Kuala Lumpur - The battle for air passengers in Malaysia is set to heat up with the entry of a new airline, flymojo.
Leveraging on the billions of ringgit invested in the economic zone of Iskandar Malaysia, it will use Senai International Airport in Johor as its primary hub, which is expected to give Singapore-based carriers a run for their money on certain regional routes.
flymojo plans to start commercial operations by October. Its managing director Janardhanan Gopala Krishnan told The Business Times he is confident that, crowded skies notwithstanding, there is a market for an airline that can bring back "the magic of flying", backed by seamless service.
Fares will be priced between that of full-service and low-cost carriers', he said on Tuesday, following the signing of a letter of intent in Langkawi with Canada's Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. The deal is for the sale and purchase of 20 CS100 planes, with an option for an additional 20.
He signed the document on behalf of Fly Mojo Sdn Bhd; Bombardier was represented by its regional vice-president of Asia-Pacific sales, Frank Baistrocchi.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and Transport minister Liow Tiong Lai were also at the signing, held on the sidelines of the annual Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace (Lima) exhibition.
Currently capitalised at RM3 million (S$1.12 million), the airline is privately held and fully-owned by Malaysians and backed by private equity, Mr Janardhanan said.
In a joint statement, the companies said that, based on the list price, a firm order for the 20 aircraft would be valued at US$1.47 billion, or US$2.94 billion for 40 planes; the Malaysian company is expected to be the first customer and operator of the CS100 aircraft in the region upon execution of a firm purchase agreement.
"We asked for Senai because we looked at the amount of investments in the southern corridor and saw no commensurate infrastructure there - in the way KLIA serves the central region. It was a good-enough reason to kick-start the hub," said Mr Janardhanan, who used to be chief operating officer of Subang SkyPark Sdn Bhd, the operator for the Subang terminal.
Deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi said that as the only airline utilising the southern corridor, flymojo could transform Senai "into a key regional aviation and logistics hub, augmenting the government's push to develop Iskandar Malaysia and the southern corridor".
Kota Kinabalu in Sabah will be flymojo's secondary hub, in a development that will benefit Sabah and Sarawak tourism.
Mr Janardhanan said flymojo is building a team of 45 technical and cabin crew members. Some operations will be outsourced. For a start, the carrier will have three aircraft, likely to be leased, since its new aircraft will be delivered only at the end of the year. Each of its single-aisle planes will seat between 100 and 125 passengers.
The debut of flymojo comes at a time local carriers Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia X are struggling to be profitable amid intense competition and over-capacity.
Malaysian-Indonesian joint venture Malindo Air, which commenced operations in March 2013, has yet to establish a sound footing; it is unclear if it is profitable.
Mr Janardhanan assures that flymojo will bring a different experience and level of service to the table - from the time of booking to when the passenger lands: "We think there is a market out there for those that want to experience fun, where travelling is an event. Now, it is like taking a bus."
This article was first published on March 18, 2015.
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