A brand new all-red airline will take to the skies quickly, and one shouldn’t be faulted for complicated it with the current incumbent low-cost provider (LCC) at first look. In any case, it’s no secret that almost all of MYAirline Sdn Bhd’s high administration and workers had beforehand labored for AirAsia Group, together with its co-founder and CEO Rayner Teo Kheng Hock.
And Teo has roped in his former colleagues at AirAsia, Kathleen Tan and Stuart Cross, for the enterprise. Tan, former China president of AirAsia, is now MYAirline’s chief government adviser, and Cross is its chief working officer (COO).
In an interview with The Edge on the airline’s workplace in Subang Jaya, Selangor, final week, Teo didn’t draw back from acknowledging that there have been many similarities between MYAirline and AirAsia, from its enterprise mannequin to its plane kind and using pink, however he believes the brand new price range airline can differentiate itself by specializing in buyer experiences and seat choices.
“After we had been selecting the colours to grace our airline, we advised our workforce to keep away from pink, blue, purple and orange. After two to a few days, nonetheless, we could not discover any colours attention-grabbing sufficient to make us wish to take a look at it greater than as soon as. We’d at all times skew in direction of the colour pink, and the numerous position pink performs in Chinese language tradition additionally performed a big half. [in our final decision],” he says.
Thus, MYAirline has unveiled a livery that pairs pink with streaks of gray.
Teo likens it to English soccer golf equipment Liverpool and Manchester United, arch-rivals on the sphere that don the colour pink.
However MYAirline is set to show itself to be the “higher pink”.
“As a start-up, as a result of we’re small, we’re nimble, extra aggressive, and if we get concepts, we are able to work on them shortly. And if something would not go proper, we are going to make it possible for we tackle it simply as shortly,” he says.
MYAirline just lately acquired its air operator’s certificates from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), paving the way in which for Malaysia’s latest low-cost start-up to begin flying passengers. The approval primarily confirms that MYAirline has complied with all security rules set in place for plane operations.
However there are nonetheless a number of regulatory approvals, together with a full air service license from the Malaysian Aviation Fee, which can be wanted earlier than it could put flights up on the market. Till then, it can’t disclose the brand new routes it plans to fly to, besides to say that it’ll begin working with home flights within the one-hour vary and goal leisure visitors with its three Airbus A320s.
“Just about every little thing is in place. We’re able to go,” says Teo.
And it’s seeking to fill the void left by incumbent gamers, which had been pressured to shortly shrink, minimize routes and floor lots of of plans throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, the brand new airline’s entry into the capital-intensive sector has raised eyebrows, with many pointing to the checkered historical past of airways in Malaysia in addition to the daunting world financial outlook gripped by recession fears, surging inflation and sky-rocketing jet gasoline costs. Even earlier than the pandemic, incumbent airways comparable to Malaysia Airways, AirAsia, Batik Air (previously often called Malindo Air) and Firefly had been unprofitable because the airline market was affected by overcapacity and irrational competitors.
Teo factors out, nonetheless, that MYAirline has a number of issues going for it, together with decrease charges for brand spanking new plane leases and abundance of airport slots and expert labor (pilots and cabin crew) within the aftermath of the pandemic, which implies earlier limitations to entry have been lowered.
“We’re reaping the advantages of getting good plans [at lower leasing rates] and we now have secured as many plans as we are able to,” he says.
Maybank Funding Financial institution (Maybank IB) aviation analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang concurs, noting that leasing charges for an A320 have dropped to about US$200,000 (RM927,000) per 30 days, down 33% from US$300,000 per 30 days earlier than the pandemic.
Teo additionally says MYAirline has had no concern hiring abilities comparable to pilots and cabin crew after Covid-19 lockdowns led incumbent airways comparable to AirAsia and Batik Air to downsize. The airline already has about 330 workers, however that quantity is anticipated to extend to 500 by the 12 months’s finish.
“We’re nonetheless seeing the financial advantages [from the pandemic]however we’re additionally cautious that in some unspecified time in the future in time — perhaps subsequent 12 months — we are going to see some adjustments when restoration occurs,” he provides.
Maybank IB’s Yin says it is not going to be a straightforward begin for brand spanking new airways comparable to MYAirline, owing to the current energy of the US greenback and still-high oil costs.
“US dollar-denominated bills usually account for 60% to 70% of an airline’s expense. In the meantime, oil costs are of their better of instances, which isn’t so nice for airways as jet gasoline historically accounts for 30% to 50% of their bills,” he tells The Edge.
Nonetheless, Yin notes that decrease plane lease charges and better fares have greater than compensated for the weaker ringgit and still-high oil costs. The ringgit has fallen round 11% towards the buck over the previous 12 months.
“The saving grace for MYAirline is that fares within the final two years have been excessive, and that was because of low [seat] capability. However what we’re seeing is that fares have remained excessive regardless of capability being introduced again [post-pandemic]. The explanation for that’s many airways had minimize capability throughout the pandemic and, thus, with demand recovering, provide stays tight and fares stay excessive,” he says.
He provides that fares typically are up about 25% for the reason that pandemic. “In some circumstances, fares have doubled, particularly for long-haul flights as airways like AirAsia had stopped flying [to some of these long-haul destinations] and have but to renew their service. A return ticket to London now prices RM10,000 in contrast with RM5,000 earlier than the pandemic, whereas a return ticket to Sydney or Melbourne prices RM5,000, up from RM2,500 earlier than the pandemic. But, individuals nonetheless wish to fly.”
In response to Yin, what’s stopping the aviation business from absolutely recovering to pre-pandemic ranges are the backlogs at upkeep, restore and overhaul (MRO) service suppliers, which is making it tougher for incumbent airways to return airplanes that had been grounded throughout the pandemic to the skies as shortly as they want. World airways had been pressured to slash capability to as little as 2% of pre-pandemic ranges throughout the pandemic.
“Demand has been fairly resilient, really. Thus, I imagine the problem has extra to do with redeploying of plans somewhat than demand. The MRO service suppliers are unable to restore and redeploy plane quick sufficient, owing to a scarcity of spare elements and labour,” he says.
Affiliation of Asia Pacific Airways (AAPA) director-general Subhas Menon says it’ll take time for airways to revive their capability to pre-pandemic ranges because the plane need to bear upkeep checks and workers will have to be retrained.
“It is not like turning a faucet on and off. Airways need to make numerous preparations to convey their flights again. The workers will have to be retrained after not working for greater than two years, whereas many have left the business throughout the pandemic. So, it’s important to entice them again. Simply the background checks and certification required by authorities can take two to 4 months,” he provides.
Nonetheless, with journey restrictions beginning to ease in locations comparable to Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan, Subhas believes that is an optimum time for brand spanking new airways like MYAirline to launch.
“When you go searching, there appears to be numerous pent-up demand in the mean time. Many nations are reporting an enormous surge in demand in the previous few months and it would not seem like it’s abating anytime quickly,” he continues.
“However, after all, we now have to concentrate on the headwinds forward comparable to surging inflation; rising rates of interest; the sturdy US greenback, which makes different currencies weaker; and the provision chain issues that have an effect on meals and vitality safety and in addition drive up price. However the good factor is that, although everyone seems to be predicting a [global] recession, it is going to be a job-full recession. In different phrases, unemployment could be very low.”
The individuals behind MYAirline
Corporations Fee of Malaysia (SSM) information reveals that Zillion Wealth Bhd has an 88% stake in MYAirline and Trillion Cove Holdings Bhd has 10% fairness curiosity, whereas Teo owns the remaining 2% of the airline’s shares. Each Zillion Wealth and Trillion Cove, a cash lending and financing firm, named Datuk Goh Hwan Hua as a director.
Teo has greater than 34 years’ expertise within the aviation business, 15 of which had been spent at AirAsia as group head of gross sales and distribution.
“Having been within the airline business from day one, one of many targets I had was to at some point begin a brand new airline,” he says.
In response to Teo, each he and Goh have been working to begin the airline for the reason that onset of the pandemic. “I first met Datuk Goh after I was working with AirAsia and he was offering some companies to the airline. That is how we turned pals and that is how we received linked. It has been over 10 years.”
Aside from Goh and Teo, MYAirline’s three different administrators are Datuk Abd Hamid Mohd Ali, former COO of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd; Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, former director-general of the Malaysian Civil Aviation Division (now often called CAAM); and Jothi Prakash Murugan, who’s a director at Trillion Cove, the SSM submitting reveals.
“We acknowledged the truth that we wanted to have a robust workforce when it comes to the board to assist me. So, we went on the market to search for them. They didn’t want a lot convincing as a result of all people purchased the thought of a brand new airline in a short time. They imagine on this as effectively,” says Teo.
Teo acknowledges that the working atmosphere in Malaysia will stay difficult even after the pandemic, amid a usually price-sensitive inhabitants, with many gamers in a small market and excessive jet gasoline costs. As such, he’s ensuring MYAirline doesn’t over-expand too quick.
“Now we have seen conditions the place some individuals are very aggressive. To a sure extent, they turn out to be too aggressive. When that occurs, they have a tendency to place in numerous capability,” he says, including that MYAirline expects to develop its fleet to greater than 50 plans in 5 years. “We aren’t stepping into and making empty guarantees or over-promising.”
In response to AAPA’s Subhas, the pandemic has to date not been keen on any sort of enterprise mannequin. Each LCCs and full-service carriers (FSCs) alike have been hit onerous by the border closures and a number of lockdowns.
Likewise, the restoration can be not keen on any sort of enterprise mannequin. The identical elements apply — the airline enterprise, whether or not you prefer it or not, is a high-cost enterprise. It’s all a matter of how airways handle their funds to ensure they’re at all times cash-flow optimistic. So I do not suppose it actually issues what kind of enterprise mannequin you’re adopting; it’s extra the way you handle demand and provide,” he says.
Maybank IB’s Yin believes beginning an LCC can be a greater guess in a possible recession as cash-strapped vacationers would select low-fare airways.
“There are fears that the hawkish US Federal Reserve’s actions will finally result in a worldwide recession, in all probability subsequent 12 months. And LCCs are likely to do fairly effectively [during a recession] as shoppers commerce down [to cheaper travel],” he says.
Yin provides that airways are behaving extra rationally post-pandemic, pointing to Malaysia Airways, which is promoting tickets at a extra affordable worth degree.
He says: “They [Malaysia Airlines] have extra sources due to authorities backing. Its group CEO Captain Izham Ismail had come out to say that his key efficiency indicator relies on how a lot cash he attracts down from Khazanah Nasional Bhd.
“That tells you that the market is behaving extra rationally.” As a part of the nationwide provider’s debt restructuring in 2020, Khazanah had dedicated to injecting RM3.6 billion in new capital into holding firm Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd to fund the group’s enterprise till 2025.
“The identical goes for Batik Air. They’ve been loss-making since they got here to Malaysia. However fare-wise, they’re now behaving extra rationally. They’re taking supply of 10 Boeing 737-8 MAX plane [from Lion Group this year] and that is about it. So, everyone seems to be in this sort of [cautious] mode,” says Yin.
“I do agree with what the boss of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, mentioned — that the period of ultra-low airfares is over.”