Malaysia Air­lines’ main­land flights to ex­pand rapidly

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By LIN WENJIE in Hong Kong cher­rylin@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Malaysia Air­lines, after be­ing re-na­tion­al­ized and re­struc­tured, de­cided to carry out a rapid ex­pan­sion into the Chi­nese mar­ket with a brand new look. Eye­ing the im­mense con­sump­tion power of Chi­nese tourists, Malaysia Air­lines will add eight new des­ti­na­tions in the main­land, with 11 new routes and 35 ad­di­tional flights be­tween Malaysia and China, be­gin­ning in early 2017.

The new des­ti­na­tions in­clude Haikou, Nan­jing, Fuzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Tian­jin and Shen­zhen. The air­line will also add a sec­ond daily flight be­tween Kuala Lumpur and Shang­hai, sub­ject to the avail­abil­ity of slots, in April 2017. This fol­lows the air­line’s re­cent an­nounce­ment on its ser­vice up­grade on its morn­ing Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong flights from the Boe­ing 737 to the Air­bus 330.

Along with the new routes, Malaysia Air­lines also vows to be com­pet­i­tive in price, while up­grad­ing ser­vice, such as pro­vid­ing bet­ter on-board ser­vices and a more con­ve­nient lounge.

“Con­cern­ing the ca­pac­ity we put in the main­land next year, to­tal sales may in­crease 30 to 50 per­cent in 2017, while the over­all sales will reach dou­ble digit growth next year com­pared to 2016,” said Arved Von Zur Mehlen, chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer of Malaysia Air­lines.

Based on the pos­i­tive sta­tis­tics and China’s huge po­ten­tial for out­bound tourism, Mehlen is quite con­fi­dent that Malaysia Air­lines will re­gain its sta­tus as a Sky­trax five-star air­line com­pany that it had in 2011 and 2013.

“Cur­rently, the pas­sen­ger load fac­tor of Malaysia Air­lines be­tween China and Malaysia reached 90 per­cent, which means we have re­built cus­tomer con­fi­dence thanks to our ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing strate­gies. The dam­ag­ing ef­fect of the plane crash two years ago has be­come not so much an is­sue now, and we are ba­si­cally through this is­sue,” he added.

He reck­ons that China’s tourist mar­ket to Malaysia is grow­ing rapidly due to the shared cui­sine, lan­guage and cul­tural con­nec­tions. Be­cause Gold­man Sachs fore­casts that the pass­port own­er­ship rate in the main­land will in­crease from 4 per­cent in 2014 to 15 per­cent in 2025, tourism from China to Malaysia has huge growth po­ten­tial.

Malaysia Air­lines’ CEO Peter Bellew un­folded a more ag­gres­sive plan for the Chi­nese mar­ket: “Malaysia Air­lines plans to triple Chi­nese busi­ness over the next five years. I see po­ten­tial for di­rect flights to 20 Chi­nese cities from Kuala Lumpur, Pe­nang, Kota Kin­a­balu and Kuch­ing by 2019.”

Two years ago, Malaysia Air­lines lost two air­craft — Flight 370 and Flight 17 — less than five months apart, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the air­line’s fi­nan­cial trou­bles and lead­ing to the re-na­tion­al­iza­tion of the air­line. Prior to 2014, Malaysia had one of the world’s best safety records — just two fa­tal ac­ci­dents in 68 years of op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the hi­jack­ing in 1977 of Flight 653 that re­sulted in 100 deaths.

num­ber of ex­pected di­rect flights to China

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