Amit Mehta, Country Manager, South Asia, Malaysia Airlines, talks about the latest development and India market
Malaysia Airlines progressively ramping up our capacity and introducing strategic route expansion in view of the reopening of borders to international destinations, as we anticipate travel demand for international travel to pick up.
Last decade had been quite challenging for Malaysia Airlines (MH). Then the impact of Covid -19 for airlines globally. How is MH coming back to normalcy?
Malaysia Airlines has come a long way amidst unfortunate circumstances. However, our agility and the way we adapt to the changing climate will allow us to be better prepared as an organisation to better serve our customers and mitigate any future shocks to the organisation. Whilst the pandemic resulted in a full-scale global transportation crisis, it also allowed us the opportunity to reset our balance sheet.
Now, as nations progressively reopen their borders and approaching a sense of normalcy, we are seeing a strong pent-up demand among travellers.
This year, we have launched three new routes, including a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur - Doha and the upcoming Kuala Lumpur - Haneda beginning August 2022. We have also established an agreement with the Uzbek government to operate charter flights between the two countries: expanding our presence beyond our current network through smart partnerships.
Our priority remains the safety of our passengers, and we are committed to facilitating safe, seamless and memorable journeys so guests can continue to Fly Confidently with Malaysia Airlines.
While we are bullish for 2022, we remain cautious of the environments and will deploy fleet and network expansion opportunistically during peak periods to service high demand/capacity sectors.
What is the current operational profile of MH in India? Are you planning to increase the frequency in the near future in India? Any new Indian destination on the radar for connectivity?
Malaysia Airlines currently operates 29 weekly flights from India from five major cities in India, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai. In early 2020 we were flying to six destinations (including Kochi) with 60 times weekly flights. We will be gradually increasing these frequencies by year-end to cater to growing demands and will add new routes when opportunity arises.
What is the response, current load factor and yield from India market? By when are you expecting to come to the pre-pandemic level?
Current load factor for the market has been encouraging with up to 70% load factor on these flights and forecasted forward load factor of up to 80% by 2022.
There is a strong pent-up demand in India to travel again leading us to increase frequencies and upgrading to wide-body aircraft on certain flights/routes. We are expecting closer or short-haul destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore to see a strong uptick in the next few quarters, among the first-time international leisure travellers. We are also seeing lot of demand coming in for Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and other Asia Pacific destinations on our network from India.
We are bullish for 2022 and are looking at achieving pre-pandemic capacity back for India by end of the year.
Earlier, MH was getting a lot of Indian traffic who used to fly beyond KL hub. How is the situation now and which destinations?
As a member of the oneworld alliance and through our extensive codeshare partnerships with global airlines, we are striving to develop Kuala Lumpur as a leading aviation hub in the Southeast Asia region by seamlessly connecting Malaysia to the world. To further encourage travel, the airline has also extended its previously launched ‘Bonus Side Trip’ programme to India, allowing passengers to add an extra leg to their journey and explore cultural gems at minimal costs, as well as extending its MHflypass programme to ASEAN destinations.
What is your marketing, promotional and trade engagement plan for India?
We have an excellent relationship with our trade partners. In terms of our marketing strategy, we have deployed curated campaigns and product offerings to stimulate and cater to the growing demands in local markets. This includes joint consumer promotions with local OTAs to attract the leisure consumers; roadshows with Tourism Boards; corporate travel programmes through MHBiz Pro and MHBiz Plus; MHexplorer platform for students; attractive flight and holiday package deals via MHholidays, and other fare products to suit different traveller needs.
You recently operated your first SAF powered flight. What other initiatives MH is planning on sustainability and green front?
One of Malaysia Airlines' top priorities is to operate in a sustainable manner. As an airline under the Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), it will focus on four near-term priorities in the journey to net-zero emissions: aircraft efficiency, technological enhancements to aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), as well as carbon offsets. The MAG Sustainability Blueprint sets the course for Malaysia Airlines and its subsidiaries to play its role in a net zero carbon emissions future by 2050 and we are proud to be taking tangible steps towards that goal.
As a pioneer for the use of SAF in Malaysian aviation, we have conducted the country’s first cargo and passenger flights using SAF. In December of last year, Malaysia Airlines flew the country’s first registered commercial aircraft using SAF from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and recently completed its first passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore powered by SAF.
Anything more you would like to add?
Customer behaviour and demand patterns will continue to change, as more will demand flexibility as a core service attribute to account for unforeseen travel circumstances. With a certain level of uncertainty still prevailing, customers are on the lookout for bookings and fares that meet their requirements.
Understanding this need, Malaysia Airlines offers customers a flexible fare based on their travel needs, preferences, priorities and purchasing capabilities through the Horizontal Fare Family (HFF). It is a fare brand name which consists of Lite, Basic and Flex where each fare family has different benefits such as baggage allowance, seat selections, priority services. These fare brands also offer different flexibility in terms of refunds and rebooking.