While most Asian carriers are rushing to add more capacity to Australia, Malaysia Airlines has decided to cut direct flights to Brisbane. The current three-times-weekly service will terminate effective from March 27th, 2023, allowing the airline to capitalize on the summer peak season holidays and visit friends and relations travel.
Although the Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane route will be lost, Malaysia Airlines (Malaysia) will still operate up to 43 weekly nonstop flights to four Australian destinations; Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), Adelaide (ADL) and Perth (PER). Passengers wanting to go to Brisbane can use Malaysia’s codeshare and oneworld partner Qantas for connections from Sydney and Melbourne to Queensland’s capital.
A route suited to the A330
The service from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL), flight MH135, is scheduled to depart at 22:35 on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Usually flown by an Airbus A330-300, the 4000 miles (6437 kilometers) flight has an average duration of 7:26 hours and arrives at Brisbane Airport (BNE) at 08:40 the following morning. The Airbus A330 in our main photo, 9M-MTE MSN 1243, is sometimes used on the MH135 route, last operating it on October 27th with a flight time of 7:16 hours, as per the following Flightradar 24.com data.
While losing a nonstop route between Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur is a blow, it illustrates how Malaysia and other carriers are proactively optimizing their fleets. It seems that post-COVID, airlines are looking at every route to match capacity with demand and adjust those when market conditions change rather than relying on capacity for marketing strategy. As for its links to Australia, even after the KUL-BNE route is suspended, Malaysia will be at 98% capacity of pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.
Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Captain Izham Ismail said the airline is focused on ramping up its network to achieve full recovery by 2024. Capacity is now at 76% of pre-pandemic levels and is expected to reach 82% by the end of the year, although services to Australia have rebounded quicker “with 2023 forward bookings significantly ahead of the same period in 2019.” On the suspension of the Brisbane route, he said:
“After a thorough business review, we have made a difficult decision to suspend our operations into Brisbane to ensure we operate and utilise our fleet at an optimum level, as well as maximising revenue on every route we fly to, while facing strong headwinds from the continued increase in fuel cost, forex and interest rate.”
Does MAS need more planes?
Photo: Getty Images
Looking at Malaysia’s capacity, the data from ch-aviation.com shows it operates 69 of its 96 aircraft, plus 16 wet lease turboprops. There are also six Airbus A380s still on the fleet list as stored, which the airline has shown little appetite to recall, even if they are available. That leaves just one A330-300 and four Boeing 737-800s in maintenance as potential aircraft that can quickly return to service. The in-service aircraft include 20 A330-200/300s, six A350-900s, 40 Boeing 737-800s and three A330-200F freighters.
This year Malaysia has added new destinations from Kuala Lumpur to Doha, Qatar; Tokyo Haneda, Japan; Yogyakarta, Indonesia and from Kota Kinabalu to Singapore. Ismail said the airline will “continue to explore markets that spur economic growth for the country while helping business and trade.” By optimizing capacity, it will be able to do that profitably.
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