In an exclusive interview with ETTravelWorld, Captain Izham Ismail, Group Managing Director of Malaysia Aviation Group, shed light on Malaysia Airlines‘ transformative journey, vision for growth in the Indian market, and its commitment to sustainability.
Talking about the airline’s attention to the Indian market, Ismail shared insights which underscored Malaysia Airlines’ strategic direction, emphasiding sustainable growth and partnership-building in the Indian market. The airline’s commitment to operational efficiency and customer-centricity positions it as a key player in India’s dynamic aviation sector.
Reflecting on Malaysia Airlines’ evolution over the past two decades, Captain Ismail emphasised the airline’s resilience amidst intense competition, particularly from low-cost carriers. He acknowledged the challenges faced by the airline, attributing them to a flawed strategy in the face of burgeoning low-cost carrier competition in the ASEAN region.
Reflecting on Malaysia Airlines’ evolution, Ismail remarked, “Malaysia Airlines has undergone a pronounced checkered journey over the last two decades, facing challenges from intense competition, especially from low-cost carriers. However, we have emerged resilient, focusing on strategic restructuring and operational efficiency.”
Regarding the airline’s historical ties with India, Ismail noted, “We started operations in India way back in 1972, with Chennai as our first destination. Despite facing challenges in the past, Malaysia Airlines has always had ambitious plans for India.” However, he added due to internal challenges and capacity constraints, the airline was unable to realise its ambitions in India fully.
Further, talking about the airline’s expansion and talking about having renewed focus on the Indian market,Ismail noted Covid-19 pandemic and the group’s response as an opportunity for strategic restructuring. “We have restored our capacity on all our routes globally to 90 per cent whereas the India market for us has fully recovered to pre-Covid numbers,” he said.
In 2020, the airline successfully renegotiated its liabilities with creditors, significantly reducing its debt burden and enhancing financial resilience. Despite the global downturn, Malaysia Airlines maintained its workforce and focused on organisational cohesion, with senior management leading by example through pay cuts. Notably, Malaysia Airlines reduced its debt burden from 25.7 billion Ringgit to 9 billion Ringgit through strategic restructuring.
Unveiling Malaysia Airlines’ strategic approach to the Indian market, Ismail during the conversation talked about emphasising partnership and respect for bilateral agreements. “We believe in respecting the policies of the Indian government and are committed to sustainable growth in India. Our aim is to be a strategic partner in India’s aviation industry,” he said.
Highlighting the potential, he informed that Malaysia Airlines has been reporting high load factors on its Indian routes, indicating strong market demand. “The demand has been especially strong on the new routes we announced last year. The load factors in India are exceeding 85 per cent, the new route we have launched have a load factor of more than 80 per cent,” Ismail commented. The airline has recently announced the decision to double the frequency on the Amritsar and Trivandrum routes.
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