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Malaysia Airlines-My favourite airlines

For someone who has been flying with MAS (Malaysia Airlines) for a long time, I cringed when I read about Air Asia’s Fernandes buying 20% MAS’s shares (through share swap) and now has become one of its directors. I don’t understand the government’s (through Khazanah), strategy in this partnership purportedly helping to synergise the two airlines’ operations. Who is helping who in this exercise? MAS is a government’s linked company (GLC) so it is not ,to my mind, likely to fold up just like that. Are we the tax payers bailing out Air Asia? Will MAS service be downgraded? Will MAS domestic flights be reduced and we are all forced to fly Air Asia?

For being no frills, Air Asia’s fare is supposed to be cheap but look at other additional cost. By the time you total them up it is close to MAS’s fare.

MAS and Air Asia Share Swap Ceremony, Khazanah's Azman second from left and Fernandes on the right

On top of the cost of the ticket on Air Asia flight, you need to pay extra for the check -in bags according to weight, the so-called VIP seats and the privilege to board first and now the latest is the check-in itself. According to news report, Air Asia will charge a RM10 check-in fee per passenger for all flights whose bookings are made from Sept 21 2011 onwards to check in via conventional check-in counters. Ostensibly to grow revenue through ancillary income and services, instead of transferring the full cost, amid escalating jet fuel prices to its passengers ( a tired old excuse). What else would they think of next?

The Fernandes Factor

This no-frills airlines is actually causing a lot of inconvenience for passengers especially the elderly and the less educated who have no access to the internet or even mobile phones (Blackberry, iPhone and Android devices) to book the plane tickets. There is still a cultural lag between this so called no frills airlines and the public. We are yet to be as travel- savvy as the Americans and the Europeans.

I have tried using Air Asia once and I must say I am one of those who, accustomed to MAS’s service culture, am not at all impressed with the former. Yes, the fare is cheaper and with all the silly gimmicks you could get it dirt cheap if you are lucky enough to be able to go on those dates they specify and are not unhappy if you lose your money on no-show.

Now Everyone Can Walk, Rain or Shine.

Firstly the environment at the LCC Sepang is stuffy and atmosphere atrocious. Then you have to walk so far out on the tarmac to the waiting aircraft ( not for the disable and the elderly!) Even after the MAB (Malaysian Airport Ltd) has said that the cost per passenger using the aerobridges is very little, Air Asia still refuses to use them citing bottomlines. But they happily use the aerobridges in other countries because the airport authorities there demand it so for passengers’ safety and convenience. In Malaysia it looks to me Air Asia could dictate things and get away with it. Whose horses are they riding?

More like usherettes than flight attendants

Back to my experience, once on the aircraft those short-skirted girls just smile and do not offer to help with your bag so very unlike dignified MAS flight attendants. There is a sense of strangeness when they come around with the food trolley asking what you want to buy and the way they strut on the plane reminds me of those flight attendants on Aeroflot (Russian Airlines) I had to take once, graceless. Later they return pulling those big plastic bags behind them to collect the rubbish from the passengers. Then they just stand there chatting non-stop among themselves till the flight reaches the destination.

I suppose you get what you pay. No frills means no quality here. I bet they will never dare to undertake a customers’ satisfaction survey on Air Asia. They will fall flat.

Suffice to say that was my first and last travel with Air Asia.

My friend who is taking his family to East Malaysia for a holiday related to me that after experiencing both the services of MAS and Air Asia, his two young children have told him and his wife they would prefer to fly with MAS for their Hari Raya holiday, even children can discern between a good and a bad service/experience!

MAS-World's Best Cabin Crew

I will fly with MAS any time but I am worried stiff with this Fernandes guy on my favorite airlines’ board of directors. I hope all the minority shareholders will get together to balance his influence. He may be an award-winning entrepreneur but to me he is too glib to be trusted not to change things around in MAS.

As a MAS shareholder and loyal customer, I am hopeful for a business turnaround that generates profit without jeopardising service quality. Making money at the expense of quality is granted to be the easy way out but to me it is a negative innovation that might impinge on MAS competitiveness at the global level in the longer term.


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