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​Malaysia Airlines keeps widebody options open

Malaysia Airlines has stressed that its options are open vis-à-vis its future widebody fleet.

"We would like to reiterate that as of now, we have a firm order of 25 Boeing 737 aircraft with everything else being optional," says the carrier in a statement dated 21 September.

"The options, as well as a variety of other arrangements including the recent memorandum of understanding with Boeing, will allow us to have some flexibility in deciding which aircraft suits our operational environment best."

On 12 September, Boeing and Malaysia Airlines announced an agreement that gives the carrier the option of converting eight of its 25 orders for 737 Max 8 aircraft to 787-9s. At the same time, it added purchase rights for an additional eight 737 Max 8s.

The deal was announced in conjunction with a visit by Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to Washington DC where he met US president Donald Trump. Razak reportedly told Trump that more orders from the country's airlines for US-built aircraft and aircraft engines are in the works, possibly reaching $10-20 billion.

In its 21 September statement, Malaysia Airlines said the potential 787-9 deal is worth $2.5 billion at list prices.

"The airline will negotiate extensively to ensure the best value on confirmation of the order."

Malaysia Airlines adds that aside from the potential 787 deal, it is exploring the possibility of obtaining used Airbus A330 aircraft, or possibly new A330neos.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that AirAsia and AirAsia X, the country's other carriers, are exclusive operators of Airbus equipment, although AirAsia's A320s are powered by CFM engines – CFM is a joint venture between General Electric and Safran.

Boeing, for its part, is optimistic of bringing Malaysia into the 787 fold. At a recent media event in Singapore, Dinesh Keskar, senior vice-president of Asia Pacific and India Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the company is hopeful of securing the Malaysia 787 deal by the end of 2017.

Malaysia Airlines says that should it elect to go with the 787-9, it will start adding them from the third quarter of 2019.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows Malaysia Airlines' only firm widebody orders are for six A350-900 aircraft on order with build years from 2017 to 2019. All six will be managed by Air Lease Corporation.

Its in-service widebody fleet comprises 15 A330-300s and six A380s. The average age of the A330s is 5.3 years. Malaysia Airlines owns five outright, while the other ten are leased.

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