How Malaysia airline employees cope with MCO and Covid-19 pandemic

The aviation industry is among the most affected industries due to the closures of borders in most countries. — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ Malaysia Airport
The aviation industry is among the most affected industries due to the closures of borders in most countries. — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ Malaysia Airport

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Malaysia has entered the recovery movement control order (RMCO) phase and many businesses are getting ready to reopen their doors for business.

The aviation industry, one of the hardest hit due to the closure of borders in almost all countries all over the world, left many aviation industry workforce struggling to make ends meet as many were forced to take unpaid leave, or even face retrenchment.

For cabin crew member Zahidatul Kamariah Zakaria who has been flying for five years, her last flight was on March 18 — the first day of the MCO.

Zahidatul decides to sell mini strawberry cheesecakes for side income. — Picture courtesy of Instagram/iedaazakaria
Zahidatul decides to sell mini strawberry cheesecakes for side income. — Picture courtesy of Instagram/iedaazakaria

Even though Zahidatul still receives her monthly basic salary, she took on a new venture in mini strawberry cheesecakes.

“I’ve just started my business recently but it surprised me a lot because I’ve received so much great feedback from everyone.

“Actually it’s just for fun seeing all my crew friends starting their small business.

“It made me want to start a small business too and have a side income as well,” she told Malay Mail.

The cheesecakes are made by Zahidatul herself and the business is run together with a friend.

For Boeing 737 captain and flight operation safety officer Johan Md Rosnan who has been flying for almost 19 years now, it is unpaid leave from the beginning of the MCO up to now.

For Johan, the side business has helped him not just financially but also psychologically. — Picture courtesy of Johan Md Rosnan
For Johan, the side business has helped him not just financially but also psychologically. — Picture courtesy of Johan Md Rosnan

The 37-years-old said that the commercial airline company he worked with was actually growing before the pandemic.

“There was a plan for expansion, announcements on new routes and new aircrafts... but all of that had to be put on hold since the pandemic.

“My income has also stopped.”

Johan also said that the airline company he works for offered a majority of international flights but since international borders of most countries were closed, there were simply no flights to go around.

Fortunately for Johan, along with his wife and his friends had a plan in the works since before the MCO began, which is selling their own homemade rainbow bread and coffee bread.

 

“For the rainbow bread, we couldn’t do it from home anymore because there’s been an increase of orders suddenly, so me and my friends we’ve talked about it and we have appointed a Muslim bakery in Johor.

“We gave our recipe and ideas to them and they will produce and supply to us.”

“Every morning they will send fresh bread and we will deliver it and at the same time, we are also helping local businesses as well since everyone is affected,” he said.

According to Johan, the idea of selling these bread came from his friends and he started to really take part in it since the MCO began.

He is also grateful for the continuous orders they have been receiving apart from stocking up in local stores and restaurants.

For now, the breads can be found at Petron Taman Shamelin in Cheras and also in Restoran A. Hassan Ayam Kampung in Putrajaya, while orders can also be made through Johan himself.

For Johan, the bread business has helped him a lot during the MCO, not just financially but also psychologically.

“The business has made me appreciate the little things in life.

“Everyone is stressed out since the MCO, even myself, so this business helps me in keeping me busy,” he said.

It’s the same for 29-year-old first officer Afiq Mohamaad who branched out, selling steaks imported from New Zealand after no receiving any calls for flights.

Afiq joined in with his captain in selling New Zealand steaks. — Picture courtesy of Afiq Mohamaad
Afiq joined in with his captain in selling New Zealand steaks. — Picture courtesy of Afiq Mohamaad

He said he joined the steak business after one of his captains supplying the steaks offered him to be an agent with him not doing anything at the moment.

“I just started selling it about three weeks ago and the support has been very good with a lot of people repeating orders after buying it for the first time, so I think it’s going to be okay.

“I’m planning to sell the steaks as long as I can, I am currently doing it with my colleagues, my captain and my co-pilot friends.”

Afiq who has been flying for four years hopes that the aviation industry will recover soon as there are many crew members and staff who are affected and have had no salary for months now.

Singapore-based cabin crew Akif Najib is one of those who have had it hard since he has a family who depends on him.

Akif and his cousin had decided to sell cold brewed coffee since they had to sell off their cafe due to the MCO. — Picture courtesy of Akif Najib
Akif and his cousin had decided to sell cold brewed coffee since they had to sell off their cafe due to the MCO. — Picture courtesy of Akif Najib

Although the moratorium from the government has given them a breather, Akif still needs to find a new source of income for the time being.

“We have almost 10,000 crews, so since the pandemic, they’ve cut 96 percent of the flights, leaving excess crew who are not doing anything in Singapore.

“Because they only need a very few crew members, only 50 to 100, so there was no point for me to just stay in Singapore and waiting for a call up, so I decided to go back to Malaysia and be with my family,” Akif said, adding that he had to take unpaid leave to go back to Malaysia as that is company policy.

According to him, he wasn’t the only one who decided to go back to Malaysia, with about 100 of them based in Singapore stranded home now.

Since then, Akif and his cousin who is also a flight attendant took to selling cold brewed coffee.

They both had recently opened a café in Melaka early this year but they had no other choice to close down the café since the MCO began.

“The thing about the café in Melaka is, 90 per cent of the business depends on tourists, so when the MCO started, there’s no tourists and that meant there’s no income at all.

“We figured that it’s just not our luck so we closed down the café and right now we’re in the middle of selling the café.”

Since they already bought the coffee beans and machines, Akif and his cousin figured that instead of opening another café, they’d sell it online.

After a few experiments with their products, Akif and his cousin came to a decision to sell their cold brewed coffee last month.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cracking a cold one with the bros #coldbrew #coffee #chill #relax #kualalumpur

A post shared by Cold Brew Coffee by AM (@boldcrewbyam) on

At first, their customers were from their families and friends but as time went on and after promoting it on social media, things began to take a turn for the better for Akif and his cousin.

They offered free delivery for areas within the Klang Valley and they would only charge for deliveries outside of Klang Valley.

When asked about the future of the aviation industry, Akif admitted that it is going to be a whole new flying experience.

Akif who had been a cabin crew member for eight years said that the standard operation procedure will be different and they will have to adhere to the new normal such as social distancing and taking extensive care of their personal hygiene.

“I wish the best to everyone who is going through the same thing because aviation folks are not the only one affected and I wish all the best to everyone.”

Zahidatul, Johan, Afiq and Akif were among some 18 and counting in a list curated in a Twitter thread by Airbus A320 pilot, Wan Arief Imran, to promote businesses set up by his fellow airline workers.

 

 

In one of his tweets on the thread, he tweeted an image of a conversation with Air Asia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, saying he was “working on something”, and applauded the company’s ideals that “everyone was approachable and transparent from top to bottom”.

 

 

While Wan Arief did not reveal more details of his effort, he said he was in the midst of setting up a proper channel for everyone listed to sell their products.

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