'Drop' in Malaysia Airlines bookings

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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Demand for seats on Malaysia Airlines flights from New Zealand has halved in the four weeks following the flight MH370 tragedy, according to one online booking company.

The managing director of online travel retailer webjet.co.nz, John Guscic, said its booking data showed the damage to Malaysia Airlines' brand following the Boeing 777-200's disappearance on March 8 with 239 people onboard.

"There has been a massive dropoff. Compared to bookings on Malaysia Airlines in February and in the same period last year, bookings are down by more than half."

Guscic said the Australian booking trends were identical, both markets avoiding the airline following the incident.

It was not a case of "kicking an airline when they are down, but a commercial reality resulting from the tragic events".

Malaysia Airlines was one of many carriers flying long-haul route to Asia and Europe from New Zealand so customers had options, and were using them.

Guscic said travellers were still avoiding the airline even as the MH370 story moved off newspapers' front pages and it was difficult to predict when travellers would return to the airline.

But Malaysia Airlines' New Zealand manager, Dzulkefli Zakaria, said New Zealanders had not been spooked by the incident and demand had been unaffected.

This week Malaysian Airlines began flying daily between Auckland and Kuala Lumpur, up from six times weekly, in response to increased demand on the route. The increase in services was announced in November 2013.

Zakaria said demand for seats was "in line with expectations".

At time of announcing the frequency increase, Zakaria said it was driven by more inbound tourists to New Zealand from South-east Asia and India.

House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said although no local bookings had been cancelled since the aircraft's disappearance, the agency had seen a "small dropoff" in customers choosing to fly with the carrier.

"However, we are already starting to see that correct itself and go back to the usual numbers, so it was a small dip."

Flight Centre general manager of product Simon McKearney said that the travel agency had seen no significant changes to demand for bookings on Malaysian Airlines.

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