Monday 22 Jul 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 12): Transport Minister Anthony Loke has criticised MYAirline Sdn Bhd over its abrupt suspension of its flight operations, saying the low-cost carrier's action is "irresponsible" and "completely unacceptable" and may affect the country's image.

"We were caught by surprise, and even Mavcom (Malaysian Aviation Commission) was caught by surprise. We only learned late [Wednesday] night that they would suspend all their services. They didn't even inform Mavcom officially," Loke said at a news conference in Parliament on Thursday.

He added: "They simply disappeared. They stopped their operations, and not only were their planes grounded, but their staff were also nowhere to be found at the airport.

"Therefore, the Ministry of Transport will take this issue seriously, and I have already instructed Mavcom to take whatever action they deem necessary, and that action must be taken."

Loke said he had contacted Mavcom executive chairman Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kasim, who confirmed that MYAirline had come forward to discuss the possibility of a takeover by another party or a change in shareholding.

"However, they never informed us that failing that, it would result in the suspension of their operations. What's worse, there was no official notification to Mavcom as of late [Wednesday] night," he added.

Loke confirmed that he received a courtesy call from a director of MYAirline a few months ago, and he personally knew a few of the directors who were familiar with the Ministry of Transport, such as the former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman. However, he stressed that he did not personally know any of the air operator's shareholders.

Loke said he did not want to speculate on the airline's possible takeover or changes in ownership, as these are purely commercial decisions. But he stressed that as a licensed air operator, MYAirline's first responsibility is to the passengers.

"When you collect money, you must provide the service. If you can't provide the service, you need to have mechanisms in place to refund the passengers and notify them accordingly," Loke said.

MYAirline announced on Thursday that it is suspending its flight operations immediately until further notice.

In recent weeks, rumours have swirled that MYAirline was facing serious financial trouble, including allegations of unpaid staff wages, late payment of service providers' dues, and difficulty in raising funds for new aircraft leases.

According to various news reports, MYAirline had also approached Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg's son, Abang Abdillah Izzarim Abang Abdul Rahman Zohari, to become an investor.

However, Abang Johari has denied that his son would become a new investor in the airline and dismissed the reports about the possibility of MYAirline becoming a Sarawak-owned airline.

125,000 passengers affected involving ticket sales worth RM20 million

Loke said he has instructed Mavcom to establish a task force specifically to handle matters related to refunds for affected MYAirline passengers.

He said the suspension has affected 125,000 passengers who had already purchased RM20 million worth of tickets until March 2024.

"MYAirline had committed to refunding all affected passengers. Therefore, I have asked Mavcom to establish a task force to collaborate with Bank Negara and facilitate the refund process for all passengers."

He said the majority of passengers used credit cards to purchase flight tickets, and since the service was not provided, the task force will need to determine the method for refunding directly to the cardholders.

"For passengers who did not use credit cards to buy flight tickets, we will also ensure that the refund process is expedited," Loke said.

Confirming that MYAirline holds a valid air service licence until Nov 14, Loke said Mavcom will call for an emergency meeting to decide on the status of the licence.

He said the licence was issued to MYAirline on Nov 15, 2022, and the company currently has eight operating aircraft and 900 staff. It provides flight services to eight domestic destinations and one international destination.

Edited ByS Kanagaraju
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