Malindo Jet Lands in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian start-up Malindo Airways has taken delivery of its first aircraft ahead of its launch next week.  The airline’s first Boeing 737 arrived at its Kuala Lumpur International Airport base on March 15, 2013 and will be used for its initial operations, which are slated to commence on March 22, 2013.  The airline is a joint venture between Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air and Malaysia’s minority state-owned National Aerospace and Defence Industries (NADI).

The start-up is 51 per cent controlled by NADI and 49 per cent by Lion Air and will operate as a hybrid airline offering low-fares but with ‘frills’ including free in-flight entertainment, a light meal and WiFi connectivity.  The airline will launch services on March 22, 2013 after delivery of a second aircraft, initially offering a four-times daily link to Kuching and a three times daily service to Kota Kinabalu. 

It is also understood to be planning flights to Miri, Sandakan, Bintulu, and Sibu and to expand into international markets, including destinations across Asia, including China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.  According to local sources, a secondary hub is also under discussion for Kota Kinabalu while medium- and long-haul services are planned in the future.

Malindo Airways is due to receive five leased Boeing 737-900ERs in the first phase of its development which will be configured in a two-class arrangement with 12 Business Class and 168 Economy seats.  According to company executives it will add around 12 aircraft a year, growing to a fleet of 100 jets by the end of 2021.  These additional aircraft are all likely to be transferred from Lion Air’s existing orderbook. 

The launch of Malindo Airways will certainly put pressure on existing operators in Malaysia.  Lion Air’s president director Rusdi Kirana says the venture will offer ticket prices “lower or at a par” with the country’s leading low-cost operator AirAsia, but the carrier’s founder and chairman Tony Fernandes has played down any impact, suggesting that national entity Malaysia Airlines will face greater pressure.  Lion Air is now adopting a model that has already seen AirAsia spread its reach away from its original Malaysian roots with international ventures in Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and India and will certainly change the dynamics of the Malaysian market.