Saturday 02 Dec 2023
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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 2): Airline catering adheres to the highest standards of hygiene and safety, where there is no compromise, and audits of premises are conducted all year round, said Brahim’s Holdings Bhd executive chairman Datuk Seri Ibrahim Ahmad.

Ibrahim said the airline catering company, whose decades-long in-flight catering partnership with Malaysia Airlines Bhd ended this month, has “an audit almost every week by our 35 customer airlines”.

“Having a temporary production area outside a building is certainly not acceptable by normal standard but our local authorities will have to decide on that. I cannot comment more than that,” Ibrahim said in a statement on Saturday.

Aside from being audited, Brahim’s also audits its own suppliers and those without Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification cannot supply to the company.

“We even had to turn down [celebrity] Chef Wan as an ingredient supplier,” Ibrahim commented.

Ibrahim’s comment came as Malaysia Airlines alluded to “teething issues” in its transition away from Brahim’s services and to resort to self-catering, which contributed to flight delays on Friday (Sept 1).

It was reported that Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the parent company of Malaysia Airlines, is relying on eight service providers for its in-flight meals, including its lounge operator MAS Awana Services Sdn Bhd and POS Aviation Sdn Bhd.

MAG group managing director Datuk Captain Izham Ismail was reported as saying “it will take a few days” to resolve the teething problems.

The in-flight meal uplift process is managed by MAG’s ground handling unit AeroDarat Services, with a temporary distribution centre set up in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, MAG said in a statement on Wednesday (Aug 30).

The search is ongoing by MAG to partner with “reputable food and beverage providers” who share similar commitment to provide premium passenger experiences and efficient in-flight services, the statement said.

The aviation group’s contract with Brahim’s ended following a disagreement about the “termination of convenience” contract term which allows either party to terminate the contract within a one-month period.

This follows a period of ad-hoc contract extensions, the latest of which was extended for two months to end-August. Negotiations for a three-year contract with a two-year extension option subsequently fell through, Ibrahim said.

Brahim’s key operating unit Brahim’s Food Services Sdn Bhd (BFS) is 30% owned by Malaysia Airlines. The aviation company has held the stake since 2003 when it sold the other 70% in the unit, then known as MAS Catering Sdn Bhd.

“MAS requested to retain 30% as it was a ‘strategic asset’ to them,” Ibrahim’s statement said. “So we ended up acquiring just 70% of the company for RM175 million cash, with RM240 million accumulated losses. MAS is still our 30% shareholder despite [the contentious relationship],” he said.

Currently, Brahim’s continues to serve 35 airline customers, including Qatar Airlines, Emirates, All Nippon Airways and “five other Top 10 airlines and four-star airlines”, Ibrahim said.

The group has started a non-aviation business like supply to supermarkets and café chains. “MAS capacity [now not contracted] can be utilised to grow our non-aviation and catering businesses, which we have not looked into because we wanted to focus on online catering.”

“Given the current ongoing problems, letting go of the business is definitely an option,” added Ibrahim, who holds 25% in Brahim’s and an indirect 49% stake in BFS.

Brahim’s was delisted in June 2022, after Bursa Malaysia rejected its appeal for more time to submit its regularisation plan.

The company has been loss-making since 2014 but faced its worst hurdles during the pandemic, which slashed meal demand from 50,000 per day pre-Covid to below 1,000, with accumulated losses ballooning to RM371 million at end-March 2022.

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