Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is to delay delivery of nine Boeing 747-400s and 777-200s on order by up to 36 months and dispose of an extra four surplus 737s, in the wake of a larger than expected end of year net loss of M$260 million ($67.3 million).

Its loss for the year ending 31 March compares to a profit of M$333 million in financial year 1996/7. MAS is blaming much of its poor performance on a M$3.48 billion foreign exchange loss resulting from a weaker ringgit forcing it to revalue assets and liabilities. Asia's economic difficulties have also cut the carrier's passenger traffic by 1.7% and this is projected to contract by a further 0.2% more in 1998/9.

MAS has announced a series of measures to restrict capacity growth, which increased by 5.4% during 1997/8 and is set to expand by a further 5.2% over the next 12 months. It has rescheduled delivery of three 747s due in 1999 and 2000 and instead will take two in March/April 2001, two in February/March 2002 and the final aircraft in October 2003. They were among 10 747 and 15 777s ordered in 1996, of which four and seven, respectively, are in service.

As the result of a massive slump in Asian regional traffic, the airline has scrapped plans to operate four high-capacity stretched 777-300s. The final four twinjets on order have instead been converted to smaller -200ERs and deliveries postponed from 1999 and 2000 to two in April/May 2002 and the remaining two aircraft in March/ April 2003.

It is understood that MAS wants to configure these last four 777 orders to the yet to be launched -200X version, having earlier signed a memorandum for up to 15 of the ultra long haul aircraft. "That is a possibility-we're still talking to Boeing about the -200X," confirms MAS commercial director Bashir Ahmad.

Other changes include the planned sale of MAS' two 737-300 freighters and an agreement with General Electric Capital (GECAS) for the early return of another two leased 737-500s, which will eventually cut its 737 fleet to 30 aircraft. MAS has already concluded a sale-lease back deal with GECAS for six 737-500s and four -400s, in addition to recently leasing out a further eight aircraft.

The carrier has also signed a memorandum to sell Qantas two General Electric CF6-powered 747-400s, but is still looking for a buyer for its two -400 combis and single grounded -300. Two leased A330-300s will be returned to International Lease Finance in late 1998 and 1999. MAS' revised planning now calls for a fleet of 89 aircraft by 2004 compared to the 95 now in service and 16 on order.

Source: Flight International