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Phillip, my Sabahan friend has not stopped fuming over the termination of service by Firefly in his state in late 2011. This short haul full service Malaysia Airlines subsidiary was doing well when it suddenly cancelled its operation following the (now defunct) share swap deal between MAS and Air Asia in later part of 2011. At least there was a choice that Sabahans and Sarawakians had whether to fly with Firefly or Air Asia. Many, in fact, had preferred  the former because of its apparent friendlier service.

That choice was unilaterally ceased in late 2011 without  credible explanations by the power that be, giving Air Asia more profitable routes and jacking up its bottomlines almost overnight. I remember its first quarter 2012 profit jumped up high  and MAS lost more than RM 2 bil during the same period, the biggest ever recorded! That was share-swap for you.

In the meantime, East Malaysians’ sentiment was arrogantly ignored though the current political masters unashamedly refer to Sabah and Sarawak  as their fixed deposits considering the number of parliamentary seats they have which could prove critical for the current government wanting to stay on in power following the coming 13th General Election to be called within or just after seven months from now.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Firefly operated out of  the new Kota Kinabalu  International airport Terminal One with its modern passengers’ facilities and convenient and ample parking. Air Asia is using terminal Two which apparently is congested, has poor parking, poor waiting areas  and no aerobridges in short, substandard facilities.  And adding insult to injury, the fares were more or less the  same as Firefly’s!

I passed through KKIA (Kota Kinabalu International airport) recently and could not help noticing the almost deserted section for domestic flights. The massive upgrading and renovation of the terminal were carried out to accommodate cheaper flights offered by Firefly but after it was unceremoniously cancelled, the  section has since become ghostly. Air Asia which is supposed to move from Terminal Two has steadfastly refused to do so citing  high cost (reads lower profit!)

The deserted domestic section of KKIA

That domineering Tony Fernandes, the ex Malaysian CEO was reported threatening to stop Air Asia airlines operations in Sabah if he were forced to move to the newly renovated Terminal One. Dear Lord, what audacity! Phillip was saying why do the authorities refuse to call his bluff and see whether he dares to stop the service to  East Malaysian states. Jesus Christ, KUL-BKI, KCH-KUL, JHB-BKI , KCH-JHB are Air Asia’s most profitable routes within Malaysia! MAS should take back these routes especially the Johor Bahru route and see whether their profit would improve or not. I bet Fernandes will cry foul if this resumption of profitable routes is unilaterally exercised.

Ample and beautifully landscaped parking at KKIA Terminal One

Now that he is based  in Jakarta, we will see how he fares there. He definitely cannot do like he was doing in Malaysia. And then you can see the real reason behind his so called success in airlines business. This government has indeed given him a lot of favours.

The closed-down Firefly Ticketing Counter at KKIA Terminal One

Firefly was a welcome service in Sabah and Sarawak  though I myself had never flown on it due to its too short a life serving Kota Kinabalu and Kucing  from Subang , however I did notice its eye-catching orange advertisements gaily wrapping the pillars of the airport building at Kota Kinabalu. Phillip showed me the empty ticketing counter at the airport. According to him it used to be heavily patronised.

The people who make decisions based on unsound reasoning and external interference are insincere and  never good at anything and just because MAS is a government-linked company, these bastards choose to take it for granted and sadly MAS ended up the loser. Its innovative move to get Firefly to service a different set of clients in East Malaysia was killed off even though it was making profits all because of that private concern that is Air Asia and that man that is Fernandes along with those political/business cronies.

One certainly cannot understand the logic of  terminating a business to serve the purpose of another and doing it against both the spirit of competition and public interest. This blatant act of route rationalisations certainly reeks of private interests!

Now that the MAS-Air Asia  share swap deal has been unbundled, why are they not restarting Firefly service to East Malaysia?

It is always easy to destroy but hard to re-build.


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