PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has questioned the deal announced by the government to purchase Boeing aircraft for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) as one that may see the national carrier face another round of failures.
The Pakatan Harapan chairman made the claim after referring to a report last month in an international aviation magazine which had quoted MAS chief operating officer Izham Ismail as saying that MAS had decided to buy aircraft from Airbus.
“In its Aug 15-21, 2017 issue, Flight International carried a report on MAS’ decision to buy six Airbus A350-900 aircraft to replace its A380 fleet.
“According to Izham, there would be major benefits from the aircraft switch, with MAS expected to take the six A350-900s from Air Lease, with the first two arriving by year-end,” Mahathir said, citing the report.
He added that such a move would make the deal to buy Boeing aircraft for MAS that Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced in the White House earlier this month even more questionable.
“Is MAS going to buy Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner or both? Was there a decision made by MAS to buy the 58 Boeings, or was this a personal decision by Najib as a bribe to get a photo opportunity with Trump?
“Is it in the plan of MAS to buy 58 +6 new aircraft? Where are these planes going to fly to? Must be a lot of new destinations,” Mahathir said in a blog post, adding that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was a direct competitor to the Airbus A350-900.
Mahathir, who is also PPBM chairman, criticised MAS management if it had agreed to the purchase of the Boeing aircraft for the wrong reasons.
“It doesn’t speak well of the management to suddenly expand its routes with these huge aircraft. Or is MAS trying to please the PM at the expense of commercial wisdom?” he said.
Last week, MAS chief executive officer Peter Bellew was reported as saying that the airline would not be buying and owning the Boeings that the government had promised to purchase.
“These aircraft will not be owned by Malaysia Airlines, but are planned to be on operating leases, which is a norm in modern airlines,” Bellew had said in an internal memo dated Sept 15, which was sighted by business publication The Malaysian Reserve.
Bellew added that the recent purchase of the Boeing MAX and the 787-9 Dreamliners coincided with the end of the airline’s other lease agreements.