Malaysia Airlines strives to remain relevant as national carrier

It has been on the right path in its effort to improve internal and external services efficiency, says expert

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) is striving to remain relevant as the country’s national carrier despite its current unflattering image due to its impaired financial strength — as the company remained in the red last year, missing the projected profitability target.

MAB group chief revenue officer Ignatius Ong said the carrier has been on the right path in its effort to improve its internal and external services efficiency, which has also resulted in respectable growth in its customer experience index.

“A lot of reports have come up in the last couple of days on the concerns of MAB’s performance, but we are still a relevant brand in terms of being the national carrier, and we are still who we are.

“We have improved significantly in the last two years. For example, our customer service index improved by 4% last year and the net promoter score also increased 22 points,” he told the media at the 47th Matta Fair press conference in Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday.

Ong said the national carrier is expected to include two more routes, in addition to the rebranded premium cabin and increased flight frequencies which are part of MAB’s expansion.

“We are still doing the best we can and we are still expanding as you have heard. We are reaching new destinations — possibly two routes will be introduced along the road that I can divulge now.

“Recently, we have announced the airline’s return to Kochi starting March 31, which marks our sixth destination to India,” he said.

Ong said MAB has traded the Boeing 737 used for flights to Perth, Australia, for the larger twin-aisle Airbus A330, while the flight frequency to Melbourne has been increased.

“We have added three additional weekly flights from KL to Melbourne, Australia, from July 1 to Sept 30 and upgraded our daily services to Perth with the larger A330-200 aircraft, effective April 1.

“The expansion also includes other added frequencies to Osaka, Sri Lanka, Jakarta and Bangkok which will facilitate the huge passenger movements during peak travel periods,” he said.

Analysts recently commented on the demotion of the national carrier’s financial strength due to its contribution to Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s first negative earnings of RM6.27 billion loss before tax in 2018 and RM7.3 billion registered impairments.

MAB, which is wholly owned by the sovereign wealth fund, had contributed almost half to the RM7.3 billion in impairments.

In 2014, the sovereign wealth fund injected investments amounting to RM6 billion to support the airline’s five-year turnaround plan that aimed to make it profitable by late 2017 and to re-list the company by 2018 or 2019.

Meanwhile, MAB — which has been named as the official airline partner for the 47th Matta Fair — is expected to offer discounts up to 30% to its domestic and international destinations and other ancillary products throughout the promo period.

“For this year’s expo, customers will enjoy travel choices as we will be offering discounts of up to 30% on airfares to Malaysian passengers’ favourite holiday destinations.

“Trade visitors will be able to get 20% off on MAB’s ancillary products such as MHinsure and Golden Lounge access at KL International Airport, preferred seat selections and extra baggage,” he said.

As for MAB’s turboprop sister airline Firefly, Ong said it will also be offering similar discount rates to any of the low-cost carrier destinations including Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Baru and Johor Baru.

“I believe we will be able to repeat the success of last year’s expo, if not better, through the more than 100 participating travel agents,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) CEO Phua Tai Neng said the first series of the biannual event for this year is expected to generate about RM200 million in sales turnover from the targeted 110,000 trade visitors.

“The domestic destinations have always been the most attractive packages, with Sabah being the most favourite destination for Malaysians.

“Also, this year we have the support of Qatar Airways and Emirates, among others, as well as local and international tourism agencies to boost international travel,” he said.

The 47th Matta Fair, which will be held on March 15-17 at the Putra World Trade Centre in KL, is expected to display discounted vacation packages, including hotels and resorts, airfares, cruise ship packages and theme park deals.

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