Making headway in a competitive airline sector (Update)

THE STAR: DATUK Janardhanan Gopala Krishnan was the name that was much talked about during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition last week when his company Fly Mojo Sdn Bhd signed a multi-billion ringgit deal with Bombardier to procure planes to start a new airline in Malaysia.

The move by the former chief operating officer of Subang Skypark Sdn Bhd, the operator of the airport in Subang, to start a new airline in an already competitive sector was seen as an audacious move and raised concerns whether it would take off.

Below are excerpts of the interview with Janardhanan:

StarBiz: Could you please shed some light on the shareholding of Fly Mojo Sdn Bhd. You said you own 90% equity stake in Fly Mojo and Ismail Hue owns the remaining 10%. But according to the records of the Companies Registrar, you only have 9% via Bulan Terang, while Ismail and Azharuddin Satyapal Das Abdullah hold 10% and 81% respectively.

Janardharan: Azharuddin was a shareholder but he left a while back. For the past one year I own 90% in Fly Mojo via Bulan Terang.

Competition is already intense for aircraft covering distances of 3-5 hours flying time. Are there limitations of how much ground flymojo can cover?

The choice of aircraft was a big part of our strategy. It is a far more economical plane and uses the latest generation technology. We plan to fly domestic and regional routes and have a footprint of three-hour flying radius given the type of engines we chose. In the first year we are looking at domestic routes, Thailand and Indonesia. The plane is capable of flying up to Chennai in India, Darwin in Australia and southern China. With the aircraft, we can go to different routes and not just the main stations, which could be choked… so there are a number of variables for us.

Why Bombardier planes and not Airbus or Boeing? And why CS100 when it is still in the testing stage and it is said that cost per seat could be higher given the configuration of two class seating?

We believe it is a far more economical and efficient plane. It uses the GTF (gear turbo fan) engines and these are the next generation engines. It will not be too expansive to run the airline.

Why choose Senai as a hub when you have other carriers flying out of the airport and competition from airlines operating out of Changi?

We looked at the big picture and we feel there are pockets of opportunities. The Asian region is still growing faster than US and Europe. As for the choice of Senai… the country has several corridors. But the connectivity in the southern region does not commensurate with the investments that has been put into developing the corridor. So there is a huge underserved market there into parts of the region and also Sabah and Sarawak.

How many aircraft will you start with in October, and when the delivery of the new 20 CS100 begins?

We begin with three aircraft, also from the Bombardier family. We are in talks for that. The first of the new order of 20 will start trickling in by the first quarter of 2016.

Is flymojo a full service carrier and what would the ticket prices be like?

We want to be the in-between of full service and low cost carriers. And certainly our pricing will not be lower than that of AirAsia.

Your challenge ahead?

Embedding soft skills and making it a culture of the airline. Hiring those with the right attitude and passion for the job. We need 250 people in a year’s time, of which 150 will be the crews and pilots. We have six people on board now in strategic positions such as finance, engineering, flight operations and communications.

With so much competition, what would be flymojo’s differentiating factor?

Service… we want to bring the mojo to service quality.

Can this venture be successful?

With the right product and service, the ultimate test is in the hands of travellers. But people want a different experience and we are here to give them just that.

 

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