KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (Bernama) -- Malaysia Airlines has withdrawn the massive discount given to Air Asia's Group Chief Executive Datuk Tony Fernandes over the last two years, citing pressure from its workers' union which was dissatisfied with the special privilege given, as a reason.
Its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the airline had received many letters of protest from employees about the travel privilege in the wake of Fernandes's negative statements about the national carrier.
"We have provided the travel privilege out of goodwill since 2006 in response to Tony's request for interline facility for his own travel on our international routes although Air Asia does not have an interline agreement with Malaysia Airlines," he said.
According to industry practice, only airlines with interlining agreement will consider granting such travel privileges for airline employees.
"Ever since then, we have received numerous staff complaints as to why the privilege was given. We tried our best to fend off all the criticisms.
"However, recently, we have again received a lot of letters of protest from many staff about his travel privilege, in the wake of his various negative statements about Malaysia Airlines.
"Many of our staff feel extremely hurt and frustrated with what they read in the news. The sense of unhappiness among our staff is growing and the pressure from the union is mounting by the day," he said.
Idris added that based on the collective views and requests from various parties within the company, the management had decided that the withdrawal of privilege, effective June 1, 2008 was the best course of action.
MAS withdraws AirAsia boss' travel privileges
Few know that budget carrier AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes had been enjoying discounts up to 75 percent when flying on Malaysia Airlines (MAS), its bitter business rival.
That’s not until a May 28 letter penned by MAS chief Idris Jala was leaked to Malaysiakini.
According to the letter, which was addressed to Fernandes, the AirAsia chief executive officer had been enjoying steep discounts when flying MAS over the past two years.
Idris nevertheless brought bad news for the AirAsia boss in the letter - his travel privileges had been withdrawn beginning this month.
The reason for the termination, said the MAS CEO, was the many salvos Fernandes has been firing at the national carrier which had angered its staff members.
Idris stated in the letter that his company had tried to fend off the complaints from its staff through their powerful unions on why Fernandes, who had criticised MAS on numerous occasions, was granted such a privilege.
“We have received a lot of letters of protest from many MAS staff regarding your traveling privilege in the wake of your negative statements about MAS.
“Many of our staff feel extremely hurt and frustrated with what they read in the news. The sense of unhappiness among our staff is growing and the pressure from the unions is mounting by the day,” wrote Idris.
“Left with no choice, the management team decided it would be best to withdraw your traveling privilege with immediate effect beginning June 1, 2008.”
Idris apologised for conveying the “unfortunate management decision” to Fernandes but said that it was “the best course of action for now in view of the general sentiment among MAS staff”.
It is learned that Fernandes had written to MAS in 2006 requesting for discounts on MAS’ international flights.
Subsequently, MAS responded in a letter date Jan 24, 2006 that Fernandes would be provided with the following privileges:
* First/Business class - 50 percent discount
* Economy class - 75 percent discount
It is unknown whether Fernandes had utilised the travel privileges.
Bitter feud between MAS, AirAsia
Fernandes and MAS have been at logger heads over several issues in the past, one of which is the demand from AirAsia for a more “level-playing field”.
The rivalry reached its peak when MAS on May 14 announced that it would give away a portion of its seats to 20 Asian destinations prompting criticism from Fernandes as the government subsidises some of the national carrier's international flights.
Both MAS and AirAsia had earlier made similar ‘basement fares’ offers for domestic flights even as soaring oil prices and a slowing global economy are squeezing the aviation industry.
AirAsia also seeks equal rights to fly the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route - one of the region's most lucrative - which has been monopolised by MAS and Singapore Airlines.
The bitter competition between MAS and AirAsia eventually prompted Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat to step in to help resolve the feud.
Fernandes: Letter 'kind of tacky'
Fernandes, who contacted Malaysiakini this evening, described the letter from Idris as “kind of tacky”.
“I don’t think the unions or MAS staff have anything personal against me. It’s just a corporate war,” said Fernandes, adding he was surprised to receive the letter.
The AirAsia CEO also said that when MAS ventured into the budget flight market last year with no-frills Firefly, he did not complain.
“It’s competition and I understand that. All I’m asking for is a level-playing field and nothing more,” stressed Fernandes.
Idris could not be contacted for comments but the MAS CEO’s private assistant confirmed that her boss did write the letter.
tunku : how can tony gets travel privilege with malaysia airline in the first place ? why tony travel with malaysia airline when he has airasia ? with that huge discount mas giving him, i believe it's cheaper than airasia with better service.