PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has a different opinion on the call by PAS to ban alcohol on flights. The Islamist party had made the call after a disruptive passenger caused a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane to turn back to Melbourne last night.
The plane, with 337 passengers, landed safely. A Sri Lankan, who had bought a ticket to board the flight the same day he was released from psychiatric care, was today charged in court for endangering the safety of the aircraft and threatening to blow up the plane. Matta president Hamzah Rahmat says MAS is a commercial airline and is used by all races, regardless of their religious beliefs.
“It does not only fly Muslims or Malays. “It flies all nationalities. MAS is trying to fly as many people as they can,” he said, adding that the airline is finally showing profits after many years in the red. He added that such suggestions by PAS need to be thought out rationally as commercial airlines can only attract passengers by giving them what they want.
For instance, if a company wants to sell a pen, they will look at the needs of the people, he said. “Otherwise, the product will go to waste. “There can be all kinds of rules, but if the aircraft flies empty, who bears the losses?” Hamzah said the cabin crew in the Melbourne flight issue had managed the situation well despite the passenger’s behaviour.
He added that the case must be thoroughly investigated before a decision is made by the authorities. “Unless someone gets drunk and makes a ruckus every time on MAS flights… then we can look at this issue (what PAS has proposed).
“How many times has this sort of thing happened? It (the call for a ban) is ridiculous.” At the moment, he said, only Saudi Arabian Airline and Royal Brunei banned liquor on their flights. “Both the airlines are owned by the government and are well supported by the government.
“But MAS is a commercial airline even though it is a government-owned company. “Let’s be fair. They will have to sell their products according to their commercial needs,” said Hamzah.
In 2015, the national airline underwent a major change, slashing 6,000 jobs and cutting 30% of its routes to become a regional carrier, with London being its only long-haul route.
From 2001 to June 2014, MAS chalked up net adjusted losses of RM8.4 billion. Between 2011 and 2013, the government spent RM17.4 billion to save the airline.
Although it made some operating profit, 2016 was yet another year of losses. MAS is expected to make a profit next year, but the ringgit’s strength will determine profits this year.
MAS CEO Peter Bellew has said what is happening with the airline is probably the greatest turnaround in business history. As part of the airline’s revamp, Bellew has been cutting costs, improving workflow and efficiency, and cutting jobs. He even plans to turn its fleet of A380 superjumbo jets into charter planes for Muslim pilgrims.
He hopes to list MAS shares on the stock exchange again by 2019.