MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) will spend RM700mil to upgrade its first and business class seating and install new entertainment systems in its fleet of 17 Boeing B747 and 15 Boeing B777 aircraft used in medium- and long-haul flights.
MAS senior general manager (sales, distribution and marketing) Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Dahlan said the refurbishment would feature, in first and business classes, state-of-the-art sleeper beds that could be fully reclined.
The new in-flight entertainment will offer audio-visual on demand, with DVD quality resolution screen, as well as a host of interactive in-flight services such as live TV, e-mail and short messaging service.
“It is a major step in the implementation of our business strategy – to target increased growth, yield improvement and profitability, and to develop competitive advantage – post-Sept 11 and the various lingering events such as the gulf war, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and various bombing incidents,” Fuaad said.
Speaking at an agreement signing with US-based B/E Aerospace Inc and Matsushita Avionics Systems Corp in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Fuaad said that 60% of the budget would be allocated for cabin accommodation, which would be handled by B/E Aerospace and 40% for in-flight entertainment, to be installed by Matsushita Avionics.
“The refurbishment programme will start in the third quarter of this year, with the first B777-200 in operation in November 2004 and the first B747-400 by January 2005,” he said, adding that the refurbishment programme would be done during the scheduled major maintenance on the aircraft and was not likely to disrupt utilisation.
The overhaul programme, to take four years, will also see first-class seating in B747-400s reduced to 12 from 18, and business increased to 41 and economy to 306. For the B777-200, MAS will scrap the first-class section and increase business-class seating to 42 and economy to 247.
“With the reduction in seat count, passengers can enjoy extra space and extended leg room,” Fuaad said, adding that the cabin would also be refurbished with elegant fittings, new lighting, and new amenities.
He said the refurbishment was timely in view of the higher demand for business-class travel for medium haul flights around the region.
“We have experienced some 10% increase in bookings for premium-class seats, but our decision to change the seat configuration was made to fit our long-term strategic planning,” he added.
Fuaad said the decision to refurbish the cabin was also to ensure competitive advantage and to continue providing world-class facilities to customers.
“We provide the best cabin crew service in the world, and now we want to add to that the best cabin accommodation and in-flight entertainment,” he added.
Asked about the high cost of refurbishment compared to similar exercises at such airlines as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, Fuaad said MAS had chosen the latest system available in the industry, and the flat bed was the third generation introduced in the airline industry.
He said the airline took almost a year to plan the refurbishment and look for suitable vendors.
The refurbishment – the first such major exercise by the airline –would be financed almost entirely by internal resources, Fuaad said.
“MAS's recent asset unbundling exercise had cleared some of our debts and freed some of our internal resources,” he said.