WHEN Malaysia Airlines (MAS) announced in 2007 that it was setting up a community airline which would use the Penang International Airport as its primary hub and operate using two 50-seater Fokker F50 planes, there were many sceptics.
Many wondered if the new airline would survive in the face of other competitors in the country and region, and if the new venture would place the national carrier in financial trouble.
Former MAS managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala, when speaking at the launch of the new airline's logo in March 2007, had said Firefly would work with its parent company to break new ground in realising a core network over five years.
He had cited markets such as North America, South America and South Africa at the time as part of this network.
Idris had also made it clear that although Firefly is 100 per cent owned by MAS, it would operate separately in terms of management, via FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd.
The focus of Firefly, he said, was to serve the Indonesia-Malaysia-
MAS has so far proved sceptics wrong and Firefly today has carved out a niche and branded itself among players like AirAsia, Silk Air, Jet Airways and Dragon Air.
In further developing its sister airline, MAS invested in a fleet of fuel-efficient turbo-propeller planes to service its routes, and added the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang as its hub.
Its choice of planes was the ATR 72-500s, whose design is touted as a high-wing, twin turboprop aircraft by its French-Italian makers for efficiency, operating flexibility and passenger comfort.
Firefly currently flies from Penang to Kuala Lumpur via Subang, Langkawi, Phuket, Banda Aceh and Medan.
The airline also flies from Subang to Penang, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kerteh, Langkawi, Johor Baru, Alor Setar, Kuantan, Koh Samui, Phuket, Pekan Baru, Medan, Batam and Singapore.
And since September 1 this year, Firefly has been operating the Singapore-Ipoh route
Source : Business Times
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