Firefly (FY, Penang) is planning to restart B737-800 operations in early 2022 as its parent holding Malaysia Aviation Group anticipates the domestic market to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels next year.

"If things go well, we will have the [Firefly narrowbody] operations starting again in the early first quarter next year, subject to the recovery of domestic business," MAG Chief Operating Officer Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi told media during the virtual Aviation 101 conference.

Firefly currently operates as a regional subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, deploying a fleet of twelve ATR72-500s out of Kuala Lumpur Subang. However, in May, the carrier was due to begin narrowbody operations with three B737-800s transferred from its parent and deployed out of Penang on a domestic point-to-point network. It put the idea on hold after just three flights and all three Boeing aircraft returned to MAG in late July 2021.

Ahmad Luqman explained that Firefly's decision to scrub the plan came as a result of the Movement Control Order 3.0, a national lockdown programme implemented in early May. However, he vowed that Firefly's foray into the narrowbody segment would happen. It plans to operate ten B737-800s by 2025, deploying them domestically within Malaysia and on short-haul international routes.

Meanwhile, MAG hopes to see domestic demand returning in the fourth quarter of this year and fully recovering to pre-pandemic levels at some point in 2022. International demand is not expected to return before mid-2023 and could take until early 2024 to fully rebound. Ahmad Luqman underlined that the group's current business plan covers various recovery scenarios, and at this moment, there is no reason to adjust it.