In light of two deadly crashes and the questionable handling of each incident, beleaguered Malaysia Airlines faces an uncertain road ahead. The state-run carrier is 70% government owned and the privately-held 30% will soon be acquired by the government. MH will be de-listed and a restructuring program to remake the airline will begin in earnest. Note that the carrier’s economic outlook was far from rosy before this year’s two deadly incidents: the carrier has lost over 1BN USD over the last three years.
So it doesn’t help when one of your chief pursers sexually assaults a passenger…
The story goes like this: an Australian woman boards an Airbus A380 in Kuala Lumpur bound for Paris and lets the crew know that she is apprehensive of flying in light of the two recent tragedies. The crew tries to calm her although the chief purser seemed to go a bit too far–
The steward sat beside her and sexually assaulted her under the pretext of “comforting” her, she said, according to a source close to the French probe.
French authorities are handling the investigation and the carrier released a statement saying in part, “Malaysia Airlines expects and accepts nothing short of the highest standards of conduct from its crew and takes any such allegations very seriously.”
One bad apple does not a rotten tree make, but the carrier certainly face a fundamental problem of leadership and discernment:
1. A botched investigation over the disappearance of MH370
2. Flying over war-torn Eastern Ukraine despite warnings about air safety
3. High labor costs compared to competition and an inefficient fleet
4. Personnel (the chief purser noted above) under criminal investigation
These are not just problems in and of themselves, but public relations problems for MH that compound to turn most people away.
I have had many – not just some, but many – clients contact me in light of the second downed aircraft to rebook previously booked Malaysia Airlines awards on different carriers.
So here is some friendly advice to the employees of Malaysia Airlines – your jobs are already on the chopping block and each negative news story only makes the loss of your job all the more likely. Perhaps the incident now under investigation was only a misunderstanding, a cultural difference between Malaysia and Australia (unlikely), but even if that is the case, an international airline fighting for survival should be aware of of the primacy of personal space in many western cultures and that unwarranted physical advances, even with the best of intentions, are never a good idea.
Malaysia Airlines has another mess to clean up and I only wish them the best going forward. But I also warn them that swift and decisive action is needed unless the state is wiling to continue to prop up a failed airline with the tax dollars of the Malaysian citizens.