Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has signed a memorandum of understanding with ATR to purchase 36 ATR 72-600s that will be operated by its regional subsidiaries Firefly and MASwings.

Once confirmed as an order, Firefly will take 20 of the aircraft and MASwings, the remaining 16. Deliveries would commence from the end of the second quarter of 2013.

Both carriers already operate the ATR 72-500, with Firefly and MASwings operating a fleet of 12 and 10 respectively. The new aircraft will gradually replace the existing fleet and provide for both carriers' further growth.

"The additional aircraft will be utilised to continue growing Firefly's network and providing customers with more travel options," says MAS group chief executive Ahmad Jahuri Yahya.

Firefly, which began services in 2007, operates from bases in Penang and Subang, flying to secondary destinations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and to Singapore. MASwings is based in east Malaysia and operates a number of services to towns and villages in Sarawak and Sabah.

"The new aircraft for the MASwings fleet will be timely to provide more feeder traffic into the hubs of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu for onward connectivity to the jet destinations served [by MAS]," says MASwings chief executive Captain Nawawi Awang.

The order comes only days after Firefly told Flightglobal that it is interested in being a launch customer for a proposed new 90-seat turboprop being developed by ATR. The manufacturer has indicated that it is awaiting the approval of its shareholders - EADS and Alenia Aermacchi - to formally launch the project.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news