Firefly starts jet op next year, fuelling talks of becoming national carrier

Ten narrow-body jets will be added to its fleet in phases, serving domestic, Asean and Asia-Pacific markets out of Penang

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

FIREFLY Airlines will be commencing jet operations from the first quarter of next year as talks of it becoming a national carrier, replacing Malaysia Airlines, fuels more discussions.

Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the holding company of FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd and Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), announced that Firefly will add 10 narrow-body jets to its fleet in phases, serving the domestic, Asean and the Asia-Pacific markets out of Penang International Airport.

“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.

“This is in line with the group’s enhanced Long-Term Business Plan 2.0 which has been realigned to suit the current and future environment post-Covid-19, with a focus on strengthening the revenue streams of each subsidiary,” MAG group CEO Captain Izham Ismail said in a statement yesterday.

Launched on April 3, 2007, Firefly has been operating turboprop aircraft out of Penang and Subang hubs.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan recently said Firefly has the potential to become a national airline if implemented successfully upon shutting down Malaysia Airlines, Berita Harian reported.

Khazanah was said to be looking at that option if restructuring talks and negotiations currently ongoing between MAB and creditors failed.

With the commencement of jet operations, MAG said Firefly will be complementing MAB in serving the leisure market while diversifying its base connecting secondary cities in Malaysia to East Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

The company said it will leverage available resources and talents from within MAG with the possibility of deploying the Boeing 737-800 aircrafts from MAB, and thus give MAB room to focus on its network serving the premium market.

Firefly CEO Philip See said as the world has evolved so much since Covid-19, airlines must embrace those changes and adapt to the market needs and wants.

“Firefly is ready to carry that challenge, as we see strong potential in this dual hub strategy while maintaining our turbo propeller service out of Subang Skypark, serving the mix of corporate and leisure travellers,” he said in the statement.

Under the plan, Firefly will offer a flexible service concept — with product unbundling to suit the leisure-focused and price-sensitive customers, providing a more significant value proposition.

MAG said passengers will continue to enjoy the privileges and services like a premium carrier, including a complimentary 20kg checked baggage allowance, as well as the opportunity to accrue and redeem Enrich points with an option to add other privileges such as seat selection and insurance coverage.

“The setup of Firefly’s Penang hub jet operations requires minimal investment by MAG in 2021, with an expected increase in production, measured in average seat per kilometre by 36% over the next five years,” the company added.