MAS temporarily shelves plans for short-haul subsidiary

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Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will revive plans for a new short-haul premium airline or budget carrier only after it returns to profitability.

The airline had been studying both options for over a year, but shelved them temporarily to focus on plans to stem losses from its mainline full-service carrier.

"To have a short-haul airline was in the original plan, but we have dropped it for now. At this point, everyone is fully focused to get MAS back on its feet," says the carrier's head of short-haul operations and Firefly's chief executive, Ignatius Ong.

Ong states that while MAS understands it lacks a low-cost unit to take on competition in the market segment, it will not launch new carrier until it "sees positive returns".

The group could launch a carrier with a business model in-between MAS and Firefly, similar to Thai Airways subsidiary Thai Smile, says Ong. He adds that it could also convert Firefly's current model into a low-cost carrier.

"I think the traditional thinking is to be either a full-fledged carrier or a low-cost carrier, but things are no longer as clean-cut as before," he says.