18 May 2020
Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd’s (Malindo Air) revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) will likely reduce by half, no thanks to social distancing on aircraft, sources said.
RPK is an airline industry metric that shows the number of kilometres travelled by paying passengers.
It is calculated as the number of passengers’ revenue multiplied by the total distance traveled.
The sources said social distancing to ensure empty seating between passengers, disallowance of passenger seat preference block and other standard operating procedures enforced on air travel would also lead to higher operating expenditure (opex).
Malindo Air, a Malaysian hybrid-full service carrier (FSC) owned by Indonesia’s Lion Air Group, said the new SOPs particularly social distancing would pose a challenge as airlines could only utilise half of their aircraft capacity.
According to a source who asked for anonymity, social distancing would affect Malindo Air’s yields as it might lose up to 60 passengers per flight if it were to empty seating between passengers onboard.
Malindo Air currently has a total of 27 aircraft comprising the B737-800, B737-900ER and ATR72-600.
The B737-800 can seat up to 168 passengers, B737-900ER (180 passengers) and ATR72-600 (72 passengers).
Each of the aircraft will accommodate up to 118 passengers for the B737-800, 124 passengers for the B737-900ER and 36 passengers for the ATR72-600 under social distancing.
“Air travel will no longer be cheap. This will in turn affect airfares with Malindo Air needing to cover possible income loss and higher opex,” the source told the New Straits Times (NST) recently.
“The airline’s opex is expected to increase up to 30 per cent, starting this month. This was due to aircraft sanitation and social distancing on aircraft to ensure safety measures for both passengers and crew,” he added.
When asked to comment, Malindo Air chief executive officer Captain Mushafiz Mustafa Bakri said competition between airlines would intensify as demand might gradually increase but with less seats available.
“Hence, (our) airfares might increase by up to 50 per cent, depending on routes and demand,” he added.
He said Malindo Air would need to fork out more on providing facemasks, sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE) for its cabin crew and ground handlers.
“Beginning early June, Malindo Air’s cabin crew are required to wear PPEs for international flights,” he said.
Mushafiz said Malindo Air can only use up to 50 per cent or its ATR seat capacity and 70 per cent of its Boeing 737 with the adoption of the new SOPs.
“We are under phase one of the hibernation model. We only fly selected domestic flights (commercially) and international flights for cargo to bring in medical aids from Guangzhou in China. We also do some repatriation flights in India and Sri Lanka,” he said.
Malindo Air resumed its domestic services from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang on April 27, with a single daily flight to each of its domestic destinations.
Selected domestic flights included to Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Kota Bahru, Terengganu, Alor Setar, Penang and Johor Bahru.
The airline, which serves most airports in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, shut down its operations when the Movement Control Order was enforced on March 18.
“Moving forward, we expect to go through this turbulence. We are doing a lot of cost control to remain afloat. We remain positive that we can continue our operation post Covid-19 crisis,” Mushafiz said.
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