SYDNEY: Prospects are looking good for Malindo Air to achieve its target of ferrying seven million passengers this year, with plans to add more routes to its network and more aircraft to its current fleet.
Chief executive officer Chandran Rama Muthy said the airline’s business is growing and demand has been increasing, more than what it can currently cater to due to the limitation of aircraft.
“We’re expecting to take delivery of about four to six aircraft (this year). We need more capacity. Right now, we have a lot of charter requests from China to Kota Kinabalu and also Peninsular Malaysia, but unfortunately, we can’t fulfill this because we have fewer aircraft at the moment.
“We’re hoping to get more capacity injected into our network so that we can achieve a faster growth level, ” he told reporters recently during the launch of the airline’s inaugural flight here via Bali.
The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max narrow-body airliner also seems to be an opportunity for Malindo Air, as many airlines are requesting for assistance, especially in the South Pacific.
Malindo Air recently wet-leased its Boeing 737-800 to Samoa Airways. Moving forward, Chandran said Malindo Air was also talking to another country in “specific islands” to position its aircraft there to operate on their behalf.
Just last month, Malindo Air also wet-leased two ATR 72-600 turboprop planes to Royal Brunei Airlines.
Chandran said the airline still holds on to its aim of going into the black by 2021.
“But you must understand that the airline business is very dynamic and also overly-dependent on US dollars and fuel prices.
“About 70% of our costs are based on the US dollar such as aircraft rentals, maintenance, insurance and spare parts.
“So, if the greenback is way too expensive and we’re earning in ringgit, it’s quite difficult for us to meet where we want to go.
“Having said that, we are a very cost-disciplined airline and we manage our costs very well and we still hope to break even within a three-year time frame from last year, ” he said.
The airline is also looking to add four more Boeing 737-800 workhorses and two ATR72-600 to its fleet by the end of the year, which will see Malindo Air operating some 50 aircraft within six years in operation.
“We only had two planes when we took off. Now, we’re almost approaching 50 and our target at that point of time was 100 aircraft in 10 years. If not 100, it would be around 60 to 80.
“Malindo Air is now a matured brand and people like our product because of our consistency in offerings and service. We’re also expanding in terms of frequency in places where we see a lot of demand, ” Chandran said.
Malindo Air’s latest flight to Sydney via a one-hour stopover in Denpasar, Bali completes the airline’s Australian jigsaw puzzle of metro cities. Its other Australian destinations are Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The Sydney route is expected to fly at a 90% load factor, equivalent to some 100,000 passengers annually.
The airline plans to double the frequency to two flights daily during peak seasons to cater to the demand from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“If you don’t fly to Sydney, that means you’re losing out on a big catchment area in Australia. Perth has a population of two million, while in Sydney, it’s six million.
“We may look into other secondary cities like Cairns or Darwin in the future, ” he said, adding that Malindo also plans to launch its flights to Da Nang in Vietnam this October.