Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is looking to expand its operations from next year following two years of cuts, and is again considering orders for new aircraft, writes Nicholas Ionides.

The carrier says in its 2006 earnings statement that it is finalising a five-year network plan under which it will be boosting passenger services "from 2008 onwards".

"In line with this, MAS is considering increasing its capacity by purchasing and leasing new aircraft," it says, without giving further details. "This will improve the airline's financial standing while positioning it on a solid platform to pursue profitable growth," the carrier adds.

Since early last year MAS has been radically restructuring its operations in a bid to return to profitability, following years of making losses.

The restructuring has seen the carrier slashing the size of both its domestic and international network and either temporarily leasing aircraft to other airlines or returning them to parent company Penerbangan Malaysia (PMB).

PMB owns all the aircraft in the fleet of the national carrier, which leases them under long-term arrangements.

MAS has been considering acquiring some new turboprop or regional jet aircraft for years, and has looked at replacing its Boeing 737 "Classic" fleet with new Airbus or Boeing narrowbodies.

However, in late 2005 it suspended all new-aircraft order studies to concentrate on cost-cutting efforts, and the carrier's only outstanding order is for six Airbus A380s through PMB.

MAS last week reported significantly reduced losses for 2006 and said its restructuring efforts were producing positive results well ahead of targets. The carrier expects to return to profitability this year.

Source: Flight International