As I left office for home today, the sight of a Boeing 737-400 on final approach brought a smile to my face. It’s a beautiful view indeed and a good way to end a hard day at work.
Boeing 737 series has always been regarded as the workhorse of the aviation industry. The 737 is the best selling commercial jet of all time, made popular because of its efficiency, reliability and cost effectiveness. The good track record of Boeing 737 can be seen in Malaysia Airlines with the 36 Boeing 737-400 still going strong after being in service for more than 10 years.
On 16th July 2008, Malaysia Airlines announced the airline has ordered 35 Next-Generation 737-800 airplanes as part of the airlines fleet modernization practice. According to news reports, the new aircraft deliveries are scheduled from end of this year up to 2016. With the arrival of these new jetliners, I can’t help to wonder where the existing Boeing 737-400 will be heading to next.
Will it be returned to the asset owner (e.g. PMB)? Will it be leased to other airlines? Will MAS continue to be operating both B737-400 and B737-800 as per current scenario? Only time will tell.
Whatever the decision would be, I personally believe that the Boeing 737-400 is still a great asset for any airlines. It is true that newer planes will translate into significant reduction of CASK but let’s not forget that these planes have been the backbone of MAS domestic and ASEAN regional networks and can easily serve for another 5-10 years thanks to excellent engineering and maintenance culture.
I am neither an aviation analyst nor an industry expert but given the chance I would love to see these 737-400 planes remain in action for at least another decade. Stretching my imagination, I just would like to share some of my daydreams of what I would do with these Boeing 737-400 once if it is being phased out to another airline (for the sake of discussion, let’s call it Azuan Air) 😛
a) Repaint the aircrafts
A new ‘dress’ on an old plane always works well. Malaysians are known to be creative people and surely internal graphic designers can come up with attractive economical livery on these planes.
b) Interior retrofitting
Consistent with the new exterior look, the new owner should consider retrofitting the seats. It can be costly but the financial implications can be limited by just replacing the Business Class seats with normal Economy seats. Through this option, the Boeing 737-400 will have slightly more capacity at the same time retaining the luxurious seat-pitch it currently have.
c) Face-off with the Red camp
With better seats and better airports (assuming KLIA main terminal as base), this new fantasy airline can have the extra edge against the current market leader of low-cost travel. They can even price their tickets slightly higher due to this competitive edge!
d) Flexibility and World Class Customer Service
Flexibility and excellent customer service are something that is currently lacking in many low-cost carriers. From my point of view, great customer service from start-to-end of the customer experience would translate into loyalty and to some extend blur the fact that flights are operated by ‘second-hand aircrafts’.
With the above four strategies along with fast turnaround time, efficient internal business processes and destinations that are proven to be high demand, the Boeing 737-400 can be the winning ingredient to a successful and profitable low-cost airline operation.
But then again, these are all fantasies of an aviation blogger driving home from work. I can be very wrong, can I?
This blog post is published by and reflects the personal views of founder/blogger Azuan Zahdi (that’s me!). I write with the best intentions in mind from my unique perspective.