KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Flag carrier Malaysia Airlines on Tuesday inked a US$650 million (euro443 million) deal to buy 20 turboprop aircraft from France-based manufacturer ATR to boost its budget and rural air services.
Ten of the ATR 72-500 planes will be operated by its budget unit Firefly and the rest by MASwings, a new subsidiary set up to run rural services in Malaysian states on Borneo island, it said in a statement.
The contract, signed at an international airshow in the northern resort island of Langkawi, includes an option to buy another 15 planes, it said.
''Firefly will take delivery of its first ATR aircraft in 2008 while the first ATR for MASwings will be delivered in 2009,'' the statement said.
The ATR planes for Firefly will have 72 seats and will progressively replace its current Fokker 50 fleet, the statement said. Those for MASwings will have 68 seats and will enhance its services in Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo, it said.
Firefly was launched in April and currently flies to several Malaysian cities, as well as to the Thai resort islands of Phuket and Koh Samui.
With the new aircraft, Firefly chief executive Eddy Leong told the national Bernama news agency that the airline aims to add new routes such as to Palembang, Aceh and Pekan Baru in Indonesia, and Hadyai and Krabi in southern Thailand.
ATR chief executive Stephane Mayer said in the statement that this was the company's debut in the Malaysian market. There are already 20 carriers operating some 120 ATR planes in the region, he said.