(Re-releases to add Qantas comment)

Malaysia Airlines Engineering and Maintenance (MAS EM) is hoping Qantas Airways will send some of its aircraft to Malaysia for heavy maintenance checks.

MAS EM senior general manager Roslan Ismail said in an interview that he is hoping Qantas may have heavy maintenance checks on Airbus A380s as well as Airbus A330s and some of its Boeing 747s done in Malaysia rather than Australia.

He also says MAS EM and Qantas are proceeding with plans to establish a joint venture that will utilise MAS EM's heavy maintenance facilities in Kuala Lumpur.

He says the two sides were originally planning to start the venture in this year's third quarter but now it will start in next year's first or second quarter.

"They [Qantas' maintenance and engineering bosses] said give them a few months to sort things out," he says.

"They have a new CEO at Qantas and they have this union problem."

Qantas executive general manager government and corporate affairs David Epstein says, however, that there are no immediate plans to send aircraft to Malaysia for maintenance work.

He says it is too early to make decisions on A380 work and there are no plans to send 747s to Malaysia as this work is carried out in Australia.

He also says Qantas has been in talks with its engineering workforce about having A330 work carried out at Qantas' maintenance base in Brisbane.

In addition, Epstein says no discussions are currently taking place on the proposed MRO joint venture with MAS, adding that it will not be possible to have it operating early next year as Roslan hopes.

Qantas appointed Alan Joyce as new CEO late last year and the unions in Australia are opposed to efforts to outsource work overseas.

But MAS EM has made inroads with Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the regulatory body that needs to be won over if Qantas is to be permitted to outsource work to Malaysia.

CASA has already granted MAS EM regulatory approval to work on Australian-registered A330s, Boeing 737s and 747s.

MAS EM is well placed to get A380 work because Roslan says Qantas has no A380 hangar, although Epstein says Qantas has a 747 hangar at Sydney Airport that has been altered to accommodate A380s.

Roslan says MAS EM has a purpose-built aircraft hangar at Kuala Lumpur International Airport that can fit two A380s and one other widebody simultaneously.

Malaysia Airlines has ordered six A380s with the first to be delivered in January 2011. But MAS EM needs to have 20-25 A380s to work on to justify the investment in equipment to carry out A380 maintenance, says Roslan, adding that it is hoping Qantas can provide the necessary aircraft.

The Australian carrier has already come to loggerheads in the past with unions over efforts to get work done in Malaysia.

A few years ago Qantas was looking to get MAS EM to convert some of its 737-300s to freighters. But following union pressure, Qantas ended up doing the work in Australia at its facility in Avalon near Melbourne.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news