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Just because holiday travel has a reputation for frustration doesn't mean that the spirit of the holidays can't be part of the journey once you're in the sky. Airlines know that a little bit of merry can go a long way this time of year, and a few are introducing holiday-themed menus or little festive touches to make long lines and cramped planes a little more bearable.
As Ebola headlines dominate the mainstream news, Malaysia Airlines has been busier than ever. Still in the midst of a search-and-recovery operation for MH370, the airline is also going through a number of structural and ownership changes. To catch you up, here are the latest updates:
ē After unveiling its new plan at the end of August, the airline's majority shareholder, Khazanah Nasional, is attempting to buy out all minority shareholders. If the offer is accepted, Malaysia Airlines would become privatized.
Khazanah Nasional Managing Director Azman Mokhtar addressed reporters last Friday
Malaysia Airlines announced on Friday that it will lay off 6,000 of its 20,000 employees as part of its restructuring plan, aiming to once again make a profit four years from now. Khazanah Nasional, the investment arm of the Malaysian government and the majority stakeholder in the airline, said it "would carry out the restructuring by creating a new company with a 'right-sized work force and work practices and contracts.'"
As expected, the plan also includes the cutting of routes, although the specifics will probably not be finalized until a new management team takes over next July. In the meantime, Khazanah is giving nearly $2 billion in bailout money to the airline to help it balance the budget during the transition, restructuring, and rebranding.
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A few weeks ago, we gave you the scoop on how Malaysia Airlines might rebrand itself given the two unfortunate and unlucky incidents it had this past year. There's no new livery to speak of yet, but the dirty work is about to begin. The airline is reportedly about to launch the first phase of its rival plan, which aims to move it from government/public ownership to one that is privately operated. Unfortunately, it's going to mean the cancellation of routes and the loss of jobs.
The Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday that, according to its sources, "Malaysia Airlines will stop flying to some unprofitable routes in China and other places such as Frankfurt," Australia, and Dubai.
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Regardless on how accountable one might hold Malaysia Airlines for the two tragedies of the past six months, there's no question the airline's brand and identity have been considerably tarnished.
It's way too early to know if there will be any long-term impact on future business success, but it appears MH won't be waiting around to find out. In a media release, it announced that it has already begun considering a new brand identity, including a new name, to go along with a restructuring of routes. The Malaysian Government, which is the majority shareholder of the airline, said it would all be in an effort to draw new investors and rebuild.
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Passengers have until Thursday, July 24th, to make adjustments to their itineraries without a change fee, and even get reimbursed for a non-refundable ticket. The offer applies to flights scheduled now through the end of the calendar year.
We think the move deserves a hat tip. After the disappearance of MH370, we were critical of the way the situation was handled, but supportive of how Malaysia Airlines runs its business otherwise. Despite the unbelievable events of the two incidents, we found that the airline did a lot of things right on a day-to-day basis. Looks like Malaysia Airlines is learning from its mistakes, and has made a classy move here in this utmost display of customer service.
At approximately 10:15am EST, Malaysia Airlines lost contact with a 777 flying at 33,000' on its way from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There were 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard, and the flight was 1/5 of the way complete when it passed over the Ukraine and the current war zone near Donetsk, where Ukrainians are locked in violent clashes with pro-Russian rebels.
It is believed the aircraft was shot down by a ground-to-air missile.
While the loss of the aircraft has been confirmed by Malaysia Airlines, the issue of it being shot down hasn't yet been accepted as fact.
First, the airline tweeted the short and vague news of the disappearance:
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
The tweet was followed by the first official report, posted to the airline's Facebook page with as many details as they had available:
Obviously, the press for Malaysia Airlines hasnít been the best of late given the on-going search for the unsolved mystery that is Flight 370. Making our way to Borneo this week, we flew the airline from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur (4 hours) and then on to Kuching (1.5 hours). Despite the unpleasant images that come with the mention of its name, we actually really enjoyed our experience flying Malaysia Air. In terms of its everyday flying policies and procedures, it does a lot of things right.
Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't get that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
To the average traveler, technology like this (with Skype easily running over the wifi) seems a bit like magic, but then again the simple act of making an air-to-land phone call also seemed like incredible magic only a decade ago.
As recently as a week ago, the consensus was that the coverage surrounding MH370 - though by turns saddening, horrifying, and infuriating - wasn't really damaging the reputation of Malaysia Airlines. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a bunch of analysts who went even further, saying that not only was there limited erosion right now, but that any negative impact in the future "was likely to be modest and short-lived." Things were obviously not going well, and most people expected the worst, but airline disasters are often treated far more as generic tragedies than airline-specific incompetence. That seemed to be happening here.
If that's how things end up - if MH finally emerges from this crash with its brand more or less intact - it won't be because they didn't make spectacular efforts to fuck it up. Instead, it's like the airline went out of its way to alienate people, from the victims' families to entire countries. This took some effort.
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Above: 9M-MRO, the aircraft involved
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has disappeared over where the Gulf of Thailand becomes the South China Sea, and neither the airline nor authorities are sure of its whereabouts or fate.
Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 12:41am local time Saturday and disappeared at 2:40am. It was meant to land in Beijing at 6:30am local time but, as we write this, it is already past 10am without any sign of the aircraft. The last radio contact and position on FlightRadar24 shows it traveling on course at 35,000 feet.
Malaysia Airlines hosted a press conference to confirm that there is a search and rescue operation underway. Fuad Sharuji, Malaysia Airlines VP of Operations, on CNN's AC360, states the only definite: "at the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now."
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Gone are the days when a hot meal was a complimentary part of any flying experience, so when any in-flight menu changes make the headlines, we get a little giddy. Here, for easy digestion, is a round-up of the latest in airline food news:
· Virgin America wanted their passenger's thoughts on the new First Class ice cream served in their swanky premium cabins, so they took to Twitter for a final decision. Designed specifically for the airline by San Fransisco-based ice creamery Humphry Slocombe, three unique flavors now complement Virgin America's existing Tahitian vanilla. Either Red Hot Banana (banana ice cream with Red Hot candies), Butter By Moodlight (buttery with a blueberry glaze) or Coconut Blonde Ambition (vanilla marshmallow fluff meets lemon sorbet) will make it the trays for transcontinental flyers.