Malaysia Airlines is increasing capacity to Melbourne Tullamarine this winter in an apparent response to rising demand following rival AirAsia X’s move to Melbourne Avalon Airport.
- Malaysia Airlines is introducing three additional weekly frequencies to Melbourne this winter, raising its Melbourne capacity to the highest level in four years;
- The decision to upgrade Melbourne flights from 14 to 17 weekly comes a few months after AirAsia X’s move from Melbourne Tullamarine to Melbourne Avalon;
- Malaysia Airlines will have almost as much seat capacity in the Melbourne market – the largest Australia market from Malaysia – as AirAsia X.
Malaysia Airlines recently filed a Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne schedule for 1-Jul-2019 to 30-Sep-2019 featuring three additional weekly frequencies for a total of 17. Malaysia Airlines currently operates 14 weekly flights to Melbourne (double daily) using 290-seat two class Airbus A330-300s; the additional three frequencies will also be operated with A330-300s.
The revised schedule will give Malaysia Airlines the most capacity it has had in the Melbourne market since winter 2015. The airline increased Melbourne from two to three daily flights in late 2013 but cut back to two daily flights in Aug-2015 as part of a major restructuring initiative. Malaysia Airlines has since maintained 14 weekly flights on the Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne route although on occasion (a few weeks per year) has operated extra frequencies or operated a slightly fewer number of frequencies.
AirAsia X transferred in Dec-2018 its double daily Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne Tullamarine service to Avalon. While AirAsia X’s capacity in the Melbourne area market is flat (at 5,278 weekly one-way seats) the switch in airports likely has resulted in higher demand for Malaysia Airlines’ Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne service as some passengers prefer Tullamarine over Avalon. Tullamarine is around 20km from the Melbourne CDB while Avalon, which wooed AirAsia X by offering much lower airport costs and taxes, is over 50km.
Malaysia Airlines is now the only nonstop operator between Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne Tullamarine. A third competitor, Emirates, dropped its Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur-Dubai service (with fifth freedom rights on the Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur sector) in late 2016.
Melbourne is a popular destination for Malaysians and there is a large Malaysian population in Melbourne (permanent residents and students). In recent years Melbourne has had more capacity from Kuala Lumpur than Sydney. In the fiscal year ending 30-Jun-2018, 782,000 passengers flew between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur while 696,000 passengers flew between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur (based on BITRE data).
Another Malaysian carrier, Malindo Air, began serving Melbourne in Jun-2018. However, Malindo is operating a Melbourne-Bali-Kuala Lumpur route using Boeing 737-800s. Most of its Melbourne passengers consists of fifth freedom traffic travelling between Melbourne and Bali.
Malindo was intending in 2017 to launch nonstop services from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, attracted to the route by the Emirates suspension and capacity reductions from Malaysia Airlines. However, it shelved plans after deciding at the last second against adding three A330-300s. These aircraft ended up being reallocated by Lion Group to Thai Lion Air and Malindo adjusted its network plan to serve Melbourne via Bali.
Malaysia Airlines has offered a lie flat business class product in the Melbourne market since 2016, when it began deploying retrofitted A330-300s. Its A330s feature 27 lie flat business class seats in a staggered configuration and 263 economy seats (with seatback IFE) in 2x4x2 configuration. AirAsia X’s A330-300s are configured with 12 lie flat business class seats and 355 economy seats in a 3x3x3 configuration.
The additional three weekly frequencies boosts Malaysia Airlines seat capacity in the Melbourne market by 21% to 4,930 weekly one-way seats. One more weekly frequency for a total of 18 would give Malaysia Airlines almost exactly the same amount of capacity in the Melbourne market as AirAsia X.
The additional flight departs Kuala Lumpur just before midnight on Monday, Friday and Sunday and departs Melbourne just before noon on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday. As it operates within two hours of an existing daily frequency the additional flight essentially provides more capacity on peak days of the week. While the last of the additional flights is now scheduled to depart Melbourne on 1-Oct-2019, Malaysia Airlines will likely bring it back during peak periods next summer and could introduce it year-round if it proves successful.