by Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad
1. I have been asked why I support bringing MAS and Air Asia together. Don’t I know that it is a bad deal; that MAS has been cheated by Air Asia?
2. I support MAS/Air Asia cooperation because for years now I have been fed-up with the management of MAS. Government had supported MAS with funds and protection but MAS had never done well.
3. Air Asia is a newcomer but it has managed to sustain itself. Despite giving free seats and cheap fares it is still surviving. And it is apparently making some profits. By right it should close down by now. That it is still around must be because its management knows something that I don’t know.
4. I visited the head office of Air Asia and I flew Air Asia to London and I understand a little how Air Asia operates.
5. Let us take one example. Air Asia Airbus A340 flew into Stanstead, England, with a full load of passengers and I mean full load. The business class was full.
6. I will not mention the VIP treatment that I got. It is not standard and therefore it should not be cited as an example.
7. But what I noticed about the operation is that having flown for 13 hours non stop KL-London, the aircraft flew back to KL one-and-a-half hours later (with a different crew of course).
8. But MAS aircrafts stay on the ground in Heathrow for at least 12 hours. On some routes the air crew would stay in hotels for four days before flying back.
9. When airlines stay on the ground they will not help earn income for the company. Instead they have to pay ground parking charges. Commercial aircrafts should be flying most of the time. Then and then only will they earn money for airlines. And air crews should fly after the statutory rest requirement. Can it be that four days rest is required to certify that crews are fit to fly.
10. This is just one example of not so good management. MAS has a huge staff but Air Asia make-do with a very much smaller staff. They engage in multi-tasking. In fact Air Asia does everything possible to minimise overheads. It would be interesting to compare MAS’ overheads per aircraft against that of Air Asia.
11. Long ago I told a very senior man in MAS to learn from Air Asia its operations and how to cut cost. I don’t know whether he did.
12. When I was told by Azman Mokhtar that MAS was looking into ways of working together with Air Asia, I did not object. In fact I welcome the proposal.
13. How the co-operation is to be carried out was not told to me. That is up to the parties concerned. All I wanted to see is Air Asia’s management playing a role, indirectly or directly in the management of MAS. I believe Air Asia can contribute in this area i.e. unless MAS is not prepared to learn from a “cheap” airline. That would be a tragedy.
14. I hope I have made clear why I support MAS and Air Asia working together.