Malaysia Airlines is to begin a campaign for 25 new narrowbody aircraft “soon” and will make its decision by the middle of the year. 

Izham Ismail, managing director of parent company Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), says the airline is manufacturer “agnostic”, but that the right aircraft will have to “fit our future network plan and be commercially viable in the long run”. 

Malaysia Airlines 737-8

Source: Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines already has orders for Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Izham, who was speaking at the group’s annual results briefing on 21 March, added: “We are cognisant [that] at a marketplace, or at the [manufacturer] level, slots are diminishing very, very fast. So time is against us, and we will make sure that we complete this exercise in a timely manner.” 

He does not rule out commitments for narrowbodies from Boeing, Airbus, or even Chinese airframer Comac – whose C919 visited Malaysia on a region-wide tour in March – as long as the aircraft fits the airline’s operating model. 

MAG strategy chief Bryan Foong adds that the airline has not decided if it will commit to orders for a single type, or a mixture.  

Malaysia Airlines has existing orders for 737 Max 8s, and so far has four examples in its fleet. However, the delivery timeline has been hit by delays amid quality control and supply chain issues at Boeing. 

Izham had floated the prospect of 25 more narrowbodies as far back as late 2022, as it works towards its long-term goal of having a 50-strong narrowbody fleet. 

Separately, MAG is also mulling exercising its options for 20 more Airbus A330neos. Izham says any decision will be subject to board and shareholder approval. 

Malaysia Airlines is due to take delivery of the first of 20 A330neos in September, which will replace its fleet of A330ceos. The airline in 2022 confirmed the acquisition of the new widebodies through a mix of direct leases and sale-and-leaseback transactions with lessor Avolon. 

The aircraft will feature new cabin products, including Collins Aerospace’s new Elevation suite for its business-class cabin.