Malaysia’s SKS Airways has hit back at media reports suggesting that it faces financial woes, slamming them as “categorically false and [reeking] of mischief”, as it reiterates a commitment to its “next phase of growth”.
The strongly worded statement, issued 22 November, comes as the regional airline seeks a new chief executive following the departure of Dzuleira Abu Bakar after only two months at the helm.
News broke on 20 November that the carrier was seeking additional funding, and had suspended scheduled operations to the islands of Redang and Tioman. A report from Malaysia’s New Straits Times alleges the airline was “scrambling” to find funding for its incoming Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, of which SKS will lease 10 from Azorra.
SKS announced commitments for the E2 jets at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition this year, making it the country’s first Embraer operator and among the first few customers for the type in Southeast Asia.
It was to have taken its first E2 jet in January next year, but the report suggests delivery has been delayed to mid-2024 amid funding challenges.
In response, SKS claims it has made full payment to Azzora “to secure” the 10 E195-E2s, with “subsequent payments” to be made when the aircraft are delivered.
“We have diligently managed our financial obligations, ensuring that all payments are made on time and in accordance with our commitments. We do not have any overdue payables,” the statement reads.
It confirms that the E2 deliveries have been delayed to the second quarter of 2024, but that this is due to global supply chain issues.
“This is a global phenomenon that affects everybody. Nevertheless, the nature of delay is not significant and will not impact SKS Airways’ overall business plan,” the airline states, adding that it was first informed of the delay in late-September and is now negotiating with Embraer over a revised delivery schedule.
The airline confirms it is seeking “strategic investors” for its second phase of growth, where it is seeking 20 more aircraft in addition to the initial 10 regional jets.
The airline also highlights the support it has received from airport operator Malaysia Airport Holdings, which manages Kuala Lumpur’s Subang airport, its base for E2 operations.
“This support from [Malaysia Airports] is a significant milestone for SKS Airways as it validates our vision and strategic plans for Subang Airport,” the airline states.
SKS also reiterated that its business model – of a city airport concept – “does not aim to compete with any other carriers”.
“Instead, we seek to complement the existing offerings in the market by providing an alternative option for discerning travellers, particularly business and corporate travellers, who are time-sensitive and prioritise comfort and convenience,” the airline adds.
SKS says the cancellation of services to Redang and Tioman – operated by a fleet of two De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otters – was because of “unpredictable weather conditions” during the current monsoon season.
The New Straits Times report suggests the cancellations were due to funding issues, noting that the carrier had operated them during last year’s monsoon season. However, SKS says the services in 2022 “experienced a low take-up rate”.
SKS adds: “We wish to reassure all our stakeholders that SKS Airways is on track and remains committed to realising its next phase of growth.”
Separately, the airline confirms the departure of chief executive Dzuleira Abu Bakar, who left on 10 November. Dzuleira was a senior civil servant before she joined the airline in September. The airline has now appointed executive director Rohman Ahmad as its interim chief.
The developments at SKS come months after low-cost compatriot MYAirline abruptly suspended operations, citing financial difficulties. The subsequent fall-out has seen the arrest of several individuals connect to the airline.
Story amended to correct arrest of individuals linked to MYAirline