PETALING JAYA: Should there be air marshals to handle potential disasters on flights operated by airline companies incorporated in Malaysia?
Former Malaysia Airlines managing director Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman says he is uncomfortable with the idea because it may affect the hospitality that the Malaysian airline industry is famous for.
The question arose after Wednesday’s incident on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur. Flight MH128 was forced to return to Melbourne after a passenger exhibited “disruptive behaviour”.
If the Malaysian government were to legislate a requirement for air marshals, Abdul Aziz said, Malaysian airline companies would have to find ways to ensure that their in-flight service remain excellent.
“The airline industry has to strike a balance between managing crises and maintaining the highest quality in their in-flight service,” he said.
Several countries around the world require air marshals, sometimes called sky marshals, to be on board their passenger planes. These include the United States, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Australia, Britain, Ireland, Germany and Austria.
The United States Federal Air Marshal Service (Fams) was established in the 1960s but increased its presence on flights after the Sept 11, 2001, attack on US soil.
Singapore started deploying sky marshals in 2003 on its national carrier, Singapore Airlines, and the regional carrier SilkAir.
India ramped up its in-flight security in 1999 by introducing sky marshals after an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked by five gunmen.
There have been reports of marshals not living up to expectation. In April, a passenger found a loaded gun in a bathroom on board a US Delta flight from Manchester, England, to New York.
The gun apparently belonged to a federal air marshal. Despite the lapse, the same marshal was assigned to another flight a few days later, according to the New York Times.