Christoph Mueller, shed some light on what’s going on

by Mariam Mokhtar

OUTSPOKEN: No one believes Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) when it claimed that strong headwinds forced it to implement baggage restrictions, on passengers flying to Paris and Amsterdam, on 5 and 6 January 2016.

Economy passengers were only told at the check-in counter, that they could only carry 7 kg of hand luggage, and that their checked-in luggage would be delivered to them within two days.

Many did not receive any reason for this inconvenience, nor were they told whether they would be compensated. The counter staff were also poorly informed, by management, and left to face the wrath of passengers.

The debacle in MAB is a reflection of how Umno Baru runs the country. Policies are made without consultation, nor is information given. If the rakyat are unhappy, then tough! The same lack of consideration is shown by MAB’s management. The welfare and well-being of the fare-paying public is not considered.

Is MAB really putting safety above everything else, or is there another sinister reason? Conversely, is MAB implying that other airlines, like SIA, Qantas or Thai International are acting irresponsibly by carrying on as normal? Even industry analysts are puzzled by the decision.

No MAB! You are hiding something and fear the public backlash that would ensue, if the truth were revealed. MAB is making a rod of its own back. Instead of understanding their plight, we mistrust MAB even more.

Malaysia Airlines, the national carrier, did not just change its name from MAS to MAB (Malaysia Airlines Berhad), it also attracted a new German CEO, Christoph Mueller, to take charge of the ailing airline.

Mueller had been instrumental in turning around DHL Worldwide and Aer Lingus, so everyone was full of hope for MAS, under Mueller’s stewardship. The German work ethic is admired, worldwide.

Soon after Mueller arrived in Kuala Lumpur, it was alleged that he asked Khazanah Nasional, the “controllers” of MAS, how many middle managers were employed. He received blank looks.

No-one in Khazanah knew and so started the exercise to see how many middle managers were employed by MAS. Many of the managers, many of whom were allegedly running their own successful businesses, and milking MAS dry.

Mueller must have realised the enormity of the task ahead of him. He did not just have a clueless Khazanah, but he had the interfering politicians, who wanted their cash cow to be nursed back to health.

He had to face unions which were resistant to change, although many workers claimed the unions did nothing for their welfare.

Most destructive of all were the powerful people on the MAS board, and Mueller had no way of removing them, even if he wanted to. These people allegedly earned several hundred thousand ringgits in monthly wages and were probably rewarded with generous perks, whilst the ordinary workers, including the pilots, enjoyed less than the industrial norm.

The first cull of workers started with the termination of a third of the MAS workforce, on relatively generous terms; these were mostly cronies. The airline planned to sack more workers, over the coming months and years, so several staff left to join other airlines, mainly in the Middle East. The hardest hit were the ones with children in education, and those with mortgages and car loans to service.

Despite various measures to improve the airline, the poor quality of service, and delays continued. Motivation and low morale have affected MAB, because the workers claim that their new terms of service are not attractive.

Is the headwinds excuse another means of making airline passengers vote with their feet and fly with other airlines? Recently a stewardess caused a public outcry, by condemning MAB for refusing her request to wear the tudung and forcing her to serve alcohol. In another incident, a pilot had to query a flight path which headed south, instead of north.

So what is happening? The Paris and Amsterdam routes are allegedly going to be axed, at the end of January. Has MAB run out of money, and it cannot pay for the extra fuel to counter the headwinds? Or is this is an excuse to empty the plane’s hold, so someone important can transport a large amount of cargo to Europe.

Speculation which is rife, suggests that these major setbacks are part of a bigger plan to run down the airline, so that MAB can be sold, in a fire-sale, to a crony.

Will Mueller shed some light on these strange happenings in MAB? Will pigs fly?

Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth”.

(NOTE: MAB had since clarified that the baggage restrictions were only in place for two days.)

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