MAS delays and cancellations are not new. Passengers complained but MAS ignored them.
In the past, none of the Umno-Baru ministers complained.
A few days ago, when the Minister of Defence, Mat Sabu, censured MAS for the flight delay, he showed that he is more professional and more conscientious than most. He is not going on a shopping and sightseeing jolly in London. He knows he has work to do. MAS let him and other passengers down.
Two weeks ago, on 15 June, Mat Sabu made an official visit to Paris. He went via London where he was supposed to meet the PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir was already in England, also on official business.
Flight MH002 from KLIA on June 15 was scheduled to arrive in London at 5.55am on June 16. The flight was delayed by 2.5 hours and did not arrive until 8.26am. Mat Sabu’s meeting with Mahathir had to be cancelled.
Mindef wrote to MAS to complain and 10 days later, MAS apologised to Mat Sabu. The CEO also met Mat Sabu to say sorry.
Mat Sabu may have received a lot of bad publicity for the complaint; but actually, Mat Sabu spoke for all of us, when he censured MAS.
Why should Mat Sabu fly a few days earlier?
Some people said that Mat Sabu should have allowed for flight delays. Or fly to London two days earlier. Or use a private jet. Or meet Mahathir in Putrajaya.
Mat Sabu was going to meet the French Defence minister in Paris. Perhaps, at the last minute, he and Mahathir had very sensitive information to discuss before meeting the French.
If Mat Sabu flew to London earlier, Mahathir would not have arrived yet. Whilst waiting for Mahathir, he cannot be a tourist and go sight seeing. You will get angry he is wasting taxpayer’s money wasting time in London, or if he flew on a private jet. Both men have tight work schedules. Delays will affect them.
I know one businessman who travels to London from Singapore almost every week. He leaves Singapore, sleeps on the plane, attends his meeting on arrival, then returns later that same evening. Do you think he will travel MAS?
So, don’t blame Mat Sabu. Blame MAS.
Fare paying passengers
On official business, Mat Sabu’s flight is paid for by the taxpayer, in other words “you”.
Usually, we fly, for personal reasons. We work hard to pay for our tickets. MAS is not cheap.
Did MAS apologise to the hundreds of full fare paying passengers who were also inconvenienced on 15 June? Did they apologise only to Mat Sabu?
Ampu bodek culture.
MINDEF complained to MAS and the newspapers publicised the complaint. MAS then apologised.
MAS practises the ampu-bodek culture. They apologised because Mat Sabu is a minister. MAS is aware that Mat Sabu was meeting the PM and Mahathir is thinking about selling the airline. No wonder they made a big show of the apology. Do you think MAS would apologise to you?
Mindef complained. Did the other fare paying passengers also complain?
In the past, when I was delayed on MAS, other passengers and I were kept waiting for hours without any explanation.
When you complain in writing, the letter is rarely acknowledged. If you phone to complain, you get a recording telling you to phone another number and that they they value your custom. When you phone the other number, you will probably be cut off after a long wait.
In the rare cases your letter is acknowledged, MAS plays the waiting game, and hopes you forget.
The experience of complaining is not pleasant. That is why few people bother.
Poor customer service.
I used to travel MAS a lot. Not any more. In the past, many people who used the Heathrow – KLIA route, have complained to me, that their flights have often been delayed and there was no MAS ground crew for assistance or information. MAS has poor customer service, a poor maintenance culture and their work practices need improvement.
The Malaysian culture is to buy something expensive, like a fighter jet, or new equipment, and use it and use it and use it, till the equipment fails.
Usually, when you buy a product, you include a budget for the maintenance contract so that things that are worn can be replaced and everything is checked to see if it is working properly.
In MAS’ case, the allegation is that poor maintenance is the reason for the delays. When a screw or a fuel pump is worn out, they wait for a new part to be flown in from the manufacturer.
We all want to fly in a plane that is safe. Is safety a convenient excuse to shut us up and stop us from complaining?
Poor and declining service.
Although Malaysians love their food, they are more worried that “kabel ke atas”, inflates prices. One mediocre nasi lemak is alleged to cost RM60.
The cabin crew are friendly enough, but the MAS work culture is bad. The unions are resistant to change, although many workers claim the unions do nothing for their welfare.
There are powerful people on the MAS board, and a previous CEO was unable to remove them. These people allegedly earned several hundred thousand ringgits per month and probably received generous perks, whilst the ordinary workers, including the pilots, enjoyed less than the industrial norm.
Many Malaysians love their national carrier but not the political interference. Many of them now travel on Emirates, Gulf Air or Etihad, which are cheaper and provide better service.
Get rid of political interference
Khazanah owns MAS. Despite pouring billions into MAS, there is little change. Khazanah has many graduates from Oxford and Cambridge, who cannot turn MAS round. Get rid of Khazanah and get rid of political appointees, then perhaps MAS can fly high again.
Are the middle managers in MAS still around?
A few years ago, MAS engaged the German CEO, Christoph Mueller, to revamp the ailing airline. Mueller had successfuly made DHL Worldwide and Aer Lingus more profitable.
When he arrived in Kuala Lumpur, he asked Khazanah, how many middle managers were employed. He received blank looks.
Mueller had to find out how many middle managers were employed by MAS. The allegation was that the middle managers, were running their own successful businesses and sidelines, and they were milking MAS dry.
So, are middle managers, lop-sided contracts and dodgy sales still present?
Remove the international label.
Under the former Umno-Baru gomen, MAS dropped many international routes. MAS no longer flies to America, South America or Africa. London is the only “destination” in Europe. No Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm or Frankfurt. People only fly MAS to London, because it is a direct flight.
MAS is like a poorly run government department with employees who cannot be sacked, and despite pouring money into it, the results do not show. MAS employees have low motivation and morale. Their fare paying customers are rarely satisfied.
MAS only apologised to Mat Sabu, because of three things. The delay was in all the newspapers. MAS received bad publicity. Mat Sabu is a minister.
Next time you face a delay on MAS, or any company, find a reporter to publicise your story. You must complain because companies hate bad publicity.