Andrzej Jeziorski/TOKYO


Malaysia Airlines is finalising its long-term fleet plans, which include a study of its options for the replacement of its regional fleet.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) chairman Tajudin Ramli says that the airline is studying its fleet programme up to 2007-2010, covering both domestic and international requirements. He says that the airline is considering replacements for its elderly turboprop fleet, which includes five 19-seat de Havilland Canada Twin Otters and ten 50-seat Fokker 50s.

These aircraft, used mainly on domestic services in Eastern Malaysia, could be replaced by either new turboprops or regional jets. "Some manufacturers have made proposals," he says.

Although well established throughout North America and Europe, the small regional jet market is relatively embryonic in Asia, with fewer than 30 orders from the region. There is, however, growing interest, particularly in China.

Meanwhile, Tajudin confirms that MAS is considering an order for the Airbus A340-500 or Boeing's 777-200X to serve future ultra-long haul transpacific routes, although an order is not imminent, he says. Industry sources also confirm that Airbus is eyeing a longer-term attempt to replace MAS' Boeing 737 fleet with its A320 family, with a requirement for about 60 such aircraft over the next 20 years envisaged (Flight International, 1-7 December).

Tajudin expects MAS to make a profit in the year ending March, and claims its cash flow is "more than sufficient" to handle its $6 billion long-term debt. MAS reported a net loss of RM604.6 million ($159 million) for the previous financial year. Tajudin says MAS plans to join a global airline alliance, but has not decided which one. The carrier, which has a foot in the 'Wings' camp through partnerships with KLM, Northwest Airlines and Alitalia, previously favoured bilateral alliances.

Source: Flight International