Troubled premium carrier Malaysia Airlines has become one of the cheapest airlines for Australians travelling to Asia, with ticket prices plummeting in the wake of two of the worst air disasters in history.
An investigation by The New Daily has discovered Malaysia Airlines was offering cheaper fares than its budget competitors on several popular routes from Australia to Asian cities, including Singapore and Beijing.
The airline is also among the cheapest carriers for some routes inside Asia, but maintains its premiums pricing on travel to the US and Europe. The data analysis was performed on prices from airfares websites Skyscanner and Webjet.
The sharp drop in price follows the MH17 and MH370 disasters this year, which prompted customers to consider alternatives to the airline.
With many of its planes flying close to empty, Malaysia’s national carrier is running at a loss of $2.1 million a day.
In a bid to win passengers, Malaysia Airlines has almost doubled the commission Australian travel agents earn for selling seats on the airline’s flights. Earlier this month, news.com.au reported that all Malaysia Airlines tickets issued in Australia would attract an 11 per cent commission for economy class travel from Australia, up from 6 per cent.
In response to questions from The New Daily, a spokesperson for Malaysia Airlines said the airline’s growth had “taken a set-back as a result of the tragic shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine”, but said the bargain-priced airfares were finding customers.
“We are continuing to receive strong support from travel agents in the region … Bookings through our website are improving and customers are responding well to our very attractive fare offers.”
Cheaper than the budget airlines
The full service airline is now cheaper than low cost carriers like Air Asia and Jetstar on a range of routes like Melbourne to Singapore and Sydney to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines, which has turned to flash sales to attract customers, is advertising fares significantly cheaper than the next most affordable airline on several popular routes from Australian airports.
Social media has been bombarded by images of empty flights and deserted check-in areas as travellers abandon the plagued airline.
In March, Australian entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan tweeted an image of an empty Malaysia Airlines check-in area, following the MH370 tragedy, writing: “the importance of brand trust & values.”
The importance of brand trust & values. Malaysia Airlines queue for check in empty 1.5hrs before the flight to KL pic.twitter.com/9MStJ66YeW
— Ruslan Kogan (@ruslankogan) March 10, 2014
Last month, 298 people, including 37 Australians, were killed on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it was shot out of the sky, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
This came three months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, with an international search operation failing to find the plane’s wreckage or the 239 people onboard.
Following the MH17 disaster, it was announced that the carrier would be delisted and taken private ahead of a major restructuring under a proposal announced by its majority shareholder.
Malaysian state investment vehicle Khazanah Nasional, which owns 70 per cent of the flag-carrier, said all stakeholders will need to work together to save the company via a “complete overhaul of the national carrier on all relevant aspects … (including) the airline’s operations, business model, finances, human capital and regulatory environment.
“Nothing less will be required in order to revive our national airline to be profitable as a commercial entity and to serve its function as a critical national development entity,” it said.
Malaysia Airlines has reeled from years of financial losses and its survival was seen as in peril following this year’s air catastrophes.
* A previous version of this story contained inaccurate fare comparisons. The incorrect data has now been removed from the article.