Malaysia Airlines is ramping up its Australian schedule to meet soaring summer demand, with additional flights between Sydney, Melbourne and its KL hub primed for take off from December and seeing the airline largely return to pre-pandemic levels.
The Oneworld member currently operates 38 flights a week from Australia and New Zealand and is on track to increase this to 54 flights weekly by the end of the year.
First cab off the rank will be two extra flights a week from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne – running from December 8 until February 3 on its modern Airbus A350, equipped with four Business Suites and 35 seats in business class.
With twice-daily flights from KL to Melbourne already in the air, that brings the city’s total to 16 flights a week.
MH7041 will see wheels up from KL at 11pm every Thursday and Friday, arriving into Melbourne at 9:55 the following morning. On the return, MH7040 will take off every Friday and Saturday at 11:45am, before touching down at 5pm the same day.
They’ll soon be joined by one additional flight a week from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney on December 30, also running until February 3. for a grand total of 15 flights weekly.
Unlike Melbourne, this leg will instead employ the airlines’ Airbus A330-300 and A330-200, equipped with 27 and 19 seats in business, respectively.
MH7031 will take off from KL each Friday at 10:35pm and land into Sydney at 9:55am the next day, with MH7030 flying in reverse at 11:40am with touchdown at 5:15pm.
By popular demand
Giles Gilbert, Malaysia Airlines’ Regional Manager for Australia and New Zealand says its increases are driven 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.
At the airline’s Kuala Lumpur hub, both its Golden Lounge and Platinum Lounge are now open around the clock, while newer 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.
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 the 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.
Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.