The Malaysian government would like to sell Malaysia Airlines (MAS), but its identity as the national carrier must be retained, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (Jun 25).
He said the government had made a lot of changes to MAS, but each time, it still kept on failing.
“So, this time, we have to be a little bit more careful in the steps taken to resuscitate Malaysia Airlines.
“It’s not just the change of management, lots of other things are wrong with the airline, which have to be corrected,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the 33rd Asia Pacific Roundtable.
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Dr Mahathir was responding to the call by two MAS veterans, including a former CEO, 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 MAS, which instead dropped two spots to 36th in Skytrax’s annual World’s Top 100 Airlines survey, had lost its class.
The National Union of Flight Attendants also called on MAS’ management to step down following news that the national carrier had failed to reach the top 20 in the World’s Top 100 Airlines survey for five years now.
MAS 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 fate of MAS has been up in the air. In March, Dr Mahathir said the government was considering whether to shut, sell or refinance the carrier.
Earlier this month, MAS’ chief executive officer Izham Ismail said it would be a “wrong move” to shut down the national carrier. He noted that the move would affect many companies and stakeholders providing services to the airline.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has complained about a flight delay by MAS, which caused him to miss a meeting with Dr Mahathir in London.
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On Monday, the minister’s office said flight MH2 was late for about 2.5 hours departing from Kuala Lumpur more than a week ago on the night of Jun 15. This forced him to skip an “important” meeting with Dr Mahathir in London on Jun 16.
The defence minister was on his way to France but had visited London briefly to meet with the prime minister.
MAS apologised for the inconvenience on Tuesday. “The airline was aware of the minister’s meeting and spared no expense to ensure that the aircraft was safe to fly as safety is of the utmost importance at all times for the airline,” it said in a statement, according to the Star.