KUALA LUMPUR: Firefly Airlines will start flying jet planes in the first quarter of next year, its parent Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) said on Thursday (Oct 15), in a sign MAG is shifting its focus as core brand Malaysia Airlines struggles to survive.
MAG, which is trying to negotiate steep discounts from lessors to keep national carrier Malaysia Airlines afloat, said Firefly would add up to 10 narrowbody jets to its fleet in phases, serving the domestic, ASEAN and Asia Pacific markets out of Penang International Airport in the north of the Malaysian peninsula.
Firefly currently flies turboprop planes out of Subang Skypark.
"Firefly will be complementing sister company, Malaysia Airlines (MAB), in serving the leisure market while diversifying its base connecting secondary cities in Malaysia to East Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore," MAG said.
It will leverage on available resources and talents in the group, with the possibility of deploying Boeing 737-800 aircraft from MAB, allowing MAB to focus on the premium market.
Setting up Firefly's jet operations at the Penang hub will require minimal investment by MAG next year, with an expected increase in capacity, measured as average seat per kilometre, of 36 per cent over the next five years, MAG said.
Reuters reported last week that MAG had warned leasing companies that MAB's shareholder, state fund owner Khazanah Nasional, would wind the airline down if restructuring talks with lessors fail.
Under a "Plan B", Khazanah would inject funds into Firefly to start new jet operations, focusing first on domestic services. Firefly would obtain narrowbody planes and subsequently wide-body aircraft from the market, Reuters reported.
MAG Chief Executive Officer Captain Izham Ismail said the plan for Firefly was in line with a group-wide business strategy that has been realigned to suit the current and future environment following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Based on available forecasts, domestic and short haul travel will be most preferred in the current environment, hence it makes commercial sense for Firefly to supply this demand but from the northern region," he said.