Boeing deal could see MAS facing further failure, says Dr M

Pakatan Harapan’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad says deal to buy Boeing aircraft, in addition to Airbus aircraft as stated by MAS in August, casts doubt on company’s commercial wisdom.

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PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has questioned the deal announced by the government to purchase Boeing aircraft for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) as one that may see the national carrier face another round of failures.

The Pakatan Harapan chairman made the claim after referring to a report last month in an international aviation magazine which had quoted MAS chief operating officer Izham Ismail as saying that MAS had decided to buy aircraft from Airbus.

“In its Aug 15-21, 2017 issue, Flight International carried a report on MAS’ decision to buy six Airbus A350-900 aircraft to replace its A380 fleet.

“According to Izham, there would be major benefits from the aircraft switch, with MAS expected to take the six A350-900s from Air Lease, with the first two arriving by year-end,” Mahathir said, citing the report.

He added that such a move would make the deal to buy Boeing aircraft for MAS that Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced in the White House earlier this month even more questionable.

“Is MAS going to buy Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner or both? Was there a decision made by MAS to buy the 58 Boeings, or was this a personal decision by Najib as a bribe to get a photo opportunity with Trump?

“Is it in the plan of MAS to buy 58 +6 new aircraft? Where are these planes going to fly to? Must be a lot of new destinations,” Mahathir said in a blog post, adding that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was a direct competitor to the Airbus A350-900.

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Mahathir, who is also PPBM chairman, criticised MAS management if it had agreed to the purchase of the Boeing aircraft for the wrong reasons.

“It doesn’t speak well of the management to suddenly expand its routes with these huge aircraft. Or is MAS trying to please the PM at the expense of commercial wisdom?” he said.

Last week, MAS chief executive officer Peter Bellew was reported as saying that the airline would not be buying and owning the Boeings that the government had promised to purchase.

“These aircraft will not be owned by Malaysia Airlines, but are planned to be on operating leases, which is a norm in modern airlines,” Bellew had said in an internal memo dated Sept 15, which was sighted by business publication The Malaysian Reserve.

Bellew added that the recent purchase of the Boeing MAX and the 787-9 Dreamliners coincided with the end of the airline’s other lease agreements.

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Bahagian pelancongan nusantara merupakan salah satu seksyen yang utama dalam ekonomi Malaysia. Sehingga kini, seksyen pelancongan merupakan sektor kelima terbesar negara selepas sektor perkhidmatan kewangan, kelapa sawit, borong dan runcit, gas dan tenaga, dan petroleum dengan memberikan sebanyak RM36.9 bilion kepada Keluaran Negara Kasar (KNK).

Namun begitu pada peringkat awal selepas pasca kemerdekaan negara, kerajaan tidak memberi penekanan terhadap sektor pelancongan. Kerajaan pada ketika itu lebih memberi tumpuan kepada pembangunan infrastruktur negara dan melawan ancaman komunis. Selain itu, faktor ancaman dari luar seperti konfrantasi dengan Indonesia turut menjejaskan tujuan kerajaan pada ketika itu. Ia sekaligus melambatkan pekembangan sektor pelancongan di Malaysia.

Pada era tahun 1960, sektor pelancongan masih belum memainkan peranan yang utama terhadap perkembangan ekonomi negara. Kerajaan pada waktu itu memberi tumpuan kepada sektor hasil bumi seperti bijih timah dan getah. Sektor hasil alam tersebut telah memberikan sebanyak 45% kepada keluaran Negara kasar (KNK) pada tahun 70-an.