By Kok Leong Chan and Anurag Kotoky
Malaysia Airlines Bhd. will increasingly focus on the Indian market with the airline still not seeing China bounce back after its sudden reopening following years of Covid restrictions.
“For now, our key emphasis is on the Indian network,” the carrier’s Chief Strategy Officer Bryan Foong told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. “For us, the emphasis of growth in India is exciting and it helps with our overall network flow as it feeds into other parts of our network.”
Malaysia Airlines will operate 60 flights a week to South Asia this year, compared with just 27 services to China. It intends to explore new opportunities in China, but is taking a “cautious approach,” Foong said.
China may take at least a year to get back to the air travel levels seen in pre-pandemic days as lingering testing requirements put off visitors, an airline lobby group in Asia said in February. Malaysia’s AirAsia X Bhd. meanwhile has said “a lot of people are still uncertain” about travel to and from Asia’s biggest economy.
About 14.5 million people traveled to and end from India in the three months ended Dec. 31, versus around 16.5 million in the same period in 2019, showing that market has almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels. India was the world’s fastest growing aviation market before Covid destroyed travel globally.
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Malaysia Airlines is also focusing on shifting passenger capacity from domestic to international markets amid concerns of overcapacity among carriers at home, and keeping in mind other challenges like high fuel prices, rising interest rates and a strong dollar, Chief Executive Officer Izham Ismail said in November.
Malaysia Airlines plans to take deliveries of four of its 25 Boeing Co 737 Max jets on order starting from the third quarter of this year, according to a statement released Tuesday in conjunction with Foong’s media briefing.
“Travel demand outlook remains strong in the near term, although the macroeconomic environment remains very challenging,” Ismail said in the statement.