Firefly to commence jet operations early next year, sparks speculation of turning into nat carrier
Firefly will start jet operations in 1Q21 flying out of its Penang hub to domestic, Asean and Asia Pacific destinations.(Image credit: Corinne Wan)
Kuala Lumpur-based Firefly Airlines (Firefly), the subsidiary of Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), will the start jet operations from the first quarter of 2021 as part of its strategy to streamline its operations post-Covid-19..
The carrier, which currently operates 12 turbo jets out of Subang Skypark in Kuala Lumpur, will be adding up to 10 narrow body jets to its fleet in phases to serve the domestic, Asean and Asia Pacific markets out of Penang International Airport.
MAG group chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail said domestic and short-haul travel would be the most preferred in the current environment, and it made commercial sense to meet this demand from the northern region.
“This is in line with the group’s enhanced long-term business plan which has been realigned to suit the current and future environment post-Covid-19, with a focus on strengthening the revenue streams of each subsidiary,” he added.
This announcement has fuelled speculation that the “community airline”, as it is fondly referred to, could be turned in Malaysia’s national carrier if ongoing talks by Malaysia Airlines with its lessors, creditors and key suppliers on repayment as part of its restructuring plan do not work out.
In this New Straits Time report Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, managing director of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd (the sole owner of Malaysia Airlines) was quoted as saying Firefly has the potential to become a national airline if implemented successfully, that is if Malaysia Airlines were to close down if its creditors failed to agree on its restructuring. He stressed the shutting of the now current national carrier would be the last resort.
Until such talks become reality, Firefly is all set to resume jet operations again. The airline briefly operated jet aircraft in 2011 with flights to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Sibu (Sabah) and Kuching (Sarawak) from the KL International Airport, and internationally to Bandung and Surabaya in Indonesia via Johor Bahru.
MAG said with this plan Firefly will be complementing sister company, Malaysia Airlines in serving the leisure market, while diversifying its base connecting secondary cities in Malaysia to East Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
It will leverage on available resources and talents from within MAG, with the possibility of deploying the Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Malaysia Airlines. This gives the latter room to focus on its network serving the premium market.
Firefly CEO Philip See said with the world evolving so much since the Covid-19 outbreak airlines must embrace changes and adapt to the market needs and wants.
“Firefly is ready to carry that challenge as we see strong potential in this dual hub strategy, while maintaining our turbo propeller service out of Subang Skypark, serving the mix of corporate and leisure travellers.”
With the jet operations Firefly will offer a flexible service concept with product unbundling to suit the leisure focused and price-sensitive customers, said MAG.
It added that passengers would continue to enjoy the privileges and services like a premium carrier including a complimentary 20kg checked baggage allowance, as well accruing and redeeming Enrich (loyalty programme) points with an option to add other privileges such as seat selection and insurance coverage.
“The setup of Firefly’s Penang hub jet operations requires minimal investment in 2021, with an expected increase in production, measured in average seat per kilometre (ASK), by 36% over the next five years,” MAG disclosed.
Launched in April 2007, Firefly currently serves mainly domestic destinations as Malaysia’s border are closed due to Covid-19. Before the pandemic the carrier’s flew to international destinations – Banda Acheh in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand – and Singapore (Seletar Airport ).
Source : WIT