Phuket and Samui in Thailand are often compared for their natural beauty and lifestyle attractions, as are Langkawi and Penang in Malaysia. Each unique yet all four have similarities, not least their buoyant real estate markets. And now they are joined, not by land but by air, following the announcement of new services by Firefly Airlines.
Launched in April and wholly owned by Malaysia Airlines, Firefly is a low-cost start-up based in Penang that currently features a fleet of two Fokker F50 turboprops. As the newest arrival on the Asian aviation scene, Firefly is focusing on non-trunk sectors, rather than going head-to-head with more established rivals.
Termed a 'community airline', Firefly has targeted unique routes as a distinct point of difference. Along with its two popular international routes to Phuket and Samui, it offers domestic flights from Penang International Airport to Kota Bahru, Langkawi, Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu. Firefly executives are now aiming to break even in the company's first year following a positive response in the first month of operation.
“Response has been very encouraging as Firefly's services have been long awaited,” said Eddy Leong, CEO of Firefly Airlines. “Our destinations appeal to leisure travellers, as well as for expatriates residing in Phuket and Samui. We may add new routes once our load targets are achieved.”
Firefly's initial intention is to focus on the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle, with the city of Medan in Indonesia earmarked as a future destination. Over the next five years, the airline's core network could include markets like North America, South America and South Africa.