Malaysia Airlines can be turned around — it just needs guts to do it

Despite many attempts to turn around Malaysia Airlines to become profitable, there is still much that needs to be done.

What is needed is courage and determination to do the necessary — to revise contracts, weed out unwanted wastage and streamline existing operations to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

There are many lucrative, profit-generating areas Malaysia Airlines once thrived in, aside from passenger traffic — its engineering division was once a world-renowned player in the maintain, repair and overhaul (MRO) market, serving more than 100 airline customers at the peak of its operations.

It did so with several certifications, including from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa), Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Casa) of Australia as well as aviation governing bodies of 25 other countries.

Malaysia Airlines took the blame and suffered a humiliating downfall due to the previous administration — it was enmeshed in politics, run by a poor management team, and became a milking ground for cronies responsible for running the business into the red.

Knowing that the government will continue to bail out Malaysia Airlines, the milking continued.

The business justification

Chartered business jet companies are thriving globally. NetJets, for example, has a fleet of more than 700 business jets.

In our part of the world, neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Singapore and India have similar thriving companies which have created young millionaires and even billionaires in the process.

Such companies meet the demands of those who need the flexibility of flying at the fraction of the cost of owning a plane.

Putting aside the demand for chartered business jets among the richest, there is an even higher demand for business travellers who need the convenience and flexibility they can get from business class packages.

This is especially so when Asia is already now an economic powerhouse in its own right. On a similar note, the same goes for premium and standard economy packages.

Malaysia Airlines plays an irreplaceable role, offering a comprehensive range of services and flexibility that no other local carrier is able to match.

While it is true that AirAsia has consistently offered excellent service, it is important to note that AirAsia serves a market segment that is different from Malaysia Airlines, with only limited overlap.

Hence, it is crucial to have a national carrier that, together with other local carriers, ensures the demands of air travel and freight needs are comprehensively covered.

Malaysia Airlines’ cabin crew and aircrew are well known among their peers. This was further evident when it was recently awarded the Best Airline in Asia award at the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (Patwa) World’s Largest Tourism Fair in Berlin.

The Patwa International Travel Awards are some of the most prestigious awards in the travel industry since their inception 18 years ago

To conclude, it takes someone with guts to terminate contracts that are detrimental to the survival of Malaysia Airlines.

The global stage is set with the International Air Transport Association (Iata) forecasting passenger demand to double over the next 20 years and air freight demands continue to grow.

With no more political entanglement, Malaysia Airlines has more than what it needs to survive and thrive.

Julian Tan Kok Ping, former Stampin MP, is an aerospace engineer and researcher, and is currently doing his postgraduate degree on drone-related technology.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.