AirAsia Wheelchair Fee: Is It Still Relevant?

AirAsia 9M-AHS-2014-10-14-07-19-59
AirAsia 9M-AHS-2014-10-14-07-19-59

Recently, Tony Fernandes announced three Malaysian Paralympic athletes will be getting free flights for life. In case if you missed it, Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi, Mohamad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romli won Gold medals during Paralympics Rio 2016.

Our paralympic athletes begin to get more coverage in mainstream media, especially after Ridzuan Puzi’s victory last year during IPC World Championships at Doha, Qatar.

Minister of Youth and Sports, YB Khairy Jamaluddin also expressed his satisfaction with the victory in his social media channels, Facebook as well as Twitter. He said when he was just starting work as the minister, paralympic athletes were only eligible up to 30% of the original reward amount than what “normal” athletes would get. Using his capacity has a minister as well as chairman of National Sports Council (Majlis Sukan Negara, MSN), he instructed his subordinates to arrange for same reward amount for athletes with disabilities and able-bodied ones.

 

Unfortunately, people with disabilities need to pay more when they board AirAsia. The image above (taken on 12 September 2016) shows RM 127.20 charge if you “book” wheelchair services in Kuala Lumpur – Kuching flight at the counter. If you book it in advance, you will end up paying 50% less than the counter rate. Abolishing the fee is the best way to show that AirAsia does not only care towards para athletes but also everyone else with disabilities.

Definitely Tony is doing good PR for the company in promoting free flights for the para athletes but given the amount of monthly allowance that they will be getting, we can guess that paying for flights will no longer be a major problem for them. Instead, we have a huge number of other people with disabilities who are having difficulty sparing extra money for the wheelchair fee.

Wheelchair-bound people have never asked to be in that condition. They are already having difficulty in navigating the airport, yet we want to add exorbitant fees to their fare. We shall be more aware of their predicaments in daily life. We ought to make their flight easier.

“Now, everyone can fly”.

Because who cares about safety or risk management?

On March 8th 2014, a Malaysian-registered Boeing 777 aircraft with registration 9M-MRO turned off its transponder after 1:21 AM, thus disabling itself from being detected by secondary radar, which is used by air traffic controllers to detect movements of aircraft.

The aircraft made few turns and altitude adjustments and all of the movements can be seen with primary radar, which is not used by air traffic controllers.

If we see 9M-MRO as a potential safety hazard, we would scramble our fighter jets to be near with the aircraft and take necessary steps to force it to land.

Because the aircraft could hit densely-populated areas like KL. Or it might be heading to an unknown place, like Southern Indian ocean.

In a report by Malaysia Ministry of Transport, data from primary radar was made available to them.

However, no information is given on why we did not treat 9M-MRO as potential safety hazard. It is a civilian aircraft. WTC at New York has collapsed in September 2001 after being hit by two civilian aircraft.

Report from MOT shows that our primary radar(s) is working.

Is there anyone monitoring it in case of any civilian aircraft illegally deviated from original route without any apparent safety concern, such as bad weather? We are (relatively) lucky because 9M-MRO did not hit densely-populated areas. However, until today, we still do not know where is the aircraft and what happened to those onboard.

Two military aircaft engines were lost in May 2008. Two years later, we learned the engines are not in Malaysia anymore. It took us two years to know current location of the engines.

Perhaps someone in RMAF can answer the question in bold type for us. Maybe it is classified to reveal radar capability to public, but our action/inaction on March 8th 2014 has indicated how serious we are in dealing with potential risk.

When will we learn?

Will Christoph R. Mueller Make Malaysia Airlines Fly Again?

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 2014-10-14 10.31.31
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 2014-10-14 10.31.31

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) airplanes are still flying, as of today. However, operating with losses for years is not a good choice for the ailing airline.

The Restructuring Plan of Malaysia Airlines

Months ago, Khazanah Nasional, Malaysian government investment arm has outlined a masterplan to resuscitate MAS and bring it to profit again (the complete PDF version of 12-point plan can be found here). Since then, there have been rumors on the appointment of a non-Malaysian as the CEO of the NewCo, the new company that is supposed to take over MAS, also known as OldCo in the restructuring plan.

Mueller From Aer Lingus to NewCo

On December 5th, Khazanah announced the name of NewCo CEO-Designate, Mr. Christoph R. Mueller. Mr. Mueller is already a huge name in aviation industry for his experience in bringing Aer Lingus back to profitability some time ago. His contract with Aer Lingus will end on May 1st 2015 but discussions are ongoing for him to start his jo at NewCo before that date but no earlier than March 1st 2015.

Aer Lingus was once marred with huge loss in sombre Irish market and has recorded loss for years. Mr. Mueller managed to turn the 78-year old Irish airline into profitability witin a year despite difficult market environment that time.

Additional Leadership Announcements

Dato’ Sri Mohammed Shazalli Ramly, current Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Celcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom), is appointed to the new MAS board as Non-Executive Director, effective January 1st 2015. Despite that, he will remain as the CEO and director of Celcom, a leading Malaysian telecommunications company.

Other positions announced including the one mentioned above:

  • Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof (Non-Independent Non-Executive Chairman)
  • Ahmad Jauhari Yahya (Managing Director/Group Chief Executive Officer)
  • Christoph R. Mueller (Non-Executive Director/CEO-designate of MAS NewCo)
  • David Lau Nai Pek (Senior Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah (Non-Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Mohd Shahazwan Mohd Harris (Non-Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Tan Sri Krishnan Tan Boon Seng (Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani (Independent Non-Executive
  • Director)
  • Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman (Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Dr. Mohamadon Abdullah (Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Mohd Izani Ashari (Non-Independent Non-Executive Director)
  • Dato’ Sri Mohammed Shazalli Ramly (Non-Executive Director)
  • Dato’ Fauziah Yaacob (Alternate Director to Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah / Non-Independent Non-Executive Director)

 

Response from Malaysians

Malaysians generally have mixed reviews with the appointment of Mueller. While many lauded that bld move to appoint a non-Malaysian in the top management of the new company, others see that a bit in a negative way and suggested that Khazanah should look into hiring a Malaysian for that post instead.

Malaysia Airlines has been known for its inefficiency, hence it has embroiled itself with years of losses. Other than inefficiency of aircraft and crew management, we were also shocked to learn about “intervention” by various parties with the ailing airline. As an independently-operated company, there should be no intervention other than the ones that are supposed to benefit the airline.

We also learned that MAS Employee Union (MASEU) has pledged its support to the new CEO-designate. We hope that other Malaysians will also support Khazanah’s noble intention to ensure the continuity of our flag carrier, Malaysia Airlines. In the meantime, some form of check-and-balance is required to ensure smooth operation of the new company, establishing the need for us to be more vigilant in supervising the new management team.

#FLYINGHIGH #KEEPFLYING

More information about the announcement can be found here.