Hemmed in by budget and Arab carriers, PM says Malaysia Airlines struggling to soar

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya May 6, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya May 6, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

PUTRAJAYA, May 6 — It is difficult for flag carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) to find its foothold in a market dominated by low-cost carriers on one end and the luxury offered by carriers based in the Middle East on the other, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

The prime minister said Putrajaya has yet to come to a decision on MAB, despite the many suggestions that others have offered to turn the airlines around.

“Everyone tells me it should be done this or that way. Nobody has come up with proper solution that can actually succeed, in our opinion,” Dr Mahathir said in a group press interview here.

“The airline business now is very competitive after the emergence of low-cost carriers,” he added.

“Then we have Arab airlines which provides luxurious facilities and all kinds of perks. I don’t know how they make money, but people cannot challenge them. It’s a very difficult business now.”

Airlines such as Qatar Airways, Dubai-based Emirates Airline, and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways regularly feature in lists of the world’s best carriers.

In March, Dr Mahathir had said it has become urgent for the government to look into MAB’s continued financial viability.

Reacting to Dr Mahathir’s comments then, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he disagreed with selling MAB and pointed out that he had a turnaround plan in place to restore the ailing carrier when he had headed Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sole shareholder of the airline.

Khazanah had reportedly invested RM6 billion in the company to turn it around but to no avail.

The airline was privatised in 2014 as part of a revival bid but continued its trend of heavy losses.

The national carrier suffered a massive blow to its image after Flight MH370 disappeared five years ago with 239 people on board.

In July the same year, it lost another plane, MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.

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