KOTA KINABALU: Hot on the heels of its inaugural commercial flight to Kota Kinabalu, newcomer Malindo Air has mapped out a strategy to fly to 12 destinations this year. And if all goes as planned, the Indian capital of New Delhi would be its maiden international destination some time in the middle of this year.
Today, Malindo Air will begin plying its second route Kuala Lumpur-Kuching. Its load factor for the first day of operations averaged 70%.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Malindo Air chief executive officer Chandran Ramamuthy said a 70% load factor was good and that forward bookings were looking great.
“We even having bookings for 2014,” he said.
It was just over six months ago that Malindo Air, 49% owned by Indonesian Lion Air, was conceptualised. The airline's takeoff yesterday defied sceptics who had said it would never see launch.
“We have proven them wrong. We have taken off and we followed the timeframe set, although it was tough,” said Chandran. Malindo Air was supposed to begin operations in May but brought it forward to this month as it managed to get the aircraft numbers. It has two aircraft now, which would increase 12 by the year-end.
Its entry also marks a milestone in Malaysia's aviation industry, as now the country had a third airline after AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.
Its entry would certainly intensify competition, although Chandran believes the market is big enough for three players, a sentiment also echoed by Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri.
“Now, travellers have another choice and that is good for consumers,” observed an analyst.
Malindo Air is flying passengers on its new B787-900 extended range, offering 15kg of free baggage, snacks and free inflight entertainment, with a business class offering thrown in. The airline is offering promotional fares of RM68 one-way all-inclusive from the KL International Airport (KLIA) to Kota Kinabalu and RM38 from KLIA to Kuching, valid till Oct 28.
Chandran would not elaborate on Malindo Air's future destinations other than New Delhi, but those in the know claim it would fly to Sibu, Miri, Bintulu, Sandakan, Tawau, Labuan, Bali, Surabaya and possibly even Jakarta, which is currently serviced by Lion Air.
KLIA would be its main transit hub with Kota Kinabalu as its secondary hub.
Malindo Air has big plans for the Kota Kinabalu hub. Chandran said there would be direct connectivity from Kota Kinabalu to Indonesia, Japan, China and South Korea within two years.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, meanwhile, said the arrival of Malindo Air to Kota Kinabalu would hopefully boost tourism in the state.
Last year, tourist arrivals in Sabah totalled 1.8 million.