Malaysia Airlines, MH3: The flight from hell by Mariam Mokhtar
Monday, July 30, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | Malaysia Airlines, in
particular, MH3 from London’s Heathrow Airport to Kuala Lumpur, should
be renamed the airline from hell. Ask the passengers who were stranded
at Heathrow on Friday, July 27.
They received an email at 0300 hours on Friday morning, to inform
them that their flight, which should have departed at 10.45am London
time, would be delayed till 12 noon. Who reads emails at that ungodly hour? A few more hours in bed would
have been appreciated. Some passengers had also flown in from Europe. Some had purchased tickets the day before. If they had known, about the delays, they would have chosen another airline.
When the MAS passengers checked-in at Heathrow, they found “closed”
check-in counters. When asked, the few unhelpful ground crew employees
sitting behind their desks would point towards another area of the huge
complex, and say “Go there”. No reason was forthcoming. “There” was
apparently “Counter 1” of the MAS Customer Services desk, where a long
queue was visible.
Whilst dragging his trolley towards “Counter 1”, a redirected
passenger would pass around 70 people, in another queue. These MAS
passengers had allegedly been told to gather for hotel bookings. Around
the corner, was a third queue of 50, or more, passengers, who were told a
different story. These three queues did not appear to be moving. Only two ground crew employees were manning the front desks at Counter 1. An Airbus A380 fits around 550 passengers. This is the summer holiday.
Why did MAS fail to communicate with the passengers? There was no
warning about cancellation. The notice boards said the flight would
depart at 12.30pm. Is grim silence the standard operating procedure
(SOP) for cancellations? Two MAS employees who appeared, beat a hasty retreat when passengers approached them for information. Another new SOP?
Mothers with babies among the stranded
An Heathrow Airport employee, who was approached for help, proved more useful than the MAS ground crew.
Mothers with babies and young children were among the stranded.
Businessmen would be late for meetings. Two passengers had to attend
funerals and the delay meant they would be unable to attend the
cremations. Another had to attend a wedding. Many had connecting flights
Passengers travelling on their own would wait ages in a queue, only
to be told that they were in the wrong queue. If they left their bags
unattended while seeking information about MH3, the luggage would be
destroyed by security staff.
One person who complained on Twitter, said that on the previous day
(Thursday), one passenger had tweeted that their MH3 had been cancelled.
That MH3 had taken off one day later (on Friday). So why were MH3
flights on consecutive days cancelled? What is happening? Was MH3, on
Saturday, also cancelled?
Was it a technical error? No one knows because they were not told. Was it adverse weather conditions? Unlikely, as other flights were operating, normally. Had a crew member, like the pilot, been taken ill? As far as we are aware, there is a backup crew on standby. Is it strike action by MAS? Unlikely. Did MAS run out of money to pay for aviation fuel? Who knows?
Remember a few years ago, when on two days, MAS passengers were told
that their luggage could not be put on the plane because of headwinds?
Passengers are not unreasonable people
Did the airline need a particular spare-part to be flown in from KLIA? Passengers are not unreasonable people. They know the importance of
safety. They understand that weather may affect the flight schedule. MAS
management’s inability to communicate is both irresponsible and
unprofessional and has let everyone down. MAS and Umno-Baru have two things in common. Brand loyalty.
The party faithful think that their party can do no wrong. The rakyat
tolerated the previous regime because they were afraid of change.
Despite a corrupt and under-performing Umno-Baru, they still voted for
the party at every general election. That was until GE14, when the
rakyat decided “Enough is enough!”
Despite the cost (MAS is one of the more expensive airlines for
long-haul flights), poor service, shabby interiors and low-quality
meals, loyal Malaysians still fly with MAS because they love their
national carrier – brand loyalty. Many destinations across the world –
North and South America and Africa have been axed. London is its only
European destination. It is a farce to call the airline “International”.
When Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman (photo) retired as the CEO and
managing director of MAS, he left MAS with RM5 billion cash reserves.
When he was the CEO, MAS employees received yearly bonuses. Today, it is
a different story, altogether.
The day that Khazanah and the government stop any political
interference and politically-connected bureaucrats in MAS will be the
day for rejoicing by all Malaysians. If MAS employees are demoralised, what about its passengers? After
the MH3 palaver at Heathrow last week, passengers may finally say,
“Enough is enough. We will fly with another, more reliable, airline.”
The management staff of MAS seem to be burying their heads in the
sand and hoping that their irate passengers will forget about the
problem. This is a tactic that was employed by Umno-Baru and their
cronies; many still hope that the rakyat will forget about 1MDB.
The concepts of openness and accountability are part of the new
foundations that are needed to restore the economic and social health of
Malaysia. If the management of MAS cannot adapt to the New Malaysia,
they will have to be replaced.