Thursday, January 19, 2012

Move to clip Firefly’s wings

Patrick Lee | November 25, 2011
The abrupt resignation of its managing director and the recent MAS -AirAsia alliance is likely to see the airlines running into turbulence.
PETALING JAYA: The abrupt resignation of Fiirefly boss Eddy Leong Chin Tung has raised questions on the future of the airlines.
A think-tank, Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) claimed that Leong’s departure was rushing Firefly’s demise.
“Eddy (Leong)…has been said to be instrumental in the success of Firefly and turning a profit…(His) dramatic resignation has thrown further doubts on the company.”
“A rushed departure like this can only severely impair the morale of the remaining staff at Firefly,” Refsa said on its website.
Firefly now flies domestic routes and also to Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
It added that Khazanah Nasional, which currently has a combined 48.87% stake in Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAS), was also “facilitating” Leong’s leaving by putting him in Destination Resorts and Hotels, a Khazanah-owned company.
Firefly is a wholly-owned MAS subsidiary, of which Leong was its managing director. According to a Star report, he was also the fourth top MAS executive to quit in recent months.
Additionally, a Sun report speculated that Firefly would cease to exist by April next year, and that the carrier’s current air service license will be transferred to AirAsia.
Refsa said that this sudden change – along with many others- to Firefly’s operations would ultimately affect the end user, resulting in less flights and passenger traffic.
“Fewer flights means less work for airline crew and airport ground personnel, which leads to less employment and smaller incomes and less spending power,” the think-tank said, adding that this would also affect Malaysia’s tourism industry.
It cited Johor Bahru MP Shahrir Samad, who raised concerns that Johoreans were stranded by cancelled flights, particularly after the controversial “collaboration” between MAS and local carrier AirAsia in August.
Speaking of reduced traffic, Refsa said: “Passenger traffic at Subang Airport, one of Firefly’s main bases, has reportedly fallen some 30% in September, compared to July, before the ‘collaboration’,” Refsa said.
MAS and AirAsia first announced its collaboration in August. The resulting move meant that the two airlines will swap shares, with Tune Air taking a 20.5% stake in MAS, and Khazanah owning 10% in AirAsia.
Critics have blasted the move, calling it a bleak future for the country’s airline industry, with some claiming it will lead to a monopoly of local flight services.

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