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Friday November 2, 2012

Malindo Air brings forward operations date to mid-March

PETALING JAYA: Malindo Air which is supposed to start flying May next year has brought forward the launch date to mid-March and will begin with domestic flights and a month later it will expand to offer international flights with its first stop being India, said PT Lion Grup chief Rusdi Kirana.

In a telephone interview, he said that he had decided to delay the launch of Indonesia's Batik Air from March to year-end in 2013 because he wanted to focus on building Malindo to become regional player sooner.

“We will delay Batik Air launch because we can now use Malindo to fly international routes. You must remember that Indonesians like to fly the world via Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Bangkok and Lion Air, being the biggest domestic carrier can be a feeder for Malindo for the international connectivity,” he said.

“It is possible for us to bring forward the launch date because the aircraft meant for Batik Air will now be allocated to Malindo. Batik Air was only going to offer point to point services but we are more keen to have a hub in KL to move traffic beyond KL.

“We now fly the most number of points within Indonesia and imagine the traffic volume that we can bring from all these destinations into KL and beyond to countries such as Thailand, China, India, Vietnam and Hong Kong,” he said, adding that “We would fly where the Indonesians like to go and the feed will be from Indonesia.”

This year Lion Air would have flown 30 million passengers, and next year it is targeting 35 million and Malindo Air CEO Chandran Ramamuthy said “if we can divert 10% of that traffic into KL and beyond, it would be good.”

PT Lion has a 49% stake in Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd which will operate Malindo Air. PT Lion owns the whole of Lion Air and Batik Air, a new start up for international routes. The remaining stake in Malindo is held by Tan Sri Ahmad Johan via Nadi Sdn Bhd. Ahmad Johan also owns Mofas Air.

Lion Air has 600 take-offs daily and it has ordered more than 300 new aircraft from Boeing whose deliveries stretch through to 2026.

It currently has 75 aircraft.

Malindo will take delivery of the first two B737-900ER in March, followed by and two each in April and May.

On funding he said “I think it is not going to be so much, the idea is to have 12 aircraft next year.”

Rusdi said the first two aircraft will be used to ply the Kuala Lumpur-Sabah and Sarawak routes.

The next two will be used for flights to India, and its first stop will be Trichy but New Dehli will be added to its network.

“In May we will fly to China and are looking at cities such as Canton and Shenzhen, and will also add Hong Kong,” he said.

Asked if Malindo had the rights to fly the international routes like China and India, he said “we are in the process of getting the rights.”

Chandran added that “we have had a series of meetings with the regulators and we are confident that we can start in March. We have submitted all the applications and are awaiting for approvals.”

Asked on competition he said “if you see AirAsia Indonesia and Garuda, they have a big network in Indonesia but their market share is smaller than ours and we have 600 take offs in a day, and we carry 100,000 passengers a day. So with kind of traffic, and if we have more destinations, we can carry more passengers. We fly to 69 points such as Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Pekan Baru, Medan, Semairiang, Solo, Pontianak and all this traffic (needs to go somewhere). That is why we think we can be successful with Malindo,” he said.

On the overwhelming response to Malindo walk in interview he said “it is good that there are a lot of people who want to be involved in the aviation industry. There is a good time to expand in Malaysia given the pool of human resources here.”

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