Malaysian independence

Malaysia Airlines says it is in no hurry to follow many of its peers into global alliances. The carrier’s regional manager for the UK and Europe, CH Lim, talking to Airline Business at this year’s World Travel Market event in London, was playing his cards pretty close to his chest. He said, however, that the carrier is prepared to take its time.

“Everybody is ganging up these days,” he joked. “Alliances are just like an exclusive club – everyone wants to be a member.”

He notes, however, that alliances have sometimes struggled to agree on future strategy, and some alliance members are more active than others. “Some are just sleeping partners,” he says.

Malaysia has a close relationship with KLM – now part of SkyTeam. The latter would seem to be a possible end destination for Malaysia, given that the group has no “home” carrier in South-East Asia and a weaker Asian presence than either oneworld or Star.

Five years ago or so, Malaysia was linked to the global grouping that never was – the wings alliance based around KLM and Northwest. This never amounted to much more than a codeshare agreement, however.

Despite the close relationship with KLM, Malaysia has also held discussions with other alliances in the past, including oneworld. Indeed, back in the early part of this decade, when KLM was in talks with British Airways about a possible merger, a senior Malaysia Airlines executive joked that one way or another, the carrier would end up in oneworld.

With JAL joining oneworld, and even Middle Eastern carriers starting to abandon their non-aligned status, the day of alliance reckoning may be closer than Lim suggests.

In the meantime, the carrier is preparing for the entry into service of the Airbus A380 – hopefully in summer 2007. Technical problems have seen A380 delivery schedule slip, but Lim warns, “Airbus has a schedule to keep.”  

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