The government said it would want to retain the identity of flag carrier Malaysia Airlines even if the latter was being put on sale.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 33rd Asia Pacific roundtable in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad underscored the government’s efforts to turnaround the flag carrier but noted that it still kept on failing.
“We would like to sell [Malaysian Airlines] but we would like to retain its identity,” he said.
However, Dr Mahathir said that the government must first ensure that the potential buyer could manage the airline well.
“We have changed their (the flag carrier) leadership many times. Each time, we were hoping they would do something to turn around the company but they failed… (so) now we want to sell it, but if we sell (it) to people who will fail again, it is not worthwhile,” Dr Mahathir said.
He said that the government would have to be careful in taking steps to resuscitate the carrier.
“It’s not just the change of management, lots of other things are wrong with the airline, which has to be corrected,” he added.
Dr Mahathir made the comments following a call by two Malaysian Airlines officials – including a former chief executive officer – to overhaul the carrier’s management after its fifth failed year to reach the top 20 in an international airlines survey.
Skytrax, an airline customer satisfaction survey, said that Malaysia Airlines dropped two notches from the 36th spot in its annual World’s Top 100 Airlines survey.
The last time Malaysia Airlines ranked among the top 20 airlines was in 2014 when it settled on the 18th spot. It dropped to 24th in 2015, to 34th in 2016, to 31st in 2017, and to 34th again last year.
Following the result, the National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam) called on the flag carrier’s current management to step down.
The Malaysia Airlines Retirees Association (Masra) has made an emotional appeal to the government not to shut down the national carrier and offered to help revive the loss-making carrier and return it to its “glory days”, through providing expert advice.
In 2014, Khazanah National Bhd, the airline’s main shareholder and a sovereign wealth fund, pledged to shell out RM6 billion to revive the carrier which has been financially struggling since the 1990s.
Prior to the turnaround plan, Malaysia Airlines received RM17.4 billion in several bailout attempts.