The national carrier also decided that it still wants the super jumbo A380 although it would have to wait until 2011 for the aircraft to be delivered.
In a statement yesterday, MAS said a firm order had been placed for 55 B737-800 at the list price of US$4.2bil (RM13.39bil). It is unclear at this point whether the carrier would eventually get a discount on the large order.
But the order will put MAS in good stead as these aircraft are said to be more fuel efficient per passenger per mile than others. The short- to medium-range airplane has a fuel capacity of 6,875 US gallons, or 0.1387 gallons per passenger per mile, and can fly up to a range of 3,060 nautical miles.
MAS said it intends to use the aircraft for the Asean region, including the domestic sector and China and India.
“Clearly we are gearing ourselves to benefit from the growth of this region, which is projected at 6% per annum,” managing director/CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala said in the statement.
Jala said aircraft for the airline's core network would always be the latest in terms of technology and “we will likely partially purchase the B737-800 on our own and partially lease them as that would give us the flexibility to manage our balance sheet and financing commitments and sell some of them when the timing is right.”
MAS first announced its fleet replacement plan last year. The airline currently has 111 planes in use, of which 90% is leased from its parent, Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB).
Chief executive officer Tengku Azmil Zahruddin was reported to have said that the airline had a healthy cash position of RM5.3bil to purchase aircraft.
MAS also has the option to swap the B737-800 for the larger B737-900 as part of its plan to transform MAS into the world’s “five-star value carrier''.
To Jala, the new fleet would form a strong platform for MAS to grow profitably. The aircraft are not expected to be delivered until the next few years when the global economic situation would be less of a concern.
The B737-800s are expected to be delivered from September 2010 onwards and would be replacing the airline's B737-400 fleet.
On the six A380-800, MAS said the first delivery was expected next January and the sixth in August 2011. Technical problems at Airbus have resulted in delays in the plane maker's delivery schedule.
Even Singapore Airlines, the first customer for the A380, got its first aircraft only late last year.
MAS was to have taken first delivery in January 2007 and the sixth in December. The statement did not say if MAS had been compensated for the delay.
But Jala believes it would be good to keep the A380 order although the airline could have cancelled it. Airbus claims that the A380 burns 17% less fuel per seat than other big aircraft, thus reducing the carbon footprint per passenger.
“We are now looking at wide body aircraft replacement and will intensify our discussions with the manufacturers.
“MAS is committed to expanding its network for the medium and long haul market,” Jala added.
Source : STAR
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