The recently-relaunched Malaysian national carrier that was rebranded from Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) to Malaysia Airlines Berhard (MAB), has signed a contract with US-based Air Lease Corporation (ALC) for the long-term lease of four new A350-900s. The deal also includes options for two additional A350-900s and two A330-900neo aircraft. The new A350s will be delivered between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018. The new A350s will join Malaysia Airlines’ existing long-haul fleet of 15 A330s, 13 B777s and six A380s.
The new aircraft mark the new airline’s move to a more regional orientation, engineered by Malaysia Airlines’ CEO Christoph Mueller, the former Aer Lingus CEO who was recruited in May to turn the carrier around and pledged to reinvent MAB as a full-service, regional carrier. “It’s not a continuation of the old company in a new disguise – everything is new,” he said. MAB has already shed thousands of jobs and cut its international routes and is trying to shed some of its six A380s.
“We are excited to have this aircraft as part of our fleet,” said Mueller. “The A350 is the most technologically advanced aircraft and we are confident that it will deliver exceptional passenger comfort and improve the overall efficiency of our fleet. We are very pleased to partner with Air Lease Corporation on this strategic transaction.”
The restructuring has left many speculating on what will become of the former cargo arm MASKargo, after restructuring saw nearly a third of its staff cut and a number of long-haul routes were axed. No official statement has been made with regards to the cargo division, nor what will become of its six freighters – two B747-400Fs and four A330-200s.
A source close to the cargo division told Payload Asia recently that cargo would remain a focus within the airline despite network cuts which included the end of passenger service and its three freighter flights a week to Frankfurt back in end-May. Two of those maindeck frequencies were then shifted to Amsterdam which remains a key cargo hub for the carrier. With the addition of the two freighter flights a week, the tonnage – including belly capacity – increased from 370 tonnes to roughly 570 tonnes a week.
MASkargo also commenced twice weekly A330F freighter service to Dhaka, Bangladesh from late-June, inline with its new regional orientation under Mueller’s guidance.
MAB began operating under its new Air Operators Certificate from 1 September after being issued with its new AOC by the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation. Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai said granting the AOC, after several months of audits to establish airworthiness, MRO capability and regulatory conformity, was “an important milestone in the evolution of Malaysia’s national airline”.
MAS was involved in two air tragedies last year with the disappearance of MH370 in March while en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and the July downing of MH17 over Ukraine’s airspace. The airline’s books were in the red for years before it was delisted from the Kuala Lumpur bourse in December 2014 to undergo restructuring by its parent company, Khazanah Nasional, a state investor.