Thursday 22 Feb 2024
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SEPANG (Nov 2): Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd (MAG), the parent company of Malaysia Airlines Bhd, plans to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for narrowbody aircraft in the first quarter of 2024 (1Q2024), as part of the second stage of its narrowbody fleet renewal programme, its group managing director Datuk Captain Izham Ismail said.

“The RFP will go out in early 1Q2024, with deliveries scheduled to commence through 2028,” he said during an airline leader interview at the two-day Centre for Aviation (CAPA) Asia Aviation Summit 2023, which began on Thursday.

In February 2022, in the first stage of the narrowbody fleet renewal programme, MAG secured 25 Boeing 737-8s from US lessor Air Lease Corp for national carrier Malaysia Airlines, with deliveries then set to begin in early 2023 and continue through 2026.

Malaysia Airlines' current narrowbody fleet comprises 42 737-800s.

“We have the remaining order for our fleet growth programme up to 2030. We are looking at a size of about 60 narrowbody aircraft by then,” Izham said.

In 2016, the national carrier ordered 25 737 MAXs from US aircraft maker Boeing Co. However, a new manufacturing flaw on the planes resulted in delayed deliveries of the aircraft to customers.

“I am very disappointed with the delivery progress of our 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Contractually, we were supposed to receive seven of the aircraft this year, but the revised contract would see four. But as we speak, I honestly don’t know when the aircraft are coming. It has been delayed for the last 2½ months,” he said.

For orders of new aircraft, Izham said: “We are agnostic to the aircraft type, given what we have gone through in the last few months. So, we are open to order the Airbus A320s, and even Chinese-made narrowbody jet Comac, as long as the fleet meets our vision, aspirations and is commercially available to MAG,” he added.

On the widebody aircraft, the first A330neo is scheduled to arrive in September next year. In August last year, MAG selected the A330neo for the airline’s widebody fleet renewal programme. The initial agreements cover the acquisition of 20 A330-900 aircraft, with 10 to be purchased from Airbus, and 10 to be leased from Dublin-based Avolon. 

According to Izham, the airline group still has an option to add another 20 A330-900s, and will make that decision in 1Q2024.

“We should at least have 35 widebody aircraft by 2028.”

Meanwhile, Izham called on policymakers to be steadfast in managing the airline capacity in Malaysia, especially the entry of new airlines.

“We are very clear that Malaysia has too many airlines. We know that for Malaysia Airlines to be profitable, we should not be competing with low-cost carriers. We will focus on the segment that we are good at.

"Malaysia is plagued with overcapacity serving a 32 million population. You cannot establish airlines that race to the bottom,” he said.

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