Firefly last month announced it will ad up to 30 Boeing 737-800 aircraft between 2011 and 2015 in an effort to take on low-cost carriers in the region, namely AirAsia.
AirAsia's ultra low-cost leads to the carrier operating out of a low-cost terminal that some have described as a shed. The carrier also does not use jetways, meaning passengers face a walk on the tarmac to their aircraft. When a city such as KL is warm year-round with humidity and the chance of rain, this is not always a pleasant experience and I can attest to that.
I find the part I like least about AirAsia is the terminal and boarding. Once I get on board AirAsia is fine, but getting there leaves room for improvement.
In its above ad the carrier touts that it will operate out of the main KUL terminal and will use jetways (aerobridges) for boarding.
The carrier says it will have competitive fares against AirAsia. Even if Firefly cannot match AirAsia's low cost and needs to charge slightly more, I think there is room in the market for a quasi-up-scale LCC like Firefly. Look in Europe where easyJet offers more dignity than Ryanair, Southwest and jetBlue offer more than Spirit, and in Australia where Jetstar is more up-scale than Tiger Airways.
There is anecdotal evidence that some passengers would pay AirAsia more to use jetways.
AirAsia has raised having a few jetways at its new low-cost terminal at KUL to board flights (presumably AirAsia X flights that can seat up to 400 passengers) in inclement weather, but the carrier is not looking to use jetways system-wide.
In that case, Firefly has a proposition for you. And if you want full-frills, right next to the Firefly ad at KL Sentral was this ad (below) for Malaysia Airlines.
For some background on Firefly's 737 order, here are some extracts from our article last month on our Air Transport Intelligence news wire:
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) turboprop subsidiary Firefly will add Boeing 737-800 aircraft to its fleet from early 2011 as it seeks to expand its operations and compete with other low-cost carriers in the region.
The airline plans to add up to 30 737-800s from 2011 to 2015 and will operate them out of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), says Firefly managing director Eddy Leong.
The airline's 737-800 operations will complement MAS in a "dual product strategy", says Leong. "MAS will focus on the full-service carrier business, while we focus on the low-cost carrier market."
Firefly will begin its 737 flights on 15 January, with twice-daily Kuala Lumpur-Kota Kinabalu flights and twice-daily Kuala Lumpur-Kuching flights.
These will be upped to thrice-daily and four times daily, respectively, from 24 January.
Firefly says it will announce more services once it has secured the necessary traffic rights. While Leong declines to name specific destinations, he says: "All major Asean countries are potential candidates."
"We will leverage on MAS' and Firefly's existing infrastructure and expertise," he says, adding that the airline chose to base its jets at KLIA to take advantage of the better connectivity there.
"Firefly's fares will be extremely competitive and we will also focus on winning ancillary revenue," he says.