MAB cuts over 600 flights, more than 180,000 cancellations

The national carrier accepts waiver on deferment or cancellation depending on affected regions


MALAYSIA Airlines Bhd (MAB) has cut over 600 flights and received more than 180,000 cancellation requests due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to the national carrier, travel demand has slowed down amid the virus spread, forcing the company to initiate cancellations or merging of services across its network.

“Thus far, we have removed 3% of capacity to match the demand that translates to more than 600 flights starting from the onset of the outbreak until the end of March.

“As many countries have imposed travel restrictions, we have received more than 180,000 requests for cancellations. We have allowed for waiver on deferment or cancellation depending on the affected regions,” MAB told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

The carrier said among the suspended operations is Kota Kinabalu to Shanghai, which is stopped until further notice, following the Sabah state government’s travel restriction on Chinese nationals.

On the whole, the airline said it has restructured the network to drive production at the right market and will continue to manage the capacity dynamically.

The media also reported that MAB’s special charter service for umrah and haj, Amal, had to be adjusted following Saudi Arabia’s suspension of foreign arrivals.

AirAsia Group Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd have kept a low profile and yet to respond to TMR’s inquiry.

Airlines around the world are facing major headwinds as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak as air travel movements are hampered, particularly to and from China while many cities are still on lockdown.

Asia-Pacific carriers are at risk of losing US$27.8 billion (RM116.4 billion) in revenue this year including a US$12.8 billion loss in China’s domestic market alone, according to an initial assessment by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA has forecasted carriers outside the Asia Pacific to suffer a revenue loss of US$1.5 billion under the assumption that the loss of demand is limited to markets linked to China.

Overall, IATA has projected a total global lost revenue of US$29.3 billion, 5% lower passenger revenues compared to what it forecasted in December and represented a 4.7% hit to global demand.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission has reduced Malaysia’s passenger traffic growth forecast from between 5% and 6% to between 4.6% and 5.7% this year as a direct impact of Covid-19.

The coronavirus has killed more than 3,200 people with over 92,000 global cases reported in more than 70 countries and territories.

Iran, Italy and South Korea have become three new virus hotspots outside China, adversely affecting travel demand from bad to worse.

AirAsia is expected to bear a core net loss of RM1.1 billion following lower demand and yields in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines on significant exposures to flights to China, Hong Kong and Macau, CGS-CIMB Research said in a note last month.

While many carriers are re-adjusting their capacity, several have taken extra measures to weather the storm.

Malindo has embarked on cost-cutting initiatives including staggering its salary payment in February 2020 to manage cashflow constraints, according to an internal memo sighted by Bernama recently.

The state news agency reported that all staff with a gross salary of RM5,000 or less will be paid in full, but those with a basic or gross salary of more than RM5,000 will only get their basic salary, while the balance will be paid on March 7, 2020, according to the memo dated Feb 7, 2020.

Gulf carrier Emirates, which has over 100,000 employees, has asked staff to consider taking paid and unpaid leave as the company seeks to manage a “measurable slowdown”, Reuters reported based on an internal email.

Some airlines have reduced inflight services, but these efforts are mainly undertaken for infection preventive measures rather than economics.

Singapore Airlines Ltd informed its frequent-flyer members in a memo that there are changes to in-flight services including the replacement of the hot towel service with pre-set wet towelettes, cessation of the after take-off drink service, removal of reading materials from seat-back pockets and suspension of in-flight sales.

Chinese and Taiwanese carriers have opted for similar precautionary steps based on authorities’ guidelines such as removing pillows and blankets on some flights.

MAB said it has not scaled back in-flight services, but has started using disposable equipment including cutleries and towels.

“We also cater (uplift) in-flight meals for both sectors from Kuala Lumpur to China destinations in our effort to limit the risk of exposure to the infection to our passengers, crew and assets,” the company added.

The Malaysian flag carrier said it would continue to uphold the highest safety standards for passengers and crew.