Firefly keeps fleet renewal options open

Singapore
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Malaysia Airlines turboprop operator Firefly is content to keep operating aircraft with 70-100 seat capacity, although it is open to the idea of regional jets.

"Firefly's current fleet are turboprop planes and a single fleet is preferred to maintain an efficient operation," a Firefly spokeswoman said in an email to Flightglobal.

"In light of that, we may work with our current manufacturer on the potential for additional aircraft. Having said that, we are keeping our options open to ensure that the aircraft type will also fit in with our future network plan and factors such as range, fuel efficiency, capacity, ease of maintenance and so on, which will come into play when we make our final decision."

The spokeswoman was responding to Flightglobal's query following Malaysian media reports of remarks made by Firefly chief executive, Ignatius Ong, on Tuesday, 4 September 2012.

Ong reportedly said that the company is in negotiations with "several manufacturers".

In late August, the company indicated that it was interested to be a launch customer for ATR's potential 90-seat turboprop, and that it was in talks with the airframer.

While ATR partner EADS has played down the chances of approving a new type this year, Finmeccanica has hinted that the companies could nevertheless provide greater clarity for the project. ATR has said that it can disclose "nothing new" about the possible 90-seat project.

According to Flightglobal Pro, Firefly's fleet comprises 12 ATR 72-500 aircraft and two Boeing 737-400 aircraft that it deploys on charter flights. It has confirmed orders for three ATR 72-500s and options for five more.

"We do foresee getting our hands on more turboprops, preferably the new generation ones," the spokeswoman said. "As for jets, whether it be commercial or regional, all options are wide open on the table for review."

The spokeswoman added that the company's focus is on both domestic routes and medium-haul routes within the Association of South East Asian Nations.

"For such destinations, frequency is more important than large capacity," she added. "In short, the current capacity between 70 and 100 seats is sufficient."