revolutionised and up-sized long haul air travel, the A380 made it grander! The aircraft’s size was unprecedented, with a wingspan that is wider than the length of Airbus’s massively popular narrow-body A320 and a full length twin-aisle upper deck. It also was much quieter and more fuel efficient and flew farther than the Boeing 747. This meant that the Superjumbo often drew comparison to the Jumbo, which it was originally poised to replace.
However, the sheer size of the aircraft meant that airports needed to invest tons of money to upgrade err… up-size their infrastructure. The cost of maintaining as well as operating these behemoths is colossal too. The development of large wide-body twin engined jets that are capable of flying passengers cheaper, faster and farther was the final nail in the coffin for the A380.
The Airbus announcement came along with the news that Emirates – the largest operator of the A380 has ordered a total of 70 brand new twin-engined Airbus aircraft. The Dubai based carrier announced an order of 40 Airbus A330-900neo and 30 Airbus A350-900 wide-body aircraft. Emirates trimmed its original order of 162 A380s to 123 jets. Even though the airline will still take delivery of 14 more A380s (more than the size of the total A380 fleet in most airlines) between 2019 and 2021, the intent was clear. That Airbus announced its decision to pull the plug on the Superjumbo on the same day should come as no surprise.
Make no mistake – the A380 will be around for more than a decade at least. Most A380 airframes are less than 10 years old and still have a lot of life left in them. If you’re one of those that have never set foot inside one of these gigantic aircraft, there is more than enough time to fly on them.
Will we ever see an aircraft larger than the A380, or at least as large as it being built in the future? Highly unlikely, but who knows? Only time will tell…
Malaysia Airlines (MH) recently took delivery of its first brand new Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The aircraft is slated to take over the airline’s long haul routes that were formerly operated by the now retired Boeing 777s and also the ones operated presently by the Airbus A380 (i.e. KUL-LHR)
The A350s will prove to be a cost effective and fuel-efficient alternative than the gigantic A380 and provide much longer range than the airline’s A330-300s. At the time of writing this, MH has taken delivery of a second A350, and both the aircraft are currently doing short domestic and regional hops for crew training/familiarisation.
I saw this as a good opportunity to try out the Business Class product on the brand new aircraft, and promptly booked a flight to Penang (PEN), operated by the A350
REACHING THE AIRPORT
I was booked on MH 1140, with a scheduled departure time of 1105. However I received a text from MH a few hours before departure, informing me of a delay in departure. I left home accordingly, and reached the KLIA Main Terminal with plenty of time to spare.
A quick visit to the Anjung Tinjau (Viewing Gallery) at KLIA gave me an opportunity to spot my aircraft docked at its designated gate.
Check-in was quick and the Business Class counter had just one person ahead of me, and I was checked-in in no time at all.
The check-in agent handed me my boarding pass and invited me to the newly renovated Malaysia Airlines’ domestic Golden Lounge.
Security check took no more than 2 minutes, and I was soon in the domestic departures area.
A view of the retail area in the Domestic Departures hold.
The MH lounge was a five-minute walk away, and a smiling MH lounge attendant greeted me at the reception.
The lounge had a definitely fresh look to it, and didn’t seem too crowded at the time. I quickly found a seat facing the tarmac, and grabbed some coffee and snacks.
The view from the MH Domestic Golden Lounge.
The food & drink counter
As the boarding time approached, I made my way towards the departure gate, which was a good 10 minute walk from the lounge.
Airline: Malaysia Airlines
Flight: MH 1140
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
This would be my ride today! Malaysia Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 9M-MAB
Boarding for our flight was announced at 1130, 30 minutes before the revised departure time, and the huge crowd of waiting passengers queued up almost immediately. I on the other hand, took my own time admiring the brand new bird.
As the queue thinned out, I walked over to the boarding counter. The agent quickly scanned my boarding pass, and I made my way to the aerobridge.
Looked like a full house today!
Much larger windows on the A350 as compared to conventional aircraft. However, the 787 windows are larger.
The Business Class on MH A350-900 has a total of 35 seats and is divided into two sections. The forward section is the larger of the two, and is separated from the smaller aft section by the Business Class galley. I had selected a seat in the aft cabin, and I had the whole cabin to myself on this flight.
The Business Class cabin features a staggered 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 configuration. On the port side, there are single seats adjacent to the window, while on the starboard side, there are single as well as double seats in alternate rows. The middle section has 2 seats in a staggered arrangement.
This should give you an idea of the seating configuration.
The seat itself is nice and comfy and wide enough for a long haul flight. It of course reclines into a fully flat bed.
The crew offered a choice of welcome drinks (apple juice, orange juice, guava juice or water) and I opted for an orange juice.
The boarding process took around 40 minutes, and we were ten minutes past our departure time by the time it was completed. The doors were soon closed but we waited a few more minutes for pushback clearance.
The Captain on our flight today was a senior Airbus check pilot, and the First Officer was a Malaysian. The MH pilots are currently undergoing checks with pilots from Airbus.
The view out of my window (Seat 10A)
The IFE system
Nice little cubbyholes to keep your smartphone and water bottle
We finally pushed back 20 minutes past noon, and slowly the two RR Trent XWB engines powered up. The A350-900 is super quiet, and even with the engines powered on, you could hear the hiss of the air-conditioning vents.
A small prayer as we begin our journey
We began a slow taxi towards Runway 32R, which was the active departure runway, and held short as a Malindo Air 737 began its take-off roll.
Soon it was our turn, and we lined up on the runway. The Trent XWBs spooled up to take-off thrust and we accelerated down the runway. The A350 was incredibly quiet even during take-off, so much so that one can hear the distinct sound of the flaps being retracted.
Our heading today would be northerly straight to PEN.
The Business Class seat in the fully flat position
I spent the next few minutes chatting with the cabin crew about their experience with this new aircraft. The crew seemed really pleased with it and was looking forward to operating it on the long haul routes. As per the head purser, MH would be operating the A350 on the KUL-LHR route starting Jan 15th.
The crew was kind enough to offer me a tour of the First Class cabin.
The First Class cabin on board MH A350-900 consists of 4 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Plenty of space in the suite
Seat & IFE controls
With the door in the closed position
I loved the choice of colours used in the First Class cabin; gives it a premium look and feel.
Posing with the cabin crew. They were really courteous and answered all my questions patiently! 🙂
The flight to PEN was quite short at 40 minutes, and the first officer announced that we had begun our descent.
As we descended into PEN, the view outside my window was gorgeous!
We touched down at 1315, nearly twenty minutes past our revised arrival time.
After a short taxi, we docked at the Penang International Airport terminal, bringing to an end this short but enjoyable flight.
The hard product on board MH’s A350-900 is definitely state of the art, and looks pretty comfortable for the long haul flights it will eventually operate. Since this was a short flight, I was not able to experience the on board service though. However, MH is generally pretty good as far as the in flight service is concerned.
The food variety is decent, and the signature satay is simply delicious. I hope MH comes up with some special offerings to mark the introduction of this brand new aircraft type. I also hope that the A350-900 brings in some much needed resurgence in MH’s fortunes. Here’s wishing them all the best!