DATUK Ahmad Fuaad Dahalan is well versed with the airline industry and knows which are the problem areas in Malaysia Airlines and what needs to be done to fix them. In an interview with StarBiz assistant news editor B.K. Sidhu he talks at length on his plans. Here are excerpts of the interview.
StarBiz: MAS has been wanting to increase frequencies into India, but has yet to make much headway, why?
Fuaad: While we are still trying to formalise some technical issues with Air India (so that we can fly to the major destinations), we need to look at alternatives and our options at this point of time.
We would look at smaller provincial points where there is open sky policy.
We have to get down to planning otherwise the idea of expanding into India will not become a reality.
As for China, which is also our focus market in the near to medium term, we need to look at our fleet requirement and destinations available since it is still open skies policy there.
We would add a few more new destinations and frequencies to China in the current financial year.
StarBiz: But MAS is said to not have the fleet to fly to new destinations, how would you handle that?
Fuaad: We need to refocus ourselves as India and China are our priority markets, rather than stray into other areas.
StarBiz: It is said that many travel agents that sell MAS tickets like to block book, creating a scenario of full capacity whereas in reality it may not be so. Is the revenue from travel agents very significant to allow such a practice?
Fuaad: We do impose a penalty if we see the materialisation rate is horrible. I would not blame the majority of agents, it is just one or two but we have to stem the leakages. It is also not uncommon for other carriers to face this situation.
We are also reviewing the revenue management system so that we can improve our yields. We need to strike a balance between system yield improvement and the human factor, where our front executives can call passengers to confirm bookings. That would help us greatly.
StarBiz: Is the launch of your Internet booking website a way to avoid block bookings and no-show at the airport?
Fuaad: Internet booking would improve the way we identify ourselves and become a profit centre.
With such a website, there are opportunities for a lot of promotions to consumers.
You can now book domestic flights via the Internet and soon it (the service) would be extended to international flights.
The response to Internet booking is very good and we will continue to re-format it with more vibrant offerings.
You may say we are the latecomers, but we had spent the past two years in a financial restructuring and the bidding process for the IT platform took a year.
We also needed a resilient system to begin with.
StarBiz: There is a lot of expectation built up among the staff as to improved working conditions and rewards now that MAS is on a firmer financial standing. How do you intend to address this?
Fuaad: The staff have been loyal and made a lot of sacrifices compared with the workers of a lot of companies our size.
From the Asian crisis to SARS and post-Sept 11, it has always been a roller coaster ride.
At this point, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel in the context that our financial situation has improved.
They would like to see an improved environment and rewards of some form.
They also want a (better) corporate culture and see a continuation of responsible leadership. But we also have to be prudent and not be a Santa Claus. The principle here is that we have to be fair not only to the employees but the company.
I have a strong commitment and passion to try and see what best can be done within reasonable limits. It is an issue how to manage success.
Take the example of a restaurant, if it is full all the time, you cannot burden the existing staff but you need to hire and reward accordingly.
Essentially, we want to build MAS as an employer of choice.
StarBiz: MAS has lost some talents of late, would you hire although the workforce is already considered very large at 23,000?
Fuaad: The industry is expanding at a rapid pace and obviously there is pinching of pilots, engineers and other staff.
We have to be sensitive to this issue and if the need arises, we would recruit.
But we also need to get our existing employees motivated and provide training.
It is about building up people to contribute to the bigger objective.
StarBiz: When would MAS implement the KPI (key performance indicators) measurement system?
Fuaad: We need to get stakeholder approval before its implementation. The KPI would start from senior management and cascade down to the employees. Stock Watch On MAS
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