SEPANG: Budget carrier AirAsia Bhd is in talks with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) about collaborating in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).
“It makes complete logical sense. If together, the two of us can make a regional powerhouse in MRO, that’s great,” AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes told reporters after the company’s AGM.
Tony said he was “all in favour. But it is early days. There is nothing on the table yet. We are encouraged by the discussion.”
On Monday, new MAS chief executive officer Christoph Mueller said “it will be interesting to explore” when asked if AirAsia could become an equity partner in the MRO business.
Tony also said he was sure AirAsia would find opportunities to collaborate and work with MAS.
“We have heard that MAS and Khazanah Nasional Bhd are focused on making the airline profitable. It is good for the aviation industry that all the airlines make money.”
“Many things we have talked about for many years – due to emotion, never happened. I think, now Mueller comes with a fresh piece of paper, no baggage, no emotion. He says what is good for MAS – let’s see whether collaborating with AirAsia makes sense.”
“We have put our planes somewhere for maintenance. Why not keep it in Malaysia and do it with MAS, and both of us get lower costs, and more importantly, through both our volumes – we can offer to third party airlines around the world. And Malaysia becomes a much bigger MRO centre and more jobs are created.”
As for AirAsia’s near-term plans, Tony said the group is focused on turning around PT Indonesia AirAsia and AirAsia Inc (Philippines), improving its balance sheet and growing ancillary income.
Meanwhile, AirAsia chief executive officer Aireen Omar also urged Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to be quick in working with AirAsia in embracing technology that would reduce airlines’ costs and improve operational efficiency.
“Among the areas we like to see improvement in, is on the check-in system; self bag drop and own bag tag. Unfortunately, negotiations are taking a longer time than it really is. We are hoping to have this system in Malaysia. Otherwise, Changi Airport would just beat us to it,” she said.
Tony added that he was frustrated at what he claimed was MAHB’s “lack of speed” in helping AirAsia to reduce costs.
“Things are not moving quick enough. Other airports from around the region are responding quicker. This is home base. We are the largest low cost carrier, and Malaysia should be the number one leader in low cost travel. We need MAHB to be much more pro active in helping us to fulfil that vision.”
Tony added: “With what is happening in the aviation industry, we need to grow. Many people are out of a job. If we grow, and other airlines also grow, then people who are without a job can get one.”