No merger, but MAS and AirAsia should link up, say experts

MAS and AirAsia fly to similar destinations, sometimes “five minutes apart”, says a consultant.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines must rethink its business model now that the possibility of a merger with budget airline AirAsia seems unlikely, according to a transport expert.

Goh Bok Yen, a longtime transport consultant, said the national carrier should instead coordinate its operations with that of AirAsia to avoid creating what he calls “unhealthy competition”.

He said AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines both had flights to the same destinations, sometimes only “five minutes apart” which meant that passengers would be split between the two, leaving seats empty.

“So why not coordinate and decide on routes and flight times where one airline only flies to certain destinations? Or fly to the same destination but with AirAsia doing so in the morning and Malaysia Airlines at night for example,” he said.

They could also give up certain routes.

Goh, who previously warned that competition among local airlines would kill the industry due to the diminished market, said coordination between the two airlines would also guarantee better passenger loading factor and minimise empty seats.

Recently, national sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns Malaysia Airlines, said a merger with AirAsia would be difficult to carry out, citing the different business models and work cultures.

Goh said a merger was not impossible although a difficult process, with the two companies having to resolve questions about administration issues as well as undergo restructuring and changes to their working culture.

“But why should they waste time and effort on this now? The priority is to get the planes in the skies,” Goh said.

Another transport expert, Rosli Azad Khan, said a merger of MAS and AirAsia was not needed for the two airlines to work together.

Rosli said an alliance of the two airlines could offer joint services for the convenience of their customers.

With KLIA and klia2 being very insular, only catering to either airline, he said, passengers had difficulty transferring from one flight to another as they would be forced to exit an airport for a connecting flight.

“Why make inter-airline transfer difficult? There is a market overlap that they need to serve effectively and efficiently which the two airlines refuse to look into and work together.

“This strategy will be a win-win for both airlines,” said Rosli.

He said the two companies should also examine their respective surplus capacity especially on domestic routes. They could work out a code share among themselves to save costs. “If MAS could work with other airlines, why not work with AirAsia?”