August 12, 2008

MAS Finalising Payment Options

By Presenna Nambiar

MALAYSIAN Airline System Bhd (MAS) is finalising plans to pay US$91.5 million (RM304 million) for five turboprop aircraft it will receive this year.

"We have different methods we can look at. Our options are now either Japanese operating leases or export credit agencies," MAS executive director and chief financial officer Datuk Tengku Azmil Zahruddin told reporters in Subang, Selangor, yesterday.

Firefly received yesterday the first of 10 ATR72-500 aircraft it has ordered in a ceremony attended by Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.

FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd managing director Eddy Leong said the new turboprop would help reduce its operating costs by 20 per cent because of its fuel efficiency and additional 22 seats.

The community airline expects to reach the half-million- passenger mark next year.

Firefly has made a firm order for 10 turboprop aircraft, with option for another 10, worth US$366 million collectively.

Since its launch in April last year, Firefly has been operating three Fokker 50 turbo-propeller aircraft to service nine destinations out of Penang and Subang.

By the year-end, Firefly will have five ATR72-500 and serve more than 14 destinations.

It expects to operate 10 ATR72-500 for both the domestic and regional routes by end-August next year.

Leong said the airline has been enjoying an average load factor of 70 per cent.

On the delay in refurbishing 50 of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd's Electric Multiple Unit Trains (EMUs), Ong said the ministry may appoint another contractor while issues with Malaysian Korean Rail Corp (MKRC) are ironed out.

He said that a meeting had been held with MKRC and efforts are being made to resolve the issues.

"We are working on a contingency plan now and we definitely need someone to do the job as it is behind schedule," Ong said.

According to a Bernama report, MKRC was supposed to have completed the refurbishment of 15 coaches by July. To date, the company is said to have only completed three.

Ong also said that the ministry had yet to finalise the number of units to refurbish as it is studying the technical viability of the coaches.

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