Firefly to lose up to RM20m a month over Seletar suspension

Firefly to lose up to RM20m a month over Seletar suspension

File photo of a Firefly plane
File photo of a Firefly plane.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian budget carrier Firefly is set to lose up to RM20 million (US$4.9 million) a month following the suspension of its flights to Singapore, said Malaysia Airlines Group (MAG) chief executive Izham Ismail.

A report by the Malaysian Insight on Friday (Jan 11) quoted Mr Izham as saying that the suspension has caused a “huge dent” in MAG. Firefly is a subsidiary of the airline group.

“The exposure, the revenue lost (from the suspension) is RM15 million, so we’re looking at RM15 million to RM20 million revenue lost on a monthly basis,” he said.

“We were forced to bite the bullet, cancel the flights and reimburse our passengers … We need a resolution very quickly.”

READ: Firefly unable to get approval from Malaysian regulator to operate at Seletar Airport, says CAAS

Last November, Firefly announced it would suspend flights to Singapore from Dec 1. Before the suspension, it operated 20 daily turboprop flights between Changi Airport and Subang, Ipoh as well as Kuantan.

Firefly was unable to obtain approval from Malaysia's civil aviation regulator to operate at Seletar Airport.

The newly refurbished passenger terminal at Seletar Airport began operations on Nov 19, with scheduled turboprop flights operating from December.

Changi Airport Group had said that relocating “smaller and slower aircraft operations” to Seletar would help optimise the use of resources at Changi.

Malaysia had objected when Singapore published Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport, saying that it would restrict the construction of tall buildings at Pasir Gudang.

On Dec 25, Malaysia established a permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang, which Singapore's Ministry of Transport said will impact the existing and normal operations of aircraft.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia airspace dispute: What we know and timeline

Earlier in December, Malaysia also said that it wanted to take back control of its "delegated airspace" in southern Johor, citing concerns over sovereignty and national interest. 

Under the current arrangement, management of the airspace over southern Johor is delegated to Singapore, meaning that Singapore provides air traffic control services in that airspace.

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH

On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia said in a joint statement that both sides will simultaneously suspend Malaysia's permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang and Singapore's implementation of the ILS procedures for Seletar Airport.

The suspension will be in place for one month in the first instance.

In the meantime, the transport ministers of both countries should meet "soon" for discussions on the permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang and the ILS procedures to ensure the safety and efficiency of civil aviation, said the statement.

Additionally, Singapore and Malaysia agreed to establish a working group on maritime issues involving the Johor Bahru port limits.

READ: Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: 2 Malaysia vessels still in Singapore waters

Later that day, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said it is important for Singapore and Malaysia to find win-win solutions that benefit the people of both countries.

Following the foreign ministers’ meeting, Firefly CEO Philip See said he sent a letter to Changi Airport Group to request that the airline be given back its landing slots.

“The tone set by the leadership has been one of diplomacy,” Mr See was quoted as saying by the Malaysian Insight.

“We also want to approach (in) a more diplomatic stance and really just politely ask Singapore airport and say, ‘… please accede to our request and release temporarily the landing slots in Changi’."

Source: CNA/aw(cy)

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