Calls to save the national airline that has swallowed billions in taxpayer’s money is growing, with fallen premier Najib Razak making a plea to keep Malaysia Airlines under continued government bailout.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s media and communications adviser Kadir Jasin chipped in, saying low-cost airline giant AirAsia Group Bhd is a successful airline operator with the capability to save national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd from “dying,”
While Najib wants to continue the failed government spending in the airline, with billions spent and no profit on the horizon, Kadir in a Facebook post points out that AirAsia already has one element that is similar to MAS, which is its long-haul arm, AirAsia X.
“It is better for MAS to be ‘married’ to AirAsia than to (wantonly) allow the iconic brand to die,” he says.
“In Europe, there is an airline company which runs both full-fare and low-cost airlines, and many other big airlines in Europe and the United States have also tried to have low-cost airlines, but generally that has not been successful,” he says
Any takeover of the national airline by AirAsia is a risky one. In the past a share swap agreement in 2011 fell apart after eight months amid strong resistance from the public.
Many people could not accept that the national airline would deal with AirAsia, a low-cost airline.
MAS was privatised in August 2014 by Khazanah via an RM1.38 billion buyout. A subsequent RM6 billion into MAS was not able to turn the carrier around.
Najib wants Khazanah to continue pumping money in the airline, saying Khazanah has a plan to put the ailing national carrier on the road to recovery and he thinks MAS as the airline is popular referred to, should be under the government.
Dr Mahathir has said earlier this year he is considering the sale of MAS, which has been struggling to regain its footing after suffering twin air disasters in 2014. But Dr Mahathir also said the airline must keep its identity as a national carrier even if its sold.
A package deal of Ringgit 6 billion was earmarked for MAS after its delisting from Bursa Malaysia.
Nevertheless, Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali says the government has yet to decide on the fate of loss-making MAS, as its owner Khazanah Nasional Bhd is exploring more options.
He says the government wants Khazanah to conduct further studies on the options available and what would be the best course to ensure the airline’s viability.
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