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Tuesday January 10, 2012

New charter airline takes to the skies next month

By B.K. SIDHU
bksidhu@thestar.com.my


PETALING JAYA: Eaglexpress Air Charter Sdn Bhd, a new air charter airline funded by investors from South Korea, the Middle East and Malaysia, will make its debut with a holiday charter flight from South Korea to Malaysia next month.

Spearheading this new airline are two friends: Capt Azlan Zainal Abidin, formerly with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and South Korean national Capt Shin Man Soo. They hold 20% and 40% equity stakes respectively in the airline.

The balance shares in the company are held by Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat and Datuk Wan Ismail Abdul Rahman (formerly with Malayan Banking Bhd and Oriental Bank), with each holding 20% equity stakes.

Aseh is executive chairman of Eaglexpress and Ismail, the deputy chairman.

“It is a 60:40 Malaysian-South Korean joint venture. We will fund the venture and also have some institutional investors from the Middle East and South Korea that have invested in the airline,” Azlan told StarBiz but declined to say how much has been invested by the parties. The paid-up capital of the company is RM1mil.

The airline would be offering air charter services globally and would lease three B747-400 aircraft from Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd.

“Eaglexpress Air Charter’s existence and entry into the aviation industry is in response to the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme. The global open-sky policy and the vibrancy of the air charter business will enable Eaglexpress to contribute to make Malaysia an important aviation hub.

“We will serve the untapped and under-served market, which has not been fulfilled by the scheduled airlines,” Azlan said.

The airline has a contract to fly holidaymakers from South Korea to Malaysia in February and also has arrangements with some agents in Thailand and Singapore to fly people to perform the haj and umrah in Saudi Arabia.

“We are in talks with agents and airlines in this region and actively pursuing talks for the haj and umrah traffic in Indonesia too.

“China is also a market that we intend to venture into,” Azlan said.

He added that the airline was not competing with existing carriers as it merely offered air charter services to tour agents, companies and even airlines. It sees itself complementing AirAsia and MAS.

“We will not sell air tickets but we can even lease crew and aircraft to airlines in need of space,” he said.

Over the last two months, the airline has been hiring pilots, president commercial, flight captains, first officers, cabin crew supervisors, flight attendants, flight despatcher, sales and marketing manager, and technical service managers.

It has set up a core team of 100 people and would be using the KL International Airport as a base for its operations.

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