Malaysia Airlines will continue to fly, assures Guan Eng

Nufam wants the prime minister to think of the fate of the many workers who are likely to be unemployed if the airlines is shut down. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has given an assurance that the government will not close down Malaysia Airlines Bhd.

Clarifying that Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement on the issue had been misconstrued, Lim asserted that the government would not shut down the national carrier, instead, it was merely one of the options presented to the prime minister.

“Dr Mahathir was only talking about the various options that were presented (to him) on Malaysia Airlines. He was not talking about closing down Malaysia Airlines,” Lim told reporters after launching Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd’s Sustainable Development Financing Fund here today.

Lim said with the clarification, the airline’s employees should not worry about their future.

The prime minister, on Tuesday, was quoted as saying that the government would study various options before deciding on Malaysia Airline’s fate.

“I think it is a very serious matter to shut down the national airline. We will nevertheless study the situation whether to shut the airline down, or should we sell it off or refinance it. All these are open for the government to decide,” Dr Mahathir had said.

Malaysia Airlines, which was privatised under Khazanah National Bhd, posted a marginally lower loss last year due to several factors, including crew shortages in the second half of 2018.

The national sovereign fund, which took it private in 2014, had injected RM6 billion into the business in an effort to help the airline return to the black after it was hit by the weakening ringgit and higher jet fuel prices, among others.

Earlier, the National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam) had urged the government not to shut down Malaysian Airlines Berhad as 13,000 employees could lose their jobs.

Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin said: “It is very disturbing to know that Malaysia Airlines under the new company is unable to show any profit even after three years.

“Before the government decides to cease the airline’s operation, let’s have a review and understand the real problem, whether it is the management or some other reason,” he said at a press conference at Nufam’s office.

“I am begging the government and the prime minister to think of the fate of the many workers who are likely to be unemployed if the airlines is shut down,” he said.

Ismail urged the government to discuss with related groups, including Nufam, on ways to save the airlines. He added that the government had never heard them out.

The airline has been trying to transform its operations and return to profitability by the targeted date of 2019 as it recovers from two disasters in 2014 when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.