Thursday, May 21, 2009

MAS has strong forward bookings

Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) forward bookings until year-end look “positive and strong’’ despite the turbulence in the aviation sector with the A (H1N1) flu creating chaos on top of a slowing global economy, according to senior general manager of sales Datuk Bernard Francis.

“Demand for flights did decline since November but we are in a transformation mode and therefore we quickly shifted our strategy to focus on the retail market by undertaking aggressive promotional activities to stimulate demand.

“In the current circumstances, innovation is key and being in the retail market has helped us maintain our load factors from June to December 2009 at the same levels as last year. Load factor was 68%-69% in the period last year,’’ he told StarBiz.

Currently, MAS’ load factor stands at 65% and the airline has not reduced capacity apart from the earlier announced 6%.

Francis said the airline had for a long time relied on group sales, which only contributed 30% to the group revenue, and reaching out to the retail market had proved to be fruitful.

MAS has organised several Malaysia International Travel Fairs (MITFs) in foreign countries and this has boosted forward bookings.

“We need to offer the best deals out there with no fuel surcharges to stimulate demand and our fares are truly competitive.

“Our MITFs are about anchoring on big results fast and, as our managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala says, we need to do everything possible to survive,’’ he said.

MITFs have since been organised in the United States, Europe, Britain, China, India, Hong Kong and one is currently being held in Jakarta. Another is scheduled for Japan next week.

“We had good response for our recent fair in Britain. It not only brought the bookings but created greater awareness for the airline and Malaysia as a tourist destination,’’ he said.

MAS has seen a 4% rise in forward bookings for June to December 2009 compared with the same period last year for South Asia, 10% increase for the United States after capacity cuts, but 5% down for Australia due to intense competition.

“With our everyday low fares we have seen our bookings rising 3% (for the June-December period) from last year for Asean,’’ Francis said without revealing last year’s figures.

The global load factor has come to a standstill this month and not many want to predict which way it will go given the chaos in the aviation industry. Traditionally, the third quarter is the strongest for global airlines and if there is no uptrend, then it should be a gloomy summer ahead for most airlines.

“Last year the challenge was to manage the high fuel cost in addition to decline in demand for travel. This year the sector is hit by the H1N1 and no one can predict how long the flu will linger on,’’ Francis added.

Source : STAR
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