Provide financial aid for MAS: MATTA

KUCHING: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has urged the government to look into financial support for national carrier Malaysia Airlines to ensure its readiness for the post Covid-19 period.

“The aviation industry sits at the core of the whole tourism ecosystem. Air connectivity is crucial to the nation’s tourism and economy recovery,” it said in a statement yesterday.

This was in response to the suggestion by Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali on the possible merger between Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) and AirAsia Group Berhad.

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that countries worldwide were expected to bail out their national carriers.

“For instance, the Singapore government has arranged up to S$19 billion (US$13 billion) of funding to support Singapore Airlines (SIA) through the Covid-19 crisis. Hong Kong has provided a relief package of HK$2 billion (US$258 million) to ease the liquidity pressure of airlines and aviation support services operators,” he said, also citing examples from the US and Europe.

He said that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had also strengthened its call for urgent action from governments worldwide to provide financial relief to airlines.

“It is estimated that Covid-19 will lead to losses for global airlines amounting up to US$314 billion (RM1.36 trillion), 25 percent more than previously forecast,” he said.

“Massive bailout fund is needed to help Malaysia Airlines, being the national carrier, to go through the current crisis and expand afterwards and travel demand will eventually return,” he said.

Tan added  that the bailout would not only tide it over a short-term financial liquidity challenge but also assist in putting forth growth far off the pandemic.

However, he said that steps had to be taken in making air travel palatable to the public again. “This may involve a new way of travel with changes for in-flight amenities, health kiosks, and conducting rapid on site Covid-19 test certificates for passengers.”

Tan pointed out that without airlines to bring in millions of tourists in and out of Malaysia, there would be no viable tourism industry.

“They are the first in the long line of supply chain in the tourism industry that includes airports, road and rail transport, accommodation, food and beverage, entertainment and shopping plus business, education, and health services.”

Tan said that airports in Malaysia had registered a decline of 27.6 percent with 18.4 million passenger movements. He added that international and domestic passenger movements had decreased by 32.4 per cent and 22.4 per cent respectively.

He also said that aircraft movements had declined by 11.9 per cent in Q1 2020 over Q1 2019, and international and domestic movements had declined by 17.5 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively over Q1 2019.

“However, in Q2 2020, it will be worse off as more countries have closed their borders and most airlines have come to a standstill. The decline percentage will hit the high 90’s. Q3 2020 will be no better. If there is any hope of recovery, perhaps we can start to look at the final quarter (Q4 2020),” he said.

Tan said that the downfall of movement traffic was severely impacted by the travel restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 and many airlines were now vulnerable of having a material impact on their financial performance.

He commended Malaysia Airlines for its ceaseless service to Malaysians and foreigners, especially in operating chartered rescue flights during this Covid-19 crisis and also resuming flights between West Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak on a limited frequency.