‘Mavcom clipped our wings’: More airlines slam aviation commission

Eaglexpress president Captain Azlan Zainal Abidin says Mavcom’s decision cost the airline over RM300 million in losses.

KUALA LUMPUR: Two aviation company bosses today alleged that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) under the previous administration treated them unfairly, resulting in hundreds of millions in losses.

At a press conference in Bukit Kiara, Eaglexpress president Captain Azlan Zainal Abidin and Suasa Airlines CEO Captain Sheikh Salleh Abod called on the Pakatan Harapan government to abolish Mavcom.

They said for decades before the commission was established, a small unit within the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had done Mavcom’s work.

They said Mavcom was set up to streamline the management of the aviation industry, but claimed the commission had been unreasonable in taking action against them, resulting in the suppression of the industry.

In the case of Suasa, Salleh said, it had sought approval from the DCA for a non-commercial demonstration flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi in 2016.

“The DCA gave us the approval and even copied Mavcom in doing so. After the flight, Mavcom made noise and said they would investigate why we flew without their approval.”

Salleh said subsequently, a police report was lodged against Suasa, and they were called for a private meeting with Mavcom executive chairman Abdullah Ahmad.

At the meeting attended by Suasa’s lawyers, Salleh alleged that Mavcom had urged Suasa to plead guilty and pay the fine to “save face” for the commission.

“They said if we apologised, even though we did nothing wrong, they would grant us a licence the next day.”

But he said this never happened, adding that to date, Suasa had yet to receive the air service permit (ASP) from Mavcom. This left the company in limbo, unable to operate. He said it suffered RM15 million in losses and was forced to sell two of its five aircraft and retrench over 70 staff to stay afloat.

In the case of Eaglexpress, Azlan said Mavcom had revoked its ASP because it did not have RM30 million cash reserves as required by the commission, although this was not a requirement when the company began its operations in 2012.

“When Mavcom came in, they made it a requirement and when we couldn’t comply in time, they revoked our ASP.”

Azlan said the rationale behind the requirement for RM30 million in reserves was to ensure sufficient funds for passenger compensation in the event of delays or cancellations.

But Azlan said Eaglexpress was a charter airline which leased aircraft and provided maintenance and crew to other commercial airlines. In the case of Eaglexpress, he said, it was a service provider to Saudi Airlines, so it would be their clients which handled passenger compensation.

Despite appeals, Azlan said, Mavcom had refused to give Eaglexpress an extension of time to meet the requirement, causing damage to its reputation and a loss of business.

“What they did caused us embarrassment and affected our reputation. We were heading for growth, brought in foreign currency for Malaysia and created jobs for our people.”

He said even though he had met and sought the help of former transport minister Liow Tiong Lai and former prime minister Najib Razak, it was to no avail.

All in all, Azlan said, Eaglexpress lost some RM300 million.

He said he was planning to set up a new airline and was finalising talks with overseas investors.

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