Airbus, Boeing court a resurgent Malaysia Airlines

By David Flynn, August 11 2017
Airbus, Boeing court a resurgent Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines is looking to order as many as 30 new Airbus A330neo or Boeing 787 jets, with representatives of both aircraft manufacturers courting the Malaysian flag-carrier over a sale worth as high as US$7 billion based on list prices.

The order could be preceded by lease agreements for  up to a dozen used Airbus A330 or Boeing 777 jets as Malaysia Airlines works to rebuild its international network.

“We had Airbus and Boeing in the building for much of last week offering us deals on brand new aircraft,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew told Australian Business Traveller during a media briefing in Sydney.

“It’s going well, we have a very good offer, but the prices aren’t good enough yet – we still think there’s more work to be done on that.”

Bellew said that while in Australia he had hoped to visit Brisbane Airport to begin preliminary discussions about restarting flights to Brisbane “but we’re in very active negotiations with both Airbus and Boeing right now, we’re still trying to get a good deal out of them, and that’s dragging me back to KL.”

Delivery schedules are also said to be a sticking point in the discussions, with the airline intended for around 15 of the new jets would replace older aircraft in the fleet, with the rest earmarked for expansion.

Leasing on the line

As previously reported, Malaysia Airlines is also casting around for the lease of up to a dozen used Airbus A330 or Boeing 777 aircraft, some of which would be used to resume flights between Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur and add new routes into secondary Chinese cities, as well as upgrading popular routes to India, Bali and Hong Kong from their current Boeing 737 jets.

The airline will also take delivery of ten new Boeing 737 MAX 10 jets from 2021, which will be fitted with a new fully-flat direct aisle access business class seat supplied by Thompson Aero.

Read: Malaysia Airlines plans lie-flat Boeing 737 business class seats 

All those aircraft cannot come too soon for Bellew, who believes Malaysia Airlines is on an upwards trajectory with plenty of blue sky ahead.

“I think a lot of the product is coming together, the lounges will be all upgraded by January, the food is being transformed at the moment, and upgrading the IFE on the (Boeing 737) fleet is happening as we speak."

“An awful lot of things will come together around the start of next year – the A350s will be introduced, and that’ll help.”

Read: Malaysia Airlines' London Airbus A350 flights start January 2018

“Our cabin crew are great, we have some of the nicest crew in the world, and once I give them the tools to do their job properly I think people will recognise what a great airline we are.”

MAB on the rebound

“So I think we’re about six to seven months from getting the quality back to where it needs to be, and then it’ll just be about convincing people that it is there,” Bellew continues, “educating people on the change that’s happened and spreading the gospel around that.”

Bellew isn’t shying away from the impact of the twin disasters of flight MH17 – shot down by a Russian-made missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 – and MH370, which disappeared in March 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and has yet to be recovered.

“I’ve no doubt there are many people who have a negative perception of us because of what happened, but I believe the brand has recovered very well in pretty much all marketplaces,” Bellew suggests.

“You don’t get load factors of over 80% if there’s something wrong with your brand, and in the month of December we hit a network-wide factor of 90%.”

“That was the highest load factor of any full service carrier in the world last December, so there is nothing wrong with the brand, the brand is strong… and the numbers don’t lie, the bookings are there right now, the business has increased, so people are getting it.”


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Wonder if they will change their plan for the A380s yet again if things are going so well

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 133

He's mentioned it an interview this year that the A380 service has been doing very well, but they are committed to Hajj now.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622


Interestingly on another recent interview with the airline industry media(not consumer/traveller focused media), Peter Bellew specifically stated that their 380s do well @ peak but challenging during off-peak(no surprise there really) in terms of load & yield performance....go figure.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622


May be MH will revise their 380 plan yet again as U wondered.  However, things are turning around recently partly due to MH reduced flying on 380(i.e. LHR-KUL wasn't the only MH route flown by 380 4-5yrs ago) and partly due to increased frequencies on smaller gauge. 

Qatar Airways

06 Jul 2016

Total posts 48

It's puzzling that they're looking for used 777s, when they've still got several parked up at KUL; any mention of reactivating them David?

But good on MH for a strong recovery. I've enjoyed several shorthaul J flights in past year, albeit without alcohol!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622


"It's puzzling that they're looking for used 777s, when they've still got several parked up at KUL.."
Not puzzling @ all because not all 777s are created equal nor in the same tech era.

The ones parked up @ KUL are 772ERs with turbofan tech(e.g. straight metallic fan blades) fm the late 80s/early 90s.  The ones mentioned by Peter Bellew and now starting to become available on lease mkt @ dirt cheap rates are 77Ws with turbofan tech(e.g. curved carbon fiber fan blades) fm the early 2000s.

Significant diff in fuel efficiency+thrust output+max payload between the 2 generations before we even account for their very diff seat counts.

Poor food, lousy flight times, uncompeditive frequent flyer program and now 737's to Perth. What an insult.

My wife and I am abandoning MAS after 40 years

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 622

@Kevin Jackson:

" 737's to Perth. What an insult."
Of course, all int'l flights to/fm PER must be flown by @ least 330 or 767 widebodies.  Otherwise, it's an "insult" by default for all pax flying to/fm PER.

I guess that mkt requires special fleet type planning considerations regardless of what an operator actually does re product upgrade inside the cabin....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 187

Kevin nailed the main issues.  You would expect LCCs to operate a 737 from Perth internationally, but not so called mainstream airlines such as MH and QF.  The attitude of those in Perth is no different from those wise souls from the East who dislike the transcon flights to Perth unless they're on an Airbus.


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

Flew J to KL from SYD return recently. They were entirely adequate but unremarkable. Decent seats; okay service; average food. 

Lounge in KL is dire. 

Who on earth would serve the chef on call - lamb shank - for breakfast? Stupid. 

But I slept for most of the return flight and didn't eat so that was a bonus. 

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