Malaysia Airlines could decide between the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 for its future long-range fleet as early as March next year for delivery in 2017 as a first step in a sweeping restructuring of the airline.
The Malaysian flag-carrier is preparing to be nationalised under full control of state-run Khazanah Nasional by year’s end and choosing a fuel-efficient replacement for its ageing Boeing 777 fleet is now a high priority for the airline.
“We definitely see an urgent need to have a long-term fleet plan for MAS” said Mr PK Lee, Regional Senior Vice President of Malaysia Airlines.
“Once we establish a new business model consistent with our aspirations as a premium airline, we need to align this to our fleet plan” Lee told Australian Business Traveller in Kuala Lumpur.
“In March 2015 we will have an accurate picture of our first design for the new business – including fleet size, fleet types and fleet plan – so this will be an important milestone for making that decision so that in 2-3 years time we have the best aircraft for the long term.”
‘Now is the time’…
Lee said that while replacing the Boeing 777s had previously been discussed, “the total revamp of the organisation is an opportunity for MAS to seriously look at the fleet type”, adding that the issue was “definitely more important” in light of the pending nationalisation.
However, the Boeing 777X – a next-gen version of the 777 family slated for delivery from 2020 – is not currently on Malaysia Airlines’ list.
“The A350 and 787 are both very good aircraft, as to which we choose, it depends whether Airbus and Boeing can convince us which is the better fit” Lee said, “but so far we have not looked into the 777X.”
Lee told Australian Business Traveller that despite Malaysia Airlines’ financial woes – the airline airline has racked up debts of $1.5 billion since 2011 – bulking up the fleet with factory-fresh aircraft would not be beyond the airline once its nationalisations is complete.
“Definitely we will have the money to buy them” Lee says. “As the national carrier we have 100% support from the Government, and one of the 12 points that Khazanah Nasional has put into the recovery plane is restructuring to the tune of 6 billion Ringgit (A$2bn).
That money won’t stretch too far, however, with the list price of a Boeing 787 averaging US$280 million and the A350 at US$320 million, although airlines never pay the full sticker price.