Coffee table book on Malaysia Airlines serves as a point of reference in history, says Dr Wee

PETALING JAYA: A coffee table book that chronicles the 85-year history of national carrier Malaysia Airlines has been launched.

Entitled “Rising to a New Horizon: A New Journey Begins”, it traces the untold stories of the airlines’ journey from its humble beginnings flying out of a small airfield in 1947 with just five passengers onboard to becoming a world-class airline today, carrying 40,000 passengers daily to over 900 destinations.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the book will serve as a point of reference in history that records the airline’s achievements in the last few years in turning the company around after it concluded a successful restructuring.

“Through archived pictures that some may not have seen before, this coffee table book encapsulates the journey of how Malaysia Airlines has served the nation, travellers and everyone with their unique Malaysian hospitality over the past 85 years.

“Despite several changes over the years, the signature Malaysian hospitality identity has made us proud and even put Malaysia on the world map.

“Over the years, we are proud to see how Malaysia Airlines Group (MAG) has been a catalyst in accelerating national milestones including some of its latest achievements, one of them was being the first airline to ship the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines to Malaysia and the first airline in Malaysia to operate SAF-powered flights for both cargo and commercial flights,” said Dr Wee during the book launch at Malaysia Airlines Academy here Thursday (July 7).

He said it was also worth noting that the restructuring the Group undertook in 2021 gave MAG the opportunity to holistically repair its balance sheet and address decades-long legacy issues, which resulted in a reduction in the Group’s liabilities of over RM15bil, and eliminating RM10bil in debt.

Lower operating cost from its cost savings and avoidance initiatives across the Group as well as lower leasing cost, following its successful restructuring, further contributed to the improved performance in 2021.

Dr Wee added that despite lower passenger traffic and reduced capacity for Malaysia Airlines by 62% and 71% respectively in 2021, MAB has recorded 57% higher yield in passenger revenue, attributed to their Airline Revenue Maximisation Solution (ARMS).

MAG chairman Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin said as countries around the world were opening their borders following the Covid-19 pandemic, MAG felt it was timely for the launch of its first ever coffee table book.

“We felt that it was the right time for us to celebrate our history while reminding the public of who we are and our pride as the national carrier.

“What better way to do that than a book launch? The book has captured so much of our colourful history and milestones throughout the years.

“The book tells the story of perseverance, resilience and hope that soon MAG will triumph over our challenges,” said Wan Zulkiflee.

He also said that as the world battles against the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aviation industry being among the most severely impacted, the Group has proactively transformed the organisational culture and work procedures, boosting customer experience through digital technologies, while enhancing the Malaysian hospitality experience.

The MAG is currently undergoing a group-wide transformation under the banner of a Long-Term Business Plan (LTBP) 2.0 to become Asia’s leading travel and aviation services group.

MAG group chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1979 as a cadet pilot, said over the past 85 years, Malaysia Airlines has operated under several unfavourable circumstances, yet continued to stay afloat.

“This book is an ode to the beloved carrier we helped build and sustain as a united nation.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, which presented another dent to our recovery journey, we embarked on a massive restructuring exercise and successfully reset our balance sheet that transformed our business dynamics to realign with our long-term aspirations and ensure business survivability.

“At a time where the industry was still reeling from a global transportation crisis, we managed to narrow our full-year net loss for 2021 by 60%, achieved positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of RM433mil from strong cargo revenue performance and stringent cost management, and did this without retrenching our staff,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the company still had its sights set to breakeven by 2023, but with headwinds from fuel and forex, this may be its hardest target yet.

“However, we remain bullish and focused on our path for success, yet also cautious to mitigate any future shocks to the organisation,” he said.

Malaysia Airlines was founded in 1937 as Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) in Singapore.

After separating from its partnership with Singapore, Malaysia Airlines began operations as a regional airline in 1972.

Since then, it has expanded its operations to include flights to 18 cities worldwide, including London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Seoul.

The time between the 1970s and the mid-1990s was its golden era until the airline was burdened with heavy investments, putting it under mounting financial pressure, followed by the twin tragedies that occurred in 2014, which brought Malaysia Airlines to the brink of bankruptcy.

As things were beginning to pick up in 2019, a global pandemic of unprecedented scale happened in 2020, bringing all flights to a halt.

The Group successfully restructured the balance sheet in 2021 putting the company on a stronger footing.