Opinion

Will Malindo Air change how you fly?

Malindo Air screenshot

Malindo Air is poised for its maiden flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu on March 22nd, followed by its first flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching the next day.

Since we first reported on Malindo Air, back on the 16th September 2012 and on 19th September, they sure have been busy, obtaining their Air Operators Certificate, raising a capital of US$1.1billion to buy new aircraft and employing hundreds of employees, from pilots to cabin crew.

What routes do Malindo Air offer?

Malindo Air's flight booking engine opened up for business this week with special promo fares, but for two routes only so far: Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, from RM38 and Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, from RM68, all inclusive. Malindo Air plans to fly three times daily to KK and four times daily to Kuching, both routes accounting for the heaviest passenger domestic Malaysian routes.

Other domestic and international routes are being planned, but have yet to be announced.

How is Malindo Air different from the rest of the market?

Malindo Air is a prospect which both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia must be dreading, as it is a hybrid of two airline models. A low cost carrier model, it offers a business class and economy class with in-flight perks.

Economy class can enjoy up to 15kg free hold luggage, personal TV for in-flight entertainment, light snacks and a 32 inch seat pitch. Compare that to AirAsia’s 29 inches seat pitch (32 inches on AirAsia X) and MAS at 34 inches. Business class passengers can check in up to 30kg free and enjoy meals and a 45 inch seat pitch.

Malindo Air is also not flying from LCCT - instead, they are flying out of KLIA, making it a little more convenient to take their flights over AirAsia.

Will it affect other airlines?

Malindo Air is taking on both MAS and AirAsia, being the compromise many passengers are looking for between paying low fares but still benefiting from in-flight services without hidden extra costs.

By operating the most popular domestic routes, fares will certainly drop across all airlines: up to now, AirAsia as the sole low cost carrier to service KL - KK and KL - Kuching routes has been able to charge moderately expensive fares, sometimes even higher than those of MAS. With the arrival of Malindo Air, that will be set to change, and AirAsia will have to work hard to convince passengers to fly with them on the same routes.

Good news then?

Definitely! More choice means airlines are forced to differentiate themselves from one another. Usually the only way in which they can do this is by price. And with Malindo Air promising to open up more routes, both domestic and international, air travellers can expect to see the benefits, not just for peninsular Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak, but also elsewhere.

Malindo Air's motto is telling: 'not just low cost'. Could this hybrid model be the new way forward for aviation in Malaysia?