Malaysia Airlines is again on an expansion path although it will only be for regional routes within Asia for the time being. But first to benefit will be routes between Malaysia and China, a consequence of the recent visit of Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak to China in early November. Increase in flights were part of the conversation between Malaysia PM and China President Xi Jinping.
One of the main beneficiaries of China-Malaysia warming relations are airlines, particularly national carrier Malaysia Airlines. MAS plans to increase China services by adding eight new destinations and 11 new routes with 35 additional frequencies, between 2017 and 2019. And it will not only strengthen Kuala Lumpur as a major hub but also bring new connections to Malaysia other destinations.
“Malaysia Airlines plans to triple our Chinese business over the next five years. I see a potential for direct flights to 20 Chinese cities from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching by 2019. We have huge confidence in China,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew said in a statement.
In addition to this initial growth, the Kuala Lumpur-based carrier will add seasonal or ad hoc services in key leisure markets such as Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. “Six of our new Chinese cities have never been served directly by a Malaysian airline,” he added.
During the first half of 2017, MAS will launch out of Kuala Lumpur flights to Fuzhou, Haikou and Nanjing. Before the winter season 2017, the carrier will further add flights from KL to Chengdu, Chongqing as well as from Penang to Shanghai and Shenzhen. There is also plans for a Kota Kinabalu-Tianjin flight.The carrier will also double its daily frequencies between Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai from April 17,2017.
Scheduled flight data from intelligence provider OAG shows that capacity between Malaysia and mainland China has almost doubled since the start of the decade growing 83.9 percent, jumping from 1.6 million available seats in 2006 to over 5 million this year.
This includes a significant 23.1 percent year-on-year rise during the current calendar year. However, during the decade, MAS saw its market share in available seats dropping from a high of 67.5% in 2006 to 12.6% this year, following the carrier’s restructuring. Malaysia Ministry of Tourism estimates meanwhile that total Chinese arrivals should hit over two million travellers to Malaysia and projects a total of five million visitors in 2017.