Malaysian carrier Malindo Air will be the first carrier to put the Boeing 737 Max 8 into commercial service.
The launch operator status was announced at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, with the re-engined jet to first start on the Kuala Lumpur-Sinagpore route during the second quarter, and later to Bangkok Don Mueang and Guangzhou.
The airline will take delivery of up to four 737 Max 8s this year, complementing its fleet of 29 Boeing 737NGs 15 ATR 72-600s.
“This new aircraft, which allows us to go to further destinations at a distance of 7 hours 30 mins, will certainly help attract tourists to our country. As tourism is a key revenue generator for the country, this new aircraft will play a key role in providing lower fares on air travel,” says Malindo’s chief executive Chandran Rama Muthy.
Launch customer Southwest Airlines is scheduled to take delivery of its first 737 Max 8 in May, but will not debut the new jets on commercial services until October. Norwegian is also slated to take delivery of the re-engined jets in May, and has announced plans to fly them on transatlantic routes from late June.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Malindo's 49%shareholder, the Lion Air Group, is scheduled to receive eight 737 Max 8s in 2017. Malaysia’s National Aerospace & Defence Industries (NADI) holds the remaining 51% of the carrier.
In a recent interview with FlightGlobal, the airline's general manager of commercial strategy Saravanan Ramasamy said Malindo will take delivery of 10 aircraft this year, consisting of five 737s, three Airbus A330-300s, two ATR 72-600s.
Lion Air has 200 737 Maxes on order, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.
Lion Group chief executive Rusdi Kirana tells FlightGlobal that the Max jets will replace some of the older 737NGs at Lion Air, while they will be used for growth at Malindo and Thai Lion Air.