All business class seats would be temporarily removed and replaced with economy seats, for a maximum capacity as high as 850 seats in the A380.
“Both these aircraft have this ‘quick change’ feature for converting business class into all economy class in two weeks” Garuda Indonesia CEO Emirsyah Satar told Australian Business Traveller, adding that “we would order the aircraft with a minimum of two classes” to facilitate the change.
“We are looking at both aircraft now to see which is more efficient for us” Satar said.
The Indonesian flag-carrier expects to place an order for either the A380 or 747-8I by year’s end, primarily to ferry Muslims from Jakarta to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj and Umrah religious pilgrimages.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim state, but while these big birds would be fitted with both business class and economy cabins during those high traffic periods, Garuda wants the flexibility outside those peak travel seasons to maximise the number of bums on seats.
“Saudi Arabia doesn’t issue any visas before or after the three-month Haaj period” Satar said, “so there is basically no traffic at all. That gives us time to put the aircraft in hangar and convert them.”
Satar expects the converted aircraft would then “fly to the Middle East and also the growing market in China and Japan.”
Airbus is already tempting potential A380 buyers with a 600-seat A380 using a two-class configuration.
The A380 vs 747-8I decision is part of a larger fleet review to determine Garuda’s needs through to 2025, which also puts the Boeing 787, 777X and Airbus A350 on the slate.
However, Satar said he has no plans to begin flights to the USA, choosing to focus instead on growing the European and Asian market.
“In terms of Indonesia, the US is not a very big market” he explained.
“We prefer to be more dominant in Europe – we have London and Amsterdam, we will also fly to Germany – either Frankfurt or Munich, we have not decided – and either Rome or Milan, so we will be more concentrating more on this.”