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Malaysian Government May Close Malaysia Airlines

According to reports, the Malaysian government is weighing up the future of Malaysia Airlines. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he is considering whether to invest, sell or close the airline following a turbulent few years.

Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Wikimedia

Few airlines have quite the checkered reputation of Malaysia Airlines. With two relatively recent fatal accidents and a less than healthy financial standing, the airline has had a lot to contend with over the past few years.

Now it seems the government is about ready to pull the plug, with options of selling, refinancing or closing Malaysia Airlines all under discussion. They are currently studying the airlines business plans and have said a decision on the future of the carrier will be made ‘soon’.

Speaking at a news conference in parliament, Mahathir said,

“It is a very serious matter to shut down the airline. We will nevertheless be studying and investigating as to whether we should shut it down or we should sell it off or we should refinance it. All these things are open for the government to decide.”

Simple Flying reached out to MAS for comment. They responded with the following statement:

“Malaysia Airlines has been working closely with our shareholder, on the next phase of the turnaround plan, since last September. The timeline and framework was also shared with the Prime Minister in November.  Malaysia Airlines remains committed to the timeline given and will share the plans soon.”

Troubled times

The news of a potential Malaysia Airlines closure comes after a string of troubles at the Southeast Asian carrier.

In 2014, the flag carrier suffered a huge blow to its image after flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. To date, no firm sign of the aircraft has been found, despite the largest aviation hunt in history being held over a three year period.

MH370 search area

The search for MH370 was the biggest in aviation history. Image: Wikipedia

Just months later, another flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The 777-200ER, flight number MH17, was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when a Buk surface to air missile downed the aircraft.

Later that year, the airline was privatized, taken over by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, and started work on a three year plan to improve profitability. However, the airline has continued to post heavy losses, and has failed to meet its targets, which analysts say has made it unsustainable.

The ‘Best Airline in Asia’

The news of the potential Malaysia Airlines closure comes hot on the heels of a notable success at the ITB awards on Monday. The carrier scooped the title of ‘Best Airline in Asia’ at the annual awards ceremony, hosted by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA).

The awards recognize those in the travel industry who ‘excel’ at promoting tourism. Winners are chosen by a panel made up of PATWA members as well as officials and travelers.

CEO of Malaysia Airlines, Izham Ismail, said that the carrier was ‘enormously proud’ to have won the title. He said that it was a mark of the improvements made at the airline over the past two years, including ‘new aircraft, products and digital innovations’.

“It is testament to our commitment to offering passengers a fantastic experience both in the air and on the ground,” – Izham Ismail, CEO Malaysia Airlines

Sadly, it seems that the accolade may have come too late to save Malaysia from closure. Simple Flying will keep you updated as this story develops.

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