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.
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.”
“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.”