I’ve always held a mild admiration for Ben Sandilands, author of Australia-based “Crikey” independent media with his column, “Plane Talking.” Mr. Sandilands tends to be fairly vocal about his opinions concerning Australian airlines and aviation policy in general, but I appreciate his candor pertaining to matters that require one to read between the lines.
After the MH17 tragedy over 10 days ago, I posted an entry titled, “In light of MH 17, Malaysia must be held accountable for transparency.” I posited that now with two major disasters on its hands, despite a record-high calm period of few major aviation incidences and fatalities preceding MH 370 in March, Malaysia owes it to the victims, their families, and the rest of the world, to take as many matters into its own hands to seek out answers.
Put in another fashion, this is not a time for Malaysia Airlines’ PR department to start thinking about re-branding. About discussing a re-vamp to its fleet, product and network. After all, the carrier has embarked on plenty “restructuring programmes” each year for the better part of a decade, it seems.
It is perfectly acceptable, if not absolutely necessary, to express sorrow and offer support for the victims and their families, as well as reinforce sentiments of pride and commitment to emerge stronger as a flag carrier wounded by a series unfortunate events.
However, as I stated in my previous post, that does not sanction Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Ministry, nor Malaysia Airlines, from scapegoating, finger-pointing and resorting to any PYA measure they can find.
This morning, Sandilands published a post addressing this in further detail, referencing an article in Monday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald that discussed MAS’ plan to adopt a new name after the fall-out of MH 17.
The SMH article quoted MAS’ commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, who said that airlines such as MAS “should be left to focus on the quality of [our] product in the air, not on the air corridors we fly in, which should be guaranteed as safe passage.”
Sandilands’ brilliantly cringeworthy response in his blog post hit the nail on the head:
The quality of the yummy signature satay sticks served by Malaysia Airlines to its passengers are not its number one priority in safe airline practice. But having the smarts to not not fly over an active war zone is a priority.
-Ben Sandilands, “Plane Talking” published July 28, 2014
You can access the full blog post here.
The reality is that in the U.S., where I was raised, product innovation and discounted tickets have always come secondary to the utmost importance in air travel: safety.
The airline, not the FAA, IATA, nor ICAO, is directly responsible for making safety that priority.
When I read Mr. Sandilands’ article this morning, it was a true wake-up call. Some of us should feel very fortunate that we live in certain countries that would never permit any director employed by any of our national airlines to make such short-sighted comments as Mr. Dunleavy, that practically suggest 100% self-aquittal.
Sorry, but that’s not how it works. When you allow one of your 777s to fly over a war zone, mere months after one of your other 777s has gone missing without a trace, you owe the public more than just intentions of a name change.
For however much I lambast U.S. carriers (perhaps a certain one in particular), at least they know better than to allow safety to lapse in pursuits of being 4-or-5 star Skytrax carrier.
On that note, name change or not, I think today I’ve concluded that it will take a lot to coerce me to fly Malaysia Airlines (or their successor) in the near future, unless I’m convinced otherwise.