Malaysia Airlines has removed the A380 from its Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong route so it can undergo "wing repairs".
The flag carrier, which has taken delivery of all six of its superjumbos, has been flying the 494-seat aircraft from its Kuala Lumpur hub to London Heathrow (twice daily) and to Paris and Hong Kong (both once daily).
But as of this month, it will only have five A380s at its disposal because Airbus is recalling one aircraft at a time for two months each to carry out the maintenance work.
So, in a bid to minimise disruption and passenger disappointment (the plane is fitted with its newest seating products throughout), Hong Kong flights MH72 and MH73 have been swapped to a 282-seat B777-200 for the entire year-long period.
The destination only started receiving the superjumbo last May. The flight time between the Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong is three hours, 45 minutes.
Weng Chi Lee, Malaysia Airlines' area manager for the UK and Ireland, said that replacing the A380 on the Hong Kong route means "the double-daily A380 to Heathrow and the daily to Paris CDG will be maintained".
However, he added that with no surplus aircraft, MAS is relying on the remaining planes to be in "perfect working order, as there is no buffer [if one needs to be swapped out]".
He said: "Even if we put in a replacement aircraft it will be difficult to replace the kind of seat factors that we are facing. We are making our contingency plans but we hope not to use them. Everyone is on high alert so that any defects get fixed. We can't afford to have downtime."
In other news, Malaysia Airlines has been a member of Oneworld for just over a year now and, as a consequence of its partnership with British Airways and American Airlines, will be pulling out of the US this coming April, with the cutting of its Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles service (see news, January 27).
Weng Chi Lee said: "We have been talking about getting out of the US for a while. Obviously, there is a demand for Americans coming to South-East Asia for business and leisure but what we have found with us joining Oneworld is we are not going to feel the pinch.
"With BA and, of course, AA flying in here, we are getting a lot of US business. The East Coast is very good and very new for us — they are going from New York and Dallas Fort Worth down to Kuala Lumpur."