Malaysia Airlines says 737 MAX jet deliveries may be delayed, eyes turnaround

SEOUL (Reuters) - Malaysia Airlines is looking at its order for 25 Boeing Co 737 MAX jets “very carefully” in light of the global grounding and plans for the first delivery in July 2020 could be delayed, the carrier’s chief executive said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A 737 Max aircraft is pictured at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

“I think our introduction to service will slide,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Izham Ismail told Reuters on the sidelines of an airline industry conference in Seoul.

“We are having a discussion and conversation with Boeing.”

Malaysia Airlines has been trying to transform its operations as it recovers from two tragedies in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysian government is considering whether to shut, sell or refinance its loss-making national carrier, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in March.

Malaysia Airlines has been losing domestic market share to low-cost rival AirAsia Group Bhd and faces stiff competition in south-east Asia.

Izham said Malaysia Airlines’ board had approved a restructuring plan in February that would be debated at the next board meeting of its owner, sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which is chaired by Mahathir.

Izham declined to divulge specific details of the plan. However, he said Malaysia Airlines would cut costs but remain a full-service carrier and planned to form more alliances like a joint venture with Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) agreed last week.

The venture with JAL on Malaysia-Japan routes, if approved by regulators, will help the carriers better align their flight schedules and could later be expanded to cover U.S. routes, he said.

The two carriers also plan to look at cooperation in ground handling, cargo, lounges as well as executive secondments, Izham said.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman