Malaysia Airlines transitions its first class cabin into a premium business class offer
Asian carrier Malaysia Airlines has dropped its first class offering onboard its Airbus A350 and A380 aircraft, but will retain the premium product, instead selling it as a premium business class service. The changes were made with effect from 12-Dec-2018, with the airline citing high business traffic demand for the switch.
It is clear that airlines are facing increasing pressure selling a first class product in today’s marketplace. While, such an offer is sustainable in some markets, these have significantly reduced in number over the latest decade. Malaysia Airlines says the former first class on the two Airbus models will offer “an enhanced Business Class service at an attractive price point for passengers”.
Known as Business Suites, It will maintain the former service proposition with dedicated check-in counters, access to the premium First Class Lounge, 50kg baggage allowance as well as an enhanced fine-dining experience onboard. It will be available on routes between Kuala Lumpur and London, Tokyo and Osaka and also on flights between the Malaysian capital and Sydney and Seoul during the current winter season.
Apart from the new name, it appears that nothing else has changed, except the price. Malaysia Airlines confirms that the Business Suites are being sold at a price point below the previous first class offer. This, it hopes, will enable it to boost occupancy levels, while enabling it to build additional loyalty for its frequent travellers. It will also open the cabin to additional corporate customers that may be restricted from purchasing first class tickets. In comparison with other first class products, some had described the Malaysia Airlines offer as purely a glorified business class so it might now be pitched at its right market.
Maslen Aviation Consultancy analysis of OAG schedule data for The Blue Swan Daily shows that the number of global first class seats has declined for a second successive year to the second lowest level this decade. From peaking in 2015, levels subsequently declined by more than a fifth (-20.4%) in 2017 and fell a further -11.0% in 2018. As a percentage of total capacity in what is an expanding global business, first class seats have shrunk from a 2.0% share in 2014 and 2015 to just a 1.2% share in 2018.
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