MAS security threat warrants a rethink

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye

The latest security threat on board of Malaysia Airlines aircraft last night (May 31) warrants a rethink by its management on its crew limitation for safety reasons.
It shows that such an incident could happen on any commercial aircraft, including Malaysia Airlines or other local airlines, if they have insufficient skilled crew members to handle emergency situations.

The KL-bound Malaysia Airlines aircraft, MH128,  has been forced to turn back to Melbourne, Australia following an incident involving a disruptive  passenger.

Malaysia Airlines confirmed that the MH128 departed Melbourne Airport at 11.11pm on May 31 and was to arrive Kuala Lumpur at 5.28am today (June 1). However, it made a turn back to Melbourne after the operating captain was alerted by a cabin crew of the passenger attempting to enter the cockpit.

I was informed that Malaysia Airlines would normally assigned 10 crew members to serve on the Airbus aircraft.

Based on news reports, passengers had to help its crew members overpowering the supect, who had attempted to break into the Airbus A330’s cockpit and had issued threats.

As a frequent flyer of Malaysia Airlines, I have observed that effective Oct 1, there are fewer flight attendants in its aircraft.

The number of flight attendants on its Boeing 737 for example, had been reduced from six to only four. 

Apparently, this is the result of Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s cost-cutting measures as part of the airline’s rationalisation programme.

What concerns me is the safety and comfort of the passengers since fewer flight attendants will be in the First,  Business and Economy classes at any one time.

If the pilot or first officer needs to go out from the cockpit to take a toilet break, for instance, one of the cabin crew has to be in the cockpit. This is in line with the international aviation regulation that requires two persons to be in the cockpit at all times.

Flight attendants have an important role in ensuring the safety and welfare of passengers. They have to inspect safety equipment, check security, make sure passengers are seated correctly, give the safety presentation, indicate emergency exits with clear obstruction, stow hand baggage safely, secure galleys and work fields, as well as observe passenger reactions.

In case of emergencies, cabin crew members have to ensure passengers follow emergency procedures. They may have to deal with emergencies, such as cabin fires, first-aid situations or hijackings.

Malaysia Airlines should review the number of cabin attendants and ensure that there are always sufficient number to handle any situations, especially emergencies.

We do not want to see the quality of service and safety affected by a smaller number of cabin crew.

Malaysia Airlines’ flight attendants have received accolades for their excellent services and despite the challenges faced by the airline company, the crew members never falter in their responsibilities.

It is only right for its management to increase the number of crew members and improve the working condition as it will ensure that the national carrier could soar high as it used to be.

The airline has no choice but to go the extra mile to raise customer confidence by making passengers safe and comfortable flying with them again.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)