KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 11): Malaysia Airlines Bhd expects to double the number of China passengers it carries in the next 18 months.
Its chief executive officer Peter Bellew said China is currently the national airline's largest market, accounting for about 5% to 6% of the airline's capacity, measured in available seat kilometre or ASK.
As at June 30 this year, Malaysia Airlines' ASK stood at 10,351.2 seats, down from 10,930.8 seats as at March 31, 2016.
"We expect it (number of China passengers) to double over the next 18 months," he told reporters after the signing of a partnership between Malaysia Airlines and Liverpool Football Club (FC), which sees the former become the official global airline partner of the club today.
Bellew said Malaysia Airlines plans to increase its flight frequencies to Beijing and Shanghai.
"We are in the process of applying for more slots at the two airports and we will be announcing a significant expansion into China in the next month or so," he added.
Earlier at the signing ceremony, Bellew said the tie-up with Liverpool FC will help Malaysia Airlines' branding in China as the club has around 40 million followers there.
"Liverpool FC is one of the most followed clubs in the world, including around 100 million followers in Southeast Asia and 40 million in China — our key markets," Bellew said.
"Both brands have a long and illustrious history with similar cultures rooted around a sense of family. Additionally, the partnership will go a long way in increasing awareness of Malaysia as a tourist destination to huge global audience," he added.
Bellew also said Liverpool FC aims to bring Anfield closer to its huge fanbase of loyal and passionate supporters in this part of the world.
"Liverpool FC and Malaysia have always shared a special passion for football, when we visited Malaysia on our pre-season tour in 2011 and 2015, the reception was incredible," he said.
The collaboration is a three-year partnership, providing Malaysia Airlines numerous benefits including LED and static board brand exposure at each home game at Anfield stadium, and exposure on the Liverpool FC website, publications and Facebook page, besides co-branding opportunities in merchandising rights and customer engagement via experiential experiences, such as pitch side access, in Liverpool with players and legends. The airline will also have access to players to be featured as ambassadors and in all related communication materials.
Asked about the cost of establishing the partnership, Bellew said it is less than 10% of Malaysia Airlines' annual advertising and marketing budget.
Meanwhile, Bellew said Malaysia Airlines' performance is on track, with no further funding from its parent Khazanah Nasional Bhd needed.
"We are not looking for any more funding. We have an agreed programme with Khazanah, so we are meeting all the targets that it has set. If we can, we would try to get the plan executed a little bit earlier than we have planned," he noted.
On the upcoming revision of the passenger service charge, Bellew said Malaysia Airlines will not need to relocate some of its leisure flights to klia2 as planned if charges at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Main Terminal and klia2 are equalised.