I have been MAS’s frequent flyer for many years. I have come across and been served by countless ground and cabin crews. I must say most of them live up to my expectation of a quality service. In my early years of flying with the airline I had noticed the crew’s tendency to be more friendly and polite to Caucasians. I remember years ago when a MAS flight attendant had asked me to change seat with a burly European who apparently had always liked that seat. I obliged but felt angry. several years later, another European man had asked me to exchange my aisle seat with his window seat and I firmly refused. And I noticed then that the crew did not try to persuade me this time around. Sure time had changed for the better, I thought.
A few days ago I was returning to KL and noticed a behaviour which I thought was no longer being practised by MAS cabin crew. Here was this young female flight attendant who went around asking each passenger in the business class what they wanted for their dinner. She was standing all the time asking and writing down their orders and when she came to a lone European lady, she immediately squatted down as if humbling herself, and asking in the friendliest of voice and the sweetest of face, what the passenger wanted. The next passenger was an Asian (Malaysian?) and she stood up and asked matter of factly and with a dour face, as if she was being inconvenienced, for the order and she of course did the same to yours truly. To me, that was a form of racism.
The colonial mentality still exists and yet I am sure the female flight attendant was born after Merdeka (Independence).
On another incident, my sister-in-law who travelled business class to Sydney in 2011 also had an awkward and angry moment with MAS ground staff who called after her loudly when she proceeded to the channel towards business class cabin, having earlier shown her boarding pass to a female staff. The male staff shouted ” Hello, economy class this way!”. It so happened that she and her daughter were the only Malaysian passengers in the business class. The rest was Caucasians.
Clara was furious when it dawned upon her that the staff was being “racist” as he would not have behaved like that had it been a Caucasian passenger using that channel. And so she shouted back ” Yes, I am on economy, but I am going this way!” and walked off angrily towards the cabin. My niece who followed after her mother overheard the other staff saying that my sister-in-law had the right boarding pass and yes, the errant staff never even apologised! This was another example of reverse racism.
Another indifferent practice is when business class passengers who pay way above the others are forced to jostle to board. This is not the standard industry practice. In other premier airlines, the passengers who pay a lot more are given priority boarding. MAS is taking its premier travellers for granted.
And what about allowing passengers to carry oversized and heavy cabin bags? They shoved and pushed the bags into the overhead stowage that the door could not be closed and when it was finally and forcibly closed, it could not be opened when the plane landed causing so much inconvenience to passengers in a hurry to disembark. This practice also constitutes an accident waiting to happen.
In one of the Australian city airports, they actually weigh each cabin bag and measure its size automatically using a kind of contraption and the weight appears directly in front of the passenger if above seven kg the staff took the bag away to the cargo section of the plane. You could still ask for a discretion if below nine kg and anything above that would not be entertained. Simple and firm and fair.
Oh yes, for the first time in my flying life, on the same flight with the “racist” flight attendant, I encountered a male Muslim cabin crew who took a long time in the business class toilet because he was taking an ablution and yes, he then proceeded to pray on the floor next to the toilet!!! Is flying now so safe that the crew could take time off for his spiritual practice? I consider myself religious too but I shudder to think about airlines cabin crew not being on the alert at all times to deal with sudden emergencies during the flight. It was after all not a very long flight.
What is happening to my favourite airline? Does the powerful MAS staff union condone those practices?