FRESH from completing its turnaround scheme, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) unveiled yesterday an expansion plan to provide greater connectivity to lucrative markets within the region and domestically.
The expansion, which would allow the airline to increase yields in the longer term, is to take effect from the new summer schedule that comes into effect on March 30. The expansion is also intended to support the KL International Airport as an aviation hub.
Presenting the plan to journalists yesterday, MAS senior general manager of sales, distribution and marketing Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Dahlan said the plan was a fast-track five-year strategy to take advantage of the current growth of the airline industry, particularly in the region.
To ply the routes, MAS would lease an additional eight aircraft. The first three A330-200 aircraft would arrive in February, while the balance five B737 would be leased on a staggered basis over the year.
Fuaad could not furnish details of the lease agreements; MAS's parent, Penerbangan Nasional Bhd, would lease the planes. In addition,MAS is also ready to offer charter flights to several destinations in India, the Middle East, China and Japan. The charter flights would be operated during peak seasons.
The reorganisation has given us an opportunity, and we have to take up the challenge as we see great demand for air travel,'' Fuaad said.
He said markets such as China, India, Europe and Australia were lucrative for the airline. Recently, the government managed to secure landing rights for several destinations in China and India.
China is like open skies for us and we have a lot of frequency there. As for India, we expect to conclude discussions within the next three months, and to begin additional frequencies to Bombay, Hyderabad, New Dehli, Madras and Bangalore,'' he added.
According to the expansion plan, MAS would increase flights to several destinations in China and Indonesia, as well as to Seoul, Hanoi, Yangon, Paris, Amsterdam, Perth, Auckland, Melbourne and Bangkok; and, domestically, to Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Alor Star.
For Shanghai, it would increase frequencies to twice daily from once daily flights; for Seoul, to six weekly, from four; for Yangon, to three weekly, from two; for Hanoi, to five weekly, from four; and for Xiamen, to five weekly, from three.
There would also be three additional flights to Paris; two direct flights to Auckland; one additional flight to Perth, and three B777 services to Melbourne.
Locally, in continuing its long-term commitment to providing affordable services, MAS would add 16 new flights to Penang (to 101 a week, from 85); two to Johor Baru (to 34, from 32); two to Alor Star (to 23, from 21); seat increases to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
It will also introduce Fokker 50 services between Miri and Mulu and increase services to Alor Star beginning Feb 13.
As for Singapore, the shuttle operations between KL-Singapore will be revamped with the introduction of A330 services to replace the existing B737 services.
For several of its local destinations it would use wide-body aircraft; for some others it would use the A330-200.
The average passenger load factor since April last year was 72% and MAS is aiming to maintain the load factor above the 70% bracket with the expansion.
The plan will see MAS providing a total of 149,456 passenger seats per week.
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