Firefly (FY, Penang) will commence jet operations from the first quarter of 2021, its parent Malaysia Aviation Group revealed on October 15.

It will add ten narrowbodies to its fleet in stages to serve the domestic, ASEAN, and Asia Pacific markets out of its Penang base in the north of the Malaysian peninsula, “to meet demand from the northern region.”

Firefly, which currently operates a fleet of twelve ATR72-500 turboprops, “will be complementing sister company Malaysia Airlines in serving the leisure market while diversifying its base connecting secondary cities in Malaysia to East Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore,” Izham Ismail, group chief executive, outlined.

“This is in line with the group's long-term business plan to be adapted to the current and future situation after covid-19 with a focus on strengthening revenue flows for both subsidiaries,” he added.

Malaysia Airlines Group will “leverage the resources and manpower available in the group” and potentially use existing Malaysia Airlines B737-800 equipment. The flag carrier has 47 of this aircraft type, 30 of which are currently active, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows.

Firefly CEO Philip See said his airline was ready to take on the challenge as it sees strong potential for a two-hub strategy while maintaining turboprop services out of its other base at Kuala Lumpur Subang.

The statement has been seen as a sign that the group is shifting its focus as core brand Malaysia Airlines struggles to stay afloat. As previously reported, the group has warned lessors that its parent, state-run sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, would wind the airline down if talks on reworking leasing payments fail.

However, a group of lessors claiming to represent 70% of the aircraft and engines leased to Malaysia Airlines said on October 10 that they rejected the restructuring, calling it “inappropriate and fatally flawed,” Reuters reported. Malaysia Airlines and its subsidiaries, Firefly and MASwings (MY, Kota Kinabalu), own 36 of their current fleet of 99 aircraft, leasing the rest from a list of 20 lessors, according to the ch-aviation fleets module.

If talks fail, a “plan B” would see Khazanah Nasional inject funds into Firefly allowing it to obtain narrowbody and later widebody aircraft from the market.