Firefly sets high target

5 January 2011

FIREFLY, Malaysia's first community airline, aims to fly some three million passengers in and out of the Subang Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang this year.

FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Eddy Leong said the airline was confident of handling some two million passengers at the SkyPark Terminal in Subang. It handled slightly more than one million passengers there last year.

"As for the KLIA airport, we may just start our operation there but with seven new B737-800 aircraft coming in stages this year, I think we can surpass the one million passenger mark there," Leong told reporters after the launch of Firefly's ticketing counter at KLIA's main terminal building in Sepang yesterday.

The opening of the ticketing counter marks Firefly's inaugural operation at KLIA as well as its jet business segment of the sector.

Currently, the airline uses ATR 72-500 turboprop aircraft, which operates from SkyPark Terminal in Subang and Penang International Airport.

Firefly will start using its new 737-800 jets for the Kuala Lumpur-Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur-Kuching sectors from January 15.

The airline is set to operate a fleet of 30 737-800s by 2015.

Leong said Firefly will continue to expand its fleet of ATR 72-500 aircraft and Subang airport operation to meet the demand for its turbo-prop services.

"Our ATR business will continue to grow a more organic growth. Definitely, it (ATR and Subang operation) will grow. There is a lot of demand for us to grow, especially from Singapore and Penang. We need to make a prompt respond to these demands," he said.

Firely has a fleet of nine ATR 72-500s and is scheduled to receive its 10th plane by month-end. Moving forward, Leong said Firefly was looking at expanding the use of its 737-800 aircraft regionally by next year.

"For a start, we will focus on flying from KLIA to several cities in the Asean region. We are looking at flying regionally by the third quarter of 2012 but there are also requests for us to fly earlier than that," he said.

Leong also quashed talks that Firefly was relaunching itself to become a low-cost carrier, in view of the acquisition of jet aircraft.

"We will continue to be a community airline with two operations, namely the turboprop and jet business. We are adopting the low-cost operation model for both the segments, meaning we want to adhere to quick turnaround, right distribution and straightforward fare rules," he said.

Leong stressed that Firefly's operation was the same as the low-cost carrier but with different product offerings.

Compared to its parent company, Malaysia Airlines, which provides a full-service segment, Leong said Firefly will grow its value segment and price-sensitive budget services.

On concerns that Firefly is stepping into the low-cost carrier market, Leong said the market is still big enough and continues to grow.

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