Plans up in the air for Malaysia Airlines as country eyes low-cost Firefly as national carrier

Photo of a Firefly airplane with Malaysia’s flag in the background. Photo: Coconuts
Photo of a Firefly airplane with Malaysia’s flag in the background. Photo: Coconuts

Malaysia could pick a budget airline as its next national carrier after the country’s sovereign wealth fund said yesterday it has decided to halt investments into the unprofitable Malaysia Airlines. 

Khazanah Nasional boss Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, 49, reportedly said that the company, which is also the sole shareholder of Malaysia Airlines, or MAS, was ready to stop bailing out the airline and channel funds into its subsidiary instead. Firefly is a regional airline that flies domestically as well as to Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. 

“Khazanah is ready to stop channeling funds towards Malaysia Airlines and will finance Firefly to expand its operations. If we succeed, Firefly has the potential to become Malaysia’s national carrier,” Shahril was quoted as saying. 

He also said that MAS does not have a strong financial position and was operating at a loss. The airline announced last week that it might have to shut down if restructuring plans fail to cover its RM16 billion (about US$4 billion) worth of debts, which worsened this year as the pandemic shut down air travel.  

Shahril said: “If we continue to fund Malaysia Airlines, which does not hold a strong financial position and often experiences losses, Khazanah will have to dispose of other assets or increase our debt.”

MAS has been struggling since its aircraft MH370 went missing in 2014 followed by the devastating crash of MH17 that same year. The government last year hinted at selling off or shutting down the national carrier before Khazanah paid RM6 billion to keep the airline afloat. 

Word of Khazanah considering abandoning what is said to be the country’s national pride has led to grief from many Malaysians, who are already mourning for MAS online. 

“MAS hold special place in my heart, and countless trips last year by MAS. Stay strong Malaysia Airlines,” Twitter user @Amirashukor wrote today.

“Malaysia Airlines is always my favorite airlines,” @Azzhsayan said.


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