Bellew: MAS passenger bookings continue to rise

SEPANG: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has managed to improve bookings despite a tough first quarter this year with issues like intensifying competition, currency and higher fuel prices.

MAS group chief executive officer Peter Bellew said that Malaysia Airlines passenger bookings continued to accelerate in quarter one.

“The quarter was tough with higher fuel prices and adverse foreign exchange impacting our performance. However, customers increased by 12.9% year-on-year to 3.57 million passengers and load factor at 79.4% versus 68.9% last year.

“Yields were lower due to intense competition and a price war. The quarter saw a further rapid improvement in international business due to an equalisation of certain KLIA airport charges.

“Malaysia Airlines continues to see strong bookings with a 45% improvement in forward bookings for the next six months (from June to November 2017) compared to the same period in 2016.

“The network expansion is on track, with the second flight to Shanghai and Hong Kong (from the Boeing B737 to Airbus A330) showing immediate results. The airline is seeking more wide-body aircraft on short- to medium-term leases to facilitate growth,” he said in a statement yesterday.

In terms of service quality, Bellew said that the airline’s customer service index continued to recover as product improvements were steadily introduced in the quarter.

“We have introduced the ‘Golden Rule – treat customers as you would wish to be treated yourself’.

“MAS will continue to offer great value all-inclusive business and economy fares while other carriers around the world continue to add extra charges and unbundle their fares.”

With all the right strategies in place, the group is still on track to be sustainably profitable by 2018.

Passenger load factors remained robust for the first quarter with Malaysia Airlines maintaining its fare despite competitors dropping theirs significantly.

The rapid recovery in international business continued in the quarter with a load factor of 81.1% in 2017 versus 69.6% in 2016. Domestic business load factor also improved by 9.5% in the quarter.

In terms of fleet, the airline is currently operating with 54 Boeing 737-800s, 15 Airbus A330-300s and six Airbus A380s.

The rapid growth in international sales requires additional wide-body aircraft in 2018 and 2019 to address profitable demand.

The group is exploring various options for wide-body craft delivery in 2018 and 2019. There is a good value in the current market for suitable aircraft in the airline’s delivery timetable.

MAS existing A330-300 wide-body planes will require replacement and additional capacity from late 2019.

Discussions are ongoing with Airbus on the A330neo and Boeing on the 787-9 for direct purchase or lease to enhance the fleet.

Delivery is currently scheduled for six leased new A350 aircraft from Air Lease Corp.

The first aircraft is planned to arrive at the end of 2017. The A350s will operate MAS flagship service to London Heathrow from second quarter of next year.

Additionally, punctuality improved slightly from the previous quarter at 78%.

Time performance was impacted mainly by consequential delays, external factors such as weather in Kuala Lumpur and air traffic control at international stations and technical delays.

Customer satisfaction and experience will be key for the airline and Malaysia Airlines has returned to the Skytrax quality scheme this year. It aims to restore its previous high ratings by the end of 2018.

Source : The Star Online

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