Firefly CEO admits tough to fill Singapore seats after move to Seletar, but says not giving up

John Bunyan

I POH, May 24 — Budget airline Firefly is struggling to find passengers for its Singapore flights a month after resuming operations since moving to the republic’s fringe Seletar Airport from Changi, its CEO told reporters in the island state yesterday.

Firefly suspended its Singapore flights five months ago after Malaysia objected to the Singapore government’s new Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport. — Picture courtesy of Aceh TWICE Plane Spotter via Facebook

Phillip See said the Malaysia Airlines subsidiary is only 40 per cent filled since April 21 despite flying six times a day between Subang International Airport in Selangor and Singapore, Straits Times reported.

“Before the suspension, an average of 65 to 70 per cent of seats were filled,” he was quoted saying.

Firefly suspended its Singapore flights five months ago after Malaysia objected to the Singapore government’s new Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport, claiming that they would impose height restrictions and affect development in Pasir Gudang, Johor.

Singapore was Firefly’s second largest route after Penang. It had 10 daily connections between Subang and Changi prior to the suspension.

Asked if Firefly now regrets its decision to move to Seletar, See said: “It's tough but do we just give up? I don't think so. It's part of the business”.

See said the airline is now focused on winning back lost customers and is working with Changi Airport Group, travel agents and other industry partners to raise awareness of the new Seletar Airport passenger terminal which opened in October.

“Some still think it's an old military airport,” he told reporters, admitting too that five months was too long for a suspension.

“So yes, work is needed to re-engage our customers and say ‘Hey, try us again. You used to love us and actually, the experience now is even better’.”

According to the report by the Singapore daily, Firefly aircraft are still not GPS-ready and currently rely on their pilots’ vision for landing at Seletar Airport.

However, See said that no decision has been taken to equip Firefly with such instruments as the main priority for the airline now is to stabilise the current route, which he estimated to take about three months.

“The challenge will come when expansion requires night flights that typically require pilots to rely on landing aids,” See was quoted saying.

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