'One of our key priorities is to deliver socially responsible, environmentally focussed service'

Amit Mehta, Country Manager - South Asia, Malaysia Airlines talks on campaigns, trends, predictions

Though the world is finally experiencing some semblance of the good old days of travel and life seems to be returning to normal, travel recovery faces a few global headwinds: increasing costs due to rise in fuel prices, inflation and increase in the use of alternate routes. In an exclusive interview with BW Hotelier, Amit Mehta, Country Manager - South Asia, Malaysia Airlines, talks about introducing campaigns around the festive period to encourage travel, prolonged impact expected from Russia-Ukraine conflict and predictions for 2023. Excerpts:

How has Malaysia Airlines fared in the last two quarters post-reopening of international borders?

When borders reopened globally, we faced a significant headwind with high fuel prices. The Russian-Ukraine conflict heightened concerns and challenges in managing operational cost which were directly influenced by the rising fuel prices. All companies within the Group took immediate steps to manage the impact of higher fuel costs. Safety remains our top priority and measures have been taken to avoid the conflict zone. Since the relaxation of travel restrictions, majority of the routes we operate in have recorded steady increase in load factor performance. We will deploy our fleet and network expansion opportunistically during peak periods to service high demand/ capacity sectors and continue to closely monitor the level of capacity coming into the market as all airlines rush to ramp-up operations. The challenge is to work towards the right level of supply of seats versus the level of demand that is expected to exist in the market. Too much supply and we are likely to see a price war which is unhealthy and unsustainable. 

Any campaigns or outreach programmes around the festive period to encourage travel?

Customers are our centre of gravity so a lot of what we do is based on the active feedback we receive from them. We are better able to engage customers at the appropriate time and place thanks to hyper-personalisation which includes identification of customer segments, product development, creation of marketing messages for applicable channels and the use of the appropriate communication tools and platforms.

We are focussed on creating personalised products for different segments as no ‘one size fits all’. Our products are tailor-made to fit the various travellers we have. The festive season is approaching and to encourage leisure travel, we have launched ‘Bonus Side Trip’ programme which allows passengers to add an extra leg to their journey and explore cultural gems at minimal cost. As part of the programme, passengers will get a chance to explore one of the seven domestic getaway destinations in Malaysia – Penang, Langkawi, Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, Alor Setar, Kuantan. 

We also understand that our customers want a seamless, integrated travel experience. With programmes like MHholidays, we make it simple for people to plan their next vacation by giving them a single platform to select and customise their getaways which can include flights, lodging, ground transfer services and holiday packages. They can then use our Journify app, to discover new places, plan their trips and shop local favourites; all in one single platform. Journify also provides first-of-its-kind flagship experience through the Journify2U service allowing domestic and international passengers departing from or arriving into Kuala Lumpur International Airport to have their products purchased on the Journify app with the option for their purchases to be delivered to them at the boarding or arrival gate.

Will prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict impact Indian as well as global airspace?

Not only has the war sent shockwaves to the economies beyond the Russian-Ukrainian territories, but it has also impacted sectors including tourism and travel. Oil prices have risen as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. The aviation sector, which is still struggling to recover from months of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, will be put under even more pressure as a result of the increase in fuel prices, and in turn may affect air fares as a result. A rise in crude oil prices on a global scale will result in higher domestic inflation for Indian markets as well. The airline continues to pro-actively manage its capacity to mitigate unprofitable routes due to rising fuel costs.

What are your trend predictions for 2023?

Despite the turbulent times, we anticipate improvements in travel demand. Customers prefer destinations that either are restriction-free or have more relaxed Covid19 protocols and guidelines. Therefore, governments, aviation organisations and airlines must continue to collaborate to promote and prioritise secure and seamless travel experiences as a ‘component’ to help the recovery of air travel and tourism. The pandemic also presented a turning point for sustainable travel. In Booking.com’s 2022 Sustainable Travel Report, it found that 81 per cent global travellers confirmed that sustainable travel is important to them, with 50 per cent saying that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. Delivering socially responsible and environmentally focussed service is one of our key priorities, with sustainability now top of mind for many travellers. Consumers, particularly the younger generation, are much more aware of the impact they have, not only on the environment but also socially within and surrounding their communities. Consumers are asking for information on carbon emissions and how to offset them to make their trips more sustainable. Therefore, travellers can be expected to lean towards eco-friendly travel options in the future such as options for carbon offsetting or use of sustainable aviation fuel.

Apart from that, digitalisation will be the way forward in this ‘new normal’ of air travel. We have moved a significant portion of our processes online and accelerated our digitalisation efforts to ensure our staff can operate remotely and flexibly as a business, and for customers to enjoy our various digital and contactless offerings from the moment they purchase their tickets, check-in through to the arrival destination.

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