‘We are looking at achieving pre-pandemic capacity for India by year end’
Upbeat about the potential of expanding business travel from India, Amit Mehta, Country Manager – South Asia, Malaysia Airlines talks to Disha Shah Ghosh about their India routes, expanding capacity and new partnerships.
Q. Where does India rank in terms of pecking order for Malaysia Airlines?
India has always been a very important market for Malaysia Airlines, and as one of the world’s fastest-growing economy, it has enormous potential. The likes of Malaysia, Australia, and Indonesia are tourism hotspots for the Indian travellers. This apart, the expanding business scene in India has meant rise of the business travellers to and from India.
There is a strong pent-up demand in India to travel again leading us to increase frequencies and upgrading to wide-body aircraft on certain flights/routes. We are expecting closer or short-haul destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore to see a strong uptick in the next few quarters, among the first-time international leisure travellers. We are also seeing lot of demand coming in for Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and other Asia Pacific destinations on our network from India.
We are bullish for 2022 and are looking at achieving pre-pandemic capacity back for India by end of the year.
Q. What kind of connectivity does Malaysia Airlines offer to the Indian market?
Since 27 March 2022, Malaysia Airlines has reinstated its scheduled commercial services from India and currently operates 29 weekly flights from India from five (5) major cities in India, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai. In early 2020 we were flying to six (6) destinations (including Kochi) with 60 times weekly flights.
We will be gradually increasing these frequencies by year-end to cater to growing demands and will add new routes when opportunity arises. Current flight frequencies for India are as per below.
• Seven (7) times weekly for MAA and DEL
• Six (6) times weekly for BOM
• Five (5) times weekly for BLR
• Four (4) times weekly for HYD
Q. What is your current load factor on India routes?
Current load factor for the market has been encouraging with up to 70% load factor on these flights and forecasted forward load factor of up to 80% by 2022.
Q. Are you looking at increasing frequencies or adding new routes to India?
We are continuously reviewing the opportunities in the India market and will add new routes, increase frequencies or upgrade aircraft wherever needed to meet these demands. We are looking at achieving pre-pandemic capacity back for India by end of the year.
Q. Are there plans for any new code-share or interline agreements with any carrier?
We have recently entered into code-share agreement with Japan Airlines (JAL). The expanded code-share will further enhance the customer experience on flights, offering more convenient and flexible itineraries.
Starting August 14, 2022, the codeshare will be expanded to Kuala Lumpur – Haneda route with the introduction of JAL codeshare on the flights operated by Malaysia Airlines. Customers from Malaysia, ASEAN, Australasia, and South Asia flying with Malaysia Airlines to Haneda will be able to book and connect to a greater scope of Japanese domestic destinations, including Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Okinawa and connect further to international destinations within North America.
On top of this, Malaysia Airlines has also embarked on a long-standing partnership with Qatar Airways that has enabled both parties to leverage on each other’s strong global presence and maximise synergies for greater customer convenience. Together, the two oneworld partners bring together seamless connectivity, offering 96 codeshare destinations encompassing Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Europe, the United States and Africa, from their key hubs in KUL and DOH.
We will take a balanced approach to future expansion of the network and will look towards partnerships with other airlines and within our oneworld community for growth opportunities.
Q. What is your fleet expansion plan?
Malaysia Airlines has a total of 76 aircraft and below is the breakdown:
o 43 – Boeing 737-800
o 15 – Airbus 330-300
o 6 – Airbus 330-200
o 6 – Airbus 350-900XW
o 6 – Airbus 380 aircraft (which are no longer in service)
As for the A380, the tender exercise is ongoing, and we are still targeting the A380 fleet to exit in 2022. We are expecting to take delivery of 25 new Boeing 737-8 aircraft from May 2023 through the beginning of 2026.
Q. Besides India, which is your key source market in South Asia?
Besides India, we also operate flights to Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. While we are currently operating on limited flight schedules for these routes, we expect to increase capacity by Q3 2022.