MASwings (MY, Kota Kinabalu) will spend 2017 upgrading its fleet, improving performance and working on its reputation, airline CEO Aminuddin Zakaria has disclosed. The Malaysia Airlines (MH, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) unit will also work with the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) on the route network and subsidisation system of the country's rural connectivity scheme.

In an interview with The Daily Express, Zakaria said the 'year of repair' is necessary given the carrier's current Rural Air Service (RAS) Agreement with the Malaysian government expires at the end of 2017. A new contract, set to commence in 2018, will last for ten years as the renamed Public Service Obligations (PSO) agreement.

"The feedback that we got from the customers, our reputation is very low and the customer's confidence to fly MASwings is a challenge," Zakaria said.

The fleet overhaul will see eight of MASWings ATR 72-500 aircraft pulled from operation in succession for maintenance and overhaul. Subsequently, route frequencies will be reduced by one daily on five selected routes. MASwings estimates that the flight reduction will impact capacity by 8.7%. The affected routes are: Kota Kinabalu - Lahad Datu, Kota Kinabalu - Sandakan, Miri - Limbang, Kota Kinabalu - Miri, and Miri - Labuan.

Also under discussion is the method of subsidisation. Currently, foreigners who purchase tickets within Malaysia on subsidised routes are entitled to the reduced fare. MAVCOM wishes to introduce a mechanism to ensure that subsidies are only applied to Malaysian customers. Additionally, it is looking at expanding MASwings operations into neighbouring countries to grow tourism.