Southeast Asian Aftermarket Confronts Altered Landscape

Malaysia Airlines aircraft
Over the next 10 years, MRO spend in Malaysia is forecast to stand at $10 billion by Aviation Week.
Credit: Adrian Schofield/AW&ST

Despite tentative signs of recovery in many parts of the world, most Southeast Asian airlines remain mired in crisis.

Government support has been extremely limited, with the notable exception of Malaysia, whose flag carrier, tellingly, is the only one in the region to have finalised a restructuring plan since the onset of the pandemic.

Its owner, Malaysia Aviation Group, is looking to grow cargo and MRO going forward to compensate for a smaller airline operation, but for the latter revenue stream it must confront the fact the aircraft numbers in its home region are going to be a shadow of former projections.

Low-cost carrier groups Air Asia and Lion Air had some of the biggest orderbooks in the world going into the crisis, but both are now mired in serious financial difficulties, with speculation mounting that Lion’s owners may seek to ditch the brand and launch under a new air opeartor’s certificate.

Flag carriers Thai Airways and Garuda, meanwhile, are weighed down by debt and late lease payments, and there are reports that Vietnam Airlines is suspending deliveries of new and leased aircraft, while seeking sales for some of its narrowbody fleet.

Prior to the pandemic, in contrast, Southeast Asia was one of aviation’s biggest growth markets and as a result the region saw the launch of numerous new MRO operations, often as joint ventures.

Examples included a plan between Airbus and Thai Airways to develop a major MRO hub at Bangkok’s U-Tapao International; a deal between Malaysia Airport Holdings (MAHB) and  South Korea’s Gyeongnam Techno Park (GNTP) to develop the Subang Aerotech Park near Kuala Lumpur; and, last year, a component support partnership between AFI KLM E&M in Indonesia.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.