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By March 2, 2013 0 Comments

Malindo Air fares low ?

Malindo Air fares low ?

Malindo Air fares low ?

IN less than a month, the new low-fare upstart, Malindo Air, will be taking to the skies.  Air travellers can then hope for bargain fares, and real good ones at that.

Those in Sabah and Sarawak can have their dream of increased connectivity come through, as they would now have another choice for a low-fare airline other than AirAsia.

But of course, those who prefer premium travel could still fly with Malaysia Airlines.

This will be their replacement for Firefly, which ceased its jet operations over a year ago. Air travellers here then were getting good bargains because the two airlines, Firefly and AirAsia, were fighting each other for passengers and were throwing fares to get them.

Two-way fares were just about RM200 and there were many happy travellers. Not that those fares are not prevalent today, but the fight for passengers was more intense then. It was unfortunate that Firefly had to abandon its jet operations, but the entry of Malindo is expected to stir things up a bit.

Malindo was conceptualised in the middle of last year by a chance meeting between Lion Air owner Rusdi Kirana and Nadi Sdn Bhd’s Tan Sri Ahmad Johan.

Lion Air is the biggest domestic airline in Indonesia and it is natural for it to grow beyond the Indonesian market by setting up new hubs across Asia. Malaysia is its first stop and if this venture proves to be successful, it would move on to other South-East Asian countries to set up hubs the same way AirAsia has done.

AirAsia has hubs in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan. It has just entered into a pact to set up AirAsia India with the renowned Tata Sons and tycoon Arun Bhatia.

Lion Air is a successful model because Rusdi believes in low fares, low cost and access to all. It has the widest network in Indonesia and this traffic needs an outlet out of Indonesia, and that’s where Malaysia will come in as a hub. Hence, Rusdi and Malindo CEO Chandran Ramamuthy are not worried about filling up their aircraft, although there was much scepticism initially whether the airline would take off.

Simply put, they could not sell tickets because Malindo did not have the most important document, the air operator’s certificate or AOC, which is the licence to fly, yet.

This week, it obtained the AOC and is set to start selling tickets. Let’s hope it provides the great bargain fares that AirAsia is so well-known for and all-in return airfares from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching of not more than RM200.

Malindo, incidentally, is targeting its inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching between March 20 and 30.

In this day and age, where travellers have direct access to information and know exactly how to look for bargains, Malindo has promised low fares, lower than the competition in fact. Let’s hope it keeps to its word and keeps its fares really low.

More importantly, however, the airline is providing jobs for Malaysians and will hire a portion of the 1,000 unemployed pilots in the country.

So far, the airline has hired 164 people for its start-up operations, and will certainly need to hire more, especially the unemployed pilots. This, hopefully, relieves the anxiety that this group of people and their families have endured.

Deputy news editor B. K. Sidhu is simply relishing the hot spiced “chai” in Mumbai.

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