By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BERNAMA
Malaysia is weighing all options including the possibility of shutting down or selling Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) as endless losses continue to haunt the national carrier.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a solution is needed as soon as possible to address the issues surrounding the loss-making national carrier.
“It’s urgent for the government to study whether to shut it down, sell it off, or refinance it,” Dr Mahathir told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
“This is a very serious matter to shut down the national airline. We have to decide soon,” he added.
Once considered as the nation’s pride by being among the world’s best airlines, MAB has been on a loss-making path since 1997.
Khazanah Nasional Bhd took over the ailing airline in 2014 following the tragedies of MH370 and MH17 in the same year, despite opposition from certain quarters namely the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia.
Khazanah then announced a RM6 billion restructuring plan which involved a cost-reduction exercise, review of fleet size and rationalisation of MAB flight routes.
However, the national flag carrier had failed to meet the turnaround target which resulted in half of Khazanah’s RM7.3 billion impairments in 2018.
Aviation analysts had suggested MAB to either shut down its operations, to be sold to interested parties or to spin off its business divisions.
Meanwhile, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said Khazanah’s management should find a solution on MAB’s conundrum.
“Dr Mahathir has given his view on how we should manage the situation, so hopefully, Khazanah will find a solution to this as soon as possible,” he told reporters at the Parliament yesterday.
Azmin added that this matter was deliberated in the last board meeting of Khazanah, where the management team of the sovereign wealth fund and MAB were present.
Azmin said the airline has a total of six units of A380 which have been grounded for the last few years.
“Hopefully, we will find a solution to resolve this,” he said.
Azmin is also of the view that MAB’s new special charter service from Kuala Lumpur to Madinah, which caters specifically for haj and umrah pilgrims, would attract new markets for the airline to grow its business.
“Hopefully, we become the haj and umrah carrier of choice to connect Muslims, especially those from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which in turn would support the business,” he added.
Amal by MAB flew its first charter back in October 2018, and currently flies up to three times a day to Jeddah and Madinah using A380-800 planes.