Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Maiden flight of B737-800

From my previous posts, MAS has received their new B737-800 and started operating it on its maiden flight to Kota Kinabalu International Airport on Nov 15.

Media Release
160 First To Fly On MAS' New B737-800

Nov 15, 2010

Subang (15 October 2010): Some 160 guests and MAS’ senior management team were the first to fly on Malaysia Airlines’ new B737-800 which departed for Kota Kinabalu today.

The national carrier is the first full service airline in the world to operate the B737-800 with the new Boeing Sky Interior.

Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Tengku Dato' Sri Azmil Zahruddin said, “We are delighted to have our guests enjoy an interior which is based on that of the B787 Dreamliner including the use of mood lighting to enhance comfort. The new cabin offers bigger stowage bins, higher ceiling, and larger windows.

“One of the latest features is the touch-screen inflight entertainment units in every business and economy seats, individual power supply and USB ports for electronics.”

Guests included Deputy Minister of Transport, Dato’ Abdul Rahim Bakri; Department of Civil Aviation’s Director-General, Dato’ Azharuddin Abdul Rahman; MAHB’s Senior General Manager (Operations), Dato’ Azmi Murad, corporate clients, travel agents and many more.

The 160-seater aircraft sports a new dynamic livery with red and blue lines, Malaysia Airlines' corporate colours.

He said, "The dynamic livery epitomises our determined spirit to provide Malaysian Hospitality to our guests.

“When deciding on the new livery, we considered a number of designs including those that were similar to our very popular hibiscus and heliconia designs. However, these designs added a significant amount of weight to the aircraft, which would not have been very environmentally responsible. Therefore, we went for a cleaner design that is more flowing and environmentally friendly.

"We will receive 3 B737-800 this year, and our first A330-300 next year. These are exciting times for Malaysia Airlines and our customers who will enjoy the latest generation aircraft."

Upon the aircraft’s arrival in Kota Kinabalu, the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman will launch the city as Malaysia Airlines’ Eastern Hub.

Malaysia Airlines is leveraging on the strategic location of Kota Kinabalu as an ideal gateway to promote travels to and from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

The first commercial flight on the B737-800 will be from Kota Kinabalu to Haneda, Tokyo, departing at 4.35pm.

Malaysia Airlines have ordered up to 55 B737-800, 25 A330-300 and 6 A380. By the end of 2010, there will be 3 B737-800 in service. Next year, there will be 6 B737-800 and 5 new A330-300 in operations – the first of which will arrive in April 2011.

Malaysia Airlines’ new B737-800 inaugural flight to Kota Kinabalu (L-R) Malaysia Airlines MD/CEO Tengku Dato' Sri Azmil Zahruddin and Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Transport, Dato’ Abdul Rahim Bakri.

Cabin crew inside the new B737-800

Issued by:
Media Relations Unit/Communications Division, Malaysia Airlines

And again Malaysia Airlines has been voted the “World’s Leading Airline to Asia” by World Travel Awards (WTA) which gives recognition to the very best in travel, tourism as well as hospitality products and services.

Since 1993, Malaysia Airlines has flown over 17 million passengers from outside Asia to its hub in Kuala Lumpur. On an annual basis, the national carrier brings in over one million customers from outside Asia to Malaysia.

Malaysia Airlines is an award winning airline. This year alone, the airline was accredited with “Staff Service Excellence for Asia Award 2010” and “World’s Best Economy Class Award 2010” by Skytrax. It is also recognized as the “Best Airline in Southeast Asia” by GT Tested Awards, Global Traveller Magazine and ranked 7th in the Top 10 Airlines Worldwide category for Best in Travel Poll 2010 by Smart Travel Asia.

By 2015, Malaysia Airlines will have one of the youngest and most environmentally friendly fleets in Asia Pacific.

(from left to right) MAS Regional Senior Vice President, UK and Ireland, Mr Syed Abdillah Syed Abdul Aziz; WTA Global Sales & Marketing Director, Mr James Khan; MAS Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid ;and WTA President and Founder, Mr Graham E. Cooke, with a model and MAS cabin crew.

Local airlines expanding too quickly? Firefly, MAS and AirAsia may get 24 new aircraft next year (The Star)

Monday November 15, 2010

By Jeeva Arulampalam

PETALING JAYA: Can the local aviation sector support the rapid expansion plans of local airlines over the next several years? An educated guess may suggest otherwise.

Firefly, a wholly-owned unit of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), announced last week that it would commence jet aircraft operations out of the main terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in January.

It aims to operate six B737-800 aircraft from KLIA next year to East Malaysia, on top of its turboprop aircraft operations for domestic and regional routes out of Subang Airport.

Maybank Investment Bank Research, citing data compiled by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, said that the domestic sector recorded passenger volume of 13.5 million last year and has been growing at a 10-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7%. The international sector carried 12 million passengers and has grown at a 10-year CAGR of 7.3%.

“Assuming these growth rates continue, it implies four to five additional aircraft will be required per annum to meet both domestic and international demand growth,” the research house said in a report issued last week.

Now, the local airline industry would see more than just four to five planes entering the market on a given year.

For instance, Firefly, MAS and AirAsia may receive as many as 24 new aircraft next year.

In total, MAS will receive up to 86 new passenger planes by 2016 (this is larger than its entire fleet of 60 planes today), but only 56 of the new orders are firm.

MAS is undertaking a fleet renewal exercise and will see it retiring its older aircraft.

Firefly plans to have 44 new planes, jets and turboprops, by 2015 compared with its current fleet of seven turboprop planes.

AirAsia has defered its order from 23 to eight planes next year. The company has made 175 firm orders of A320 aircraft, which should see the final aircraft delivery made in October 2014.

However, industry observers noted that AirAsia’s decision to defer aircraft could be due to slower anticipated passenger growth in tandem with the global economic recovery.

AirAsia, which has Thai and Indonesian affiliates, also has the luxury of redeploying next year’s aircraft orders to its neighbouring operations.

“We don’t think the (local) air traffic growth rate will be able to support (Firefly’s) fleet deployment plan, given that AirAsia and MAS also has their own fleet growth plans. It is looking very likely that somebody has to give in, and MAS is the most probable candidate to relent,” the report said.

While the B737-800 is the direct rival for the A320, Maybank said it was difficult to say which aircraft would be better as it boiled down to the purchase price and operational costs.

Analysts anticipate that competition would intensify between both low cost carriers, especially for domestic routes to East Malaysia, causing yields to come under pressure.

As it is, the fare war has begun with Firefly offering 50,000 seats as low as RM9 and AirAsia responding with a million free seats.

What remains to be seen is how quickly Firely can turn its jet operations profitable given the intensified landscape.

Little is known about Firefly’s financials as it was not disclosed by MAS’ management. The media and analysts were told in separate briefings last week that Firefly was profitable with its ATR operations and its net profit margin was above industry average.

What was disclosed was that the breakeven seat factor for an ATR is below 70%. The aircraft needs less than 50 passengers per flight to breakeven.

Possible shortage of pilots seen as airlines expand (The Star)
By Lee Kian Seong

PETALING JAYA: Airlines in Asia are increasing the recruitment of pilots and maintenance crew to meet growing demand for such professionals in the coming years because of aggressive expansion in the industry.

Although the airlines industry does not face a shortage of pilots at present, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) operations director Captain Azharuddin Osman sees a possible pilot crunch over the next few years as airlines take delivery of more new aircraft.

“We will see more demand for pilots in the next few years as airlines all over the world are taking delivery of more new aircraft,” he told StarBiz.

He said the recruitment of co-pilots in Malaysia was not difficult and in fact, a lot of young Malaysians had expressed an interest to join this profession. MAS currently has about 1,400 pilots.

“Demand for pilots is normally based on the company’s expansion plans and the number of aircraft in the system. We address the demand for pilots in two ways– through our own internal promotion and via our own cadet pilot training. We have also external recruitment from Malaysia or other countries,” Azharuddin said.

It was reported that there was a need for more than a million pilots and maintenance crew in the global commercial aviation industry in the next 20 years, with Asia accounting for almost 40% of the demand.

It was estimated that from 2010 to 2029, world demand for pilots and maintenance personnel would be 466,650 and 596,500 respectively. Of that amount, 180,600 pilots and 220,000 mechanics would be needed in Asia.

MAS executive vice-president of engineering and maintenance Mohd Roslan Ismail said that while there was great interest in maintenance crew recruitment in Malaysia, it was becoming more challenging to as the general level of English proficiency was a concern.

“This is a global industry where the medium of communication is in English and all aircraft manuals and documentation are in English,” he said, adding that MAS had currently more than 1,050 trainees and over 3,000 qualified technicians and engineers.

To meet manpower demands, Roslan said MAS worked with local academic institutions like Politeknik Shah Alam and the Malaysian Institute of Aviation to offer on-the-job training.

“We also train students sponsored by Yayasan Terenganu, Yayasan Johor and Felda to churn out engineers and junior technicians at our MAS Engineering Training Centre,” he said.

A Cathay Pacific spokesperson said the aviation industry was facing a shortage of engineers and that the airline was very keen in developing local aviation engineering professionals as well as attracting qualified engineering professionals to join the company.

“Pilot shortage is a phenomenon that affects all airlines, but it is not a particular problem for Cathay Pacific at the moment as we are not currently recruiting pilots.

“We have our own pilot training programme based in Adelaide, Australia, from which 341 pilots have graduated since our programme began in 1988. We currently have 106 cadets undergoing training in Adelaide,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Singapore Airlines (SIA) said: “SIA has always taken a long term view of our plans for pilots to ensure we have a pool to meet our operational requirements.”

The spokesman said its Singapore Flying College (SFC) trained cadet pilots from the early stages, adding that SIA had been recruiting cadet pilots in recent months and this was due to the fact that there were lengthy training lead times.

“At the moment, we are not hiring trained pilots but we do conduct occasional exercises where we hire them depending on operational requirements,” the spokesman said.

About 150 cadet pilots graduate from SFC every year, although this number could vary according to the company’s long term plans and crewing situation.

“Our turnover rate of pilots has been consistently low over the years and we are not short of pilots. We have over 2000 pilots and the response to our recruitment exercises for pilots has always been good,” the spokesman said.