News Focus by ZAIDI ISHAM ISMAIL
As a kid, I remember taking my first flight on Malaysia Airlines (MAS). I was seven years old and my whole family flew to Kuching to follow my father who was stationed at an army garrison there.
Needless to say, it was the most exhilirating experience I ever had as a youngster when the jetliner's engine thrust pinned me to my seat and I watched wide eyed from the window as the plane flew over the clouds.
I am sure that MAS has special place in every one's hearts. I watched old photos of my mom in her stewardess outfit circa 1971-1972, a proud moment for her at the time. Everybody would have a memory of our beloved "wau bulan" indented in the figment of our minds.
But MAS is really running out of options now as it becomes a casualty of COVID-19. International Aviation Transport Association had said that global travel is not looking good right now and can only recover by 2024. But to be fair, MAS is not the only airliner in the world bamboozled by the pandemic.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz said last week on BFM Radio that there will be no bail out for MAS. A newspaper reported that there are no takers for MAS anymore from 9 suitors at the beginning of the year.
What is now next for our beloved national carrier?
To be fair to MAS, the carrier is unlike AirAsia which is free to fly where ever it wants. MAS on the other hand is controlled by the government and has a social reponsibility to fulfill to the rakyat by flying to unprofitable areas in rural areas.
In all due honesty, MAS problems started to nosedive ever since the MH370 and MH17 tragedies and was aggravated by COVID-19. What options are there for MAS as all possible solutions may have been exhausted.
There were proposals to sell it, rebrand into another name, merge with AirAsia, become a full-fledged low cost carrier. MAS has done almost everything including hiving of its 6,00 staff, upskill and reskill its staff such as retraining its pilots to do marketing.
MAS has also never revealed where it is financially bleeding. Is it the low yield factor? High maintenance cost? High jet fuel? Unprofitable routes versus profitable routes?
MAS is really running out of options and is flying on empty. Hopefully there will be a short term and long term solution for our beloved carrier.
But Khazanah Nasional told Berita Harian on Thursday that MAS could be bundled up and will then operate under regional airline Firefly. That sounds like a good idea. Let's hope that it works.
Although we love our MAS very much, we have to be realistic here. Sentiment cannot sustain a business to stay afloat. Bills need to be paid.
If MAS has to go, then it has to go.
But in the meantime, the authorities should give its all to ensure that our beloved wau continues to soar high in the sky. -DagangNews.com
The writer is former NST Business assistant editor