Bring back the luxury of flying

Interestingly, not everyone is that budget-conscious when it comes to travelling


SOME people could only afford Fung Keong, while quite a number would settle for Aldo. And of course, the créme de la créme might only be happy walking in Salvatore Ferragamo.

There are those who would only wear Gucci for certain functions, while opting for Fung Keong when they do gardening.

It is always about choice. Now, imagine the same concept when you are choosing an airline for your travel.

The masses might opt for the low-cost or budget carriers, while those in the middle-income bracket might choose economy seats on one of the medium-range airlines.

The well-heeled would certainly pay more for the comfort of the business class or first class of the premium airlines.

Interestingly, not everyone is that budget-conscious when it comes to travelling, especially the seasoned long-haul passengers who are more concerned about that extra space and world-class treatment.

A group of young graduates who do not mind roughing it out during one of their getaways would certainly be at home in one of the budget airlines’ cabins, while a “Puan Sri” who is craving for her retail therapy in Mayfair or Bond Street in London might opt for a more luxurious carrier that promises five-star treatment all the way.

Well, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) could easily be that five-star airline if its management is not too concerned about competing with low-cost carriers (LCCs).

Now that another transition is expected to take place at the airline, once the government decides its new partner, it should also consider a new business plan that can place the carrier back at the top among its peers like Singapore Airlines Ltd, Thai Airways International Public Co Ltd, as well as the other premium full service carriers.

The national carrier should forget about competing with the budget airlines. As it is, Khazanah Nasional Bhd MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan recently said the Malaysian aviation industry was experiencing overcapacity.

At the moment, four local airlines are crowding the same market.

MAB, which includes turboprop subsidiaries Firefly Sdn Bhd and MASwings Sdn Bhd along with Malaysia Airlines, seems to be trying too hard to go head-to-head with AirAsia Group Bhd, AirAsia X Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd.

The sovereign wealth fund — as MAB’s stakeholder — also recently admitted that overcapacity in the local aviation sector has continued to impede MAB’s restructuring plan as the airline was struggling to maintain its profitability this year.

“This (phenomenon) has affected MAB’s restructuring plan as it has not been smooth and failed to achieve its intended target in light of the industry’s overcapacity,” Shahril Ridza said in his statement to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at how other successful premium airlines are doing.

Singapore Airlines has continued to serve the way it has served all these years, while other high-end carriers seem to focus more on what they do best for all their coveted passengers.

That could be what MAB should go back to — as the brand and “face” of the nation, offering real Malaysian hospitality which focuses more on the higher-end and luxury market.

Bring back all the services that were once among the main reasons for people (with money) fly with the airline.

Reintroduce all the extras that MAB used to be known for. Do not cut corners when it comes to in-flight menu and entertainment and all the peripherals that come with it.

MAB could also focus on its traditional money-making destinations that would always be full even during peak periods.

MAB perhaps should also do away with the algorithm that is used by other LCCs that determines the fares online, and stick to certain respectable fares that would reflect all the extras that it could offer.

In other words, think of all the perks that could make all the “Puan Sris” and the more distinguished customers who don’t mind paying extra for that five-star experience smile.

Seriously, not everyone is looking for a bargain. The more discerning travellers might tell you how much they miss the pampering they got when they flew with Malaysia Airlines during the good old days.

The national carrier should be associated with luxury and class, and cater to those who could afford to stay at the finer hotels, shop at renowned retail outlets and dine at fancier restaurants.

That could be the strategy that could return the Malaysia Airlines brand to its former glory. Value for money is so yesterday.

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor at The Malaysian Reserve.