‘India our top market this year’

Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, CEO of Airlines from Malaysia Aviation Group, believes India is a highly lucrative market, even for overseas carriers, and the country has already emerged as its top international market this year.

Hazel Jain

How have you seen the aviation landscape in India evolve?

India’s outbound tourism is expected to reach $44.7 billion by 2032, as per a report by Nangia Andersen. India is a highly lucrative market, even from the standpoint of overseas carriers like us. Airlines have always looked at India with optimism and for Malaysia Airlines, India has already emerged as our top international market this year.

How is India faring in terms of load factors vis-a-vis other countries in the region?

India tops our international market. We have seen an average load factor  of 81 per cent in India this year. In response to the robust demand, we remain committed to expanding our network by introducing new routes and increasing flight frequencies. We have reinstated more than 90 per cent of our pre-pandemic operations and are currently operating 57 weekly flights to six destinations. Beginning November 2023, we will be launching three news routes – Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Thiruvananthapuram. Travel demand has been encouraging, with Malaysia Airlines’ passenger traffic up 90 per cent year to date compared to the pre-COVID levels.

The full recovery is expected in 2024. Most of the routes we operate on are recording a steady increase in load factor performance and strong forward booking. We are seeing a balanced increase in both domestic and international traffic flows. Malaysia Airlines’ network recovery continues to be led by the domestic market, particularly Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, with long-haul destinations like Australia also recording healthy load factor.

Are you looking at any change in fleet?

In terms of fleet, current flights to India are serviced by Boeing 737-800 NG and Airbus 330 aircraft – depending on the route.

As part of our fleet modernization programme, we embarked on the Boeing 737-800 NG refurbishment exercise, including an elegant cabin design and an enhanced in-flight experience through MHstudio, the airline’s wireless in-flight entertainment system.

What is your aim in 2024? Despite prevailing macroeconomic challenges, as a group we have achieved an impressive 90 per cent of our pre-COVID capacity. The full recovery is expected in 2024, as the China demand starts to bounce back by the end of Q4 2023. Additionally, we will also inject more capacity to destinations that have experienced a surge in demand such as Australia and South Asia. We recently unveiled plans to expand our presence in India, launching three new routes from Kuala Lumpur to Amritsar, Thiruvananthapuram, and Ahmedabad. In a bid to strengthen our customer base in India, we have partnered with Acumen Overseas, one of the most reputed airline representation companies. The collaboration will help us enhance our services in the Indian market.

Is the airline releasing any campaigns this year?

As part of our efforts to cater to varying traveller preferences and needs, we prioritise hyperpersonalisation with curated programmes like MHexplorer (for students) and MHbiz Pro (for SMEs and corporates). Our Horizontal Family Fare (HFF) offers three flexible fare options (Lite, Basic, Flex) with unique baggage and seat benefits. Expanding our offerings, MHsports caters to sports enthusiasts, providing unbeatable perks for groups of five or more. MHcruise, specifically designed for cruise agents and companies, offers discounted fares.

Our Indian customers can enjoy the Bonus Side Trip programme, which allows them to stop over in Malaysia and experience the country’s cultural gems such as Alor Setar, Langkawi, Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu, Penang, and more at minimal costs. We also provide convenient transportation options, personalized itineraries and local guidance.

For vacations centred around sporting events or cruise travel, we recommend our recently launched products – MHsports and MHcruise.

What are some of the key trends for 2023-24?

While 2022 was marked by revenge travel, there has been a renewed interest in sustainable travel. More than ever before, consumers are interested in knowing about the impact of their trips on the environment.

To tap into this, airlines are increasingly engaging travellers by launching carbon offset initiatives, while also adopting contactless hospitality experiences.



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