Pouring scorn on calls to declare Malaysia Airlines (MAS) bankrupt, former chief executive officer Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman said the loss-making flag carrier should not be punished for mismanagement by government-appointed teams, but instead, Putrajaya should bail it out once again.
Abdul Aziz said MAS was in a deplorable state now as those who manage it are “not doing their jobs very well” and have not been able to adapt to the competitive airline industry.
“The problem started in 1994 when the government decided to give up its shares and sold it to a private group. It all went downhill from there,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
“By 1998, the government had to step in and redo the whole thing to salvage it. Since then, the government has bailed out and changed its management teams many times but until today, the problem has not been fixed.”
In 1994, Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli bought a 32% equity in MAS and was the airline’s chief executive officer from then until 2001, after which he sold back the shares to the government at RM8 a unit, when the market price was only half of that.
Since then, Tajudin has been entangled in a complicated series of expensive suits, counter-suits and appeals with various parties due to failure to service a billion ringgit loan he took to purchase the major stake in the national airline.
He has claimed that his purchase was forced “national service”, disguised as an arm’s length commercial deal, because the government wanted to appease the investment community and the public.
Abdul Aziz said until the late 1990s, MAS operated in a closed domestic market but then found that it could not compete with other emerging airlines, including budget ones which had rapidly taken over its market share.
“I can appreciate the people’s feelings. Because after helping so much, nothing has changed. If I were in their position, I would do the same. But, we have to think this way… that this is the national carrier. It can still be revived.” – Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, former CEO of MAS.
“There was rapid economic development in the world and people got very ambitious. They began to have more airlines in all parts of the world and here also, we have AirAsia, AirAsia X and others. These provided competition internally and externally.”
“It became very competitive but MAS management could not adapt themselves to the sudden competitive environment because those who are managing it are not doing their jobs very well,” he added.
Abdul Aziz, who chaired MAS from 1982 until his retirement 10 years later, stressed that he was against any suggestion for MAS to file for bankruptcy following its continuous dismal showing in profits, adding that it was not too late to save it.
“MAS is not an ordinary company that is selling rice, or sundry goods. It is an established organisation catering for the whole world.”
“This (filing for bankruptcy) is the easy way out for people who don’t like to apply their minds but I will always stress this point. It was so difficult to establish it in the first place, back in the early 70s, when we were lacking in so many things and we had no money,” he said.
Despite the challenges and limited resources in the early days, he said MAS built itself up, made profits and became the pride and joy of the nation.
“Why? Because of the pride of Malaysia. Because it carries our flag. I will say that a national carrier is the representative of the people of the country globally in the skies and on the ground. The logo has been there for more than 48 years and it must not disappear just like that.”
In a recent interview with the The Wall Street Journal, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that bankruptcy could be among several options as a way to restructure MAS, after years of losses and bitter conflicts with its labour unions.
This followed MAS recording a net loss of RM443.4 million in the first quarter of this year, up from a net loss of RM278.8 million in the same period last year.
MAS had earlier said the tragic MH370 incident had a “dramatic impact” on the traditionally weak first quarter performance, adding that the airliner experienced high numbers of cancellations and a decline in long-haul travel after flight MH370 went missing on March 8.
MAS had lost money for the last three years, beset by high costs and stiff competition, and this was the carrier’s worst quarterly loss since October-December 2011.
However, Abdul Aziz acknowledged that MAS has not seen a turnaround despite the multiple government bailouts, which has caused taxpayers to be against yet another one.
“I can appreciate the people’s feelings. Because after helping so much, nothing has changed. If I were in their position, I would do the same,” he said.
“But, we have to think this way… that this is the national carrier. It can still be revived. Put the right people there.”
“And maybe, you catch hold of those who made these blunders and hang them. Maybe the people would like to see that. It will give confidence to the people that you are serious about solving the problem.”
Calling MAS his “baby”, Abdul Aziz said said he was “deeply engraved” in MAS, having helped with its start up after splitting from the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines in the early 70s.
He was also among those who had been roped in to draft both the Civil Aviation Act 1974 and the Civil Aviation Regulation 1996
“That is why I feel strongly about certain things pertaining to MAS,” the practising lawyer said.
“In the early days, when we started the airline, we did it from scratch. So everybody who joined the airline worked very hard to make sure it was successful. Because it was a challenge to us and for the sake of the nation.”
“And everyone was united on this. I think that is the reason why we were so proud of it. We put all our effort into it.
“Although there were some employee-employer problems, we ironed it all out amicably. Why? Because we were proud of the establishment. Everyone worked hard. We were inspired to make it work.”
Now, said Abdul Aziz, in order to save itself, MAS needs to “quickly adjust” to the competition and make sure they are still “vicious” in the fray.
“MAS does not seem to have the right formula to challenge the competition. The economic environment and the aviation industry have changed. It is now a more liberal market, open skies policy. They have to adjust themselves. If you are slow in adjusting, you will be in trouble.”
“Others are running and you are walking. How do you challenge them? If they are running, you should also run. In fact, you must run faster,” he added.
MAS should also take its employees into consideration as they are prepared to “work hard to make sure it survives,” he added.
“So MAS has the right foundation. It has the employees – the main asset – who are prepared to work hard to make sure we survive. We have the facilities now too, the expertise and the image.”
“If you as a leader or employer don’t pay attention to the union and your staff, then they, likewise, will also forget about you,” he said. – May 31, 2014.
Malaysiaairlinesfamilies salute Tan Sri Abdul Aziz for his patriotism and loyalty toward MAS.
To save MAS, the thick-skinned monkeys who keep clinging to the wreckage of MAS airplanes should leave MAS in urgency.
For MAS and its loss making trend under Ahmad Jauhari, Azahari Dahlan and Zahrah Zaid still staying put thinking they were the heros (?). It is true they are heroes but the heroes with monkey faces and tails who carelessly caused huge losses to the national airline.
They should be arrested and investigated for the crime they organized against the national airline. While they are not aware their asses are on the hot plate burning to the 1st degree; they should prepare to parachute out of MAS taking with them the stockholm Syndrome disease they employ on the middle management.
The Khazanah ladies in red too must be eradicated for the conspiracy they offer to Tony Fernandez to save AirAsia and destroy MAS tarnished the GLC status.
In a brief encounter, whenever the public read our posting against Tony Fernandez; the public will also be enjoying a hammering post from Tony’s baby – The NUFAM crooked gang on MAS. That is because Tony Pariah pays NUFAM to disrupt MAS from the outside simultaneously paying the TRIO bastards to destroy MAS from the inside.
Then the tax payers get MAS going down the drain and AirAsia going up the hill.
Not only that with MAS down and AirAsia up; here comes the hidden heroes who have been organizing to take over Putrajaya but failed; the Daredevil And Party of the desperado instigated by foreign forces to destroy the unity of its own country. Bearing the name of treason-ship Daredevil And Party are now taking MAS too with their magic hands swinging behind Putrajaya waiting in line to contract out MAS into pieces. The short story is You take One AJ&Gang take Two Tony Takes All.
Stay united MAS if you want to save the airline. Continue hammering the red devil if you want to survive. God Bless MAS and Malaysia!