What are your key priorities in your new role over the next 12 months?
I have three main priorities in 2017. Firstly, I want to raise the profile of Malaysia Airlines within the UK and Europe, by continuing to promote our fantastic fares. We have an excellent product that we are extremely proud of and a strong route network and – we need to remind people of that.
Secondly, being engaged with our passengers and our trade partners is also fundamental and we need to ensure we are easy to do business with and provide all of our customers with excellent service both in the air and on the ground. I am also keen to promote Malaysia as a destination and increase passenger numbers beyond Kuala Lumpur. We have some excellent holiday destinations in our domestic network, such as Kota Kinabalu, which don’t get the recognition they deserve. In my view Malaysia should be considered the number one holiday destination in 2017 and beyond! Lastly, I want to ensure that we are an agile airline and are quick to respond to market conditions. We need to be innovative in our approach to our trade partners with speed to market essential to ensure we can be one step ahead of our competition! Oh and there is a fourth ……………………continually increase revenue!
How have the UK and Irish markets performed for MAS in 2016? What is the outlook for 2017?
Our performance on the London route has gone from strength to strength with a marked improvement in revenue and passenger loads. Targeted marketing has led to a 15 per cent market share increase on our London route, from 45 per cent in May to 59 per cent in September. The route has also seen a 20 per cent increase in forward bookings, boosted by the new lie flat seats and upgraded menus on our widebody aircraft. Overall, the airline is firmly ahead of plan to be sustainably profitable by 2018 and well on track to achieve the targets set out in the turnaround plan.
MAS has had a difficult couple of years in the wake of MH17, MH370 and the ensuing financial restructure, etc. How is the airline working to boost confidence in its brand?
We have made huge headway in rebuilding our image and restoring the strength of the Malaysia Airlines brand. In particular, we have made significant improvements to the passenger experience with the introduction of a lie-flat-bed on our A330s and new catering initiatives, including updated menus, a ‘dine-on-demand’ service and a new Laksa bar at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Our new passenger sales system will also become operational in April this year, offering customers enhanced speed and convenience with a state of the art mobile app and bundle offers to provide more flexibility. We have also changed our airfare pricing policy to offer greater value for our customers and improve our competitive position.
The airline has also started a new co-operation programme with the travel trade in Malaysia and the UK, working with key partners such as Tourism Malaysia and other tourism boards, to help promote the airline and the region.
2016 also saw Malaysia Airlines become the ‘Official Global Airline Partner’ of Liverpool Football Club, in a move towards more visible brand awareness in our key markets. We have also extended our Enrich frequent flyer programme, allowing customers to earn more miles with a simpler redemption policy.
Overall, we now have a great product to market and remain focused on providing value-for-money products and services for our customers.
What is MAS’ current pipeline for new routes, aircraft deliveries, etc for 2017?
China is a hugely significant market for Malaysia Airlines and we plan to triple our Chinese business over the next five years, with the potential for direct flights to 20 Chinese cities from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching by 2019. The airline will serve eight new destinations and 11 new routes, with 35 additional frequencies between Malaysia and China beginning early this year. We will also add a second daily flight between KL and Shanghai in April 2017.
Preparation for the introduction of our six A350-900 aircraft, planned for late 2017, is ahead of schedule with pilot training and engineering well underway. The aircraft will replace our A380 fleet and will operate non-stop from Kuala Lumpur to London and throughout Asia.
Finally, we are working towards finalising plans for the formation of a new charter unit, utilising our A380 aircraft to service the Haj and Umrah market. Malaysia Airlines is already transporting Islamic pilgrims on charter flights to Saudi Arabia very successfully and is in a good position to cater for increased passenger demand on this route.