MAB close to deal for wide-body A330s

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) is close to signing deals for six or seven secondhand wide-body A330 planes for its fleet this year as it seeks to grow on international routes amid good demand for summer bookings, CEO Peter Bellew said on Sunday.

MAB has been in talks with airlines and leasing companies about bringing in used wide-body planes to replace the single-aisle planes it currently flies on some five-hour flights, such routes as to India, China and Hong Kong.

“We’ve found the planes, we’re in the process of doing due diligence,” Bellew told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association.

He said he hopes to sign a deal in July and the planes, which have WiFi and lie-flat seats in business, could enter the airline’s fleet by the end of the year.

Bookings for the next six months are looking good and yields — a measure of revenue per passenger — are up around 10% from a year earlier in June, July and August after coming under pressure at the start of the year, Bellew said.

Uncertainty over failed travel bans in the US and political turmoil in Europe has driven demand from travellers in the Middle East and India, he added.

“We’ve seen a significant upturn in business from India because of that and I think that’s only set to continue,” he said.

MAB had offered to lease some A330s from Alitalia, in the event the struggling carrier collapsed. However, Bellew said it seemed Alitalia would survive as an airline operating medium-and long-haul flights and so those planes would not become available.

MAB is also due to receive the first two of six new A350 planes this year from Airbus SE, but deliveries have been delayed due to issues with cabin equipment supplied by France’s Zodiac Aerospace PA.

The carrier was due to receive the first in October, but that has slipped to November and Bellew expects it may be the end of December before they arrive.

He confirmed Malaysia was still looking to order around 30 new wide-body planes from Boeing Co or Airbus for delivery from 2019 and 2020, but that the prices they were asking were not realistic. — Reuters