Malindo Air chief executive Chandran Rama Muthy says the Malaysian-based carrier is looking for further expansion in Australia after starting flights to Sydney.
The Malaysian-based carrier’s inaugural Kuala Lumpur-Denpasar (Bali)-Sydney service OD171, operated by Boeing 737-800 9M-LCJ, touched down a little after 1000 local time on Thursday.
The aircraft was on the ground for about two hours before operating the reciprocal OD172 bound for Denpasar and then onwards to Kuala Lumpur.
Sydney is Malindo’s fifth destination in Australia alongside Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. While Perth is served nonstop from Kuala Lumpur, the other four destinations are served one-stop via Denpasar.
All Australian destinations are served with two-class Boeing 737-800s configured with 12 business and 150 economy class seats.
Muthy said there had been a positive response to the Sydney flight.
“Australians love Bali. It is something like a magnet drawing them towards Bali,” Muthy told Australian Aviation at a function in Sydney on Thursday celebrating the start of Malindo’s service to the NSW capital.
“The load factors are very good for this month at 80 per cent and next month at 75 per cent. We see a very strong forward load for this route.”
While the inaugural flight landed in Sydney late in the morning, the regular schedule for Malindo’s daily service is for a 0640 arrival.
The aircraft then sits on the ground for five hours and 20 minutes before operating the return flight.
Muthy said he hoped for better slots to facilitate a shorter turnaround and earlier departure at the busy Kingsford Smith Airport.
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Malindo is the fifth airline offering nonstop flights between Sydney and Denpasar, one of the most popular outbound destinations from Australia, alongside Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia.
It is also the third Malaysian-based carrier to serve Sydney, with AirAsia X and Malaysia Airlines offering nonstop flights to Kuala Lumpur with widebody aircraft.
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said Australians’ never-ending love affair with Bali, alongside strong demand for travel between Australia and Malaysia, augured well for Malindo’s new service.
“There is strong tourism and trade flows between Malaysia and Australia, and obviously really strong tourism flows and trade flows, between Australia and Indonesia,” Culbert told Australian Aviation at the function.
“The thing I like about this route as well is it just provides are really great stopover option via Bali which as we all know is such a huge popular destination, not only for Australians going up to KL but also Malaysians travelling down to Australia.
“We’ve been working with Malindo on this route for quite some time and our analysis indicated there is good support for it.”
As chief analyst at aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation Brendan Sobie wrote in a recent research note, Malindo was utilising the available capacity to serve Australia from Bali under the Indonesia-Malaysia air services agreement.
The bilateral allows Malaysian carriers to operate a maximum of 28 flights a week between Bali and Australia, and a maximum of seven frequencies per Australian destination.
Following the launch of the daily service to Sydney, Malindo would operate a total of 22 of the 28 available weekly Bali-Australia fifth-freedom flights – four flights a week to Adelaide and Brisbane, as well daily services to Melbourne and Sydney.
That left six frequencies for other airlines.
Sobie said the expansion of Malindo in this part of the world has led to an intensifying of competition in the Australia-Bali market.
“Bali remains a popular and growing destination for Australians. As competition intensifies the fares will likely come down, stimulating further demand,” Sobie said in his March 2019 research note.
While Bali was likely to be the bulk of where those travelling on Malindo out of Australia were headed, Muthy said the airline also offered connections to 17 destinations in Asia from its Kuala Lumpur hub.
Although travel from Australia beyond Kuala Lumpur on Malindo involved a two-stop itinerary, Muthy said some of these destinations were not served by any other airline from Kuala Lumpur such as Zhengzhou in China and Thiruvananthapuram and Varanasi in India.
And looking further ahead, Muthy said he was keen to explore further expansion in Australia away from the mainland capitals.
We are looking to add possibilities to add maybe two flights a week, three flights a week to get more people to Bali and also to Kuala Lumpur,” Muthy said.
“We want to go into the secondary destinations, Cairns for example. We want to explore those kinds of destinations to Bali.
“The good thing about the bilateral is the bilateral allows one carrier from Malaysia to operate these destinations and we have taken almost everything of that.”
Judi Rifajantoro, professional staff to Indonesia’s Minister on Tourism Infrastructure noted Australia was Indonesia’s fifth largest inbound market, with 1.3 million people visiting the country in 2018 and 1.6 million expected in the current year.
This trailed only Malaysia, China, Singapore and Europe as a whole.
“We are very happy that Malindo is being aggressive to open new routes to Australia,” Rifajantoro said.
While the current Bali airport was busy, Rifajantoro said there was still enough capacity to sustain the expected demand for the next two or three years.
Looking further ahead, Rifajantoro planning was already underway for a second airport in Bali slated to begin operations in about five years, with a location already chosen.
Rifajantoro said he hoped Australians would look at exploring other parts of Indonesia beyond Bali. The government recently launched what it called is “10 new Balis” initiative highlighting destinations such as Lombok, Lake Toba and the Komodo Islands.
Malindo Air’s schedule for Kuala Lumpur-Denpasar-Adelaide flights
Days of operation
OD171 Kuala Lumpur-Denpasar