MASkargo, the cargo division of Malaysia Airlines Berhad plans to remain active in the air cargo market, although it will phase out its two B747-400 freighters and instead of global operations, focus on destinations in Southeast Asia, India, China and Japan, MASkargo CEO, Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, was quoted as saying in an interview with Payload Asia.
Luqman added that long-haul wide-body freighter operations will be operated through “collaboration.” “We will still operate B747 freighters, but not on our metal, that’s the sort of fleet synergy
we are looking at. We believe in growing, not organically with our own metal, but through partnerships – that will be the new network philosophy for MASargo,” he said.
Declining to name the future cargo partner, Luqman noted that MASkargo is “quite close” to inking a block space agreement (BSA) that will enable the carrier to continue serving the important Amsterdam market. The carrier pulled its B747-400F out of Frankfurt last year which left its only European service operating into Amsterdam Schiphol via Dubai.
Although an official announcement will be made soon, industry observers believe that Emirates is the main contender, because Malaysia Airlines Berhad last year concluded a far-reaching partnership agreement with Emirates on the passenger side.
Capacity problems are still unsolved
Aside from a solution for its current B747-400F service to Sydney, which will be terminated and replaced with a block space agreement with an as yet unnamed partner, the main headache for MASkargo seems to be its B747-400F service to Mumbai, India, particularly its high-yield pharmaceutical traffic.
While it continues to operate two A330Fs into Chennai and Bangalore (as well as Dhaka in Bangladesh), it lacks capacity into Mumbai with the termination of the B747-400F service. The carrier currently trucks pharma shipments to Bangalore and then uplift out of Bangalore. "It’s not ideal, but we still maintain some market presence,” Luqman said, adding that the capacity problem will be solved in the coming months with a return to Mumbai utilsing A330F capacity.
Focusing on intra-Asian cargo services
Two of the four A330-200Fs in MASkargo's fleet are mainly used on routes to points in Southeast Asia, China, Japan and the Indian Subcontinent. One is currently on lease to Turkish Cargo and discussions are underway to lease the remaining A330.
Payload Asia quoted Luqman as saying that the ongoing restructuring of the airline will see a rebranding exercise with a launch on the passenger side in the first half of this year, followed later by the cargo division. Despite optimism, this may prove a difficult year for a new start, however, because Luqman anticipates the market will continue its downward trend over the first half of this year. “If any recovery happens I think it would be late Q3 and even for Q4. I think it will be selective market growth.”
Nol van Fenema