Malaysia Airlines Berhad has hinted at plans to order 25 widebody aircraft by the end of the year, according to CEO Peter Bellew.
Fifteen of these aircraft would replace the airline’s existing fleet of Airbus A330-300 aircraft, while the other ten aircraft would allow for expansion of new routes. The competition for the order is between the Airbus A330neo and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Deliveries would start in the third quarter of 2018, through to 2023, during the same time that the leases of the existing A330 fleet expire.
The carrier wants to configure the aircraft in a two class, business and economy layout. This is opposed to a three class layout, with the addition of premium economy, which has previously been unpopular in the Malaysian market.
The remaining ten aircraft to be used for growth will offer route upgrades for flights to Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. These particular routes use downsized equipment, previously operated by the Boeing 777-2ooER to the Boeing 737-800. On the other hand, Bellew hinted at the remaining aircraft being used for possibly resuming European routes
“Market conditions have to be right before we start flying to Europe again; I do not see this happening before the 2019-2021 time frame” Bellew noted
London is the European destination that Malaysia Airlines currently flies to, served twice daily by the carrier’s Airbus A380 aircraft. However, there are plans to replace the super jumbos with Airbus A350-900s, starting in April 2018. These will be leased from Air Lease Corporation (ALC) under a 12 year agreement.
Current plans for the A380 fleet include reconfiguring them to seat 700 passengers for Hajj flights to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Bellew is in talks with Airbus to carry out the reconfiguration process.
In other news, Bellew has also hinted at the airline leasing an extra four A330-300s to operate high capacity short-haul routes.
The airline is also planning to open seven new routes from Kuala Lumpur to China starting with Nanjing, Fuzhou and Shenzhen in April followed by Wuhan in August and Chengdu and Chongqing in October. It expects to announce flights to Tianjin within the next few months.
Plans for April also call for the introduction of a new route, between Penang and Shanghai, and the doubling of daily Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai service.
“Regaining market confidence is a boost and with flights recording 90 percent-plus [load factors] indications of better times are to come,” Bellew concluded.
Bellew expressed confidence that Malaysia Airlines will return to profitability in 2018 despite strong competition from fellow carriers Malindo Air and AirAsia on domestic and regional flights. For the carrier, passenger loads have improved significantly after a pair of high-profile crashes in 2014 forced the airline into bankruptcy.