Executive Traveller exclusive
Malaysia Airlines continues to ramp up flights to Australia, with the Oneworld member on track to largely resume its pre-pandemic schedule to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth by December 1.
“We’ve already got 10 flights a week into Melbourne and Sydney right now, and that’s expected to grow by November-December back to its pre-COVID capacity with 14 flights a week, a double-daily service,” says Giles Gilbert, Malaysia Airlines’ Regional Manager for Australia and New Zealand.
“At Adelaide, we are expecting to be back to five flights a week; Perth will probably be at ten, and for Brisbane we are hoping to have three or four per week.”
Those increases are driving by a steady growth in demand in both directions – “it’s increasing every week” – with the business class cabin now proving especially popular among holiday-makers.
“We’re certainly finding customer demand for a more premium product by people who would’ve normally flown in economy,” Gilbert tells Executive Traveller.
“I think, there’s an expectation that they’re going to make a good holiday out of it.”
This includes onwards journeys to London, Malaysia Airlines’ flagship European destination, with two flights a day on the modern A350s.
“We’ve been back at double-daily for just over a month now, so the London route is doing very well.”
At the airline’s Kuala Lumpur hub, both its Golden Lounge and Platinum Lounge are now open around the clock, while new routes include twice-daily flights to Doha alongside its partner Qatar Airways, plus flights to Tokyo’s downtown Haneda airport alongside the more distant Narita are catering for the currently limited Japanese market.
“It’s a gradual start because Japan is still in lockdown mode,” Gilbert reflects, “but Haneda has always been a goal so we thought we’d try it, and it seems to be doing very well at the moment.”
Another new pin in the map is a direct route between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo, which enjoys close proximity to tropical islands and lush rainforests.
“Overall, we’re certainly seeing some opportunities and taking advantage of them to expand our network.”
That expansion, as well as the relatively fast rebuilding of the 2019 network, has been made easier by the airline’s decision not to put any aircraft into deep storage.
Instead, aircraft “continued to be flown on a rotation basis” Gilbert tells Executive Traveller, “and primarily operating them as cargo flights with few or no passengers on board.”
This decision was informed by the first-hand experience of Group CEO Captain Izham Ismail and “his knowledge of the complexities of returning an aircraft back to service,” Gilbert reveals.
“Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, and we can see now how other carriers have struggled to get their fleet back into operation, because the engineering time to take an aircraft out of storage is quite considerable, and engineering departments are not usually overstaffed anyway.”
Malaysia Airlines was “very fortunate in that respect,” Gilbert relates, “in that the whole fleet is still operational.”
While rhe carrier continues to fly its workhorse Airbus A330s with lie-flat business class to most Australian cities, those will be replaced by the newer A330neo model from 2023; short-range Boeing 737 jets are now gaining a fresh look and passenger experience through an upgrade to new business and economy seats.
Gilbert also reports continued engagement with the MHBiz loyalty programs, which cover both self-booking business travellers and companies which rely on appointed third-party travel management agency.
“Certainly in this day and age, businesses are looking to save money; we certainly offer some nice discounts to corporate customers as they travel again, because face-to-face meetings work so much better than Zoom!”
“And one of the nice things about the MHBiz programs is that the discounts can also be used for leisure travel as well,” he adds.