Malindo Air will transfer its Boeing 737 Max aircraft to Indonesia's Lion Air after four months of service.
A source confirmed the plan to FlightGlobal, but was unable to explain what led to the carrier's decision to cease operating the re-engined variant of the 737. Attempts to contact Lion Air Group were unsuccessful.
Flight Fleets Analyzer showed that Malindo received the first aircraft in May, registered 9M-LRC. It was also the first to be delivered to a commercial operator. In the subsequent two months, it received -LRD and -LRF. Except for -LRD, two aircraft was transferred to Lion Air in recent weeks.
Lion Air received its first 737 Max 8 in July, bearing the registration PK-LQJ. This aircraft was originally meant for Malindo, before being transferred to Lion to facilitate the latter's expansion plans.
The parent company had previously said that out of the eight 737 Max it is to receive this year, Malindo will operate three, and Lion five. At the type's inaugural flight in May, Lion Air Group founder Rusdi Kirana said that Lion and Malindo will each take four aircraft.
The same source also said Malindo is not likely to take the Airbus A330-300s on order by Lion Air Group. Thai media reports suggest that Thai Lion Air will operate the widebody for its medium and long-haul expansion by year-end.
In an interview with Bangkok Post, chief executive Asawin Yangkirativorn said the aircraft will be used to serve North Asia. Should Thailand be unable to lift its significant safety concern (SSC) status first imposed by ICAO in 2015, Thai Lion Air will still take delivery of the aircraft and deploy them on China services instead. Thailand, Yangkirativorn adds, "has become a focal point of the group's international expansion".