CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Malaysia Airlines is close to signing deals for six or seven second-hand widebody A330 planes for its fleet this year as it seeks to grow on international routes amidst good demand for summer bookings, its chief executive said on Sunday.
Malaysia Airlines has been in talks with airlines and leasing companies about bringing in used widebody planes to replace the single-aisle planes it currently flies on some five-hour flights, such routes as to India, China and Hong Kong.
“We’ve found the planes, we’re in the process of doing due diligence,” Peter Bellew told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association. He said he hopes to sign a deal in July and the planes, which have Wi-Fi and lie-flat seats in business, could enter the airline’s fleet by the end of the year.
Bookings for the next six months are looking good and yields - a measure of revenue per passenger - are up around 10 percent from a year earlier in June, July and August after coming under pressure at the start of the year, Bellew said.
Uncertainty over failed travel bans in the United States and political turmoil in Europe has driven demand from travelers in the Middle East and India, Bellew said.
“We’ve seen a significant upturn in business from India because of that and I think that’s only set to continue,” he said.
Malaysia Airlines had offered to lease some A330s from Alitalia, in the event the struggling carrier collapsed. However, Bellew said it seemed Alitalia would survive as an airline operating medium and long-haul flights and so those planes would not become available.
Malaysia Airlines is also due to receive the first two of six new A350 planes this year from Airbus SE (AIR.PA), but deliveries have been delayed due to issues with cabin equipment supplied by France’s Zodiac Aerospace PA ZODC.PA.
The carrier was due to receive the first in October, but that has slipped to November and Bellew expects it may be the end of December before they arrive.
He confirmed Malaysia was still looking to order around 30 new widebody planes from Boeing (BA.N) or Airbus for delivery from 2019 and 2020 but that the prices they were asking were not realistic.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Brad Haynes and James Dalgleish