SE Asia’s leading airlines taking off again

Things are looking up with operations greatly improving with the return of manpower and adjusted capacity 

by AKMAR ANNUAR & JAY SHEILA 

FLIGHTS are soaring the skies again after most parts of the world have lifted their Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

According to flight data analytics firm Cirium, flights are steadily returning to 2019 levels in the South-East Asian (SE Asia) region’s major economies, with Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia being the most popular destinations this year. 

Throughout the recovery phase in 2022, the airlines, airports, air navigation providers and other stakeholders from the industry struggled with understaffing and insufficient capacity, leading to delays and cancellations. 

However, things are looking up with operations greatly improving with the return of manpower and adjusted capacity. 

As 2023 appears to hold great promise for the aviation industry, The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) looks at leading airlines in SE Asia. 

According to the 2022 Airline Index by luggage company Bounce, Malaysia Airlines has ranked as the 26th Best Commercial Airline in the world — out of 50 others — beating British Airways by a slim margin. 

“The Malaysian carrier scored 83.98% for on-time arrival rate, with only an 8.01% chance of cancellation, as well as 3/5 for meals, in-flight entertainment, seat comfort and staff service,” Bounce said in a statement. 

Analysis was also conducted by comparing 62 of the biggest airlines in the world based on their on-time arrival rate, cancellation records, customer ratings and free luggage allowance. 

Last year, Malaysia Airlines achieved a 4-star Skytrax, the World Airline Awards rating. 

To date, it has flown to 370 worldwide destinations, using Kuala Lumpur International Airport as the main hub. 

Flying high at the very top of Bounce’s list is Singapore Airlines, as it recorded one of the lowest cancellation rates over the last year, at just 0.19%. 

“With a reliable on-time arrival rate of 86.04%, Singapore Airlines is also one of the only airlines on the list to record 4/5 or above across all categories mentioned previously,” said Bounce. 

On another note, with the negative impacts of Covid-19 on the industry’s supplementary and commercial revenue streams, it is more important than ever for airports to work hand-in-hand with airlines to come up with fresher ways to diversify their offering. 

Hence, this is where technology will have a huge part to play, especially via e-commerce. 

AirAsia is a prime example of an airline that is finding new ways of doing business as it is becoming a digital lifestyle brand through its Super App, a digital ecosystem of 51 million users and 40 million downloads. 

Moreover, the airline has previously shared its ambitions that 50% of its revenue will be coming from non-flight-related, non-aviation-related revenue by the end of 2024. 

“AirAsia’s commercial strategy focuses on three main pillars — travel, e-commerce and fintech,” the low-cost carrier said in a statement. 

Likewise, Singapore Airlines has doubled down on the e-commerce trend with its new e-commerce subsidiary called Pelago. 

As of today, the platform offers over 200 curated experiences, from attractions and city tours to local hidden gems. 

Meanwhile, Bangkok Airways is living up to Thailand’s nickname, the “Land of Smiles”, with its smiley crew always ready to serve. 

The Airways has a fleet size of 37 aircraft, ranging from ATR small turboprops to airbuses, the A320s. 

Every flight comes with a complimentary free full-course meal and free access to the lounge. 

Also known for its colourful, bright aircraft liveries, Bangkok Airways does not classify as a budget or low-cost airline, but a regional one. 

It has won countless Skytrax awards, Best Regional Carrier, for six consecutive years until 2022 and to date, Bangkok Airways flies to over 30 destinations in Asia. 

On the other hand, Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) emerged as the winner of Asia’s Leading Cabin Crew 2022 as announced at the World Travel Awards (WTA). 

This achievement marks RB’s third consecutive win for Asia’s Leading Cabin Crew since 2020. 

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines has been named the fifth-best airline in SE Asia by Bounce. 

“It is very well known for its kind and friendly staff and great service. Complimentary food, snacks and drinks are provided on any flight that exceeds 45 minutes, which is also a tradition among SE Asian airlines,” said Bounce. 

According to Skytrax, Philippine Airlines is ranked the 30th best airline in the world, with a four-star Skytrax rating. 

It flies to the US, Europe, Australia and Oriental Asia. 


  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition