Friday, March 25, 2011

MAS aims to be Asia's No.1

MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS), which is now in its transformation phase, is halfway towards becoming Asia's champion in terms of product offering and quality service. Chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Munir Abdul Majid said the national carrier is already Asia's best airline in terms of service and having the world's best cabin crew.

"Our target is to become the number one airline in Asia, with an average fleet age of 5.2 years," he told reporters from selected local media groups in Subang, Selangor, yesterday.

Munir said the airline now has a good balance sheet, cash position and a team led by a chief executive officer (Tengku Azmil Zahruddin) who is professional, passionate, knows the business well, sound financial management and makes strategic decisions.

He said although the rising oil price is a challenge, MAS now has "a stamina" to expand. The airline is expecting delivery of more aircraft including Boeing 738, Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330-800.

"MAS is in a good position today. We can take on competition," he said.

Munir also said that subsidiary Firefly will will take over MAS' domestic routes. "But don't ask me when. It depends on market dynamics," he added.  Domestic and short-haul routes previously bled MAS as they were deemed unprofitable. 

He said MAS is not competing directly with the country's low-cost airline, AirAsia Bhd, but "Firefly is supporting MAS in the low-cost segment to maintain the group's passenger load factor". 

According to Munir, market dynamics of supply, demand and price will determine whether MAS will continue to provide domestic full-service flights or reduce its frequency. "People would still want premium service on some routes," he said, pointing out that MASwings, which operates turbo-prop aircraft like Firefly, has a business class.

He said MAS will also focus on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business. MAS is currently the world's fifth largest provider of third-party MRO.

Munir also rubbished claims that as a government-linked corporation, MAS receives special treatment from the government. "We don't have a seat at the high table as we are a professional lot," he added.

AirAsia X, the long-haul operations of AirAsia, has been seeking rights to routes like Sydney and Jeddah but has not received approval to do so from the government. Munir said MAS' contribution to the country's social and economic development should not be forgotten. The national carrier has also trained and exported many experts in the aviation and MRO industries, he added.

He likened MAS as the first wife, whose contribution to the family has been forgotten, while the AirAsia as the second, younger wife. Describing AirAsia as "a youthful success", Munir said: "They (AirAsia) are wearing red and sitting pretty, while people forget the first wife, who helped raise the children, sending them to school."

On AirAsia X's newly-appointed chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, he said: "I consider her as a friend. But we have to protect our interests."

Last night, Munir, who has been in the corporate sector for about 33 years, received the Brand Laureate Personality Award 2011. 

Source : BusinessTimes
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