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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Time To Fly Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380

Malaysia Airlines next week is due to receive its first Airbus A380.

The aircraft is one of six A380s the airline has on order, with handovers expected in relatively rapid succession. The airline, the only Malaysian carrier to order the A380, is scheduled to place the aircraft into revenue service in July on a non-stop service between Kuala Lumpur International and London Heathrow airports.

Malaysia Airlines is the first new A380 customer to take delivery of the widebody this year; Thai Airways will be the second. The two additions will bring the A380 operator total to nine airlines.

The satay wasn't all that great on the MAS flight to and from Tokyo last week. I've had better satay, and they're not just the famous Samuri type from Kajang. The way the meat is marinated and the nut sauce are what make great satay.

But no one was complaining, partly because it's nice to eat a familiar dish after being away for a while. And the cabin crew was polite, helpful and obliging.

Familiarity -- that's one word that many fliers have come to associate with our national airline. We are used to seeing it fly with pride, the wau bulan forever graceful when landing and taking off. Mind you, it's still graceful, but with a little less shine.

The decoupling exercise between MAS and AirAsia is now history. MAS, with a longer history and track record, has to set its house in order and regain that glitter that was once the nation's pride. And it can be done, if recent news is anything to go by.

The recent funding plan involving RM9 billion for its new fleet of airplanes and operating expenditure, if utilised efficiently and properly, could very well be the cornerstone of the airline's recovery.

It's still early days of course, but the proposed funds coming its way could trigger renewed impetus for transformation of a holistic kind. The funds are not in the kitty yet mind you, but it speaks volumes for the airline.

What does it mean, you may ask? Well, for one, it shows confidence on the part of the funders in MAS. No one in their right frame of mind would want to spend RM9 billion on a company if they think that the company is going downhill.

Financial institutions are today more prudent than before with their lending policies. MAS has a mountain to climb and it can't do it with old aircraft, jaded human capital and creativity undermined by insufficient funds and motivation.

There will always be detractors, too. Some blokes down the road may even ask why throw good money after bad? Mind you, some may even demand that the airline be closed, conveniently forgetting that MAS is one of the more established carriers in this part of the world.

At the end of the day, it'll be up to the board and management. Maybe it's time to take a deep look at both. The country is not without good human resources, but they need to be properly identified, briefed and be asked to dive deep to look at the root causes of its problems and take remedial measures.

We have yet to really hear the voices of the present set of managers. Where are they taking the airline, how do they plan to do it, when can we begin to see some positive and encouraging results?

Internal management-employee relations need to be effectively addressed if the airline hopes to still capitalise on its massive goodwill built over the years. Historically, MAS has survived bigger ordeals.

I recall the years I was covering its industrial dispute in the 1980s when the London-based International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) rallied behind Airlines Employees Union when MAS employees' wage negotiations ended in a dispute.

MAS employees were part of an industry-wide union then, which raised an SOS to the ITF seeking intervention. For a while, MAS flights faced worldwide antagonism with threats that no airports would service MAS aircraft.

MAS' fate could have been sealed then if not for some hard decisions by the government then led by Tun Hussein Onn. I'm sure the board and management of employees (read trade union) of MAS are fully aware of their responsibilities to stakeholders, now that there's news of fresh funds for it to operate.

With the Asean Open Sky policy just about three years away, MAS needs all the support it can get if it still harbours hopes of serving the nation and loyal paying passengers well. MAS must move with the times to remain relevant.

I'm hopeful that the management will now focus on some internal measures to strengthen itself following the decoupling with AirAsia. Some MAS employees I met talked passionately about their company, their work and their sense of pride.

This passion within MAS needs to be galvanised and can be a key element in its turnaround programme. The management cannot be taking too long a time to show us, the stakeholders, the turnaround plan of action. It's time to fly, MAS!


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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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