By Lee Wei Lian
KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will start additional flights to eight selected destination including six served by AirAsia.
This comes after it had cut routes to several other apparently unprofitable destinations that analysts say could allow competitors to eat into the airline’s market share.
Critics of its collaboration and share swap with AirAsia also claim that the cuts would hurt the airline but benefit its former rival.
MAS said today that it will increase frequencies to Beijing, Manila, Phnom Penh, Los Angeles, Taipei, Bangkok, Medan and Jakarta, more than half of which are also key destinations for AirAsia.
The total capacity to the eight cities will increase by about 25 per cent from 19,540 seats to 24,820 by May 1.
The destinations dropped by MAS over the past few months include Rome, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Karachi, Dubai, Surabaya and Bandung.
The routes account for at least 12 per cent of passenger capacity and MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya reportedly said the suspension of these services will improve loads, increase yields and boost profit by RM220-302 million next year.
MAS has also said that it plans to stop flights from Kota Kinabalu to Osaka, Seoul and Perth.
OSK said in a research report in January that AirAsia and other carriers were already benefiting from the route cuts.
The research house said that AirAsia would benefit from being the only airline flying the Kuala Lumpur-Bandung route and the termination of Firefly services on the Langkawi-Penang-Singapore route had also enabled AirAsia and Singapore’s Silk Air to improve yields.
OSK said the termination of MAS’s other longer long-haul routes to destinations such as the Americas and Dubai created opportunities for Singapore Airlines and Emirates to expand their respective market shares.
It also noted that MAS appeared to be redeploying significant capacity to its protected KL-Beijing route, for which China Air and Air Zimbabwe are currently the only competitors.
MAS said today that the additional flights to the eight destinations will be operated mainly using B737-800 and B777-200 aircraft which all come equipped with in-seat personal TV screens and more leg room for customer comfort.
Services to Phnom Penh have been bumped up by 55 per cent to 14 weekly services with fares starting at RM814.
Frequencies to Bangkok have increased to four a day with return fares starting from just RM883.
MAS also added one daily flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with fares starting from RM1,249.
Flights to Manila have been increased 50 per cent to 21 weekly flights with return all-inclusive economy-class fares starting from RM1,357.
Flights for Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur-Medan have also been increased with fares starting from RM647 and RM477.
The airline also added one weekly flight to Los Angeles via Tokyo, increasing the total from three to four, with fares starting at RM3,449.
The Kuala Lumpur-Taipei sector also saw an increase of three weekly flights, making the route a daily one. Fares start at RM1,369, said MAS.