Malaysia Airlines veterans call for shake-up after fall in world rankings

Malaysia Airlines has not made it to the top 20 of Skytrax’s World’s Top 100 Airlines survey for the past five years.

PETALING JAYA: Two Malaysia Airlines veterans, including a former CEO, have called for an overhaul of the carrier’s management after its failure for the fifth year to reach the top 20 in an international survey on airlines.

They said Malaysia Airlines, which instead dropped two spots from 36th in Skytrax’s annual World’s Top 100 Airlines survey, had lost its class.

Malaysia Airlines has not ranked in the top 20 since 2014 when it occupied 18th spot, dropping from 24th in 2015 to 34th in 2016, bagging 31st spot in 2017 and 34th again last year.

The results recently earned the airline scorn from the National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam) which urged the top management to step down.

Mohd Jabarullah Abdul Kadir, former adviser to the Malaysia Airlines System Employees Union, said its board must consist of people who understand aviation and the industry.

Jabarullah said he agreed with Nufam that there was an urgent need to find out what was wrong with the national carrier which previously won many awards.

He described as “unforgivable mistakes” the move to hire outsiders, sack staff and close down engineering and maintenance facilities.

Mohd Jabarullah Abdul Kadir.

He also said staff that were unhappy with developments at the airline had sought employment with competitors such as Malindo and AirAsia.

“Now when we want to expand and hire pilots and engineers, we have to spend more to rope them in from outside,” he said.

Jabarullah said many current Malaysia Airlines staff had experience and capabilities that could turn the company around.

“If you gather the staff for brainstorming sessions, I am sure they will come up with ideas.

“If the prime minister or the economic affairs minister will give us a chance, we can gather 60 to 70 people who can contribute to help the airline,” he said.

Jabarullah also claimed that AirAsia is being given more privileges than Malaysia Airlines, and said the national carrier should be given priority in access to facilities and air traffic rights, among others.

“Anywhere in the world, the national airline has a special place,” he said, citing Dubai’s Emirates Airlines and British Airways as examples.

Former Malaysia Airlines CEO and managing director Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman agreed that the airline would not be able to rejuvenate itself if there were no changes in its management.

Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman.

He said it was also important for the airline to review its policies, adding that the failure to reach the top 20 in the Skytrax survey showed it had lost its “spark”.

“It is sad because it used to be our national carrier with class, but now we have lost the class.

“It still can be done,” he said, referring to a turnaround, “but it is up to the government whether they want to revive it or not.”

Aziz, who helmed Malaysia Airlines from 1982 to 1992, had previously claimed that AirAsia was the root of the carrier’s problems.

He said in the early stages, AirAsia was allowed to charge very low fares for domestic travel which Malaysia Airlines could not match.

Malaysia Airlines is currently owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Critics have said that Khazanah, which took the airline private in 2014 with a RM6 billion turnaround plan, made the mistake of bringing in foreigners to head the airline.

After it was privatised, Malaysia Airlines was led by German Christoph Mueller, who undertook a major retrenchment exercise involving some 6,000 workers before his shock resignation less than a year after his appointment.

He was succeeded by Irishman Peter Bellew, who resigned to rejoin his former employer Ryanair.

Following its continued losses to the tune of billions of ringgit, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government had three options for Malaysia Airlines: close it down, sell it or refinance its debts.